Wall Walking

Wall walking came to me because central France is wintery, cold, windy and there is nothing flying, crawling or available to the budding photographer. I discovered that there is a plethora of insects which happily crawl the walls of the pastel buildings in my region and so began my wall walking quest. I carefully creep along on the pavements, making sure that I don't step into traffic and I am off – wall walking again.

As my passion developed, I began to discern what attracted the most subjects. The outside temperature and whether or not the sun shone on the buildings was the first thing I considered. With dipping temperatures, if the sun is shining, there will still be a few brave souls crawling along. Of course, I had to consider whether or not I might suffer frost bite along the way.

The building materials used in construction also dictated what might be out and about. I found that rough surfaces which make mobility an issue were devoid of my subjects. Peaks and valleys make it difficult for critters to move along, so stubbly, ripply stucco, though fashionable, is out of the question. Just keep walking to the next edifice.

The colouring of the outside of the buildings makes a difference. Dark colours tend not to produce many insects. The pastels are great – especially pink to rose. White is fine, but can give the novice photographer problems with exposures. I have had many a photo ruined because it was too light. Rarely because it was too dark.

Half walls that but up against some form of vegetation can be fruitful. Remembering that insects need to be able to make a quick exit lead me to keep my eyes out for hedges, overhanging trees, plants that were sprouting up along a wall and small, postage-stamp walled in parks.

Using common sense is important and I usually try to do so. Taking photos along the walls of prisons, schools, police stations, or banks is probably not such a good plan. Let that very interesting specimen go rather than find yourself on CCTV being arrested! Also, care must be taken around playgrounds and primary schools.

Respecting private property is a must! Open windows can be a cause for concern as the inhabitants can generally hear the click of the camera. I have had more than one person poke their head out and ask what I thought I was doing. When I tell them that I am taking pictures of spiders and insects, they often join in and point out what they see. I have had more than one European Firebug pointed out and I felt obliged to photo their find.

Along those same lines, I was crouched one day with my camera nearly on the wall taking a picture of a springtail when a car drove up and a man and woman (French speaking) asked what I was doing. They found it hilarious when I told them and drove off in fits of laughter.

Ah, but spring has come to central France . . . so have the insects of flight . . . now the dilemma . . . 'wall' walk or 'vegetation' walk???

Posted by perkpenn perkpenn, March 16, 2018 13:25



A very interesting and entertaining summary of your nature walks :) I've been trying to envisage what these walls look like: . old stone walls that you can walk along the top of, or pavements that have painted walls of buildings alongside them?

It is amusing what you say about using your camera in areas where there may be a lot of people about. You can pick up 'funny looks' in situations like those ... but most people are friendly and helpful when they realise what you're up to (apart from that couple that drove off in fits of laughter). In my late teens I landed myself in trouble walking around outside hospital wards with a moth net (catching moths attracted to the outside lights left on all night). I had a squeaky shoe which was frightening the patients and eventually I got chased down by some night security and had some explaining to do.

I suspect light-coloured walls make it easier to see the 'dark' coloured critters walking across. On dark coloured walls they blend in with their background making them more difficult to spot(?) I would've thought that most insects would prefer to stay on the dark walls because they (to our eyes) blend in and because dark absorbs more heat so therefore these walls are warmer(?). However for that very reason there may be more dangers on the dark walls .. predators like spiders etc lurking.

Now that spring has come in central France you will find it hard not to switch to "vegetation walks". Here in the UK spring shows it's face from time to time but has not arrived yet. My moth trapping is not going as well because of the weather so perhaps you can send some of your balmy temperatures up this way? As for the choice of "wall walk or vegetation walk"? ... do both ... if time permits :)


Posted by philipmarkosso over 1 year ago (Flag)

Hi Phil. If you look at photos online of Auxerre, you will see that on the side streets the buildings come right out to the edge of the pavement which makes them easy to access. I believe that the darker colours are probably too hot for the insects and perhaps that is why they prefer the lighter colours - otherwise it can be like frying an egg on hot metal.

Stones don't seem to attract anything so the old abbeys and cathedrals don't usually give much; however, that said, the cemetery headstones from the 17th century seem to have some interesting bugs on them and within the paths through the abbeys, you can easily spot them.

I will be adding a plume moth in a minute that I noticed whilst running errands this morning up in the village. I had to use my Blackberry, but I find that my eyes rove to the walls these days . . . The East winds are on their way this week so the weather is going to get bad again with plummeted temperatures and a bit of snow. Sigh . . .

Posted by perkpenn over 1 year ago (Flag)

Yeah the east winds ... it's snowing here at the moment :(

Look forward to seeing your plume moth. Emmelina monodactyla is one of the commonest moths in my garden but I haven't had one yet .. such is the weather this month.

I'm going to check out Auxerre online right now!

Posted by philipmarkosso over 1 year ago (Flag)

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