When I first got interested in landscape photography I started to come across images from Tuscany taken by Charlie Waite and it was always a place I wanted to visit. I made my first photography trip there ten years ago in 2009 and returning many times over the years to lead workshops it never fails to inspire. This year's workshop took place, as usual, in early May when the hills are lush green, the flowers in bloom, and the changeable spring weather brings dynamic light and a good chance of mist in the mornings.
We started the workshop as we always do with a visit to the cypress trees just outside Val d’Orcia. It’s a good first location as we always arrive at the hotel late in the afternoon after picking everyone up from Florence train station, and the cypress trees are close by and easy to shoot. On this particular evening we were blessed with some lovely light and a soft sunset, but there was also a great blue hour when even though the contrast had gone, the blue tones of the sky and the greens of the grass were really complimentary.
Another workshop favourite is the Vitaleta chapel, which perches on a hillside overlooking Val d’Orcia, and make s fantastic subject when backlit by the rising sun. While thick clouds on the horizon prevented any direct light on the scene, we did get a spectacular sky across the whole of the valley.
Another popular location is the farmhouse at Crete Senesi with it’s cypress tree lined road that snakes in beautiful S-curves across the landscape. In the past when I’ve shot here I’ve normally focused on the road, but this time I tried to come away with some different angles and so set up a little to the left where there was a patch of yellow flowers that were being backlit by the late afternoon sun. The light was lovely, although a little challenging to control. As the sun got lower I moved down onto the road to shoot with a wide angle and hide the sun behind one of the cypress trees.
Of course another of Val d’Orcia’s most iconic locations is the Belvedere farmhouse, which we can actually shoot from the grounds of the hotel we stay in for the workshop. The valley here is particularly deep and so mist is fairly common if the night is cold enough, and sure enough on one of the mornings we were treated to a wonderful sunrise which I shot as a series of panoramas. There’s so much of the valley laid out before us here that it’s also fun just to zoom in with a telephoto lens and pick out details backlit by the rising sun.
Over the course of the workshop we shot plenty of different locations and even had time to find some new places that I hadn’t shot before. Just outside Pienza we found this farmhouse sitting in the middle of a cereal field underneath a wonderful cloudy sky, and outside Montalcino we stopped to capture a vineyard which made a good abstract with repeated patterns.
And of course throughout the workshop there was plenty of fantastic food and a really lovely group. It’s always great to exchange and share ideas and knowledge, and spend time in this beautiful place learning about different aspects of photography, from shooting the iconic spots to narrowing the focus to abstracts and details.
We’ll be heading back to Tuscany next year and places are already filling up, so if you’d like to join us there are full details on the Tuscany workshop webpage linked below.