Recently, the oldest known surviving photograph of a human was published online. The photo was taken in 1838 by French photographer Louis Daguerre. The black-and-white image, which today looks smudged and antiquated compared to the sharp, brightly colored digital pictures most of us have grown accustomed to, is stark yet poignant. The scene of the photograph, the trendy Boulevard du Temple, is strangely deserted except for the shoe shiner and the man getting his boots polished in the lower-left hand corner of the photo. In truth, the streets were probably filled with the hustle and bustle of pedestrians and carriages, but the seven-minute exposure time required to take the photo meant Daguerre's light-sensitive silver plate couldn't capture anyone but the relatively still shoe shiner and his customer.
The oldest surviving permanent photograph of an image taken by a camera was also created in France about ten years before the photo of the Parisian boulevard. In 1826 or 1827, after years of unsuccessful attempts, Nicéphore Niépce--Daguerre's predecessor and partner--finally achieved his goal in the Burgundy region, which lies southeast of Paris. Niépce's image depicts the view from an upstairs window at his estate, Le Gras, and is the result of several days of exposure, which practically makes Deguerre's seven-minute exposure time look like a snap. The first photograph, so blurred and haunting it looks as if it originated from a country of ghosts, provided no negatives or multiple printings the way later photographs did, making it a one-of-a-kind picture that can never be duplicated.
It's not surprising that such a beautiful country drove men to great lengths to try to capture its splendor in permanent images. Fortunately, photography has advanced over the years to the point where it is now possible for anyone traveling in France to capture this country's immense beauty with ease. There's so much to see that it's best to get a rental car and travel around to different sights to capture as much of the photogenic country as you can.
If you're taking a photography tour of France, there is no better place to begin than Paris. France's capital city, known as "The City of Lights," is one of the most photographed cities in the world, thanks to its elegant architectural design and romantic ambiance. The Eiffel Tower provides great photographic opportunities, both from the ground and the views from the top. The elegant geometric arches of Le Conciergerie, where Marie Antoinette was once imprisoned, offer amazing photographs at every turn. Be sure to walk along the Seine to see what delightful scenes you might come across, like photographing the Notre Dame Cathedral from the banks of the river.
Outside Paris, there are places seemingly designed to create beautiful pictures at every turn of the road. In the outskirts of Paris, you should stop by the Palace of Versaille, where the ornate chateau and its manicured grounds are a photographer's playground. Check out Giverny in the north of France, the rural utopia famous for being the birthplace of impressionism and Monet's country retreat. If you feel like driving south, take a road trip through the French Riviera, where you can let your camera's lens explore its sun-drenched azure coast and stylish cities. When you want to be truly carried away, visit the Seven Wonders of Dauphiné in southeast France, where you can capture the otherworldly prehistoric caves of La Balme-les-Grottes or the fog-clocked Mont Aiguille.
In France, the opportunities to take beautiful pictures are nearly endless. So what are you waiting for? Book your rental car today, and embark on an unforgettable photography tour of this amazing country!