Michaela Bartolini on the streets of Siena

Oct 3, 2018 | Continuous Lighting, Flash, GFX, Location, Travel | 14 comments

01. The walls of Siena are scarred by the transport of ages. The light scoots down the alleyways. One minute it’s there the next it’s gone.

Model: Michaela Bartolini
Camera: Fujifilm GFX50s with GF 32-64mm and GF 110mm lenses
Location: Siena, Tuscany
Shoot: A 1:1 training session and creative shoot with a top client from the UK.
Info: 2019 5 day tour of Tuscany details here.

Michaela and I first shot together in Rimini back in 2013. We had so many laughs with our mutual friend Maria Teresa Romolo. What a wonderful name that is. My name in Italian is Damiano. I love it. We were not taking life too seriously, instead we were driving our energy into making beautiful photographs. Our next adventure took us to Craco near Matera. Wow, what a place. Watch this short film I made using a Phantom 2 drone.

02. Connection, radiance and Italian passion combine beautifully in these captures of Michaela.

I first shot in Siena back in 2009 when I did a series of workshops called “Passion on the streets” of Siena. I’ve loved the dark gritty, ochre pigmented walls and vibrant buzz ever since my visit in 1996. Not a lot has changed. It’s just as wonderful a place to sip a Moretti while watching the play of light on the cobbles in Piazza Del Campo as it was back then. The textures are wonderful and brought to relief in the crisp hard sunlight that bathes this Italian town.



04. Into the light

Shooting in the Siena sun requires guts and discipline. It’s a brutally contrasty, crisp, light that takes no prisoners. The rewards are spectacular portraits with drama and lots of oomph. The dark walls reflect virtually nothing. The walls in Santorini are a pure white and fill the shadows nicely. Shooting there is a easy by comparison.

05. I wandered through a doorway and came across this wonderful stairway. We set up quietly as I could hear voices upstairs. I used a tripod as I always do and the lighting was reflected sunlight.


06. The Fujifilm Acros G film profile applied in Lightroom has a magical look for portraits.


07. Throughout the city there are these steps/ seats that were once used for mounting horses. Siena is the home of the world famous Palio horse race. I wanted to compress the perspective here for this very simple but visually striking two dimensional image.

I walk the streets always heading towards the sun. The layout of this hilltop masterpiece makes it easy to set out a circular route. One minute the sun is on the wall, the next its on the pavement. The light is ever changing in Siena.

08. It was so bright I couldn’t see a thing until I put my eye to the tilting viewfinder of the GFX50s. This new age medium format camera by Fujifilm really is easy to use.





The dynamic range of the Fujifilm GFX50s files is so great it’s almost cheating using this camera. Instead of struggling to control the contrast I can relax in the knowledge the shadows are rich with information. I set my shadow tone in camera to -2 to show me the amount of data lurking in the shadows.



12. We came across a scooter and I couldn’t resist a shot.


13. Another scooter was parked in a fabulously lit alleyway. Everywhere you turn in Siena there is studio grade lighting to be utilised.


14. Layers upon layers of fabulous art, texture and history line the walls of Siena.


15. You take the high road. I lit Michaela with a Godox AD200 with the Fresnel head.


16. The GF 110mm f/2 lens wide open is the perfect portrait optic if you like bokeh.


17. Crumbling walls and textures of ages look great in Siena but would get complaints from the neighbours in my town, Bristol.








21. Stepping out.

I love the simplicity of monochrome however I get that same simplicity in the colour palette of Siena. No blues, greens, reds. Just gorgeous yellows and ochres. I remember a paint colour in my painting days called burnt Siena. I loved it then and I love it now.





24. I love the little pictures above the door. The flashes of light on the right are sublime too.

It’s always a pleasure to shoot with friends. Thank you Michaela. Until the next time.


Join me in Siena in 2019 where I’ll unlock the secrets to seeing the light and creating magic pictures in the most challenging of lighting conditions. We will enjoy the delights of fine cuisine, wine and forge new lifelong friendships with fellow photographers. These trips are inspiration overload driven by passion for photography. Unlock your potential on my 2019 Tuscany adventure featuring Michaela in Siena and many other shoots.


  1. Steve Davies

    Stunning as always

    • Damien

      Thank you Steve :)

      Cheers, Damien.

  2. Graham Jackson

    These are truly stunning images, the detail in the shadows are amazing.

    • Damien

      Thank you Graham,

      The shadow detail looks even better in print. I’m so pleased with the post production look I’m getting right now from the GFX files although I’m about to start the relearning process with Capture One.

      Kindest regards,


  3. Jim Merchant

    Stunning images, great use of location, model and available light

    • Damien

      Thank you Jim for the compliments :)


  4. Rob Wheatman

    Great set of images, you can almost smell the streets and feels the heat of Tuscany

    • Damien

      Thank you Rob,

      Every time I go to Siena it gets better. Maybe I’ve become better at seeing or my camera is better but whatever it is this shoot ticked all my boxes.

      Thanks for your kind words.


  5. Steve Bazley

    Great images Damien; love the simplicity & the light.

    • Damien

      Cheers Steve.

      I’m always looking to simplify an image without loosing the narrative. Your kind compliments are very welcome indeed.

      Kindest regards,


    • Damien

      Thank you David. Tuscany provided the light, Siena the textures, LaMico the beauty and I just pressed the button :)

      Thanks for your continued support and encouragement.


    • Damien

      Thank you Garry :)


Ask a question or leave a comment. All comments get a reply.