Tag: “Brittany”

Low Tide Scramble

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Pickers, pluckers, pryers, and scoopers scramble over the rocks as the tide recedes. Each person has their own favorite tools and positions. Some people concentrate on the rocks, while others wade at the edge of the water. The waders have homemade tools that amount to a stiff butterfly net on a pole. They scrape and scoop in the shallow water filtering out the sand looking for treasures.

Poudrantais, near Pénestin, Brittany, France

The treasures that these Breton villagers are seeking are mollusks. Mollusks play an important role in Breton cuisine and coastal income. The plastic shell buckets on every table in restaurants attest to the popularity of ‘moules et frites’, the pervasive mussels and fries.

When the tide goes out in Brittany it goes way out. The seafloor is gently sloping. The expanse of exposed rock draws villagers who are happy leave their other chores and pick up free seafood.

Mollusks are grown and harvested commercially in many villages. Networks of vertical posts are seeded with mussels. When the posts are exposed at low tide mature shellfish are harvested using a boom on a barge. The barges work offshore while the locals clamor for their own harvest. Some of these posts are visible offshore, in the distance in the upper photo.

Boat Removal, Poudrantais, near Pénestin, Brittany, France

It is very common for boats to settle onto the sand or rocks in bays and harbors with each low tide. When people are done with their boats for the season they are removed by tractors at low tide. The boats are lifted off of the mud onto trailers and taken up the boat ramps to waiting trucks or to nearby storage.

There is plenty of activity at low tide. I sat and watched as people followed the tide out and worked the rocks. The scraping and prying sounds were sometimes drowned out by the noisy work barges as they methodically moved along the posts. In the foreground old tractors moved slowly back and forth extracting boats. Eventually all of this activity moved gradually back toward shore as the tide moved back in. It is an ancient cycle.

Villagers walked up the ramps past me carrying their finds. Their buckets and wire baskets were heaped with mussels. One regular put his mounded basket on the back of his bicycle and pedaled toward town. His rubber boots helped on the rocks and in the tidepools, but they weren’t the best shoes for cycling. He looked like he was there every day, so it must work for him.

 

Côte de Granit Rose

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Le Diben, France (Brittany)

Tides and cultures have ebbed and flowed over the Armorican  peninsula (Brittany) of northwestern France. It is a challenging land at the edge of the European continent. It is a place where you can walk along the shoreline and not see another person.

The autumn, after the holiday crowds have left, is a good time to explore the deserted shore. But the weather becomes stronger. Brisk winds sweep across the English Channel.

Walking becomes boulder scrambling. It is made more challenging because your eyes are watering from the wind, and you are cold. (Of course, there are also calm sunny days still before winter.)

The section of Brittany called the Côte de Granit Rose (Pink Granite Coast) is a short length of coast where the sea has met its match. The granite is tough, although jointed. The waves very gradually pry apart and carry away particles of the coarse grained rock along these joints or cracks. Many strange and interesting forms are created by this physical weathering.

The shapes and colors of the rock vary wildly. Some of the forms have been named. Even though it is called pink granite some shades are more orange and brown. The rock is decorated with mollusks and lichens making it even more interesting. No matter how far you scramble you find new and bizarre rock formations.

But this is not untouched wilderness. Nearby there are intact medieval stone villages. Each one gathers around its cathedral. These villages are still vital. Tourism helps them, especially the market towns. The outdoor markets are great! They also have thriving agricultural and fishing industries. Their histories are rich. Restaurants and cafés serve local seafood and produce, and provide relaxing places to pass time and absorb Breton culture. It is easy to find a beautiful little stone village with a great hotel or a rental beach house.

Bretons are great hosts.  But you will find them at the ocean when the tide is low. They will be there next to you scouring the rocks for mussels and other shellfish.

This rocky shore is an interesting and rewarding place to spend time.

For further information:    http://cotedegranitrose.fr/en/welcome.php

Sunny Side Street

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Rochefort-en-Terre, France

Rochefort-en-Terre, France

After days of gray drizzle on the coast the inland hills were bathed in afternoon sunshine.

The picturesque medieval village of Rochefort-en-Terre, France is perfect for strolling or sitting on a café terrasse.

We had driven from Pénestin on the southern coast of Brittany (France) across the Vilaine River and through rolling farmland to reach Rochefort-en-Terre. The clouds slowly opened up and eventually the village was in full sunshine. The village has been restored for tourism but was not too busy in September.

We had seen several buildings being worked on in Tréguier the week before so we knew how much work it takes to refurbish the stone and mortar. Workers used sand-blasting, chisels, and an assortment of power tools to clean the stone and replace the surface mortar. Day after day they worked up on scaffolding and inched along the building. In Rochefort-en-Terre the buildings are all restored and the cobblestone streets have been repaired. Hanging flower baskets and colorful shutters accented all the buildings.

The hotel in this photo looked sunny and inviting. The shutters were wide open to air out the rooms and there was even a little shade on the bench out front. This lane was paved but most of the town’s streets are still cobblestones.

We explored and I photographed along several side streets. The sun gained enough force to lead us to shade. We found a shady vine-covered courtyard and stepped inside to sit and rest for awhile. It was a  salon de thé so in order to enjoy a glass of wine we were forced to order food, but it wasn’t so bad to eat the delicious apple tort with our wine. (A salon de thé (teahouse) can not serve wine without a food purchase.) We were the only customers at first but eventually two regulars came in and we were treated to lively conversations and a friendly dog who the owners knew very well, probably from daily visits. This is also where we learned about the small doorways at street level in most of the old stone homes. These were the coal chutes which are no longer used. The courtyard was a very pleasant place to spend some time on a sunny afternoon.

The stone villages and cathedrals of Brittany are very photogenic, especially Rochefort-en-Terre. I have a feeling we will return to Brittany. It is rural and the people are friendly. There are more photos of Brittany in my France gallery. Follow the Photography link above.

Mothers’ Vigil

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Memorial Vigil, Tréguier, France

Memorial Vigil, Tréguier, France

A cold wind snapping the French flag in the predawn darkness.

A harsh spotlight keeping the attention on the vigil. Do not forget.

Quiet, deserted cobblestone streets. The sound of the flag, its cord hitting the flagpole, and the rustling of the bushes are the only distractions.

War is failure. War is loss.

Like our own American memorials this solitary statue calls attention to sacrifice and loss, to duty, to service, to honor, to failure.

Failure of leadership, failure of greed for power and wealth, failure of values, failure on so many levels. A defensive response is required when attacked, as France was in this case, but it is still wider  human failure. So much waste, so much loss. Perhaps strength can prevent the trap of greed from producing these failures. It hasn’t so far. Humanity still chooses these follies. As if, this time, there will be a different outcome.

This singular mother represents all mothers who waited in vain for their children to return to their villages from duty during World War I. This memorial is in the Breton village of Tréguier.

I recently read ‘Fighting France: From Dunkerque to Belfort’ (1915) by Edith Wharton. It was written in the first year of WWI and reflected an optimistic view of heroic young men behaving honorably in defense of their homeland against invasion. Edith was a famous writer by then and lived in Paris at the time. She was given unique access to the front lines for reporting and observation. She traveled with an ambulance crew and was given tours of front line trenches and fortifications. There was an eerie detached touristic tone to the descriptions. She described Paris in 1914 which had returned to near-normalcy after mobilization had sent most men to defend against the aggression. In that first year she was able to view the war and its battles from nearby overviews. She acknowledged and described the loss and destruction. But still it was prior to the worst protracted horrors of mud and poison gas and butchery.

And in the villages mothers waited. Men had left their mountain valleys or farms for the first time in their lives to serve their country. The outside world was new to them. Many never returned. I hope your sons and daughters are safe today.

As I stood by my tripod photographing this scene I thought about the mystery and futility and terror that people waiting in little villages like this must have felt.

It was still dark when the first car came up the hill from the river into the village. I could hear the little diesel engine as it approached and then the headlights came through the nearby opening in the ancient fortification wall and flashed onto the scene. The medieval stone wall told of previous conflicts. The car passed and continued into the old town section of shops. Another day was starting. Decisions were to be made here, and in all other towns. They have consequences.

Their Entire World

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Tidepool, Le Diben, Brittany, France

Tidepool, Le Diben, Brittany, France

At low tide this small tidepool is a world apart.

The attached  organisms have the small, sandy basin to themselves again. The sprinkling of shells  on the rock are exposed to air between tides.

This jointed granite is on the famous Pink Granite Coast of northern Brittany. Sometimes the joints in the rock form regular rectangular shapes like this tidepool, but most of the time they are more abstract.

The coarse sand at the bottom of the tidepool settled out of the wave wash. The fine white sand lining the sides may have blown in at low tide to coat the sides as the water receded, like bathtub rings.

This tidepool is shaped like a window and gives us a view into a small world where these organisms spend their entire lives.

The gently sloping Breton shore exposes vast stretches of this granite at low tide. There is a nearly endless variety of sizes, shapes, and depths of tide pools.

Then as the tide flow returns each of these separate worlds rejoins the Atlantic Ocean and become just an irregularity on the bottom.

Travel Thoughts

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Simple Travel Excitement

Simple Travel Excitement

Dreaming about travel. Savoring travel. Remembering travel.

Decent and kind people who you don’t share a common language with. Unexpected challenges. A smile. Patience. A comfortable seat at the window on a long train ride deep into the Alps. Curiosity with rewards. Quiet narrow country roads. Wind rustling the leaves of trees along a river whose name you can’t pronounce. Sheep bells in the Pyrénées. A muddy river in spring flood flowing out of a Mexican jungle. Birds with impossible colors.

Menus, mysterious and stressful. The enjoyment of getting what you thought were ordering and discovering that it is so much better than you dared imagine. How do they make it taste so good? Not sure exactly what was in that, but wow. A walk along the beach after sunset in the safety of rural Brittany.

Villages with two names. Road signs. Changing trains, reading the departure board, making the next train with only seven minutes between arrival and departure, trains that are on time, deciphering conductor announcements. Returning the rental car without damage, whew. Base jumpers landing in wildflowers at the base of the canyon wall. Hundreds of football and volleyball games mixed in with the Sunday crowds stretching for miles on Copacabana Beach. Soft white sand, gentle waves, warm humid air. The music of Portuguese or French or … conversations.

Glaciers, waterfalls, stone houses, slate roofs, startling soaring cathedrals, ancient art, life-like sculptures, bigger than life, lines for tickets, listening to animated but unknown languages on the Eiffel Tower observation deck. Watching out for pick pockets and keeping a hand on your luggage in the train station. Trying to tell the taxi driver the location of your hotel. Favelas and community refuse burning piles. Riding the bus to the beach. Riding the tram to the Mediterranean. Riding the bus from the airport, bleary-eyed, tired, disoriented, not understanding the conversations around you.

The Metro stations. Long walks across Paris. TGV. Beach vendors trying to sell horrible looking fish on a stick. Authentic fajitas in a beach restaurant. Traveling by cable car and electric train in the Bernese Oberland. Walking up the hill from the train station through the village to your hotel. Learning about Austria and The Netherlands from the hotel staff. Trying to figure out the street map in Nantes. Failing. Trying the hard cider of Brittany, but not the ‘moules et frits’. Sorry.

Looking down through three floors from a balcony watching samba dancers on a crowded floor. Watching (in person) the televised sheep-shearing contest during the celebration of the return of the sheep from the high mountain pastures in Luz-Saint-Saveur. Seeing the streets lined with piles of plastic wine cups the next morning. The marching group with giant bells on their backs. The brass band marching through town and into a living room and playing inside a tiny stone house. Running for cover from a downpour in Rennes and finding shelter in a brasserie with other storm refugees. Seeing the evil but intact German blockhouses built on the rocky shoreline of Brittany.

Arriving at the Swiss border at Geneva on the train from Chamonix and finding out we had to get off and find our way to another station  across town. The end of the line. Looking in vain for art in Geneva, but stumbling onto a choir performance inside the cathedral. Discovering that those white kitchen garbage bags that we packed fit perfectly over our rolling luggage while waiting in the rain for the ferry across Lac Léman. The banners and flags in Bern during the Euro 2008 football competition. The fiddle player and guitarist standing in the bank doorway below our hotel window waiting for customers to emerge with refreshed funding. Their three songs never got tiresome. The organ grinder and his cat who played there in the mornings. Far Breton breakfast treat and espresso. And all that new music and those weird movies.

Trying for a record-breaking long café lunch in Paris but only making it to 52 minutes. Must learn to savor more. An awkward semi-French/semi-English conversation with the family who owned the Gite that we rented at the beach in Brittany. We and they understood each other enough to know that we liked each other and had a lot in common. They had a loving family with two daughters and had a sense of humor. They were kind to us and tried to help us feel at home. We did.

History, geography, literature, art, and humanity are all enriched with travel. They are given context and life. Days are filled with planning and anticipation, then adventure and new experience, then memories and a new outlook and broader view of the world where you are-because of the world that you saw, the people, and the culture that made sense to the families you met. Their culture may be different but they built it because of their history and resources. It works for them.

The challenges of travel encourage growth and reflection. I know that is not an original thought. But it sums up how I am feeling today. I have reduced my travel and use a bicycle for local transportation. But when I do travel I intend to learn as much as I can. I look forward to the next trip with excitement. Although, I probably wouldn’t have the nerve to wear the propeller beany cap.

Tugdual Chapel Ceiling

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St. Tugdual Cathedral, Treguier, France

St. Tugdual Cathedral, Treguier, France

You’ve heard of the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

But the ceiling of the St. Tugdual Cathedral, probably not. There are no Michelangelo masterpieces on the St. Tugdual ceiling. And it is in a little town along the north shore of Brittany.

The painting and lettering are still very striking. And the Breton banners add a medieval regal feel.

The light shining through the stained glass windows was beautiful on the gray stone.

Treguier is a beautiful little village a few miles from the ocean. It has a rich religious history. This cathedral is named after a monk who became a saint. He died in 564.

I am in Texas tonight to help teach a satellite remote sensing course. I am tired from the class so I won’t write very much tonight. I enjoy this photo because it reminds me of the hours that I spent in this ancient place.

There are more photos of Brittany in the Photo Gallery at my website: www.earthmapphoto.com

Wooden Toys, Stone, and Flowers

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Wooden Toys, Rochefort-en-Terre, France

Wooden Toys, Rochefort-en-Terre, France

Jeux et Jouets en Bois. Games and toys in wood.

We didn’t know what we would find in Rochefort-en-Terre when we left the coast. It had been overcast and drizzly so I hadn’t been able to photograph as I had planned. But the late afternoon seemed to be clearing so we decided to go for a drive to a village we had read about in the interior.

We drove the country roads from Pénestin to La Roche-Bernard, crossed the Vilaine River and passed through the villages of Marzan, Péaule, and Limerzel. The roads were narrow and wound through the rolling hills between fields of corn and scattered patches of woods. There were very few other cars and only occasional stone farm houses.

This is a beautiful and rural part of southern Brittany along the the lower boundary of the Morbihan département. Brittany formally became a part of France in 1532 but maintains its separate Breton identity and traditions.

When we reached Rochefort-en-Terre the clouds were opening up but floating over the village at a steady pace. The sun shone through the openings at a low angle and highlighted the stone buildings, flower baskets, and cobblestone streets, although this photograph was taken in a shady courtyard. Gradually the openings became larger and it got quite warm.

Rochefort-en-Terre is a beautifully restored old village. There are several terrace restaurants, a cathedral, and of course, gift shops. It is popular and crowded in the summer holiday season, but it was quiet when we were there in September.

This game and toy shop was interesting but we couldn’t fit wooden toys in our carry-ons. The shopkeepers took pride in their village. They knew that its beauty is what drew the visitors and shoppers. Even the town hall was covered with flower baskets. It is a great village for strolling and for a long lunch. Photo: 1/400 s at f/2.8

There are other photographs of Brittany in the Photo Gallery at my website: www.earthmapphot.com

Nature Imitating Art

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Abstract Micro Tide Pool, Le Diben, France

Abstract Micro Tide Pool, Le Diben, France

Shallow tide pool or abstract art?

I know a local painter who loves to paint rocks. She paints rocks in various settings, many of them under or near water. I thought of Julia Bednar when I was scrambling over this intricately jointed pink granite at low tide on the north shore of Brittany.

This is the Côte de Granit Rose, the Pink Granite Coast, near the village of Le Diben, France. The shore is very gently sloped so when the tide goes out, it exposes huge fields of tide pools. Not only is the granite colorful, but also, it is covered with marine organisms that add patterns and textures.

The tide pools fill with sand which supports other organisms, both plants and animals. The tide pools are usually very clear and the sand is clean. When the water drains away, the white sand is left to trace the shape of the pool. The coarse granitoid sand is washed or blown into the tidepools.

The tide pool in this photo is only a few centimeters across and less than a centimeter deep. You are looking straight down through water to the small plants and miniature shells that look like gems. The white sand is covered with water, but the rest of the rock is exposed.

The Côte de Granit Rose is famous for the fantastic shapes formed by the rock. As the rock weathers along linear joints, or cracks in the rock,  the surf carries away the broken fragments and sculpts lifelike and abstract shapes.

At low tide, you can spend hours crawling over the rocks. But in many places you will share the tide pools with locals who turn out to look for mussels and oysters. Each person has their own special gear for collecting these shellfish. Some use little hooks to pry individual mussels off of rocks, while others use a sturdy net on a pole and scrape the sand accumulated in the shallow water beyond the rocks. The nets look very much like butterfly nets except they are scooping with them, rather than waving them in the air. Each person has a wire basket or plastic bucket to carry home what they find. At very low tides, popular collecting rocks near villages are covered with people hunched over prying and scraping. When the tide returns, the crowds retreat.

The pink granite is also used for construction. Many homes in Perros-Guirec are made entirely of pink granite. Even deck railings and pickets are pink granite.

We spent several days on these rocks. I took MANY photographs, so I will post some of the others that show some of the rock shapes at another time. You can also search for ‘The Tide Abides’ in the search box above (in this blog) to see an example of the granite shapes.  Photo:  1/80 s at f/22

There are other photos of Brittany in the Photo Gallery at my website: www.earthmapphoto.com

Thatch and Stone Against Time

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Thatched Roof Breton Farmhouse, Marzan, France

Thatched Roof Breton Farmhouse, Marzan, France

Thatched roof houses are somewhat rare in Brittany. These natural materials are dull and gray. But brightly painted shutters and flowers brighten them.

We saw this old house near a small village called Marzan along the Vilaine River. It is at the very southern edge of the Morbihan département of Brittany.

The Vilaine River is the next river north of the more famous Loire River, and they are not very far apart when they enter the Atlantic. Between them is the large Parc Naturel Regional de Briere. This park is mostly marshland and is a source for thatch. Within the park there are villages with groups of thatched roof houses. Marzan is outside the park, but close by.

Brittany is remarkable for its stone buildings and walls. It also has many Neolithic stone monuments and standing stones. Some of the stones mark burial sites, but others are less well understood.

We found that drives through the back farm roads of Brittany were very rewarding. One afternoon after exploring villages and chateaux we found ourselves on a narrow lane across a farm field near the Vilaine. We drove along the field until we found another lane that went down to the river. We ended up at a very small picnic area with a boat launch and pier. There was a sailboat tied up at the pier and as the sun was setting we watched them fish for their dinner. They looked like they lived on the boat. We had brought food with us so we had a pleasant picnic and enjoyed the quiet setting on the riverbank. Following the light through the countryside can lead to unexpected adventures.  Photo: 1/320 s at f/4

Under A Breton Sun, Anciently

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Breton Banner, Stone Face, Tréguier, France

Breton Banner, Stone Face, Tréguier, France

Over many centuries, on September mornings, a narrow band of sunlight has shown through stained glass windows onto this small sculpted stone face; unless it is cloudy.

On partly cloudy days the sunlight entering this ancient cathedral is intermittent. As the Earth turns and the clouds float overhead, it is only luck if the Sun shines brightly inside the cathedral and highlights interesting objects. The tall, colorful windows pass under the Sun, and with each opening in the clouds the sunlight enters a different window, at a different angle. Each bright few moments cast different colors on the stone from the varying scenes depicted in the stained glass. And the light comes to rest on different parts of the interior.

Sometimes a previously dark, stone column is bathed in rich red, purple, and gold. When the sunlight is bright it is hard to look at the windows because it hurts the eyes. But when the clouds close, the cathedral is dark enough to make it difficult to read. Sometimes because of the angle of the window to the Sun only a narrow shaft of light hits the stone. The arches, columns, alcoves, and ornamental sculpture make intricate shapes for the light to move across.

On this morning in Tréguier, France when I entered the cathedral there were several women working with cut flowers decorating for a wedding. Otherwise the beautiful old stone building was empty. I had practiced my rudimentary French in order to ask permission to photograph inside the cathedral. They smiled in response and said yes. My French probably was humorous and they seemed warm and friendly.

I spent a couple hours inside photographing different scenes and trying different lenses. The changing light was remarkable and challenging. I had wandered toward the back of the building when the clouds opened up and a small patch of light flooded in through a clear portion of a window. I took about six photos of the light on this red Breton banner and a small sculpture face on a column. During the minute or so that I photographed the light moved across the face from top to bottom and then the clouds closed again. In this photo the smiling face is highlighted against a very dark background in the archway behind. That night when I looked at the day’s photos I was surprised by this small happy face. It is beautifully sculpted.

The white shield on the red banner is filled with the Breton emblem. The small black emblem depicts an ermine. Two versions of the origin of the ermine emblem are that either: a 10th century duke witnessed an ermine being chased by a fox and the ermine turned and attacked the larger animal so the duke was inspired by his bravery, or Ann Duchess of Brittany saw an ermine chased by hunters, and the ermine stopped and refused to cross a pool, preferring to die. Ann saw this as an act of bravery. Which perhaps led to the motto of the Duchy of Brittany, which translates as ‘Rather dead than spoiled’  (http://www.crwflags.com/fotw/Flags/fr-bz-du.html).

Over the centuries this beautiful, smiling stone face has been sunlit many times. I am very thankful to have been there for the bright few moments it was in the Sun on that September morning. Photo: 1/100 s at f/4

You can view other photos of Brittany in the Photo Gallery at my website: www.earthmapphoto.com

Country Road, Brittany

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Breton Farmhouse, Malestroit, France

Breton Farmhouse, Malestroit, France

This rural road in southern Brittany had very little traffic. It followed gently rolling hills through corn fields and pastureland. There were small patches of woodland and scattered farmhouses.

Even though only a few people drove past this farmhouse it was generously decorated with flower baskets. It had been stormy, but an opening in the clouds let the afternoon sun spotlight this well-maintained stone building.

We were staying in a beachside gite near Pénestin, France. It was September, so the holiday crowds had left. We were about the only people on the short lane to the beach. We could walk less than a hundred meters and down a sandy trail to the beach. The only other people we saw on that beach were early morning fishermen rowing out to their boats and a few mussel gatherers.

Pénestin beaches were part of the occupying German fortifications during World War II. There still are  ominous concrete blockhouses perched in the rocks above the beach. They are on the sides of points so that they were not easily visible from offshore.  The opening for the guns faced across the beach, not out to sea. So they could not be attacked by the landing Allied soldiers until they were on the beach, entirely exposed to the machine guns in the blockhouses. Even though they are just concrete boxes, they still look vicious.

Each day we had traveled out into the Breton countryside. Some days we just wandered with only a general photography plan like, “Let’s see what kind of villages are along this south-facing slope above the river. The afternoon sun will be shining on them and we might find a chateau next to the river….” Thank goodness for the detail of Michelin maps and my wife, our navigator!

This farmhouse was in Malestroit. We found it after a very pleasant country drive. The openings in the clouds were like an ‘on’ switch for the sunlight. The light-colored stone and the mortar reflected the low-angle sun. I stood against a tree next to a roadside ditch and photographed during several brief openings in the clouds. I waited for the sunlight to brighten the stone and the flowers. But it is hard not to cast a shadow into the photograph when a setting sun is behind you. I thought I had tucked into the tree shadow, but you can see my hat brim and my shoulder in the opening between the two tree trunks. It surprised me that you can see the shadow of the entire canopy of this tree. I guess that is thanks to the wide angle lens.  Photo: 1/80 s at f/14  with 16-35 mm lens at 16 mm.

You can visit my online galleries to view more of my portfolio. Click the Photography link above.

Cold Stone, Bright Yellow

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Breton Home, Tréguier, France

Breton Home, Tréguier, France

In stone villages ‘your house’ is merely a section of stone in a long row of connected and stacked residences. But your portion of the wall of stone facing the street can still be very distinctive.

The character can be defined by the color or size of the stones, or by the types of door and window openings, or the color of the shutters, or even by how you display flowers. In the ‘old town’ parts of stone villages the houses don’t have front yards. The stone walls of the rows of houses connect directly to the stone of the cobblestone streets. These villages were built behind defensive walls and often were arranged around the cathedral and village square. Tréguier has an amazing cathedral which I spent several hours inside taking photographs. I will talk about that in another post.

This beautiful Breton home in Tréguier, France was meticulously cared for. Villages in Brittany were often built with granite. The low morning sun highlights the texture of the stone and the mortar in this photograph. It is common for homes in Brittany to have handmade lace in the windows. They are very detailed and each home has a unique design.

Tréguier is in the north of Brittany in the Côte d’Armor départment. It is a short drive from a stunning, remote, rocky coastline. It is a great place to learn about traditional Breton food and drink. There are comfortable cafés and restaurants that serve traditional crêpes, galettes, mussels, oysters, and hard cider.

The cider was everywhere, but we never saw an apple orchard. Brittany in general is agricultural, but the area around Tréguier is an especially rich area for vegetables. The farm fields are separated by narrow lanes with rock walls. There are many corn fields, but it sure doesn’t look like Iowa!

The Breton people trace their culture to Celtic roots. We found the area to be very interesting, rural, and friendly. It is a great place to go for long walks on deserted rocky shores, especially at low tide.

Photo: 1/400 s at f/4.  You can visit my online galleries to view more of my portfolio. Click the Photography link above.

Crooked Cloud Steeple Chase

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Crooked Steeple, Plougrescant, France

Crooked Steeple, Plougrescant, France

It took days for the weather to cooperate, but only minutes for this perfect cloud to drift behind an infamous, crooked, lead steeple.

Every small stone village we visited in northern Brittany (France) was formed around its ancient cathedral. The dull gray, brown, or pink stone buildings were accented with brightly painted shutters and flower baskets. The dominant local stone is a pink granite. This area is part of the Côte de Granit Rose (Pink Granite Coast).

I had read about this chapel in Plougrescant. The Plougrescant peninsula has several small villages and a long, windswept, rocky shoreline. There are still strong Breton cultural influences tracing a connection to Celtic cultures across the English Channel. I wanted to photograph this steeple but every time we drove through this village on our way to the coast it was overcast.

Finally we had a partly cloudy day. When I walked up to the chapel I got interested in a stone archway and alcove that were filled with swirling leaves. At the end of the alcove there was a very old, massive carved wooden door. The light varied dramatically as the clouds passed over. I took my time and took several hundred photos of the archway. I thought I would have plenty of time to also photograph the steeple. I was trying to show the leaves swirling inside the alcove, but I kept missing them or the light was not right.

The time came to work on the steeple. I was concerned that my wife was getting tired of this location and was ready to continue on to the coast. As I walked around the corner of the chapel the sun emerged and shone strongly on the stone walls. I made some camera adjustments and looked up to see an odd pointy cloud passing over the chapel. I quickly composed a photograph and started shooting. The cloud passed directly over the steeple and the cloud points aligned with the steeple. I got lucky with this photo as it only took about five minutes to get a shot that I liked. Then I went back to the archway and tried to get those swirling leaves floating in sunlight again. I was not very successful with that idea, however.

This lead steeple is menacingly medieval. Each of the points sticking out from the middle section end with a fierce gargoyle head.

The people of the rugged Brittany coast are not as rough as the landscape. We had a great time wandering the narrow lanes between the farm fields and walking the rocky beaches. We were treated warmly. This is a quiet and rural part of France. Photo: 1/640 s at f/22

The Tide Abides

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Rocky Shore, Plougrescant, France

With help from friends we found this other-worldly shoreline.

A couple of years ago we were staying in a beautiful, old, classic apline hotel in Wengen, Switzerland. One day on our way out to take photos, I asked the Austrian lady (Sabine) at the front desk where she liked to go for her holidays. Since my wife loves the beach, I specifically asked where would she go to enjoy the beach?

She said she liked a quiet beach and didn’t need to lay around and get a tan and recommended Brittany in France. (Brittany is the long French peninsula that extends northwest into the English Channel. It has retained ancient Breton (Celtic-influenced) traditions.) With that recommendation in mind, I asked a colleague from Montpellier, France (Philippe) where he liked to go in Brittany.  He recommended several places. We chose one location on the north shore (Tréguier) and one location on the far southern shore (Pénestin).

This photograph is of the rugged northern shoreline at Plougrescant (near Tréguier) at low tide. This is part of the Côte de Granit Rose (Pink Granite Coast). The jointed granite forms intricate geometric shapes. The seafloor is very gently sloping. So each low tide exposes long stretches of shallow tide pools and wild rock formations. You can see the tidal range indicated by the wet rocks on the upper right side of the photo. Fishing boats anchored far from the high tide shoreline still settle onto the bottom at low tide. This is the normal daily occurence and the boats are contstructed to withstand it. We found Brittany to be captivating with a unique rural culture, beautiful stone villages, ancient cathedrals and châteaux, and friendly people.

With this photo I was trying for a depth of field that provided a detailed look into the tidepool in the foreground while showing details of the fishing boats and the rock formations on the horizon, (hard to see in this thumbnail). This was taken with a 16-35mm lens at 25mm.  Photo: 1/60 s  at f/20  (2009)

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