Tuscany on Film

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My most recent trip to Tuscany was a first of sorts. I took along a film camera and some film to understand why everyone makes such a fuss about film photography. With my Konica Hexar AF camera, I knew at least I would at least get the photos right. In addition to my digital photos, I used up four film rolls, shooting at the same time and locations where I was also using my Leica SL camera. (more…)

Tuscany from the lens of iPhone 8+

I was in Tuscany, Italy recently and had a chance to put the new iPhone 8+ through the paces. While I made a lot of photos with my Leica SL, I wanted to take a moment and share some of the fantastic photos that came out of the iPhone. These photos are a joy — straight JPEGs out of the phone, with my special, presets applied to give them a more uniform feel. The iPhone8+ is a spectacular camera, especially under good light — much less noisy compared to its predecessors. These are handheld shots and you can see the improvement from the early iPhone models in optical stabilization is incredible.

I don’t see any reason why anyone needs a point and shoot, or even a medium priced camera. Most of us don’t print photos. We share and consume photos on digital screens. And if these are good enough to be a desktop background, they are good enough for sharing. For me, smartphone photography is the future. One needs to learn how to make it professional grade by applying skills and not thinking about the camera.

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Tuscany (2014)

Summer 2014 was the first time I took a real vacation and went to Tuscany, Italy. I wasn’t really obsessed with photography the way I am right now, and was using a simple point-and-shoot camera, Sony RX-100 (Mark II).

At that time, I was randomly snapping photos, and was still trying to figure out composition, exposure and light. However, it was during the wee hours of this one morning when I felt that I had found what I was looking for in my photo — mystery of life. I fell in love with the amalgation of “roads, fog and perceived silence of the journey.” Since then, I have been refining that thought process and have endlessly stopped in places unknown to take in the view, make a photo or two, and then carry on.

I converted some of these JPEGs to B&W images using the Nik Software’s Silver EFx Pro 2 software and then asked two of my photographer friends – Kevin Scott and Mark Kawano to pick their favorites from about 15 photos. The top three were picked by both Mark and Kevin.

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…Mark liked these…

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… and Kevin liked these…

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Made with Sony RX-100 MK11. Converted to B&W with Silver EFx Pro2 

Abandoned

On our drive back from Siena, we decided to take a scenic route through Tuscany’s famous vineyards, driving on what the English call the backroads. The dirt track snaked through little hamlets, olive groves, pocket vineyards and overgrowth. It curled up the hills and slithered down some, over a babbling brook and a dried river bed. SP 102 wasn’t the fastest way to travel, but it turned out to be the prettiest. Somehow, it managed to make a magical place even more magical.

As we were rolling along, just out of nowhere, but close to the town of Radda in the Chianti region, we came across an abandoned house made of stone. From the road you could just see this ruin, shyly peeking out of from beneath the thick brush and a covering forest that had been left to rampage. It made a wonderful sight — striking enough for us to stop, pull out our iPhones, and go snap, snap, snap.

Then, curiosity got the better of us. We climbed up the steep incline to the front door, draped by thick cobwebs that looked to be a decade old. Once free of these webs, we walked in, only to be surprised by the interior. Although from the outside the house looked old, it was quite modern inside.

A large earthen pot, a writing desk covered in an inch think dirt, a single chair with a pretty and colorful scarf. And steel stairs that led to the second floor, and an unfinished bathroom. On the top floor a broken sofa slumped on its side, stark against the crumbling roof. The abandoned house was dark, with reflected light from the outside as our only illumination. There was a door that opened into a backyard overrun with weeds and wildflowers. You could tell the forest was winning this battle of bits.

Soon it was time to go — the place gave me the creeps, and, frankly, I didn’t want to deal with bugs and chance of brushing up against poison ivy.

Now, nearly a year has passed and I still think about the villa. What happened there? Why did someone leave it unfinished? Did they run out of money? Did they run out of patience? Did something sinister happen there? It is rather strange that some place you can’t even find again on the map becomes part of your memory. That abandoned house, I guess, isn’t really abandoned.