The Camargue is a unique and beautiful region located in the south of France, situated between the Mediterranean Sea and the two arms of the Rhone River delta. It is one of the largest wetlands in Europe and is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including wild horses, flamingos, and black bulls.
The Camargue has a rich cultural heritage, influenced by its history as a crossroads between France, Spain, and Italy. Its traditional festivals, such as the Gypsys pilgrimage of Sainte Maries de la mer, showcase the region’s unique culture and traditions, including bull games and horsemanship.
- Patrick Firouzian, Jim Cline photo tours, with assistance of the local expert Cecile Domens, renown local photographer with extensive experience with horses, flamingos and Camargue
Where and when:
- Main itinerary: May 21st to 29th, 2024
- Camargue: multiple locations around Saintes Maries de la Mer.
- To get there: Frejorgues airport is 1.5 hours from Paris, our hotel is 45 minutes from the airport.
- Intermediate and above fitness and photography levels
- It’s a journey tailored for photographers, that lets you focus on what you love and allows for genuine, respectful cultural immersion.
This is a Jim Cline Photo event, prices and conditions to be published soon.
7 days itinerary
We will bring you closer to the authentic beauty and culture of Camargue, offer many opportunities for portraiture with natural light, coach your composition and approach to the story.
For this tour we partner with a local expert photographer Cecile Domens who will share her knowledge on the wonderful events we will photograph and provide guidance as needed.
We will enjoy the Gypsy Pilgrimage, a celebration of the arrival of Saint Sarah, also known as Sarah the Black or Sara-la-Kali, and the holy relics of Mary Salome and Mary Jacobe, who were the first witnesses of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. Thousands of Roma, or gypsies, from all over Europe and beyond make the journey to Saintes Maries de la Mer to pay their respects to Saint Sarah and the Marys.
We will have private access to a natural reserve blessed with thousands of pink Flamingos, for memorable sunrises. For the horses, foal, and black bulls, we will have private sessions arranged by the sea, in marches, and on sand.
Through the program, you will have access to technical and artistic advice in order to get the best images.
Logistically, we do not drive more than an hour or so per day and will stay in the same resort throughout the workshop, maximizing our time photographing and enjoying the moment.
Scroll down for details
Day 1 & 2
Day 1 (May 21st, 2024): Arrival in Saintes Maries de la Mer. This small town is 45 minutes away from Frejorgues airport, itself 90 minutes away from Paris airports. Pickup and transport to our resort for orientation and dinner. You will meet our local cultural expert and cultural guide, Decile Domens, who will accompany us during all this journey.
Day 2: Early morning rise and drive to a Salt production field to picture horses and horsmen posing for us. “Salins du Midi” is a salt production company that operates saltworks spanning 10,000 hectares, making it one of Europe’s largest salt production sites. The salt pans serve as important habitats for numerous bird species, including flamingos, herons, and other waterfowl. The company works in collaboration with conservation organizations to protect and preserve the natural ecosystem of the Camargue while carrying out salt production activities. The salt pans are shallow evaporation ponds filled with brine, which gives them a mesmerizing palette of hues. Depending on the concentration of salt and the angle of the sunlight, you may witness shades ranging from vibrant blues and turquoises to soft pinks and purples. These captivating colors are a result of the interplay between the water, salt crystals, and the surrounding landscape.
One of the striking aspects of the salt pans is their reflective properties. The still water in the pans acts as a mirror, reflecting the sky, clouds, and surrounding elements. This creates an ethereal and dreamlike effect in your photographs, adding depth and dimension to the images. Experimenting with different angles and perspectives can lead to captivating compositions, where the reflection and the actual salt pans blend seamlessly. Now imagine a group of while horses posing for us at sunrise!
The unique colors and reflections found in the salt pans offer ample opportunities for creative and artistic photography.
We will return to our resort for brunch, rest and get ready for the afternoon/evening photoshoot.
Afternoon: photo session in the bird sanctuary dedicated to the conservation and protection of the Camargue’s biodiversity, with a specific focus on flamingos and other wetland species. The primary flamingo species found here is the Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus). These are the largest species of flamingos and are known for their vibrant pink plumage, long legs, and distinctive downward-curving beaks.
We will explore the reserve through well-maintained walking paths and observation points, offering excellent opportunities to observe and photograph the flamingos in their natural habitat.
Around sunset hours, we will observe the flocks of birds leaving for their sleeping spots, a mesmerizing sight in this magical place.
Returning to resort for dinner.
Morning, black bulls in wetlands.
Camargue bulls are a robust and hardy breed with specific physical characteristics. they are medium-sized bulls, with males (known as “taureaux”) weighing around 900-1,100 kilograms (2,000-2,400 pounds) and females (“vaches”) being slightly smaller. Both males and females possess long and curved horns, which are an important element of their visual appeal. Camargue bulls have adapted well to the unique conditions of the Camargue region: the Camargue is a vast wetland area with marshes, ponds, and lagoons. The bulls are well-suited to this environment, which includes grazing on the natural vegetation found in the area. They are able to tolerate the saline conditions of the Camargue, including the consumption of salty water and grazing on salt-rich grasses. Camargue bulls are known for their endurance and ability to traverse the diverse terrain of the region, which includes marshes, plains, and reed beds.
The Camargue bulls play a significant role in the local culture and traditions with the tradition of bullfighting, which differs from the Spanish-style corrida. In Camargue bullfights, known as “courses camarguaises,” the objective is for participants (raseteurs) to retrieve a rosette from the bull’s horns, showcasing agility and bravery rather than harming the animal.
The black bulls have become an emblem of the Camargue, representing its unique heritage, natural environment, and cultural identity. Efforts are made to protect and preserve the Camargue bulls and their habitat. Organizations and associations in the Camargue work towards sustainable breeding practices, genetic diversity, and the promotion of responsible practices in bull-related events.
We will photograph the bulls at sunrise, silhouhettes and portraits, and their gardians guiding them through the wetlands, with occasional running.
Return to resort for breakfast, relax and getting ready for an action packed afternoon.
Afternoon: the course camarguaise:
Forget everything you know about traditional bullfighting. This is something different, something uniquely Camargue. In this thrilling spectacle, it’s all about agility, bravery, and a deep respect for the majestic black bulls that call this place home.
As the gates swing open, a group of daredevils known as “raseteurs” enter the arena, dressed in crisp white outfits. These guys mean business. With lightning-fast reflexes, they dart towards the charging bull, armed with nothing but a small hook or rosette attached to a rod. Their mission? Capture the rosette tied between the bull’s horns.
It’s a high-stakes game of cat and mouse, as the raseteurs leap and twist, narrowly avoiding the bull’s powerful horns. The crowd holds its breath, cheering and gasping with every near-miss and triumphant snatch. The atmosphere is electric, and you can’t help but be caught up in the thrill of the chase.
The raseteurs have to be quick on their feet and even quicker in their thinking. They read the bull’s moves, predicting its next charge, and go for the rosette with all their might. It’s a display of pure skill and bravery, a dance between man and beast that showcases the incredible bond between them.
The course camarguaise is not about harm or domination—it’s a celebration of tradition, strength, and the spirit of the Camargue. It’s a chance to witness an age-old spectacle that has captivated generations, where the bulls are revered and the raseteurs are hailed as heroes.
We will navigate around the arena to get the best light and anticipate the bull and raseteur moves to capture the most amazing images.
Return to resort for dinner.
Stallions playing & Camargue landscapes
Stallions, which are adult male horses, in the Camargue can often be observed engaging in various social behaviors, including playing and fighting. These activities are a part of their natural behavior and play important roles in establishing dominance and hierarchy within their herds.
Early morning, we will go to a private area and, with the help of the horse breeder and photo coaches, photograph the stallions playing around.
In the afternoon, we will go to a beautiful area to take some landscape images at sunset.
Return to resort for dinner.
Day 5, 6
All day, 2 days:
The vibrant town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in the Camargue region of southern France becomes the epicenter of a unique and colorful event—the Gypsy Pilgrimage, also known as the “Pèlerinage des Gitans” or “Pèlerinage des Saintes Maries.” This pilgrimage, deeply rooted in history and folklore, is a celebration of Romani culture and a gathering of Romani people from all over Europe.
The pilgrimage draws thousands of Romani families and travelers to this picturesque coastal town. The event centers around the revered relics of the three Marys—Saint Mary Salome, Saint Mary Jacobe, and Saint Sarah—said to have arrived by boat on the shores of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in biblical times.
The Romani pilgrims, dressed in their traditional attire, make a lively and colorful procession through the streets, carrying the statues and relics of the Marys, ending up in the sea. The atmosphere is filled with music, dancing, and joyful celebrations, creating an incredible fusion of spirituality, culture, and festivity.
The pilgrimage holds deep significance for the Romani community, representing a time for spiritual renewal, family reunions, and cultural pride. It is a moment to honor their heritage, pay homage to the Marys, and seek blessings and protection for the year ahead.
During the pilgrimage, the Romani community also participates in various religious ceremonies at the Église des Saintes Maries, the church dedicated to the Marys. These ceremonies involve prayers, blessings, and the lighting of candles, creating a solemn and reverent ambiance.
We will start the days with orientation, getting prepared for the day ahead, so we get the best locations for portraiture and capturing the event.
Although schedules are fluctuating, we will get ready for these key events:
Arrival of the pilgrims, dressed in traditional attire, arriving often on horseback or in decorated carriages. They make their way to the church, carrying the statues and relics of the Marys in a vibrant procession.
Church Ceremonies: Once at the Église des Saintes Maries, religious ceremonies are held throughout the day. These ceremonies include prayers, blessings, and the lighting of candles in honor of the Marys.
Festive Atmosphere: The streets of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer come alive with music, dance, and colorful celebrations. Romani families and visitors engage in lively conversations, exchange stories, and enjoy traditional Romani music and performances.
Trading and Crafts: Market stalls line the streets, offering a wide array of Romani crafts, jewelry, clothing, and culinary delights. Visitors have the opportunity to explore and purchase these unique items while immersing themselves in the Romani culture.
Procession to the Sea: One of the highlights of the pilgrimage is the procession to the sea. Pilgrims carry the statues and relics of the Marys to the shore, accompanied by music, singing, and dancing. The statues are then blessed in a symbolic act of homage to the Marys and their arrival in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. After the procession, various rituals and ceremonies take place on the beach. Pilgrims partake in traditions that vary from group to group, including acts of purification, prayers, and offerings to the sea.
Festive Farewell: The pilgrimage concludes with a festive farewell. Romani families bid farewell to one another, exchange well wishes, and begin their journeys back to their respective homes, carrying the spirit of the pilgrimage with them.
Dinner back at the resort, rest and recharge for next day’s early morning session
Early morning rise and going to a nearby beach to meet horses and gardians (local cowgirls and cowboys).
The sight of Camargue horses running freely along the beach is a breathtaking and iconic image associated with the Camargue region. These majestic creatures, native to the area, possess a unique and captivating beauty that perfectly complements the stunning coastal landscape.
Camargue horses are known for their distinctive characteristics and their ability to adapt to the rugged terrain and marshy environments of the Camargue. They are medium-sized horses, typically standing between 135 to 150 centimeters tall. Their most recognizable feature is their creamy white or gray coat, which contrasts beautifully against the azure waters and sandy shores of the Camargue beaches.
When you witness these horses running along the beach, it is a sight to behold. Their muscular bodies move with grace and power, their manes flowing in the wind. With their heads held high and their tails streaming behind them, they create an image of untamed freedom and natural elegance.
These horses often run in groups, exhibiting a sense of camaraderie and a natural herd dynamic. The sight of a herd of Camargue horses galloping along the shoreline, their hoofbeats echoing in harmony, is both mesmerizing and awe-inspiring.
Beyond their visual appeal, the running of Camargue horses on the beach serves a practical purpose. It helps to strengthen their muscles, improve their endurance, and maintain their physical well-being. It is also a way for the horses to release energy and express their inherent wildness, as they reconnect with their instinctual nature.
You will have time to compose and capture images from sunrise to the early hours, working with the best light, experimenting action images, motion blurs, low angles and more according to your creativity.
Return to resort for breakfast, rest.
Afternoon is a continuation of horse photography, this time in wetlands, and with sunset light.
Return to resort for dinner and recharging for next days’ early rise.
Early morning rise and going to a nearby wetland to meet “poulains”.
The foals, or “poulains,” of Camargue horses are an enchanting and integral part of the Camargue’s natural beauty and heritage. These young horses represent new beginnings, the future generation of the iconic Camargue horse breed.
Camargue foals are born with a coat that is darker in color, often a shade of brown or black, compared to the light-colored adult horses. As they grow, their coats gradually lighten, transitioning to the characteristic creamy white or gray color that is synonymous with the breed. This color adaptation is thought to provide camouflage and protection in the marshy wetlands of the Camargue.
The arrival of a foal is a joyous event in the Camargue, and it is common to spot these playful creatures frolicking amidst the marshes, fields, and sandy beaches of their natural habitat. Their energy and curiosity are boundless as they explore their surroundings and engage in social interactions with other foals and the adult horses.
One notable characteristic of Camargue foals is their friendly and approachable nature. They often exhibit a trustful demeanor towards humans, as they are raised in close proximity to Camargue ranchers and farmers who play an active role in their care and upbringing.
The presence of Camargue foals adds an extra touch of charm to the already picturesque landscapes of the Camargue. Watching and capturing images of these young horses playfully interact, gallop across the marshes, or seek refuge under the watchful eyes of their mothers is a heartwarming sight that connects us to the natural rhythms and beauty of the Camargue region.
We then return to our resort for breakfast and getting ready for the afternoon event.
Afternoon: we will attend another Course Camarguaise, to capture action images.
Return to resort for farewell dinner.
This will be the end of our journey in Camargue, and we will drop you at the airport for a safe return home.
What makes this journey distinctive?
- Designed in close collaboration with local cultural experts and professional photographers
- Prime access to locations otherwise hardly accessible to tourists, all with the proper permissions, avoiding cultural “dont’s”
- Guidance from experienced photographers to help make your images stand out, more dynamic yet realistic
- Minimizing the driving time, the packing and unpacking time, by designing an itinerary that maximizes time on the ground, exploring and learning
- Priced according to the quality of the accommodations and dining venues, as we’ve chosen the best places to stay and eat, and the closest to the action
- Main itinerary is accessible to all and brings lots of culture and beauty, in addition to as much artistic and technical guidance as you can get
- Weather is perfect in spring, there might be occasional rain or wind, but it rarely lasts, and crowded skies often look better in images.
- Main itinerary dates and prices: to be published later
- Based on shared lodging
- Limited to 10 people, all levels of passion or expertise
- Includes all meals, all transportation (airport pickup and drop-off, minivans), ritual tips, all entrances (natural reserve)
- Excludes extras, international travel
- Contact us for more details