Category Archives: Photography

Last day in Biarritz

Monday 14 August 2023 – There’s nothing like not having a choice to direct one’s thinking, and we found that now having a greater understanding of the hotel’s limitations enabled us to arrange things so we had a more comfortable night and a less jaundiced view of the accommodation. (The night was cooler, which helped a lot.) Actually, within what’s possible in such a sharply delinited space, it’s about as good as it could be, and it’s certainly in a very convenient location.

Today was our last full day in Biarritz, and we had only explored the area north of the hotel in our time here so far. So we went for a walk. in the other direction. Obviously.

There were still plenty of people about, but the town and beach were nowhere near as crowded as yesterday.

We made our way past the stone bridge, which was very uncrowded;

not surprising, given that it was closed for maintenance. The road carries on past a pair of good views back over the Port des Pêcheurs

and one enters a network of paths round the headland, leading to the aquarium and the Rock of the Virgin Mary.

The rock owes its name to the statue of the Virgin Mary looking out to sea from the top of the rock; you can just about make out the statue in the photo above. The statue was erected in 1865. Legend has it that fishermen from the port of Biarritz were caught in a “terrible storm” (is there any other sort?) while out at sea hunting whales. A divine light guided them back to port and the survivors erected a statue of the Virgin Mary in gratitude.

Napoleon III decided to cut a tunnel through the rock and had a bridge built to make it accessible from the seafront. The first wooden bridge did not withstand the onslaught of the sea, so, in 1887, Gustave Eiffel was instructed to design a metal bridge, which still stands today.

Sadly, as we discovered,

it was closed today, whilst men used hammers and other serious tools on it.

Looking over the beach of the old port, now called La Petite Plage, is a very pleasant view, with a striking building on the right, more of which later. Importantly, though, Jane spotted something of significance just below that building – a Bar, which we decided It Was Time For.

Walking round the cove gives a good view over it from above the central building,

and the bar, the Eden Rock Café, gives a nice view over the beach as well.

There are steps down to the water from the café, and it seems that if you decide to climb over the gate and go down them and start drowning in the huge waves, someone with a helicopter will come and rescue you, which is decent of them.

After refreshing ourselves, we carried on round the coast, past that striking building.

It shows one How The Other Half Live.  If it were mine, I’d call it a castle, but no, it’s a Villa, the Villa Belza.  Just along the road there’s a bend where watching the surfers is clearly something of a spectator sport.

The waves here weren’t as dramatic as we saw in front of the town itself yesterday, but there was clearly some fun to be had

even if the inevitable end of it was to crash ignominiously into the water. You have to admire the persistence, stamina and skill of these people even as you question their sanity. At least on skis one can coast to a dignified halt outside a bar.

We walked along the front a little, and then found a path up the cliff, which offered a variety of view back over the Villa Belza, of which this is my favourite.

Then we headed inland towards the centre of the town, where there was a market area called the Halles de Biarritz, which Jane thought would be worth nosing around.

The central halls were surrounded by market stalls on the adjacent roads,

and – ooh look! There’s a tapas bar! There, on the right!

This place runs a surprisingly large number of outside tables from just this small interior and they do a fine tapas selection, which we discovered through sampling.

We then headed back to the hotel, through the streets,

past the (modest but pleasant) Jardin Publique,

more fine buildings

and the very handsome façade of the old railway terminus,

now just the frontage for an event space.

As we’d been walking around, I noticed that there were some cute little buslets in operation.

and I even managed to get a shot of one being taught how to navigate by its mother.

And so we arrived back at the hotel, via a couple more pleasant street scenes.

It’s been a pleasure walking around such a handsome town.

After something of a siesta at the hotel, we went out again, as Jane had discovered that there was an evening market at the Port de Pêcheurs. We partook of refreshment en route, once again at the excellent Dodin bar at the back of the casino, where we once again saw the cabaret of the lifeguard station being put to bed.

The night market was a reasonably small affair within the carparking area of the port.

It didn’t have anything to offer that we were interested in, and once again, the queue for Casa Juan Pedro was at Café Opera levels.

That place must be extraordinary to attract the queues it does. Sadly, we will never find out why.

There was a bit of cabaret going on at one corner of the market, and it turned out to be a troupe of three guys wowing the crowds with some acrobatics.  We missed them at the market, but when we climbed up to the Place Saint Eugénie, there they were again. They were quite impressive, so I grabbed some video {and gave them a small contribution in return).

Our return to the hotel involved buying an ice cream and watching the sunset, alongside a load of other people.  The sunset was quite nice, as these things go

but went completely unnoticed by the bunch of beachcombers on the beach below, hopefully scanning for any valuables that might have been dropped by tourists during the day.

The final act of the day was rather lovely – a candlelit parade with some very good singing passed the hotel, marking the Assumption.

Tomorrow, we leave Biarritz for St-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Well, I hope we do; we’re rather dependent upon the driver organised by WalkTheCamino being able to find the hotel. Check back on these pages in a day or so and you’ll find out whether we made it OK.  For now, It’s Time For The Bed, I Think.

Why I use RAW

This was my first ever blog entry and it established this website as being a very modest but useful resource.  It used to be to support my professional photo work, but I retired. While I still count myself as a photo enthusiast, the main purpose of the site is for me to record my thoughts whilst travelling so that the experience doesn’t disappear into the mists of my unreliable memory.

However, there are some matters photographic that matter to me, hence the occasional posts on the subject.  Following is an updated version of this first-ever post, now featuring a rather better example of the benefits of taking photos in RAW, which I do whenever it’s important to get the maximum quality out of an image.

Before I get to the specific example, let me up what RAW means for those not familiar. You can skip ahead if you know all about this. If, on the other hand, your object of photography is to get an image online as soon as possible (e.g. for Instagram), you can stop reading right now, because every RAW image needs post-processing before display. (I use DxO Photolab. It’s brilliant, as it automates corrections for many things, such as lens distortions, without my needing to ask.)

When a sensor captures an image, it records everything it captures as a RAW file. It’s not an image as such; the popular categorisation is as a “digital negative” – not immediately viewable, but with everything you need to produce a final image. If you are just getting JPEGs from your camera, then you’ve lost some data already, since the camera will make decisions (some of them yours, some of them not) about what to do with the data (make the colours stronger, turn it black and white, whatever). Also a JPEG is a compressed format, and you lose some data in the compression. So, if you’re serious about getting everything you can from an image, make sure you’re capturing RAW versions. Personally, I capture RAW and JPEG. That way I can quickly see what I’ve captured as part of selecting what I then decide to process.

If you really want chapter and verse, read Wikipedia on the subject. And then donate to them; they do a grand job.

Now: an example.  When I was in Iceland recently, we visited a historical area called Thingeyrar, which has a church – specifically, a Catholic church.  This means that the contents are somewhat more lavish than your typical Icelandic church, which is Lutheran and a lot less ritzy inside as a result. Sadly, the church was locked; we couldn’t get inside to take photographs, so I had to point my camera (Nikon Z6) through the window to capture what I could.  At first blush, this looked rather unimpressive.  Here’s the photo, a JPEG image, out of the camera.

As you can see, it’s a horror – backlit and everything in silhouette.  Digital cameras, however, are normally pretty good at retrieving detail from dark areas, so one can take this photo and improve it a great deal, even as a JPEG:

But processing the RAW file gives an even better result:

It’s not an award-winner by any stretch of the imagination, as I have flare and reflections and all sorts going on, but the processed RAW photo is clearly better – more detail has been retained in the windows, for example, the shadows are much less indistinct and it’s clearer and crisper overall, as I was able to get at all of the information in the image (RAW), rather than what the camera had decided I should get (JPEG). It’s also a lot less noisy, as I was able to process it with DxO Photolab’s excellent noise-reducing capabilities – which are only available on RAW images.

I made sure to underexpose the image in order not to lose detail in the bright areas, as I was certain I could retrieve detail in processing the image.  And there’s the rub – as I said above, every RAW image has to be processed – “developed”, as it were –  in order to display it.  I could have used just the JPEG version, but I prefer to have the version that has all the edits in it that I want. And I’m prepared to invest the time to do this.

It can be considerable, but it’s worth it, don’tcha think?