The Cirque de Mourèze is an astounding geological phenomenon, resembling a huge amphitheater covering 340 hectares (840 acres) of a dolomite rock forest, each one with its own unique appearance. This has earned it a protected status and together with its neighbor across the Mount Liausson ridge, Lake Salagou, the title of “Grand Site de France.”

I arrived in Mourèze in the twilight hours before the crack of dawn. I picked up my backpack of gear and headed into the maze of dolomites in the dark, working my way toward the lookout point I had previously scouted out. Perched on a rocky spur atop a large dolomite, I set up my gear and adjusted the tilt, shift, non-parallax point, and precise focus settings of my medium format technical camera, using my headlamp to assist with the process. After getting the adjustments set, I began calculating the exposures I would need to capture the scene of the area surrounding the village of Mourèze as the sun began to illuminate it and the moon still in position.

The light during this period of twilight in the morning, just before the sun rises, contrasts with the green trees and the rock formations. The soft sunlight refracts and diffuses through the atmosphere, taking on a predominantly blue hue and at the same time casting a wonderful luminosity onto the rocks, making them radiate. With the full moon still in the sky, yet about to set, the first rays of light began to hit the hills in the distance, and I found myself in awe of the scene before me. At my feet lay a golden sand contrasting with the grayish color of the rocks, and the dolomites, draped with dense vegetation, seemed to release a delightful pine and rosemary scent.