Don is an amazing guide to Paris. I have been here a number of times, but he showed me places and things I did not know existed. Great experience, and I hope to come back for more.
There are many, many places in the world that I want to see, but Paris has always topped my list. At age 28, I imagined turning 29 in Paris. And then 30. And then 31. And then one day I turned around and there I was - age 33. And that's when I realized that I could wait no longer.
In October 2008, I went to Paris. I didn't go for a birthday or a major event, I just went. Part of what had held me back before was the fact that I was going to have to travel alone, so I did need a way to appease this fear. I had to find a purpose for going, and people to spend time with while there.
Lucky for me, I'm a photographer. And the solution turned out to be pretty simple - a photography workshop. It wasn't easy finding the right one, though. Most of them had schedules that didn't work with mine. So I was absolutely thrilled to discover Don Smith and his Paris Photography Workshops.
For three days, I followed Don around Paris and loved every minute of it. I got to know the city from an insider's perspective, and never had to deal with the throngs of tourists. The places I saw and the people I encountered were so beautiful and inspiring that my life has been changed forever by them. I actually came to feel quite at home there. Paris is a part of my soul now.
I am so grateful to Don and his amazing wife Nelly for my
first Paris experience, and for the friendship I have developed with them
because of it. I can hardly wait to get back.
How beautiful Don Smith makes Paris, introducing a city we have never seen before, perfectly framed, and personally tasted, the light and smells vivid in experience, a small group of crusty Frenchmen to add the yeast of human content, and a set of staircases to climb to the Paradise we have always heard about but rarely experienced since the days of Kertesz or Brassai.
Jerry Burchard, San Francisco
professor Emeritus, San Francisco Art Institute
I had a one-on-one workshop session with Don while on visiting Paris in the Spring of 2009. I shy away from street photography and portraiture, and instead am drawn to exploring the animate world through its inanimate artifacts. It's a work in progress. Don was a fantastic guide to Paris and patiently showed me some beautiful, intimate corners of the city where I could think, reflect, and compose. Because I shoot medium format, we also had a great time discussing classic photographic technique and style in this age of the digital camera. Next time I'm in Paris, I will definitely be contacting him for another round!
Chet Weiss (Virginia)
Dear Don + Nelly,
Thank you for an amazing 3 day workshop in Paris. I learned so much about the fundamentals of photography and saw so many hidden gems in neighborhoods I had never been to.
Thank you also for your kindness, patience, understanding and flexibility.
It was truly an honor to work with you and I can't wait till my next visit to Paris to see you again.
Kelly Walton, San Francisco
Dear Don and Nelly,
Please accept my sincerest thanks to you and your gorgeous wife during our recent visit to Paris as part of our Art Tour from Australia.
My boys really enjoyed the opportunity to be involved in a hands on workshop and will treasure their time spent wandering the streets and arcades with you both.
Head of Art
Christ Church Grammar School
Claremont, Western Australia
Don & Nelly,
I have yet the words available to express what a fabulous time I had
with our workshop.
Although I have developed a shooting style I learned through your encouragment to look further, to broaden my view through the lens.
The images are documentary stills of my journey thru the streets of Paris, which without you and Nelly would not be the same. They are wonderful!
I will be back and will be in touch again soon!
In June 2005 I had the good fortune to travel to Europe for three weeks while my wife was on a business trip. I knew one of the weeks would be near Paris and that I would finally get a chance to try some serious photography in the city. After a little bit of web searching I came across a site and became interested right away.
The site belongs to Don Smith who is an American now living in Paris. In addition to scheduled week photo workshops, Don also does some private giude work if he has an opening in his schedule. After a few exchanged e-mails I found that we had two dates that worked for both of our schedules. I booked a three hour guided photo tour with Don and his wife Nelly who happens to be a native Parisian.
If you have ever stumbled around a new place then you know how much time it takes to locate those special places and must have often thought how nice it would be to just be able to be taken around to all the best locations. Well this is just what happened for me.
Don and his wife met me at a Metro Station at 9 AM one Thursday morning and we then began a wonderful tour of Montmartre taking in all kinds of alleyways and back streets that only a photographer would discover from years of exploring on their own. To make things even better, his wife Nelly is quite the architectrual historian and so I learned about the area while visually experiencing it.
The three hours just flew by as I came upon photo opportunities left and right. Often Don would suggest some different angle that I hadn't thought about and patiently waited as I shot away. Next time I get to Paris I will certainly try to schedule another tour with Don.
And to top it all off, I was able to repeat most of the route on Saturday with my wife and a colleague of her's and she was just so pleased to get to see parts of Paris that she also probably would never see.
Return customer for sure,
Steve Shor (Minnesota)
Steve Shor on location
I thought I knew Paris,
but the workshop that I took with Don Smith opened my eyes to parts of
the city I had never seen and might never have seen on my own.
| Don Smith told
us during our workshop that ’Paris is in the details’... How
true! For three days, Don and his wonderful wife Nelly showed us countless
details that make Paris the wonderful city that it is. Details that can
be seen, smelled, heard and felt. Details that will stay with me forever.
Don & Nelly are very hospitable and very generous with their time and their knowledge. They brought us from one end of the city to the other and showed us ’the hidden Paris’, the tucked-away corners of the city that probably only the locals know about. For three days we savored the city and the great fun of capturing it's beauty with our cameras.
But the photography guide was just the beginning. Getting to know Don and Nelly (and of course Patricia, my fellow workshop student) was just as wonderful as exploring Paris!
All along the way, they taught us all about the French culture. It was extremely helpful, as I was better able to assimilate into the city and the ways of the French. Don & Nelly really did help us feel at home. After three days of shooting, I felt comfortable enough to venture out and photograph on my own for a few days.
The highlights of the workshop were visiting some of the wonderful food shops in Paris. The oldest chocolate shop and the most famous cheese shop stand out in my mind. The lesser-known 'passages' of Paris were a photographer's dream! The beauty of Paris is definitely in the details.
I had a wonderful time capturing hundreds of them in pictures.
Don & Nelly, you made a foreign city feel like home to this California girl. I appreciate that! I'm looking forward to visiting you both in Paris next time I'm there. Thanks guys, you rock!
Mary Perugini (California)
Shortly before Thanksgiving, after looking at my Frequent Flyer miles I decided to visit Paris for the first time by myself. I'd been to other European cities, but had always wanted to go Paris. As a photographer, I'm always looking for photographic opportunities as well as the chance to learn more about my craft. I found Don Smith's workshop and contacted him for the scoop. After reading about the value-packed program Don has designed for photographers I signed up and went without a blink.
Prior to my arrival Don provided me ample instructions, tips and hints on what to do when I landed, how to pack my equipment for a TransAtlantic flight, the weather (therefore, the clothing requirements), an overall sense of what the trip would be like and even photos of the transportation from the airport into Paris. Don met me at the train station as promised and we took the Metro to my hotel, which is a story in itself!
You see, he found a cancellation at a small hotel located in one of the few remaining Passages. He emailed me several photos of a typical room and asked if a hotel change was alright, and all for the same price! The hotel was small, quaint, clean and my room, the bathroom and bed were very comfortable and quiet. Since it's in a Passage, it was tucked in the middle of the block so street and neighborhood noise is quite minimal. The TV was in French of course (the series "The Nanny" in French is pretty funny) and there was a telephone, an adjustable heating system, nubby silk wallpapered walls, a desk and French windows - and waving to the cute Frenchmen across the rooftops. The hotel is intimate and so well located that it's always booked 3 months in advance, but Don got me in!
The hotel he found provides an excellent value in it's location, the continental breakfast, service, English-speaking staff, cleanliness and proximity to two Metro stops just a few steps outside the passage entry. Don's neighborhood tour really gave me a sense of direction, which helps as many of Paris' streets curve, stop, start, have different names from one end to the other. As part of the workshop Don taught me how to use the Metro and make the most of the included transportation pass (I'm from California and we don't use public transportation out there.)
On the 1st start day, we met me as planned and we started out our day of photographing Paris. Don's program purposely takes workshop students to a variety of places in Paris over the days and nights, but not to the traditional tourist stops! Don made certain to take me near the major tourist attractions so as to orient me - then I could return at my leisure to explore as much as I wanted. He pointed out the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, L'Opera, the Bastille, the Left Bank/Right Bank, the garment and art districts, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, the world class shopping areas and more for me. Don and his wife Nelly, who grew up in Paris, have worked to put together a number of photographic trips that take you by the most interesting, out of the way places that not many visitors would ever find on their own. As a result, the photographic opportunities were unending.
We would come upon a building, a cobblestoned street, a cemetery, a café, a passage, a wine shop, interesting people and characters, and there would be so many great images just waiting to be taken. This continued on for all days of the workshop.
Don's program is not rushed and not so structured in that it is inflexible or uncivilized; you start out in the morning, walk and photograph what you like, you stop and have a cafe, then start again. Don also respected my abilities or needs to pace myself or stop and rest all while pointing out innumerable photo opportunities and providing advice how to make the shot really special (angles lighting, metering, composition, etc). Tips on shooting vehicles, buildings, people, gaining permission from a subject in French, and much more. Then Nelly joined us and her loving friendship and contribution to the history of Paris, the French and their culture, helping me learn the language and so much more, was invaluable.
I still have very warm memories about that trip. We went to places which most tourists never see. Don always knew about that special vantage point or a picturesque view. As far as photographic advice, Don was always there as a pro. He was always tactful, and never patronizing. His charming wife Nelly, who is a native Parisian, contributed greatly to success of the workshop, providing on the spot historical and cultural information.
And how can I describe the moments, when the group, extremely tired from all that walking settled in the small park, next to the old church and had our little picnic with baguettes, jambon, fromage and delightful red wine.
Overall I would give this workshop an excellent mark, and hopefully in the future I will be able to do it again.
What I noticed was that the trip was not about Don photographing Paris, but of Don assisting his student's in photographing Paris well.
Don helped me to find an excellent pro lab, which is where we'd drop off film in the evening and pick it up the next night (yes, 24 hour service for B&W film!). On several evenings I would pick up my contact sheets and we would sit in their lounge area, in their large lobby while we discussed what I'd shot the day before.
I shot 50 rolls of film (a mix color, B/W, 400-800 ASA), took advantage of the included Museum Pass and spent two full days at The Louvre shooting inside, the Palais de Royale, the Seine, the Rive Gauche, walked all over Paris (bring your most comfortable shoes and what you need for any blisters), ate to die for, French food and did not have to spend a fortune unless I wanted to (many delicious 3 course French meals were between $8-12 all over Paris). I shopped, I soaked up Parisian culture, saw beautiful people, saw and met interesting people, shopped until I dropped and have postcard quality images to remember forever. The French were always accommodating and friendly towards me. I found that smiling and saying please and "desolee" helped a lot. Mostly, the smile worked wonders.
One of the best parts of the workshop was that Don let me use and test his digital camera. That changed my entire photographic outlook because when I returned home I bought a high resolution Canon body to work my existing AF lenses and help make the move from my current career into professional photography that's much easier and profitable.
The workshop didn't end when I arrived home. Don gave me PhotoShop hints and tips and also included a free 1 year subscription to "Left Bank Lens", his weekly photo magazine from Paris.
Paris is truly a photographic feast, an amazingly artistic, sensuous, pleasure-filled, gastronomic delight and highly photogenic city. I can't imagine taking a "bad" picture in Paris - and I was not disappointed. Thank you Don and Nelly for making this a very special trip for me.
Christina Pruitt (Mass.)
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