Val d’Orcia, Province of Siena, Tuscany, Italy by Michael Thomas

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Picture Story

During a trip to Italy several years ago, my wife and I spent almost a week in Tuscany. While much of the time was spent visiting and photographing Tuscan hill towns, I made allowance for a couple of days photographing the landscapes of the Val d'Orcia including the famous farmhouse, Belvedere, and its fields. The first morning I photographed this scene, the sky was clear blue with not a cloud in sight. The second morning things were a good deal more interesting. Fog filled the adjacent valleys and obscured many of the buildings and farm operations that dot the area.

I have always enjoyed looking at compressed landscapes shot with a long lens, but the places I normally visit tend not to be suited to the technique. Not so Tuscany. The scenes of rolling hills echoing into the distance are a natural subject for this approach. After capturing the scene with a wide-angle lens, I switched to a telephoto lens and started looking for interesting patterns and abstracts. In this composition, I like the fact that the shape of the first and third as well as the second and fourth hills echo each other. The fog itself appears in several strata, providing a vertical element to the scene.

We stayed in San Quirico d'Orcia which is only a five minute hop to the classic view of Belvedere. Two kilometers down the road is the view of the Vitaleta Chapel, another Tuscan jewel. San Quirico is a lovely, quiet town with bits of interesting architecture and not too touristy. If you’re willing to get up a bit earlier, Pienza is about twenty minutes away. We visited in late September, so the fields had just been harvested and plowed for the next season’s crop. Except for the vineyards, the colors were mostly muted earth tones, which I found especially pleasing at dusk. Alternately one could visit in late spring when wild flowers, including poppies are in bloom. Someday I would like to return to witness that.

Because the sunrise is off to the left of frame, only a single exposure was needed. Minimal processing in Lightroom was applied, primarily a gradient filter to bring the sky brightness in to balance with the land.


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