The incredible Chateau de Chambord

How do you even begin to describe a place like this?

Chateau de Chambord is the largest Chateau in the Loire Valley of France, and is one of the most recognizable Chateaux in the world.  It was a royal country residence and hunting lodge for King Francis I.  It was built upon a medieval plan with a central dungeon and 4 towers.  Construction began in 1519 and took 28 years, finally being finished after Francis's death, under the vision of his son, Henry II.  

Those are facts, but don't actually describe Chambord.

My favorite view of Chateau de Chambord - so awesome!  I think of this as the front, but technically it's more like the back.  Either way, it's incredible.  I have a million pics from this spot!  And quite a few versions of this photo below!  This version was edited with Color Efex Pro.

Chambord is a masterpiece of French Renaissance architecture.  It's sheer enormity dominates the surrounding landscape.  You are drawn to it.  You can't take your eyes off of it.  You may literally stand there, mouth agape, with a sense of wonder percolating from your head and your heart.  You will stare breathlessly at the architectural marvels of the chateau, such as the double helix staircase (purportedly designed by Leondardo da Vinci).  This place is magnificent.  

There, that's better.

(FYI you can click any photo to view larger in a lightbox.)

As I was approaching the chateau, I just had to stop for this shot.

And of course, that's all true.  It is an incredible place to visit, and one that I believe should belong on any bucket list.  If you even get NEAR the city of Paris, you should take a couple of days out in the Loire Valley and see Chambord (among other chateaux you will discover in the area).  You can thank me later.

My family and I went to France last summer (that's summer 2013, over a year ago - yikes, I'm a bit late with this post, eh?) and we spent about 5 days in the Loire Valley.  Our purpose?  To see several of these magnificent Chateaux.  In addition to Chambord (which was #1 on my list), we went to Chenoceau, Cheverny, Amboise and Chaumont-sur-Loire.  Here's a quick list I created that outlines all 5 of them.

The verdict?

Move there.  Or at least go visit.  It is all just so incredible.

A little tighter crop view once I got a little closer.  Man I love architecture!!

So today's post contains a few of the very first photos that I took as we walked through the tiny village and made our way to this grand chateau.  We spent a few hours here, and even that is not enough.  I say that because even though the inside is pretty empty, you can still wander aimlessly here for hours, appreciating the details (large and small) and just soaking up the rich history of the Loire Valley.  You can also get on the roof.  See that roof?  Don't you just want to go up there?  I did!  More on that in a future post!

Upon arrival, I walked around this moat so that I could get some cool shots across the water.  Success!

And by the way, in my continuing quest to explore my personal photographic creativity, I have processed one photo in several different software packages, just to see what sort of looks I can come up with.  While they all start to deviate considerably from what I actually saw, it's still a great exercise and one that I recommend doing.  I personally don't mind deviation like that, because I consider all of this art, and therefore I think it's subject to personal interpretation.  But, that's me.  Feel free to disagree.  

This one was edited in Silver Efex Pro, and despite my love of color, I have to admit that I REALLY like this black and white version.  It seems to fit the scene so well.  Maybe I should try this more often? 

And one more thing - these were all HDR photos built in Photomatix from a 7 frame bracket.  In most however, I only used 4 or 5 of the frames.  A couple were either too dark or too light to really help me any, so I left them out.

I used Perfect Effects from OnOne Software for this version.  I went for a darker but more saturated look, sort of as though it was sunset (though it was actually midday when I was there).  I really like this result.  You?

I am also starting to learn a bit more about my style and my preferences, which I never took the time to really think about much before.  As a photographer, that's sort of sad to admit, but it's true.  A lot of that had to do with the fact that I was online too much, instead of spending my time on creative endeavors.  I am also going through some more changes in terms of what I want to do with this blog, and plan to write that down and share it here in a future post.  You can read about my transition from being "social-media" focused to creativity focused here and here.

Well anyways, if you happen to have read this far - Congratulations!  Haha, but seriously, thanks for stopping by and let me know if you have any questions!

This is a painted version done in Topaz Simplify - I am enjoying doing things like this!

And here's one more painted version from Topaz Simplify - this one with softer details and higher saturation. Fun!

This version was edited only with Aperture, nothing else (well, except Photomatix to build the base HDR photo).  Believe it or not, you can get pretty nice results from Aperture.  It's a shame Apple is killing it!