Landscape

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

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.

Trevi Fountain

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Trevi Fountain

Tonight, I was inspired to re-edit a 2012 photo of the Trevi Fountain in Rome. The one problem with this photo is that the top of the fountain was cut off. As I recall, I was already at the 24mm end of a 24-70mm lens and was on a tripod as far back as I could be.

If I had more experience, I would have taken a vertical panorama , which would have solved that issue. Taking a RAW photo instead of a JPG would have helped too.

Percé Rock, Quebec, Canada

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Old photo, new software. Percé Rock (or Rocher Percé in French) is located at the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec, Canada. I drove there from Montreal back in 2003 armed with my first digital camera, a Sony Cybershot DSC-S85.

I noticed a white halo in an earlier edit. When re-processing the JPEG in Luminar 3, I experienced the same issue when using the AI Sky Enhancer filter to boost contrast in the sky. Turns out, this is not a difficult problem to fix, and I was able to reproduce the fix in both Photoshop and Luminar 3.

In Photoshop, I created a new layer and used the Clone Stamp tool with Sample set to Current & Below. Next, I sampled the sky next to the edge with the white halo, and cloned out the white halo. Next, in the Layer tab, I set the blend mode to Darker Color. Since I’m cloning out the halo from the adjacent sky, there will be no impact on the sky. Since the sky is darker than the white halo, the white halo is cloned out. Finally, since the sky is lighter than the rock, it has no effect on the rock. Thus, I was able to clone out just the white halo with an adjacent color.

Sutro Tower and the Golden Gate Bridge

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While waiting for the Super Snow Moon to arrive, I was looking northward to see what was visible in that direction. On that clear afternoon, even Sutro Tower, a rail thin structure, was visible from Palo Alto.

What really surprised me was when I opened the photo at home. The Golden Gate Bridge is visible in the photo. It’s a bit easier to see the bridge in this enlargement, with the two towers, their characteristically red colors muted by the fading light, extending above the nearby hills.

Super Snow Moon

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I wanted to maximize the size of the Super Snow Moon by photographing it close to the horizon. I consulted both PhotoPills and The Photographer’s Ephemeris to plan these moon photos.

Today, moon rise was at 5:00 P.M. When I arrived at my location, I consulted PhotoPills again to confirm the direction of the moon rise. However, when 5:00 P.M. arrived, I couldn’t see the moon. I took my first moon photo at 5:15 P.M. At that time, the moon was really faint against the late afternoon sky. Sunset wouldn’t take place until 5:51 P.M.

Since this was my first attempt, I wasn’t sure which lenses to bring. The first photo was taken at 600mm, which is only useful during the first few minutes at moon rise. This second one is at 200 mm.

Not long after, I was down to 122 mm just to keep the moon and foreground in the same frame.

Levi’s Stadium

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The last time I posted a photo of Levi’s Stadium, the Blue Angels were performing a flyover for Super Bowl 50, which was almost exactly three years ago. However, that February was a bit different because California was mired in a drought .

Instead of lush green foothills capped with a dusting of snow, we only had green grass at the lower elevations. The hill tops just look absolutely dry.

Lick Observatory

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Last night, another storm passed through the Bay Area. By late afternoon, large clouds crossing the skies were casting their shadows below on Silicon Valley. I knew that Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton had seen a dusting of snow, so I started scanning the horizon for that landmark.

After an extensive study of all the snow-capped foothills, I finally found it. The challenge was that the low clouds had obscured the observatory at times. Even after I found it, I could see it appear and disappear from view depending on the changing conditions on the peak.

Snow-Capped Foothills in the Bay Area

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Click on image to see in full-resolution.

Last night, the Bay Area experienced a light dusting of snow at the higher elevations. If you look behind airship hangars at Moffett Field, you can see the snow-capped foothills.

To the far left is the Dumbarton Bridge and to the far right is the new Google HQ under construction.