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July 27, 2011

Guest Blog from Lisa Kurtz
Thanks Danielle for the opportunity to be your guest blogger this week.

Based on our fifteen years of photographing Italy, we have put together these tips for fellow photographers visiting this beautiful country.

Time your visits to monuments and famous places well.

Italy’s famous monuments are some of the most-visited in the world. There will always be crowds. If you want to capture the crowds in your images, then you can visit these places anytime. If you want to avoid crowds, we suggest you visit just before or after opening times, or just before closing times.

We also recommend you look at ways to “jump the queue” for tickets – investigate all-inclusive tickets, daily passes, booking in advance online etc – or else you may find yourself waiting for hours to get into these beautiful places.

Lighting for outdoor photography will obviously also be better earlier or later in the day. Knowing the orientation of the monument or place you want to photograph will help you determine whether morning or afternoon will be better. For an unfamiliar location, we will use google street views (in google maps) or google earth to get a sense of the location’s orientation and surroundings and to identify likely vantage points.

Italians are, on the whole, relaxed about photographers – but use your commonsense

Given that photographers have been coming to this country since the earliest days of photography, Italians are fairly relaxed about us. If you exhibit relatively normal behaviour (ie you look like you’re a traveller with a camera taking photos of the beautiful building, monument, scene in front of you), you will be more than likely left alone.

That said, use commonsense – don’t be a disturbance to others, be mindful about where you put your tripod so as not to cause a trip hazard, and be respectful in places of worship. The majority of churches in Italy ban the use of flash and tripods, and any shooting is likely to be prohibited whilst a service is in progress.

Tip – it goes a long way to know how to politely ask if you can take someone’s photo:

“Per favore, posso farle una fotografia?”

This translates to “Please, can I take your photo?”

We don’t normally carry model release forms, although if we feel the shots we are taking may be used for commercial purposes we always get at least a verbal agreement from the subject. We appreciate this aspect of photography is starting to get a little tricky, however at this stage Italians still seems quite relaxed about such issues.

1/200 second, f/6.3, ISO 400, focal length 70mm.

Grain added in Photoshop.

Image by Lisa Kurtz, Capture Italy®.

3. Take plenty of memory cards

Italy is so beautiful and inspiring you will shoot more images than you would expect. Memory cards are more expensive and harder to find – Italy just doesn’t have “shopping centres” as we know them, so take more than you think you will need.

We always recommend you take more smaller-sized cards (eg 4 x 4GB) rather than fewer larger cards (eg 2 x 8GB). That way if you lose your camera or your card corrupts you lose a smaller amount of images.

4. Go easy on the gear

We are always asked “what equipment should I take to Italy?” It’s always difficult to answer, as it depends on why and what you’ll be photographing.

Obviously less is best for the majority of travellers – the less equipment you take, the easier it is to carry and look after it. (As in most other countries, theft is a daily occurrence in Italy – lots of expensive camera equipment can make you a target.)

Lenses – I take a 50mm, a 24-700mm, and a 70-200mm on a full-frame camera.

The 24-70mm is the workhorse – the vast majority of my images are taken with this lens; the 50mm gets used when I feel like being “discrete” and challenging myself with its fixed focal length; the 70-200mm only comes out when I get in the mood!

Many travellers will opt for the full-range zooms such as the Sigma or Tamron 18-200mm – whilst it’s commonly agreed that you may miss out on some image quality using such a full-range lens, you certainly won’t miss any photographic opportunities, for which there’s something to be said.

Tripods – take one if you know you will use it (perhaps you love landscape photography, or you have a passion for evening shooting) – don’t take one “just in case”. You can always make do with other supports such as ledges or fence posts or folded-up jumpers “just in case”.

Filters – I take and use when required a UV filter, a polariser (see Bluedog’s guest blog on polarisers: http://italytravelphotos.blogspot.com/2011/07/perfect-polarisers-guest-blog-by.html ) and a graduated neutral density filter. If you don’t know how to use filters, practise at home or do a course that includes filters before you leave.

Tip – I also take a Holga film camera, just for my own personal work. It challenges me and it forces me to think a lot more before I start shooting.

Holga camera, Fujifilm Fujicolour Pro 400H ISO 400 120 film

Image by Lisa Kurtz, Capture Italy®.

5. Dress appropriately

As a sign of respect, to enter churches women are required to have their shoulders covered and men are required to wear long pants. Although this can vary depending on the city or church you are entering, it’s best to err on the side of caution and be prepared to cover up.

Also, Italians (like many Europeans) are well-dressed people. Whilst we’re not suggesting for a moment that you don’t dress comfortably – in fact comfortable shoes are a must for the cobblestones of Italy – we suggest you leave the thongs and stubbies at home! A polite request from a nicely-dressed traveller can open doors that lead to wonderful photographic opportunities and memories of warm and welcoming Italians.

Happy Shooting from Lisa and Dianne at Capture Italy®.

For more information on Capture Italy tours, visit www.captureitaly.com or contact Lisa or Dianne on 07 3367 8167.

Stop Press!
Capture Italy run 2-week small-group photography tours through Rome, the Amalfi Coast and Tuscany. They also offer workshops in Venice and will soon be releasing the dates for their 2012 photography tours to Sicily.

If you are thinking of heading to Bella Italia and seeing all that these classic beautiful locations have to offer photographers, let Lisa and Dianne know that you are a Bluedog client (or facebook fan) and you will receive a $250 AUD discount on your next tour booking.

Also… due to a last-minute cancellation, they have asked us to get a message out that there are 2 spaces now available in their September 2011 tour at a “heavily discounted” rate. Departs Rome Monday 12th September, finishes Siena Monday 26th September. Contact Lisa or Dianne on 07 3367 8167 or info@captureitaly.com for more information.

Buon viaggio!
Lisa and Dianne

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