As some of you might have noticed I went on a little trip to Italy the week before last for a few days and got back last week tuesday. The original plan was to drive down to Bassano Italy at some point and say hi to my buddy Marco at Manfrotto HQ and have some talk and take a tour and all. luckily for me Marco offered me to join him, a team of Manfrotto engineers and BILL FRAKES to Siena for the horse race.
There wasn’t really too much to think about this offer from my side obviously, just a bit of quick planing and pushing my timetable around and i was set to go go.
What to pack for a trip like this? Well… I took everything… besides my Elinchrom flashes and just because I dont have a battery pack for those right now. and like this I could fit everything in the boot of my car. light stands, tripods, diffusors, reflectors, skylites, hotshoe flashes, lightformers, gafferstape, clamps, multitool, flashlights, cameras of course and so on and so on.
Did I take a bit too much? yip! did it hurt? no! it actually was quite good, as I could help out with some stuff that was missing as Bill Frakes and his partner in crime and assistant Laura Heald were in the unfortunate position to miss an equipment bag. you gotta love the airlines and airports! Bill and Laura actually form Straw Hat Visuals which you should check out.
I might get back on the airport thing later, as I am always uncomfortable flying with my gear if its not a vacation. actually even then.
To get back to the beginning of the trip I was lucky enough to take off a day early so I don’t have to drive all 1.200 km in one day. So I thought it might be nice to drive over the Gotthard pass and maybe look for a small hotel or any sleeping possibility up there.
The road were mostly free, the weather good, and getting to the foot of the pass was breathtaking as always. Unfortunately I didn’t get to the pass early enough to have a lot of sunshine left and as it was a bit hazy, so I couldn’t get the shots I actually wanted and as I had not found a hotel on top of the pass the night shooting was not a real option either. Ah well, a good reason to go back one day.
I spend the evening and some of the next day in Ascona and around Lago Maggiore. Which was very nice, as I love love love these narrow roads around the lake and the whole scenery. That said I didn’t shoot too much, but a few shots from on the lake.
I also shot a lot of video which I will upload at a later date.
From Ascona I left for Bassano on the next morning. I love the Ticino Region of Switzerland and it is always a blast driving into italy from there. Especially if you avoid the bigger roads and just go with the flow so to speak. I didn’t do that this time as the day ahead would be a long one.
The drive was smooth and I arrived in Bassano a few hours later. which was actually a bit later as I thought as I apparently can’t tell the difference between miles and kilometers.
Very cool feeling getting to Manfrotto HQ and being introduced to everyone and spending some time there. Funny enough I didn’t take one photo as long as I was there and I have no clue why… well… next time maybe.
After being introduced to the rest of the team that was hitting the road with us, we started packing the car and plan how and when to pick up bill and laura at the airport later that day. Paolo, Fabio and Antonio where a great team to go on a trip like this and it was a great pleasure meeting them.
Getting to the airport later we met up with Bill and Laura which also was a great pleasure meeting them. The airline had somehow managed to loose 3 of their bags. 3 equipment bags did not make it form Amsterdam to Bologna and maybe two would make it two Florence though, so we split and hoped. Marco and I arrived late in the evening at hour hotel in Tuscany with no bag, but the others had gotten two of the missing ones.
Tuscany… WOW. I’ve been to italy before, but never to Tuscany and maaaaaaan did I miss something. Even at night with the moon shining down it was a blast. and as we had this wonderful old cathedral right next to our place I had to get my camera out and try one thing that shem compion told me about on the south africa trip. do nighttime long exposure shots rather with a shorter shutter speed and high ISO than the other way around as I have done so many times. to me this was a new concept andI am delighted with the results. I still need to improve and get more experience with this technique, but as for it was that late and me that tired I am pleased with the results. and just to reassure you guys… it is PITCH DARK NIGHT!!! 🙂
I used ISO 3200 on my D3 mostly with shutter speeds between 10 to 20 seconds each. with the great low light capabilities of the d3 (and I can only imagine how these would have come out with a D3s) you get a wonderful effect and see far more stars than you would when shooting at ISO 200 for example. and you can prevent star trails with this method much easier if you want to. were the shots a bit grainy? sure, but it first of all didn’t bother me too much and with the great noise reduction in lightroom 3, even that is no biggie anymore.
It was a lot of fun and I really need to find another nice place to go to, where no lights (from a city or other) are anywhere close and do this again. Here I obviously had the cathedral also in the shots and inside there were the illuminated emergency exit signs that lit up the whole structure. It wasn’t too bad, but I would have liked to see the outcome without them. Paolo was nice enough to accompany me so I didn’t completely die of fear when that giant toad decided to materialize in front of us and then disappear into the night.
the next morning we started at 5:30 towards siena with a little breakfast stop. our little 3 car track went through the wonderful scenery of tuscany to the beautiful city of siena.
I had the great honor and was so delighted to help out a little throughout the day and at the main event with some shots from inside the crowd a bit of video etc. but until then which was about 12 hours away we started to get a feel for the location, Bill and Laura scouted their positions and we still had to find two places for an amazing, actually two, pieces of photography related technology. The Gitzo Athena. Click the link and check out the video. In short it is a motorized head that takes I think all sizes of DSLRs and can be programed or operated in real time via a computer. A very impressive device.
It was a great day in so many regards, though the blazing sun really got me to my knees from time to time. if you ever travel around Italy and Tuscany make sure to visit Siena.
As for the Palio di Siena, the main event itself, is hard to describe. It all starts with a great parade that went on for a quite long time 🙂 I just mention it as the sun cooked us beyond well done. The race on the other hand was so much shorter than I would have thought and actually short. Short and very intense. Not only for the riders themselves, but also for their fans, friends and families. A lot of emotions got stirred up and judging by the reddish colored gooie stuff on the pavement.
After the race the winner (rider and horse) plus all his following and probably others (judging by the sheer size) went over to the cathedral for a blessing and celebrating. Eating, drinking and partying began as we started to pack up and drive back to our hotel. After dinner and a few bottles of nice italian wine we went to bed.
I spend the following two days in Bassano, enjoying the great hospitality of my friend marco and his wonderful wife.
And on Monday it was time to head back to Germany after staying in at Manfrotto HQ for a few hours. What a great and intense trip, getting to know some wonderful people and enjoying every single minute of it.
Oh and Laura and Bill have just posted their great post over at their Blog, so make sure to check that one out also!
I hope you enjoy the photos and my endless writing and I wish you a great day!