According to some rankings, Mont Saint Michel is considered to be the second most popular tourist destination in France, after the Eiffel Tower. The reality is that is quite unique! It is actually a kind of pyramid town, built around a famous monastery. And all this pyramidal stone construction is on an island, in the middle of an extremely unusual landscape:  the Couesnon River estuary, at the mouth of the English Channel. A place where everything follows the rules of the everlasting sinusoid of  high and low tide. The land in the middle of which this structure was erected is a very special type of sandy ground. It has generated a lot of legends and is part of the great tourist attraction of the place, due to the unique hiking experiences. These also take place according to the low and high tide schedule and are special because there is always the risk of sinking into this soil,and therefore, the curious ones need  a special approach to the whole adventure. From a photographic point of view, after crossing a futuristic bridge over the sandy terrain, you arrive to a place which has the vibe of medieval city. Basically, you step into a different time dimension leading straight into the times of  the Knights Templar.

Being so popular, the crowds are sometimes suffocating. I generally adopt a “step-by-step” exploration strategy in such places. At the first encounter with a certain place, I photograph everything that gets into my visual range and  impresses me, without overthinking the entire process. It is like a survey, a kind of visual inventory of the  place, a part of the exploration I call “the tourist phase”.

The second phase takes place during a re-visit, ideally made after a certain period of time and after a detailed or fugitive analysis of the images collected in the tourist phase. Now, I already know what to expect and I can start to visually combine things, aiming to generate  a unique presentation of the different attraction points which revealed to me during the first visit.. It’s a photographic phase of composition, on the spot.

The last phase of visual exploration of such a famous, crowded, really attractive and unique place is an extremely elaborate step that I like to call “the artistic phase.” Here, the reason for being there is exclusively for taking pictures. Actually, it means acquiring specific and unique images, based on the ideas accumulated in the previous phases. This time, there is a planned scenario and special attention is paid to all the factors that create unique images (composition, perspectives, special places for unique points of view, light and unique moments, either the presence or the absence of ad-hoc characters or crowd).

The three phases are not always separate, they can sometimes take place in just a few minutes. Or ideally, they can represent repeated visits to the same place, at different times.

This is an image from the first phase of exploring this place. It’s done by stopping the car for a few

The Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey, Normandy, France

seconds, in an optimal position and with acceptable light. A common image that is visually extremely explicit and shows the subject very clearly. This is useful to draw the attention of viewers, who are familiar with the classic images, that they can easily take, too. In this way, they are tempted to take a look at the image and possibly want to see others and start discovering your visual universe created in that specific location.

This is an overview of my creative process, based on the development of various collections of images from or video clips from my YouTube Channel. This is why their completion is laborious and time consuming, but it is also the secret behind their dynamics and uniqueness.