Reader Stories: Documenting the tellin fishermen of the Crozon Peninsula of western France

by Guest Contributor

posted Sunday, January 31, 2016 at 6:57 AM EDT


By IR Reader René Theuillon

I am living in the peninsula of Crozon which is located in Brittany at the western point of France. It is a paradise for photographers, with landscapes opened on a large bay bordered by high rocky cliffs and magnificent beaches.

During winter time, it happens that you can see an odd activity on those beaches. At low tide , a lot of cars and trucks are parked on the wet sand and dozens of men are playing a strange game, mid leg in water.

They are tellin fishermen at work.

The tellin is a small shell-fish which is hidden in the sand and is appreciated for cooking, and is prized by many restaurants. The collect of this shell is severely regulated and the fishing is allowed a few days per year.

When a beach is opened, all the professional foot fishermen of the area converge and begin to drag tirelessly the sand. They don’t like to be photographed (full compliance with regulation ?), that's the reason they are silhouetted, my pictures being shot against the sun.

Tellin shells are fished using a kind of drag made of a stainless steel cage, mounted on four wheels and pulled by the fisherman walking backwards, mid leg in water, the drag being linked by a wire to a large belt wrapped around his waist.

[1/1500s  /  f 5.6 /  ISO 200  /  length 200mm  /  not resized]
From time to time the drag is lifted up to check how many shells have been collected and to drop them at the bottom of the cage. It’s also a good opportunity to have a little rest.

[1/1500s  /  f 5.6 /  ISO 200  /  length 200mm  /  not resized]
When a fisherman has been lucky enough to reach his quota quickly, he goes back to his truck, while the others keep on dragging painfully.

[1/750s  /   f 5.6 /  ISO 200  /  length 200mm  /  slighlty cropped]

That’s the story of a picturesque and very hard job which still goes on at a time when industrial fishing is driven by computers via satellite means.

Notes on the gear I used:

I shot an old SAMSUNG GX10 fitted with a PENTAX-DA 1:4-5.6  50-200 ED WR. All settings are in manual mode, mostly WB (not relevant for my BW pictures !)  AF single (CAF button is broken ! ) triggered by AF button on the rear side of the body (old fashion, I am 71 !...)

•  •  •

A big IR THANKS for this unique and intriguing view into their world, René!



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Canon 7D with EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L II
(25 seconds / f/2.8 / 16mm / ISO 250 / manual exposure)