Our first location of the trip was to a farmhouse and villa set in a secluded valley about 1km from a gravel road and 10km from Volterra. It’s the sort of place you would never come across by chance. I found it on Google Earth four years ago and have been going back ever since. As we walked down the overgrown track under an imposing mountain we released the wonderful fragrance of wild herbs. The villa was inherited by two brothers who couldn’t decide what to do with it, they fell out with each other and eventually, the villa fell into disrepair.
01. Terez wears a dress I bought in Morocco. I first placed Terez in the sunlight and explained to my guests how to expose the shot to hold the shadow detail and then I set Terez in the shade lit only by reflected sunlight and we created much brighter images
02. I used the Lupo Superpanel to light Terez here. You can see this lighting set up in my BTS (behind the scenes) movie at the end of this blog post. I kept the wooden horse saddle bracket on the wall to the left of the shot in the picture because it is real and adds to the scene. I’ve often been criticised for not cloning out stuff or retouching people in my pictures, but I love real. What you see in my work represents what I captured in-camera. This is especially so with the white balance. That’s the one parameter that makes it into the post-production application untouched by the process of building previews.
03. Lit using the Lupo Superpanel dual colour as above.
Camera: GFX 50s
Lenses: GF 32-64mm f/4 and 110mm f/2
Tripod: Novo T20 in carbon with an RRS ball head
Below is another part of the same villa location it is a big animal shed with arched roof supports and wonderful textured walls. The small windows were overgrown with brambles, but let in just enough light to see our way around. I use a tripod for all my shots and this came in handy here when working with the GF 32-64mm lens at f/4.
04. I bought the harvest gold dress from British designer Molly Mishi May some years ago. It’s a heavy dress to carry around, but I love the way it hangs.
05. I warmed up the white balance a notch using the K setting on my GFX camera and zoomed out to include the vaulting. Terez is standing in the path of illumination from the overgrown window.
06. For my monochrome work, I use the Acros G film simulation in-camera. This automatically carries across into Capture One. I’m still getting to grips with C1 and I’ve got a bit more training still to do.
07. I bought the hat from a street vendor in Sienna a few days before our shoot as I love to use hats to add mystery or anonymity to a shot.
08. Natural lighting is wonderful when it’s controlled. When I choose to use my own lighting I recreate what I have seen and experienced in naturally lit scenes like this.
09. I had a few days of recce with Terez before my workshop/adventure and we went to all the abandoned villas and locations to check them out for safety and suitability. Here are a few pictures from the recce. I revisited these spots with Martina Bellacima and my guests a week later. (That shoot will be the subject of my next blog post).
10. I love solitude and with it a figure in a scene. Terez takes up less than 10% of the frame here yet seems well proportioned. Photographs like this look fabulous as big prints.
11. I set Terez low in the frame directed her to place her arms between her legs and somehow this gave me a feeling of regression to childhood. Her head held high shows confidence and the slight tilt a vulnerability. When I use a tripod I have the time to figure all this stuff out. The framing is set, the lighting is set, the exposure is set and that just leaves me to concentrate on the subject.
12. I provide dresses for my shoots because I don’t mind them being trashed if needed to get the shot. The GF32-64mm lens at 32mm is great for including negative space in a picture. It’s my most used lens for portraits by far.
13. Our Next location was an abandoned hilltop town. The road is overgrown, but mown occasionally to keep everything in check. The graves in the churchyard are carefully maintained too. Apart from that, there is no sign of any other presence as these buildings are left to crumble.
14. The church entrance is swept, the doors are bolted shut and it lies awaiting the day it can be used once again. This location is also on my BTS video at the end of this blog post.
15. We shot inside in the heat of the day. It reached 31°C (88 f) in the afternoon sunlight and dropped to a pleasant 18°C in the evenings.
16. I showed my guests how I shoot high key Contre-jour portraits. I let white be white by increasing the exposure until the shot is screaming and I knock it back a notch. If you are not brave enough with the exposure at the taking stage, skintones become muddy and mottled.
17. The light from the door in shots 15 above.
18. As the sun started to set we walked through the fields and olive groves shooting as we went.
19. I rented a GF250mm lens for the trip and it got used a few times in the countryside.
20. Terez catches the last rays of sunlight as she sits on the gravel track that runs down through our villa’s plot.
21. How is your Italian? Poetry looks great on the page in any language. GF250mm lens at f/5.6
22. “Have you ever danced on a bale of hay?” I asked.
23. When we saw these sunglasses in Siena we knew just the shot to use them for. I bought the dress in the UK at top fashion house Primani.
Here is a behind the scenes video from this shoot showing the relaxed fun nature of a Lovegrove Adventure…
Join me for the 2020 Tuscany adventure. We will be venturing to the south of Tuscany to a newly refurbished villa that we will call home for five nights. We will photograph Italian models in the fabulous countryside and newly discovered abandoned farmhouses and villas. These trips create lifetime memories and develop lasting friendships. All the information is here.