Monet at Lake Thorenc, Madone in Andon

Typical stone and wood entrance in Andon village. Wondering if our modern constructions will last that long. Time will say!

Monet at Lake Thorenc, Madone in Andon
Stone and wood, Andon, Alpes Maritimes, France, Leica M (Typ 240), Summilux-M 50mm, f1.4 ASPH, 1/500 sec., f8, ISO 200

A Project Driven By Passion

Patrice Longour is a veterinarian who decided to put all his energy (and money) in creating a park where he could bring back in France bisons and wild horses, species almost extinct twelve centuries ago. Through an agreement with Poland (they still had living bisons in specific regions of the country) and other countries, he managed to convinced a lot of people (authorities, investors, etc.) that his project was viable, and the two species were imported to France on an 8 acres land. It was a big success and they even had births in the park, which is a proof of the animals adaptation to their new home. Visitors can walk in the park with a guide or in horse-drawn carriage.

No Show. No nothing.

Unfortunately there is absolutely nothing I can say about my experience in this park. I never got in. Schools groups had reserved all the spots, everything was sold out last Monday. So I'll have to schedule another visit and write another post specifically for that. However, we were set to go to Lake Thorenc and Andon a little farther away, so the only thing we could get from the park was taken from the roof top of the car. My peers used their long lenses and alternately took shots from the roof. Bisons, wild boars and Przewalski horses can be observed from the road, but tall fences around the park severely block the view. While they are mostly there to protect the animals, they make it very hard to get a good shot.

I'll certainly go back when I have a chance to visit the park and spend a whole day looking for good frames. They also offer accommodations, and even a tent to sleep over in the middle of the park. That's an interesting option if you want to be there very early in the morning and late at night to capture the wildlife under the perfect light

I think I've seen Monet

If you continue on the same road you'll get to Lac Thorenc and it's worth spending some time there as it is quiet at this time of the year and offers a nice view I would define as "à la Monet". It's easy to imagine the man painting by the lake, the setup his so typical of his impressionist style. In fact, when we arrive I could see a man fly-fishing while his wife with a beautiful was sitting and reading a book. I found the setup was very peaceful and had everything needed for the "creative process" of just about anything. I could sit there with a pen and a piece of paper, and write something spontaneously. Any topic. I swear it was that inspiring. But this time, again, photography was my mean of expression. I'm not a big fan of flowers and green stuff in my photography, but I figured it was an opportunity to just create something meaningful and do it the best I could. My peers get excited with flowers and insects, I'm attracted by textures in the wood or rock, even steel or glass. It's great to share together about our experiences and learn stuff from everybody. I actually learned quite a lot about plants, flowers and trees in the past couple week. While I'm not into shooting these, I tend to be a curious person so the more I learn the better it is.

There's a path going around the lake and I decided to head that way from the right and stay open-minded for anything that presents. The dam at the east end of the lake seemed like a good start because it had a small water fall, rocks and vegetation. I got a few shots from there and went around to the west where I found a wilder part in the park, including a beautiful river, dead tree trunks and other stuff worth taking the time to photograph. Again, I had some shots there before reaching back to where we start. There is a small island on the lake and it's accessible by a narrow steel and wood bridge. The area is not very large but offers some interesting perspective. I'm glad I could see some dried tree trunks and spent some time there. After that I think there's not much more to see in the area. Oh, maybe a couple horses and a pizza shack.. I can imagine how it is during the high-season. I'm glad we were there before that.

The next step in our journey was the village of Andon. No expectations because I had no idea of what this village was all about. Sadly, everything was closed and silent. Oh well.. I still managed to grab a few shots in and outside the village. I guess it's a nice little village to visit during the season, but for now it was pretty empty. So we spent about a half hour there and decided to leave. It looks like a cute little village, very well maintained and apparently there is a path to follow up in the mountain that brings you to some vestiges after 20-25 minutes by walk. But for us, at this time, it looked "closed". Let me know if your experience is different.

Chapel in the rock. Les Clues de l'Esteron

Later on we reached les Clues de L'Esteron and it certainly got all my attention. Not only did I get rocks and active waters, but a short walk also brought me to an oratory cave where a processional occurs every year in September. This place is really special and I felt I was in the right place at the right time. The huge cave holds an altar, a series of benches and statues. Something you would never expect in a place like that. I read somewhere that once a year people get together at night with snail shells used as candles to celebrate and prey for a good harvest. There was a metallic fence held only by a rope at the main entrance. I couldn't resist getting in to get closer and shot from inside.. :-) I checked on the internet and found some older photos of this site. The main entrance used to be a big stone portal with a gate. I suspect it was destroyed by falling rocks or maybe some kind of impact from the road. Time alone can't get through such a solid infrastructure.

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
  • Sony RX100 + spare batteries x2
  • Steiner binoculars 8x24
  • 64GB Sandisk Extreme Pro SD cards x 3
  • Lens cloth & blower
  • Glasses
  • Apple iPhone 5
  • Water bottle (500ml)

What if I had to do it again?

Having a reservation confirmed is mandatory when you go to the park in Thorenc. There is not much to see from outside the park, so you better have full access to enjoy the main attraction: the wild life.

I would also make sure we have a backup destination, lake Thorenc was nice but I would never spend a whole day there. No way.

The kit I brought with me was just perfect, no regret at all. Although I didn't use the Summicron-M 75mm, f1.2 ASPH. And this time I made good use of the binoculars when trying to locate bisons or differentiate a wild boar from a bison in the distance. Yes, I'm serious!

Last but not least, I would double check with everyone to make sure the bottle of wine doesn't stay home.. :-)

How To Get There

Visit Réserve des Monts website for more informations, schedules and rates.

You can find the whole picture set on my website at

Good Light!


© Normand Primeau