Architecture

Le Mont-Saint-Michel

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Le Mont-Saint-Michel
  1. Take the Ouigo Train to Rennes. From the Paris Montparnasse station, SNCF offers a number of direct TGV trains to Rennes. The lowest cost option is the morning Ouigo train, which costs about $20 for a one-way ticket. The regular SNCF trains are much more expensive and cost $80-100 for a one-way ticket.
  2. Download the Ouigo App. The Ouigo train I traveled on was clean and comfortable. I paid a nominal fee for the large luggage I brought on board and also opted for the seats with an electrical outlet. Installing the Ouigo app was essential since I did not have access to a printer. I could just show my boarding pass from my phone.
  3. Rennes to Mont Saint-Michel Bus. The journey from Rennes train station (Gare de Rennes) to Mont Saint-Michel is serviced by a bus that runs four times a day: 9h45, 11h45, 12h45 and 16h45. So, the morning Ouigo train (7h06 – 9h07) is perfect for catching one of the connecting buses. The noon Ouigo train (12h14 – 13h53), on the other hand, drops off passengers right in the middle of the afternoon gap. If you don’t want to wait 3 hours, then the alternatives are hiring a private car or renting a car.
  4. Tidal Schedule. The Mont Saint-Michel Tourist Office publishes a tide schedule, if you want to plan your visit around high tide. I visited during low tide and it was quite dry around the island, except for that sliver of water I found that created the perfect reflection.
  5. Hotels. Staying overnight at Le Mont-Saint-Michel offers a number of advantages. In the evening, once the crowds depart, the restaurants and shops begin closing and the streets empty. As the pace slows, I was able to walk around the island without having to navigate through a sea of fellow tourists. During these hours, it’s easier to compose photos with nobody in them.
  6. Shuttle Bus. The complimentary navette travels from the parking lot to Mont Saint-Michel, with a stop at the off-island hotels and restaurants. The bus (and pedestrians) both cause vibrations on the bridge as they pass by. If you are using a tripod for long exposure photos, you need to take that into account.†
Complimentary Shuttle Bus (Navette) at Mont Saint Michel

Louvre Pyramid

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B&W Louvre Pyramid

I.M. Pei’s iconic pyramid marks the entrance to the Louvre museum. In the evening, tourists saunter around the courtyard taking selfies, while illuminated by the soft glow emanating from the pyramid. With the water fountain and reflecting pools, the Louvre is a photographer’s delight at night.

Eglise Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois

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After departing the Louvre, I crossed the street and entered into Eglise Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois. This was not a planned destination, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Unlike Notre-Dame or Sainte-Chapelle, this gem was quiet and contemplative with little foot traffic. Perfect for taking a few photos.

The brilliant stained glass windows greeted me as I walked into the church. Usually, I am completely focused on what is ahead that I forget to turn around and see the organ. This time I remembered.

Musée du Louvre

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The Louvre Museum always presents a spectacular view. The challenge when approaching this location is dealing with the multitude of tourists that congregate here, even after the museum has closed. On a recent visit, the regulars were joined by numerous couples taking engagement and wedding photos, along with their photographer, assistant, and assorted flash paraphernalia.

Waiting for that brief moment for the scene to clear requires a touch of patience.

Notre Dame

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My last memory of Notre Dame was on a cold Parisian winter night. I took a short walk from Saint Germain des Prés, and circled around the cathedral searching for an interesting vantage point.

The spire that reached high above the towers is now gone, lost in today’s devastating blaze. I am so saddened for the people of France and for Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris.

Richmond-San Rafael Bridge

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Richmond-San Rafael Bridge

The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge connects the city of Richmond in Contra Costa County to the city of San Rafael in Marin County. The first time, I crossed the bridge, I was surprised to discover that San Quentin State Prison was located right on the shores of the San Francisco Bay. The prison is the set of buildings in the bottom left corner of the photo.

Google Bay View Campus

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The new Google headquarters being built on North Shoreline Boulevard between Amphitheatre Parkway and Charleston Road has attracted a fair degree of attention. Located next to the Googleplex, that project boasts an eye-catching dome design. I walk by that job site a few times each week and have seen their steady progress over the past few months.

From Shoreline Park, I’ve also seen the cranes on Moffett Airfield. I had assumed that Google Bay View campus would be a traditional corporate park, like the adjacent Google office buildings nearby. So, I was in for quite a surprise when I took a walk on the Stevens Creek Trail and spotted the same structural lines that define its big sister a few blocks away. Mountain VIew is going to be an interesting place in the next decade.

Working in the Clouds

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Today, I spotted a person on top of Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California. I had never seen anyone up there before. However, it makes sense that there must be some way to change out the bulbs in the aircraft warning lights.

We had a touch of rain the night before so the skies were cleaner than usual. Fortunately, there was a small cloud just off to the side that really completed the image.

Potala Palace

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When I travel, I usually hit the ground running. However, the altitude of Tibet really tested me. The highlight of Tibet was the Potala Palace, which dominates the Lhasa skyline. It felt so close yet distant at the same time. Although the Potala Palace was just a few blocks away from the hotel, I didn’t venture there on my own until I was more acclimated. I didn’t want to head there for the morning sunrise only to realize I couldn’t make it back to the hotel on my own in time for the tour.

The road there was relatively level, and I didn’t have any issues getting to the palace. There were a few elevated crosswalks for reaching the other side of the street, and those were the most challenging. Actually, climbing any stairs, even a single flight, proved an exhausting experience. This view of the Potala Palace was taken from the park across the street.

Morning in Cusco Peru

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I was very comfortable with my Lightroom, Photoshop, and Nik Collection workflow until High Sierra disrupted matters. I know the workaround, but I’m experimenting with Luminar just in case.

Cusco Peru