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.

Cave Photography - Beginners Ultimate Guide by Amr Tahtawi

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Egypt’s is filled with photographic opportunities, including those below the surface. I recently took a beautiful mesmerising trip to Wadi Sannur Cave protectorate 10 km away from Beni Suef city and it was a very special experience - If you want to know how to go there and what you need read the latest Olé blog post. It felt good to spend 2 full hours experimenting with shooting in the cave. Along with online research i did before going, it was a fun learning experience for me and I’d like to pass on what I’ve learnt. Let’s start with some basics.

1- Protect Your Gear

As silly as it sounds, it's one of the most important aspects of cave photography because rocks don't like camera, trust me i've tried it. It’s important that you keep your camera well covered while exploring a cave as The surface are usually uneven. you can use camera pouch or a backpack to keep your gear safe as you enjoy your discovery.

2- Bring A Tripod

I knew i had to stay still while shooting, I mean what good are cave shots if they're hazy and blurry, so i brought my lightest yet steadiest tripod. It made my shoot easier than it would have been without. Some caves might not allow use of tripods so check before you go.

3- Use A Remote Shutter Release Or Self-Timer.

Camera shake can turn a good photo into a bad one. To go home happy, you have two options; use a remote shutter release cable or your in camera self-timer. Usually inside a cave you'll find yourself wanting to shoot for a long time hence a long exposure (often 30 seconds)

4- Bring A Wide Lens

Bring your widest lens. you can find caves in all shapes and sizes but you'll have to capture scenes on a larger scale. I’d suggest starting around 18mm for an APS size sensor or 28mm for full frame. I knew i would use my 10-20mm and I loved the outcome. On the other hand, you'll need some close-ups if you want the full story of the location which you'll find perfect with a tight prime or telephoto. While bringing your gear remember, caves are filled with moisture, mostly airborne, so try to keep changing lenses to a minimum if you can.

5- Use Manual Focus

Usually Caves are not that well lit and that's where manual focus comes in. So to stop your camera from confusing wrong focus points you'll have to control it yourself. If you’re using a wide angle lens and the subjects are distant with minimum light and hard focusing, turn the focus ring till infinity mark and shoot. You can always review on the LCD and retake it with adjustment as needed.

6- Lower Your ISO

This is the beauty of having a tripod. wether you're using flash to light the scene, or taking a long exposure shot you may still have a lot of shadows, that's a cave.. remember? So to stop noise from creeping in, use the lowest ISO.  I’d suggest 100-400 depending on location's light and your camera's capabilities. Mine were shot using ISO 100 yet I believe it got the job done, now i can print them Big enough with no noise.

7- Shoot In RAW

For me shooting in RAW really is the only way to come out happy from a cave shooting. It gives me far more control than a JPG can in the digital darkroom later for a lot of variables like; exposure, white balance.. So it's preferred to go home with RAWs rather than JPGs.

8- Bring your Off-Camera Flash

It's fun to experiment with off-camera flash in a closed environment as the cave. If you're asking why not use my on-camera flash, simply results are flat and two dimensional. With an off-camera flash you can introduce more shadow, depth and mood. If you are a flash fanatic, why not get your 5 other flashes and some color gels for a creative play.

9- Put A Person In The frame

It's preferable to have a reference point so as to scale the place you're shooting. Bare in mind that close up shots won’t really look good with a human in it, the larger scale shots come out better with someone standing, posing, or interacting with the cave in any possible way. a bit of a challenge but you’ll need to pose a friend and have them remain still for the exposure or they'll just show up blurry with a longer shutter speed. A lot can be done with a person in a cave, at least that's what i found through my photos.

10- Wear A Head-light

A head-light is very handy in such places where you want to focus on the beauty and composing your shots instead of worrying all the time about your path. When your hands are free to setup a tripod and frame the shot the whole process will be more enjoyable.

Soon i'll be posting a before and after shots on my facebook page of some Cave captures to help you get a better shot in your next care adventure, have fun, shoot safely and above all Enjoy.

Special thank to my friend Amr abdelwahab founder of Astrotrips who invited me to such a stunning revelations. Huge thanks to all my friend who posed for me and i'm grateful for your friendship. Sannur Cave protectorate is a forgotten gems a the protectorate was declared as a closed area right after it’s discovery then opened again lately to invite a lot of curious photographers and geology fans through organised trips.

2014 stands.. by Amr Tahtawi

Land, Sea & Air ( click the photo above for a close-up experience )

Looking back at 2014 as it ended few days ago I stand in gratefulness of how beautiful, creative, inspiring and fun this year was for me!

I stood 1200 time to briefly capture a memory i’d like to keep for myself and it turned out i have plenty that i decided to share some ( 50 images ) with the world as a motivating vibe to a more awesome year ahead. I’m very excited to see the adventures, happiness and inspiration 2015 has to offer me and my loved ones and of course to announce several great news soon (stay tuned travellers. you'll love it ;). 

Some of my Brief captured moments :

1- Eating French-made dessert in a french park early morning.
2- Riding an old vintage bike while cycling around SIWA.
3- The moment i bought La Alhambra tickets and held them in my hands with awe.
4- Happiness rush moment while mountaineering on "Sefsafa" mountain.
5- Standing in front of that ALIVE sunflower bouquet in my walk around Paris.
6- Enjoying a quiet moment in a boat alone in the Nile river.
7- Stepping inside Euro Disney with excitement and freedom.
8- Getting ready for Egypt Photo Summit 2014 event 4 hours before opening.
9- Enjoying unreal landscapes in white desert, Egypt
10- Mentoring some of my favorite students inside a very oriental timeless location in Old Cairo.

A big THANK YOU to all my friends and fans who gave me positive vibes and helped me be more creative and be part of the amazing Egyptian and global photography community.

Happy byebye to 2014. WELCOME 2015!