This is a photo that reflects perfectly the atmosphere of streets in Paris on the night between 2012 and 2013.
When we decided to spend that night in the streets of Paris, I started preparing very thoroughly for taking photos of the Eiffel Tower surrounded by fireworks. It seemed like a daring and pretty difficult attempt, considering that I would try, as always, to take impeccable images, which meant I had to carry with me all the heavy and expensive equipment that I carry each and every time I start one of my photo expeditions. The information I could obtain from friends or on the internet said streets would be extremely crowded and people would celebrate the arrival of the New Year cheerfully, with a lot of champagne. The conditions were ripe for pickpockets, for whom my equipment would be a very tempting target. On the other hand, I found out public means of transportation became unsafe and even dangerous to travel by after the celebration ended and driving there and back was out of the question, as there were no parking spaces available.
Nevertheless, we decided to go by car. We set off very early and arrived in Paris around 7 p.m. At this time of the evening, the French have dinner and streets are not so crowded, whereas restaurants and restaurant outdoor seats are. Therefore, we managed to find a parking space easily, and one very close to The Eiffel Tower to boot. The weather was good, not wet at all, and the temperature spelled spring rather than winter.
We started walking along the streets of Paris and I started taking a few street photos, to warm up and find perfect spots and angles for when the fireworks started. The streets got even more crowded. Interestingly enough, every time I set my tripod and camera and tried to take long exposure shots, a group of 3 or 4 policemen materialized around me, to protect me from pickpockets. This made me feel safe and allowed me to work at ease.
And so, taking shot after shot and walking by full restaurants, pancake stands and beggars that protected the patch of street where they lived, we reached Champs Elysees, around The Arch of Triumph, three hours before midnight. Streets were already crowded and raindrops started to fall, but I ignored them at first and continued my activity. I sometimes even climbed concrete fences to find interesting angles for shots of the crowd, a subject I am always interested in when I take photos in the street. When we were halfway along the great avenue, the rain had already became too heavy and I had to put my camera in my rucksack and cover it with the waterproof hood.
Then we walked back to our car along the streets of the big city, in a heavy, persistent rain that prevented us from watching the beauty of the city lights. We got to the car half an hour before midnight. It was raining heavily. I was confronted with a harsh reality, namely that I would not be able to take photos of The Eiffel Tower surrounded by fireworks. It was too risky, as the rain might have affected my camera. I had no choice. And then I decided to take photos of what was right there and then, since it was unique and extraordinary: The New Year in Paris, in the rain. I could not remain outside, so I decided to get in the car and create an image that would show the rain, The Eiffel Tower and the sadness the rain created. Thus was born the above image, which renders the atmosphere of that moment perfectly. The street, wet and pretty empty, nearby The Eiffel Tower wonderfully lit, as on a normal day, and hidden just a bit behind a black leafless tree, the cold cars parked along the curb, and all of these camouflaged by the raindrops that had accumulated on my windshield between two passings of the wipers. This is how I created this image of a rainy ending of the year in the most famous touristic spot in the world. The fireworks were cancelled and the only supplementary lights added to those normally present in the Tower were cast by streetlight rays that were reflected and refracted in raindrops on the windscreen. These reflections and refraction, be they errors from a photographer’s point of view, contributed very much to the real atmosphere of the photo.
This is how we spent the end of 2012 in Paris. And this is what befalls the travel photographer. Rarely does one get to do in the field what one has planned to do. Therefore, one is forced to improvise with what one has at hand and adapt and create special images. This is what is special for me in travel photography: adapting to what is unpredictable. Sometimes, adaptability generates inspiration.