Maggie was determined to find out what all those fancy settings on her new Nikon actually did. Could a Flavours Holidays photography holiday in Tuscany be the answer and change her life?
What sort of photographer are you?
Well, I love taking photographs, particularly on holiday, but before my week in Tuscany I’d never even taken my new Nikon SLR off the Auto setting.
So what did you learn?
Oh gosh, I learned so much, but I think the most important thing I learned was how – and crucially when – to adjust your f/stop. The Auto setting on the camera gives you quite a cold, overexposed look: altering the aperture size (or f/stop) gives you a much warmer, more atmospheric, natural look. I haven’t looked back since.
What was the villa like?
Just beautiful, and hugely inspiring from a photography point of view. We did go out with our cameras to Arezzo and Siena, but some of my best shots were from the villa itself, which sat in something like fifty hectares of olive groves, vineyards and woods, so lots to point a lens at! I got some lovely shots of shadows thrown on to the pool and a few of the chef working away in the kitchen. And of course, the surrounding countryside was just incredibly beautiful, so I got lots of pretty good landscape shots, too.
What did a typical day involve?
They varied. At the beginning of the week our teacher, Matt Pereira, would do some short tutorials on composition and technique, but then as the week went on we would potter about the villa and its grounds putting theory into practice, with Matt popping up now and again to offer tips. Every day Matt would put up our photos on a big screen, and we’d all offer our thoughts on everyone else’s photos. It was a bit scary at first, but incredibly helpful. Then some days we would go out to nearby hilltop towns, always with our cameras at the ready.
What was your holiday highlight?
Photographically, I think it was probably one morning at the villa when I was out with my camera before breakfast, and suddenly the sun started pouring through a thick blanket of mist. It was such a beautiful moment – quite hard to capture on camera, but unforgettable nevertheless.
In terms of the holiday itself, I just loved how busy but relaxed it was. I’d previously been on two cooking courses with Flavours Holidays, and I really enjoy the fact you’re doing something stimulating in the company of lovely, like-minded people. There’s always a lot of laughter, and meal times are a real highlight, with fantastic food, and lots of excellent wine.
Did the course improve your photography?
Oh, without doubt. I showed my daughter my photos shortly after I got home and she was totally taken aback. “Oh my god!” she said, “I had no idea you were this good.”
I’ve always really enjoyed taking photos of people, and the fact that the teacher, Matt, specialises in weddings and family portraits meant he had some invaluable advice on how to get great ‘people’ photos. When we went to Siena I absolutely loved taking photos at the market: people were really engrossed in all their haggling and selling, so no one really noticed me snapping away. There were some amazing characters there with really charismatic faces. I could have stayed all day.