In Search of the Personal: Photographing Southern Tuscany
Saturday June 2 to Saturday June 9, 2012
Only four spots remaining; contact Jeff now to hold your place: firstname.lastname@example.org or 630.202.3635
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. While I welcome participants with any level of photographic experience, most participants will have a basic understanding of photographic processes and technology and should be comfortable using their digital SLR camera in manual mode.
Day 1 Saturday, June 2 Rome to Pienza
We will meet at a pre-determined location in Rome at 9:00 a.m. and transfer to Pienza, our base for the week. On the way to the property, we will stop in Civita (Drive is 84 km, will take about 1 hour, 50 minutes. Civita di Bagnoregio (now two towns due to erosion), one of the most impressive sights in the area. Dated back to the Etruscan period and partially rebuilt it in the medieval period, it is a little town where just 30 people live, with no cars or supermarkets. It requires a bit of a hike on foot, but it’s worth it. Stroll, explore, and sketch the town for a couple of hours. We’ll then stop for lunch at Il Fumatore before we continue on to Pienza.
Then we’ll move on to our base for the week, Il Chiostro di Pienza, where you’ll settle in and explore the grounds. 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 Sunday, June 3 Pienza
Stay in Pienza today. After breakfast at the hotel, you’ll start by seeing the highlights of this important city with an expert guide. The tour will include an overview of the town by foot along the cobblestone streets, the Cathedral built by Rossellino between 1459-1462, the Piccolomini Palace with its collections of antique Furnishings, paintings and weapons, and a stop in the pecorino cheese shops lining the quaint streets.
In the afternoon, you’ll be able to photograph as you’d like and get input from Jeff. Meet in the early evening for additional instruction and a casual dinner in town.
Day 3 Monday, June 4
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. In Castiglione d’Orcia there are marvelous views from the Rocca (castle) over the Val d’Orcia. Lunch at Pane e Companatico. Jeff and the driver know the area very well and will determine the specific itinerary at the time.
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. We’ll then enjoy dinner together in Pienza.
Day 4 Tuesday, June 5
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 Wednesday, June 6
Breakfast and meeting followed by a late morning departure from Il Chiostro.
We will head into the countryside to visit an artisan cheesemaker, and learn about cheese production, followed by a light lunch consisting of pecorino cheese, salami, salads, bruschetta made with the estate’s extra virgin olive oil.
We will then 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 venture to the beautiful estate of La Foce , for a tour of the gardens in the late afternoon/early evening. This estate has a wonderful history. The Villa itself was built in the late 15th century as a hostel for pilgrims and merchants traveling on this busy road. In 1924 the property was bought by Antonio and Iris Origo, who dedicated their lives to bringing prosperity and cultural and social changes to this poverty-ridden land. During WW II, the Origos took care of many children whose parents sent them there from the north of Italy. Today the estate – a combination of woods, cultivated fields and olive groves – is run by the Origo daughters, Benedetta and Donata.
Dinner on the way back in Pienza, at Il Terazzo Val d’ Orcia, which is just outside the city walls.
We’ll then head back to the hotel for some time to work on your images.
Day 6 Thursday, June 7
We’ll begin the day with an early breakfast and an 8:00 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.
Proceed next to the Altesino Winery for a tour and tasting with a light lunch.
Next, we will proceed to the town of 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.
Day 7 Friday, June 8
We’ll focus on our work at the Chiostro today. Free morning to enjoy and photograph Pienza 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 best images from the week. Final critique and dinner at the hotel.
Day 8 Saturday, June 9
After saying our goodbyes, we’ll depart for the Chiusi train station after an early breakfast and you
can take a train to your next destination, be it Rome to fly out, Venice to continue with the workshop, or someplace else on your own. (Note: If you have other plans that don’t fit well with that, we can work with you to make alternative arrangements.)
We are proposing the 9:02 train from Chiusi to Florence. If people are not continuing on to Venice, they can then leave the group there in Florence. Arrive at 10:48. For those continuing on, 11:25 train from Florence to Venice, arriving at 13:33.
For those who are just joining in at this point, you can meet us in Venice at Hotel Al Piave.
Get out and begin to explore Venice on your own before you gather before dinner for introductions and some general instruction from Jeff. We’ll talk about some ways that we can approach the challenges of photographing in Venice and lay out our plans for our time together in this inspirational city.