Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Few Days in the Camargue

Gavin and I just got back from a few days in the south of France, in Saintes Marie de la Mer, a tiny village at the very southern edge of the Camargue. We drove there in the trusty Subaru, about a 5 hour drive each way.

We passed our time very pleasantly, just relaxing on the beach, sampling the local cuisine, wandering around, and plenty of just hanging out in general. The Camargue has a certain spartan beauty which may not appeal to many -- the land is very flat, with few trees or other greenery except grasses and scrub bushes, and cut through with streams, ponds and swampy areas. Gavin and I took a brief excursion on a steam boat, and also visited the ornithological reserve.

I took quite a few photographs, but didn't think too much as I was taking them, nor did I check them along the way. When I uploaded the pictures onto the computer upon our return, I was struck by their sheer mediocrity. ** sigh ** For example, every panoramic photo I took of the sea shore was dreadfully out of focus; I must have had the macro setting activated or something.

A few hours working in Photoshop improved a bunch of them. I cloned away wires from skylines, a napkin covering part of Gavin's chin, and some intrusive tourists. Levels and curves rescued some problems with lighting and coloration. I even hyper-sharpened a couple of seaside shots, which gave them a rather artistic look suitable for thumbnails (photo at top of post). But of course, Photoshop can't make up for boring composition, lack of a zoom lens, or other basic problems.

So with all that apologetica, here are a few of the most post-worthy. At least I did capture Gavin in a variety of moods and activities, which is surprising since he doesn't like having his picture taken these days.

I climbed to the top of the 12th century church (above), from where I took the picture below:

The next three were taken in the bird sanctuary:

Gavin had no interest in actually swimming in the Med, but he was irresistably drawn in anyway.

We both got a giggle over the name of this drink, Pschitt! (it's like Sprite). Those French...

One day I went to see the "courses de tauros", as the Camargue has a long tradition with the indigenous bulls and horses. We were assured that it was not a bull fight (though they also have bull fights there). Even so, Gavin did not want to come with me.

The "course" ("race" in French) works like this: a bull has little rings of string tied around its horns. (I wonder how they accomplish this.) The contestants, 10 at a time, have only a little rake-like tool in one hand that they use to try and grab as many of the rings as possible. The one with the most rings wins prize money. At the end (one course lasts about 15 minutes), the bull is winded from all the running, but is otherwise in fine shape. The guys are very fast and agile, as they leap over the wooden fence and hang off the white railings until the bull chases after someone else.

A fine metaphor for life, don't you think?

See my VIDEO here