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Tag : travel

15 Jul 2017

Looking back at a great Provence, France workshop

It took me a while to get through all my photos, but I finally edited them down – somewhat.

One of the cool things that comes with hosting photography workshops is the great people I get to meet and spend time with. Workshops tend to create a bond between people who don’t know each other and they work together to make the best photos possible. But they make more than photos, they make friendships and it great to see how well folks get along when on a workshop. This trip was no different and when one person had to leave for a medical issue, the others were feeling down about not having their friend around any longer. They texted him to make sure he was ok after getting home and checked up with him each day.

The teamwork happened not only when making photos but also when it came to leisure time. Twice we did a tailgate dinner out in the boonies and they had a great time planning the food and wine and volunteering who would get what. Even when we didn’t have any glasses for the wine, they laughed and joked when I cut five empty water bottles in half to make 10 not-so-fancy drinking cups.

I look forward to our next adventure together, everyone has already signed up for either my March trip to Iceland or June Acadia National Park workshop.

Below are some of my photos from France. I’ll soon have a link to photos taken by the participants.

08 Jul 2017

Nice, France is nice

My workshop partner, Ron Lake, and I stayed an extra day in Nice after our Provence Photography Workshop ended yesterday. We figured we came this far so we should spend some time just shooting on our own. While I do some shooting during the workshop, my main focus is making sure the participants are getting great pictures, having their needs met, helping with photo questions and worrying about logistics. Just thinking about making photos is how I like to shoot.

Old town Nice is a beautiful part of the city. It is right on the Mediterranean coast, although the beach is filled with stones and rocks and not the sandy beach I imagined in the French Riviera. I guess that’s why nearby places like Saint Tropez, Cannes and Monte Carlo are so famous. The houses in old town are quaint and filled with character and characters. I met an American in his 70’s who lives in Denmark and has been refurbishing an old story apartment for years. He told me the history of his block and showed me remnants of WWII bombings by the Germans. He loved spending a few weeks a year there just working on his apartment. I loved the small alleys and all the lovely windows with shutters.

Old town features a vibrant night life, which we discovered since my hotel window looked out over a square where a three piece band, including a full drum set, started playing at 12:30 a.m. last night. There are many cool looking restaurants that were full at 10 p.m. and many shops.

My trip to France has been great. Ron took us to many of his hidden gems so we could make splendid photos. Tomorrow we get on a plane and head back home. It has been a long trip and I look forward to seeing my wife, Robin, and doing a full edit of my photos.

06 Jul 2017

A beautiful last workshop day in Provence, France

This morning we went over to Roussillion to see the unique ochre trail. The trail goes through a canyon where they have mined ochre for many years and used the color to make many things. The buildings were all ochre color and you could buy ochre color to make you own paint or pottery. The town had a fun little market today, so that made for some good photos.

We enjoyed L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue so yesterday we decided to go back there this afternoon and have dinner beside a canal.

We had plenty of time to do more shooting in town, there is a lot to see and photograph. There were quite a few people in boats on the canals and there obviously is skill involved in using a long pole to propel the boats. The person in the back does all the work and it looks like sitting in the front is an exercise in relaxation. Most of the boats had men but one pink one has two young women and she moved the boat faster than some of the men.

This is our last full day together and it has been a blast. People are tired and invigorated and having a nice dinner together was a perfect end to the week.

Tomorrow we head back to Nice.

05 Jul 2017

The view from Provence is great

While we were getting breakfast at a great little bakery in Gordes, I walked over to the edge of town. In Gordes, the edge is really an edge, take a couple extra steps in the wrong direction and you are in flight. There were a couple of other Americans making photos in the street and one of them paused to change her camera. She made a nice foreground looking out across the valley filled with wheat fields and vineyards.

We then went to the neat town of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, which has several canals running through town. I was fascinated by a little green boat floating on a canal, I worked it pretty hard but wasn’t overly thrilled with the image I made, it will be fun to see what the others got from the same scene.

We went to several other towns and as the sun was going down we found ourselves back in Bonnieux, where we started yesterday. We pulled up to the same overlook as the sun was setting on the distant horizon. We enjoyed the tailgate dinner we had two days ago so we had planned on doing it again. We had an even bigger spread tonight in a tremendous location looking out over the French countryside. The sunset for a wonderful photo and end to another great day in Provence.

04 Jul 2017

Celebrating July 4th with lavender

It is a little strange to be in a foreign country on the Fourth of July, there is no celebration and no fireworks. What’s wrong with these people?!!!

We ventured over to Bonnieux, an old village high on a mountain that offered great views of the valley and the next town over, Lacoste, home of Marquis de Sade’s old castle. I love how they love their lavender, and it obviously isn’t just for tourists. Many homes have doors and shutters painted lavender.

While shooting from the overlook, I could see a patch of lavender in the distance and some trees at the end of it, so we went there on our way to Lacoste. The field made a nice picture but we were getting hungry so we packed up and headed to the small village of Lacoste.

It was almost 10 a.m. when we rolled into town and grabbed the first parking spot we could. We had rented a nice Mercedes van that held the entire group but parking it was a challenge in these ancient villages. There was a restaurant nearby and a few of us sat down only to learn they were only serving croissants. A few of us hiked farther into the village, which was a hefty climb. It was amazing to see how they built homes on the steep side of the mountain and some of them were three stories high.

We ran into a couple of English speaking and they said our choices for breakfast were the first restaurant or a small farmer’s market. One person was on her way back from the market and said there wasn’t any food there so we went back down the hill to the restaurant and we cleaned them out of croissants.

It was a fun way to celebrate without fireworks.

03 Jul 2017

The beauty of an abbey and lavender in France

The fun and excitement of the Provence Workshop took a hit today, we had to say good bye to one of participants because he got a detached retina in his eye. He had one before and knew when he landed in France that he might have a problem. Last night he saw a flash of light that he shouldn’t have and he talked with one of our other participants who is an opthamologist and they decided it would be best for him to fly back to America and get it taken care of. We hope him the best.

We moved to a new town, Gordes, today and went to visit one of the most anticipated site of our trip. My partner in this trip, Ron Lake, several years ago made a fabulous shot of Notre-Dame de Senanque abbey and we ventured down a winding, narrow road from Gordes to the valley below. The medieval abbey is still in use and they plant a lavender field right up to the ancient building. The lavender is still a couple of weeks away from being in peak beauty but it still made for some lovely photos.

01 Jul 2017

Understanding France’s lavender fields’ sounds

Today was the first day of real shooting for my photo workshop in Provence, France. We started off with a blast of lavender, wandering through huge fields. It was overwhelming for my sense of sight, smell and sound. I expected it to look wonderful, thigh-high rows of lavender stretching out to the horizon. I had seen plenty of photos, so the sight was a pleasure to see. And since it is lavender, I guessed it would smell great. I felt like rolling in it but I didn’t want to do any damage to the crop.

But what I didn’t expect was the sound. We were out in fields, away from the sound of humanity but there was a constant hum. I frequently see things that I don’t know what they are and I smell things that I don’t recognize but it rare to hear a sound that I can’t place. As I was walking through the rows of lavender it finally hit me that the hum I was hearing was actually a loud buzz and it was coming from bees. I had seen many bee hives near the fields but until I saw the squadron of bees doing their work on the lavender, I just couldn’t place their sound. Millions of bees pollinate the lavender and make it thrive and they were busy buzzing throughout the plants. They did make me move a little slower so I wouldn’t anger them and get stung.

Workshop participant Mourad Fahmi stands among the lavender.

 

 

04 Apr 2017

I don’t understand photographers traveling light

I’m glad I wasn’t lazy and I had my tripod with me as I was walking around in Pienza, Italy, after sunset and came across kids with their electronics.

I just read another “pro” blog saying to leave your DSLR camera and lenses at home when traveling and just take a small mirrorless camera with one lens. If the purpose of your trip is to make great images, then that is the most stupid advice there is.

Let me get this straight:

  • You’re going to a grand location.
  • You may never go there again.
  • You want to make great images.
  • You’ve invested a good deal of money for the trip.
  • You’re spending valuable time on the trip.

So you should use equipment that you wouldn’t use at home to photograph your dog?

Yes, I’d rather travel light, it is much easier. I’d rather take no luggage and have everything given to me when I arrive. But that doesn’t happen in my income range. I always have at least one more case of equipment than anyone else – I want to be ready for the shot.

Now if I were to go on vacation and sit on a beach and do nothing, then I don’t need my real camera gear. But that doesn’t happen for me. Even when I’m not on a exclusively photography trip, I get away at least of a couple of mornings for sunrise light so I can make some decent pictures.

I see people buy these light, flimsy tripods for trips and they would never use the skinny things at home. So why use them when you are someplace special? Oh yea, it is easier. I hosted a workshop in Tuscany last summer and a couple of times when we went into quaint medieval villages I didn’t bother taking my tripod. I shoot nearly everything on a tripod but I was feeling lazy. And it showed. When I got home and looked at my images I couldn’t figure out why some days I didn’t get much in the towns. Then it hit me that I wasn’t using the tripod and it changed the way I shot in the towns. I did snapshots instead of real photos because I was just walking around popping off tourist photos without thinking what I really wanted to say with my photos. I blame that on my laziness.

I’m not going to let “It is easier” be the determining factor on whether I get good images. I hope you don’t either.

28 Dec 2015

Feeling grateful for a beautiful 2015

I’m a lucky man.

I have my amazing, loving wife, Robin, who puts up with me and welcomes me back from my travels. I have my health. Those are the only two things that really matter. But on top of that I am fortunate to be able to capture the beauty that I get to witness and share it with others.

This year I hit a milestone by getting to my 50th state, thanks to photographer friend Walter Choroszewski, who helped me finally get to Hawaii. Walter helped me get to Alaska a couple of years ago, the last two states I needed to check off the list. This year I also had trips to Florida, Virginia Beach, Acadia National Park in Maine, the Hamptons on New York’s Long Island, Mystic, CT, Washington, D.C., and finally to California and Joshua Tree National Park. I was able to get away from N.J. and spend some time at our Woodstock, VT., home, but not nearly enough.

There were a loot of great people I met along the way, whether they were attending one of my photo workshops, coming by my art show booth or just great faces that I stopped to photograph. One of my favorites was a large Hawaiian family having a big Mother’s Day picnic on beach in a rather remote cove on the Big Island. They saw me walking past and one them started chatting with me and asked me to take a picture of the group. They had consumed plenty of beer and it took about 30 minutes to corral all of them around the picnic tables. They were a fun bunch.

Selecting my favorite photos of the year wasn’t easy, I kept it to 50 so you don’t get too bored.

2015 was a beautiful year and 2016 looks to be even better.

17 Aug 2014

Visiting my sister in British Columbia

bc-0889My sister Lynda and her husband Bill have built a great house on Cortes Island in British Columbia along the Pacific coast in a group of islands just east of the large Vancouver Island.

bc-0873I took a floatplane from Vancouver and landed at a nearby public dock. The ride was pretty neat, the Dehavilland Beaver, built in the 1950’s, made a couple of stops to drop off passengers at other islands nearby. I was a bit concerned when I got on the plane and the young pilot was wearing shorts and flip flops, but I understood when one of the stops was at a beach in front of the passenger’s house and it didn’t have a dock. The pilot jumped out as we hit the beach and had to wade a little to pull the plane up on the sand.

I sat up front in the co-pilot seat and had headphones that let me hear the air traffic control as crossed waypoints during the hour-long flight. We never got over 1,000 feet, usually around 500 and rarely broke 100 mph. The old engine was loud but she sounded steady and it was a fun ride.

Cortes Island sits in Desolation Sound between the much larger Vancouver Island and the mainland of Canada. It is full of tall ferns that grow up to your waist and was once covered by huge Douglas Fir, Hemlock and cedar trees, but were mostly been cut years ago leaving massive stumps. Second growth has taken over and even they are starting to get harvested. I liked the Alder trees that tend to grow quickly in bare places but they don’t last long, their bark is light colored and has interesting patterns.

bc-1897The locals are proud of their Arbutus trees, which have a smooth, almost skin-color bark and Cortes Island is the northern most reach of their existence. Lynda and Bill tell me that they are called Madrone in Oregon and are considered a weed tree and are cut for firewood.

I can tell already this is going to be a great place for photography during my visit this week.

Click to see my British Columbia photo gallery from the trip.