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So our friend here is a retired architect from Milan. We asked him to spend the day with us as a model, and although he doesn’t speak much english, he quickly become a favorite of every lady in the group.

What is it about Italian men?!

These are some of my favorite images from our portrait discussion as we talked about dimensional lighting, how to find and use it. The narrow streets of a village near Menaggio, on Lake Como provided our bounced light around mid-day. Sometimes, contrary to popular belief, mid-day IS the best time for lighting!

My favorite Italian photographer, Luigi Barbano introduced me to Camogli. His family has been coming here forever to vacation, and he was kind enough to share their secret getaway with our workshop. Since then we’ve used Camogli as the base for our Italian Riviera photo workshops because it’s the perfect blend of charming fishing village and great beach town. And best of all, it’s relatively undiscovered, so we get very local feeling here.

Top it off with one of my all time favorite hotels, Cenobio dei Dogi, with it’s own private beach and rooms looking out onto the Mediterranean, and you have a little piece of paradise. From our pool at the hotel, we look out onto the most beautiful view of the town, and we’re just steps from good restaurants and gelato.

From Camogli, it’s a quick ride south to the Cinque Terre. These five towns have become uber-popular for the hiking trails that connect them, but they’re also a great place to photograph because with few or no roads, they have kept much of their centuries-old flavor. Floods last October cause some real problems for Vernazza and Monterosso, but the towns are recovering quickly.
More about photographing in Cinque Terre in another post…

It’s an easy boat ride from our headquarters in Camogli to the ancient monastery of San Fruttuoso (reachable only by boat). There you can make a great afternoon with a hike up the hill, a swim in the crystal clear lagoon and a hearty meal of pesto, where pesto was invented!

A little further by boat, we visit the most picturesque port in Italy, Portofino. That’s where we hang with the rich and famous for a few hours and get our high-end shopping on. For me it’s about walking a little to see the terrific villas and their front gardens, or taking the hike up to a lookout for great seascape.

Images of Camogli by Luigi Barbano. See more of Luigi’s photography at: Luigi Barbano Photography | the art of commercial photography

Warning! Not a Typical Tourist Photo Tour

We see other workshops (seems like everyone is a tour guide these days) offering expensive bus tours, trying to cover too many cities, too fast. Blasting through crowded towns with the other tourist groups is not our idea of fun. Nor are three-hour daily bus rides.

In eleven years and 17 workshops in Italy, we’ve honed trips that allow you to experience the Italian way of life, not just gawk at it’s monuments. You’ll need time out on the hillside, waiting out the last rays of light. You’ll poke through the tiniest villages where a foreigner with a camera is still a novelty to the smiling residents.

Less time on the road, more time in cafes. Follow gravel paths instead of a guide with a red flag. Enough said.

– Drake Busath

Portrait lighting demonstrations have added a new layer to our workshops the past couple of years. This one was done in Issogne Castle, in Val d’Aosta. It’s up in northwest Italy not far from the border with France.

Luigi Barbano arranged for two models from a Milan modeling agency, and each workshop member had a chance to photograph one of them in the castle.

It’s super difficult to get permission to photograph in Issogne Castle. Big thanks to Luigi, our guest instructor from Cuneo, Italy for negotiating this arrangement.

Drake showed us why he’s been a successful people photographer for 30 years, creating these images as he talked about the qualities and direction of portrait lighting.

Another glorious week in Southern Tuscany, our 12th workshop here, near Buonconvento. Staying 6 nights, we explored Siena and some of the notable towns like Montepulciano and Montalcino. But we also poked around and photographed some of the tiniest villages you’ve never heard of. In San Giovanni d’Asso, the locals put on a great dinner for our group that we’ll never forget. Rolling hills, riding horses, sidewalk cafes and picnic lunches in the fields along with daily critiques, Photoshop time, pool time and long dinner times made for a super memorable week.