Chambord View, 2006
What do you do when you finally get to visit a place you’ve wanted to see and photograph since you were in 9th grade French class, only to find the most photogenic parts of it in deep shadow?
Such was my experience visiting Chambord, King Francois I’s 440-room “hunting lodge.” Built over nineteen years during the early 1500s, Chambord is said to be the largest castle in the Loire Valley.
In the 1500s, the government had no fixed base. Wherever the king traveled, his court and government—some 2,000 people—followed. Chambord was a distinctly impractical place to live. Its high ceilings and large windows made heating impractical. Given the itinerant nature of the government, historians believe Chambord may never have had any more than temporary furnishings during Francois’ time.
Still, Chambord is a magnificent place with turrets and towers and the branch of a river re-routed around it. There’s a terrific double helix interior stairway that prevented persons headed up and down from having to work around each other. Though never intended to be a fortress, Chambord must have some sturdy underground spaces because the French government stored many of the treasures of the Louvre and other museums at there during WWII.
But none of this did me any good when I arrived on a bright and beautiful late spring morning. Chambord’s primary façade faces slightly northwest. I have no idea whether there was any intention this siting. But I do know that the deep shadow would made it difficult to take a decent picture of the façade until late afternoon.
Only we were scheduled to be somewhere else by late afternoon
I enjoyed the visit Chambord, but was determined to figure some way around the lighting challenge. While standing atop the castle and enjoying the view, I happened to look down and realized that the solution to my quandary was right at my feet.
One of the more interesting photographic tricks I’ve learned through the years is that when the traditional shots of something are too hackneyed or not possible, photographs taken from something can be even more interesting.
Everyone and his brother who ever visited Chambord has probably taken the photograph I’d hoped to take of the castles northeast façade. But it turns out that the shot I made of the chimneys and towers of Chambord, shown above, was much more interesting for having been shot from the castle rather than from the lawn out front.
Chambord Tower, 2006