Date: 29th June - 06th July 2016
The Pyrenees are an impressive range of mountains stretching some 480km in length, from the Atlantic to the western end of the Mediterranean, and form a natural boundary between France and Spain. The region is blessed with remarkable scenery and exceptional flora and fauna. The alpine meadows bring colour to the landscape, and the roadside verges are simply overflowing with flowers and insects making the whole region a magnet for photographers.
The Pyrenees differ in many ways from the Alps, and still retain much of their wilderness and isolation. The region encompasses a number of massifs, which divide the range into distinct areas. Some peaks exceed 3,000m and retain snow on their highest summits all year round. Deciduous forests carpet many of the mountain slopes and fast-flowing rivers with impressive waterfalls are a familiar sight across the whole landscape.
Our base for this workshop will be the small picturesque village of Gedre which is situated a few km from the famous Cirque de Gavarnie; one of the best-known regions, with a wide diversity of flora and fauna. The combination of the Mediterranean and alpine climates produces a wide variation in plant and insect life throughout the range. The flora is rich and varied, with over 3,000 species recorded; more than enough to swell the digital cards of any macro photographer.
The insect life in the area is also numerous and diverse. Beetles, grasshoppers and countless crickets are abundant among the lush vegetation. The butterfly fauna is an especially rich, with over 200 species recorded throughout the region. Apollos, swallowtails, fritillaries, various skippers and countless ringlets and blues thrive in the lower pristine hay meadows, and along roadside verges, as do a number of day-flying moths, including burnets, foresters and hummingbird hawk-moths, which can be seen hovering among the flowers.
As well as photographing the abundant flowers and insect life, we will also have wonderful subjects for our landscape photography. The Cirque de Gavarnie itself is a remarkable sight, once described by the French writer Victor Hugo as the ‘colosseum of nature’. It is a large, glaciated amphitheatre of staggered, almost vertical igneous rock, rising some 1,400m (5,000ft) into the sky and is perhaps the most widely-known landmark within the western Pyrenees belt. Plunging from the vertical rock face is a 400m (1,312ft) waterfall known as Gavarnie Falls (apparently the highest in Europe), which can be seen from the adjoining meadows almost 3km away. The Cirque de Gavarnie has also been recognised by UNESCO and designated as a world heritage site.
Other locations in the general area which are we will explore include the Ossoue Valley, Cirque de Troumouse and the Barrage des Gloriettes, a local nature reserve and a well-known haunt for lam-mergeiers, alpine choughs and griffon vultures. The scenery in this region is impressive, with the Gave d’Estaube flowing through the valley and providing an attractive foreground against the snow-capped Cirque d’Estaube. Our time will be spent, weather permitting, exploring the meadows, roadside verges and valleys, and photographing all that they have to offer, as well as the rich alpine scenery.
The tour will be led by Sue Bishop and Robert Thompson, who have between them very many years’ experience of photographing flowers and insects, as well as landscapes. They are both passionate about photography, and will be delighted to help you with the various technical and artistic challenges so that you can bring home some wonderful images of this outstandingly beautiful area.
Sue’s aim in photography is to create an image that goes beyond a simple literal record of its subject and becomes something more. Her compositions are a celebration of colour and form, sometimes going beyond reality so that they...