In the second of a series of articles on travel photography, SeniorTravelExpert Photo Editor, John Esser, explains how he obtained some atmospheric photographs when on a short break in Languedoc. The first article in the series gave advice on equipment the senior traveller should take to get the best photographs when travelling abroad.
I have just returned with my wife from a short break in the Languedoc region of France. Photography was not the main purpose of the trip; rather it was to provide some respite from grand-parenting and other domestic duties. As we were flying with Ryanair, and my wife had first call on how the baggage allowance was to be used, I confined my gear to a Canon Powershot G16 compact and a mini Gorillapod.
Whilst on the subject of Ryanair, I know the airline sometimes comes in for a bit of flak, but apart from the inflight coffee, I found the Ryanair experience to be, on balance, very positive.
You may well beg to differ, but trust me, I’ve spent the best part of 30 years flying around the world on planes ranging from jumbo jets to single prop hedge hoppers, so feel qualified to comment on airlines and their shortcomings.
On the basis of my flights to and from France, at this point in time, I think I can safely say that Ryanair is up there with the best of them. The check in staff and cabin crew were pleasant and helpful, everything was well organised, including seat allocation at on-line check-in.
When checking in for the return flight, quelle suprise, our bag was found to be almost 2 kg overweight. The check-in clerk (who bore a close resemblance to Juliette Binoche in Chocolat) glanced at the scales, looked up at me, gave a slight Gallic shrug, smiled sweetly and waved us on our way. All in all, tres sympathetique.
They say travel broadens the mind – I can now say I am a fully signed up Francophlie and Ryanophile (well, at least for the moment).
P.S. Dear Michael O’Leary, if this doesn’t get me free priority boarding the next time I fly with your airline I shall lose all faith in human nature.
Anyway, I digress, let’s move onto the photos.
It was our first trip to Languedoc and we were both smitten by the region’s charm and beauty – limestone gorges, rolling vineyards and pretty, medieval villages oozing atmosphere and history – the wine was very good too.
The weather was perfect and there was no shortage of photo-opportunities. I have compiled a small selection of photos to give you a feel for the area and hopefully encourage you to visit yourself.
1. The historic village of Minerve. Minerve has a dark past; in 1210 a group of Cathars took refuge in the village which was then beseiged by Simon de Montfort, 5th Earl of Leicester. After 6 weeks the village capitulated and 140 Cathars who refused to give up their faith were burned at the stake.
This image was taken from the road approaching the town. To obtain a panoramic view and place the whole village in its setting, I took two overlapping shots of the scene and stitched them together using the Photomerge tool in Adobe Photoshop Elements.
2. View of the ruins of the fort in Minerve. The wideangle view provides impact and the buildings are enhanced by the late afternoon light. Minerve is a tourist hotspot that can get very busy and I had to frame the shot carefully to obscure parked cars and passing tourists.
3. House front in the pretty town of Bize-Minervois. I was particularly attracted by the colours and textures in this scene. The diffused light, I think, has added atmosphere to the photo.
4. My favourite patisserie in Bize-Minervois. The baker’s wife, Tatiana, and her mother-in-law are taking an afternoon break in front of the shop.
Whilst candid portraits have their place, I believe street portraits are more satisfying when you make the effort to engage with the subject before pressing the shutter button – an enjoyable experience in this particular case as Tatiana radiates French joie de vivre and her husband’s croissants are, to use the French expression, formidable.
5. La Chapelle St. Martin near Bize-Minervois. This photo was taken after enjoying a boozy picnic lunch with the group working on restoring the chapel (the camera’s image stabilisation function seems to have worked well here). The ruined chapel provides foreground interest while the approaching storm adds drama to the background.
6. Two cats taking a dozing in the afternoon heat on a wine barrel in the town of Aigne. An opportunistic shot that I think has worked well.
7. The Etang du Doul, a hyper-saline lake south of Narbonne. The water is so salty that you can float without effort. I used an elevated viewpoint for this image and again stitched 2 pictures together in Photoshop Elements to obtain a panoramic effect.