So this past week, we took a week off in a busy wedding season for a spot of R+R in France!

The first half of the week we spent in the beautiful Alsace…

…where we joined our dear pals Rich & Anne-So, whose wedding I photographed on this very day, 2 years ago in this same area of France!

[ Check out their ‘smashing’ – private joke – French wedding highlights on the blog here ]

Massive congratulations on your second anniversary, kids!

(That would be the cotton anniversary, if you’re running late on ideas there Rich…)

So after pretty much flying straight from the London wedding we’d shot, we arrived at our buddies in Cernay, a town in the Haut-Rhin area of North-Eastern France, and immediately headed up into the beautiful Vosges Mountains to overlook the surrounding area.The forests up there were the scene of severe and almost continuous fighting during the First World War (as well as brief battling during autumn 1944 in the 2nd world war)You can still visit the actual trenches, and the woods are still a sobering knot of twisted metal, trenches and craters.On the rock in the distance was a sign marking out the German line, and the sign sticking out of the tree on the right was the French line.

It’s pretty insane thinking of soldiers spending years holding this line with their lives.

There are fields and fields of crosses near the entrance to the woods…

…and you can walk along many of the trenches to a shrine on the hill.

Later we headed out for local delights of foie gras, steak frites & late-harvest Gewürztraminer, before heading home and chewing the fat over a bottle of port and the majority of Rich’s booze cabinate!   The above pic was an iPhone snap of the collateral damage!

The following morning’s French fry up was just what the doctor ordered…

…though some of us were feeling more tender than others!After having visited the typically picturesque city of Strasbourg twice on my last visit, we this time headed into Colmar…

…another suitably endearing Alsacian town

…with that wonderful Germanic/French blend everywhere (such as “creperie” in gothic fonting)

It didn’t take long before the hangover told us to eat cake!

[ Sign of the times that we’re all photographing the fun before getting stuck in, eh? ]Mmmmm, cake

Rich is always fun to holiday with, because like us he’s 100% Bon Viveur – into the finer things in life!

Which includes cameras!  He’d recently slipped and accidentally bought a Canon 5DmkIII on his last visit to Switzerland, and somehow a 16-35mm f2.8 fell in the trolly too.  Looking in his camera bag is pretty much like looking in my own!  Apart from his are all smart and new and don’t look like a war photographer’s been using them.

So we had plenty to geek about!

In fact, I stowed the majority of my wedding gear at my buddies place in London and brought only my new Sony NEX7, with the clever metabones ‘smart-adapter’, so I could mount on my Canon L-series lenses.  Above shows my fave 50mm f1.2 lens, but as the APS-C size sensor crops down these full-frame lenses by 1.5x, I brought along the 24mm & 35mm f1.4 primes.

Sorry if that sent any of you cats cross-eyed/to sleep!  I’ve now had chance to use this fabulously clever little camera at a wedding I was a guest at and over a week in France and the images it produces (especially bolted behind pro-glass), is better than most DSLRs I’ve used.

Apart from the Hipstamatic images in this blog, all of these pics were shot on the Sony NEX7, and pretty much all of these ones from the Alsace have had a bit of Lightroom processing, edging and a wash of grain laid over the top for effect.  I’m gonna post a 2nd blog of pics from our 2nd half of the trip in the South of France, as grain free images for the pixel peepers.

Once I post pics I shot while a guest at a wedding, and possibly a video of our dog taking swimming lessons (if I ever find a moment to edit it!), I’ll do a more techy review of the camera.

Basically, the NEX7 strapped to Canon lenses can only be used in manual focus, but with focus peaking (ie the sharply focussed areas flash up on the articulating LCD) means that it’s possible to shoot from hip height, looking down at the screen, to get nice candid street images.I pinched Rich’s 16-35mm and used that for most of these brilliant wide mediaeval street scenes.The whole area looks so cool eh?!

Mmmm wine (shot on the 35mm, which essentially behaves like a 50mm).  A little detail Clare spotted and I copied!

A bit of messing about blazing out 10 frames per second in the cameras ‘Speed Priority’ modeLow light performance was pretty special in the dingy cathedralFor I think the first time, Clare took all her holiday snaps on the iPhone – also a sign of the times.Nice bit of depth of field for a ‘compact’ camera eh?I spent a little while snapping grannies lighting candles.  It’s sweet wondering what they’re thinking.A very French looking antiques store!Street photography is harder than it looks, but I love the challenge of capturing local scenes.As does RichardFeeling the fonting on this sign

Literally round every corner was another beautiful scene like this…

…with a bike framed in an arch somewhere!Down by the canals it got even more picture postcardyTourists on a bridge photographed tourists photographing them from a boat.

It seemed only right do have a snap there.

[ I believe the beach was to my right ]

When Rich started playing with his massive cock it was time to go.

On another day we took a down the endless cycle paths around the ‘Route Du Vin D’Alsace’, which sounds healthy, but really we just cycled a good couple of hours to the best local co-operative (where local sellers showcase & sell their wine) to act like we knew our stuff, sampling the highest end wine we could get away with, and eventually bought a bottle of chilled Grand Cru Riesling

Which being classy we asked for open

Then our ‘guide’ Rich led us back to the vines

…and down the hatch it went!

#Win

Sad as it may be, one of my fave things about France is visiting the local supermarkets!  And Cernay only has one of the largest E.Leclerc hypermarchés in all of France!  I’m not sure which was nearer Nirvana, the meat counter or the crisps aisle…I don’t think Doctors would advise taking in the quantities of meat and cheese we consumed …

But they somehow squeeze those key ingredients into pretty much every dish…

[ NB. Tarte Flambe RULES! ]

On another lazy day around the apartment…
Rich indulged us in another of his expensive hobbies… THE BBQ!

I’m  a big fan of hobbies that revolve around eating and drinking.

Bowling, for example.  But I digress.

You should have seen the lengths he went to to slow BBQ his shoulder of pulled pork over soaked Hickery wood chips!
Between turning the meat, we limbered up for some heated Pétanque on the boules pitch by the flatThere goes le JaquesClare liked to try and hold her boules in her armpitThe scientific bit, arguing over who’s closest by measuring with ones feet.Look closely for naughty swearing!

It was so nice just to put our feet up and chill out!  It’s been such a busy year for me…

[ I’m sure your heart bleeds! ]

After the pork had done it’s 9hr stint on the grill, on went the baby back ribs & Weisswurst boiled in french cidre…

Then as guests arrived for the BBQ, we watched the sun drop over the mountains

(this one captured on Rich’s Sigma 10-22mm super wide angle)

And at the opposite end of the spectrum, bolted to Rich’s 70-200mm lens, it essentially acts like a 300mm f2.8 with IS on a cropped NEX!Drinks were drinked, and bad French & English was liberally splashed around by the English and French guests
Cheers!Top BBQ skills all round, washed down with yet more delicious aromatic local whites…

Fun times all round.

Clare & I had a brilliant time joining Rich and Anne-So in the truly beautiful area of France in which they live.

So stay tuned for part two – coming soon – from the altogether more Provençal-looking region of the Langdoc in Southern France, with it’s miles of vineyards, bustling market-towns, dusty villages and endless tree-lined avenues like the one above!

Fun times

Congratulations again to Anne-Sophie & Rich on their 2nd Anniversary!   You guys rule.

Thank you for showing us around and fattening us up like geese for pate…

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