Siena is a classic Italian hilltop city steeped in history and bathed in golden sunlight. Here are 18 photographs of my friend Michela shot on the streets of this magical medieval city in the heart of Tuscany. It was 31°C and there were quite a few tourists around on the main streets so we kept out of their way on the far more glorious backstreets.
1. I love the textures, details and stonework in Siena. The play of light is fascinating to watch and changes happen so quickly when the angle of sunlight to the walls is acute. Within a minute or two, our light had changed.
The event: Day 3 of 5 on my Tuscany adventure workshop 2019
Location: The back streets of Siena, away from the crowds
Model: Michela Bartolini or LaMico, a friend of mine from Rimini
Photographs: Damien Lovegrove
Camera: Fujifilm GFX50s, GF32-64mm and GF110mm lenses
Post-production: Capture One (no use of skin softening or body reshaping software)
2. Michela has a fun, bubbly character that is a joy to capture. I chose this doorway for a shoot because of the reflected sunlight and the patina. I love how Siena’s stone and woodwork match Michela’s hair and skin tone.
3. The tourists were loitering in the shadows, keeping out of the afternoon sunlight, so we had this area to ourselves.
4. Classic tunnel lighting can be found all over Siena if you know where to look. There are a thousand years of decay and wear on the walls of the city and I love it. The stone is a rich, dark earthen tone and has become blackened in places with ingrained dirt. My paintbox as a child had a paint called burnt Sienna and I loved its deep ochre. I guess that is one of the factors that brought me to Siena for the first time thirty years ago.
5. Left: Italian towns are often situated on prominent hills. This was to make them easier to defend in the first instance. When the cities expanded the buildings continued down the hill and so many steep roads and alleyways now exist. Right: The city has many iron rings set into the stone walls, convenient places to tie up your horse.
6. I used beautiful natural light in a classic two-point lighting style for these closer portraits of Michela.
7. Even the steps beside the Duomo were bathed in beautiful light and free from tourists who preferred to walk on the shady side.
8. Left: The shadows are everything in this picture. I showed my group how I work with extreme contrast to preserve the shadow information often letting the highlights go. Right: I just love this kind of light and texture. It makes a picture in its own right for me. Some of my clients didn’t like the graffiti but to me, it just adds to the layers of life in the city walls. It will fade away in time. The marble plaque with the street name inscription is beautiful.
9. Siena is a city of horses and each year plays host to the ancient barebacked horse race called the Palio. Julie and I were lucky enough to see the race 10 years ago and it was a fabulous spectacle. The colours of the Contrada and the sound of thousands of spectators crammed into the central area of the Piazza del Campo was magical.
I’ve done many workshops in Siena over the past 10 years or so and now it’s time to move on. My 2020 adventure will be 4 days of mainly shooting in a few wonderful tucked away abandoned villas and farmhouses in the South of Tuscany. We have a fabulous luxury villa to call home for the event complete with infinity pool, formal gardens, and olive groves. All the details will be revealed very soon. If you would like to be kept in the loop about our workshops and adventures please subscribe here.