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Day 1 – Saintes to La Roque-Gageac

Castle in the Sky

I woke up Sunday morning exhausted since I was up until 5am at the wedding reception and thought we had to be out of the hotel at 10:00. This affected my willingness to take pictures throughout the day, but more about that later.  Having a good 4hr drive to get to the first hotel, I left earlier (1pm) and took the main highway further than planned. While this skipped some of the locations I mapped out, It also allowed for some new locations to be added.

If being tired didn’t affect my mood, the rain did. It was raining quite a bit and the sky was pretty grey and flat. I knew I would be lucky if I got any good photos – unless it somehow cleared.

I drove on the major highway for a few hours, finally pulling onto a smaller more interesting road. The route seemed pretty good, and I started my first day of looking for thing to photograph. I made my first stop under a tall train bridge. It looked pretty interesting, but I couldn’t get an good vantage point. Everything I tried either was a very boring angle (Staring right up at it), or had issues with either telephone wires or ugly shrubbery in the way. I gave up on it quickly, but am pretty sure there was nothing that I missed.

As I continued on, I saw a few signs for a grotto/cave coming up. I had seen it before during my research and it had some cool buildings built into the cliff wall. I think the tiredness and willing to start my adventure tricked me into paying for a tour of the grotto. It was the only thing still open, and the less photographic of what they offered. Since it was late and cold, there was only myself and another women who were given the tour. It was cool, but not what I was looking for.

The next stop on my map was to be an old amusement park. As I pasted the marker on my gps, I was sure my GPS was set wrong and I disregarded the location. It was about at that point that I think I passed the entrance. I should have turned around, but I didn’t. I have mentioned before that this is what I do and I really have to stop it.

The next location was right on the Dordogne river. There was  bridge spanning the river that I wanted to shoot. This time I stopped and walked around, but unable to get a good vantage point, it became a location where I just stretched my legs. This location was one that looked more promising while researching than when actually there.

With the sky still pretty cloudy, I pretty much skipped all other locations. I went to the hotel to drop off my luggage, and went back out to take night shots – where the weather wouldn’t be an issue.

The sun still hadn’t set when I looped back to visit Beynac. It was pretty quite as I started to walk up into the city.

I was pretty tired and really had to push myself as I walked. The town and small streets were beautiful, but I couldn’t find any good subjects. I stopped to get the shot below of the river winding beside the town.

My initial plan for Beynac was to get the entire city from down river, so I continued town the path and across the street. I took my favorite shot of the day (Main image of article) from a vantage point right beside the river. The clouds  had really great texture and helped fill the sky with a little more interest. I like that the sunset had very little color as the harsh blues give the image a cool effect.

I walked back to my car along the river looking for any decent subjects, but did not find any better angles than the one above. I got back into my car and drove to La Roque to have dinner. It had started to get dark by the time I got there, so I snapped a few shots of the town and river. The clouds were still full of texture, and city had a nice row of lights along the river. I was lucky it was off season, as the streets were pretty empty and few cars drove by while I was shooting.

It was pretty dark when I came out of the restaurant. I set up my camera again to take a few shots, but they really didn’t turn out. The street lights were a little  bright and I couldn’t get good exposure on the river. I tried a few different things but nothing worked. Now that I look back, it would have been interesting to use my GND on the town. I wonder what effect that might have had.

A Few Comments from the Shoot:

  • While weather affected shots that I had planned, knowing what works best in different types of weather would have helped
  • I really really have to stop at locations when I see them. You can’t go back most of the time
  • My aggressive driving plans could affect my abilities to explore a location to its fullest
  • Switching my focus on night photography because of the weather was a smart plan, even if it failed to fully launch
  • These planned locations were very helpful. Had I not had these pre-planned and researched, I would have probably seen very little
  • I think the best plan for these types of trips is 4hr drives. You just have to leave earlier and expect to spend the whole day out taking pictures. This will give you time to look around

The Map:


View Day 1 – Saintes to Sarlat-la-Caneda in a larger map

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