THE LOUVRE UNDER THE STARS / by Amr Tahtawi

What do you do with an over-photographed touristic spot like this? how do you take a 'winner' shot in the world’s largest and most-visited museum arena that's drawing nearly 10 million people each year! hard questions i asked myself. Yet the answer was quite simple. Make it your own!

It’s a waiting and watching game really. Being my first time in the world famous Louvre, it was so overwhelming and it will surely be for you but it might just help if you had a plan in mind for the shot you're after. Invest some time in researching and studying the place before you reach there.

Getting there :

Quite easy if you take the Metro line 1 to the Louvre station, or RER A to Chatelet Les Halles. you’ll have a nice short walk from either stations. Another Alternative is taking the a walk through “Jardin du Carrousel” nearest Place du Carrousel.

TIMING :

Timing, timing The great debate. You'll find most of the beautiful landscape and outdoors photographs taken during their best light scenarios and in a photographic language that's soft light time range; Sunrise, sunset ( specially blue hour ) and photographing this touristic place is no exceptions, shooting at harsh light would do you no good cause that glass pyramid is reflective and you don't want white spots on your sensor. Do you? That said i would encourage you to test all day times yourself, artistic tastes are not set in stone, they are very relative from one photographer to another. So by all means, go out and shoot that place early on, mid-day, and at night and see decide for yourself.

my recipe :

First thing i do is research over and over again before stepping into the location. looking for angles, compositions and stories that visually captured my heart and introduced me in a romantic and artistic way to the subject and place. With the Louvre, i wanted to get a beautiful lasting first impression. While researching i found that most photographers never played enough with the Pyramid's light and reflection which gave me the idea to try and play around with these two elements as my main wow effects and it was worth the trial!

Once i was there, i felt overwhelmed with so many tourists ( some of the million visitors, remember? ). Luckily as with most of my shoots i prefer to scout the location 3 hours in prior or even earlier, for creative thinking space and watching the light behaviour that might just allow me to change my ideas accordingly. I started my dry shooting ( a technique learned from my spiritual mentor Ansel Adams ) and as i peaked through my viewfinder, i found myself getting closer and closer to the pyramid, somehow it didn't want to get captured from afar and once i was that close, it clicked.

You will enjoy photographing the Louvre pyramid more freely after the tourists are gone with the sun down. During the summer, tourists will clutter your shots up till 10:00 pm. I found my ideal time to be at 10:27 pm exactly. Kept shooting till it was 11:00 pm. My only problem was that i knew i can't take any star shot from this location, too much city-light noise that it would show almost no stars. So i decided to play around with a star shot i took earlier that year in the Egyptian St.Katherine Mountain range. In my Darkroom ( Lightroom + photoshop ) i manually blended my bracketed shots and tweaked the story to my desire while empathising on the Pyramid and it's magnificent light and reflection as my main subjects with a subtle starry backdrop to give it that dreamy feel, i felt while i was there.

Equipment :

  • 10-20 mm wide angle lens ( To get a full reflection of the Louvre pyramid )
  • Stable tripod ( for very low light conditions  I prefer to shoot with my Manfrotto )
  • Shutter release ( If you don't have one, set your camera to “mirror up”, use it's self timer to get sharp and stable photo )
  • Sweets ( HARIBO ) + Patience for the right moment ( mine was the blue hour, pick yours )

Camera settings :

Focal Length: 10mm
f/stop: 8 ( 10-20 mm lens optimum sharpness )
3 Exposure : o.4 sec - 1/10 sec - 1.6 sec
ISO: 200

Remember :

Be patient with your story you want to tell. When taking a picture like this for the Louvre pyramid the best advice is to take your time. The Louvre pyramid is a popular tourist spot, so be ready for crazy crowd handling and wait till they disappear. Most tourists are gone by 10:00 pm but the lingering few will stick around and you like those two you can see on the far right.

I also recommend walking around to get different angles of the Louvre pyramid. There are simply many many ways than just one to photograph it! find your personal touch and enjoy the scene.

Now click the photo below to fully enjoy it on a dark background.