My Favorite Photos of France – Part 1

Boats on the Rhone River in Avignon, France
Boats on the Rhone River in Avignon, France

Last July Barb, her close friend Jana, and I joined 13 others on a French Waterways vacation. Barb and I also added on the optional 3-day extension to see the city of Paris.

I don’t want to tell any long, detailed stories about this fantastic vacation, but I do want to share some of my favorite photos that I took. I would say that I have 500 “favorites”. I obviously cannot, and do not want to post 500 photos into a web site formatted for blog posting! I have about 90 that I intend to post here over the next few weeks.

The photo above was taken from the opened window of our cabin on our first morning of the river cruise. We were on the Rhône River, on the western edge of Avignon, France.

The City Wall of Avignon
The City Wall of Avignon

The city wall around Avignon was built during the Medieval Ages.

Reminder: You can always view any photo at a larger size by just clicking on it. You will then need to use your browser’s “Back Button” to return to my story.

Before going through the entrance to that city wall, I turned around to take this photo of the giant Ferris Wheel.

Avignon Ferris Wheel
Avignon Ferris Wheel

Inside the city wall, the church on the left is Notre Dame des Doms, while the building on the right is the Palais des Papes (the Pope’s Palace).

Notre Dame des Doms behind the Pope's Palace in Avignon, France
Notre Dame des Doms behind the Pope’s Palace in Avignon, France

After our official guided tour of Avignon, Barb, Jana, and I went out again on our own to explore some of the other sites in Avignon.

We walked north from our boat upstream of the Rhône about ½ mile to see what is left of the Pont Saint-Bénézet (aka Pont d’Avignon).

Pont Saint-Bénézet (aka Pont d'Avignon)
Pont Saint-Bénézet (aka Pont d’Avignon)

We also went on a self-guided tour within the Pope’s Palace.

Inside the Pope's Palace in Avignon, France
Inside the Pope’s Palace in Avignon, France

The next day, we left the city of Avignon by bus, in order to visit a few other tourist attractions in the area. In the morning, we went to the Pont du Gard.

Pont du Gard aquaduct built by The Romans
Pont du Gard aquaduct built by The Romans

The Pont du Gard (literally: Gard Bridge) is an ancient Roman aqueduct bridge, built in the 1st century, that crosses the Gardon River, from which it takes its name.

Pont du Gard aquaduct built by The Romans
Pont du Gard aquaduct built by The Romans

In the afternoon we drove to the Medieval town of Les Baux-de-Provence, which sits high upon a very rocky hill.

View from Les Baux-de-Provence Medieval City
View from Les Baux-de-Provence Medieval City

In this ancient town, I found it visually ironic to find this guy engaged in a thoroughly modern activity….

Modern smartphone user in the Medieval town of Les Baux-de-Provence
Modern smartphone user in the Medieval town of Les Baux-de-Provence

On our third morning of our cruise, our boat left its dock in Avignon.

View of Avignon from the Rhone River
View of Avignon from the Rhone River

The boat, the ms River Discovery II, slowly passed the Pont Saint-Bénézet (aka Pont d’Avignon).

View of Pont Saint-Bénézet (aka Pont d'Avignon)
View of Pont Saint-Bénézet (aka Pont d’Avignon)

The boat then turned around and headed back towards Avignon, so that we could take the deeper fork of the Rhone River to the west.

View of Pont Saint-Bénézet (aka Pont d'Avignon)
View of Pont Saint-Bénézet (aka Pont d’Avignon)

Cruising relatively long distances on a river usually includes going through a system of locks. We came our first one, the Ecluse d’Avignon, just a few miles north of Avignon.

Rising with the water in the Ecluse d'Avignon lock on the Rhone River.
Rising with the water in the Ecluse d’Avignon lock on the Rhone River.

We were headed to the Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine region.

Grapes in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine region.
Grapes in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine region.

We rode along on very modern, air conditioned buses through some very rocky terrain for vineyards.

Tour of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine region.
Tour of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine region.

From very near the remnants of The Pope’s New Castle (Châteauneuf-du-Pape), we were presented with this very nice scenic overlook above the town also named Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

View over Châteauneuf-du-Pape, looking back down the Rhone River towards Avignon
View over Châteauneuf-du-Pape, looking back down the Rhone River towards Avignon

We walked down into the small, medieval town and spent about an hour investigating this charming little village.

Downtown Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Downtown Châteauneuf-du-Pape

The last photo that I want to show you from that 3rd day of our cruise was taken hand-held from our moving boat while our group was partying and drinking.

Sunset from the Rhone River north of Bollène.
Sunset from the Rhone River north of Bollène.

Besides just being another sunset photo, it does show 4 sources of electricity that we saw the French use: nuclear, wind, solar, and hydro.

I think that photo is a very fitting one to end part 1 of what I expect will be 5 part series to show my favorite 90 or so photos from this year’s vacation to France.

Thank you for visiting my (infrequent) blog.

The Wheel of Time

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The Wheel of Time keeps rolling along. It’s been nearly 5 months since my last blog post. I’m not sure why I have lost interest in keeping this blog updated. Maybe that desire will rekindle itself someday. I certainly have not lost any interest in photography! I still get out and shoot just as much as  I used to. I even like the improvements that I believe that I am achieving.

I do spend far less time on the internet now, and I am much happier because of it. Oh I still get on the internet, it’s just that I don’t use it much as a source of entertainment any more (but that could change at any time).

Anyway, I don’t really have anything meaningful to say, but I did want to update my blog, just to see if I remember how to do it. And I’m sure that you are sick and tired of seeing Marcia Ball as my most recent blog post photo!

Marcia Ball at The Armadillo Christmas Bazaar

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Well, it has been quite a while since I put up my last post here – over 6 weeks, actually. A lot has happened, but I am not interested in writing a 2000 word blog post filling in that 6 week gap….  However, something happened in the last day that has brought me back to my keyboard, where I finally feel that I have something meaningful to say, and to show you. (But you have to read to the end to know what that is.)

Since this web site is dedicated to “Gregg’s Adventures in Learning Photography”, I must mention that after weeks of debating in my own head, I took the plunge and on December 14th, Barb and I headed on down to Precision Camera here in Austin, and bought the new Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera along with two new Olympus lenses: the 12-40mm f/2.8 and the 75mm f/1.8.

After a full week of evenings sitting around reading the manual and trying out all of the settings and (way too many) menu options, it was time to take this new camera out and start shooting with it! Every December, for the past 7 years, we have met some of our good friends at a local restaurant for a meal and then afterwards we head over to the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar and enjoy seeing a local Austin band perform in a rather intimate setting.

This year we met our friends at Threadgill’s Restaurant on Riverside Drive for brunch/lunch on Sunday morning, December 22, 2013. We then drove drove the 2 blocks over to the Palmer Events Center, where the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar has been held for the last 4 or 5 years.

The Armadillo Christmas Bazaar is one of those things that helps “keep Austin weird“. It is a place where all sorts of artists come together to sell their wares to those who are shopping for different or unusual Christmas presents.

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As a means to help draw in more shoppers, they have local musicians perform 2 or 3 times a day. The talent that they bring in is great! In the photo above, you can see the colored backdrop of the small stage where the musicians play. (That photo was handheld with a shutter speed of 1/13th of a second!)

We came specifically to see Marcia Ball play.

When we arrived, the band named Sons of Fathers was still performing their set, so I wandered over toward the stage just to have a look.

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I had set the ISO to 800 and the aperture to f/2.8, and since I was shooting in aperture priority mode, the camera would choose the shutter speed, while I just had to change the exposure compensation setting – which is very easy to do with the EVF (electronic view finder) and Olympus’s Highlight and Shadow information display.

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Reminder: You can always view any photo at a larger size by just clicking on it. You will then need to use your browser’s “Back Button” to return to my story.

The camera was choosing a shutter speed of 1/30th or 1/40th of a second, and I knew that the 5-axis image stabilization would allow me to shoot even slower, so I never saw the need to increase the ISO above 800.

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I enjoyed the Sons of Fathers enough that I bought their most recent CD, “Burning Days”!  After Sons of Fathers left the stage, there was nearly an hour before Marcia Ball’s show was to begin. Even so, the best that we could do to get 5 seats together was on the 4th row. Thankfully, I got a seat on the center aisle.

David Carroll, the bass player, was the first musician to get setup and work with the sound board guy.

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Marcia Ball is an outstanding piano and keyboard player. I have seen her several times over the past 25 years or so, and she always delivers a lively, energetic performance.

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For the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar performances though, she does not bring her regular band for the show, but always invites other musicians to perform with her. (I distinctly remember a “Pianorama” show a few years back.) This year she had invited not only David Carroll, but Chris Gage and Christine Albert (aka Albert and Gage), and Sarah Elizabeth Campbell. We did now know this before we saw them come out onto the stage, but we were thrilled! We have been to 4 or 5 Albert and Gage shows over the years, and have ALWAYS enjoyed them immensely.

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That’s Chris Gage with the electric guitar, and his wife (I’m pretty sure…) Christine Albert on the acoustic guitar.

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I only brought the 12-40mm f/2.8 lens, but I was wishing I had also brought my new 75mm f/1.8 lens. The photo above was made by a very tight crop of a much larger field of view photo.

Here’s the entire band, including Sarah Elizabeth Campbell (in the center).

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I understand that Christine Albert, David Carroll, and Sarah Elizabeth Campbell had a regular gig playing together at El Mercado restaurant on Monday evenings.

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My last sentence was correct in using the past tense. I took these photos on Sunday, December 22nd. Christine, David, Elizabeth, with guests Slaid Cleaves, and Butch Hancock (who was in my 32 year old slide at the Armadillo World Headquarters blog post) played at El Mercado on Monday evening. Sadly, yesterday morning, the day after Christmas, Sarah Elizabeth Campbell passed away after a battle with liver cancer (obituary is here).

This summer, while on our cruise to The Bahamas, I read Zack Arias’s excellent book “Photography Q&A”. On page 62 Zach writes “This may sound weird – every time I photograph someone I think about their funeral. It is my goal to get a great photo of whoever is in front of my camera, one that is worthy of being enlarged and placed next to their casket. Everyone needs a great portrait. Everyone is going to leave it behind. The portrait that gets left behind needs to be the best that it can be. I’m serious; I think about this on every shoot.”

I think about those words often. I thought about them as I took our usual family photos during Christmas. I didn’t think about such wise words as I played with my new camera at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar. I had no idea that I was photographing someone who would no longer be with us less than 90 hours later. That is a haunting thought.

Rest in peace, Elizabeth. Rest in peace.

Thank you for visiting my (infrequent) blog.

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