Photographs from Tuscany

In the third of a series of articles on travel photography, Senior Travel Expert Photo Editor, John Esser, shows some of his photographs from Tuscany with advice on how to get those extra special shots. 

Tuscany - Duomo and Leaning Tower, Pisa
1. Duomo and Leaning Tower, Pisa

I have recently returned from a rather hectic, short trip to Tuscany which took in Pisa, Siena, Florence and a number of hill towns.

Tuscany abounds with photo-opportunities, but as this was a holiday and not a photo expedition, I confined my equipment to a Canon Powershot G16 compact camera. The combination of fast f1.8 lens, raw capture and high level of user control make the G16 a very capable travel camera.

Photographing the major sights at the height of the tourist season isn’t a relaxing experience and pleasing images can be difficult to obtain. It is not unusual to find photographers queueing up to take snaps of iconic buildings, indeed many support their cameras on poles to take pictures over the heads of others.

Campo and Torre del Mangia, Siena
2. Campo and Torre del Mangia, Siena

Image 1 is of the Duomo (Cathedral) and famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. A degree of patience was required to obtain an unobscured view of the buildings – the combination of deep blue sky and white stone have lifted the scene to produce a pleasing record shot.

3. Inside the Duomo, Siena
3. Inside the Duomo, Siena

Image 2 is of the famous Campo and Torre del Mangia (inspiration for Grimsby’s Royal Dock tower) in Siena.

Taking the picture from an elevated position has helped achieve a balanced composition and sets the scene within its wider context.

Image 3 was taken inside Siena’s Duomo. Flashguns and tripods are quite rightly forbidden inside the cathedral and the low light levels can present a significant technical challenge to the photographer.

For this picture I set a ‘film’ speed of ISO 800 and underexposed the scene by 1 stop. This seems to have revealed sufficient detail whilst avoiding camera shake. Trial and error is the best course of action in these conditions.

Image 4 is of the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. I zoomed in on the bridge and boats to eliminate external clutter and hopefully achieve a tranquil atmosphere.

4. Ponte Vecchio in Florence
4. Ponte Vecchio in Florence

Image 5 is a grab shot of a wedding party passing through the Piazza Della Signoria. (Click on the four thumbnails following to see the full images.)

5. Wedding party
5. Wedding party
6. Flag waving
6. Flag waving

Wandering off the beaten track in Siena, I came across the two boys in Image 6 practising flag waving for a festival. Including people in the scene often adds local flavour  and interest to travel shots.

7. Doorway of the Palazzo dei Cavalieri
7. Doorway Palazzo dei Cavalieri
8. Street market
8. Street market in Pisa

Image 7 is again a grab shot, this time of a woman relaxing outside the doorway of the Palazzo dei Cavalieri in Pisa.

The juxtaposition of the woman and statue adds a touch of humour to the image.

Street markets (Image 8) are great locations for travel photographers, providing colour and local atmosphere.

Image 9 shows the medieval city of San Gimignano surrounded by vineyards. The towers were built by wealthy local families in the 13th century as symbols of power. I have applied the rule of thirds to obtain a balanced composition.

9. Medieval city of San Gimignano
9. Medieval city of San Gimignano

Image 10 illustrates how luck can play a part in travel photography. The rainbow, which only lasted a couple of minutes, nicely sets off the distant city of Siena.

10. Rainbow near Siena
10. Rainbow near Siena

Travel Details

I travelled to Pisa by easyJet from Luton, having stayed overnight at the Holiday Inn Express. Being a retired senior traveller, I was able to travel on cheaper mid-week flights, see: Fly on a Tuesday! – Travel tip.

I booked my hire car with Firefly through Holiday Autos with full excess cover through Car Hire Excess Insurance. My main accommodation was at a Holiday Property Bond apartment in Stigliano, but I also stayed at the Hotel Bologna in Pisa at an excellent rate obtained via the trivago price comparison site.

As an EU citizen over 65 get I was able to get free or reduced entry to many historical sites and museums in Tuscany, although this did not apply to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

See also the first article in this series by John Esser, which gave advice on equipment the senior traveller should take to get the best photographs when travelling abroad, and the second article, Photographs in Languedoc.