My Visit to Sacre Coeur Basilica, Paris

External view of the magnificent Sacre Coeur Basilica, ParisCanon 5D Mark II camera and Canon 24-105mm f4 L series lens @ 35mm. Exposure Details: 1/320 second @ f8

Rejoice for the Day is Overcast

Cloud cover may not always produce compelling skies, but it does produce a larger, softer light source than would be the case with direct sunlight. Soft light is both beautiful and expressive, and it extends your ability to record details in highlights and shadows that would otherwise be lost under brighter and more direct lighting.

Sacre Coeur Basilica

I visited Sacre Coeur Basilica in August 2011. With many hundreds of visitors the line to get into the basilica was both long and slow moving. But it was worth it. Despite all the people and the fact that photography is not permitted inside it's an opportunity for folks visiting Paris that should not be missed. Architecturally its gorgeous and its hard not to be moved by the deep sense of devotion evident in the more devote pilgrims.

My Approach

But my intention in visiting was to make photographs and I needed to find a way to do so. I entered a small chapel to the side of the cathedral where I was able to photograph unhindered. However, I was careful not to move onto the altar area and to move well and truly out of the way when more genuine pilgrims entered the space. I think its important to be respectful of both the place and of the needs of others. I'm happy for my own experience to be somewhat compromised so as not to adversely affect the experience of other travelers.

Finally I moved outside to try and make an image of the front of the basilica. The main steps leading up the hill to the front entrance were full of people, so I moved around to one side to avoid them and to find a vantage point that would allow me to explore the shapes of the domes and towers. This helped to provide a more 3 dimensional view of the cathedral.

Looking Back

It was the very last day of a 6 week trip and, frankly, I was exhausted. I really had to push hard on that final day, but a tourist ride on an open-air double decker bus and my trip to Sacre Coeur Basilica made for a fun day with numerous photo opportunities. I often think about my next trip to Europe. And its hard to do so without include Paris, once again, in my itinerary.

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Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru