L'automne en Provence (part III)

Sunday, October 29, 2017 - Saint Narcissus Bishop of Jerusalem

(continues from part II)

Third day. A quick peek out of the window at dawn shows that the sky is completely clear, so no red and pink clouds, again. So I decide to stay in bed for some more time, also because the long drives of the past days left me a bit fatigued...

The first thing to do in the morning is to attend the Mass. Finding a church with the service in France is not an easy task, and in the end I'm deciding to play the most reliable option and go to the former cathedral in Digne-les-Bains. Approaching the town, I'm offered with a great perspective of the newer cathedral, Saint-Jérôme, which stands on the surrounding buildings, in the middle of the mountains, shining in the morning light.

La cathédrale Saint-Jérôme à Digne-les-Bains.

Sony α6300 + FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 200 mm, 1/320 sec @ ƒ/8, -0.30 EV, ISO 160, hand-held.

After the Mass, I have to decide the plan for the day, as there are many options. After a few minutes I am on the road for Entrages along the valley of Le Eaux Chaudes, which is another geologic park, so I'm expecting some interesting shots of rocks. Actually, the valley starts to look interesting soon after leaving the hot spring facility of Digne-les-Bains, with some interesting combinations of rocks and trees in their autumnal glory. Apparently the area is almost deserted - I'm crossing just a handful of cars along the road, but people seem to have gathered at Entrages, a well known starting point of several hikes. Too bad this is my last day, and I have no time for a hike.

Sony α6300 + FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 200 mm, 1/160 sec @ ƒ/8, ISO 200, hand-held.

Sony α6300 + FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 200 mm, 1/200 sec @ ƒ/8, -0.30 EV, ISO 200, hand-held.

Back from the detour to Entrages, the road is slowly climbing, among cliffs and woods, towards the Col de Pierre Basse first and the Col de Corobin after. If the previous segment of road was semi-deserted, this is deserted for real, because I'm really meeting nobody; along the road, even a small hamlet has been completely shut down and abandoned. The Angelus time, at noon, is catching me precisely at the crossing of the Col de Corobin and it makes sense to park here and walk around a bit.

What a majestic silence! I can only hear the wind flowing through the branches. Nothing else. Not even birds or other animals. Looking westbound I can see cliffs and mountains covered with reddish foliage; towards the horizon many chains are getting lost in the blue haze, who knows where.

Vue depuis le Col de Corobin.

Sony α6000 + Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm F4 ZA OSS @ 59 mm, 1/250 sec @ ƒ/8, -0.30 EV, ISO 160, hand-held.

After enjoing this scenario for a few minutes, I'm reluctantly returning to my car. Now the road is quickly going down, to rejoin the Route Napoléon in a few kilometres. All around a landscape with provençal chapels, lonely trees, wall-like cliffs and badlands: I can't imagine anything more typical of Provence. Fortunately the sky has been veiled by thin clouds, so I don't have to constrain my compositions.

Paysage à Chaudon.

Sony α6000 + Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm F4 ZA OSS @ 20 mm, 1/200 sec @ ƒ/8, +0.30 EV, ISO 100, hand-held.

I'm keeping the Route Napoléon only for a short distance, as there is a new detour towards the high valley of the Asse river, more precisely the Asse de Clumanc branch. The next target is the village of Tartonne, which should have a pretty romanesque church - one of those that don't make the first pages of touristic guides, but that offer precious things to the trained eye.

Chien de berger et troupeau.

Sony α6300 + FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 200 mm, 1/125 sec @ ƒ/8, -1.00 EV, ISO 100, hand-held.

As an appetiser, this valley is a sort of small bucolic paradise: cows and sheep pasturing everywhere, meadows interspersed with woods; I'm writing down this place in my notes, because this area is well worth further explorations.

Abri près de Clumanc.

Sony α6000 + Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm F4 ZA OSS @ 26 mm, 1/250 sec @ ƒ/8, ISO 100, hand-held.

Sony α6000 + Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm F4 ZA OSS @ 25 mm, 1/100 sec @ ƒ/8, +1.70 EV, ISO 100, hand-held.

Just a few bends before Tartonne, the church appears, all of a sudden, in a break of the row of trees that borders the road. The break is placed in such a strategic way that I can't but think that it has been purportedly created to make sure that the inattentive driver doesn't miss the monument.

Le clocher de l'église Notre Dame d'Entraigues à Tartonne.

Sony α6000 + Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm F4 ZA OSS @ 56 mm, 1/160 sec @ ƒ/8, +0.70 EV, ISO 100, hand-held.

Le clocher de l'église Notre Dame d'Entraigues à Tartonne.

Sony α6000 + Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm F4 ZA OSS @ 23 mm, 1/200 sec @ ƒ/8, +0.30 EV, ISO 100, hand-held.

Maybe it's just me, because I love minimalist stuff, but the church, Notre Dame d'Entraigues, is nothing short of wonderful. Its alpine romanesque style, with its clear stones, perfectly fits the environment: dry stone walls, the tiny nearby graveyard, a bunch of trees and - of course - meadows and pasturing sheep around. Just at the other side of the white road a small aedicula dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel is surmounted by a wrought iron crucifix.

L'eglise Notre Dame d'Entraigues à Tartonne.

Sony α6000 + Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm F4 ZA OSS @ 18 mm, 1/200 sec @ ƒ/8, +0.30 EV, ISO 100, hand-held.

Sony α6000 + Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm F4 ZA OSS @ 16 mm, 1/250 sec @ ƒ/8, +1.00 EV, ISO 100, hand-held.

Too bad the church can't be visited inside... on the door, a small post with a telephone number invites to call for the priest to arrange a visit, but now it's starting to be late: I have still a number of mountain passes to drive through, including those at the italian border, and a few hundreds kilometres further on the road home. So I have just a few minutes to take some shoots at the next hamlet.

La chapelle Saint-Jean à Plan-de-Chaude.

Sony α6000 + Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm F4 ZA OSS @ 28 mm, 1/125 sec @ ƒ/8, +0.70 EV, ISO 100, hand-held.

The Col du Defend is easy, at just 1.200 metres. There are tons of interesting subjects, that I'm mostly missing because of the shortage of time. At least I can enjoy some coloured patches and the autumn colours in the Forêt domaniale de l'Issole.

Sony α6000 + Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm F4 ZA OSS @ 36 mm, 1/160 sec @ ƒ/8, +0.70 EV, ISO 200, hand-held.

Sony α6000 + Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm F4 ZA OSS @ 55 mm, 1/25 sec @ ƒ/8, +0.70 EV, ISO 200, hand-held.

At Saint-André-les-Alpes I have to make the final decision: to proceed with the original plan, driving up the high valley of the Verdon, then reach Barcelonnette through the Col d'Allos and then enter Italy through the Passo della Maddalena; or to rejoin the Route Napoléon and follow it up to Cannes, then take the coastal highway. Not only the latter solution is longer, but I'm really longing to see the Col d'Allos for the last time this year, before it is buried under the winter snow. My concern is about the route after the Maddalena pass, because in the past days a big fire in Italy blocked the road for some time. But there have been no warnings so far... so I'm going with the original plan.

Le Pont du Moulin à Thorame-Haute.

Sony α6000 + Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm F4 ZA OSS @ 61 mm, 1/160 sec @ ƒ/8, +0.70 EV, ISO 160, hand-held.

Fort de Savoie à Colmars.

Sony α6000 + Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm F4 ZA OSS @ 70 mm, 1/125 sec @ ƒ/8, +0.70 EV, ISO 160, hand-held.

The road that follows the Verdon river is a fast one, so I'll be in Colmars in a short time. Recovering some time is making me able to stop a couple of times and take some shots, for instance at Pont du Moulin, which is literally screaming for a photo. The citadel of Colmars is lovely too, but it is pedestrian only, and parking the car for a walk would require too long; so I'm just taking a few shots of the fortress around the village.

Paysage près de La Baumelle.

Sony α6300 + FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 200 mm, 1/125 sec @ ƒ/8, -1.30 EV, ISO 100, hand-held.

I've already been along the road north the village of Allos and I know there's a vista point offering a landscape with larches and a few alpine huts... I've done it at the beginning of Autumn, with the larches still mostly green. Now it must be much more interesting with the golden colours... and it actually is. Fortunately some fine shots can be taken from inside the car, without wasting too much time.

And time is now getting really short, and I know that the road up to the Col d'Allos and down to Barcelonnette is relatively hard - especially if one crosses cars in the opposite direction - and it requires to drive really slowly. So, with some regret, I have to give up to almost everything along the climbing section of the road.

But on the other side... it's magic. Larch woods in the golden/bronze phase. Much more exciting than the Vallée de la Clarée a couple of days ago. So, even though it's late, and the sun is almost setting, I can't prevent myself from stopping for a few minutes and taking some shots.

Larches sur le Col d'Allos (Larix decidua).

Sony α6000 + Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm F4 ZA OSS @ 70 mm, 1/125 sec @ ƒ/8, +0.70 EV, ISO 160, hand-held.

Larches sur le Col d'Allos (Larix decidua).

Sony α6000 + Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm F4 ZA OSS @ 24 mm, 1/100 sec @ ƒ/8, +0.30 EV, ISO 200, hand-held.

Being a few minutes later near Barcelonnette, and more relaxed, I'm stopping another time to take a shot of the village of Uvernet-Fours, from a vista point that I had spotted the previous year.

Vue de Uvernet-Fours.

Sony α6300 + FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 135 mm, 1/400 sec @ ƒ/8, -0.30 EV, ISO 400, hand-held.

Now, at the bottom of the valley, a few minutes from Barcelonnette, I'm totally relaxed. The Maddalena pass is relatively easy and I'm not worried to drive through it in the blue hour; so I can concede myself still a few stops for pasturing horses; I'll probably even have the time to buy some local food at Jausiers. Given that in the sky there are still some thin layered clouds, I think there are good chances of having a red sky while I'll be crossing the mountains, making for some dramatic shots.

Sony α6000 + Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm F4 ZA OSS @ 70 mm, 1/50 sec @ ƒ/8, +0.70 EV, ISO 200, hand-held.

And then... the bad surprise! In spite of absolutely no warnings so far, at Barcelonnette a sign is telling me that the pass is closed. This is a big problem. I have to go back to the B-plan, that is Route Napoléon. Theoretically, I can just drive back through the Col d'Allos down to Saint-André-les-Alpes. But now the sun has set, I'm tired, the road is not easy, the temperature is falling and I don't have the winter tyres mounted. Even though the solution looks absurd, I have to drive through a large round path, first westbound and then southbound, up to Digne-les-Bains, where I've started this morning, and take the Route Napoléon there. There are almost 250 kilometres more than the blocked route; it will take several hours; but it's the safer choice.

The mockery is that the long road I'm driving now is full of wonderful vista points, but I've really finished all the extra time - I'll be back home at late night. Only a row of trees, taking the last light of the day, are forcing me to stop for a shot (and I'm also taking advantage of the pause to avoid leg cramps).

Twenty minutes later a wonderful show of red clouds is mocking me as I'm driving though the Route Napoléon and I really have no more time to stop. Too bad: it could have been a perfect journey end. But, looking back at these three days, it has been wonderful all the same.

More photos from this journey are available in the diary.

Sony α6000 + Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm F4 ZA OSS @ 32 mm, 1/125 sec @ ƒ/8, ISO 320, hand-held.