South of Paris

Forests, Chateaus, 

and a Fine Collection of Portraits

instructed by Peter Essick

May 15 – 22, 2024

  • This workshop is limited to 8 students. 

  • Skill set: All. Beginners to professional photographers welcome. We do ask beginners to be familiar with their cameras or phones.

  • May highs of 70 degrees, with lows of 50 degrees. 

  • Sunrise 6:15, Sunset 9:15

Springtime in Paris – is there anything better? Join us for a week-long photo workshop that includes landscape, portraiture, food, street, and nature photography.

Five days will be spent south of Paris in Provins, Barbizon, Fontainebleau, St. Cloud, Versailles, and more touring in a private van with Peter as our photography guide. On the 18th of May we’ll visit the village of Yerres for the opening of Presences. Photographic Treasures from The Gilman & Gonzalez-Falla Collections at the Maison Caillebotte. Mr. Gonzalez-Falla will be in attendance and will give a talk about this collection. For more information please see below.

And, last but certainly not least, we’ll end up with two days in the City of Lights herself.

Please note:  if you want to sit something out, or strike out on your own one day, that is fine with us. This is Your Workshop.



Peter Essick, our Instructor

Peter Essick is a photographer, editor, author, speaker, instructor, and drone pilot with 30 years of experience working for National Geographic Magazine. He specializes in nature and environmental themes. Named one of the forty most influential nature photographers in the world by Outdoor Photography Magazine UK, Essick has been influenced by many noted American landscape photographers from Carleton Watkins to Robert Adams. His goal is to make photographs that move beyond documentation to reveal in careful compositions the human impact of development as well as the enduring power of the land.

Essick is the author of three books of his photographs, The Ansel Adams Wilderness, Our Beautiful, Fragile World and Fernbank Forest. He has photographed stories for National Geographic on many environmental issues including climate change, high-tech trash, nuclear waste and freshwater. After 30 years travelling the world as an editorial photographer, Essick decided to focus his work on a more personal documentation of the environmental and cultural changes in his hometown of Atlanta.

 Essick’s photographs are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, the Booth Western Art Museum and many other private collections. He is represented by Spalding Nix Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia.


Nancy McCrary, South x Southeast Workshops, logistics and planning

Nancy in the Okefenokee Swamp ©nmccraryNancy founded South x Southeast photomagazine in 2011. In 2015 she began SxSE photoworkshops, followed by the opening of SxSE photogallery at her farm in Molena, Georgia in 2017. From 2005 – 2013 she was co-director of SlowExposures Photography Festival in Concord, Georgia. Prior to South x Southeast she was managing editor of a number of various niche magazines including International Tattoo Art, PopStar!, Contents, and Mutts. She resides on her farm in Georgia.

Nancy manages planning, logistics, marketing, and whatever else can present itself for all South x Southeast workshops.







Wednesday, May 15th:

Arrival, Acrueil

Arrive Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris, France in the morning. You will either be picked up Peter and myself, or given instructions on how to take the RER train to the south of Paris.

After a light lunch, we’ll venture out to villages and gardens for a relaxing afternoon getting acquainted with the area. At 4 pm Peter will give a presentation of his work, and we’ll have last minute Q&A about the upcoming days. The Welcome Dinner will be afterward at a local restaurant. An early evening is planned to accommodate jet lag and let everyone catch up for big days ahead!

Thursday, May 16th:

Barbizon and Fontainbleau

Fontainebleau, ©wikipedia

Located at the edge of the Fontainebleau forest, Barbizon is a picturesque village that has marked the history of painting. Here, one comes to admire the living environment of famous painters such as Théodore Rousseau, Jean-François Millet, Diaz de la Pena or Camille Corot. The Barbizon artists painted landscape in realistic terms, and for its own sake. They based their art on the works of 17th-century French and Dutch, and contemporary English landscape painters, all of whom approached their subject with sensitive observation and a deep love of nature.

After a walk in the downtown streets and a visit to the galleries, we will hike around the forest next to the village.


Fontainebleau is a town southeast of Paris, known for the opulent Fontainebleau Palace. Built by French royalty, with parts dating back to the 1100’s, the palace houses Marie Antoinette’s Turkish boudoir, the Napoleon Museum, and a lavish theater. Its formal gardens feature ornamental lakes and sculptures. And, surrounding the town and chateau is Fontainebleau forest, home to Le Grand Parquet, an equestrian stadium.


Friday, May 17th

Versailles Gardens

Saint-Cloud, France

Versailles Gardens, courtesy of

After breakfast at the hotel we will set off for Versailles.

Before being swept away by the Palace and grounds, though, we will visit a terrace in avenue de Saint Cloud where the flower market is held every Friday.

From there, we’ll venture forth to The Gardens of Versailles, The Gardens occupy part of what was once the Domaine royal de Versailles, the royal demesne of the château of Versailles. Situated to the west of the palace, the gardens cover some 800 hectares of land, much of which is landscaped in the classic French formal garden style perfected here by André Le Nôtre. Beyond the surrounding belt of woodland, the gardens are bordered by the urban areas of Versailles to the east and Le Chesnay to the north-east, by the National Arboretum de Chèvreloup to the north, the Versailles plain (a protected wildlife preserve) to the west, and by the Satory Forest to the south.

Versailles Gardens

Post-lunch we’ll move over to the village of Saint Cloud, France, specifically the Parc de Saint-Cloud.

The Château de Saint-Cloud was a royal and imperial palace, occupied by Marie Antoinette and Napoleon, but was leveled during the Franco-Prussian War.

Its gardens remain, though, and are glorious. They have received the “jardin remarquable” label awarded by the Ministry of Culture.

Lines of cone-shaped yews amid the balustrades show where the palace used to be, while the gardens are still landscaped the way André Le Nôtre of Versailles fame and Marie Antoinette intended.

Her rose garden is unmissable, as is La Lanterne, an elevated viewpoint where you can look east across the Seine and spot the Eiffel Tower and Tour Montparnasse.

Parc de Saint-Cloud




Saturday, May 18th

Yerres, France

Maison Caillebotte

Setting off early, we’ll head for the village of Yerres, France in time to enjoy their Saturday market. Other attractions in Yerres include the Church of St. Honest which was rebuilt in the nineteenth century in a neoclassical style. Originally built in the twelfth century,  it preserved a chorus of that time, and a bell tower of the thirteenth century. You can admire a beautiful gilded wooden pulpit dating from Louis XV.

After lunch we’ll move to Caillebotte, the property and its grounds, where there is no shortage of interest for lovers of beautiful buildings. Built in the nineteenth century, it is listed as a historical monument, including the orangery, the gazebo, chapel, kiosk, and the pond and bridge. There are boats available for our enjoyment and for capturing photos of the estate and surrounding woods from the water.

We’ll attend the exhibition Presences. Photographic Treasures from The Gilman & Gonzalez-Falla Collections at the Maison Caillebotte during the afternoon, also.


Maison Caillebotte

Sunday, May 19th

Provins, France

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Provins takes place in Seine-et-Marne, in the heart of the Île-de-France. Former capital of the Counts of Champagne, it is located on the plateau briard, not far from the Aube and the Marne.

Recovered by Clovis in the 5th century, the medieval town of Provins quickly gained importance, becoming under Charlemagne the third most important city of France after Paris and Rouen. Protected by the Counts of Champagne, it was long known for hosting the largest fairs in the region. Provins has retained a very large architectural heritage dating from this period, and one can admire many monuments during a visit to the fortified city.
Close to its traditions, the city of Paris is also appreciated for its local gastronomy, like the brie de Provins or niflettes, puff pastry cakes filled with pastry cream. The latter are generally tasted at 11 November and during the various festivals of the commune. The town is also known for its pink confectionery, such as rose petal jam or rose honey.

But, before entering the city proper, we’ll take time to discover The Ramparts.

A medieval town or city is by definition an urban area protected by fortifications.
This is quite the configuration of Provins, because in the Middle Ages, the entire town was surrounded by ramparts forming a single protective belt for all its inhabitants.

Today, there are still 1.2 km left around the upper town!

Once the Provins Tourist Office is behind you, the road takes you straight towards the Porte Saint-Jean, one of the 2 remaining fortified gates with the Porte de Jouy.
We advise you to go around the ramparts of Provins, from the outside by turning left, via the Allée des Remparts and the Allée des Leper. You will not fail to admire the very beautiful perspective at the Tour aux Engins (large tower which forms the corner).

You can also go down into the ditches to discover them below, thanks to the stairs provided.

Gain height by climbing the ramparts, still at the level of the 2 doors, but on the inside!
A beautiful way to admire the surrounding countryside.
On the Porte de Jouy, on the city side, you will have a beautiful view of the roofs of Provins!


The Caesar Tower is the emblematic monument of the medieval city of Provins
and a concentrate of history. This 12th century keep is impressive both in terms of its size and its shape!

The Big Tower, as it is also called, served as a watchtower of course, but also as a refuge and prison.
The prisoners were locked in turrets and dungeons, narrow and sometimes plunged into total darkness…
Today it houses the bells of the Saint-Quiriace collegiate church and always rings twice: 5 minutes before and exactly on time.


The Tithe Barn, a stone house, is typical of the architecture of Provins of the 12th and 13th centuries.
From bottom to top, the lower room served as a warehouse, the first floor as a shop, and the top floor as a living space.
We know, thanks to leases found, that it was rented, among others, by Toulouse merchants.

Once through the large door, you will be able to admire inside the lower pointed-vaulted room and the sculpted capitals, sometimes very refined.
Much later in the 17th century, it was used as a warehouse for the tithe – tax on crops – hence its current name.


The Museum of Provins

This “Musée de France” is installed in one of the oldest civil buildings in Provins, called “Romanesque House“.

Before entering the monument, be sure to admire its 12th century facade. and its magnificent so-called diamond window.

Inside you will find invaluable collections from archaeological excavations carried out in Provins and its surroundings, ranging from prehistory to the 19th century, through The Renaissance.

The Provins Underground

First of all, it is very likely that these underground passages were first exploited as a quarry to extract “fuller’s earth“. In the Middle Ages, the specialty of Provins was woolen cloth, of very high quality and whose reputation went beyond borders. We therefore used this very special earth for the operation of fulling sheets (cleaning and degreasing the wool).

Then, these cavities were used as refuges, warehouses during the Champagne Fairs or even places of religious meetings, and certainly by freemasons as numerous ancient writings on the walls attest.

The underground passages go very far and you will only visit a small part of it… so to not get lost, follow your guide for an exciting visit!

Departures in groups of 25 people. maximum, for reasons of security and preservation of the site.

Our advice:
The temperature being constant at 13°C, bring clothing to cover your shoulders, especially in summer!


Saint-Ayoul Priory, 15 is the number of years it took to restore the priory acquired by the city of Provins in 2003.
It is located in the city center of Provins, adjacent to the church of the same name.

The year 1527 marked a turning point following an ancient conflict between the two religious communities, parish and priory: the monument was definitively separated into two distinct parts. The nave and the side aisles are allocated to the parish, while the apse remains in the priory. A wall is built between the two parties.

Sold as national property at the end of the 18th century, it housed the sub-prefecture, national gendarmerie, Cavalry (imagine the bedside transformed into a fodder barn for horses), and the army.
Part of it was even bought by individuals who made a home and outbuilding, and demolished chapels to erect walls, in order to separate the properties.

From 1938, the apse was handed over by the Ministry of War to the Fine Arts Department. Following this, first works and first reconnaissance of the monument. The main modern openings are closed and certain old bays are reopened. This is the start of archaeological excavations, studies, and consolidation work…

Since 2003, efforts have never stopped between excavations and discoveries, classification as Historic Monuments, and rehabilitation and restoration.

The result is sublime and captivating. Magnificent frescoes and painted coatings were revealed at the crossing of the transept and on the walls, proof that religious buildings were colorful and decorated with motifs with religious symbols.


Monday, May 20th


Monday is a day of rest for much of France, having entertained us throughout the weekend.

We’ll check out of our accommodations that morning, and head into town to a hotel. Peter and I will drop you off at the door before we drive on to CDG to return our van. Arriving back at the hotel we’ll head out for lunch, some street shooting, a walk in the park, and maybe a late afternoon hot chocolate before sunset at the Eiffel Tower.






Tuesday, May 21st,

Paris, Part II!

We’ll start the day at Montmarte, followed by a visit to the Henri Cartier Bresson museum, a bit of window shopping, maybe a walk through the Marais and the park within. After our farewell dinner, we’ll head to the Arc de Triomphe for sunset. Twice a year the sun sets directly through the arc – and this is one of those times!








Wednesday, May 22nd

Home, Sweet Home

Once everyone has had a couple of weeks to edit their work, we’d like to invite you to a Zoom group review. Peter will arrange what is needed for this, and let you know in plenty of time.

Hope to see you soon!


Fee: $6500, single occupancy

Click Here

*please note: if you would prefer to share your room with a friend/partner, please let us know.


Airport transfer via RER rail, or pickup/delivery by Peter and Nancy

5 nights, Hotel or villa on the southern outskirts of Paris

2 nights, Hotel in central Paris

Breakfast each morning

Entry fees to attractions (Fontainebleau, Versailles, Maison Caillebotte, Henri Cartier Bresson museum, Eiffel Tower, 5 famous structures in Provins + boats at Maison Caillebotte)

Welcome Dinner

Farewell Dinner

Van with driver to take us wherever we want to go outside of central Paris, and parking fees


Does Not Include:

airfare from your airport of choice to Charles DeGaulle Paris, and return

train/taxi fares in Paris

Lunches and dinners except what is noted above

Alcoholic Beverages

Tips for hotel employees


Questions? please email

images: France, 2003, ©nancymccrary