Late Summer Sun An Introspective Retrospective: Part 2

Our destination was Provence Côte d'Azur and the Terre Blanche Hotel Spa Golf Resort, a 45min transfer from Nice and away from the bustle of the French Riviera (but close enough for a visit and a glam travel fix if required!) As the resort name suggests, there’s a focus on golf and the spa in the resort. Now, I’m not a golfer, so our itinerary concentrating on the spa and exploring the local Provence region was ideal. A Michelin starred restaurant also caught our attention!

The resort itself is stunning and my early rises were rewarded exploring how the light moved around the set-pieces of infinity pool, architecture and sculpture installations.

Picture perfect golf features with local flora and fauna.
Details. It's all in the details.

Photographically then: What to shoot that sums up late summer in Provence? You’re thinking rolling fields of lavender in soft sunlight aren’t you? So was I, until I looked up when and where that happens. Instead, we were in rosé country, vineyards and provincial markets would be the order of the day. Luckily, our itinerary covered all these areas and more, all I had to do was pay attention, make notes, and take photos. And, try the wine.

A late afternoon off-road buggy adventure to Chateau des Selves was a great intro to what to expect over the next few days. Our Septmeber timing meant that the days were still warm, but the sun was setting earlier. The sun light was fantastic across the hillside vineyards and the chateau, creating beautiful backlighting and texture definition.

Being the designated driver isn't always a bad thing!

Chateau d' Esclans, home to the rosé superstars of Whispering Angel and Rock Angel. Also, the most expensive rosé in the world, Garrus.

Visible from the resort on the other side of the valley, I had noticed the town of Fayence, it looked beautiful perched up there from a distance. So I was excited to hear that a trip to the local market was on our schedule too. Every stall offered samples and the variety of food, flavours, and people was fantastic.

As well as sampling all the food, I set about a quick candid project to capture the faces and characters of the market as they went about their business.

As usual with trips like this, I was determined to get up for sunrise in a part of the world that I’ve never visited before. Tripod, filters, cable release etc. had been packed with this in mind and I set various alarms to ensure I was up in good time each day. The first morning teased with a fantastic low light illuminating the distant horizon, but failed to deliver as the sun rose behind thick cloud. So I had one day left to get the shots I wanted of the resort and surrounding countryside in lovely Provence morning light.

Morning #1 : Thanks clouds!

I may not be a golfer, but I do appreciate the surreal beauty of perfectly sculptured land and manicured grass, especially when you can contrast it with a backdrop of sunrise on distant hills. I discussed this with the resort communications manager on a quick scouting trip around the two championship courses, and her recommendation of a spot by the 14th tee on the "Le Riou" course was spot on. Despite the phenomenal food and wine of the Michelin star food at Le Faventia the night before, I was up and framing a shot in the pre-dawn light of our last day.

Sunlight splashed across the 13th fairway at 06:37, the light was low and every careful contour of the course was lit to contrast with the fractal shapes of the trees and town of Fayence on the hills beyond. Lovely.
The dynamic range of sunlight sky and shadowed mid-ground woodland meant that I was bracketing 7 shots at 2/3 stop intervals to ensure I had all the details I’d need in post-production.

By the time the sun cleared the treeline I had a good selection of shots and, with only a few curious stares from the grounds keeping team, it was time for a final breakfast at Terre Blanche.

There was just time then on the last day to indulge in that inifity pool again. And get a few more shots that give a sense of how relaxing those three fully itineraried days were!

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Lee Irvine


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