Eifel Tower

Eifel Tower in Paris, France, photographed Straight Up by Cameron R Neilson.

Sad news to report: there is construction at the tower and I couldn’t get directly underneath for the obligatory straight up image. To the side I went and waited patiently for the clouds. The Eiffel tower is undoubtedly one of the busiest places I’ve travelled to on this trip thus far–busy isn’t always good. Besides the hundreds of people waiting to take an elevator or hike (as I did) to the top, gypsies, pickpockets, and machine gun armed troops lurk around the base. It’s all a bit surreal and somewhat unnerving. Regardless, I went there alone, made several images, and have a few tips for fellow travel photographers to keep gear secure particularly since as photographers, we are excellent distracted targets:

Besides keeping your wallet in an inside zippered pocket and all the other common sense travel warnings here are my tips. This may be a bit much, but traveling alone without a second set of eyes means taking a few extra precautions. Losing a camera and data inside would be devastating, so I avoid the possibility at all costs–even if it makes me look a bit paranoid:

1. Survey the scene. It is important to study the environment before subjecting yourself to potential hazards. I wait around outside the fray of people to figure out the scene–know where the police are, the machine gun toting troops, bottle-neck areas, and quick exits.
2. Back to the wall. I’m not sure if this is good or not, but it works for me. While surveying the scene, I limit the amount of area I have to survey. A fence or wall makes it easy to not worry about your back.
3. Don’t Speak. Just shake your head if someone asks you “Do you speak English?” It’s an easy ruse to distract you even more.
4. See yourself. If you can keep the sun at your back or along one side, you can see your shadow, and the shadow of anyone else close by. Reflections in shop windows are also very good.
5. Long tripod. Extend your tripod and have it extend a couple feet behind you–best when walking along sidewalks.
6. Purpose. Move with purpose, be quick, thorough, and move along. A quick pace is helpful.
7. The Crazy Ivan If you’ve seen Sean Connery in the Hunt for Red October, you know what a Crazy Ivan is. I’ve modified it a bit. If I feel like someone is following me, I quickly change direction 90 degrees (hopefully towards a police officer of wall) and see if I am indeed being trailed. Alternatively, do a quick pivot, and walk the other way. The idea is to be crazier than any person following you, not so predictable, and totally aware of your surroundings.

Luckily all went well at the Eiffel Tower and I only pulled one Crazy Ivan (the 180 degree version). My hunch was correct, I was being followed by a guy videotaping me. It was the third time I’d seen him with his camera pointed at me in six minutes, probably harmless, but nevertheless a bit odd. He quickly turned as I walked towards him, and I made a hasty exit (walking directly past a police office just in case).

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