Camargue Horses & Provence Lavender

Photogenic Icons of the South of France

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Consider the dreamlike quality of a herd of white horses as they thunder—manes flashing, foam flying—across the marshlands of France’s famous Camargue. Consider, too, the prospect of three days of electrifying photography, capturing every nuance of these powerful horses hurtling directly toward your camera or of stallions engaged in battle for herd dominance.  
"An excellent trip, excellent leaders, gourmet food and lodging. The leaders were exceptionally helpful in trying to assist in every possible way. We were working with animals that cannot always be controlled and the leaders as well as the owners of the horses absolutely went out of their way to provide us with the best possible shots at the best time and light of the day."
- J. Beyers
In the wild, the white Camargue horses are found only on the wetlands and salt marshes of southeastern France.  They are thought to be descended from prehistoric horses that lived during the Paleolithic period more than 17,000 years ago.  Throughout history, this ancient breed is believed to have been crossed with several other breeds—particularly Arabian horses.  This genetic combination permits these brawny animals to withstand the region’s bleak, cold winters and intensely hot summers.  They are so strong it is said they are able to canter through mud up to their bellies!
The Camargue horse is the traditional mount of the gardians.  These cowboys of the Camargue are responsible for rounding up the wild black “fighting” bulls that graze the land.  Over time, the gardians have developed the original breed of Camargue horses into a surprisingly agile, surefooted and reliable mount.  The Camargue is considered one of Europe’s few remaining original breeds, although it was not officially recognized as a unique breed until 1976.  Today, there are about 30 separate herds spread over an area of around 203,000 acres.  Foals are born starting in April.  Though they are dark in color at birth, all the Camargue horses are white when mature.  It is speculated that white coats may provide a natural mosquito repellent for animals adapted to salt marsh living.
Our shoot concentrates on photographing the horses during the best light of day, with the goal of creating images depicting as much of their untamed life as possible.  Horse drives orchestrated by the gardians are at the top of our shooting list, but fighting stallions and quiet moments in the marshes are also on our agenda. 
To enter the countryside in the interior of Provence is to cross an unseen border.  This area is markedly different.  Here, the air is warmer and dryer, the pace slower, the fragrances pungent and the light-filled setting spectacular.  The region draws artists and photographers with its impressionistic palette of colors and sensuous landscapes.  The mood is set by the charm of the red-tiled roofs of its distinctive stone buildings, well-preserved ancient Roman structures, and lush river valleys—and, in summer, by the deep purple bloom of lavender.  This is the heart of lavender country.  We have timed our tour for early summer when the lavender fields are in bloom under the brilliance of the Mediterranean sky.  The sun-drenched villages with panoramic views, the lavender-scented air, the summer produce and flower markets, and the allure of alfresco food and drink all combine to create an enticing open-air lifestyle.
Don’t miss this exceptional opportunity to hone your skills on an amazing abundance of subject matter.  From the hilltop villages rising harmoniously in ancient landscapes and the deep purple of row upon row of lavender in bloom, to the thrilling excitement and beauty of the renowned white horses of the Camargue, this trip offers endless possibilities for exceptional photography.  

Be sure to read Jeff Vanuga's 2015 White Horses of France's Camargue trip report in the Photo Safaris blog. (NOTE: Our 2015 trip did not include lavender photography in Provence whereas our 2017 itinerary does.)

Tour Itinerary

Day 1 
Depart from home.
Day 2 (Jul 9) 
Arrive in Marseille, France.  Transfer on your own to our airport hotel by taxi or free hotel shuttle.  Meet with the group this evening for dinner at the hotel restaurant.  (D)  
Day 3
Following breakfast, we drive to the small town of L’Isle sur la Sorgue.  This evening we shoot in the Roman city of Avignon. (BLD)
Day 4
In the morning we are at 12th-century Notre-Dame de Senanque Abbey to capture the iconic image of purple lavender fields stretching from the weathered gray stone walls of this Romanesque abbey.  We are not far from Gordes—considered one of the most beautiful villages in France.  Unique buff-colored stacked-stone buildings capped by terra cotta roofs wind their way up to a hilltop rising above the Luberon plain. It is market day—the central area at the foot of the castle is bustling and photogenic.  Afterward we have time for lunch and to explore among the narrow cobbled alleyways, dry-stack walled hairpin streets, and the houses perched at the base of steep cliffs.  We finish the day on the Plateau of Sault where we photograph the extensive fields of lavender in late afternoon rich warm light of Provence. (BLD)
Day 5
Our early morning shoot is in the picture perfect hilltop village of Roussillon where blazing ochre-pigmented cliffs and red stone buildings with red tiled roofs contrast with green pines.  The view is panoramic.  After lunch and photography in the village of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse at the foot of a 750-foot-high cliff, we concentrate on the lavender fields on the Plateau of Valensole.  The plateau covers an area of 300 square miles and the seemingly endless rows of lavender blooms stretching to the horizon inspire graphic compositions. (BLD)
Day 6
After breakfast, we drive to the seaside town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.  In the afternoon, we visit one of several ranches for our first photography session with the striking Camargue horses.  If inclement weather disrupts our horse shooting schedule, we may photograph the impressive flocks of pink greater flamingos in a nearby bird park. (BLD)  
Day 7 
For our shooting sessions today and tomorrow morning we bring the ranch horses to different properties, allowing for a wide range of photogenic backdrops and behaviors.  We photograph the white horses running through the shallow water of salt marshes and along the beach in the waves and salt spray.  With shots of fighting stallions, mares with their dark foals in the fields or at the ranches, and detailed portraits—head shots and gardian riders in their gear—we have opportunities to capture this time-honored breed in a variety of environments unique to this seaside estuary. (BLD)
Day 8 
After our final session with the horses this morning, we drive to The Roman city of Arles to have lunch and photograph at the local market.  We return to Marseille this evening. (BLD)
Day 9 (Jul 16) 
Depart for home this morning. (B)
This was an excellent tour—one of the best and I have been on many. The leaders were superb and the lodging and food excellent as well. I would recommend that anyone who likes horses to go on this one.
—S. Dater
The Joseph Van Os Photo Safari to Provence France exceeded all of my expectations with great camaraderie among the pros and clients, and well-organized logistically from the meals, hotels and photo locations.
—B. Lichtenwalter
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Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris Enrollment Information

Camargue Horses & Provence Lavender

Jul 08, 2017 - Jul 16, 2017

A deposit and completed and signed Registration Form are required to reserve a place for you on a Joseph Van Os Photo Safari.


All prices are quoted in US dollars and all payments must be paid in US dollars. For deposits only, we accept Visa or MasterCard. Final payment of the trip fee must be paid by check or bank transfer. Trip deposits are non-refundable and non-transferable.

A deposit of $800 per person is required. Full payment of the trip fee is due 150 days prior to departure date. We must receive written notice of your cancellation, at which time cancellation fees in the following amounts apply:

If Written Cancellation is Received:
122 days or prior:
121 to 91 days prior:
90 or fewer days:
Cancellation Fee:
100% of deposit
50% of trip fee
100% of trip fee

No partial refunds are made for unused portions or services of a trip for any reason whatsoever. Trips are sold as a package only. This policy also applies to tour extensions and independent travel arrangements. Cancellation fees are not transferable.

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Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris are within the capabilities of average people in good health. Some of these trips require the capability of walking for several miles over uneven trails, stepping from a small boat to a wave-washed rocky beach, flying in small planes and helicopters, and occasionally hiking at high elevations—all while carrying an assortment of camera equipment. If you have concerns about your own capabilities and/or fitness as it relates to a trip, please inquire with our office before reserving a space. By forwarding a signed Registration Form and trip deposit, you certify that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions of disability that would create a risk for you or other trip participants and you agree to inform our office in writing if changes in your health occur any time prior to the tour. We reserve the right to request a doctor's statement of good health. The company's or trip leader's judgment shall provide the ultimate determination of an individual's ability to embark upon or to continue a trip. Once a trip has been confirmed, medical circumstances will not be considered as exceptions to our cancellation policy. We assume no responsibility for medical care or for special dietary requirements. “Meatless” meals are normally available at most locations. Due to the remote nature of many photo locations, and the growing diversity of today’s dietary trends, participants requiring special food items are encouraged to bring their own.

Tour members are asked to refrain from smoking with or near the group.

Participants will receive three emails before the trip departs: 1. Initial Tour Information sheet confirms the deposit and provides pre-departure information. 2. Invoice/Practical Information provides clothing and photo gear recommendations, climate data, applicable health advisories and reading list. Visa information will also be included (if applicable). 3. Final Tour Information includes arrival instructions, itinerary revisions (if any), hotel addresses, trip telephone contact information and participant list. We provide the trip leader's telephone number(s) and/or e-mail address with final documents so you can inquire about special photographic questions you may have regarding your trip. We welcome your calls or e-mail messages to

Information supplied upon enrollment describes the specific costs that are included in your trip fee. Generally these costs include lodging in double room occupancy, all meals (specified in the itinerary as BLD denoting breakfast, lunch or dinner), ground transportation during the trip in vans or small busses, air transportation as specified, meal and baggage tipping, and guide services provided by the trip leaders. Not included are airfare or other transportation from your home to the trip staging location, airport departure taxes, insurance, alcoholic beverages and bar expenses (plus bottled water and soft drink expenses on international tours outside of North America), tips and gratuities to local guides abroad, phone calls, passport or visa expenses, laundry or items of a personal nature. Gratuities to Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris trip leaders are optional and always appreciated. Rates are based on group tariffs; if the trip does not have sufficient registration, a small party supplement may be charged.

Single accommodations are available for a supplemental cost in many locations; see the pre-departure trip information or call our office for details. You will be charged the single supplement fee if you desire single accommodations or if you wish to have a roommate, but one is not available. In some remote locations, clients with single rooms are infrequently compelled to share a room due to circumstances beyond our control. In such cases, appropriate per diem refunds will be made reflecting the direct cost of the single room at the facility where clients are required to share. There is no additional single supplement fee on ship-based cruises, if you request a roommate and one is not available.

Cost increases may occur unexpectedly due to rising costs of airfares, ground transport, fuel surcharges, accommodations and currency fluctuations, among others. Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. may be compelled to amend prices, and we reserve the right to do so without prior notice. An increase in trip prices shall not be sufficient grounds for any refund of funds paid for the trip other than as determined by the terms of our cancellation policy.

Whenever possible, our trip participants are lodged in comfortable, modern hotels. We select among the best available accommodations, but refrain from extravagance. Some interesting photographic destinations are far removed from modern amenities, however, and where necessary we will be accommodated in rustic country inns, cabins or tented camps.

Meals are always a special part of our trips for the camaraderie they engender and the opportunity they provide to try new foods from different areas. Depending on the trip and specific locale, participants order restaurant meals from the full menu or, less frequently, table d'hôte. Some trips include picnic lunches in the field. Fruit juice for breakfast and coffee or tea are included with the meals. Soft drinks are included with meals on tours within North America. Participants are responsible for their own bar tab (including bottled water, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages on tours outside of North America) at restaurant lunches and dinners.

Our itineraries are intended as examples only. Participants should allow for flexibility due to changes in weather, natural history or cultural events, or other logistical arrangements deemed necessary by Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. or our leaders.

The second tour leader (and any subsequent additional leaders) listed for each trip on the website will be added as the group size warrants. If only one space remains on a trip, and logistics permit, we accept two persons traveling together, even if it exceeds the trip maximum.

Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. and/or their Agents act only as agents for the passenger in regard to travel including, but not limited to, sightseeing, meals, lodging, transportation, and all other services whether by railroad, motorcar, motor coach, boat, ship or aircraft and they assume no liability for injury, damage, loss, accident, delay or irregularity which may be occasioned either by reason of defect in any vehicle or for any reason whatsoever, or through the acts or default of any company or person engaged in conveying the passenger or in carrying out the arrangements of the trip.

They can accept no responsibility for losses or additional expenses due to delay or changes in air or other services, sickness, weather, strike, war, volcanic eruption, terrorist acts, political unrest, quarantine or other causes. All such losses or expenses will have to be borne by the passenger, as trip fees provide for arrangements only for the times and locations stated. Baggage is at the owner's risk entirely.

The right is reserved to 1) substitute hotels of similar category for those indicated and to make any changes in the itinerary or transport where deemed necessary, or caused by changes in air schedules or equipment substitution; 2) cancel any trip prior to departure, in which case full refund of the paid trip funds will be given, but Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc. is not responsible for any other trip preparation expenses such as penalized or non-refundable air tickets, visa fees and medical related expenses; 3) substitute trip leader(s) for the leader(s) originally specified, in which case the substitution is not a basis for participant cancellation or refund other than provided by our normal cancellation policy; or 4) accept or retain any person as a member of any trip.

Trip prices are based on tariffs and exchange rates in effect at the time of publication and are subject to adjustment in the event of any change therein.

A Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section must be signed by each participant prior to the commencement of the trip. Participation by any trip member will be declined in the absence of the signed Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section, with no trip fee refund. No modification to the Registration Form including the Release and Assumption of Risk section will be accepted.

Should Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc., or anyone acting on their behalf be required to incur attorney's fees and costs to enforce this agreement, the enrolling trip participant(s) agree(s) to indemnify and hold them harmless for all such fees and costs. In the event a lawsuit is filed, the enrolling participant(s) agree(s) to do so solely in the County of Lewis in the State of Washington. Certain ship owners require the use of pre-printed ticket forms that limit the ship owner's and operator's liability. When such tickets are used, the passenger is bound by the terms of these tickets with respect to the passenger's legal relationship to the owners and operators of the ship, their agents (Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, Inc.), and the ship's crew.

Camargue Horses & Provence Lavender
  • Create dramatic images of white horses emerging from the blue ocean surf—directed toward our waiting cameras
  • Three shooting days—four photo sessions—with Camargue’s spectacular white horses
  • Fields of lavender in bloom, sun-kissed landscapes, medieval hilltop stone villages
  • Enjoy outstanding Provençale cuisine and accommodations 
Jul 08 - Jul 16, 2017
Fee: $6,595
Deposit: $800
Limit: 12
Tour Leaders
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