Digital Photography Holidays in South West France    with Graham Berry

Review of Images of France course

by Carol Sheppard

Holiday Images of France live long in the memory

newspaper cutting

The article as printed in the Farnham Herald - shame it wasn't in colour!

Some might say that being a newspaper photographer might be exciting - others might prefer living on a yacht in the Caribbean - then again, being a TV cameraman, chasing after Anneka Rice as she hunted for treasure might be fun - Farnham born BAFTA winner Graham Berry has done all this, not to mention winning accolades for his camerawork on the film Powaqqatsi.

Now living deep in the verdant valley of the Lot in France , Graham's latest venture - Images of France - sees him offering digital photography courses for all levels of users and recently, I was lucky enough to be one of the first to benefit from his teaching.

The tone of the holiday was set immediately when, having been met by a beaming Graham at Bergerac airport, he immediately revived us all with a very welcome cup of steaming tea, served from the car boot!


Poppy, by Carol Sheppard

After a leisurely drive through the stunning countryside of the region, we were enchanted by our first view of our home for the next 5 days - Berty Gite - its white stones, typical of the Quercy Blanc region glowing in the afternoon sun.

Roses tumbled down the balustraded stairs leading us to our next welcoming party - this time given by Belinda, Graham's wife and chef extraordinaire!

Sipping champagne and nibbling on olives whilst getting to know each other in the farmhouse kitchen, we had the feeling that this was going to be more than the average package holiday.

Locally grown asparagus

Later that evening, sated and drowsy after a stunning meal, prepared with fresh ingredients from Berty's organic garden and washed down with local wines, we were given our assignment for the following day - we were to become photojournalists at the weekly Sunday market in nearby Montcuq, the most successful photos being chosen for an online promotional brochure.

With a short lesson from Graham on setting up our cameras for best use on this assignment, we were let loose amongst the curious and slightly bemused inhabitants of this picturesque little town.

At first a little hesitant, I quickly warmed to my theme and was soon pointing my camera at anything and everything, trying to remember Graham's brief: market characters, produce, abstract, colour etc. Of course, in amongst all this activity I did stop long enough to sample the local Agen prunes, the duck paté and naturally, the local myrtleberry liqueur.

Stones by Carol Sheppard

Back at Berty for refreshing salads, delicious fresh bread and local cheeses eaten al fresco, we eagerly recounted our adventures of the morning, all looking forward to downloading our photos and seeing the results.

The superbly equipped 'digi darkroom' is where we ran to excitedly after each photo session during the week, in order to download and edit the photos we had taken during the day.

During the week Graham and Belinda taught us the most useful techniques for managing and enhancing our digital images, and as we each had our own PC with Photoshop Elements and superb large flat-screen monitors, it was easy for us to perfect our shots at leisure.

The pattern of the week having been set, each day we were given instruction and briefings by Graham on different aspects of photography, including exposure, lighting, shutter and aperture settings, followed by a practical session to demonstrate our grasp (if not mastery!) of that aspect.

Garden Path by Carol Sheppard

With such stunning surroundings - medieval walled villages, rolling lush green fields and fields of poppies - it wasn't difficult even for a relative beginner such as myself to come up with the occasional stunner.

By the end of 5 days, not only was I using my camera in full manual mode without a second thought, but I was in danger of going up a dress size, being unable to resist the spread of delicious dishes presented to us 3 times each day.

However, with Belinda's careful attention to using high-quality ingredients, lower fat options and balancing the dishes, I still managed to fit into my jeans on the last day!

For guests not wanting to do the photography course, Berty Gite also has table-tennis, boules, badminton and archery on offer, as well as its own pool set in the lush gardens lovingly tended by Belinda (when she's not cooking!)

When I left, I noted in the Visitor Book that if I could have designed the perfect holiday, this would be it. I'm already saving up to go back.

Carol Sheppard, May 2007

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