The Pont des Arts and its environs is one of the most productive photography locations in the whole City of Paris. Not only does the elegant seven arched bridge make for a good subject in itself but the views from its deck are exquisite in every direction. From here, you can see Île de la Cité and Notre Dame Cathedral; the Pont Neuf; the Musée du Louvre; the Musée d’Orsay and the Eiffel Tower. Not bad for one location.
All of the photographs in this series were taken in a single October evening in the space of about 30 minutes! The blue hour doesn’t tend to last long at that time of year so I had to work fast. The sight of me huffing and puffing up and down the banks of the Seine with my camera swinging wildly around my neck and tripod legs flailing in all directions must have been a source of amusement and perhaps worry to the Parisians and tourists out for an evening stroll along the quays.
Pont des Arts and Île de la Cité
The first photo of the evening was taken from the Pont du Carrousel just beside the Louvre Museum. The view from here is one of my favourites in all Paris. In this scene, the Pont des Arts is in the foreground with Île de la Cité and Pont Neuf in the distance. The towers of Notre Dame Cathedral are clearly visible to the right, as is the spire of Sainte Chapelle. The conical towers of the Conciergerie prison can be seen on the far left. Marie Antoinette spent her last night here before being led to her excecution on the current Place de la Concorde. I stayed in an Ibis Hotel myself.
I zoomed in to 70mm which compressed the perspective making everything in the scene appear a lot closer together. The towers of Notre Dame Cathedral are about 1.4km away from where I took this photo but seem to be much nearer. Check out my tutorial on focal length for more about compressing perspective by using a zoom lens.
Pont des Arts and the Left Bank
For the next photo, I wanted to shoot the Pont des Arts from the opposite side so I sprinted, ok I ran, maybe jogged….fine, I walked quickly to the Pont Neuf and set up the shot looking towards where the sun had set about 20 minutes previously. The sky was a beautiful mix of pale amber and pink hues which provided the perfect backdrop to the scene along the Left Bank of the Seine.
Again, the Pont des Arts is in the foreground but this time, the Eiffel Tower itself is visible as it rises over the Left Bank. The Musée d’Orsay can be seen in the far right of the frame. Once again, I zoomed in to compress the perspective. In this scene, the Eiffel Tower is 3.5km away but seems a lot closer.
Pont des Arts and Institut de France
As the sky began to get darker, I decided to get some closer shots of the Pont des Arts and again hauled myself down the banks of the Seine knocking several shocked children aside with my tripod as I did so (accidently of course). I set up a simple shot with the bridge leading the eye to the ornately domed Institut de France on the far bank. As you can see, the sky that night was an unusual hue of purple. I’m not sure what caused this – possible air or light pollution. Whatever the reason, I quite like the purple tones.
Institut de France from the Bridge Deck
For the next, photo, I set up my tripod on the deck of the bridge itself and framed a symmetrical view with the Institut de France in the dead centre of the scene. A long exposure of 20 seconds created some motion blur from the people walking on the bridge. While editing the image, I noticed I’d captured a couple taking a photo on the left of the frame. He’s not even using a tripod….. pffft.
Pont des Arts and Monnaie de Paris
The final photo of the evening is similar to the third photo of this series but taken from the other side of the bridge and with a slightly different crop. From this side you can see the blurred French flag flying above the Monnaie de Paris (The National Mint) to the far left of the scene.
About the Location: An Unlucky Bridge
The original Pont des Arts was completed in 1804 under the reign of Napoleon I. A rather unfortunate accident involving the bridge getting in the way of an errant barge occured in 1979. This resulted in a large portion of the historic structure collapsing into the murky waters of the River Seine below. So if you ever think you’re having a bad day at work, just imagine that barge pilot having to explain to his boss that he’d just knocked down one of the most historic bridges in Paris!
In recent years, the bridge found itself once more in danger, this time because of the scourge of the so called ‘love locks’. Over a million locks weighing about 45 tons had been attached to the bridge railings since 2008 when the misguided trend began. This eventually resulted in part of the bridge railing collapsing under the weight. Thankfully, the city removed the locks but the original mesh railings have been replaced by a rather less attractive synthetic glass. I was lucky enough to photograph the bridge back in 2011 before the new barriers were installed.
Once the blue hour had turned to night time, I packed up my tripod and camera and headed off to a quaint Parisian café/bar nearby where I spent the evening wondering if another barge might crash into the Pont des Arts again tonight. Thankfully it didn’t happen although I did get to pay €11 for beer that wouldn’t have filled an egg cup which was really just as disagreeable.
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