#1157. Provence winter sun. Careful what you wish for

By pascaljappy | Art & Creativity

Dec 06

A couple of posts ago, I lamented the disappearance of light and colour after a storm. Predictably, for the South of France, colour and blue sky didn’t take very long to reappear. Is that better, though? ๐Ÿ˜‰


“Make up your mind, already”, you’ll be thinking, by now!

Yes, yes, I’m typing this under a sky so blue a polarizer would make it look black. And the heat from the sun is baking my back through the open bay window. Just as well as the 3rd dose of Pfizer’s brew running in my blood is making me feel like I need a sunny vacation ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜‰

But what was all the fuss about in that previous post, then? And why complain now?


First, since the photographs above aren’t helping my case, let’s stop the technicolour stream right here ๐Ÿ˜‰ A first reason for complaining is the knowledge of what follows this ecstatic display of swan song colour.

A second is that this blue sky comes at a price. Two prices, in fact, but I’ll deal with the second in another post. Today, let’s focus on what so efficiently dusts the clouds out of the sky : wind. Here, it’s called Mistral. Maserati based a 1963 thoroughbred after it and Renaud, the artist not the car, wrote a lovely song about very tangy sweets named after it. The Maserati used Fangio’s World Championship engine to get to 230km/h, more or less the upper reaches of Mistral’s haste at sea.

Today, we were barely at 40% of that top speed. But this, below, was happening at the same time as the very sheltered scenes above, just 200m away.


Now, those of you used to viewing 40 foot breakers off Portugal or Reunion Island might not feel impressed by those choppy little things the windsail seems to be navigating with ease.

But this is a sheltered harbour, on a Mediterranean sandy beach in Marseilles, not some coast facing 2000 miles of open ocean on which large waves have had the time to build up to gargantuan proportions. This only happens once or twice a year. More often than not, this family spot is like a mirror.

Last sunday, waves up to 3m high blasted those brave enough to get into the water, along with the car parks, cars, motorcycles and anything foolish enough to stay in what is usually a gentle resting place. And this was early on.


Needless to say, I loved it! Few things please me more than to experience nature doing its thing, unimpeded.

Naturally, where there’s waves, in a harbour, there’s spray.


And, naturally, a photographer wants to get close to that spray ๐Ÿ˜‰

And, then, even closer.

Until it no longer felt reasonable. Usually, there’s no water there, at the bottom of the frame. I was drenched and only worried about my camera too late. While the body didn’t seem to complain, the XCD 90mm lens didn’t look happy. Everything worked, but the front element was coated in white droplets, which I have no idea how to remove safely now that they are dry and sticky …

Any ideas ?

Anyway, I retreated, grabbed a couple of opportunistic shots …

… and headed for a more “sheltered” part of the beach to admire the kitesurfers.


After a while, though, even they gave up as the wind and waves picked up even more fury, reaching over the 35 knots limit for kitesurfing. We cleared the area, witnessing some poor guy swept away by unexpected water in a car park usually 100m from the sea. Nothing dire, he was just shocked and cold, but the beach was feeling less and less safe for anyone. And it was only the beginning as the afternoon turned into an absolute gale.


This is how seasons change over here. One violent front chases another and, suddenly, we have passed on to another phase of the year. Hence the title winter. It’s still warm and colorful on many days, but the shift has been made and will only be unmade by the torrential rains of spring and heavy winds that will propell us right into the blistering peaks of summer.

It’s very easy to undertand the ancient Greek’s belief in elemental forces when you witness them at work. Two seasons are stable, two are short transition periods during which those forces clash for cyclic domination. It’s brilliant.

Now, where did I put my wand to change my lead photos into gold?


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  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    What I absolutely adore in winter, is that incredible deep blue sky that replaces everything – the dark black clouds, the howling wind, the pouring rain, the dirt and dust in the air – when the rain finally stops. These storms cleanse the world from the grass to the heavens. The blue is the best you can get, without a polarising filter – and in fact the polariser is completely unnecessary!

    The greens are greener – the soil is a healthier deep brown – all the trees and shrubs have passed through the Asko washer and hung out to dry off. As the sun ventures forth, pokes its nose around the corner, and warm light floods into the middle of the scene.

    On to the sea – as you know, I live near the Indian Ocean – I drive past it by choice, regularly, whenever I can. The sea never looks the same twice in a row. Not even twice in the same half hour. I love the shots with the drops of water frozen in midair, frozen in time and space – just “there”, sparkling in the light. Some photographers insist on ridding us of that spectacle, using ND filters and long exposure shots, to turn any movement of water into something resembling and overflow of custard, escaping from a mad cook’s kitchen! FWIW I prefer to take photos of what I can “see”, so I am dazzled by your shots, Pascal. Sorry about the lens – can you use a bottle of the stuff we”re supposed to use to clean our spectacles?

    And the hang gliders – I must get back to Cottesloe, and work harder on capturing them floating through the air. We can stage a competition, then!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Please convince the WA gov’t that my presence is required at that Cotteslo competion, Pete ๐Ÿ˜‰

      I’m with you, when it comes to long exposures. They feel artificial to me, unless they are playing an active role in communicating the sense of passing time, as in Michael Kenna’s photographs. More often than not, the image ends up looking very gimmicky.

      The lens was cleaned with distilled water and a soft tissue. It looks OK, let’s hope it is indeed the case ๐Ÿ˜‰


      • Hi Pascal,

        An even longer lens perhaps. I actually think the subject rendered larger in the frame would be my preference. Oh and a filter for protection. Just saying, an ounce of preventionโ€ฆ

        Long exposures have indeed become a fad and gimmick achieving a campy look. Of course large format photos requiring the long exposure at smaller aperture were the precursor of the milky scene. Obviously, the effect requires consideration if a deliberate composition is desired.

        The change of seasons, light, terrain, remind me to be in the moment and feeling fine that, for me at least, the anomaly of revealing light is a rare thing.

        Best, Claude

        • pascaljappy says:

          Hi Claude, yes, a longer lens than this 90mm would have been very useful to compress and to isolate. Sadly, the only one I own is only marginally longer, at 120mm, and is so slow to focus that only objects slower than the moon can be brought to sharp focus ๐Ÿ˜‰

          In fact, it was quite lucky the 90mm was on my camera that day. After months with the 45mm on, and a short interval with an 85, I fancied a little change and just left home with the body and the 90 (65 eq.fl)in a tiny bag. I can’t imagine what the images would have been like with a wide angle. It would probably have been too dangerous to attempt.

          Whereabout do yo live, to find revealing light rare? Or is it because you don’t often shoot at midday?

          Cheers, Pascal

  • Christian says:

    I did enjoy these intense scenes of tempestuous sea, Pascal. Thank you. I too love Winter best. For it brings out the wild in the skies and seas. Living in Tasmania, I am smitten by the wilderness. Wandering through the largest temperate rainforests on Earth…. Watching dark clouds, fat with rain, skidding over the high country buttongrass plains. Or, feeling the force of the surf crashing upon rocky cliffs & surging across white sand beaches. No one to be seen. Winter says ‘wild’. Untamed. Unpredictable. And, for me, exciting.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thanks, Christian ๐Ÿ™‚ I sure would love to join you in Tasmania, right now. I’ve been to Oz 4 times, but never in your neck of the woods. Next time, I hope.

      Wild, untamed, unpredictable. Indeed. And desperately beautiful, deserving of respect, and inspiring.


  • BCphoto says:

    Dec. 6 POST: Hmmm, I find the colors (in the color section of course ;o), a little artificial and agressive (too much saturation, vibrance). The epitome for that is the color contrast (warm light/cold light) in the photograph with the (blue) statue in the shade. It may account for an aspect of reality but boosted by the color saturation it becomes unpleasantly spectacular (but obviously a subjective experience here that others may not share). Like the BW ones for their atmosphere.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi BCphoto, that yellow tree is indeed spectacular. It is located in an arboretum in Marseilles. It looks OK on my screen, but your point is noted, I don’t like overly saturated photographs myself. Sadly the redish trees are not covered in red leaves but appear to be dying … Nice to look at but sad. Cheers

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        Isn’t the yellow of the yellow tree 50/50 the leaves themselves and the other half, the warm glow of the later afternoon sun? Of course you could “kill” that warm glow, by fiddling with the temperature of the light – these days you can even do that “in camera”, so you won’t be accused of “post processing”. But I’d rather have the rich yellow of YOUR version.

        • pascaljappy says:

          Well, the tree itself is quite spectacular, that’s why it’s included in the arboretum to begin with. It is bright yellow. And the sun lit it up, through a very clear atmosphere. There are two other photographs of the tree or its fallen leaves on the page, processed with different WB for different moods. The yellow is striking in all of them, but it’s really in the sunlit image that it’s closest to reality. And it does stand out from the very blue background ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Nancee Rostad says:

    Nice save, Pascal! Moaning about the drab and dreary winter and then taking wonderful photos of the tempestuous sea being buffeted by high winds – now weโ€™re talking. Iโ€™m willing to drive 7 hours (one way) to my favorite southern coast of Oregon location the moment I see a high-wind-warning-high-surf-advisory forecast. Nothing excites me more, photographically speaking.
    Regarding your color images, I find the trick to shooting in bright sunlight is to make sure your subject is in open shade, as you so aptly demonstrated in several of your images.
    Glad to see youโ€™re out and shooting – looking forward to your next post.

  • Lad Sessions says:

    Pascal, light is always a wonderful gift, no matter where or when (I say this following eye surgery). Whether the light is subdued and somber or sharp and vivid or soft and hazy, it’s all good. –As are all your photographs! Thank you for the images, as well as the reflections.

    • pascaljappy says:

      How true, Lad. The less wise amonng us only realise what we have when we lose it. It’s important to celebrate light in our photographs every time we can. Cheers

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Hi Claude

    So THAT’S the reason why we’re all supposed to turn water into cream custard?

    And because the doyens of photography had those big cameras, they set the fashion – and the rest of us, with smaller cams that COULD freeze the droplets, were expected to “follow the leader[s]”?

    Not that it’s a problem for me. As my mother would have told you, I wasn’t the kind of kid who’d do as I was told.

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