I was La Grande-Motte a couple of years ago walking around with my camera. A friend who was running some errands dropped me off for the morning. It’s a seaside resort town on the Mediterranean and in that respect has a lot of similarities to where I live in Florida. I was here in the off-season so it did not have the normal crowds.
I could be wrong but it seems like there are more sailboats in Europe than in the states. I’m no expert but I think we have more powerboats in the US. Nevertheless these long rows of docks are common in southern France.
The symmetrical leading lines of the rows reflecting on the water fascinate me. For that matter, leading lines and water always grab my attention. It’s something I’ve taken photos of over and over again. There is a good explanation for it, I’m sure.
This image is for me a study in the transformation of a scene. The photo was taken in daylight inside the old walls of Aigues-Mortes, southern France. However the photo appears to be in the evening. It’s an example of what I imagined verses what I saw.
Street signs, power lines and crowds were all removed. I worked on the tones and the light. I added the illumination of the lamps and a sunset through the portal. Finally I added shadows and some subtle shades. In reality there is very little reality in the image.
But is there reality in a novel, movie or painting? They’re all renderings of an artist. Sometimes I tire of reality and prefer the world of imagination. I am a practical guy so these explorations are a departure from the routine of daily life.
A snapshot of a moment in time from Montpellier France. Even in the middle of a city I look for water or glass and the reflections in it. This is part of an ancient Roman aqueduct. As I noticed the reflections in the pool I positioned myself and waited for the right moment.
I’m drawn to reflections in images and am always on the lookout for them. They can be metaphors for so many things, even life in general. When I see a reflection it immediately grabs my attention and sometimes I find it more interesting than its source. At a psychological level reflections are rich with meaning and fuel for interpretation.
Perhaps at the very core of it, many things in life are derived from reflections of ourselves. I attach meaning to things based on my own values and life experiences. What I think about things is a reflection of me.
Château des Baux de Provence is a medieval structure overlooking a valley of farms and vineyards. There is a lot to take in from the scenery to the village and all it contains. This is only halfway up the hill, the fortress and ancient armaments are further up on the left.
For whatever reason I had a lot of energy and limited time. I climbed past this and further up to the very highest tower of the castle ramparts. It was an amazing climb with some sections of the path resembling a ladder. A little winded and heated I was glad for the cool breeze at the very top. I could see for miles in all directions and took a bunch of photos. I then began the climb back down. As I entered the village about halfway down it was warm and people were walking around with ice cream cones. I almost stopped for one but continued down back to the car where my friends were patiently waiting.
There really is no such thing as time when I’m taking photos. It’s wonderful for me but maybe not so much if I’m with others. I suppose that’s true about most artistic pursuits. Time melts away and the moment is like a bubble. Fortunate for my friends the bubble popped and I showed up in just enough time for the next adventure.
This is the ancient village of Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert in southern France. Walking the cobblestone streets I was stuck by how old everything was, yet the people living here seemed quite normal. That sounds ignorant of me, but it’s hard to imagine this setting in the modern world, yet here it is and people live their lives here, one foot in today and another in yesterday. A paradox of sorts I suppose.
For instance some people have satellite dishes and iPhones and MacBookPros. Yet the door to their home could be three-hundred years old. I saw a doctor riding through the streets on a motorcycle making a house call. I saw chickens in a coup, there were children in school on a treasure hunt; all normal things for sure. It’s a product of having been raised in North America, where the entire country is younger than the doorframe to one of these homes.
Maybe our modern cities will look like this in three hundred years from now. Not likely, our homes are not made to last longer than fifty years or so. But this is what happens when you build structures to last, you create a link to the past that people like me can stumble upon and end up wondering about the intermingling of centuries. Your thought for the day.
The markets in Collioure are on narrow streets that lead to courtyards filled will shops. This is a fishing village along the mediterranean that’s also a destination for French and Spanish vacationers on the account that its close to the Spanish border. In fact its part of Catalonia, a region with a separate language and customs that crosses the borders and envisions itself as an independent state.
The border crossing between France and Spain is up a mountain road at the very top. As I drove past I mistook the boarded up buildings for a tourist attraction, but in fact it was the old border checkpoints that were used before the EU. When you see those old stations it amazing to think that there are no more borders within the EU.
Anyway, I loved the colors of the houses here, they reminded me of homes in tropical regions where colors are used freely and in excess. I suppose that’s an earmark of a warm climate, colorful houses that reflect the atmosphere. Further north we tend to stick with muted or darker tones to endure the winter. The feeling here was almost magic as we sat at outdoor bistros and meandered along the narrow streets looking for bargains. I was too busy taking pictures to shop but my wife found a couple of dresses by a designer dressmaker at the little shop on the left.
This is the Arc de Triomphe in Montpellier France. It’s a gateway to the old city which is full of shops, galleries and bistros. I walked for hours around here on a couple of occasions and didn’t come close to seeing everything, as if that’s even possible with the countless narrow passageways. On my second or trip I was beginning to learn my way around, orienting myself to the towering steeple of the main cathedral. I think that pretty much works anywhere in Europe. However, in between the main arteries are small subsections of neighborhoods, each with endless generations of habitation.
I have no idea what it would be like to be born, live and die in the same place. I’m somewhat nomadic and I live in a world that is re-inventing itself every generation. Very little stays the same in the landscape of North America, at least within the urban areas, we are always re-inventing ourselves. That stands in contrast to the old city centers of Europe. They remain intact while inculcating a sense of european identity that endures even as the world changes around it.
Urban exploration in photography is a passion for me. I’m not entirely sure why that is. Maybe because it freezes a moment so that I can go back and examine it, like an anthropologist. The structures and ambience of an urban setting speak volumes to the questions of my inquiring mind.
The Palavas swamp is a habitat for all manner of birds on account of the shrimp and other tasty morsels that thrive here. The glassy surface at dusk caught my eye as I drove past. Those houses on the other side sit along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, this is a popular destination for vacationers in summer. However I was here in the off-season which afforded me an opportunity to see a slightly different side of life in southern France. Quiet walks along the beach or simply watching the night set in across the swamp.
Other swamps around this area are used to cultivate salt. The nearby town of Aigues-Mortes is where some of the finest salt in the world comes from. I’m not a good judge of salt but it seems to me refined and smooth. nevertheless but we bought a little box to bring home which we use sparingly for special dishes.
Aside from the salt, several little aspects of French culture rubbed off on us while we were here.; cheese, wine and baguettes be chief among them. But other things like slowing down to enjoy a meal which is something we don’t always do back home. In the end we came back with just enough to whet our appetite for more and the thought that things taste better when we slow down and, use a dash of good salt.
I took this from a high vantage point in Les Baux de Provence where there was once a castle occupied by a king. This is one of the battlements perched on a ridge that defended the fortress. I’m amazed at how they used to build these castles high atop mountains back in the day. No cranes or Caterpillars yet they built sturdy lodgings whose remnants are still partially standing. So much for drywall and stucco.
The valley below this spot is filled with rolling hills of endless vineyards and the only invading is done by visitors like me looking for good wine. I say that as though finding good wine in France is a challenge. The only challenge I had this day was climbing to the top of the mountain to survey the surroundings and then looking for a refined refreshment afterwards. A tough day to be sure.
There were many medieval weapons of war like this on the mountain. I think there are reenactments from time to time. In the US we have civil war reenactments by history buffs, in France it seems they do the same. What better way to keep history alive then to dress the part and participate in an epic battle. Assuming we regroup to discuss the results with numerous bottles of wine from the valley below, count me in.
La Promenade du Peyrou is next to the old city centre in Montpellier. Bordering the promenade on two sides are these tree lined walkways. I was here on a rainy day but on a sunny day they provide shade and a place to sit. By using a telephoto lens I created compression in the scene which adds to the sense of a tunnel or covered walkway. In situations like this where there is a line of repeated elements this technique can work pretty well.
I had been walking for hours when I got here so I was happy to sit on one of the benches. The city itself is quite busy but this spot was a nice respite from the commotion. Right next to where I was sitting there was a British rock band packing up their van. From the look of the equipment they must have been filming a music video. The scenery here must be popular as a film location for all kinds of productions; from music to feature film. It’s the perfect european backdrop.
Actually, now that I think of it, this would be a good location for a photowalk. The Promenade is a good meeting point and from here you could walk through the old streets and alleyways of the ancient city. In the other direction is an old Roman aqueduct and plenty of other architecture. In any case, I was on my own one man photowalk, stopping only to rest on a park bench or sip a cappuccino at a bistro or have a glass of wine in an outdoor cafe. That’s the typical pace of a Rick photowalk, slow and easy wins the race.