22 Apr 2015

Under the Tuscan sun

I've just returned from another highly productive workshop in Tuscany. We were blessed with great weather all week, with misty mornings and colourful sunsets. We timed it just right this year with the fresh spring foliage and blossom erupting just as we arrived. As usual we concentrated on the area of Tuscany just south of Siena from our base in the beautiful Val d'Orcia.

Of course we took the classic views like the Belvedere at dawn, winding cypress tree-lined roads and the church at Montepulciano. However, on all my landscape workshops I like to spend at least one day searching for new locations. For one reason this helps my clients see how I find new compositions in the landscape and for another it means they don't go away with all the same images as the rest of my groups. This year we discovered a fantastic area of rolling hills which looked great in low angled sunlight at the end of the day. This region (shown below) will definitely become a regular location for future workshops!

We also explored several of Tuscany's ancient medieval towns and villages, including Siena, Pienza and Pitigliano. These towns have some beautiful old churches with many frescos on the interior walls. They are also great places for detail shots such as doorways, windows, stone carvings and shop fronts.

When we first arrived I was a little concerned that it was too dry for mist to form overnight, but I need not have worried. The ground was obviously still wet beneath so even though we had no rain during the trip, most mornings dawned misty. It was always a relief to see a heavy dew on the van at 5.30am each morning!

Most of the images shown here were taken using the Canon 7DmkII. So far I've been extremely impressed by this camera. When taking the same scene with both the 7DmkII and the 5DmkIII (using a zoom lens to achieve exactly the same framing), the detail recorded in the files looks very similar. This is the first Canon APS-C camera body that I've been truely impressed by, especially as I feel it can compete quite favourably with the current full frame cameras. For those on a slightly tighter budget this is a true general purpose camera capable of delivering very high quality images. The best thing about the 7DmkII is the sensor and it's lack of pattern noise, something that has plagued Canon sensors in the past and can be a real headache for landscape photographers in particular. This gives me high hopes for the upcoming 5DS/r!

The image below was taken using the Canon EF100-400mm f4-5.6L IS II set to 400mm with no extender or extension tube. The close focusing ability of this lens is very useful and, although this is the first time I've used it for wildflower photography, it seems to deliver good results close to its minimum focusing distance. I will be conducting more thorough tests throughout the spring and will provide the second part of my lens review in my new newsletter (which you can subscribe to HERE).

I'm now heading off to New Zealand to speak at the PSNZ National Convension. After a brief explore of both islands I will be back to run my Yorkshire Dales workshop next month.

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