#1283. Celebrating Rain

By pascaljappy | Art & Creativity

Apr 30

Monochrome images in shades of green. Today, it rained. That’s it. It’s big enough news for me to warrant a post and a few shots 🙂


This is monsoon season in Green Provence, the little corner of Provence that receives enough rain every year to support huge forests. There are stretches of the motorway that takes you from Marseilles to Nice that could pass as Jurassic. All you see is forest from one horizon to the other. It’s unknown to mass tourism and honestly one of the prettiest parts of the world I know.

All this prettiness is sustained by spring rains. This is the wettest season of the year, usually so wet that June cannot come soon enough to rid us of the cold and humidity. The rest of the year will see the occasional downpour, and end of summer (which can be as late as November) typically brings intense thunderstorms that usher us in winter quite abruptly. But spring is where most of the H2O action takes place.

Usually, that is.


In Perpignan, where I grew up next to the Spanish border, it hasn’t rained properly (ie more than drizzle) in 30 months. That’s the sort of stats we usually associate with arid areas of the world, not a fertile plain.

Over here, there was some rain in November, a fierce thunderstorm in January that flooded houses and devastated agricultural infrastructure, and the occasional drizzle, here and there. Nothing meaningful since. 4 villages next to ours no longer have running water and are supplied via trucks and cisterns. In ours, the source of clean water has run dry, and authorities have diverted the water ordinarily used for agriculture to temporary filtration facilities, so taps still work. It’s the driest period ever recorded locally.

Surprisingly, everything still looks green, in the usual intense spring colours that fade when the summer light turns everything to brittle grey and my camera might as well be a Monochrom.


But, after those solid 3 hours of rain, green took on a whole new meaning (maybe the rain cleared dust off the leaves?). Here’s a sight my eyes haven’t witnessed locally for close to two years. I just couldn’t resist grabbing the camera and sharing the intensity of the scene.

None of those images have been saturated in any way.

They are straightened up to compensate for my innate wonky horizon and switched to a lovely neutral profile kindly provided by colour science wizard Adam Bonn (thanks Adam!!). Some stitching here, some shadow lifting there, … no saturation.


Sadly, you can see the signs of drought in some plants already, the brown patches aren’t decorative. And the centuries-old plane trees that served as my lens testing facility for years are now all dead. Chopped down. Gone. This …


… is no more. Dozens of them gone. It kills me.

The little river on the right hasn’t seen water in 18 months.

But today is a good day. And worth celebrating in words and photographs. Of course, in my typical display of poor taste, I couldn’t resist the overcooked b&w treatment.


Sorry 😉


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  • Lad Sessions says:

    Pascal, Delightful! Recent rains here (>2.25″) have greened up the landscape as well. There’s nothing quite like photographing happy plants, and you have served them very well. I especially liked your “overcooked” B&W; I’m a sucker for saturation and contrast.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thank you, Lad 🙂 The photos of Californian dams and reservoirs filling up that circulate on the web brought delight to my heart. There are now warnings that the new cycle of El Nino could bring unprecedented drought make me want to savour every green day we get 🙂

  • Nancee Rostad says:

    Wishing you abundant rain and a solid end to the drought. May all your hometown vicinity images be green! And remember, April showers bring May flowers.

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    Hi Pascal,
    why sorry?
    I do like that last photo!
    I find a mood threatening a calm landscape making the end of the rainbow an unreachable refuge…

    And the lovely photo above, when I return to it, suddenly looks like the edge of the Old Forest!

    As to colours in rain, I’ve always thought that they become brighter after it.
    And stones become more colourfull when wet.
    ( My guess is that the reflective quality is greater through a film of water.)

    And those photos aren’t monochrome, methinks, I’d rather say 50 shades of green!

    Great Greens, Cheers!

  • Pete Guaron says:

    Never got quite as far south as Perpignan – Carcassonne, Sète & Béziers, yes – your old alma mater, Montpellier, yes – looked you up on the map, and now I’m puzzled as to why you have two “Arles”, one to the southwest and one to the northeast????

    But Aix is different. Hilly – mountainous – and as you point out, smothered in trees. I’ve been through other parts that I imagine share some of those qualities – Lyon to Torino, for example.

    Why on earth did they decide to chop down all the plane trees? When I was a kid, growing up in Adelaide, the street I lived on was about 10 Km long, and smothered in plane trees on both sides of the road. At the back of the Botanic Gardens, even better – they never ever pruned them, and there was an avenue of them along the road at the back of the Gardens, that led from the corner of the University to the front gate of the school I went to – I used to take that route to get to the central railway station, when I wanted to take the train home from school (our local station was about 50 metres from our houses!), and the leaves in autumn piled up a metre or more thick – you had to literally wade through them! And the bark on those trees . . . . I have loved them all my life, killing them is sacrilege!

    Back to green. Yes – rain cleanses everything, and revives life – the leaves ARE cleaner after a healthy downpour, and they green up rapidly after a good drink – and within minutes of the rain stopping, the air dries out ( no haze or vapour – all washed down with the dust, as well), and the air is so clean you can see for miles. That changes all the colours. Somehow it brings a tint to the air, that makes greens seem darker – does it contribute a blue tone somehow? – I’ve often wondered. I love going out in park or garden or country areas after a heavy downpour, it produces a dramatic change in everything you see.

    Something you definitely should keep in colour – not B&W – magic tones, softer, darker, bluer (especially the sky!), greener! Captivating!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Pete, the Arles next to Perpignan is Arles sur Tech, a small rural town on the river Tech. The one East of Montpellier is the famous Roman city where annual photo exhibitions are held throughout the streets and monuments. It’s not exactly pretty in an Instagram sense, but it’s very interesting.

      Aix is lovely. Too lovely, in fact, as my wife would like to retire there. As if (1) we could afford to and (2) I could survive more than 6 months living in town (hmm, maybe that’s her plan!)

      Mayors, in France, are held accountable for accidents that happen on the streets of their cities. Some drunk jumped from a tall wall into the sea, at low tide, a couple of years ago. Somehow, it became the poor mayor’s resposibility, not the drunk, not the alcohol industry, not the bar who let him get drunk. Easier to point fingers than find solutions, I guess. Anyway, it’s become a cottage industry to convince mayors that their old trees are dead, just to get the chopping-down contract. I hope there’s special circle of Hell full of axes, just for those people. But, understandably, mayors who know no better just play it safe.

      Sadly, trees have very little value here. When Notre Dame burned down, century-old oaks were felled to rebuild its roof. All we heard about them is that the best specimens fetched 10k. I hope someone assigns a cultural, ecological and aesthetic value to trees and engraves it into our constitution, one day. Maybe we’ll stop killing those beautiful giants who … make us breathe.

      You’re right, the air was very clean and transparent. The photos show unusual constrast. It wasn’t my PP, the light really looked like that. The final monochrome is just a last minute indulgence. I tripped, my willpower failed me 😉


  • Pascal Ravach says:

    I always loved the “just after rain” moments… the transparency of the air is magical; here in South-East Asia, so often sunk in a permanent “sort of fog” due the the very high humidity, it is paradoxically after a good rain that the air is clear 🙂
    All the subtle shades of greens in your photos are what keeps attracting me to medium format… damn.
    My favourite memory for those “natural greens” was in North Ireland decades ago… nearly “peppermint green” 🙂
    No wonder it’s called “the green Erin”!

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