White Horses of the Camargue with Pink Flamingos and Grey Herons

The Camargue, South of France

The Camargue is a wonderfully unspoilt wetlands area in the South of France, situated less than two hours from Marseilles Airport. It is famed for it’s world renowned White Horses. They are an absolute joy to photograph, especially when in groups of ten or more. The area is also home to a wide array of wetland birdlife of which the Pink Flamingos and Grey Herons are the most accessible. March has been selected as we wish to avoid the severe heat and extremely bright conditions normally associated with the South of France. The weather should be similar to that of typical British summertime. This trip has now run successfully for several years and has now been honed to virtual perfection. The horses demonstrate that they love their freedom and the guardians (the riders of the saddled horses) have become expert at creating stunning opportunities for us.

Photograph White Horses in the Sea

We will have two, approximately two-hour-long sessions photographing a group ten or so Camargue White Horses, both trotting and sometimes galloping through a large shallow lake adjoining the sea. They are skilfully driven towards our waiting cameras by riders on horseback. These riders are extremely adept at keeping to the side of the horses and therefore not appearing in your photographs. They will continue the sessions until the horses tire. There will be several drives with the horses coming directly towards you, and also several drives with the horses running across your field of view. You will regularly be only a few metres away from your elegant subjects. They look absolutely fabulous with the water splashing all around them. We plan to photograph early morning and late afternoon, in order to take pictures when the light is at it’s best.

Photograph White Horses in the Marshes

We will have another two sessions along the same lines as those used when photographing in the sea. This time, however, we will photograph the horses running through the water in the marshes with some beautiful golden reeds as a background. Some photographers prefer taking photos in the sea, while some prefer in the marsh. Personally, I much prefer the marshes. The water is much deeper and the horses have to work harder. There is a lot more spray and the shots are much more dramatic. The water in the marshes is quite peaty and after a while the horses become a “browny-white”. I think this adds to the spectacle although some photographers disagree. One of the participants of the 2009 trip won a national competition with one of his pictures taken on this trip. Our hearty congratulations go out to him.

Photograph Mares & Foals

In addition to the four sessions in the water we will have one further session with mares and foals. Our subjects are often initially quite nervous upon our arrival. Quite amazingly, after a short while, they will often approach you, and you will maybe even receive a sniff or lick from both mares and foals. Patience is well rewarded. All the foals are brown in colour, which makes a pleasing contrast to their all-white mothers. The arrival of the new foals cannot be guaranteed by the date we visit. If there are no foals we will instead have an extra session in the bird park or visit a breeding herd for the Black Bulls that the Camargue is equally famous for. On only one occasion (out of seven trips) have we not found new-born foals to photograph.

Photograph Sparring Stallions

Our agent in France has just discovered a new location where two beautiful stallions can be released in a small, shallow lake. At first, this may sound a barbaric thing to do. Rest assured that we would always have the welfare of the animals as our foremost priority. We actually use an older Stallion and one of his offspring for our photography session. The pictures taken infer that they  behave quite aggressively towards each other. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. The youngster does all sorts of posturing around his elder, but there is never any malicious contact whatsoever. You will see open mouths and bared teeth but they do not bite each other at all, merely wrap their neck around their “opponent” as if to show what they could be capable of.  There is no physical aggression whatsoever between the horses, but you will witness some really dramatic poses as they “play fight”. The father tolerates his offspring’s antics most of the time and only occasionally reprimands him when his ambitions exceed his status. Stallions only fight, in the true sense of the word, when they have a similarly matched opponent and when females are also present. This will not be the case for our photography purposes. This event will take place in a shallow pool and should provide some really stunning photo opportunities.

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Click here for more Camargue Photos

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Pink Flamingos

The Camargue is almost as well-known for it’s Pink Flamingos as it is for it’s White Horses. They can be seen dotted around almost anywhere in this area. There is however a huge concentration of these fascinating birds in a 150 acre park within the Camargue area. It is called the Parc Ornithologique De Pont De Gau. http://www.parcornithologique.com The birds are fed in the morning (before the park opens) and also early evening. Late afternoon and the evening is a really special time. There are a number of lakes where the birds are fed. As  feeding time approaches the birds continually fly from lake to lake. It is as if they cannot decide where they will get the most food. Opportunities for superb flying shots present themselves on a regular basis. Even more spectacular is when they “run along the surface of the water” just prior to take-off. Hundreds of these birds will be on view from no more than a few metres away at feeding time. The park opens at 10.00 and remains open, and does not close until the sun has set. There is no official closing time. There will always be birds within 20 metres or so throughout the day.

Grey Herons

There is a heronry in the middle of one of the small lakes. The afternoon provides superb opportunities to take shots of the herons on their nests and as they come in to land. There is an excellent vantage point from where to “shoot” the herons from about 30 metres away. The sun is behind your back which also helps. As well as photographing the birds in flight, it is great to also catch the “sentry” that guides the incoming birds into the heronry. This bird will spot an incoming heron long before it is visible to the human eye. It will extend its neck and point it’s beak skywards before letting out a loud call. A great photo.

Peregrine Falcons & Other Opportunities

The park contains a number of rescued birds in large enclosures as well as numerous other wild birds. There is a pair of Peregrine Falcons in a very photogenic enclosure. These birds have not been rung, and some great shots can be taken. There is a pair of eagles in another enclosure, and various other wild birds on the lakes. Probably the most abundant birds not yet mentioned are the beautifully coloured Shelduck, the Cattle Egret and the Little Egret, which also nests in the main heronry. It has two very striking, long feathers trailing from the back of it’s head when in flight. Our accommodation adjoins the park, which enables us to utilise any spare time watching the birds. There is also a ranch immediately opposite where Camargue horses can be hired for as little as one hour. Horse hire and in excess of two days in the park are not included.

Photographic Advice & Tuition

A computer will be taken to France, enabling each participant to have the opportunity to review a sample of their photographs on a daily basis. One to one advice will be continually on offer in addition to an initial group tuition session. Both constructive criticism, and praise where it is due, will be offered to each participant as applicable. Photographers on Safari will do their utmost to ensure that you make the best of your photographic opportunities. We will have a minibus at our disposal throughout the holiday. Your luggage will be transported by a separate vehicle. At the very least you will need wellington boots. Waders are strongly advised in order that you gain the best possible angles from which to shoot the horses.

Typical Itinerary

The itinerary will be left somewhat fluid. The content will remain the same and all sessions will be included, but not necessarily in the same order. This is so that we make the best of the given lighting conditions.

Day One

Depart London. Arrive Marseilles. Transfer by minibus to Hostellerie Pont De Gau, near to Les Saintes Maries De La Mer. Afternoon session with the Camargue Mares & Foals. Dinner

Day Two

Morning and afternoon photographing Camargue White Horses in the lake near the sea. Breakfast & Dinner.

Day Three

Morning photographing Camargue White Horses in the marsh. Afternoon photographing Camargue White Horses in the lake near the sea. Breakfast & Dinner.

Day Four

Whole day in Pont De Gau bird park. Breakfast & Dinner

Day Five

Morning Photographing Camargue Stallions in water. Transfer to Marseilles Airport for return flight to London. Breakfast

Accommodation

This will be in the Hostellerie du Pont de Gau. It has it’s own website, http://www.hotelpontdegau.com It is uniquely situated, actually adjoining the Pont De Gau bird park, which makes access extremely convenient. Rooms are simple but very clean and comfortable, and the reputation of the restaurant is excellent. There are three dinner menus; an a la carte menu with various choices, a second a la carte menu with more expensive choices, and a third a la carte menu with very expensive dishes. A selection from the first and second a la carte menus is included in your price and you have the option to pay the difference, should you wish to upgrade. The food really was excellent, and nobody has ever felt the need to upgrade to date. The restaurant is recognised by many locals as the premier place to eat in this area. Rooms are on a  twin share basis. All customers again have the option to upgrade to a single room.

 

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Click here to view the Camargue Photo gallery 2008 & 2009

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Dates & Cost

 

March 24th to 28th  2014               £1635.00

Price excludes International airfare. British Airways are currently (Nov. 2012) offering this return flight at a total cost of £124.00 including taxes.

Contact us to book…