Sri Lanka women, colorful dresses, saris

Thanksgiving 2019 on a Photography Tour and Workshop to Sri Lanka

sri lanka, lunchtime, food, curry traveling,
Lunch time train to Ella

Take my 12 day Photography Tour to Sri Lanka from the 27th November to the 8th December.  A Photography Tour and Workshop to Sri Lanka ticks all the boxes a keen photographer could wish for.  This stunning island in the middle of the Indian ocean offers the greatest diversity of images that anyone could wish for.  Sri Lanka has it all, lush tropical green landscapes, rolling hills covered in tea plantations, friendly people, amazing archaeological sites, colonial towns, wild animals and a dramatic coastline.

Negombo

All you have to do is get to Colombo and I’ll do the rest!  We’ll spend our first afternoon and evening just north of Colombo in Negombo and photograph the fishing boats and beach as the sun sets before going back to the hotel to relax and talk about our trip.

It’s now 6am, the day has just broken and we’re photographing the fishermen coming in with their catch and taking it to the market. Two hours later and I’m pulling you away for breakfast as we are leaving in our air-conditioned mini bus to Anuradaphura.  It’s a 5 hour drive and time to relax and talk.

Anuradhapura

anuradhapura, stupa, temple,
Anuradhapura Stupa

The photography tour is going to visit and photograph the marvellous Buddhist temples and stupas built around the 3rd century AD.  There are usually monks in orange robes and often children on school trips. There are black and white-faced monkeys and brown monkeys everywhere and they too are very photogenic. Our best pictures will be at dusk, people come and offer flowers, it’s very beautiful.


Polannaruwa

Next morning we take off for the second stop in the cultural triangle which is Polonnaruwa. Very different from Anuradaphura, here we photograph wonderful ruins in a jungle setting and a reclining buddha covered in greedy monkeys eating the offerings brought worshippers.  We check into our hotel at Sigiriya, discuss our pictures and take off to try and see some wild elephants before night falls in the nearby wildlife park.

Sigiriya and Dambulla

It’s Saturday so there will be some locals climbing Lion’s rock as well as tourists. Sri Lankans like Indians wear wonderfully colourful saris which look great against the green of the jungle and the starkness of the rock.  In the mid-afternoon we are going to Dambulla cave temple which is one of my favourite places. One of the reasons to go on my photography tour is that I try to get us to places at the best time of day.  Although this isn’t always possible I do know that Dambulla is best visited in the afternoon when the light filters gently into the amazing caves and light up the frescoes.

Kandy

Sigiriya Rock Sri Lanka
Sigiriya Rock

We’re going to Kandy today but first we are going to stop off at Dambulla wholesale market and take some amazing photos.  This market is the centre for the whole island for fruit and vegetables.  It’s very photogenic, the place is heaving with people loading and offloading and traders buying.  Not too long though because there are more pictures to take in Kandy. It’s Sunday and Kandy will be full of local people shopping and visiting.  We will go to Temple of the Tooth and perhaps the Royal Botanical gardens if we’ve time.  The best pictures of the lake will be just before dusk and we don’t want to miss that.

Elephants

Dambulla, frescoes, temple, praying, buddhas
Praying inside Dambulla Cave

As it is early December and not the best time to see animals in the wild and even harder to make good pictures, I am making a change in the usual itinerary and we will go to Pinnawala elephant orphanage and omit Yala National Park.  Each day they take the elephants down to the river for them to bathe and be washed.  It’s quite a spectacular scene watching a herd of elephants walk through the village.  There are great photos to be made and it is an enjoyable trip. It also gives us slightly more time in Kandy which is well worthwhile.

Tea Plantations, Mountains and Nurawaeliya

elephant, portrait of elephant,
Elephant at Pinnawala

Our photography tour is leaving Kandy today for Nuwaraeliya and start to climb the surrounding foothills we are entering a different world.  As the temperature drops we are surrounded by tea plantations, and the colourful dots in the lush greenery are the tea pickers.   We will stop several times on the way and visit at least one tea plantation and photograph the tea pickers and the factory. Then suddenly we’re in England! Nuwaraeliya definitely has something very British about it, the cottages, the cold! We are going to sit in our hotel, order tea of course and enjoy a photography workshop looking and discussing everyone’s photos.

Horton Plains and the train to Ella

Tuk Tuks, transport, driver,
Tuk tuk drivers in Sri Lanka

We are setting off very early this morning to go to Hortons Plains, a landscape photographers paradise.  We’re going on a hike, it will be cold and misty but magical.  There could be an outburst of rain but hopefully we’ll see the sun too, so we will dress appropriately and make sure that our cameras are well protected.  Back to our mini-van that will take us to the Nanu Oya Train station where we will board the lunchtime train to Ella.  This wonderful train journey is great fun, it passes superb scenery and stops at dozens of stations.  There are passengers and hawkers and a real slice of local life to photograph. We disembark at the very picturesque town of Ella where we will spend the night.

Galle and the Sri Lankan coast to Colombo

Ella, tropical scenery, jungle, sri lanka, Greenery
Lush tropical scenery of Ella

Today, we are going to photograph the streets and markets of Galle both inside and outside the fort.  We will also be going 24 kilometres down the coast to photograph the famous stilt fishermen which is an amazing sight when they are all out there standing 2 metres up in a rough sea fishing.  If it’s a sunny day we’ll be there in the late afternoon to make magical photographs against a dramatic sky.

Wednesday morning, a walk to the waterfall and the surrounding countryside and time for a short workshop before setting off for the spectacular coastal city of Galle and it’s famous fort where we will spend 2 nights.   The fort was originally built by the Portuguese before it fell to the Dutch who built many of the buildings that we see today.  The British took it over in the late 18th century.  We will take a walk and photograph life inside the fort which is also famous for its lighthouse and a top venue for weddings.   At dusk there are newly-weds posing on the rocks against the dramatic vibrant colours of sunset. 

Train to Colombo

Fishermen, dusk, sunset, stilt fishermen, sri lanja
Stilt Fisherman near Galle at dusk

Tomorrow we’re going to take the local train to Colombo that rattles along the coast.  I love taking pictures at train stations in Sri Lanka, it’s so full of colour and atmosphere – there are some super photographs to be made.  This is a local train so we won’t have any pre-reserved seats and will mingle with the locals.  The journey takes about 3 hours with stops, so plenty of time to make photos and relax. 

On arrival in Colombo we will check into our hotel before going to the oldest parts of the city, the bustling Pettah and Slave Island where we will get pictures of street life before going back to our hotel for a final photography workshop and dinner.

The photography tour and workshop officially ends today but I will be available to help with tips, editing, an additional walk, whatever anybody would find helpful.   Check out is at midday but our bags can be left in reception.  I hope you’ll join me, Sri Lanka really is a jewel in the Indian Ocean.

Champagne Photography Tour

champagne, cellar, champagne cave, champagne cellar

champagne cave of independent grower producer

How about a one day photography tour in champagne?  You’re in Paris, you fancy a day in the country, you love photography and you like champagne. Who doesn’t?   I take tailor made photography tours to champagne.  I meet you at Chateau Thierry which is only an hour from Paris on a local train, pick you up and take you on a fantastic photographic tour of the vineyards of the Marne Valley and beyond.  There’s no need to go as far as Reims or Epernay although we can begin there too if you prefer.

This is how our day could evolve:  I pick you up and we drive out following the river Marne which is covered in vineyards on both sides and is one of the most spectacular sites to see.  We could even go immediately to the House of  Pannier and photograph their spectacular cellars followed by a tasting.

vienyards, champagne, working in champagne

Working in vineyards of champagne

After a while, we will visit an independent grower-producer, take pictures of the cellars and enjoy a glass of champagne (I’m driving so have to refrain!).  The real story of champagne is not just the huge fancy houses of Epernay and Reims but the thousands of independent champagne grower-producers that dot the countryside.

Poppies, windmill, champagne, scenic, country

A scene amongst the vineyards of the Mill near Mailly

The cellars you visit will be small,  but you will have the time to take pictures of them properly.  Some have attractive vaulted cellars and others not, the challenge is to come out and make good pictures.

No photography tour in champagne could be complete without a walk around Hautvillers, the most picturesque and famous of all the villages and the birthplace of champagne. There are lots of photos to make here, the charming little signs on all the ancient buildings, the views in many directions, the old church where Dom Perignon is buried, the café,  the vineyards all around and much more.  I like to stop off at the ‘AU 36’, it’s actually a champagne bar that offers tastings which can be accompanied by a plate of local delicacies providing it has been ordered in advance.  For a more substantial lunch there is the highly rated Rotisserie at Ay, a few kilometres away.

café, Hautvillers, country café, outdoor café,

Café in Hautvillers

After a lunch break our photography tour continues and I would recommend a visit to Fleury la Rivière where we will visit the ‘Cave aux Coquillages’  which belongs to a champagne grower-producer fascinated by palaeontology.

cave aux coquillages, cave coquillages, cave champagne,

Ancient shells and fossils in the Cave aux Coquillages

He has excavated the cellars under his house which  is filled with the most extraordinary shells and fossils dating back hundreds of thousands of years that were found there.  Whilst Patrick explains and shows us how this came about, we take photographs of these amazingly beautifiul and original cellars. At the end of the tour Patrick gives us a tasting and you will discover how good Patricks champagne is.

After this,  depending on the time,  we could go on and visit another independent champagne producer or we might spend the afternoon taking pictures of scenic places and walk amongst the vineyards.

Photographically it offers a great variety of images from landscapes to macro shots of champagne bottles in darkly lit cellars.  A wide angle lens and a telephoto are the 2 lenses necessary to obtain a variety of shots.  A tripod is also essential for good photographs of the cellars.

champagne bottles, champagne cellar

Champagne bottles in cellar

champagne, Guy Méa, Champagne bottles, champagne cellar

The Wolf at champagne Guy Méa

As I offer tailor made photography tours, the circuit and cellars we visit will be adapted to your interests and can begin anywhere in champagne.  The circuit mentioned above is only a suggestion.  Someone more familiar with the area may prefer to visit the Cote des Blanc, the villages of Cramant, Oger and Avize, where we can also visit local champagne cellars, and take scenic shots.

If you decide that you would like to visit a well known champagne house such as Castellane, Mercier or Moet et Chandon in Epernay or Pommery, Taitinger or Mumm in Reims I can also accompany you.  These visits are not geared to photography but the cellars are spectacular and worth seeing.

A photography tour in Champagne is a unique experience.  It is best to come between May and November.  As well as visiting places that you would never find alone, I will be there to coach you in photography and help you return with an excellent set of pictures offering a variety that you would not have imagined.

cave au coquillages

cave au coquillages

 

 

Havelis in The Shekhawati – Mandawa and Nawalgarh

Haveli#children#india#rajasthan

Haveli courtyard in Nawalgarh

Visiting Havelis in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan is like going to an area that is covered with extraordinary street art. Mandawa and Nawalgarh are simply towns that offer open-air art galleries and museums dripping in jaw dropping frescoes. Havelis are the beautifully carved homes of rich merchants, highly decorated by artists during the 19th century. Today, some are thankfully turned into hotels or museums, which has allowed them to be restored, a few used as banks, schools or government buildings but hundreds of others simply abandoned.

Mandawa was the first stop of a photography road trip around Rajasthan with the aim of discovering some lesser visited havelis as well as some better known ones. I came several times in the late 90’s for various magazines and photographed some of the Maharajas and their palaces but not the havelis.

Haveli#Mandawa#frescoes

Haveli in Mandawa

We set off early from Delhi hiring a car and driver from a company called Metropole. It took almost 6 hours to get there as the roads were poor and traffic heavy at times. The Shekhawati region is at the edge of the Thar Desert, so the surrounding landscape was semi arid, dotted with khejri trees, the odd herd of goats and a few irrigated fields of mustard.

Although the Hotel Mandawa Haveli was Trip Advisor’s first choice, I chose the smaller Chobda Haveli, which I highly recommend, not for it’s colourful frescoes but for a delightful quiet and charming place to stay. We walked all round Mandawa, some Haveli’s could be visited and others not. Beware! you will be asked for money the minute you enter a doorway. I don’t mind paying a few rupees to go inside a Haveli, although it’s a shame that more cannot be restored as what you do see is just gorgeous and the restored ones are stunning.

Haveli#doorway#mandawa

Haveli doorway in Mandawa

Haveli#door#frescoes#rajasthan

Entrance to a haveli in Shekhawati region

All Havelis are roughly set up the same way, as you walk into the first courtyard there is a large room where that the visitors would be received, the private quarters opposite with bedrooms upstairs. A usually beautifully carved ornate wooden door in the centre takes you to a second courtyard, which would lead to the female quarters with mashrabiya windows as the women of the upper classes practiced purdah. Depending on the period of the Haveli and the opulence of the owner the frescoes vary considerably. The early ones were influenced by the Mughal era with geometric designs, some offer religious figures and show Hindu mythology. , There are also elephants and camels and the latter ones even depict trains and cars referring to the British influence.

Haveli#Mandawa#rajasthan

Havelis in Mandawa

The second day we drove to Nawalgarh and spent the day there before returning to Mandawa. I think I liked it even more, there were even less tourists and the whole town was full of havelis. We visited several well known ones, one is a museum, but what I enjoyed the most was visiting the schools. Two of them were housed in beautiful if somewhat decaying old havelis.

Haveli@frescoes#woman#Nawalgarh

Woman in a haveli full of frescoes in Nawalgarh

In one of the schools, the children were sitting on the floor of what was once a courtyard but now covered over.   In the other, just the rooms of the haveli had been turned into classrooms where sadly little of the artwork remained except for the exterior of the building. We bought a huge bag of sweets to thank the children for their time although they were very willing models!

Haveli#schoolchildren#school#nawalgarh

classroom in a courtyard of an ancient haveli in Shekhawati,

Lets talk photography for a moment as whoever you are you will take pictures, lots of them, everyone does! There’s so much to take pictures of – the frescoes, the buildings, the people, the daily life, the local market, the cows wondering around, a real street photographers dream. To do a good job you really need everything from a very wide angle to as long a lens as you can carry. There are some magic moments that may require a long lens or the spell will be broken. I brought a Canon and a Fuji and I don’t regret it, particularly as the Fuji XT2 let me down badly in the heat and dust of India…

Nawalgarh#street of havelis#tuk tuk

Street scene in Nawalgarh, havelis everywhere

There are wonderful havelis all over Rajasthan but nowhere else really offers the atmosphere of the Shekhawati. It is a total immersion into an idea of what life must have been like in these small towns and the importance of art to the people of the region. As you walk through the towns at the beautiful sometimes crumbling but intricately carved buildings and look at the extraordinary frescoes, it is like a glimpse into the past that allows you to conjure up images of what life must have been like.

The best way to visit Rajasthan is to stay in a Haveli, which is not necessarily very expensive, and try and book a heritage room which is like sleeping in a museum. Rajasthan is full of palaces and havelis turned into hotels of all classes and to me, one of the reasons to go there. If they are privately owned in particular, the owner will be happy that you take an interest in his home.

elephant#fresco#haveli#mandawa

fresco of an elephant on a haveli

I loved the Shekhawati but we still have a lot to see and I am looking forward to our 3 day visit to Jaisalmer but first we are going to stop en route at Bikaner and visit the fort and it’s havelis. I would also recommend visiting Fatehpur which we only drove through, but having planned an ambitious itinerary there is no time.

 

Below are some useful links:

http://www.metrovista.co.in/index.htm

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotels-g1162333-c2-Mandawa_Jhunjhunu_District_Rajasthan-Hotels.html

 

 

 

 

A PHOTOGRAPHER’S VISIT TO HONFLEUR AND TROUVILLE IN WET, WINDY, WINTER

Trouville#Beach#winter#landscape

Trouville Beach in Winter

Visit Honfleur and Trouville on the Normandy coast and be sure to pack a camera. Winter and summer alike I love these 2 seaside towns and visit them as frequently as I can. It is just over a 2hour drive from Paris and a car is handy as you’re going to be whizzing between them. A lot more is said of Deauville but for me Honfleur and Trouville have more character and offer a greater variety of photos.

In winter I like to arrive in Trouville in time for lunch at Le Central, a big bustling brasserie that serves wonderful fresh small shrimps or fried whitebait with 2 small soles, although it’s all good here and very friendly. It’s particularly popular with locals, which is always a good sign. Now, a good meal and a couple of glasses of sauvignon later it is time to take out the camera.

Normandy#houses#Trouville#

Normandy style houses along the front of Trouville

Trouville is a fishing port and fresh fish vendors are lined up along the estuary. In warmer weather table and chairs are set up and it is here alfresco, that a delicious fresh seafood lunch can take place. The estuary is very photogenic with it’s fishing boats and loads of seagulls. Right at the end is the casino and then the boardwalk, little huts and parasols. In summer I like to photograph Trouville in colour and in winter I tend to go for black and white.

Shells#beach#Trouville

Shells on the beach at Trouville

I spent New Years day there this year and we drove from Paris in torrential rain but miraculously by the time we’d finished lunch the rain had stopped. Many of the shops were open in the pretty little back streets of Trouville making for good pictures with people walking by with their collars hunched up. After we took to the boardwalk and onto the windswept beach. The tide was way out and the storm had brought in piles and piles of shells of all sorts making for more interesting shots. There were people walking their dogs and screaming gulls swooping down and flying off.

Dog in Honfleur waiting for the door to open

Dog in Honfleur

We had booked into a wonderful bed and breakfast in Honfleur called La Cour Sainte Catherine so by about 4 or so we headed over there. It is a pretty drive through Villers, Criqueboeuf and Pennedepie. There are dozens of great bed and breakfasts and hotels at all prices all the way from Trouville to Honfleur. Some are off the beaten track but easily accessible by car. Most of them open in winter and some offer attractive prices compared to the summer.

The first thing you see approaching Honfleur is the stunning marina lined on two sides with its historic 16th-18th century buildings. A drawbridge connects the marina to the fishing port and on the other side is the town hall and many more beautiful buildings and cafés. It is a jaw dropping sight and you won’t know where to stand to get the best pictures. You’ll walk around it 10 times anyway so will find plenty of possibilities!

Behind the marina is the town with its charming, narrow winding streets, historical buildings, attractive shops, art galleries, food shops, cafés, restaurants and of course the marvellous 15th century church. Taking picture postcards of Honfleur isn’t difficult, what is harder is to take some time and try and take different pictures: The dog in the bicycle basket outside a pretty shop, bottles of calvados, or a particular building or sign, so that they stand out.

I like a telephoto and a wide angle. For the telephoto I would set the camera with an aperture priority so as not to miss anything and at f2.8 or f4 and focus on what you want and the background will fall away and hopefully give you good bokeh, but that’s another story! With a wide angle, just get up there nice and close and get the atmosphere.

Honfleur#Marina#Night#New Year

Honfleur Marina at New year

We walked down to the harbour to take pictures of the almost full moon over the Marina before dinner. We chose to eat at Coté Resto, a bistro serving well presented dishes with a twist, at reasonable prices. In France we have 4 main types of restaurants, cafés, brasseries, bistros, or gastronomic. Honfleur has its fair share of good eating places, we are in Normandy after all! The brasseries offer moules frites that can be excellent (Le Capital in Trouville). If you are looking for a treat (gastronomic) then I would go to Le Bréard.

It wasn’t sunny in Honfleur the next day either, but we took a walk up to the Chapel Notre Dame de Grace and came back down via a different route and joined the coastal path. We walked along the beach with the industrial skyline of Le Havre barely visible across the horizon. It isn’t a pretty beach in summer but at low tide one can walk all the way to Trouville. I took a bunch of black and white pictures. I love landscapes, and the starkness and the textures did it for me.

Honfleur#Fishing nets#harbour wall#buildings

Honfleur, Fishing nets along harbour wall.

A last walk along the cobbled streets of Honfleur, a few more photos and the purchase of a good bottle of calvados – tastes better when bought locally! We check our watches and set off for Trouville, in time to buy some fresh fish for dinner! We’re photographers but we do like our food!

In 2018 I will be offering tailor made photography tours to Honfleur and Trouville. Join me, you will not be disappointed!

http://www.coursaintecatherine.com/guest-house-charme-honfleur-accomodation

https://www.thefork.com/restaurant/cote-resto/9313

https://www.restaurant-lebreard.com