Photographing the breathtaking White Horses of the Camargue in southern France

Magrit and I recently had one of the most exciting photographic experiences ever — 4 photo sessions with the wonderful white horses of the Camargue region in the southwest corner of France.

 

Camargue white horses running, Provence, France

Charging stallions during an evening session.

These photo sessions take place around sunrise and sunset to take advantage of the magic light and are conducted by a French photographer acting as the liaison between us photographers and the local horse handlers/owners known as guardians, who are quite like the American cowboy but without the hat and sometimes even without a saddle. The backdrop for the sessions is usually a saltwater marsh or an ocean beach with the guardians on horseback herding a group of horses charging along a predetermined path toward the photographers.

Camargue white horses running, Provence, France

Charging stallions during the first morning session.

This is challenging photography as the horses are coming toward you at a very rapid pace, so it is not always easy to come away with images that are pleasing compositions and also in focus. But when you do nail it, the photos are breathtaking.

Cam argue white horse running in surf, Provence, France

White stallion alone in the surf.

At times, the thought that you’re for sure toast comes to mind, as you photograph these beasts thundering toward you at breakneck speed. Looking through a 200 mm lens adds to the impression that survival is uncertain, when in fact, this is a very safe adventure even if our hearts missed a couple of beats now and then. At times some of us had to stop shooting when we were sprayed by the water the horses churned up as they were charging first toward and then past us. However, being strapped into chest-high waders allowed us to kneel and even sit in the mud and water to get even closer to our subject matter.

photographer, camargue white horses, Provence, France.

Jim with his back to the models.

We typically had 7–10 runs of the horses per session so we had many opportunities to hone our technique and to get some great images. Believe me, we had an abundance of images to weed through. Each run lasts 30–45 seconds and your camera blasts away at between 5 to 20 frames per second. (The “20 frames per second” photographer was one member of our group who shot with the new Sony A9).

Camargue white horses and guardians, Provence, France

Guardians preparing the horses for a photo session early in the morning.

For each session, the guardians guide the whole group of horses a little ways out into the surf and then encourage them to run at full speed back to the shore where our cameras were firing away. In between sessions, the horses rest, graze, roll comically in the sand, yawn and sometimes mingle and interact with the photographers. Some of them are very curious, especially Desiree, who liked to lean her big head against our shoulders for a friendly scratch and tried to unzip our backpacks in search for treats.

Cam argue white horses and guardians, Provence, France

Preparing the Horses for another run.

We’re not horse people and are not in on horse body language (are ears folded back a good or a bad sign?), but these horses are very sweet, even shy, and friendly. They are of an ancient breed indigenous to the Rhone Delta area of southeast France and used to be semi-wild. Now they’re domesticated and live on ranches owned by the local guardians who primarily use them to herd the black bulls used in bullfighting in southern France. We were glad to hear that the bulls are not killed in the bullfights.

Two stoic guardians on their mounts.

The guardians themselves are handsome and proud but friendly people and make for great photographic subjects as well as they sit ramrod straight on their mounts, sometimes without a saddle. They are expert horsemen and horsewomen.

Camargue horse and rider in silhouette, Provence, France

A guardian showing off his skills.

Female guardian on Camargue horse, Provence, France

Woman guardian with her big herding stick.

We’ve decided to add this amazing experience to our Provence Tour in 2018. Come and join us to photograph (and smell) the lavender and sunflowers of Provence and then top off this wonderful adventure with a close encounter with the beautiful white horses of the Camargue.

Camargue White Horses Running, Provence, France

Charging stallions during a morning session.


J_M_150x150(1)Jim and Magrit have been photographing professionally and traveling in Europe for the past 20 years.

They started Photography Travel Tours in 2011 with the goal of educating and guiding photographers to some of the most beautiful and iconic scenes in Europe.

The tours are not just about getting great photographs but also have the side benefits of doing so in wonderful environments. Great food, wine, people, and ambiance.

Read more about Jim & Magrit and their wonderful photo tours here: (http://photographytraveltours.com/about/).

Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.

Posted in European Travel, Events, France, Jim and Magrit Nilsen, Photography, Provence, Slow Travel Tours, Travel Tips, Travel tips | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Parallel Worlds

There is a river that runs through Burgundy, France called the Yonne; it flows North from its source deep in the forests of the Morvan National Park, finally meeting with its confluence with the Seine at Monetereau, where it is the greater of the two rivers. History has been unkind to the Yonne in that it is the Seine that flows through Paris; this however keeps it more the secret… the secret Parallel world that is life on the Yonne.

   

Paris also owes much of its existence to the Yonne; as the city expanded and depleted the local natural resources, firewood was rafted from the Morvan forests to keep the Parisians warm in the cold European winters and their ovens burning. Stone too, for constructing the grand boulevards, including stone to construct the Notre Dame Cathedral.

   

Realising that warm and well fed Parisians are peaceful Parisians, kings and rulers were quick to make sure that the navigation was well maintained and improved, finally leading to the construction of the Canal de Nivernais towards the end of the 18th Century.

   

The canal itself meanders in and out of the river Yonne, making it one of the prettiest navigations in France, and this is where we spend our days, slowly chugging along the through the rolling hills of Northern Burgundy. In my next blog I will tell you more about life on the river Yonne and the Canal de Nivernais.

   

 


Tim Harrold is owner and captain of the Randle, a beautiful and classically styled river boat fitted with two en-suite cabins and all the modern facilities to travel in comfort.

Tim offers private French barge tour on the picturesque Burgundy Canal du Nivernais and river Yonne. A luxury cruise with Tim and his crew includes gourmet cuisine, fine wine, and guided tours by private car to vineyards and chateaux. Learn more about Edge Charter and barge trips on the Randle along Burgundy’s canals and rivers on their website.

Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.

Posted in Canals, European Travel, France, Slow Travel Tours, Tim Harrold | Leave a comment

Orvieto Light and Entries

I’ll be posting here on this blog just two more times before we melt off into retirement. Bittersweet to be sure, but so full of memories of this extraordinary city we have been visiting for 15 years. So I’d like to pay her homage with pictures from a lovely fall day last year. I wandered the city this day after our last group had left enamored of the beautiful light and welcoming entryways. This really is a beautiful city. It is worth getting off the main streets and wandering the back lanes – not just here but in any place you visit. Charming, quiet, delightful.

We will be returning. How could we not come back to this gorgeous city and her wonderful people. Cheers!!

 


Kristi and Bill Steiner began leading “learning vacations” to Orvieto, Italy in 2003. Through Adventures in Italy they provide a cultural immersion experience. Many trips include the pursuit of some kind of creative work that complements and reinforces exploration of Italy’s culture. Relationships built over the years enable Kristi and Bill to provide experiences that a typical visitor to Orvieto never gets.

Trips are held in May and September/October every year. Their Discover Orvieto and Taste of Orvieto trips are available to groups any time of the year.

Learn more about Kristi and Bill’s trips. Stay abreast of Adventures in Italy developments, and follow Bill’s musings about travel and Italy on his blog Make Haste Slowly. View Bill’s photos of Italy, Orvieto, and other memorable places at steinerstudiophotos.com, and follow him on Instagram.

Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.

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Posted in Bill Steiner, Italy, Orvieto, Umbria, Walking | Comments Off on Orvieto Light and Entries