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More Than Just Photos!

When I hear the word "Tuscany," I start dreaming of going back to the little towns that dot the hills throughout the region and exploring the countryside, looking for my next photograph. I think about the local people and culture and how I can capture an image that conveys that story. Oh, yes, I imagine the great Italian food and the incredible wine that accompanies it. All these thoughts and ideas come to mind when I hear that one word.

As a photographer, there are always places that you want to go to capture images, and you should! I'm not here to say that everyone has photographed these places to death but to remind you to do your research to visit and photograph other locations and have a chance to experience this wonderful area. Here are some ways you can capture your bucket list images, photograph your Tuscany trip and come away with some of the feelings I have for Tuscany.

I always start by doing my research and planning what I want to photograph the most. By doing this research, I know where I will stay and then look for other locations nearby that will give me experiences and photo opportunities I'm looking to achieve. For example, there is a villa named “Belvedere” in the Val d'Orcia region that is probably the most photographed villa in Italy, and I wanted to capture a sunrise photo of Belvedere. There is an excellent hillside town of Montalcieno not far away, and this is the place I booked to stay. It had one of the best views of the valley around the city I have ever seen. Besides being close to Belvedere, the town has a castle, is a great town to explore, and many wineries nearby to visit and taste great wine.

I am an architectural photographer, and doing some investigating, I discovered the very modern Antinori Winery had tours and tasting, and I booked a time for my wife and me to visit. Booking this tour allowed me to combine three of my favorite things: Tasting Chianti wine, visiting modern architecture that was recently completed, and photographing all in the same place. I was able to experience Italy with my wife and come away with some fantastic photographs.

Finding a home base where you can stay and then travel out from can be very relaxing and rewarding, and it allows you to become a part of the culture and experience the area. I once stayed six days in an agriturismo that was walking distance from Monticieno, a small hilltop town. An agriturismo is a farm with suites for rent and is a great way to travel and get a feeling for a place. I had two fantastic experiences by staying here.

The first was a hiking trip with a guide leaving from the back of the farm through a nature preserve and up to an abbey. We had to cross a shallow river, and the guide walked across first with one end of a rope while I held the other end so our group would have something to hold on to as they crossed. Well, everyone, but for me! Once we crossed the river, we walked along with the grapevines and ended up at San Galgano's Abbey. This abbey lost its roof in a fire and is a great place to photograph.

The second is how I was invited into Monticieno's old church's secret room to see the church's artifacts. I walked into town and discovered the old church, and as I was standing there, the caretaker of the church came in. I smiled at him and pointed at my camera to make sure it was all right to take photos. He smiled back at me and said something in Italian, which I didn't understand. He motioned me to follow him. He took me to a side room, which was beautiful to photograph, but he was not finished. He walked to the back of the room, pulled out a set of keys, and opened the door to a secret room that held all the church's artifacts and artwork. This all happened because I smiled and asked permission to take some photos.

I wanted to explain how I research a location before I get on a plane so I can return home with not just photographs but also having rich experiences and memories. I hope this helps you take incredible image, but also to create your own stories and experience this wonderful area called Tuscany.

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