The problem with a place in Florida called Venice is that if you Google “Venice,” you’ll end up in Italy. Even if I search my website, I get Italy. Using the hashtag “#venicefl” helps sort that out.
That’s the thing about living in the new world, a lot of places get named after the old world. If you’re someone like me that was born here, its confusing as heck. (I never said I was bright.) It’s like when someone in Ontario Canada mentions London; or the poor souls in Paris Texas.
Hashtags aside, I took this with the original Sony A7R. By this time I owned it for over a year and was thoroughly happy with it. Now I’m on the third generation A7, but am going back with newer software. The updated software breaths new light into these old shots. This is processed with Aurora HDR 2019, and after looking at what it can do with these old photos, I’m going to be going back to have a second look at a few more.
Here is a shot like the one I posted last week from the central section of old Montpellier. As with that other shot, this is from the day I wandered around taking photos of people walking the narrow streets. I could do that every day if I lived in an area like this, but I don’t so I have to take a lot while I’m there.
I processed this to make it look like the shot was at night even though it was midday. Transforming it like this is a personal preference of mine, and it creates a slightly different narrative for the image. For me, these types of images are studies in mood, lighting, and effects. I do them to satisfy my curiosity as to how far I can take a picture from its original exposure.
Aside from the processing, what makes a shot like this is the combination of the narrow streets, the curve of the leading line, high walls and the people. That’s a combination that’s generally found only in Europe. That is why I really would like to get back there more often. Maybe I can work something out. <knock on wood>
A few years ago I was wandering around the old section of Montpellier. This image is from a day when I walked around taking random photos of people walking past shops.
What’s relevant is I took this photo during the day, and the original looks much different. However, I wanted to recreate a low light look, so I’ve manipulated the lighting with photoshop and other tools, like Luminar from Skylum.
I took this when I was on vacation. However, no one likes looking at vacation photos, unless maybe they’re our own. However, I do like looking at pictures that have a sense of mystery to them. That’s what I tried to do here, create a sense of something I saw in my head but wasn’t there.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On my last day in France I went for a morning walk on Carnon Beach. Like the beaches in Florida this stretches for miles in each direction. Unlike the beaches in Florida the shore is carved into large semicircles on account of the breakwaters that are built to prevent erosion. You can see them here and if you look at the scene from Google Maps you’ll see what I mean.
In Florida, we have quite a bit of beach erosion from storms each year, at least on the gulf side. In fact the local government repairs the beach every few years. By that I mean that they dredge up the sand from a couple hundred meters off shore and deposit it back on the beach until it erodes again. In France it seems they take a different, less costly approach. The result is mile after mile of these large semicircle beaches. It creates more shore line and perhaps accommodates more people.
Both approaches to maintaining beaches have their pros and cons. However I’m more interested in taking pictures than trying to figure which is better. I spend a lot of time at the beaches in Florida so I have ideas on how to take pictures there. The beaches in Carnon however present new ideas and challenges that I only began to explore. Next time I go back I’ll explore that a little more.
If you walk the narrow streets of villages and cities throughout France you notice doorways that lead to courtyards. As residents open the doors to the street I would get a glimpse of the courtyard beyond. In a few places like this there is public access, as it leads to a restaurant. These remind me of scenes from movies, but in fact they’re quite normal for folks who live in European city centers. Here I am looking straight up and wondering what it must be like to live here.