How and where to photograph stilt fishing huts in France.
Stilt fishing huts known as carrelets (which refer to the square nets) or pecheries, can be found along the Atlantic coast of France between Bordeaux and Saint Nazaire. Mainly situated in the river estuaries of the Loire, Charente and Gironde, the small wooden huts sit on posts and can be reached by a ladder or a walkway.
Situated on a river bank or next to cliffs on the coast, they are often grouped together and most face west. Before going to a location I use Google Earth to check the orientation and position of the carrelets. I’ll check the access to see if it’s possible to park nearby or if it’s necessary to walk.
I take note of the tide which can have a huge effect on the image. As most carrelets are located on estuaries, low tide isn’t an ideal time to photograph them. The river bed is muddy and the water tends to be too far out. It’s just not that pretty. If they are situated on a sandy beach or built on rocks, they can look very picturesque at high tide or low tide although I prefer some water around the base of the posts. High tide is the perfect time to use ND filters for long exposure. If there is little wind, 30 seconds may suffice, otherwise 1-2 minutes can create a smooth effect on the water. A calm, cloudy day is perfect for long exposure, especially if you want a minimalist feel to the image.
If you’re shooting into the rising or setting sun, you’ll need to use a graduated filter to balance the sky with the water. Or alternatively, you can take multiple exposures. This can create different effects on the water however and cause problems when blending the image. A way around this is to use the sky from one frame and the sea and carrelet from another.
Whenever possible, I try to create separation by photographing an individual carrelet. As they tend to be clustered together or the access from the shoreline is difficult, this isn’t always feasible. Shooting the carrelet at the end of a line is one solution or looking for ones that sit further apart.
My favourite carrelets sit on their own with a ladder for access, rather than a walkway. At high tide, they look fantastic, especially if the sea is rough and splashing around the wooden posts. They must also have nets attached. Often the nets have been taken off for maintenance and the shape is therefore less interesting.
As always, the quality of the light is important in order to create a successful image. Soft light around sunrise and sunset or a cloudy day are the best times to shoot. Try to avoid shooting when the sun is high in the sky, especially if there aren’t any clouds. When all the elements come together, you’ll take some fantastic images!
Join me on my next scheduled Atlantic Coast workshop which runs from 11-16 April 2021 On this workshop you’ll get a chance to photograph carrelets on both sides of the Gironde estuary as well as the oyster beds and fishing villages around the bay of Arcachon.