Remiremont Mardi Gras

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Have Camera, Will Travel

It is with fond memories of my father that I travel the world, camera in hand. My passion for travel and photography was inherited from him. I purchased my first camera while living in England in my early teens and have never been without one since. While residing both in North Carolina as well as France, I have been fortunate all my life to travel a great deal—in Europe, the United States, Cuba, Egypt, Peru, Russia, and Japan.

Photography for me is capturing an event or a view that is now forever visually available to me. This is as true of a landscape as it is of a portrait of a person or an architectural detail. And if one is very lucky, that singular moment may turn into a piece of art.

With today’s technology it is possible to create wonderful scenes—scenes that perhaps existed only in the photographer’s imagination but never in reality. That is not my forte. What my eye sees is what I shoot; and while I do a little color enhancing and cropping, I take great care to ensure that the final image is as true as possible to what I saw.

There are several cameras in my arsenal. Two are Nikons, D90 and D800, the latter being my preferred. My most frequently used lenses are 28mm–300mm and 24mm–70mm. Additionally, I acquired a small Sony Cybershot to use when it is not advisable to carry a large camera or a long lens. And of course I also use the ubiquitous iPhone as a camera of last resort.

Photography should be more than just snapping a picture. It should convey the uniqueness of a subject, be it a landscape or a person. In the latter case it is important to respect the subject’s privacy and culture. While I like to observe and record how people live out their lives, this is not always easy, as I prefer that people not pose for my shot. While a camera can open doors, it can also be threatening. Naturally, when I photograph events or festivals, people enjoy being photographed; they like being seen and memorialized when performing or participating in a parade.

Throughout the year there are many festivals in France, and all draw huge crowds. Such is the case with the ‘Carneval Venitian’ in Rosheim, essentially the celebration of Mardi Gras. Rosheim is a quaint little town on what is known as the Alsace Wine Road and lies an hour’s drive from my home in Haguenau. This particular event began in 2008 and normally takes place about fifteen days before Carnival in Venice. Participants come from many countries to parade and pose for the public in their magnificent costumes while classical music is broadcast through loudspeakers. The event lasts for one weekend only. Later the participants move on to Venice.

A similar festival takes place in Remiremont in the regional Department and mountains of the Vosges, therefore technically not in Alsace. This town is more than two hours away and it takes an intrepid photographer and an overnight stay to fully do justice to this colorful event. Some of the participants are the same as those who attend the festival in Rosheim. Here the festival lasts four days but I have been unable to determine how long it has been in existence.

The Grand Dame of festivals, however, is the Festival du Houblon, which this year will be celebrated in August for the fifty-eighth time in Haguenau. It is primarily a thanksgiving festival celebrating the harvesting of hops, the essential ingredient in the making of beer. Haguenau is situated about twenty-five kilometers north of the Alsace capital, Strasbourg, and is surrounded by hops fields in contrast to the regions lying south of the city where vineyards are abundant. Over the many years this festival has grown enormously, from very modest beginnings to what is now a five-day event drawing folklore groups from every corner of the globe. Festival goers perform traditional dances in traditional costumes throughout the day and well into the night. Performances take place in many venues—in the streets, in the old Market Hall, which during this week has to relinquish its normal function of selling food products, and in the lovely old theater. Certain events take place in retirement homes, as well, so that all can experience the fun.

The photography club to which I belong in France has been delegated as the official photographers for the Festival du Houblon. Each year, during the festival, the prior year’s photos, chosen on the basis of quality, are exhibited. These photos become part of the town’s archives. I am pleased to say that many of mine were chosen over the years and are now part of the town’s history.