Visiting Europe then and now

The main purpose in visiting Europe this year was the Vimy 100 ceremony, but my other goal was to properly photograph several European battlefields. As I’ve mentioned before, I was returning to almost all of these sites for a second visit. I am a better photographer than I was twenty years ago (at least, I like to think so!) and I have equipment that, while entry level, is a massive leap ahead of the $10 point and shoot 35mm cameras I shot with back then and I wanted to do these battlefields, cemeteries, and sites justice. I’m not sure if I fully accomplished that goal. Oh well. Guess I’ll just have to go back.

One part of that was to recreate photos I took back in the day. Last week, I posted a collection of  collages that included photos from my two visits as well as original photos from World War One and Two. These weren’t meant to be accurate side-by-side recreations, but more to get a sense of how the place had changed through the years. But I did recreations, as well.

Visiting Europe – Then and Now

While preparing for the trip, I went through my archive from my time in Europe from 1997 to 2001 and printed a collection from sites I would be revisiting. I printed photos for seven locations. Next, I wrote reminders on my itineraries for the days that we were visiting these sites. I tried my hardest to find the same location and shot, took a new photo, and then a photo of the paper in the scene to remind me what this was when I got around to editing.

I was unable to do this at all seven locations. We visited some on the tour and, while the guide was very generous with the time, sometimes I didn’t have time. I didn’t make this a huge priority. Getting the good shots I wanted, and reflecting on these sites, were my priorities. A couple I just couldn’t recreate for whatever reason. Maybe once I forgot.

In the photo sets below, the left side is the old photo – all taken April 2001, except the shots of Paris (August 1998). I took the right photos in April 2017. These are free of editing, aside from cropping to fit the collage. Some photos seem different because of the different cameras, lens, and settings used. With the originals being film, taken with an automatic camera, I had no way to know what settings were used.

Now, on to the photos!

Paris from the Sacré-Cœur Basilica

At the end of my first visit to Paris, I was… not impressed. But the Basilica… I could spend my life at the Basilica. The view of the city, the people, the artists. It was my favourite place in Paris. In 2017, that is still true, though Shakespeare and Company is so close, they are almost tied. I had three shots to recreate here. The one that is missing was actually the easiest to recreate and I shot it almost immediately on my arrival. But it’s missing. I think I accidentally deleted it. Ooops.

At first look, this shot doesn’t seem too different. The poofy trees are still there, they just weren’t captured with the lens I used this year. At first, I thought the skyscrapers in the background on the left of the 2017, along with the factories next to them, were new, but looking at my full size 1998 photo, they are there, just hidden in the haze. I can seem them in the smaller photo here, but only because I know they’re there.

This shot was the hardest to find. I almost gave up until I realized that the bush had grown enough to hide the Eiffel Tower. Poor landscaping choices! If you look really close, you can see the Tower behind the random sticky-up branch in the middle of the bush. The fencing seems to be different and the leaves haven’t really shown themselves on that one tree, which makes sense as it was early in the spring this time. That bench is still there, but there just isn’t anyone around, which is the opposite of a lot of the other places I visited.

Essex Farm Dressing Station, Flanders, Belgium

The Essex Farm dressing station, near Ypres, is famous for being the location John McCrae wrote In Flanders Fields. Really nothing has changed here. There were several interpretive panels there this year and I can’t remember if they were there ‘back in the day’ or not.

Arromanches/Gold Beach, Normandy, France

I discussed Gold Beach more last week, so let’s just get to the photos!

Nothing changed here with the Mulberry Harbour. Although, man, that’s some bad exposure on the 2017 shot! Horrible work.

This monument stands on a cliff overlooking the beach. I’m pretty sure the railing in the background of 2001 is just a railing; it looks a lot different than the equipment in 2017. I’m pretty sure it’s new. At the very least, they’ve moved it closer to the monument.

Bonus – Hill 62, Flanders, Belgium

This is a bonus because, although the trenches of Sanctuary Wood were on my list of shots to recreate, I did not. It’s no secret to long-time readers that this site is special for me.  I chose to spend the time reflecting and shooting. This was also included in last week’s list.

Really nothing has changed here. The only difference was that there wasn’t as much rain. It had rained overnight and earlier in the day, enough that we walked through an inch or so of water in the tunnels, but nowhere near as much as last time. The trenches were also much deeper this year. I’m not sure if that was because there was just that much water in them in April 2001 (we didn’t walk in them back to find out), or if they’ve done some work on them to deepen them.

And that’s it! Have you ever taken the same vacation, decades after the first? What was different and what was the same? I’d love to hear your stories!

Check out all my photos from the trip over on Flickr.

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