Champagne Photography Workshop - And They are Picking the Grapes!



Last week I took Irma, Alice and Peter on a photography Tour to Champagne to take pictures of the grape pickers at work, drink champagne and try and learn something about photography. 

I took them to the Marne Valley to a local champagne house that I know very well and knew they would be able to spend the time and get some good atmospheric shots before touring the surrounding area for landscapes, Peter’s favourite type of photography.

I call these photography lessons I give, photography tours, although in most cases I have people who love photography but are unsure how to use a camera manually in order to take the sort of picture that they really want.   It was the case on Tuesday so we spent an hour in a café going through the aperture, shutter speeds and appropriate ISO’s with Irma being the most advanced, fully understanding the different types of shots she could obtain and keen to try.

“I wish they wouldn’t move so fast!’ Alice complained as she showed me a blurred shot of one of the guys carrying 2 full baskets of grapes between the vines to empty them.   I set her up in auto focus with a shutter speed priority.  I believe in getting the picture first, then you can try and do it manually.   They were cutting the grapes at great speed and the baskets were filling up constantly with several well muscled men running up and down the alleys between the grapes changing empty baskets for full ones.

Vendanges in champagne

Their task for the day was to make a photography feature ‘A day in Champagne during the vendanges.’  Photographically this is quite a challenge as it incorporates overall landscape pictures with the grape pickers, small groups or individuals at work, macro shots of the grapes and the cutting, some portraits of the pickers, their breaks, a lunch, the grapes being loaded onto the harvesters and tricky indoor shots of the grapes being tipped into the huge vats to be pressed. A pretty comprehensive photography lesson encompassing some fast action and low light atmospheric indoor shooting.

The equipment does help. Irma had it all – wow – a lawyer from Chicago she had brought some great gear.  The Sony Alpha 9 with some awesome lenses, I was quite jealous although I am a Fujifilm fan myself .  Peter and Alice both had Nikons and I actually had a Canon with me so it was interesting to see the results.  I do ask people to familiarise themselves with the cameras they use as I can’t possibly know how every camera menu works.

We enjoyed a lunch washed down by large quantities of champagne that seemed to improve their skills considerably!  At around 4.00 we jumped in a jeep to the depot and began photographing the off loading of the grapes and the men tipping them into the vats to be crushed.  I had brought a tripod and monopod in the car, which helped Alice and Peter out.  Irma of course had her own!

We then took off towards the pretty town ofHautvillers and some superb panoramas for landscapes in spiteof the dull weather.   Alice and Peter were staying in Epernay for a couple of nights so were pleased to find some good spots that they could return to.

We stopped for a final glass of champagne and went through the shots that they had taken and there were some great shots.  We discussed saturation and contrast and how to bring out more colour in post-production.  I am and will remain a fan of black and white in poor weather but the results in colour were great.  They had all learnt how to take a portrait, use blur and movement, obtain depth of field for the landscapes and work in low light without a flash.

Irma tells me she’s coming on one of my photography tours to Sri Lanka or Myanmar.  She says she’s always wanted to go to both those countries and take amazing photos which she will.

Vallee de la marne, champagne

Vallee de la marne, champagne

Champagne is great for photography tours and lessons right into November.  There are some beautiful autumn days, the leaves change colour and there are visits to the cellars that are very photogenic.  You can also buy a couple of bottles at a great price to put in your suitcase for Christmas!  Looking forward to doing a photography tour to champagne with you soon!