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Travel photography

Travel photography - John Gravett shares his Tuscany Travel tips with ePz.

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Category : Landscape and Travel
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Words and imagaes by John Gravett of Lakeland Photographic Holidays.

Twice a year I take a group of 8 photographers to sample the delights of Tuscany, in April and September. I thought it would be good to share some of our experiences.

Gear taken:
Like most people, I can't afford to travel first class, so I book flights to Pisa with Ryanair, Easyjet or similar, many of these companies limit the weight of carry-on luggage you can take. I usually travel with the following as hand luggage:
  • Lowe Pro Vertex 100 bag (although the Vertex 200 is still within many companies size limit – the smaller bag attracts less attention and is less likely to be weighed)
  • Samsung netbook for downloading and editing pics.
  • Nikon D700
  • 17-35mm lens
  • 24-70mm lens
  • 70-200mm lens
  • Lee filters (3 grads, Polariser, sundry others)
  • Lee universal hood
  • and most importantly – my Domke photo vest
All of the above kit will easily fit into the Vertex 100, but depending on airline, can weigh more than their carry-on allowance (the worst I ever experienced was 5Kg limit!) which is where the photo vest comes in. I fit what I can in the bag – up to the limit, and the rest simply goes in the pockets of the photo vest. As it's a piece of clothing and I simply have things in the pockets, it is not subject to being weighed.

Other photographic items carried include external hard drives, tripod, head, chargers etc – which simply go into my hold luggage.

Cypress Tree

Tuscany
We stay in a Tuscan farmhouse about 2 hours drive from Pisa, giving us great access to many of Tuscany's prime photographic opportunities. Whenever visiting any location as rich in photographic opportunities as Tuscany, it's important to give yourself a cross section of different subjects, including towns, people, landscapes etc.

Tuscany fields and shadows

Although in the Lakes I rarely take a photograph without a tripod, when visiting towns and cities, sometimes even I have to agree that working without a tripod is the best option. Still, for all of the landscapes (and some of the smaller villages) in Tuscany I use a tripod; bigger towns and people shots are often shot freehand (lets me turn on the VR switch on my lenses). Unfortunately many Italian cathedrals do not allow tripods, so I simply increase the ISO – and always find something to lean the tripod on – pew backs, even the floor to take shots of the roof.

Some of the highlights of Tuscany:

The Belvedere/San Quirico d'Orcia
The Iconic views of Tuscany – houses on hills, and a wonderful church and barn – best photographed at each end of the day – sunrise can offer mist in the valleys, but late evening sun can cast a warm glow on the white stone of the church.

Belvedere

Pienza
A fabulous medieval town, with street markets, a fabulous church (no tripod) and elevated views of the surrounding landscapes. Many of the buildings are built of a rich, golden, almost ochre stone which gives a great glow to photographs.

Bagno Vignioni
A small town built around a Roman hot spa, at the right time of day the shadows across the face of the town's buildings is simply superb. The spa waters flow through the town and down the hill to mineral spa pools of an iridescent blue colour.

Bango Vignioni

Sienna
A city for everything – go to the Campo (the main square) for limitless opportunities for candids, street entertainers, and “café society” the back streets offer all types of street photography, including some wonderful building “details”, and the Duomo is a truly spectacular cathedral, built of bands of black & white stone. Tripods are not allowed in the Cathedral, so high ISO is the order of the day. City centres are definitely a tripod free zone.

Cafe society Sienna

Montepulciano
Sometimes we take the long uphill walk to the top of the town where views over the city walls give a spectacular vista. From the outskirts of the town the church of St Biagio is lit up rose-red by the setting sun.

From the walls of Montepulciano

Vineyards and landscapes
Early morning landscapes in Tuscany offer vineyards with low angled sun grazing across them. Often we are lucky and benefit from early morning mist as well. The rolling landscape of the area is a photographers dream.

The rows of Cypress trees create wonderful lines across the hills, and it is impossible to think about Tuscany without thinking about these imposing trees.

Vineyard at sunrise

Add to the above the odd ruined building, abandoned railway station, mix in wonderful Italian food and wines and you realise why I keep heading back to Tuscany for my twice-yearly fix.

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Words and imagaes by John Gravett of Lakeland Photographic Holidays.


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