There are several key things about Valensole, in Provence, southern France which will stay with me and which I have tried to capture and present in this Gallery.
The clarity of light was a delight to see as it worked like a magic paintbrush across flower tips of lavender at sunrise. Turning a cool flat blue field into a vibrant gold tinged fiery majestic purple. Acres of purple rows with dips of shadow and highlights of flower tips, broken only by the occasional old barn. Cool blue mountains formed the backdrop, as first light saw hot air ballooning groups prepare their transport for take off at sunrise. Inevitably these became part of the landscape scene for sunrise shoots, where it was difficult to avoid them at that crucial moment when gold light burst across the fields. Working to capture the atmosphere amongst thousands of bees was initially a daunting prospect. Their buzz and hum was the only sound for miles, and they were right at knee height! But they were focussed on one thing only and it wasn't human knee caps. Their drive and mission was a humbling lesson. I make no apology for capturing the some would say 'cliche shots'. This was not cliche for me, far from it as every field, every mountain view was my first and I wanted to honour each moment of breathtaking views I experienced. The bees hum and the gentle lavender fragrance filled the air, but it also filled my spirit. There was something about witnessing Natures light, colour and sound that was totally absorbing and relaxing. This calmness was experienced on every shoot.
Sunflowers, millions of them, yet each field was different in some way. Some fields seemed to be unkempt, dull, dry, others were vibrant fresh and flowers with their heads held high. Despite there being so many flowers seemingly the same, they were often quite different, and occasionally unique. These cheerful, bright flowers made me smile. Side lit, or back lit petals brought such life to every view as the setting sun filtered through their bowed flowers. Sunflowers display heliotropism, so they 'follow', or track the sun whilst they are young. They are also described as inflorescence, due to their heads being not one single flower, but many tiny flowers or disc florets within the main head, surrounded by ray florets. Once they mature they no longer display heliotropism, hence my sunset shots of mature sunflowers are all facing away from the setting sun, as they are fixed facing east. This is perfect for the back lit images, but personally I found it the biggest challenge to shoot. When the sun is in your eyes it becomes difficult to see what it is you want to actually capture, let alone focus on. There were the occasional rogue flower heads which made for statement captures where a single short (but obviously mature) flower head faced a whole field of sunflowers looking at it disapprovingly for bucking the trend! The tall 'angry mob' would soon learn and become set in their ways eventually. There were also unique 'faces' which gave the flowers different characters, straggly twisted ray petals, or lush fat petals surrounded by vibrant green crowns of sepals. My times shooting sunflowers in Valensole was always an activity which brought a smile to my face - they are such optimistic, cheerful subjects. The contrast of vibrant purple and sulphur yellow is one of Natures most therapeutic balm to any weary photographer.