White, white … and a little black

Except for the soaptree yucca and some other exotic plants sticking up from the white, it looked exactly like an idyllic winter landscape, with water puddles from snow melting in the sun and the road nicely ploughed.

But it wasn’t snow, it was gypsum and I was in the biggest gypsum desert there is, the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, USA. Since gypsum isn’t known to melt in the sun, the water on the road had come from above: there had been some rather heavy rain showers on the previous day.

Walking on the gypsum sounded a bit like walking on tightly packed snow on a very cold day – it squeaked a little.

Some of the dunes had beautiful wavy patterns (until someone disturbed the harmony by walking or tobogganing, of course).

I was there in sharp sunlight a little before noon, far from the ideal time to witness the shadows and patterns in the dunes. But still I was mesmerised.

I was quickly brought back to my senses when my eyes fell upon this creature who was leisurely crossing the road:

Was it a tarantula? I got quite excited and managed to drop my camera lens cap, you know one of these black things. Funnily enough it was nowhere to be found. How on earth is it possible to lose something not so small and very black in a white landscape??


Two, three or four men in a boat

The sun was just rising and it was the busiest beach I ever saw. I was about an hour’s drive south of Hoi An in Vietnam on an excursion with the photographer Etienne Bossot.

The activity was all about fishermen and their catch. Their boats were lying on the roadstead and the men used basket-shaped tiny boats to bring their catch ashore, where deals were swiftly made with the numerous buyers around. What seemed chaotic was in fact very well structured, rehearsed on thousands and thousands of similar mornings.

Slightly overwhelmed by all impressions and by the speed at which everything happened, I left my shoes somewhere in the middle of it all and tried to follow the action, or parts of it rather, in the water, on the shore, pointing the camera the camera to where the most interesting things seemed to happen.

It wasn’t easy. I never took so many bad photos in such a short period of time ever before, in spite of Etienne’s excellent advice and tips. I seemed always to be just a little too late, or too close, or too far away, or looking in the wrong direction.

And sometimes I forgot for a second that this was a photography excursion and just stood there in awe, admiring all these people who didn’t let themselves be disturbed in the slightest by someone running around with a camera. They had work to do and just got on with it.

“Would you like to stay a little longer or should we go for some breakfast?”, Etienne asked. Stay longer, obviously! In the end we had to move on of course, to breakfast, to visit the market and to stroll through the fishing village but hang on, I need my shoes!

I was relieved to see that they were still exactly where I had left them.

Mirror mirror on the ground

Every year on 15 August my village Mirabel-aux-Baronnies turns into a big flea market cum party – it is the day of the Fête du village!

The greatest concentration of people is always around the wine-tasting stands, where all the nearby cooperatives and many independent wine producers have their wines on offer. You only have to pick up your tasting glass before embarking on your tasting adventure.

All over the village people set up small stands to sell toys no longer in use, clothes no longer in use, trinkets no longer in use, furniture no longer in use, chipped plates, worn-out shoes and well-read books. In the main street artists from the area showcase their handicraft and art work.

I remembered from previous years that some interesting items could be found in front of the church, and this was the case this year as well. There was for instance a whole collection of mirrors, which I went back to photograph a couple of times in the changing light.

If you needed a clarinet, a saxophone, a violin or a cello you might find something to your liking.

No village feast is complete without a band!

Among all the thousands of things for sale my eyes fell on a small table which could be mine for 5 euros. Hmmm. Needed some reflection. When I came back a little later the price had gone down.

Silly me still couldn’t make up my mind whether or not to make this investment so I went home. Then I suddenly realised how much I wanted to have that precise table so I hurried back.

It was gone.