One thing I love in Paris is the skyline, particularly all the typical rooftops, and seeing how spread the city is.
A few places allow you to have a good sight, like Montmartre hill, or the Eiffel Tower, but from those places there is one thing you can’t see… the Eiffel Tower. That’s why Montparnasse tower is known as one of the most best sights in Paris.
Before that day I had never been on the rooftop, or any other floor in the tower. When you live somewhere you always say yourself “I can do it whenever I want”, and if you want to go with friends, you often end up never going to the place, because everyone as always something else to do (including you).
I had to meet someone and sell a camera (my Lumix GM1, which I now replaced by a Sony a6000 and a few legacy lenses) just around the tower, so I just decided “You know what? f**k it, today I go and shoot the sunset from Montparnasse”.
Before getting to the location, it’s always nice to be prepared, so here is the process I went through :
First, I checked weather forecasts, if it’s raining, or overcast, chances are the landscape won’t be that interesting (I like to have clouds, but with some detail and movement). The weather was actually quite perfect for a sunset shooting.
Then I looked up at what time exactly the sun was setting, so I know when to go up, or when to start a timelapse for instance.
Next step is : “What gear do I need?“. I wanted to do a Timelapse (which means Tripod), but it takes a long time (my average time is 20-30 minutes). If you want to be able to shoot in the meantime you then have to bring an extra camera.
I took the d600 for the timelapse and the a6000 for shooting. Then comes the decision of what lens to bring. I browsed Flickr and searched “Montparnasse”, “Paris” and other tags until I found a good framing (in my opinion), and I looked at the EXIF (= all the properties of the picture) to find with which focal length they were taken. I found that 50mm is a good length for this particular point of view, so I took a 50mm f/1.8 and a 28mm f/2.8 (which means 42mm on the a6000).
As always, I brought a few extra batteries and SD cards… you never know.
One thing to know though, the rooftop is quite small, and all the good places to take pictures from (like… not behind 2cm thick glass) are somewhat crowded. It is challenging to go there a set your tripod, and when you got that first part done comes the problem of people coming and going, which induces motion blur on a lot of your pictures. Eventually I couldn’t keep on shooting a timelapse because of that.
Another thing to consider in this case is the exposure time, the shorter it is the less chance you have to get motion blur.
I wanted to keep ISO as low as possible (100), so I opened as much as I can (1.8 for the 50). At this distance even with that wide aperture, your field of view is large enough to have everything sharp in your picture.
It was a nice, chill evening, I stayed up there for an hour and half, taking the time to frame, and having a chat with other photographers. I left because I had taken enough good pictures (in my opinion).
This last picture is actually a combination of two. One of them didn’t include the clouds, which I wanted in the frame, and the other didn’t have all the Champs de Mars part (it’s the lit area underneath the Eiffel Tower). Combining them allowed me to find a composition I’m happy with.
Bottom line : this is a place worth visiting, in my opinion 15€ just to go to the top is a bit much (I know several free rooftops), but if you want to take a good picture of Paris’s cityscape it is definitely one of the best places !