We have just completed our third 9-day photo tour in Tuscany with shooting the “blue hour” just after sunset in Pisa. The “Field of Miracles” with the Duomo, the Babtisterium and, of course, the Leaning Tower is even more magnificent set against the rich blue glow of the evening sky.
We begin and end this tour in Pisa but most of our time is spent in the magnificent Val d’Orcia, a landscape of rolling hills, poppy fields, cypress groves, and medieval villages and monasteries, which we love to visit and photograph in the spring. The wildflowers are blooming, the wheat and cover crops are at their greenest green and the weather is not too hot or too cold with a few temperamental elements thrown in to add drama to the sky. Clouds can be a nice addition to an otherwise flat and photographically uninspiring sky and the after-effects of a spring downpour add a freshness to the vistas and usually produce atmospheric fog in the early morning hours.
Traveling with an emphasis on capturing great photographs goes hand in hand with Slow Travel. We embrace this philosophy on our Tuscany Photography Tour by spending a whole week based out of the quaint, medieval town of Pienza in the heart of the Val d’ Orcia, rather than rushing from location to location. Several iconic images that many of you may have seen in magazines and brochures can be found within 30 minutes of Pienza. This allows the serious photographer the luxury of visiting these sites more than once if needed to get the “shot”. Often we will make an initial visit to the location before we photograph it so that we can scout it for the perfect composition. This is especially useful when one is planning to photograph a scene at sunrise and does not want to waste valuable morning light trying to find the best angle.
One of the most famous and breathtaking scenes in this area is the farmhouse “Il Belvedere.” It’s an attractive old stone structure surrounded by an incredibly pleasing landscape, positioned in the valley below so that the photographer is able to capture the farmhouse from above while taking in all of the surrounding farms and rolling hills with Monte Amiata anchoring the composition in the distance.
On the mornings when we get up very early to photograph “Il Belvedere” at sunrise, we are always hoping for low fog rising from the valley and wrapping around the base of the farm. I have visited this scene many times and was finally rewarded last week. There were quite a few “hoots and hollers” from our very excited group of photographers. Persistence, intentionality, luck and sometimes the willingness to get wet muddy feet and not enough sleep all play together for being able to capture these very special photographs. A tasty cappuccino when we get back to the hotel at around 8 am completes a fantastic experience.
We will return to “Il Belvedere” and “La Toscana” again next year and for years to come. The combination of photography and travel, especially Slow Travel, makes for great images and rich experiences.
Jim and Magrit have been photographing professionally and traveling in Europe for the past 20 years.
They started Photography Travel Tours in 2011 with the goal of educating and guiding photographers to some of the most beautiful and iconic scenes in Europe.
The tours are not just about getting great photographs but also have the side benefits of doing so in wonderful environments. Great food, wine, people, and ambiance.
Read more about Jim & Magrit and their wonderful photo tours here: (http://photographytraveltours.com/about/).
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.