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Passport Gal

Danette Benton

The Camargue, Southern France

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Let me say before I begin recalling this wonderful adventure that I am not a fan of tours or workshops. The few times I have gone on them, the strangest person on the whole tour will find me and attach themselves to me for the duration. Enough said.

But, for this excursion, I knew I needed to be on a photography worksop to get the shots I wanted of the wild white horses. My photography buddy, Julie and I booked with Create Away Photography Workshops.

Our first encounter is with Ros. She emails back and forth with Julie and gets us set up, being extremely wonderful to answer our 3 million plus stupid questions prior to arriving. The photographer we work with is Serge Krouglikoff. He picks us up at the train station outside of Aigues-Mortes. He lets us know that there is only one other photographer on the workshop that day and we head to pick her up from her hotel. On our way, he tells us the mosquitos are pretty bad this year, so when we get out of the car for the photo shoot to grab our gear and exit quickly. He tells us that he has been a fashion photographer most of his life and now his passion is photographing horses. He is very soft spoken and polite. We pick up our 3rd person and head to the Camargue. Our new gal to the group is a hoot! Her name is Janey. She is from England and a professional photographer as well. We have a great group for the shoot!

When we arrive at The Camargue, Serge reminds us to exit the vehicle quickly because of the mosquitos. I look in the front seat and Janey is spraying more insect repellant on and pulls down a netting over her hat and down her neck. Julie looks at me and asks if I brought bug spray. Julie and I proceed to bathe in the bug spray that I brought. We grab our gear, open the doors, and in a beautiful unison, we all jump out. Now when they said mosquitos, I am thinking of the small flying insects we have in Florida. These mosquitos were in the thousands and the size of small parakeets. OK, I am exaggerating about the size. They were all around us, but our bug spray kept them hovering at a respectable distance. Note to self:  I need to write a nice letter to the bug spray company and tell them how grateful I am that their product worked.

Serge gives each of us a pair of waders, or as they call them, rubbers. We get all of our gear on and pull our jacket hoods down tight. I am laughing like crazy because we are not pretty at this point. I raise my hand over my head and strike a pose with one leg slightly back. I say to Serge, “ I’m not at my goal weight, Serge, but I am ready for my photo shoot.” We all have a good laugh and he is probably thinking this lady is nuts! He guides us out to the Marsh and the Guardians arrive. They are men on horseback in waders with long poles. They have a long tradition of caring for the wild horses. They herd them up and send them towards us slowly letting us take pictures, so we can get used to the action and the way that the whole thing will go.

I was so thankful here, because I knew they weren’t going to be able to run these horses at us 50 times until we got our cameras set. I had dreams about going all the way to the Camargue and missing the shot because I wasn’t ready… Anyways…we walk further down into the marsh in the waders until we are about knee height in the water. Serge lines us up right next to each other. He asks us if we are good with our settings. Everybody gives a nod. The Guardians send the horses in front of them running through the water. They run them straight at us and right up to us, then take there poles and put them in front of the horses, say a few encouraging french words, and the horses turn. Serge checks in with us, “Are you getting good shots? Does anybody need help?”  We take some shots in the marsh, then proceed to the Mediterranean Sea shore. We walk across a big pool of water with flamingos. The Guardians gallop the horses through the beautiful afternoon light with reflections all over the pool. It was exhilarating! My friend Julie looks up at me and says, “I think this might be the best idea you ever had!” After this, we walk across the sand to the surf for a few final runs of the horses in the sea and surf. At each interval Serge is checking with us to make sure we are ok on our camera settings. Asking if we are getting the shots we wanted. He was so kind and easy to be around.

All of these shots were taken with a Nikon D750 and a Nikon 24-70mm lens. What would I do different? I would have packed my Nikon 70-200mm lens. I am always concerned with weight in my carry-on and my luggage. I try to take one good walk around lens on most trips. I needed my Nikon 70-200mm on this shoot.

After the shoot, Serge drives us to a restaurant called The Camargue in Aigues-Mortes. We meet Ros and our other friend Laurie that was on the trip with us. The restaurant had flamenco music and a dry rose’ served in crockery pitchers that is from the region. If the level of your wine glass went down a 1/4 of an inch, someone was refilling it. Ros would give us information about the area with a wide eyed excitement that let you know she truly loved the area. She would share stories of events in the town and she made us feel like we were old friends by the end of the night. We had a great meal with much laughter and recounts of our day’s adventure. 

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