Orvieto – The Recce 2023

May 15, 2023 | Continuous Lighting, Flash, GFX, Location, Travel | 10 comments

Project: To scout locations Identified on Google Earth to check their suitability for shoot locations and to check the accommodation meets exacting standards.
Photographer: Damien Lovegrove
Styling: Damien Lovegrove
Models: Giorgia Pepe, Susanna Fusari, Simona Scalia and Michela Bartolini

Lighting kit: Godox AD400 Pro, Godox AD200 Pro, Various modifiers
Camera kit: Fujifilm GFX50s, GF32-64mm lens, GF80mm lens and GF110mm lens
Workshop page: Lovegrove Adventures Orvieto 2023

The aim for this recce was not only to scout the locations but for me to hone my skills at making believable yet dramatic sunlight with flash. I wanted the light to be fabulous but believable and the great thing about these locations that I have found is there could easily be holes in the roof that would let in sunlight and that was my motivation for several of the shots in this set.

01. Top right: The room with a hole. An iPhone shot of one room in a fabulous abandoned farmhouse. Top left: I used the step up to place Susanna (left) above Simona. I lit them with a single AD200 flash head. Black and white shots: Giorgia Pepe in the same spot a few days later.

Not only does the sunlight come through holes in the roof it comes through windows too and the great thing about working on the Northern side of buildings is I can make the sun come from wherever I want and whenever I want.

02. Top left: An iPhone shot of an empty farm store in the long house.  Bottom left: I used a boom arm to accurately place the AD200 head in the perfect place to simulate sunlight coming through the window. Right: My friend Michela crouched in a pool of light from the AD200. Notice how I have warmed up the light to give that hazy sunlit look. The halation from the window is a result of my Tiffen ½ Black Pro Mist filter.

I’ve known Michela for 10 years or so and we have become good friends. Every time I get the chance to meet up with her I take it and to have two days of shooting together in Orvieto and environs was wonderful. Michela tries to teach me Italian and I love her for that. I’m not a good student though, I have a terrible aptitude for learning languages.

03. Top right: An iPhone shot of a first floor room in an abandoned  farmhouse.  Bottom right: Michela sitting on a plastic bag (out of shot under the skirt)  Left: Michela in the adjacent room. All the shots are lit with the available light. Notice how I shifted the colour temperature to set the mood of each shot. I use the K setting on my GFX50s camera and I set the white balance and tonality in camera at the time of shooting. The White balance set in camera is the one parameter that gets carried through into the post production stage un altered by the software.

There is a lot of traipsing across fields and through woods needed to find these location gems. I looked at over 30 properties to find the six that I needed for my workshop. I’ve got a couple of spare locations too because stuff happens between a recce and a workshop. The iPhone is my friend on a recce and it’s the only camera I take with me when doing the location scouting because it gives me an accurate GPS location and a time stamp including the time zone. I can then plan the shooting days really well to avoid unwanted splashes of sunlight in the wrong places.

04. Top and bottom left: Two rooms of this old house made interesting shoot spots.  Middle left: Michela sitting on stairs lit with a slash of flash from a barn doored AD400. The 400 is new to me so I use a recce as an opportunity to try out the modifiers.  Right: Giorgia Pepé standing on a swept area of the floor and lit with my Godox sunlight. Giorgia is going to be with us for two days of the workshop. She is a fabulous model, kind, patient and with excellent English.

We had a moment to pop in and see The Secret Monastery, one of our fabulous locations. We met the restoration architect on site and he put me in touch with the owner in Milan. A week later we had agreed terms and we are good to go.

05. Top: Giorgia soaking up the sun in the centre of the quad at The Secret Monastery. Bottom Left: Susanna will also be with us for two of the workshop days. I was aiming to replicate sunlight coming through a hole in the roof but was happy to calm it down to a regular fashion shot. Bottom Right: Susanna is in the old olive grove that we will visit on our workshop in September. Believe it or not it took me ages to find the right olive grove to shoot in.

06. Right: An iPhone shot of one cute staircase at the Monastery complete with frescoes. Left: Giorgia looking fabulous at the bottom of the stairs.

07. Top left: An iPhone shot of one dusty room. Middle left: How part of the room looks with just the ambient light when shooting towards the door and window. Bottom left: How the room looks after I have lit it and set the colour balance for the shot. Right: The finished image.

08. Top left: This is a screen grab of my map for the workshop. There were once over 60 pins on points of interest. One by one these got whittled down during the recce process. The area in yellow is mainly the wine region and is sparse of abandoned buildings. Top right: This little tunnel through the rock is 100m from the waterfall and we will shoot portraits here too. Bottom left: Three years ago I checked out this waterfall with a view to incorporating a shoot here into a workshop and now I’ve set that up. At just 40 minutes from our villa near Orvieto, it is ideally placed for an excursion. Bottom right: Before I had even returned I was commissioned to write a cover article for Amateur Photographer magazine. The editor had seen my shot posted on Facebook and we took it from there.

09. There are many ways to shoot in these places. Entering each building is a careful process. I assess everything for safety as some hazards lay hidden in the undergrowth and other are loose roof tiles above my head. Once I’ve done a sweep of the place I do a visual shot plan and weigh up how many potential shots the site has. If it is safe for 6 photographers and a model to work there it gets a change of pin colour on my map.

10. These shots were all lit with flash using various modifiers in my practice process to get me up to speed for my USA tour next week. I need practice, just like anyone else. It doesn’t matter if one plays an instrument or takes pictures, continual practice is necessary to stay on top of the game.

11. This is Susanna, She will be one of our models for two days in Italy this September. I’ve booked Sigrife, a fabulous model from Sweden to be with us for the whole workshop and I intend to set up some intimate shot like this of both models individually and together.

12. This is Sigrife, our resident model in Orvieto. She is beautiful inside and out. Everyone loves Sigrife.

13. These are pictures from my previous workshops in Italy and give you an idea of the style that we will be shooting in September.

I hope you will join us in September. All the information you need is here. Message me if you have any questions.


  1. Paul Carter

    Hi Damien,
    I keep watching the illumination series (and others) of tutorials which I purchased some time ago. Your wedding tutorial was a great help last year. I would love to join you but I am coming towards the end of a renovation project and finances are low. Thank you for sharing.
    I wish you all the very best, I know you and others will make a series of great images.
    Paul Carter

    • Damien

      Thanks for the compliments, Paul :) This will be a wonderful trip indeed.

  2. Peter

    I have been rewatching your Illumination films again and so many of these remind me of you shooting in the dark cellars of that stately home with the oven in. Just about to start waching the lumen ones very soon :) Great photos as always and looks like it will be a fun trip :)

    • Damien

      Thank you, Peter :) I’m really looking forward to this one :)

  3. Graham Millett

    I’ve said it before: you really are damn good at this photography malarky!

    • Damien

      Thank you Graham :)

  4. andrew king

    Stunning images and a fascinating insight into the planning of such a trip. Looks amazing!

    • Damien

      Thank you Andrew :)

      Best regards,


  5. Dave

    Wonderful images Damien, looks like a great adventure.

    Best regards

    • Damien

      Thank you Dave, I think this could be my best workshop ever. :)


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