Photographic Road Trip II: Tuscany
by D.J. De La Vega – His Flickr HERE
It has been over a year since my photogenic adventure, traveling around New York State. The itch once again had to be scratched so I set off on another deliberately photogenic road trip, this time around Tuscany, Italy. The age old dilemma about which camera and kit to take had been put to bed a long time ago and as was now accustom, I set off with just my trusty and arguably antique Leica X1. The only thing that has changed with my steadfast companion is that the X1 has now been converted to “travel mode”: i.e. for this journey I have removed the viewfinder and grip to make it as portable as possible and I have it wrapped in the fantastic JnK half leather case. I can not recommend this style of case highly enough. They make what is undoubtedly a delicate camera sturdy and robust, allowing you to be a lot more gung-ho!
With the little Leica hanging from my neck, sufficiently protected in its trendy leather jacket my plane landed in Pisa. I had heard a few mixed reports about Pisa, mostly playing down how much there was to see and do aside from the Cathedral and “Leaning Tower”. Undoubtedly the main tourist attractions, (the Cathedral, Baptistery and Bell Tower) are the highlight of the compact city center, and deservedly so. They are a triumph of medieval / Romanesque architecture and are endlessly photogenic. However as I previously talked about in my first road trip article, at such iconic places, it’s hard to get a result different to that of any postcard readily available within 10 yards of said attraction.
I like to engage in a mix of photographic genres in these circumstances. A few “postcard” keepers and then explore more thoroughly the environment with a fusion of documentary and street photography. At this point I have to reiterate how perfect the X1 is for this kind of work, if anyone out there is in the market for a small high quality compact, you can pick these things up for buttons second hand and IMHO they still wipe the floor image quality-wise with many/most shiny new cameras and they come with a free red dot that gives a pride of ownership nothing can compete with 🙂
Apologies, now firmly off my pedestal, I continued on my journey… From Pisa I jumped on a train south to Sienna. I promised Steve I would keep this article short and sweet so I will try not go into the historical and cultural ins and outs of each place, just briefly comment on a few of the photographic opportunities that presented themselves to me in each location.
As the day progressed, the sun’s rays struggle to work its way through the towering architecture to fully illuminate any given subject. I was drawn to the lines and shadows this created by and chased the last glorious beams of the day to this secluded and peaceful square behind the Duomo.
I also found at night the wonderfully illuminated sculptures and buildings contrasted magnificently with their formerly sun lit/shadowy selves.
So far I had traveled by plane and train so it was now time for the obligatory automobile. A cramped but worthwhile bus ride to an outstanding hill top town called San Gimignano was next on the agenda. This small, walled, medieval town was a fantastic place to walk the winding cobbled streets with a camera at hand. I found the surrounding scenery to be as equally enjoyable as the well preserved towers and buildings perched precariously atop the hilly landscape, reaching for the sky.
The next day, more buses and trains ensued and the birthplace of the Renaissance and the capital city of Tuscany was next on my list: Florence. They say Florence has more great works of art per capita than anywhere in the world and you can readily see this wherever you explore. An endless array of beautiful paintings sculptures and architecture is the reward for your endeavours.
I found Florence to have a different ambiance to the other places I had visited so far. It is more of a working, busy city and less of a tourist filled, pristine world heritage site. This helped me remove my postcard hat and focus more on street photography.
From Florence to Lucca, I began to see a see a theme developing in my images. There were arches of all descriptions dispersed all around Tuscany, begging to frame subjects for me.
Lucca is another walled medieval city, masterfully preserved and awash with a labyrinth of cobbled streets. Unfortunately for me and my X1, at this time on my travels, torrential rain had set in. This made for a few interesting street captures, but mostly it made for stopping indoors with my now close acquaintance Birra Moretti.
The only time the sun managed to bless me with its presence, I grabbed one last shot of the Piazza Amphitheatro. This is the main square in Lucca, and remarkably for a square, its oval. I could not get over how magical the scene was as the sun lit up the glorious colours of the buildings in the Piazza, whilst the black stormy clouds still lurked ominously in the distance.
Those awesome clouds, as beautiful as they were evil… Continuously threatening me and my X1 with their hellish watery cargo. After that final ray of light in the Piazza, there was no further let up in the rain. That unfortunately and abruptly brought my time in Lucca to an end, and to complete the round trip of Tuscany, I returned to Pisa to fly home. My only thoughts were now of where my next adventure may be… I hear Bavaria makes nice beer 🙂
Thanks for reading, and thanks to Steve again for the privilege of sharing my thoughts and shots on his awesome site!
What wonderful pictures! My husband and I just booked our Tuscan villa rentals for the spring. We are so excited to finally be able to take the kids to such a beautiful place. We cannot wait to see some of the best history in the world. Thanks so much for sharing your pictures.
Fantastic shots love them all
WOW. Some really nice travel photos. Any of them ooc jpg from X1? Or all of them are RAW? Thanks
All Raw… Thanks for the nice comments everyone! 🙂
I think Leica would be more than a little shocked to hear the X1 described as an antique. You have certainly made a very nice photo essay with the help of this camera. Lovely to see a snip it of Italy again, such a wonderful country. I think I’ll save my coins for the fountain and put up with my ancient FX100 and D7000 for a while yet
i’ve been there a few weeks ago and shot mostly the same things …
And the beer will make you shoot better images.
Amazing pictures. You could shot great images with any camera. The camera doesn’t matter.
Great pics, love most of them with a slight preference for the last one.
Nice photos, and a good reminder that Umbria is prettier than Tuscany as most Italians will tell us.
Thanks for the kind words everyone and a big thanks whole heartedly to Steve for his great work on this amazing site and the chance to share my work on it.
Merry Christmas everyone and here’s hoping for a great 2013 to Steve and his loyal readers!
All the best 🙂
Wonderful, so absolutely wonderful. I could look at these shots again and again (indeed I’ve done so). I too have an X1 and think the IQ beyond compare. One thing though puzzles me a little; wasn’t it very difficult to use in strong sunlight, like most modern cameras the lcd screen pretty useless, and, for me on many occasions very trying. So, I’m about to buy the X2 complete with EVF. Can’t wait!!
That is the awesomest dump of photos I’ve ever seen on this site. I’d call that one very very successful trip!
DJ……bringing back some memories here. I travelled to Florence, Siena and The Cinque Terra in 2008. Great story and photos. Well done.
great report – thank you!
I love the shots around a city centre fountain. Watching all those sitting there. It always makes me wonder just what they are waiting for. Will the fountain explode with water or wine? I bet it is wine.
What a great trip. I hope you had as much fun as your photographs are “wonderful”. Thanks for taking the time to write the short essay and send them to Steve.
Yes, I know how to spell “wonderful” well enough; it is typing and proof-reading that fail…
Thanks for sharing your wonderul images!
Thanks D.J. What a masterful presentation. A wonderful Christmas present!
This is a wonderful series of photos! Thanks for sharing. May have to consider the X2 as a go to travel camera.
thanks for the article and the images!
if i ever move back to europe, tuscany is very high on my list of favorite places where to live, wonderful region.
you are right about the X1 as well; i used to have one and sold it – i thought it was redundant next to my M8 but i was wrong; i no longer have the M8 now, but i just bought an X2 again (and ALWAYS use it with a viewfinder, either optical or electronic, the ONE thing i did not like about the X1 was the lack of built in VF, i cannot shoot without one – i even got rid of the excellent RX100 for that reason alone!).
p.s.: SIena is spelt with one N 🙂
Great shots , the x1 has taken many trips with me and is second only to my M9 ,two of the finest
cameras I have ever worked with