Ariege, France – Manzac d’en Bas

Joy of Seeing – Manzac d’en Bas

Tucked away in the southwest of France lies the Ariège, France’s least populated département, beautiful and largely undiscovered, rich in French history and culture. Just an hour south of Toulouse bordering the northern foothills of the Pyrenees, Ariège provides a perfect and varied base for our Joy of Seeing programme.

This photography workshop is suitable for photographers of all levels of experience.

Enjoy guided travel through the Ariège, learning from each other in seeing and making photographs in new ways, and taking a relaxing holiday in good company.

We are hosted by Giles and Louise Nevill at their home, Manzac d’en Bas, a lovingly restored,160-year-old, traditional French farmhouse set high on a hillside above Daumazan sur Arize, with outstanding views south to the Pyrenees.

2019 will be our fourth year at Manzac, when we will experience the magnificent Autumn in Ariège for the first time.

“Really looking forward to hosting this holiday with Ken – his fourth at Manzac d’en Bas. His approach to photography is inspiring and delivered in a very unique, gentle and thoughtful way.”
… Giles, Manzac d’en Bas

  • Manzac d'en Bas gîtes and farmhouse

What to Expect

Our week is a mix of learning together, exploring the Ariège and simply relaxing, being with each other.

On the first morning, we introduce our Joy of Seeing approach and mindful photography, and then take an excursion out to a local village to take our first explorative steps with some simple and fun exercises.

Most days feature a half-day out, followed by sharing images in the early evening pre-dinner. Sharing and discussing our images is one of the most important activities and distinguishes our approach from many other workshops.

We will make two full-day excursions, which usually include lunch out in a restaurant.

It is a holiday, first and foremost, so we will not be working dawn to dusk.

I will be on hand to offer guidance in any visual or technical aspect of photography, and to guide our sharing and critique sessions, but I will not take you all to the same tripod holes or tell you what to point your camera at – seeing is unique to you.

At a Glance

Forthcoming Dates

9-15 October 2019 – 2 places remain – CONTACT US


Course Fee

£300* pppw  PLUS accommodation and flights.

*Early-booking discounts on the course-fee: -£100pp until December 2018, -£50pp until end March 2019.


Accommodation at Manzac d’en Bas:
€835 per person single / €750 sharing


  • 6 nights’ full board
    (except for two meals out in local restaurants)
  • Airport transfers
  • Transportation during the week

Does Not Include

  • Flights / travel to Ariège
  • Your personal travel and liability insurances (compulsory)

Group Size

Eight max

Manzac d’en Bas Accommodation and Meals

Manzac d'en Bas - Trip Advisor AwardManzac d’en Bas is a lovingly restored, 160 year -old farmhouse, owned by our hosts Giles and Louise Nevill, who have lived here since 2003. The house is set high on a hill over Daumazan sur Arize, with outstanding views south to the Pyrenees.

The three spacious, self-catering “gites”, called “L’Écurie” (The Stable), “Le Logement” (The Dwelling), and “La Grange” (The Barn) after their original uses, combine traditional charm with comfort and modern amenities. Rooms are en-suite double or twin, and we have exclusive use of the farmhouse-style kitchen / dining areas. The first-floor mezzanine lounge, where we gather for photo sharing, has an outdoor balcony ovelooking the gardens.


All meals are included, except for two meals taken out at restaurants.

  • Breakfast is a self-service continental selection with cereals and bread, seasonal fruit, tea, coffee and juices.
  • Lunch and dinner is provided either at Manzac or as a picnic / BBQ. The menu is mostly French in influence and always hearty and delicious, prepared with great love and care by our host Louise.
  • Beers and wine are available at mealtimes, along with tea, coffee and fruit juices

Most dietary requirements including vegetarian or minor intolerances (e.g. gluten or lactose) can be catered for but regrettably those with vegan needs or severe nut allergies cannot be accepted at Manzac owing to the nature of the business and the almost total inability of French restaurants to cater for this.

About Ariège

Ariège is the least populated département in France, situated in the Occitanie region, southwest of Toulouse and bordering the northern slopes of the Pyrenees mountain range.

Unspoiled and largely undiscovered, l’Ariège is rich in scenic beauty, culture and history.

The high peaks and lakes of the Pyrenees make a grand backdrop to an area packed with photographic interest: flora and fauna, Cathar castles and a traditional French lifestyle and artisan culture in charming medieval villages.

Our excursions have included:

  • Local towns: Montesquieu Volvestre, Rieux Volvestre, Foix, le Mas d’Azil, Saint-Lizier
  • Mountain lakes and waterfalls: Lac de Bethmale, Col de Lers, Roquefort les Cascades
  • Artisans / traditional industry: un panier (basket-weaver), un tourneur de bois (wood-turner), un sabotier (clogmaker), un potier (potter), un moulin à farine (flour mill)


2016_366142 - Mont Valier from Cominac

Photography FAQ

What experience do I need?

These workshops are suitable for photographers of all levels of experience.

  • If you are a beginner then it will be very helpful to be familiar with the important features of your camera camera and to have some knowledge of the core principles of exposure, and depth of field.
  • If you are a seasoned enthusiast, then maybe a change of scenery and a fresh outlook could be the catalyst for a whole new phase in your creative work. Our “ rediscover the joy of seeing” approach could be just the perfect creative tonic.

Having the confidence to express how you see and respond to the world in your own unique way is perhaps the final test of an artist.

Is this workshop suitable for me?

That depends to a degree on your motivation.

Do be aware that we are trying to do something different.

This is not a landscape workshop (nor any other genre). Neither is it a guided tour (although we will explore the beautiful Ariège). By coming on our workshop you are investing in (hopefully) a new approach to our wonderful artform of photography.

Nothing is off limits except being closed to possibilities – your willingness to come with an open mind, both for images you will make and for appreciating those that your companions will make.

  • If it is your wish to “do better” in competitions and to gain distinctions, we believe that the individual expression we encourage is the best and most fulfilling way to achieve those aims. Having the confidence to express how you see and respond to the world in your own unique way is perhaps the final test of an artist.
  • If you are competitive, then we hope it is only with yourself and with the intention be a more complete photographer when you leave than when you came.

How much walking is involved?

Ken, we know you’re a bit of a mountaineer! How much walking is involved?

We will emphatically not be mountaineering!

This is a holiday first and foremost. Mindfulness is more about BEING than doing, and we will relax much more than on many photography workshops.

However, the Ariège is hill country and there are some jewels to be found off the beaten track. There is some steep ground in some villages and at waterfalls and especially the Cathar castles. But for the most part our excursions require no more than a few minutes walking from our vehicle. If the group wishes, we might consider a longer walk.

What photography equipment should I bring?

Any kind of camera will be fine along with your usual lenses and accessories. We will be encouraging spontaneity and lightness of approach, so you may find that a compact camera gives you the freedom to travel and work light.

If you bring an SLR camera, prime or zoom lenses in the 18-55mm and 70-300mm ranges will be most useful. The more you are weighed down by equipment and choices, the less mindful your photography is likely to be.

You are very welcome to use the camera in your phone too, but we will be encouraging you to see directly rather than through apps, so your phone should not be your only option.

Don’t forget:

  • Storage cards and spare batteries
  • Your charger and plug adapters
  • Your camera manual – !Important
  • A notepad and pen for making your own notes.

How do we share images?

Several times through the week, we will share and critique each other’s images.

At Manzac we have access to a 40” widescreen digital screen for our use, which can connect directly via USB memory or HDMi. Please ensure that you bring a USB memory device.

We will also have a card reader for downloading your images centrally.

However you may find it useful to have your own device on which you can sort and view your images for yourself – a small laptop or tablet computer is ideal. Make sure you have the requisite cable connections between device and camera and also that you are familiar with how to download and sort your files quickly and efficiently.

When choosing images for sharing, please resist the need to process them, either via apps or Photoshop. Getting things right in camera is one of the core skills we will explore, as is being able to quickly discern the images you like.

If you usually shoot RAW files, then do set up your camera to record a JPEG in addition, to avoid your having to spend additional time in post-processing. In any event, we will help you to make sure your camera is set up correctly at the start of the week.

Do I need a tripod?

In some conditions of low light a tripod will be essential. There is also the opportunity (in Spring) to photograph moving water and the most glorious wildflower meadow, full of orchids. For that, a tripod will be advantageous.

But you will find that it restricts spontaneity of seeing, so for most of the time we will encourage you to perfect your hand holding and to work in a responsive way.

We certainly will not get you lined up with tripods, all facing the same direction, looking at the same thing!

General Travel FAQ

How do we travel to Manzac

Most guests travel by air to Toulouse, with direct flights from London and Manchester. Some participants drive to and from Ariège, including our week at Manzac as part of a longer stay.

You should arrange to arrive at Toulouse Blagnac airport by 5pm on the first day, where Giles will meet us for transfer to Manzac d’en Bas. Return flights should be arranged for after 2pm on the final day.

Full travel advice and guidance, including flight information, will be provided by Giles when you book your accommodation at Manzac.

How do we travel whilst at Manzac?

Our transportation during the workshop is by minibus. There is capacity for eight participants.

What clothing do I need?

The climate in the south west of France can be changeable under influence of the Pyrenees.  Average temperatures for Ariège in May and October are similar – sixteen degrees high / five degrees low – but can be into the high twenties in May.

A packable rain jacket will be essential, as will a travel umbrella that you could use when working. Yes we will work in most weathers!

What to bring:

  • comfortable clothing for walking and working on warm days – t-shirts, shorts
  • walking shoes or light boots plus flipflops, sandals or house shoes
  • sunglasses and sunhat
  • rain jacket and warm fleece
  • a rucksack for essentials and photography kit

Anything else?

We have a downloadable Essentials factsheet, which outlines everything else we know.

Link to Factsheet

Contact Us

Please use this form to contact us about this workshop

Please use this form to contact us about this workshop