Tag Archives: Lavender

3696 – The Dangers of Lavender

You won’t be entirely alone while taking photos of lavender.

Obviously lavender seems to entrance photographers to a degree that they become oblivious to the dangers of car traffic. That’s the reason for these warning signs that I saw over and again.

By the way, as I already said, there are a lot of other flowers, mostly at the sides of the lavender fields. Sometimes you’ll see fields of poppies though. Believe me, they are not easier to process. I dare you to make them glow but not burn out. Happy processing 😀

Oh and, before I forget, here’s one more thing about lavender: you can eat it. In Aix-an-Provence I bought calisson, a typical regional kind of candy, and they have some lavender-flavored variants there. If you try them, make sure to not think of toilet cleaners, and then you may well like the taste. I certainly did.

3695 РThe Power of a Clich̩

It’s Provence. Everywhere you go, you see lavender, right?

Well, that’s a cliché. It’s not true. Actually you have to look for it, and when you by chance happen to avoid certain places like the region around Valensole, you may even manage to never see a lavender field at all. In any case it won’t strike you as a determining trait of the landscape.

That was different a few decades ago. Lavender is cumbersome as an agricultural product. It is endangered by certain insects (the very cicadas that we saw in wooden replicas a few posts ago), and in fact what we see today is not true lavender (lavande) at all, it is a similar but more resistant plant called lavandin.

The other cause of the slow demise of lavender is fashion. Lavender has become an old-fashioned protection against moths, and it is also frequently used in cheap room perfumes and toilet cleaners. That’s the kind of application, that kills your reputation 🙂

As a consequence, the area devoted to lavender is continuously in decline. There’s a lot left, but you have to search for it these days.

3695 – Not Everything’s Lavender

Harmonizing colors is also problematic, and I don’t mean that from an ethic point of view. I’m unscrupulous as far as that goes.

No, you’ve got two problems to solve.

The first one is, that you have to find a standard, a color towards which you intend to harmonize your images. That sounds easy, but believe me, it ain’t. Basically you have to try processing every single image, and only then do you know where your target color is.

One reason for that is, that not all images are mallable to the same degree. Some can be changed in amazing ways, some seem to resist even small changes.

Of course you can throw away what tries to resist, but then you may have to give up on images that you really like for different reasons, for instance their composition. You don’t want to do that, and therefore the color standard is set by those images that are least mallable.

The second problem is, that you can’t work with color temperature alone. Lavender is not the only color. Even in tight compositions there is the green of the stems, and you soon recognize that you want to harmonize that green as well. And then there are the other flowers. Yellow and red, sometimes pink, and all that is under a blue sky that you want to look natural. The same can be said about the color of the earth.

It’s a processing nightmare. I’ve never in my life spent as much time with images as I did with these. Each of them has been changed over and again. I did it not to make all look equal (they are not), but instead to make them seem plausible. I think I did succeed to a certain degree and definitely to the best of my abilities, and if not that, at least to the end of my patience 🙂

By the way, in case you wonder, the second image of this post is not lavender. It is some kind of salvia, a flower that is also grown here, although to a lesser extent.

3694 – More Talk About Lavender

Lavender is a hard test for your judgement and your honesty. It forces you to lie.

Make a Google image search for lavender. You immediately see amazing (and sometimes atrocious) colors, but much of what you see is a blatant lie. Lavender does not look like on Flickr, it looks more or less like … here in my images. Yes, two weeks later it may be stronger in color, but it is not that intense violet, that you so often see, and it’s not an intense pink either.

Lavender’s color is more modest. It is tempting to present it as something garish that it isn’t, but even if you can resist, your troubles are only just beginning. The problem is, that it looks very different, depending on the light and your position relative to the sun.

It’s easy to make the test: On a sunny day, for instance at 10 am, when the sun is already high but still directional, hold your car at a lavender field, take a few steps into it (being careful to stay between the rows and not to trample the flowers), and then take images in different directions. All those images will have been taken at roughly the same time, the difference will only be the direction of light and the amount of backlight.

All images will look vastly different. Some will look more “correct” and some less so. If you process all of them in the same way, you will have some that look grossly wrong.

What I did was trying to “harmonize” the images. That’s a euphemism for lying, of course, but – believe me – I’ve tried the alternatives and they are worse.

3693 – We Have To Talk About Lavender!

I guess you saw that coming: we have to talk about lavender now.

Provence has been the landscape of impressionism, and that’s not only due to the fact that some important painters spent some productive time there, it’s also due to the wonderful colors of flowers and blossoms under a blue sky.

Lavender is not simply a flower though. It is grown for its fragrance. The high-time of lavender production is over, but it’s still an important product and a major symbol of this beautiful country.

What about you? What do you put in your closets and drawers, between your clothes? Do you like the fragrance or does it only remind you of your grandparents?

Actually I used to dislike lavender. I preferred cedarwood against the moths, and as a fragrance I always found lavender obtrusive and old-fashioned.

Not so any more. Cedarwood (or its oil) is hard to come by in normal supermarkets these days, while I know someone who produces small lavender pillows from self-grown plants. I’s an acquired taste, but I already had it when we went to France.

We intended to time our trip for lavender blossom, but as you saw in Sénanque, we came a little bit too early.

You can also see it in the Image of the Day. As the flowers grow, the rows seem to close. When we were there, there was plenty of space to walk in between. It’s nothing that you can’t work around when taking images from the right angle, but I suppose a month more would have made things even more impressive.

3670 – A First Touch of Lavender

Provence used to have more lavender than it has now. There’s still a lot, but you have to search it out.

In the morning we passed an awesome spot. Wonderful color, a bit problematic with the high voltage power lines in the background, but it would definitely have been manageable.

I missed the right moment though. I drove too fast, and when I had fully taken in what we were passing, we were already well past. No problem, I thought, there must be something even better just around the next bend.

It wasn’t. What you see here is the only other lavender field that I saw that day. The light was less dramatic, the colors were more muted and behind the cypress trees was a busy street. Well, I probably shouldn’t have said that 😀

3667 РSecond of the Three Sisters: Abbaye Notre-Dame de S̩nanque

Sénanque Abbey is the second of the so-called “Three Sisters of Provence”.

To be honest, it was a little bit of a let-down. The view in the Image of the Day is one of the classic views in Provence: Sénanque, and in front of it endless lavender fields.

Well, actually the distance between the wall that I look across and the monastery is far from endless. The illusion in about every book is createy by wide-angle lenses. Actually it’s good that there is a wall, because otherwise it would be hard to get an unobstructed view at all. In other words: you can’t imagine how many photographers there are 🙂

You’ll see later, that we were generally a little bit too early for the lavender season. It was impressive elsewhere, but Sénanque lies higher than most lavender areas. Therefore the blossom is later, and for our visit it meant that we got precious little color. Have a look at Wikipedia to see what it should look like 😀

It was worse though. The monastery is still in use, it can only be visited as part of a guided tour, and unfortunately we had just missed the tour. What now? Wait?

We decided to have a look around and get a better feeling for what we’d be missing. The church was open, so I took a peek inside, found it almost completely dark, and otherwise it was just more of the same. By the way, the image of the inside has been taken at ISO 200 and 0.3s, handheld.

What we did not know, what our books did not depict, and what I had neglected to research beforehand, that was the cloister. In the end we gambled, left and lost – a little.

Any picture search with the terms “sénanque abbey cloister” will reveal a beautiful cloister. Had I had Internet access on the spot, I think the outcome would have been different. But then, I wanted to take some pictures on our way back, and had we stayed two more hours in Sénanque, I would have missed those. You’ll see what I mean in two days.