Nutty Squirrel

A loud red squirrel caught my attention in the park. Camera always on hand, I zoomed in and we watched it nibble away.

You might imagine a squirrel would be quiet and unobtrusive. Yet the squirrels in our local park are pretty loud when they eat. The sound is a regular gnawing chipping like affair.

Saturday’s encounter was not the first time a loud squirrel had caught my attention while it was eating. Maybe it is just one particularly loud squirrel that does this. Maybe the other squirrels shun this poor squirrel for its unchecked eating volume.

We stopped and watched the red squirrel eat its seed or nut for while. When we stopped the squirrel stopped eating. A moment later it resumed eating and stared back us. Runners passed by while we watched and the squirrel did not flinch.

A short film of the red squirrel is available on my YouTube channel and embedded below.

The footage I took revealed how long and sharp the squirrel’s claws are. Thankfully the park’s squirrels are friendly and frequently take food offered to them from out stretched arms.

A squirrel sitting safely high in a tree.
A squirrel sitting safely high in a tree.
Red squirrel in the park.
Red squirrel in the park.
Red squirrel in Lyon's parc de la tete d'or.
Red squirrel in Lyon’s parc de la tete d’or.
Red squirrel up a tree eating.
Red squirrel up a tree eating.

Christmas Lights in Lyon

After a subdued festival of lights, Lyon’s Christmas lights were particularly welcome this year.

There is not a lot that can be said about Christmas lights and decorations around the city. They are welcome during the short days of December and they justify walking around the city camera in hand.

I filmed more than I photographed this year. The resulting short film of the Christmas Lights in Lyon is now available on my YouTube channel and embedded below.

Once again editing this short highlighted how much I have to learn about filming and editing. I need to film with a narrative in mind. Photography rewards capturing a single moment; filming needs context and a story to weave the scenes together. It is going to be a long road to any sense of mastery.

Photographs of Lyon’s Christmas Lights

Christmas Village in a Garden Centre

Our local Botanic garden centre has a Christmas Village. Still a shop but a fun outing on a Sunday in December.

It is a simple pleasure. Our local garden centre has always been fun to visit but particularly during December. The centre sells mostly garden items and plants but they also have a pet section, a cafe, and a health food store. It is not too taxing a task to wander the shop floor and take in the sights and sounds.

Our bee eating plant came from this store. Called Botanic, the garden centre is part of a chain of stores across France.

Each December a Christmas Village, of sorts, is constructed within the shop. The village becomes a focal point for Christmas decorations, lights, and plants.

Being careful not to film other shoppers, I put together a short film of the Christmas Village in our local garden center. The film is available on my YouTube channel and embedded below.

Photographs of the Christmas Village

Entrance to the Christmas Village
Entrance to the Christmas Village
Christmas decorations for sale.
Christmas decorations for sale.
Christmas decorations for sale.
Christmas decorations for sale.
Christmas models for sale.
Christmas models for sale.
Miniture Alpine scene.
Miniture Alpine scene.
Miniture Alpine scene.
Miniture Alpine scene.

Fête des lumières – Festival of Lights in 2015

Despite the grand spectacles being cancelled, Lyon’s light festival took place in its traditional form of candles placed in windows.

Each year at the beginning of December, Lyon holds the Fête des lumières, Festival of Lights. During the festival millions of visitors come into the city to enjoy the light shows.

After attacks in Paris, the Fête des lumières was cancelled. Security concerns meant that inviting three million people out onto the streets of the city would be unmanageable.

In place the of the usual multi-day festival, a single night returning to the traditional form of the Fête des lumières was held. On 8th December 2015, residents of Lyon were asked to place candles in their windows. At the same time a handful of more solemn light shows were displayed.

Candles, left by visitors, at the town hall.
Candles, left by visitors, at the town hall.

I put together a short film of the Fête des lumières / Festival of Lights 2015 which is now available on my YouTube channel and embedded below.

Photographs of the Displays

Names of those killed in Paris are displayed.
Names of those killed in Paris are displayed.
Eyes of well known artwork illuminate the buildings.
Eyes of well known artwork illuminate the buildings.
Fire reflected in water.
Fire reflected in water.

Photographs of the Candles

Candles infront of a shop.
Candles infront of a shop.
Candles in the windows.
Candles in the windows.
Candles in the windows.
Candles in the windows.
Candles in the windows.
Candles in the windows.

Crowds – Paris Distractions

Throngs of people languished around Paris’s museums and galleries. Tour groups pushed in line at Versailles. Queues snaked in tight coils outside monuments.

Paris remains one of the top tourist city destinations. We joined the crowds this summer to visit many of the biggest attractions.

Throngs of people languished around the museums and galleries. Tour groups pushed in line at Versailles. Queues snaked in tight coils outside monuments.

As tourists ourselves we too were part of the problem.

Alongside with plenty of footage of the attractions I caught a good deal of the crowds. Below is a short film of the crowds in Paris:

A few photos of the crowds in the Louvre, Versailles, and on the streets are below.

Tourist trinket shops vie for attention
Tourist trinket shops vie for attention
Thousands queue in the "no queue" line at Versailles
Thousands queue in the “no queue” line at Versailles
Crowds pass masterpieces with single-minded purpose
Crowds pass masterpieces with single-minded purpose
Rooms become choke points of intersecting tourists
Rooms become choke points of intersecting tourists
Long room of people
Long room of people

Sainte-Chapelle – Paris Highlights

Sainte-Chapelle was an utterly unexpected delight. The stained glass in this chapel is breath-taking.

We had been advised to visit Sainte-Chapelle but had not researched what to expect. When we arrived there was a short queue of about half an hour’s worth of waiting. The queue consisted mainly of Europeans with a heavy leaning towards Italian being the main language.

Queue waiting for Sainte-Chapelle
Queue waiting for Sainte-Chapelle

The chapel is on two floors. The ground floor, where you enter, is beautiful and alone worth the time to visit. There is an obligatory shop embedded on the left hand side. Odd but not unexpected in a popular tourist destination.

We joined the visitors milling around quietly. Lots of photos, lots of hushed whispers. After a reasonable amount of time, Megan and I decided it was time to move on. At this moment, I had presumed we had seen the chapel proper and that the upper floor would be more or less the same.

Visitors quietly move around the lower chapel
Visitors quietly move around the lower chapel
Detail of a column in the lower chapel
Detail of a column in the lower chapel
Iconography on the walls of the lower chapel
Iconography on the walls of the lower chapel
Statue at the end of the lower chapel
Statue at the end of the lower chapel
Lower chapel of Sainte-Chapelle
Lower chapel of Sainte-Chapelle
Lower chapel of Sainte-Chapelle
Lower chapel of Sainte-Chapelle

The upper floor is a treat. The small spiral stone stairs are tucked away in a corner. They take you from the lower floor and up out into the main chapel. Immediately you are surrounded on three sides by huge towering expanses of stained glass. It took a moment to adjust.

I took my photos, most of which turned out badly, and some footage. The resulting short film of Sainte-Chapelle comes closest to recreating the visit.

There are photos on the Internet that try to capture the awe. These photos feel overworked and artificial compared to what we saw. There is something reassuring in that seeing Sainte-Chapelle in person, you gain an experience that is impossible to replicate remotely.

What photos I took that did survive the difficult lighting are reasonable. A selection are below.

Upper floor of Sainte-Chapelle
Upper floor of Sainte-Chapelle
Upper floor of Sainte-Chapelle
Upper floor of Sainte-Chapelle
Upper floor of Sainte-Chapelle
Upper floor of Sainte-Chapelle
Upper floor of Sainte-Chapelle
Upper floor of Sainte-Chapelle
Detail of stained glass
Detail of stained glass
Detail of stained glass
Detail of stained glass
Upper floor of Sainte-Chapelle
Upper floor of Sainte-Chapelle

Having experienced the sensory overload of Sainte-Chapelle’s two floors, it would forgivable to overlook the outside. Sainte-Chapelle is a religious building enclosed within a courtyard. Surrounded on all sides by administrative buildings the chapel is difficult to photograph in isolation or at any distance. The views looking up however exude power and prestige.

Sainte-Chapelle imposing exterior
Sainte-Chapelle’s imposing exterior
Sainte-Chapelle imposing exterior
Sainte-Chapelle’s imposing exterior

Gutter Feeding

Just outside our main window is a gutter. It is not a traditionally sought after view. Sometimes, as in July, we reap a little reward. Birds flock around the city and swoop into and out of the courtyards.

During July we are treated to a show of birds feeding just outside our window. We live in an old apartment block in Lyon, France, and like most buildings this one is adorned with pipes and retro-fitted services.

Just outside our main window is a gutter. It is not a traditionally sought after view. Sometimes, as in July, we reap a little reward. Birds flock around the city and swoop into and out of the courtyards. For a short while, our gutter becomes a stopping off point for many a bird looking for insects.

These birds are picking insects from cobwebs, from the gutters, and from around the pipes.

I managed to film some of this July’s activity and today made the time to put together a short film. The film of birds eating from our gutters is the result.

The bird’s movement is too fast to really appreciate from my camera. The sequence of frames below hint at the speed of the movement.

Sequence from film showing a bird approaching the gutter.
Sequence from film showing a bird approaching the gutter.

Fallen Tree

A large tree fell in our local park. The tree’s fall was unexpected and the result of high winds. Since then mushrooms have bloomed on the stump.

A month ago, a large tree fell in our local park, le parc de la tête d’or. The tree’s fall was unexpected and the result of high winds. During those days the park was closed to the public.

A fallen tree in the park.
A fallen tree in the park.

High winds cause the park’s closure a handful of days each year. Seeing the sign on the closed gate is aways disappointing. Given the aftermath, the closures become understandable. The park is littered with branches of all sizes. Sometimes huge. Occasionally a subsequent walk will reveal a tree with a large bare patch where a branch once protruded. The largest branches tend to be removed by the gardeners before the public return.

The tree fell onto lawn.
The tree fell onto lawn.
Onlookers react to the fallen tree.
Onlookers react to the fallen tree.
Large roots.
Large roots.
The base of the fallen tree.
The base of the fallen tree.

The tree trunk has been removed. The roots are in place, slowly decaying.

Marks show where the tree settled.

Marks show where the tree settled. A smaller tree was hit and was also removed.

The remaining stump.
The remaining stump.
The stump and where the trunk fell.
The stump and where the trunk fell.

Mushrooms have bloomed in the last weeks. The sudden windfall of nutrients likely prompting their appearance.

Mushrooms bloom on the fresh stump.
Mushrooms bloom on the fresh stump.

Autumn Colours

Autumn is putting on a final show for the year. The leaves are colourful and the evening views are captivating.

Autumn has arrived in Lyon. The temperatures have dropped and our coats are becoming necessities.

Our apartment is cold in the winter. The thick stone walls are deceptive. Their heavy mass should insulate but instead moisture and cold seep through. The walls seem to hold onto and draw in the cold from the outside.

With autumn arriving, we are beginning to fear the winter ahead. Last year was mild, the year before less so. What will this year bring?

But for now autumn is putting on a show. The leaves are colourful and the evening views are captivating.

Red leaves top a tree in front of a recent apartment building.
Red leaves top a tree in front of a recent apartment building.
A tree shifts from green to red.
A tree shifts from green to red.
A path around the park's water.
A path around the park’s water.
A tree is reflected in the water.
A tree is reflected in the water.

The squirrels are active. They become increasingly daring at this time of year. Human visitors to the park are largely ignored. Last night one attracted my attention with its noisy eating of a seed. Looking around I spotted the source of the noise sitting on a high branch. It looked down at me while I looked up and took these photos.

A squirrel settles in the branches to eat.
A squirrel settles in the branches to eat.
A squirrel looks back from the safety of a branch.
A squirrel looks back from the safety of a branch.

Versailles Water Fountains – Paris Highlights

Watch the mirror fountain perform in Paris’ grand Versailles gardens.

On select days the water fountains at the French Palace of Versailles are turned on and synchronised with music. Our path through the sprawling gardens took us to the mirror fountain (bassin de miroir).

On days when the fountains are active, there is an additional entry fee. Given our experience of two playing fountains, it is difficult to justify.

Onlookers watch the fountain perform.
Onlookers watch the fountain perform.

The mirror fountain performs with the music Jeux d’Eau playing from loud speakers in the surrounding vegetation. My short film does not use the original music.