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Day 4.1 – Grenoble to Annecy

In the previous post, I wrote about the specific shot that this trip was based on. Afterwards, I continued on and quickly arrived at my second spot. My initial research showed it would be difficult to get a good place to stop, but I found a rest area that had a good overall view of the subject. I could tell as I set up my camera that it wouldn’t be anything spectacular, but it was at this point where I released that some times it really doesn’t matter. It is about remembering the location, not taking the best picture ever.

As you can see from the picture above, it is pretty cool with the small church on the little island. There were several small boats in the water between the church and the treeline that I took out, but we will keep that our little secret. The sky was pretty grey so that also didn’t add to the experience. I finished up and got back into the car.

I drove for awhile without stopping, even if there were a few places that look promising. It was a long drive day, so I stayed on course. It was mid-day when I arrived at the beginning of Route 902.

The 902 is one of the most scenic routes in the French Alps. It starts around Nice and goes right into Switzerland. They use this road for the mountain portion of the Tour de France. It is steep, narrow and curves back and forth like crazy. As I started on the route, I started to slightly regret having taken it. Man was the road pretty scary. From above, the slope really doesn’t look all that bad, but when you are on it, it looks like instant death … more or less. I looked for a few places to stop but found nothing. There was one part where there was actually a cow in the road. Out of the entire trip. This is the only time I really regret not stopping. I was gripping the steering wheel so hard, I probably wouldn’t have been able to free myself to take the shot anyway.

About 95% of the way up was a little cafe/gift shop, so I stopped to have a coffee and relax a little. I found my breathing was effected by the altitude a little and took my time as I looked around. When I was done, I set up the camera across the road and took the shot of the valley you see above.

I love the curve in the road as it weaves in and out of the picture. I used the GND filter for this shot, but should have used the polarizer as well. To be honest I may have used it for this shot. During the trip I started using the GND filters by hand with the polarizer mounted to the lens. I just don’t remember where I started using it. It seems like the best method to use as long as your hands don’t get in the way, or knock the camera during exposure.

I drove up the rest of the way and stopped at the summit which was about 2600 meters above sea level. I should have walked around a little more than I did, but again there wasn’t much time. I have said it in previous articles. that 3-4hr routes seem to be the right amount. Expect to spend the whole day, but 3-4hr routes allow for stopping to look around.

I was able to film the drive down with the camera mounted on the Gorillapod, but it wasn’t nearly as scary as the drive up since I was on the mountain side driving this time and not the cliff side.

As I finally reached the valley floor, I found a rock formation that looked pretty interesting, so I stopped. Having read so many articles about the importance of foreground, this was a pretty good case study. I set my tripod up and took pictures from two different angles. It would have been nice to have better leading lines, but it turned out pretty good.

I continued on, and soon was driving on a major highway. Not much happened until I got off and was heading directly towards Lake Annecy. My route was to take me to the east side of the lake a little ways, and then back up the west coast of the lake.

I drove to an initial castle that was hard to locate. I thought I had seen the entrance, but it looked like a private driveway so I skipped it. I stopped in a small town on the lake for lunch, then continued on.

On the way up, I had seen a few locations right on the lake where I wanted to stop. I looked as I drove, and it took awhile to find a good vantage point. I found a spot on the blue lake with several boats in the water. The boats’ anchors could be viewed in the clear water and it looked like a really cool shot. There were three boats lined up, but the more I tried to find a good composition, the more I had trouble doing so. Below is the best picture out of the set, and its not fantastic. I probably should have tried it oriented in portrait. I am sure it might have been better with a little more in the foreground, but I was as far into the street as I could go without getting hit by a car … which would have been bad.

I continued on to Annecy with few distractions or interesting locations. I found my hotel, went to my room, and rested. Annecy is such a great town, I am reserving it for a post on its own.

A Few Comments from the Shoot:

  • I should have stopped to take a picture of the cows on the road. Great chance, didn’t pull the trigger.
  • Need to practice with GND and Polarizer a little more.
  • It would be nice to look closely at images where the exposure was perfect. There were issues with the mountain images where I don’t think they were exposed perfectly.
  • Mid day photography is really hard to get right. Very different mood that is hard to get perfect.
  • Leading lines really help a photograph.

The Map:

View Day 4 – Grenoble to Annecy in a larger map

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