In Search of the Personal: Photographing Southern Tuscany – May 31 to June 7, 2011
How do photographers develop a personal style? When – and how – can a photographer begin to establish a direction in his or her work? Perhaps most importantly, what makes a photograph become a “personal” statement?
We will work though a variety of strategies to help us tap into that creative part of our photographic selves. Through lots of image making, a blend of formal and field instruction and plenty of time for discussion and critique, we will work to uncover themes and lines of vision that may not have been previously evident to you.
And we’ll do it in Tuscany!
There are few places on earth like Tuscany. Its landscape is the landscape painted by the great artists of the Renaissance. Its architecture is known for its sense of proportion, beauty and attention to minute detail. Its people are distinctive, friendly and resilient. Its food presents simple flavors with extraordinary precision and grace. Its light is soft, enveloping and revealing. This experience will allow you to experience Tuscany’s remarkable culture, people, landscape and hill towns and work towards a personal photographic response to the Tuscan sense of place. I will push you to go beyond the picturesque and help you discover your own response to the texture, rhythm and spirit of Tuscany.
We will divide our photographic time between rural and urban locations and everything in between. There will be big towns that hustle and bustle and villages so small that fewer than two dozen people reside there and time has stood still. We’ll photograph churches set in remote landscapes and cathedrals perched on the highest point of the hilltop towns. Twisting roads lined with cypress, endless fields dotted with the colors of spring wildflowers and gems of architecture will spread out before our cameras. You will meet – and photograph – Tuscan artisans who make wine, cheese and olive oil. You will learn about Tuscan art, culture and history. Some mornings, we’ll be up early to catch morning light; some evenings, dinner will wait while we catch the last rays of the sun. Our driver will get us to the right places at the right time for the right light.
Because we will work with digital photographic equipment, we’ll be counting on its rapid feedback and we will be able to critique our images individually and via digital projection as a group. I will work with you as you edit your downloaded images to help you find your own personal sense of the places we’ll explore. Because the group will be shooting together and editing together, you will learn a lot from your fellow students as well.
I have limited this experience to a maximum of 7 photographers in order to ensure the best level of personal instructional attention. This is an intermediate-level photographic experience; you should have at least three years experience making photographs, have a basic understanding of photographic processes and technology and should be comfortable using a digital SLR camera in manual mode. Non-photographer companions are welcome and warmly invited to attend.
Day 6/Day 9 Tuesday, May 31 Umbria to Pienza
If you are leaving us now, you will be transported to the Chiusi train station, from which you can travel to Rome, Florence and many other places throughout Italy. Please consult Rosanne before making any flight arrangements so that she can advise on timing.
If you are joining us for the Tuscany portion, you’ll meet us in at the Chiusi train station, which you can easily reach from Rome’s Termini station and from other locations in Italy. We’ll provide you with whatever assistance you need in advance to help you get there!
For those who are continuing on, we will meet in the lobby of the hotel in the late morning for the drive to Tuscany. We’ll move on to our base for the week, Il Chiostro di Pienza, where you’ll settle in and explore the grounds and the wonderful town of Pienza itself (there won’t be a lot of other time to do that this week, so take advantage of the time if you can!) If you’d like, have a glass of wine before dinner as we get to know one another. We’ll then enjoy a traditional Tuscan dinner, prepared for us at the hotel, review the program, and prepare for our first full day tomorrow.
Day 2/ Day 5 Wednesday, June 1
This morning, we will begin with a breakfast meeting followed by a tour of this lovely town with an expert guide. You’ll learn all about this charming locale where you’ll be based for the next week. Following this, you’ll work with Jeff in Pienza for the day. Although this is a small town, there are plenty of photography options—views, architecture, art, people, street scenes, and on and on.
We’ll then enjoy dinner together in Pienza at La Cucina di Fiorella.
Day 3/Day 6 Thursday, June 2
Meet for breakfast. We’ll then depart at 8:30 for a combination of visits to some or all of these these charming places (depending on time). San Quirico d’Orcia surprises at every turn of its medieval streets: stone archways, Gothic churches, the Romanesque-Gothic Collegiata and the Horti Leonini, a superb example of the Italian garden. The enormous garden opens into a wide perspective flight, the effect of which is helped by the perfectly geometrical beds of box hedge. Bagno Vignoni is famous for its thermal baths. It was popular with the Romans (and probably the Etruscans) and rose to prominence again during the Middle Ages because of the proximity of the Via Francigena, the north-south pilgrimage route through the Italian peninsula. The ancient square pool at the center of the town is no longer in public use, but the scene is extremely attractive, with old stone buildings surrounding the pool on all sides. Castiglione d’Orcia there are marvelous views from the Rocca (castle) over the Val d’Orcia. Although lunch is on your own, we can recommend a great place called Pane e Companatico.
We’ll then head back to Pienza at about 3:00, where you can download images and relax a bit.
Before dinner, enjoy an extremely interesting talk by Maria Elena Torchio, an expert in all things Sienese. This will help set the stage for our day in Siena tomorrow.
Day 4/Day 7 Friday, June 3
After an early breakfast, we will proceed to Siena, often referred to as Italy’s most beautiful hill town, with its enormous scalloped-shaped Campo, its marble black and white striped Duomo facade, and its superior placement on three ridges, offering beautiful vistas over this medieval city. You’ll break for lunch on your own, followed by more photography or time to explore the city independently; the choice is yours. We’ll return to Il Chiostro at about 3:30, where we will download, edit, and critique images.
Tonight dinner will be at Il Rossellino, a very small and wonderful place in the center of Pienza.
Day 5/Day 8 Saturday, June 4
Breakfast and meeting followed by a later departure from Il Chiostro (about 10:00). We will proceed to one of the highest Tuscan hill towns, Montepulciano. There are dozens of Renaissance palazzi and churches, odd-shaped squares and corners, and, of course, a Duomo to photograph. There are plenty of opportunities for tasting the famous Vino Nobile di Montepulciano at local cantinas as well. After we finish our time here, we will head into the countryside to visit Ernello, a pecorino cheese producer and learn about cheese production, followed by a light lunch consisting of pecorino cheese, salami, salads, bruschetta made with Ernello’s extra virgin olive oil.
From here, we will venture to the beautiful estate of La Foce, for a tour of the gardens in the late afternoon/early evening.
Dinner on the way back in Pienza, at Il Terazzo Val d’ Orcia, which is just outside the city walls.
Day 6/Day 9 Sunday, June 5
We’ll begin the day with a very early breakfast and departure in order to make the most of the unique properties of the early-morning light. After 40 minutes or so, we will arrive at the gorgeous Abbazia di Sant’Antimo, situated in magnificent solitude. One of the most beautiful Romanesque structures in Italy, Sant’Antimo provides endless photographic opportunities, both outside and inside (photography not allowed during services). If we are lucky, we’ll be able to hear the monks chanting, which occurs seven times per day.
Next, we will proceed to Montalcino, a very well-heeled town, famous as the birthplace of the excellent Brunello di Montalcino wine, made entirely of the Sangiovese grape. You’ll have time on your own to explore; perhaps you would enjoy a visit the 14th-century fortezza, and drop in to the Enoteca la Fortezza wine-tasting shop which is located under the fort. After time photographing there, we will have lunch on our own and then proceed to Altesino Winery for a tour and tasting.
After this, return to Il Chiostro to download images and critique our work. We’ll have dinner in Pienza later this evening.
Day 7/Day 10 Monday, June 6
We’ll focus on our work at the Chiostro today. Free morning to do as you’d like. After lunch on your own in town, download and edit images, and receive instruction in creating an audio slideshow of your thirty best images from the week. Final critique and dinner at the hotel.
Day 8/Day 11 Tuesday, June 7
After saying our final goodbyes, we’ll depart for Rome after breakfast. We’ll either take you to Fiumicino Airport or to the city, depending on your plans. If you have other plans that don’t fit well with that, we can work with you to make alternative arrangements.