Col de Turini

Growing thistles within ruins from World War 2 in the mountains on Col de Turini.

Col de Turini
Thistles on Battlefield, Col de Turini (France)

Sick i stick to no trick photo click

It could have been a “sorry guys, rain check for me today!”. A very bad cold got me by surprise last Sunday and it progressed (as I regressed) so quickly I couldn’t believe how bad I felt in such a short period of time. In a matter of 8-10 hours I was completely exhausted. I knew I had to get up early to join some friends for our weekly photo trip. I could not find any sleep that night and had a hard time even breathing through completely jammed sinuses. A whole night thinking about how I could leave my bed at 6:30AM, shower, dress up, grab my equipment and drive the scooter up to our usual meeting spot. Or maybe I should face reality and stay in bed all day until time does its trick and I feel better in a few days? No, I decided to assume everything, do what I had to do and try to make the most of this day out shooting with my peers. And I’m absolutely positive about it: right decision!

The plan was to drive up to Col de Turini and explore the area where ruins of lots of military infrastructures can be observed and visited. From bunkers to camps and even a tank, there is a lot of things to see up there. I’ve been on Col de la Bonette quite a few times in the past, so I knew what to expect. Surprisingly, I was very impressed by what I saw, more specifically by the quantity of buildings spread out on many areas. Things start to make sense when you read about the events that happened there over the last century, mostly during the Second War. Most of these installations were built by the French army to protect the border from potential attacks from Italy. Just before the end of the War they were taken over by the Germans who then used these installations against the Allies pushing north. Needless to say the fields on Col de Turini were witnesses of violent attacks. Bullet impacts are very visible on the concrete walls, shell-holes in the ground, etc. Pushing a little further at La Redoute de la Pointe des Trois Communes (Massif de l’Authion, 2080 meters) will convince you very quickly of the extreme violence of these fights in April 1945.

Green for hope, cows for peace

Leaving aside the military aspect, I was impressed by nature. Everything is green, alpine pastures aplenty and you can hear the cow bells in the distance, bringing you back to today’s reality. At this time of the year, the site is very quiet and it was a delight to enjoy photography at its best. I wasn’t bothered by anything (except my damn cold!), and whatever nature would throw at me I’d be ready to capture in silence, mostly contemplative. I think I took a passive role there because I was sick and not pushing anything. All I wanted is to be there (not in my bed), to observe and witness what nature had planned for the day. Every step I made was natural, relax and, above all, with no expectations in mind. Turned out to be “grey” most of the day, and with the fog never leaving us I knew monochrome photography was the name of the game for me. Seriously, bring together stones, fog, ruins, forest and mountains, and you have the perfect recipe for dramatic photos.

What’s in the bag

  • Leica M (Typ 240) + spare batteries x 2
  • Summilux-M 50mm, f1.4 ASPH
  • Summicron-M 75mm, f1.2 ASPH
  • Olympus VF-2 Electronic View Finder
  • Sony RX100 + spare batteries x2
  • 64GB Sandisk Extreme Pro SD cards x 3
  • Apple iPhone 5
  • Leatherman Flair multitools
  • Fenix PD22 flashlight
  • Fenix TK35 flashlight
  • Steiner Rocky 8x24 binoculars

The bag dilemma

Going out for a day shoot brings the never ending question: which bag should I use? Recently I purchased a bag for my Leica M, 2-3 lenses and accessories. This bag is sold by Monochrom in Germany. I had a hard time purchasing it online because the site was only in German. But with patience I managed to go throughout the process and received my bag quickly. And I am very happy with it, by the way. I just checked their website and it is now in German and English.

Unfortunately, the link for this dothebag is broken and leads to nowhere. Oh well.. Actually, everything I put in the “WHAT’S IN THE BAG” section of my posts will fit in this bag. And sometimes even my iPad Air 4G 128GB will fit in. With this purchase I thought I had put an end to the bag dilemma, but I was wrong. The equipment you use most of the time will fit in the bag of your choice, but the destination will have an impact on the bag you should use.

For Col de Turini, except for the two Fenix flashlights and Steiner binoculars, all the photo equipment I needed would fit in the Mono07. The problem is we had in mind to walk a lot a leave the car behind. That means hauling food and drink, knife and some layers of clothes to face any kind of weather. Oh well, I can tell you I thought about it for a moment on Sunday evening and I decided to go with the Lowepro Sling bag. In the end there was so much in the bag that it was weighting too much for a sling bag. Not comfortable = you don’t use it.

We finally made most travelling by car and left the bag on the back seat. Not a problem when you have an eye on the car (i.e. stolen equipment), although at this elevation the risks are minimal. But at some point we walk further away, could no longer see the car and had to walk back, just in case. All this simply because I didn’t want to haul a loaded bag that was uncomfortable. Oh, I have many backpacks. But each of them was either to big, not appropriate, too small, or whatever. So the rumour is true: no bag is the perfect bag. But there is one lesson to take from this experience: you need the right tool for the job. And I realize there is a weak spot in my bag arsenal and I’ll be shopping around for it. A small, well-thought, comfortable and quality backpack for day hikes in nature. All other situations are covered, but I have to think about this one carefully now. I have looked into these backpacks today:

If you know of some other bags that can be interesting, please drop me a line with details. Thanks!


The picture above was taken within the ruins on Col de Turini. When I got there the cloud/fog started to immerse everything and transform the site into such a dismal and frightening location. I felt the war had just ended, right after the last bullets. And a complete silence was pushing the experience even further. Scary and fascinating at the same time. As I walk throughout the field I saw what was left of a small building and a bunch of thistles growing freely here and there. I focus on the plant and used the ruins as a background element to express the contrast I felt for “before” and “after”, “deteriorating” and “growing”. That was an intense moment I will not forget. And I keep in mind that I was lucky to get some fog there at that specific moment. It could have been a sunny day and give something completely different. Again, right time, right place!

You can find the whole picture set on my website at

Good Light!


© Normand Primeau