Taking Better Photos Through Glass

Champagne RegionHave you ever been on a bus or train and you see the perfect view ahead of you, but when you try to take a picture, it is a disaster?  Maybe it is blurry, or that oil smudge from someone’s head is not only gross, but also now captured in your photo.  If you are on a tour and spending a portion of your time on the bus, or traveling by train, you will want to make sure you’ve got some tricks to get past the issues.

Montmartre 1Selecting a Seat

Many people fight for the first seat on a bus so they can see out of the front window.  This is nice for seeing a greater area, but not so great for taking photos.  Several obstacles can get in your way such as raindrops and bug juice.  A better option is to find a seat near an unobstructed window on the opposite side of the driver.  For example, if I was riding a bus or train in Italy, I would pick a seat on the right side so I can avoid getting all of the traffic in my pictures.  Sometimes I will ask the tour guide or bus driver which side is more scenic.  If I know the Leaning Tower of Pisa is going to be on one side, then I will make a point to sit on that side.

CowAiming Your Camera

You look out the window and see a cow that you must have a picture of.  The train is moving at 50mph and you need to think fast.  How do you catch the cow?

1-Have your camera out and ready if you think you will want to take pictures.

2-To avoid blur, place your camera at an angle.  Do not shoot the cow straight on (haha).  Doing this will result in a cow smearing across your photo.  Instead, position yourself to to create about a 45 degree angle between you and the scene.  It will also be important to have a faster shutter speed to capture less movement.

3-Place your camera as close to the window as possible.  If there is a little scratch or piece of dust, it will be easier to focus on the background rather than the imperfection if the camera is closer toLouvre it.  Another option is to set your camera to manual so that you are in control of focusing.  Just remember, time is limited and the train will not stop for the cow, so be quick.

Secret Tips

  • Carry a cleaning wipe/towel to help get rid of smudges on the window.
  • Make sure your flash is turned off.

Paris by Métro: Cité

Ile de la CiteCité at a Glance



Tip=You may want to use the elevator when it is operating.

Sights Within 1 Kilometer:

*Website in French

Sight Details

Île de la Cité: Paris began on this island over 2,000 years ago.  The island is lively and full of tourists because of the major sights.  You are bound to hear some music as you stroll, or find a prankster hanging out by Notre-Dame.  If you look down in this area you will find Point Zero.  Every distance in France is measured from this location.

Bird and Flower Market: The flower market is open Monday through Saturday, but on Sunday you will hear the chirping of birds filling the space.  This market is found right outside the exit of the metro.

Archaeological Crypt: As time passes, dirt and dust collects building layers over the past.  The crypt shows a hidden world under the ground.  Since the island housed people over 2,000 years ago, there is history resting below our feet.  The remains feature Roman buildings along with the sewer.  Yum.

Seine/Quais: Since Île de la Cité is an island, it is surrounded by the Seine.  Find a good spot on a bridge and watch the ebb and flow of people travel down the river.  The quays along the Seine are perfect for strolling or a picnic.  Life is good watching the world go by on water.

Bouquinistes: Vintage books, posters, and affordable souvenirs can be found in the little green boxes lining the river.  You may come across an abundance of American pop culture, but if you dig through and visit several bouquinistes, you can find the perfect gift for someone else or yourself.

Palais de Justice: If you are trying to get into Sainte-Chapelle and you are confused about why you have to go through security, it is because the church is attached to the Palais de Justice.  The members of the French Supreme Court enters the building under the motto of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.

Sainte-Chapelle Church: This original home to the Crown of Thorns houses some of the most beautiful stained glass in the world.  Although the relic has moved down the block to Notre-Dame, the church is well worth a visit.  The color and Gothic style will shock any visitor.  The design is fluid and consistent due to the speedy construction, unlike other Gothic churches of the time period.

Conceirgerie: The former prison housed Marie-Antoinette before her date with the guillotine.

St. Séverin Church: This squat-looking church is a bit dingy on the outside, but allows for a closer view of gargoyles and stained glass.

Notre-Dame: The famous cathedral was saved by Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Facing ruin, the story revived the interest in the great Gothic cathedral.  If you have energy left over after straining your neck upwards and walking around the grounds, get your workout by climbing the more than 400 steps up the tower to see the gargoyles face to face.  I think this is one of the best views of Paris.

Shakespeare and Company: Although this is not the original bookstore owned by Sylvia Beach that was frequented by James Joyce or Ernest Hemingway, it is a replica that keeps the spirit of the bookstore alive.  The originals no longer exist, but the values have been instilled in the current store.  Enjoy events where you can hear readings or maybe even see a celebrity.  If you buy a book, don’t forget to ask for the stamp inside the cover.

Sorbonne/Latin Quarter: The Latin Quarter is best known for the two major boulevards: St. Michel and St. Germain des Prés.  There is plenty of shopping and eating to be done on these streets, but sneaking in and out of the side streets reveals a picturesque, hidden side of the Latin Quarter.  I wish I could give you exact streets to walk down, but stumbling upon your own will be more enjoyable.

Hôtel de Ville: The city hall houses free exhibitions for the public.  The esplanade out front changes throughout the year.  Sometimes you will find sand while another time you might find a green space has taken over.

Pont Neuf: The bridge is not ornate, but it is known as the oldest bridge crossing the Seine in Paris.

Place Saint-Michel: The fountain has seen some challenging times in Paris history.  From uprisings against the Nazis to student demonstrations in 1968, the cove that forms Place Saint Michel has heard people standing up for what they believe in.  Venture through the streets in the surrounding area to find hidden corners of the Latin Quarter.

Cluny Museum: The former Roman baths have been converted into a museum with medieval art.  The museum is known for the tapestries called Lady and the Unicorn.  Who would have thought tapestries could be so naughty.

Deportation Memorial: Located behind Notre-Dame you will find a hidden memorial for the 200,000 people that were deported during World War II by the Vichy French.  Having a basic understanding of the occupation in France before visiting the memorial will create the context necessary for truly understanding the disgust of the time period.  As you walk through the memorial, pay close attention to how the architecture makes you feel.

Mémorial de la Shoah: Located in the Marais, this memorial educates the visitors about the holocaust while honoring the Jews that died.

Île St. Louis: This island is home to the best ice cream in Paris: Berthillon.  Walking the streets, you feel like you are in a village making it is easy to forget that you are in the city center.  Hear the accordion player in the background as you window shop with your glacé in hand.

Panthéon: The Panthéon is the resting place for many famous French such as Voltaire, Marie Curie ,and Victor Hugo.

Arab World Institute: The goal of the institute is to build an understanding between different cultures.  The unique architecture holds art, history, and a library to bring people together by banishing the lack of knowledge about the culture.

Do you have suggestions for how I can make this more user friendly or more informational?  I’d love some feedback!

Paris Metro 101

CiteThe Paris Metro is like arteries hidden under the city skin.  These tunnels take you all over the city.  I love rising from the Metro to find unexplored territory, or a grand sight right before me.  Some people may be intimidated by the system, but it really is efficient and much more affordable than a taxi.  I do have to warn you that it is not handicap-friendly.  If stairs or some walking are challenging for you, it may not be the best mode of transportation.  If you are looking for a how-to or some simple tips, read below for more information.

paris vacation 101Getting Ready for the Metro

Finding a Metro is typically easy unless you are away from the city center.  It can be handy to pick up a map that contains city streets and the Metro plan.  Even if you aren’t staying in a hotel, you can probably sneak in to pick one up.  If you are going soon, make sure the Metro map is updated.  They recently expanded some of the lines, so it is important to have an updated map.  You can always download a copy from the website as well.

Once you reach the Metro, you will descend to purchase tickets.  There are some machines that only take cards.  If you have a chipped card, you can use this, otherwise you will need a machine that accepts cash.  Make sure you have bills less than 50 €.

If you plan on using the Metro more than a couple times, I recommend purchasing a carnet.  This is a package deal containing 10 tickets for a little over 13 €.  Some Metro stations have a person working if you need to ask questions, but don’t rely on that.

Your ticket will be good until you pass through an exit.  You do not need a new ticket to change lines or go back if you made a mistake.  You could technically explore all of Paris underground if you wanted to.  Personally, I prefer the view above ground.

How the Metro WorksTurnstile

You’ve got your ticket, and you made it past the turnstile (sometimes this is more challenging than you would think), now what?  This is where having a metro map can be helpful in creating a plan ahead of time.  If you don’t have a map, there are maps posted on the walls.  Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of the metro map, but you can click the map below to be linked so you can follow along.  Let’s do this step by step:

1. Find the Metro stop you are currently in.

2. Find the Metro stop you want to go to.

3. If it is on the same line (color/number), then this will be really easy, but that doesn’t happen very often.  Simply look in the direction you want to go until you find the last stop.  You will use the last stop to help you determine which direction you will go.  For example, if I was at Georges V and I wanted to go to Saint Paul, I would look for the sign that points to Chateau de Vincennes.  Then I would follow the signs until I reach the tunnel where I wait for the train.  Get on, and watch for your stop.

4.  If you need to change lines, don’t fret.  Do be prepared for some walking though.  Some stations are small, while others may have you walking close to a half mile.  Let’s say I’m at my home Metro stop of St. Paul and I want to go to Canal St. Martin.  I look at the map to see how I can make the fewest connections possible.  I notice that I will take line 1 to Chateau de Vincinnes to get on line 5 and exit at Bastille.  Then I will determine what the last station is in the direction I want to go.  I see that it is Bobigny Pablo Picaso, so I follow the signs that point to Bobigny Pablo Picaso.  When the train arrives, I’ll hop on and get off at Republique to make my way to Canal St. Martin.

Want some practice scenarios?  Check these out and look for the answers at the bottom of the post.  Remember, there is more than one way to get where you want to go, but typically we want the most straightforward approach.

Metro Map1. Hotel de Ville to Gare de Lyon

2. Abbesses to Châtlet

3. Opera to Tuilieries

Important Reminders

After going through the turnstile, make sure you put your ticket in a safe place.  I have never been on the Metro when they check your tickets, but I’ve heard from others that they do check.  Hold onto it to verify you paid your way so you won’t be paying more later.

One of the most important points to remember is to watch your valuable items.  The Metro is a mecca for pickpockets because we are easily distracted and the trains can become quite packed.  Try to keep your hand over your purse or pocket with your wallet, or wear a moneybelt.  Zippers and buttons are no match for pickpockets.  To learn other tips, check out my blog post about the topic.

Using the MetroWaiting for the Metro

Now that we have a better idea of how to use the Metro, we will be ready for the first installment of Paris by Metro tomorrow.  The first post will feature the Cité Metro stop and all of the wonderful sights within a kilometer.



Answer Key

1-Look for Line 1 and take the Metro that goes in the direction of Chateau de Vincennes.  Get off at Gare de Lyon.

2-Look for Line 12 and take the Metro that goes in the direction of Mairie d’Issy.  Get off at Concord.  Find Line 1 and head in the direction of Chateau de Vincennes.  Get off at Châtlet.


Look for Line 12 and take the Metro that goes in the direction of Mairie d’Issy.  Get off at Madeline.  Find Line 14 and head in the direction of Olypiades.  Get off at Châtlet.

3-Look for Line 7 and take the Metro in the direction of Villejuif-Louis Aragon or Mairie d’Ivry (the line branches off, but this time it doesn’t matter which one you take).  Get off at Palais Royal/Musee de Louvre.  Find Line 1 and head in the direction of La Defense.  Get off at Tuilieries (and enjoy the gardens :).

Weekly Photo Challenge: Masterpiece

My early morning walk awakened me to the beauty and kindness of the Rhine. I met some of the most influential people here and I think it is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

When I think of a masterpiece, I envision that moment when you stand before something that completely overwhelms you.  You might feel the urge to let a tear go, or in my case, a stupid grin takes over my face.  It is a time when your life changes because you have seen greatness.  Here are five of my masterpiece moments.  Please read the captions to understand why.

Coming to a Blog Near You

Cafe Hugo 1While taking up space at the Victor Hugo Cafe in the Place des Vosges square, I came up with an idea for a mini-guidebook series about Paris.  Yes, I realize there are probably more guidebooks available on Paris than the number of people that live in my hometown, but I think there is always room for a unique perspective.

When I think about visiting sights in Paris, I think of the metro.  It is a convenient, mostly reliable, and affordable way to get around the city.  I noticed while planning my itinerary I searched for sights near a specific metro.  What if there was a guidebook that gave you the top 10 metro stops with the best sights within a kilometer from the station?  Sure there are books broken down by arrondissements, but they can be very large.  This would make the best use of your time and metro tickets.

So each Sunday I will be featuring a post about a metro stop with a list of places to see.  Perhaps I can turn this into an ebook once I have it all compiled and properly edited…

Cafe Hugo 3Here are the tentative top ten metro stops I have selected.  Let me know if you have a different suggestion:

1. Saint Paul

2. Cite

3. Palais Royal/Musee de Louvre

4. Abbesses

5. École Militaire

6. Saint Sulpice

7. République

8. Opéra

9. Charles de Gaulle -Etoile

10. Place Monge

P.S. This idea is copyrighted, so don’t steal it :).

Updated Portfolio

TulipsIf you’ve been enjoying my photography, I have a home specifically dedicated to it on my portfolio.  I’ve received an overwhelmingly positive response on my captured images which is very motivating and encouraging me to do something with them.  Here is what you will find on my portfolio:

Best of the Best

I’ve featured only what I consider to be the very best images.  Sometimes I will show pictures on my blog to help explain something, but the actual artistic qualities are lacking.  You will find only fine art photography in my online portfolio.  Grab a glass of champagne (or your favorite beverage), some cheeses and peruse the online gallery.  You don’t even have to dress up!  I’d love to know what you think about my photos.  Please feel free to comment.

High Quality Products at a Reasonable Price

Those that have ordered photos have been extremely pleased with the quality of the images, printing, and shipping.  There are a variety of products available to entice you.  Of course you’ve got your basic prints like the 8×10 for only 6$!  Try finding that kind of deal at an art fair.  Besides prints of all sizes, there are also collages, digital prints, and souvenirs.

Two new products you can fiPortfolio Imagend in the price list are the packages and digital prints.  Perhaps you have always wanted to create a gallery wall.  My gallery wall package is a great deal for creating that unique look.  If you are really looking for a hassle free option, I even included a framed gallery wall package.  The price is a bit high, but everything is done for you.  All the frames will be a perfect fit, the photos are already framed, and you will find the consistency necessary for an immaculate wall.  The digital prints are a great option for desktop backgrounds, self-printing, or other unique projects.

Other Photography News

FacebookBesides updating my portfolio, I am also starting a Facebook page for those interested in looking at images along with sharing them.  I will post helpful tips weekly on composition, lighting, software, and equipment (without being too technical).  Ideally, I would like it to be an artistic community that is full of conversations about capturing the moment in a photo.  Please like the page if you are on Facebook.

All this talk about photography makes me want to get out there and explore.

England on my Mind

Millenium BridgeGeorge Alexander Louis.  What do you think?  With all this buzz about England, I can’t help but think back to my week I spent in London in 2011.  England was always at the top of my list to visit, but London didn’t meet all of my expectations.  I think I need to return and spend more time to get a better feel for the country.  Have you ever visited a place and found it wasn’t everything you thought it was?

That’s A Lot of Views!

20,000 views copyI’ve reached my goal before the end of July!  I don’t think I’m going to reach 1,000 followers by the end of the month, but I’m pretty happy with all these views.  My goal is to keep on getting better and better with my writing and photography.  Please let me know if you have ideas of what you’d like to see, or what I can do to improve this site!


Stonehenge1In honor of the birth of the Prince of Cambridge, I thought I’d share some of my favorite photos of England.  Then I realized I don’t have all of my England photos on this computer, so we will have to wait till tomorrow for that one.  Until then, let’s take a look at Stonehenge.

If mysteries are your thing, then this might be your kind of place.  Questions surround the stones in the field.  How did they get here?  Why are they positioned this way?  What does it all mean? The answers vary depending on who you ask.  Personally I’d like to believe that it was built by astronomers and not for sacrificial purposes.

Stonehenge is probably the most famous of stone circles, but it is not the only.  There are actually hundreds of them in Britain alone.  Have you ever visited an ancient stone circle?  What were your thoughts on it?


Cantigny Park in Northern Illinois

DaisySometimes we have to enjoy the treasures close to home when we can’t get away.  One of my favorite places to visit is Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Illinois.  The estate was owned by Robert McCormick who is known for establishing the Tribune company which contains the Chicago Tribune and WGN.  The estate is named after a French village that McCormick was in during his time in the First Division during World War I.  Just so you know, it is pronounced can-teeny, not can-tig-nee.  It took me awhile to learn that.

The grounds contain one of the best gardens I’ve ever been to.  The landscaping changes with the seasons, keeping the designs fresh.  Besides the bee-filled fields of color, there are also tanks for viewing,or climbing (if you get the urge), and two museums.

The First Division Museum takes you through America’s history with war.  They offer a great program for teachers that includes history trunks with uniforms and other artifacts.  I’ve used both the civil war trunks and revolutionary war trunk in my classroom.  The uniforms are accurate reproductions, and the other items bring the human perspective of war to life.  Imagine wearing brogans where there was no right or left, or check out the deck of cards soldiers would use to pass the time.  Just don’t eat the hardtack.

The McCormick Museum is situated in the house.  I love the Chinese mural that covers the walls in the dining room and the gold leaf ceiling in the theatre downstairs.  There is even a secret bar in the library.  Unfortunately, pictures are a no-no inside the house.

Perhaps Northern Illinois is not on your bucket list of travel destinations, but if you do happen to make it to this corner of the Midwest, stop by the Cantigny Park for a special treat.