RAFFAELE CABRAS, 04.07.2019
Hi LINGS friends
It’s Raffa here, ready to bring you along with me to one amazing location: the Valensole Plateau!
I discovered this part of paradise 5 years ago, and from then on every year I go back to capture the beauty of these fields and teach fellow photographers my techniques on the field with my Provence Photo Tour. In this blog post I will share with the LINGS family my 8 recommendations for fantastic photos in Provence (but feel free to reuse some somewhere else).
But before digging into them… what makes Provence so cool?
Provence is an iconic place, and for a reason! The scents, the colors and the noises will capture and amaze you, as they did with me. In summer the landscape of this area in the South of France turns into a fantastic painting when the lavender reaches its full bloom. Nearly infinite fields of purple flowers, perfectly aligned, with their color and intense scent are an irresistible attraction for bees, tourists and photographers. Photographers will soon outsmart bees in numbers, as every year more and more people want to capture this beautiful landscape!
Sometimes this amazing spectacle is made even more special by hot air balloons flying over the horizon. An unusual and catchy subject for our photos!
Some lavender fields are so large and extensive that you can walk with the impression of being immersed in a purple and perfumed sea. Flowers extend in every direction, until the eye can see. A truly amazing experience! If you get lost, you can always use Google Maps to find your way back.
And that’s actually what happened with me when I captured the first photo of this post! The same photo awarded me the Gold Medal in the Travel Landscape category at the prestigious Trierenberg Photo Circuit 2017 contest. So was definitely worth it!
But let’s not hold more and start with my 8 tips for capturing amazing shots of the lavender fields!
1 Shot at the right time for the best light (and wake up early)
First rule for every landscape photographer is to shoot during the golden hours, the period around sunrise and sunset where the light is soft, even and warm (somebody said gold?). This light makes everything just look better.
While during the day the direct sun rays creates strong shadows and washes out colors, during golden hour the colors are rich, the sky becomes amazing and the shadows become soft and almost disappear as the light is diffused by the sky and the clouds. So, you know it now! No excuses. The above photo on the left is shot during the day, while the photo on the right, at sunset.
For Provence, I recommend to wake up early to get your spot before sunrise, or you will need to get in line with many other photographers and tourists trying to get the best light at sunset 😉
2 Leading lines
This place is renovated in the world for the Lavender essential oil production, but should also be known for the use of GPS guided tractors when the plants are laid out in rows. Thanks to that we can get such perfect leading lines and even some lonely and otherwise simple trees can become a fantastic subject.
Leading lines are elements in a photo that “lead” and guide the viewer inside it. The more the viewer gets guided the more the photo is interesting and can capture the attention. In these two photos with trees for example, the leading lines created by the lavender fields bring the viewer from the flowers in the foreground, to the middle-ground until the trees in the background.
Leading lines can be a powerful tool in our photos, but be careful to have them lead to the right place. They should lead the viewer towards the intended background and not “outside the frame”: the photo below on the left shows an example where the leading lines guide the view outside the frame and not to the background (the hot air balloons), the photo on the right on the other hand, correctly leads the viewer to the balloon and the mountains in the background.
3 Look out for shapes and details
Look out for cool elements and shapes to add to your compositions. An old windmill in the middle of the fields or a heart shaped tree can become a fantastic subject or background!
4 Try different points of view
Play with different point of view: shoot low to the ground, to capture details of the flowers or insects, at head level or go even higher with a drone!
The composition possibilities are endless, on us to find them!
And if you don’t have a drone… you can try like the guy below! 🙂
5 Stay for the night
The sky of this part of France don’t suffer of light pollution as just a few villages light up the nights on the Valensole Plateau. This opens up fantastic opportunities for night photography allowing us to capture the beauty of the Milky Way in the lavender fields. So consider coming back to the fields after dinner to combine the fascinating light of the firmament with this wonderful terrestrial component.
Dark skies mean nice shots of the stars, but what about the flowers in the foreground? They would be completely dark… unless someone or something would lit them up!
One way is completely natural, and involves the moon rise… the other is a bit more artificial and involves lights and drones! See the photo below, the final photo is on the left, where the drone is outside the frame and is used to light up the foreground. On the right side we can see the drone still in the frame, like a small sun!
6 Be creative
The beauty of the lavender fields opens to endless possibilities, we just need to be creative!
On my previous Provence Photo Tours we often experimented and try new techniques. Sometimes the results were amazing, like the photo below on the left… those wings are not photoshopped, but are the results of light painting! We used a LED “sword” that moved in the air projects images… in this case, the wings! Also smoke bombs can give some cool shots, just make sure to use them at favor of wind! Small disclaimer about this: make sure to use “cold” smoke grenades, as they are completely secure for the people involved and won’t start a wildfire!
And what about a sport car in the middle of the fields? 🙂 On the last year Provence Photo Tour, one participant came with its own sports car (a Lotus Elise), so why not to use it also for some cool shots in the fields?
7 don’t be late
The lavender bloom starts in June usually reaching its peak in the first week of July. The weather conditions during the year can move the dates a bit, but I would recommend to not plan your trip after the second week of July… you might find only “green desolation”!
8 Be safe!
Don’t be allergic to bees (if you are please consider planning holidays somewhere else, the air is full of bees. I never got any problems with them, they are happy and is enough to not step on them, but if you allergic I would not push it…), wear long pants and use closed shoes.
And like for every photo tour also my gear is safe with LINGS! I love to be able to enable the insurance only when I’m traveling/shooting! Even more, I can setup my Lings calendar with the dates of my photo tours to make it automatically enable/disable the coverage! Amazing 🙂
Don’t forget to bring back home some dry lavender at the end of the trip: its scent will remind you of the great memories and moments you experienced in Provence!
These were my 8 recommendations for a successful photo adventure in Provence. I hope you got intrigued by my blog post and will add Provence to your bucket list. It’s really one of those places that everyone should visit at least once in their life!
If you are interested in learning photography from professional photographers and become a pro in no time (our photo tours include lectures, post-processing workshop, and a lot of shooting in the field side by side with the instructors) you can have a look at our photo tours at www.swissschoolofphotography.ch and all our photography courses in Zurich and Geneva as well.
Landscape and Drone Photographer
Lieblingsgegenstand bei LINGS: Sony Alpha 7R III