The Arc de Triomphe in Paris can be called another centre of Paris. After all, there are 12 (yes, twelve) avenues (roads) in a decagonal configuration which lead out from the Arc de Triomphe. It was build as a tower for victory by the great Napoleon between 1806 and 1836.

The Arc de Triomphe now honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

The Arc De Triomphe during an overcast evening

The Arc De Triomphe during an overcast evening

The monument stands 50 metres in height and it is so grand that there has been an instance of a bi-plane flying through it. (See pic). It is one of the tallest arches in the world, with only a couple of arches built in the 20th century, in Mexico City and Pyongyang eclipsing its height. It’s located at the western end of the Champs-Élysées, which is known as the most expensive and luxury shopping street in the world.

You can even go up the tower for spectacular views over the city, which I didn’t do this time because of bad light and overcast skies. Have kept it for the next time we are in Paris, when we can expect some sun and beautiful sunset light. Oh yeah, a photographer gotta know his light if we needs to have the best shot.

How can you make a photograph like this? How did I make this shot?


  1. Weather – It was an overcast day. Not the kind of weather I had hoped for, but you have to make the most of what you have got.
  2. Timing – I was walking along the Champs-Elysees for a few hours hoping for the clouds to go away, but when I had no hopes of them doing so, I just took this picture. It was late afternoon.
  3. Location – Every one knows the Arc de Triomphe. And you can’t come back from Paris without taking a picture of the Arc.

On Location

  1. Composition – I just strolled around the semi-circle around the Arc de Triomphe and looked for a spot where there were no obstructions and there were a few cars (no buses) as this is very busy intersection in Paris. After around 30 minutes I managed to get this picture.
  2. Gear – I had my walk-around lens of 18-200mm focal length and that was enough for this shot, which I took at the widest focal length of 18mm.
  3. Exposure Settings – Took this shot handheld, at 1/640 of a second, f 3.5 and ISO 400. I auto focussed on the Arc, so f3.5 was ok. In better light, I would have gone for something like f8, but in this case it was perfectly ok. I shot this in the Aperture Priority mode, which is the mode I use most, unless I am on a tripod, when I prefer shooting totally manual. I shot this in RAW, since I knew it already that this image would require some processing more than my usual.

The Finishing

  1. Once I got back home, transferred the images on to my hard drive and imported them into Lightroom for processing. Since I shot the image in RAW, it was possible to alter the white balance. I tried cloudy, daylight and tungsten but the final color temperature I selected was something between tungsten and daylight, giving the clouds a nice blue look.
  2. The only thing I did after that was painted over the Arc de Triomphe with a brush and increased the color temperature, giving it a warm yellowish look. That summed up the scene in Paris on that overcast day for me.