Recently I spent a weekend away in the Camargue, a region of France located about 90 miles to the southeast from us, situated between the Mediterranean Sea and the Rhône river delta. Although not far away, Camargue is a world apart from Provence. Known for black bulls, pink flamingos and other exotic birds, salt marshes, an annual gypsy pilgrimage and its famous white horses, Camargue is its own unique world sitting within France. Filled with marshlands, lagoons and much of the area being designated as a natural reserve, the land of Camargue is kept untouched. It is wild, raw and beautiful.
The weekend was my first photography retreat to shoot the nature and the wildlife of Camargue, specifically the horses. Having just begun exploring photography earlier this year, while I am eager to learn more, I found myself filled with some anxiety about the weekend. I was excited to travel somewhere new and to be in nature surrounded by wildlife, so how could I possibly feel any anxiety? Uncertainty. The uncertainty of what to expect and of going alone. Being extremely shy, it is not always easy to immerse myself in a group of strangers. The uncertainty of being able to manage in an intermediate level photography class while I sit more on the side of a beginner. The uncertainty of being surrounded by only French speaking people for the weekend, having to discuss technical aspects of cameras and photography, without having the safety net of my French husband. While my French has vastly improved, I would be by myself trying to learn a new skill in the French language. In thinking about the weekend what I realized is that for me the workshop was so much more than just about photography. It was about stepping outside of my comfort zone and putting myself out there. For someone who is deathly shy combined with a history of being incredibly hard on myself, this is not always the easiest or most comfortable challenge to face.
It was a weekend of French, photography, food, new people and new places experienced. We explored the old village of Sommières at dusk. We walked marshes at dawn, watching the sun slowly rise, warming us from the morning chill. We visited an abandoned château, now occupied by graffiti, so desolate and eerie that I imagined ghosts walking its forsaken hallways at dark. We saw exotic birds take flight, colors of brilliant pink and white, bringing me back to my parent’s home in tropical Florida. And we watched magnificent white horses dance in glassy water lagoons at the golden hours of sunrise and sunset. Images that will remain with me for a lifetime, I will share my experience on the incredible horses of Camargue soon.
Driving home from Camargue and since then, I have thought a lot about those two days. I am accepting that learning a new craft takes time. Everyone must start somewhere and it’s the little steps of progress that move you closer to your goal. Learning isn’t meant to and won’t happen overnight. Life is a progression. I know the only way that I will continue to grow is to open myself up to life and to new experiences, to be patient with myself and to love myself, and to not let fear or doubt sway my decisions. I walk away from Camargue with gratitude for the experience, the learning, the nature and the wildlife. Moments of life that help to pave the path, learning as we go to better our character and to be the most that we can be. Isn't this what it's all about anyway?