Personal introspection at Col de la Bonette

Yesterday's day trip to Col de la Bonette shows there's always something new or different up there. A blue, white and red car is a good start.

Personal introspection at Col de la Bonette
Bleu, Blanc, Rouge Car at Col de la Bonette (France), Leica M (Typ 240), Summilux-M 50mm, f1.4 ASPH, 1/500 sec., f8, ISO 200

Weather Doesn't Matter

This trip was almost compromised by the confusion in communications. Weather forecasts, when they get to much attention, will only make people question their choices, hesitate, and change plans at the last minute. Ultimately, all of this makes you feel disappointed when the alternate destination proves to be boring. In the past, I have never changed my plans for a photo trip for weather reasons. I truly believe it doesn't compromise a shoot, only makes it different and sometimes better. There are exception of course, but most of the times there are real benefits when it rains. Some of them are:

  1. The temperature is usually cooler, you don't sweat in the sun, spreading sunscreen everywhere and hauling water and drinking permanently..
  2. There will always be less people around which makes things easier to get a good shot.
  3. The colors get more saturated, blacks darker.
  4. Rain creates multiple interesting effects : drops, ripples, reflections, shiny surfaces
  5. Rain makes people behave differently: dressing differently, walking faster and/or even running, holding umbrellas (i.e. patterns, colors, shapes), avoiding car splashes, etc.

Findings at High Altitude

Fortunately we ended up sticking to our initial plan and the weather turned out to be great most of the day. So we set off to Col de la Bonette, a place I visited quite a few times in the past if you remember. For now it's my favorite spot in France. I haven't been everywhere of course and there is so much to see in this beautiful country, but of all the places I have been in France so far, Col de la Bonette is my top destination. Every time I go there I'm filled with peace of mind and I can really disconnect from everything. It's huge and quiet, beautiful and complex, fresh and steeped in history. Really, it's hard not to be in love with this place. So many times I have been looking for historical details, trying to understand to know more about the ruins found on site.

And when I thought I became aware of everything, something unsuspected happened. I left the car and started to walk around between buildings at Camp des Fourches. I had both my Leica (M Typ 240 & M8.2) and was ready to shoot just like I did there on so many occasions. But for some reasons I didn't feel the urge to bring the camera to the eye. The only thing I wanted to do is breath the fresh air, listen to the silence only broken by a soft wind, and admire the hugeness of the mountains around me. All I needed at this point was a bit of time for myself, to think, observe and appreciate. I think these moments are important and of big value: this is when you become aware of your self. More specifically in terms of what's good and important to you. Something is talking to you, just telling you to listen. Photography brings a lot of these moments to me. It's an important mean for getting to know me better. I welcome these moments when they happen, but never look for them. You can't make it happen anyways. Unless you purposely retreat yourself somewhere for a period of time. And even then.

But sometimes these moments happen when you least expect them, they catch you by surprise and you neither know what to do with them, nor how to handle them. That's what I had yesterday. But I accepted it, I kept walking around and never tried to fight it by shooting with the camera. I knew it was best to "let go of the camera" (Brooks Jensen from LensWork published a book titled "Letting Go Of The Camera". It's a great book containing essays on the photography and the creative life. It's a great source of inspiration and down to earth thoughts, comments and advices. Highly recommended!), to listen and to learn. Surprisingly, of all the moments I had during this day, that moment is probably the most intense. I learned something very precise about myself and I'm going to include that in my projects, any projects. Photography really leads to everything! Or is it the other way around? My take on it is that they're both true.

What's in the bag

  • Leica M (Typ 240) + spare batteries x 2
  • Leica M8.2 _ spare batteries x 2
  • Summicron-M 75mm, f1.2 ASPH
  • Summilux-M 50mm, f1.4 ASPH
  • Super-Elmar-M 18mm, f3.8 ASPH
  • Sony RX100 + spare batteries x 2
  • 64GB Sandisk Extreme Pro SD cards x 3
  • Moleskine Field Notes + Bullet Space Pen
  • Steiner Binoculars 8x24
  • Lens cloth & brush
  • Glasses
  • Apple iPhone 5
  • Water bottle (500ml)

Expectations for Next Trips

With yesterday's experience on Col de la Bonette it's fair to wonder about my next visit to the site. Caught by surprise with the feelings I had when I got there, I have now started to think about what I can expect next time. Will I get caught by surprise with something else (moods, feelings, emotions, etc.)? Will I feel the way I did on most of my trips there in the past? Or maybe discover a new area of the park ? Can I again have the feeling I had yesterday? Needless to say I was quite shaken by that feeling. Oh, I definitely see it as a great thing because my experience on Col de la Bonette is probably maturing after all my visits there. So it must be evolving and getting me further in that regard. After the fact, I'm quite happy with what happened and it reminded me we should never have an ownership feeling with locations. Nature and life together are incredibly stronger then us and we should not take anything for granted when we deal with them. We are infinitely small, yet we can enjoy immense experiences.

I'll keep that in mind for any location I visit in the future. Engage with a true passion to discover, keep an open mind for anything happening and try to remember there will always be something to learn from the things I see, people I meet, and places I visit.

What do you think of all that? Did you ever have these moments in photography when you just have to let go and breath, leaving behind any expectation, open your mind and welcome whatever is sent your way? I'd be happy to hear about it and how you handled the situation.

The picture above was taken near the menhir at the top of Col de la Bonette, about 2800 above sea level. Who said there are no surprises up there? You can find the whole picture set on my website at

Good Light!


© Normand Primeau