Old is something new. I’ve been to Fréjus quite a few times in the past couple years, but for some reasons I never thought of visiting the old village. And since we’ve been travelling to so many villages recently, why not visit Old Fréjus and see what it has to offer?
Turns out I had a great time there and I realized how rich it is from an historical point of view. You might have heard about the Malpasset Dam tragedy1 in 1959 or the fact that the territory used to be part of the Roman Empire, which explains the presence of huge arenas and aquaduc ruins. Or maybe you read about beautiful Fréjus Cathedral and Cloister that are opened to the public for visits (check schedule before going).
There is a lot to be seen in Fréjus and spending a whole day over there is not a problem. I haven’t had a chance to walk the trail near the Malpasset Dam, but I imagine a second day would be necessary. The area is vast and it’s interesting to take a look at it from various angles like topology, history, architecture, etc. No wonder why there is so much to see, do and learn in Fréjus.
Color or monochrome
As usual I came back from this shoot with a limited number of frames, as I tend to take my time before pressing the shutter. The process is simple and natural:
- I bring the camera to the eye only when the light is beautifully hitting something (anything is beautiful when the light is gorgeous);
- I move left and right, up and down to get the frame I want, always asking that question to myself: what is the topic of the picture? What is it I want to talk about?;
- I set the exposure the way I want to express the emotion, for some reasons it feels like painting, adding/removing colors through exposure variants;
- When I’m satisfied with what I have and can “feel” the emotion, then I hold my breath, close my eyes2 and gently press the shutter;
- Fractions of a second later my eyes reopen and the photo is there for me in the electronic viewfinder. I just love that moment. If you take your time making the photo, you won’t have to take many shots and still wonder if it’s ok. You see it when it’s good. You feel it. You know it.
Bu there is also another aspect of that process I think is important to note. There’s always a moment in the back of my head when I start wondering if the final photo will be in colour or in monochrome. Sometimes it happens as I am making the photo, sometimes it’s just a decision that’s being made when I look at the shot in Lightroom.
Interestingly, I tend to think more about monochrome when lots of textures are part of the frame. In other words my brain associates sharpness & details with monochrome. It might sound weird but there is nothing like an amazingly detailed and sharp monochrome image. At least for my taste. I can’t explain why but I know it turns something on in my brain (or eyes) at the sight of a sharp, well lit, monochrome image. But it doesn’t mean a sharp and colorful photo is not attractive, it’s just not my preference. Am I turning into mono photography altogether? Probably not, because I also love colors and can appreciate them generally speaking. But I suppose my preferrence is more and more for monochrome.
Sometimes it’s a no-brainer, either color or monochrome. But sometimes it gets complicated when a photo looks great in both of these. What makes me decide if I turn right or left is a mystery for me at this point. But I’m starting to pay attention to that and hopefully sooner or later I’ll know what influences my choice. That would make it so much easier for me to decide.
Dam(n)! I didn’t see it
I’m pretty happy with what I saw in Old Fréjus. I really liked the spirit of the village, the colorful houses and old monuments. It’s always a strange feeling when you get inside something that was built many many centuries ago. I particularly like the way everything was kept in good conditions while preserving the essence of its origine. Sometimes it’s how things are positioned (i.e. a fairly new house close to a big arch’s ruin, or an old house behind a series of hand-drawn colorful parking blocks. Lovely contrast).
But the thing I didn’t see and will have to plan for a next visit is the Malpasset Dam site. I heard a lot about it from people and it apparently is quite mind-bending at the sight of huge pieces of concrete from the dam, scattered around. What is left from the dam is probably impressive and I’d like to see that for sure. Definitely on the to-do list.
What’s in the bag
- Leica M (Typ 240) + spare batteries x 2
- Summicron-M 28mm, f2 ASPH
- 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
The photo above was taken on Place du Couvent in the old village of Fréjus. Of all the photos I produced during the time I spent there, this one touches me the most. I felt that Time had just stopped for a minute when I entered this quiet place. An old man on a bench, alone under this huge olive tree. It was planted there in 1989 to commemorate the French Revolution bicentenary. The tree was imported from Spain and is apparently more than a thousand year old. Unbelievable! Both the man and the tree have my respect and I’m glad I could bring back a photograph like that.
You can find the whole picture set on my website at www.normandprimeauphoto.com
© 2014 Normand Primeau Fine Art Photography. All rights reserved.
- It collapsed on December 2, 1959, killing 423 people in the resulting flood. The damage amounted to a total of $68 million. ↩
- I explained that to a friend recently and I admit it might sound a little bit strange, but almost all my photographs are taken with closed eyes. Bad habit? I don’t think so. Once I know the framing and all the prep work is done, closing my eyes helps me concentrate on the very last step (i.e. pressing the shutter) while remembering exactly how I saw and felt the subject. It’s an “Each in its own way” kind of thing, I guess. ↩