Back in January, Chris Hanley and I hatched a plan to revisit Tuscany and create a magical workshop experience. Getting the right balance of learning, fun and friendship was always important for us and after a bit of juggling we finally had the right delegates we needed for this momentous event. Here are 58 of my Tuscan portraits…
01. A fabulous pot and a few spikey plants.
After some prolonged Internet searching Blaise, my PA came up with the perfect villa for us to rent. It is set high on a Tuscan hillside with commanding views overlooking the town of Borgo. The villa came with a chef and Peter the ever smiling fixer for whom nothing was ever too much trouble. Other key features were the wine cellar and the 17th c frescoes.
02. I lit my model with a Lupo 800 fresnel spotlight and my magic water reflector.
When Chris and I arrived the day before the delegates there were already three Lupo spotlights and their stands waiting for us kindly provided by Aldo Lupo himself. All the photography for the whole trip was lit with available or continuous lighting. Chris used a Panelite reflector and I used Lupos and a smaller oval reflector and holder. There was not a Speedlight or flash head in sight.
03. A few of the rooms I shot in were fairly grand by most people's standards.
04. This Chaise Longue sequence was the first set up of the two days. Our model who shall remain anonymous spoke good English and took direction well.
05. My 100mm macro lens on my Canon 5Dmk2 is perfect for close ups.
Continuous light really is the way forward for interior portraits with easy high key and low key capabilities available from a single spotlight. Both Chris Hanley and I own Lupos and use them all the time in our day to day shoots. If the weather was poor we could have both shot interiors with the Lupos, but the weather was fabulous and so Chris shot all his bridal and cocktail dress portraits out and about in the splendid gardens of the villa and the local village streets. That left me with our 13 bedroom mansion to shoot in.
06.Lit with a Lupo 1200 and my unique doily attachment.
07. I directed some of the classic Lovegrove poses looking down and to the side.
08. We had various changes of mood in our pictures throughout the two days.
Chris was shooting bridal portraits and cocktail dress portraits outside while I shot Lingerie, boudoir and Femme Fatale™ style portraits inside. I’ll blog Chris’ shots next. It’s great that we shot different genres in different locations with different models because we are so competitive. The delegates swapped tutors and models once in the morning and once in the afternoon and Chris and I repeated our sessions so that everyone had the chance to capture all the shots.
09. Francesca and I found a secret passage and I thought we could shoot a portrait in there. This was lit with ambient light and captured on my Fuji X100. I used the Fuji for so many of these shots, it doesn't need me to point them all out. Suffice to say it performed equally as well as any of the DSLRs in the groups. It's a low light miracle worker with it's image stabilised f/2 lens.
10. The Tuscans love stripes. I used my 21mm Zeiss lens to pull the ceiling into my shot.
11. The fabulous windows were crying out for a shot. I used a reflected Lupo 1200 to lift the room a little.
12. Shutters and reflections.
13. There were various exposures that worked well with this contre jour set up.
14. We shot in this room all morning on day one. We could have shot in the villa for a week with all the picture opportunities that presented themselves.
15. Our model was lit with a Lupo 800. You can see the shadow of her legs on the wall. This pose and expression screams 'don't mess with me or I'll make you pay the price'.
16. We went into one of the bedrooms to shoot some low key shots with just one Lupo. I closed the curtains and shutters and used my doily attachment on a Lupo 800 for this moody shot.
17. Some interesting shadows were created by the Lupo 800 by careful placement of the light and my models legs.
18. Exposing these shots can't be left to the camera so we all shot in manual and I showed how to get the exposure spot on. I lifted the mood with some random burst of hilarity to create the moment to capture on my Fuji X100.
19. I then showed my key and kick lighting technique with just one light. These Lupo spotlights are so versatile when their potential is understood.
20. We wern't frescoed out yet so I set up some shots in this fabulous bedroom. The patterned tights came from Claires Accessories in Bristol.
21. The lingerie and clothes were the model's own. I took this close up while the rest of the delegates were capturing the shot above.
22. Simple direction and a tighter crop instantly changes the mood of the shot.
23. This shot is very French.
24. In the morning session of day two we were in my bedroom at the villa. I used the Lupo 1200 to create a shaft of sunlight and I employed a mosquito net to provide a visual partial barrier.
29. Shot on the Fuji with a high viewpoint.
30. I love upside down poses
31. A reveal shot framed our model's face perfectly
32. I showed the delegates how important it is to create a real sense of fun, even with the most challenging of circumstances.
33. For this sequence of pictures I've moved the Lupo into a back light role creating a shaft of sunlight from behind.
34. My work relies on a rapport and a dynamic interaction to create moments of real fun to capture. Split second timing is essential to capture that moment so I prefocus and then switch to manual focus mode so I can react instantly.
35. This series of shots is perfect for a multi frame product for a client's bedroom or a small album for their partner.
36. Variety from each lighting set up is the key to profitable sales.
37. Capturing high key, advertising grade images in the bedroom is my current quest. The lighting is straightforward, and the shooting system is not complicated either, it's the injection of energy and direction of the subject that makes a shot. I'll be sharing all my secrets in my upcoming UK based 'Femme Fatale' workshops.
38. The wider view from my Fuji X100. I love the bed scroll on the right. None of these pictures have been liquefied or pinched. They have been spot cleaned and processed as straight colour or monochrome images. I've even kept the velous hair and all the details that make the pictures real. I've not edited eyebrows but we have removed a tattoo because these pictures are not for a client. I love the way her knickers and bra strap pinch her body - it's so easy these days for too much Photoshop to ruin pictures.
39. High key or low key shots here depended upon our exposure and post production choices. I encouraged everyone to experiment and develop their own shooting style. I lit our model with reflected sunlight.
40. We explored alternative crops too.
42. This is the same reflected lighting and model position as in the shot above but taken through some foliage from outside.
43. A sense of mystery and intrigue is created with a covered mouth.
44. After lunch and much discussion were back outside for the afternoon session.
45. I lit this shot with available light.
46. I love the way that the grubby and flakey walls are just so perfect in Italy. We had such intense interaction at this stage of the shoot.
47. Walls so bad they are good again.
48. 'Throw your head back and feel passion" Was my direction for this Fuji shot
49. For the last session of the day we headed to the olive grove en masse with Caroline (Chris' bride) and all the delegates. These gloves were from Claires Accessories in Bristol too.
52. The last rays of sunlight.
53. Notice how the 100mm lens bokeh encircles the scene. It's like no other optic I know.
57. Snakes in the grass?
58. Beautiful bokeh.
So there you have half the pictures from this most amazing photography experience. Chris Hanley’s set are simply sensational and I’ll be posting them next. The fun certainly didn’t finish at sundown. There was fine wine, fine food and fine company around the old oak table in the kitchen. The log fire and candles set the mood and there were times when we laughed so much it hurt. As life experiences go this week in Tuscany was priceless. If you want advanced notice of our next adventure please email Blaise to be sure you are on the list. These events sell out in hours.
A few of us went onto Pisa for a strret portrait shoot the following day and I’ll blog those very soon. Please feel free to comment on these pictures.