Cotignac, troglodytes, cascades and more

Just wondering how cooking was back then, living as a troglodyte.

Cotignac, troglodytes, cascades and more
Cooking as a troglodyte, Cotignac, Var, France

Just Another Village. Not!

I've been to so many villages recently, I was starting to feel I had seen them all. Narrow streets, central place, market, little shops, fountain, etc. So when Cotignac was selected for our next destination I thought it would just be a repetition of previous trips in the region. Well, this time it was a bit different and it turned out to be a very interesting experience. Of course there are similarities in every village (listed above), but Cotignac had some things quite different. To start, the main place was quite moving and everyone in town seemed happy to smile and say hello. I personally had so many villagers taking the time to acknowledge my presence while walking the narrow street, almost as if I was a resident.

One of the most impressive attraction in Cotignac is the mountain where troglodytes built houses a long time ago. Celtic nails and a well were apparently found in the region, which means quite a lot from an historical perspective.

There is also Notre-Dame des Grâces, accessible by car in a few minutes or by walk through Sentier des Pélerins in about 20 minutes. The site is visited by lots of people who pray to have their wishes granted by Virgin Mary. Certainly worth taking the time to get up there and spend some time visiting every corner of the site.

Little Secret Paradise

Moving to Sillans-la-Cascade on our way back was wise because we ended up being busy for quite a while there. The cascade was of course the main reason for going there, as many other people did during this high season period. But after seeing it from a high position in the mountain, I decided to go down and try to get some shots from below, or at least from the river bed. What I found there was more than anything I expected. There are a multitude of small cascades filled with milky turquoise water where people gather to swim and enjoy a good time. It's a completely improvised site and you have to find your way through the woods on small paths (many don't even deserve such name). You feel immersed in a little paradisiac spot. Sun rays do go through the trees and cast an amazing light on everything. Spot like that can turn into noisy nightmare but I felt everyone was there to enjoy a good time in a peaceful area.

I'm a 50mm shooter, no doubt.

If there's something I learned from this shoot, it must be that I am definitely a 50mm shooter. You know that question we all have to answer when shooting with a rangefinder (i.e. Leica): Are you a 35mm or 50mm shooter? It's really a question of taste, but also how you see and look at things. For me, looking through a 50mm lens is the way to go.

But there are times when I’m tempted to bring along a wider lens with me, just in case it becomes necessary. Old villages and narrow street in France make it difficult to shoot at 50mm, things tend to be out of the frame, which is not good. Trying to get further away is just impossible as your back hits the buildings across the street. Super-Elmar-M 18mm, f3.8 ASPH is a god sent tool for that, but let me tell you about my findings. On my last visit in Cotignac this week I wanted to give it a shot (pun totally intended, of course), so I brought the lens just in case I need it. And I did. But things didn't turn out as expected. Don't get me wrong, the lens is excellent, even a bit lighter than the 50mm, but I realized it was too wide for me. I tend to shoot things specifically, like a bench, a bike or just about anything where a good light falls on at a specific moment. Shooting an entire scene, including a whole lot of things (And I mean a lot of things! Like mountains and a whole village), apparently is not for me. Might be useful for panoramic view or shooting a huge vista, but it's not my cup of tea. Every time I used the 18mm I had to take the shot again after moving forward to get what I wanted. My eyes simply see at 50mm. That's not a problem at all. It's actually great news to realize that I finally answered the question of "Are you a 35mm or 50mm shooter?". So 50mm I am!

Another problem I had comes from the UV/IR filter I installed on the 18mm last week. A black vignette appears around the image. I haven't had a chance to check if it comes from the lens hood or the circular black piece fitted inside the filter's thread. Or both. Pushing the hood a little forward might be the problem. I'll find out tonight when have a chance to compare with or without.

So I ended up shooting only about 20 frames with the wide angle before switching back to my beloved and usual 50mm. And it's been great for the rest of the day. However, I admit the photos taken with the wide show great colors and sharpness. Beautiful. Maybe I should experiment a bit more and get closer to the subject to see how it turns out in the end. The limitations usually comes from the user, not the tool. But the fact that we all see differently (zoom vs wide) stands true, no doubt about it. What about you? Have you been through the inevitable process of finding what kind of shooter you are? What are your finding?

What's in the bag

  • Leica M (Typ 240) + spare batteries x 2
  • Summilux-M 50mm, f1.4 ASPH
  • Super-Elmar-M 18mm, f3.8 ASPH
  • Sony RX100 + spare batteries x2
  • 64GB Sandisk Extreme Pro SD cards x 3
  • Lens cloth & brush
  • Glasses
  • Apple iPhone 5
  • Water bottle (500ml)

The picture above was taken in Cotignac, near the entrance of the troglodytes. You can find the whole picture set on my website at

Good Light!


© Normand Primeau