I’m driving to a dawn shoot. It’s still dark, with that incredibly deep blue sky typical of the Mediterranean. There’s a tiny sliver of a crescent moon, and a cluster of brilliant stars like diamonds circling it.
As I’m driving, the eastern sky shows the smallest glimmer of the impending dawn, like the glow of city lights in the distance. I still have an hour to go to my rendez vous and the horizon is now more of a flood of orange. Doubts start flitting through my mind; will I get there in time and still have time for a quick reckie and setting up?
My destination for this photo shoot is Domaine de Sainte Rose, where I’m to meet the wine producer here in the Languedoc area of the South of France. A local magazine is looking for a front cover depicting something to do with the 2012 grape harvest (“Vendage”). Since Domaine de Sainte Rose are harvesting a small amount of Chardonnay earlier than the locals think normal, I’ve arranged to capture it.
I arrive and receive a warm welcome from Charles, the owner, who is busy directing the French contractor who will be harvesting the grapes.
It’s 6:40am and dawn is approaching fast. The sun’s aura has already burst over the top of the horizon and it won’t be many minutes before the sun itself is up. The next 5-10 minutes are normally the best for dawn photography but the harvesting machine is not yet in the vineyard. I rattle off a few shots of machinery around the yard and wander off to pick a spot to catch the machine as it starts thrashing and stripping the vines.
Everything’s now ready and the machine starts off down the middle of the vineyard and I begin shooting.
As the sun creeps up, I decide to drive round to the other side of the vineyard and, with the aid of a few planks and a step ladder (thoughtfully packed the night before), I sit on the roof of the car for some elevated shots of the harvester across the top of the vines. It’s an enchanting view with the elegant lines of the Domaine in the background.
Before long the sun is up and in full force; the harvest is complete for today.
Back at the domaine the grapes are being stripped of all the woody stems and then pumped into the next stage where the juice is extracted.
Charles shows me around the wine making facilities, a blend of ancient reinforced concrete tanks being brought into the 21st century and massive stainless steel tanks crammed into every corner.
I’m left to my own devices to wander and photograph as I please whilst the results of this mornings harvest are nursed onwards along their journey towards the wine bottle.
A huge thank you to Charles and Ruth for their warm welcome and allowing me to photograph at Domaine Sainte Rose.