Saturday, July 4, 2020
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Away from the D-Day beaches, walks along the Alabaster Coast of Normandy


Mention Normandy outside France and the first image that springs to mind is “beaches”. The Normandy beaches have become a sort of icon for the beginning of the end of the Second World War. And for the British, Normandy also brings echoes of 1066 and all that — when some Norman king, tinged with Viking blood, did a reverse landing and conquered England.

Although we live about a 100 kilometres from the D-Day beaches, these clichés overlook something that is obvious to all us latter-day locals: the fact that we are blessed with one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.

Based in Le Havre, we enjoy a long sea coast, stretching over 100 miles from the estuaries of the Seine and the Somme. This part of Normandy must have been attached to south east England ( from Dover to the Jurassic coast) at the time of the Pangaea super continent. A geologist friend explained that Britain got separated from France after a giant tsunami that happened millions of years ago. This white cliff coastline boasts “Operation Biting”, a successful raid by the RAF in February 1942 when the British destroyed the German radar that controlled most of the Channel area during WW2.

As avid walkers, my wife and I never cease to marvel at our surroundings. The sea coast consists largely of cliffs and small valleys, known in the local dialect as “valleuses”, which always lead to rocky beaches. The valleys are often covered with trees while, on the upper ground, a flatland atop the cliffs gives way to cultivated fields. The constantly changing light at all seasons of the year is amazing and it is no wonder that it inspired impressionists such as Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro and Eugène Boudin, just to name a few, more than a century ago.

These days, my chosen tool to capture the changes of light and the various colours of the sea is the humble old Leica X2, an out-dated, fixed 36mm (equivalent) pocket camera that still produces outstanding results.

So what are some of our personal highlights of this unique stretch of coastline? We can recommend two special areas if you are inclined to try a walking holiday with a difference.


A pretty former fishing village, Yport lies 25 miles north of Le Havre. The road descends through a wooded valley to the village before leading through the town to the seafront. The community itself consists of two parallel streets. It was first settled in the 5th century, at the end of the Roman occupation of Gaul but the real development came in the 19th century.
It was then a fishing port and seaside resort, taking the lead in the new fashion of sea bathing. Yport remains a popular summer resort, with its casino and seafood restaurants. As an aside, it is the haunt of Magnum photographer Jean Gaumy who was born in the neighbourhood.

Although the last professional fishermen disappeared at the end of the 1960s, some amateur anglers still have their boats stranded on the beach. The boats are pulled to the upper part of the beach by means of capstans. They are a wonderful reminder of past times when the beach harboured a fleet of 50 small fishing boats with their nets and creels.

Le Tilleul

This “coastal-protected area” is our all-year-round local favourite walk. From the car park, a pedestrian walk descends directly through the beach. It starts in a wooded valley covered with wild hyacinths in the spring time. Instead of going directly to the beach, walkers can follow a path to the right which climbs up again through a small wood.

The path on higher ground is traced between fields. After two turns left, you finally reach the top of the cliff. Once you reach a tee-junction you may decide to take the path along the cliffs on your right which leads to Etretat. The walk is pleasant and allows you to watch the various arches and needles Etretat is famous for. The blue of the sea with the white cliffs and the green grass provides a truly amazing, ever-changing backdrop at all seasons of the year.

If you take the path to the left, you will end up the beach of Le Tilleul. From there you can walk to the keyhole where cliff divers climb. The keyhole also allows you to go to another secluded beach which can be reached thanks to a ladder and a small path carved in the cliff. If you are prone to vertigo this should be avoided. Unfortunately, on our last visit we discovered that the access to the keyhole had collapsed due to coastal erosion.

Back from the beach, you can avoid the crowd by taking a path returning to the cliff top and through a wooded vale, and thus back to the starting point.

All these images have been taken over the four years since I bought my Leica X2. This is my camera of choice because it is the ideal camera to capture the various hues of the land and seascape at any season of the year. It is also light and compact, an advantage when walking. The 36 mm (equivalent) f/2.8 Elmarit lens has just the perfect field of view for this walk. Somehow, too, the lens always succeeds in making the water seem crystal clear.

Read more from Jean Perenet on Macfilos

Nobody buys cameras any more: Really?


Last week’s news of the sale of the Olympus camera division to a Japanese investment fund has led to a raft of ill-informed comment in the general press. Many journalists have read more into it than they really should have done. The car’s got a new owner, but it’s still a good runner with lots of miles remaining on the clock.

Nice to have: A wonderful classic Leica as the inspiration for portraiture


When I look across the clutter of our spare room we call the library, my eyes frequently fall upon my 1930s-era camera. I should put that up for sale, I frequently think to myself. Oddly, I don’t even see everything else in the room, my eyes are drawn to the shining chrome.

Plitvice National Park: Exploring the upper lakes in summer and autumn

Climbing the barrier to Burgeti Lake

The Plitvice Lakes National Park in central Croatia covers an area of nearly 300 square kilometres and is renowned internationally for its beautiful lakes and waterfalls. This is the second in a series of articles describing my explorations, this time summer and autumn visits to the upper lakes area.

The fall of Olympus or a bright new start?

Water off a duck's back: Olympus E-M1 Mk II and M.Zuiko 40-150 f/2.8 (Mike Evans)

There’s a lot to read into the decision by Olympus to sell off its loss-making photographic division. By the end of the year the cameras will be controlled by Japan Industrial Partners, an investment fund which specialises in local brands which have fallen on difficult times.

Sigma announces major firmware update for the fp

It's the L-Mount that's the big draw for most of our readers. As a stills camera, the Sigma fp is a good complement to a larger Leica or Panasonic system.

The world’s smallest and lightest full-frame system camera today gets a major firmware update. Version 2.0 of the fp’s operating system appears to be largely concerned with the camera’s video capabilities and will be of limited interest to our happy band of stills shooters.

1971 Porsche 911: The sleeping beauty in a Melbourne garden

Early morning drive

In a previous Macfilos article, I told of my 1977 Porsche 911 which I have owned for 20 years. I am very fortunate this is not my only Porsche 911, so let me tell you the tale about the second car. Among Porsche aficionados, the most coveted vehicles are the early 911s made from 1964 until 1973.

Sigma Contemporary: Three fast primes exclusively for Leica CL and TL. Or not.

Leica's CL system needs a bit of tender loving care. A new tart and a cappucino won't convince (Image Leica Camera AG)

Sigma’s decision to launch three APS-C primes for L-Mount is curious given that the only cameras they fit are both made by Leica – the TL range and the CL. These lenses were designed specifically for mirrorless cameras and have won plaudits from reviewers, particularly in their E-Mount guise. They are compact, light and well priced – at least in comparison with Leica’s TL lineup which is now looking increasingly dated.

Oh! Kolkata: The beating heart of a metropolis on the road to modernisation


The trip to Calcutta1 didn’t start well. The train was delayed by ten hours. As a result, one of the first things I did on reaching our hotel, the Great Eastern, commissioned in 1840 during colonial rule, was to cancel our return train and book air tickets. Then I was ready to see the city.

Leica SL2 firmware update introduces multi-shot mode with 187MP resolution

Leica SL2 with the 75mm Noctilux-M. During the firmware update process you can use the FOTOS app to synchronise date time and other settings.

The latest firmware update for Leica’s SL2, version 2.0, introduces a multi-shot mode which uses sensor-shift technology to increase the camera’s resolution to as much as 187 megapixels. The manufacturer claims that this mode will result in extremely detailed images. One image is taken at the normal resolution of 47MP and another at a high resolution of 187MP.