Meet Martin, our photography holiday tutor in Tuscany, Italy

Martin, photographer extraordinaire, recently joined us here at GoLearnTo to get his amazing photography holidays out to our beloved followers.

Set in the majestic mountains of Tuscany, just outside of the medieval town of Barga, there is so much to see and capture here that a week with him may not be enough for you. In addition to the rich culture, culinary delights, and amazing affordable wine of the region, this is a photographers dream. From breathtaking landscapes, to medieval architecture, to the rich woodlands and rivers, you will find inspiration for your photography around every corner.

We sat down with Martin to get to know him and just what led him into his dream career.

How did you get started in photography?

I got my first camera when I was 14 years of age. It was a gift to accompany me on my first school holiday to the north of France. The camera was a fully manual SLR that took rolls of film. The first day that I bought it, I remember reading through the manual from cover to cover and was amazed by the possibilities I now had with this manual SLR. From that day on, I was addicted to photography.

Over the years, I took more and more photographs, read books and magazines and attended a few college courses in my spare time. At first, I used colour print film but then progressed onto shooting black and white and colour slides. As a lifelong photographer, I tend to wander round looking at things differently and seeing details in places where no one else does. On the occasions where I do not have my camera with me, I find that I see more and wish I had my camera. This is the addiction and frustrating side of photography. In contrast, when I do have my camera and I spot a subject, it is a wonderful feeling of fulfilment. It is capturing this fulfilment that I now try to help other photographers with.

Where are you from, and how did you end up in Tuscany?

This question may be slightly off target. I am from Glasgow, Scotland. I have travelled quite extensively around Scotland. Unfortunately, this was mainly for work many years ago and I didn’t have time for serious photography. However, I have enjoyed photographing the Trossachs and areas of Glen Coe and Rannoch. I do have plans to travel Scotland again and this time devote my entire trips solely to photography. I still do live in Scotland.

I travel to Tuscany regularly each year. My wife has family in the region and following many years of visits with my photographer’s eye, I now know the area extremely well. There are many unspoiled villages and views that I know of that remain unexplored to tourists and even some locals. It is these unspoiled areas that are the focus of my photography workshops. I like to immerse people in the culture of rural Italy rather than the crowds of tourist traps. It is easy to visit the tourist areas without the aid of a guide.

What did you begin photographing, and what did you evolve into perfecting? What is your favourite subject to capture?

I began photographing just about anything. At first, I had no idea what my photographic genre would be. Today, I favour landscapes. However, to simply pigeonhole my interest into landscape would be a bit limiting. I also love to capture the unspoiled way of life within a landscape. For example, the old buildings, subsistence farming and the details of Man’s footprint on the landscape.

What do you love photographing in the areas covered on your photography holiday?

I love the light in this part of Tuscany. This area of Tuscany is not the cliché rolling hills, cypress trees and isolated farm buildings. Rather, this is the mountainous Tuscany. The trip takes places in the Garfagnana region in northern Tuscany. It is a lush green valley that is flanked on both sides by mountains of limestone and marble.

During the evenings, as the sun is setting, the mountains and clouds can provide us with the most spectacular sunsets. So spectacular, that they can often be regarded as fake. As I’ve mentioned above, the area is also littered with small historic villages, where true Italian life can be seen and captured. The buildings are unmistakably Italian and the narrow cobblestone streets are devoid of tourists. We have all the time in the world to discuss, compose and capture images.

What is a great subject for a beginner, and what can they still learn as an advanced photographer? Are certain things easier to capture than others?

Photography is both an art form and a technical subject. I usually find that people will be more dominant in one of these two areas. I establish quickly where each individual’s dominance lies, and I concentrate on developing their weak side.

For example, one of my students already had a fabulous eye for photography but was apprehensive about the computer side of developing the digital images. She was left to take the photographs that she was already well accomplished at and the following day, I would spend time showing her some post-processing techniques in Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. At the end of the course, she was shooting photographs knowing how she was going to develop them afterwards.

The best subjects for a beginner are ones that do not move and won’t get bored: buildings; landscapes; plants and church interiors. With these subjects, we can spend a lot of time discussing composition and camera settings. Gradually, the photographer gets to know their camera and begins to develop their eye for composition.

What is great about your holidays for a solo traveller who will be coming alone?

The solo traveller will love this trip. The main town of Barga is one of the friendliest towns in Italy. In fact, Barga has received the award of the Orange Flag by the Italian Touring Club. This is a prestigious award that is awarded to towns and villages that not only have a historical, cultural and environmental heritage of merit but are also renowned for offering tourists a quality welcome. It is a relaxing and friendly place to be.

Tell us a bit about your area culturally, and of course food, wine, people. What amazes you about it outside of the photography aspect?

Garfagnana is famous for its scenery and its local food. The food is so pure and authentic that even Italians holiday in the region as a gastronomic treat for themselves. The region is one of the main promoters of the slow food movement. This doesn’t mean that you will need to wait for hours at restaurants. What it does mean is the preparation of food is taken slowly; it is grown slowly and organically, ingredients are prepared in advance and everything can mature at its own pace. In fact, the gentle pace is something that can be seen in every aspect of life in this part of Tuscany.

I have concluded that the locals live longer not simply because of their diet but also because of their relaxed attitude to life. The gentle pace begins to seep into you after a couple of days and you go home relaxed and in possession of some unique images. Outside of photography, I would have to say that this meandering pace, coupled with the weather and food, is the reason why I love this area of Europe and return again and again.

You can read all about Martin’s photography holiday in Italy here.

Or, feel free to explore our full range of photography holidays here.