North and South: The Leica X2 in Provence and Brittany
My previous Macfilos articles have all been based on my faithful Ricoh GR. But last year I managed to buy a used Leica X2 and during 2018 I’ve been using it more and more.
Last summer, instead of going abroad or to faraway places as my wife and I usually do, we decided to stay home in France. The geography was quite simple, we did it north and south or, rather, south and north. No, we didn't meet the descendants of Elizabeth Gaskell's novel, so there was neither a Margaret Hale nor a John Thornton on our travels. We started with le Lubéron in Provence, which has become somewhat talked about in Peter Mayle's novel, A Year in Provence.
I took only the Leica X2 that I had purchased secondhand a year before, as I wanted to travel light as usual. I truly love and bond with the camera (thank you, John Shingleton — Mr X1 — for influencing me in buying one after seeing your photos) and had the opportunity to dig a bit into it, having time to explore the various possibilities the camera offers in a split second. I did not miss my Ricoh at all and enjoyed the one focal length.
I had already been in Lubéron some 35 odd years ago and the countryside hadn't changed much. The roads, of course, were better and we had to pay to visit the tourist sites which used to be free. The two things that we both truly enjoyed were the former ochre quarries and the lavender fields.
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Even in the midday sun under scorchingly heat, these spots are really amazing. One of the sites is even called the French Colorado, but I think the tourist office is exaggerating here. (Forgive me, though, because you know how French people are).
The other thing I like around Provence are the cafés where people enjoy having a drink in the morning or late afternoon
They are sort of social places where locals and strangers — “ les estrangers” as the local would say — can mingle.
I did try shots from lavender fields but they all looked alike so I gave up. I guess macro shots would have been be nice, but I couldn't get close enough with the X2.
We ended up our trip with a visit to l'Isle sur la Sorgues, a town surrounded by a river. It became famous thanks to the French poet René Char whom I discovered while at university
It was time to move north to Brittany. The climate was quite a shock as we had a 20° drop in temperature. The sun shone only for a day or two, but the place was truly amazing. We had been there before when our children were young, thirty years ago, and remembered how the weather was terrible down there. But the place is still beautiful. Here are a few shots I made there.
The first ones are of a little harbour in Penmarch that changes with the tides. When the tide's out the small boats are all stranded and there's a pungent smell of seaweeds; but when the tide comes in on a windless day there are beautiful reflections.
These images are of the little local fishing harbour of St Ghénolé. It used to be quite busy, but with global warming there tend to be fewer activities than in the past. The place comes lively in the morning and late in the evening
That pic was taken near la Pointe du Raz, the French version of Land's End. The weather was greyish and misty, but I just loved the atmosphere you had on that day, It's not far from la Baie des Trépassés (something like the bay of the dead) because the sailors who had perished at sea were brought ashore on the bay. That's what the local legends says
The last shot (insert photo 14) was taken on the all-too rare sunny day we had at la Pointe de la Torche, a magnet for surfers that's always busy when the waves are decent. I guess it must be like some of the West Country surfing beaches around Bude in Cornwall.
Some of you may object to my contrasty post-processing, but I like to have the shots printed on Canson photo paper and the result on that paper with such contrast is really fine. In the days of the darkroom, when I used to develop my pictures, I always used Ilford Grade 4 contrast paper and never looked back. I like the rendering, though I must admit I'm losing some of the transition between colours. I think it's where the Leica shines. That little Elmarit lens is so sharp and so contrasty that there's little to be done in post to adapt to my taste.