Omaha Beach, Normandy

Omaha Beach was one of the five beaches that had to be taken on D Day, 6th July 1944. That task was given to the 1st and 29th Infantry Division of the US Army. To say they took a hammering is an understatement, and General Bradley saw the very grave situation, and one stage nearly abandoned the operation. The grit and determination of his men paid off and they took the beach, but the amount of casualties and dead was tremendous, around 2000 men. A great sacrifice was made that day.

Whilst on that beach, I saw American families turn up, and the emotion was visible on their faces. It is almost a spiritual experience for them, and a form of pilgrimage. The dead are remembered, not only by the few that survived, but by the local population , and the French in general. Just next to the beach, there is the American War Cemetery at Coleville sur Mer. The prisitne graves serve as a reminder to those of us that didn’t experience what they did: the horrors of war!

I remember seeing footage of an old veteran who landed on Omaha, saying that the greatest reward they had, was to see children playing on that beach now, enjoying the peace that was earned by those men who lay down their lives on that same beach all those years ago.

I’ve decided to share photos of both the beach and the cemetery with you. The camera used that day was the Canon 6D Mark II with the 16-35mm Canon lens.

Pegasus Bridge

This is the first in a series of posts about Normandy, and now you know where I went on holiday this year! Having lived in France for so long Normandy conjures up images of apples, cider, Calva, and Normans amazed by the fact that you can actually eat apples and not just use them to make alcoholic drinks.

It conjures up images of rain for the French, and I jokingly remind them that the British go there for the “good weather!” It conjures up history by the bucket load, William the Bastard, who became William the Conqueror, and the Bayeux Tapestry which is 1000 year old propaganda, and sparked off a rivalry between the two countries, which lasted for centuries, and still does especially when we beat the French at rugby. It conjures up images of landings made by Allied troops on the 6th of June 1944, to free France and Europe from Nazi occupation and tyranny.

This article is about one of the places where one of those battles took place. Please take the time to click on the various links to Wikipedia to learn more about the operations and people involved. Thank you.

To some Pegasus Bridge might mean nothing but to others it means the end of Nazi occupation in Normandy, France. Madame Arlette Grondée is the same age as my mother and witnessed the Second World War first hand. On the night of the 5th of June, just before midnight, three gliders containing airborne troops landed just across the canal from where her parents ran a café. That café is still there and so is Madame Grondée. I know, because I asked her for a photo and she very kindly agreed. It’s not every day that one meets a legend, and part of history.

I visited this area as a boy and I lust have been the same age as my daughter is now when I was last there. But as an adult, the whole thing has an other dimension to it. The bust of Major Howard (Company Commander of “D” Company, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, and part of the 6th Airborne Division) is on the exact site where the three gliders landed. It’s literally on top of the bridge!

Operation Deadstick was a success and a vital victory in the D-Day Operations. The dead were buried in the Parish Cemetery in Rainville, and amongst them is HD Brotheridge, the first British causality of the actions in Normandy. To the left of his grave is a plaque put up by the Grondée family in recognition of his sacrifice.

The tools of the trade that day were the Canon 6D Mark II, and the Canon 16-35mm lens.

Certain images from this gallery can be purchased for a limited time here

Nantes, the Green Line!

Le Voyage à Nantes is an art festival that happens every year in Nantes. They give out maps with the green line that travels all the way through the city and if you don’t have a map, you can just follow the green line on the ground. Yes. I shit you not. They have painted a green line that you can follow all around the city. Did the creator have a cocaine problem but wanted to be eco-friendly? That’s not what really bothers me. What really bothers me is that the whole line is 12km long! If that’s not intense then I don’t know what is!!!

Not wanting to be selfish, and sharing is caring and all that, I decided to bring along Killian. He needs to get out more and get some vitamin D. I also needed a minder. He’s always good for that kind of thing.

We started by the most important thing of the day. Food. Luckily it was lunchtime so I felt slightly less guilty about eating in public. Right, the first stop is usually the Sugar Blue Café. I really like the food. It’s actually healthy, but not only healthy, it looks good, but not only looks good, but tastes good, but not only tastes good, but they have cheesecake. Yes. Cheesecake. I’m so weak. But it goes so well with the cup of tea…

Of course we had to walk a bit just to feel even less guilty about the Cheesecake. Did somebody say Cheesecake? I ended up at Place Graslin. Needed coffee. Kiki had a beer. It was a bit warm after all. About 36°C… I told him about the day I was there with Kate and that it was just as warm and how she ended up getting soaked to the skin in the fountain, and how I was getting all panicky because I didn’t have a towel for her or a change of clothes.

We had to decide how to follow the line. We were sitting on the terrace of Le Molière and thought we’d be intelligent. Bad idea, but we managed to get the map up on our phones. The line passes right by the café, and you can either go left, or right. We tried, rock, paper, scissors, which is generally foolproof especially when it comes down to who is going to pay for the beers. But in the end we went for the more conventional, “oh f**k it!”

So having “f**ked it,” we eplored the Cours Cambronne, named after a famous Napoleonic General, who decided that he didn’t want to surrender to the British at Waterloo… Ah well! Silly billy!!

He became major of the Imperial Guard in 1814, and accompanied Napoléon into exile to the island of Elba, where he was a military commander. He then returned with Napoléon to France on 1 March 1815 for the Hundred Days, capturing the fortress of Sisteron (5 March), and was made a Count by Napoléon when they arrived at Paris. Cambronne was seriously wounded at the Battle of Waterloo and was taken prisoner by the British.

The exact circumstances of his surrender to the British are disputed. At the battle’s conclusion, Cambronne was commanding the last of the Old Guard when General Colville called on him to surrender. According to a journalist named Rougement, Cambronne replied: “La garde meurt et ne se rend pas !” (“The Guard dies and does not surrender!”). These words were often repeated and put on the base of a statue of Cambronne in Nantes after his death.

Other sources reported that Colville insisted and ultimately Cambronne replied with one word: “Merde!” (literally, “Shit!”, figuratively, “Go to hell!”) This version of the reply became famous in its own right, becoming known as le mot de Cambronne (“the word of Cambronne”) and repeated in Victor Hugo’s account of Waterloo in his novel Les Misérables and in Edmond Rostand’s play L’Aiglon. The name Cambronne was later used as a polite euphemism (“What a load of old Cambronne!”) and sometimes even as a verb, “cambronniser“.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Cambronne

We said goodbye to the little girl and allowed here to get back on her pedestal. Or was she trying to get down?

We found the line again, and then saw a dotted line… Interesting… An alternative? Well, what the heck. We followed it and discovered traces of Nantes more artisanal past, traces of joiners, cobblers, plumbers, bookbinders, and industrial tribunals. I love seeing these little bits of history still fighting to leave their mark on the town. A town or city has to be in tune with its past and it’s own story. People leave their mark on a place. The question is how will leave our mark, and what will that mark be?

For the photo geeks out there. The tools today were the Canon 6D Mark II and the 16-35mm lens.

Credit must also go to Magalie and her article about the Voyage à Nantes who inspired me to write this article, and get off my fat arse and try and get myself some culture!

Abbaye de Maillezais Vendée

Originally from Yorkshire, we were brought up on the merits of Rievaulx and Fountains Abbeys. They were of course the most famous and beautiful of the abbeys destroyed by Henry VIII when the pope said no he couldn’t have a divorce to be able to marry Anne Boleyn. Bit of an over-reaction in my opinion especially when you think how it turned out in the end…

Anyway. This article isn’t about them. No. It’s about Maillezais Abbey in Vendée. It’s a little bit of a hike, but you basically just get on the motorway and don’t forget your exit the way I did, and ended up taking a very scenic route, which was very scenic. Luckily my daughter didn’t realise this. My wife would have been telling me how bloody useless I am. Ahhh, the joys of youth!

I’m going to start with the photos I took on the Easter Monday 2019, and then I’ll do an other article about my previous visit when I was with a film camera…

In this series I was using the Canon 6D Mark II with the Canon 16-35mm lens, and the Helios M44-2 58mm lens, which seems to be becoming my “go to” kit…

Walkabout in Nantes with the lads from Instagram – Part II

So we’re still out taking photos and learning from each other. We all know Nantes and it’s good to see how other people might see the place. Photography is one of those things that actually lets me show you a moment in time through my eyes. It’s especially so when you have a camera and are looking through the viewfinder. I see something in a moment of time that will never come back, because as soon as I presse the shutter release it’s already happened, and is already in the past. I can’t take that moment back. But I have a snapshot. In life you can’t look with my eyes in the same way that I can look with your eyes. However, photography allows this. It’s maybe one of things that makes it so amazing. It’s surreal.

We managed to find the Château des Ducs de Bretagne. Still with the X100F…

Alignements de Kerzhero

My mother in law lives in Brittany. In France that conjours up a whole load of clichés; salted butter, crêpes, kouign amann, pretty houses, the sea, granite, and standing stones. My sister in law also is a fan of Photography and the last time I was up there I made damn sure she wasn’t working and we took out our cameras. That day I was using the Canon 6D Mark II, and the 16-35 F4 lens.

When I fist got these photos back I was in utter dismay at the crap that I had created. I thought I’d never be able to use them and they were doomed to be forgotten. However I didn’t want to have a photographic Waterloo (remember I’m in France) and started up Lightroom and tried to salvage something. This is the result of that salvage, and I have to admit that I was very happy that I did!