031_GDQ_3557b-copia 19 Nov 2014

AT THE ‘TEATRO DEL SILENZIO’ THEATER WITH ANDREA BOCELLI.

Here we are, for the second year in a row, at the ‘Teatro del Silenzio’ theater.

Andrea Bocelli, the famous international artist, together with the arch. Every year in Lajatico, in the Tuscan hills, Alberto Bartalini and the ‘Teatro del Silenzio’ association organize a wonderful show, full of guests and artists from all around the world.

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The ‘Teatro del Silenzio’ is an incredible and unique event: for two days each year (one day is dedicated to rehearsals, and one for the actual show) one of the most quiet, majestic and evocative settings in Italy becomes the Theater of an event that is becoming more and more surprising each year. International artists, orchestras, choirs, actors, extras, and entire dancing corps alternate on stage to celebrate music and entertainment in the name of solidarity. In addition to the artists, another key element of the Theater is the stage setting; a work of art in itself, which is different every edition and is the setting for all the evening’s performances. This year’s performance was titled: “Pathos”, an opera directed by none other than Placido Domingo and for the second time in a row, I was called, along with my collaborators, to document this particularly special event. In order to tackle this assignment as best we could we had to, as always, get ourselves equipped in time. In fact we were coming directly from another great but very tiring shoot; the World Ducati Week, a worldwide gathering of Ducati fans. The Ducati week was a festive event that took place in a racetrack and to get around we used the RB70 trolley; a handy suitcase with wheels, capable of containing all our gear and in particular: 3 Nikon D4 camera bodies, a D3s body, a 14 -24, a 24-70, a 70-200 and four fixed lenses: a micro 105, the 85, 50 and 35, all of which were 1.4 (so rather bulky), 3 chargers, 4 spare batteries, cables, adapter cards and even a speed-light flash “just to be on the safe side”.

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This bag was perfect for this job too, because everything “fit” into one, rather large compartment. However, unlike the racetrack job, where we had a well-equipped press office with tables, outlets for PCs, and even lockers, the location here was far less “comfortable” for us photographers. The ‘Teatro del Silenzio’ theater is located in the middle of the hills of Volterra, just outside the small village of Lajatico, Andrea Bocelli’s birthplace. The area is therefore accessible only by traveling through numerous kilometers of dirt roads and the entire stage production is housed in containers taken to this spot specifically for the event and removed immediately after the show, so as to keep the area’s beauty intact.

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Having to work in a location where the staging is reduced to the bone and where the artists’ dressing rooms are in containers, it’s unthinkable to provide some decent work space for photographers. As a result our base camp became (as indeed is often the case) the trunk of our car, which we parked as close as possible (in a field, just below the stage).

As you might imagine, dirt roads are not exactly dust-free and in a situation like this it becomes essential to minimize the change of lenses. So as it turned out the only time we opened our RB70 was in the car where we assembled the 4 camera bodies and their relevant lenses, which we used during the rehearsals and the evening show. When shooting a show you have to be able to work serenely at very high ISO, so the D4s got priority and we left the D800 and D3X in the car. It’s also important to work in twos: even if the space in the stage area, the dressing rooms and the stands is limited it is still large enough large enough to tire even an athlete, especially when you’re constantly running from one side to the other. This is why a “second” photographer is indispensable; you can share the tasks so as to have enough energy to make it through to midnight, closing time of the show. One of the two photographers stays under the stage to take close-ups and be ready to run backstage, while the other deals with (and defends tooth and nail!) a central position at the bottom of the stands, to take home the so-called “totals”, i.e. the best shots of the set design and the light show.

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Both photographers use a 70-200 and a 24-70 so they’re ready for any shot, only the 14-24 is left “behind” (it can be useful for adding some photos with effects, and it can be swapped between the photographers during the interval). A monopod will be useful for the photographer working in the stands so as not to unnecessarily strain his hands and arms while waiting for the best lighting effects. The rest is left to experience; the entertainment lineup in your pocket, remembering the crucial parts of the show seen during the rehearsal, a watchful eye should something unexpected crop up or if there is a change in schedule and being ready to capture the excited smiles behind the scenes of those participating in the show or the unrepeatable moments of the artists shaking hands at the end of the show.

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It ‘s always difficult to capture all the highlights of such an articulate show, simply because… you will never get a second chance to do it! It is precisely for this reason that the excitement grows each time. Then at the end of the show everyone dashes off and there’s a long queue of cars that kick up a big fuss, clogging the exit. We take advantage of the commotion to rearrange all our equipment as best we can in our RB70, in the dark Tuscan night, exhausted but armed with the forehead flashlight and helped by the bright red color of the padded dividers in our bag. Soon we’ll be getting on the highway and we’ll be arriving home at 4 in the morning. It’s another adventure where work, technique, professionalism, concentration and also the intertwining of emotions and cheerfulness led us to a successful accomplishment.

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IMG_4072 copia 7 Nov 2014

Fashion Photography with Manfrotto

The location of the photo shoot for the summer 2015 sportswear collection for Slam (a Genoa-based company that specializes in nautical and boat-racing clothing), is in Porto Cervo, Sardinia, on board the “Solleone”, Ferragamo’s splendid Swan. Once again we have to take a flight, and it’s a known fact that air journeys are a touchy subject for professional photographers. Reporters usually move around light: a camera body and a couple of lenses and maybe a compact camera as a backup are more than enough so as not to get too tired and to go unnoticed among the crowd.

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The location of the photo shoot for the summer 2015 sportswear collection for Slam (a Genoa-based company that specializes in nautical and boat-racing clothing), is in Porto Cervo, Sardinia, on board the “Solleone”, Ferragamo’s splendid Swan. Once again we have to take a flight, and it’s a known fact that air journeys are a touchy subject for professional photographers. Reporters usually move around light: a camera body and a couple of lenses and maybe a compact camera as a backup are more than enough so as not to get too tired and to go unnoticed among the crowd.

But when it comes to fashion, it makes sense to be better equipped. You move around in a group (the assistant, the models, the make-up artist, the hairdresser, the clients) and even if you try minimizing the necessary material, it’s always inevitably cumbersome.

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You need reflector panels, zoom lenses and fixed lenses, and it’s very helpful to have several camera bodies in order to speed up the work and minimize change of lenses (and avoid the inevitable dust that gets on the sensor).

Once again my assistant Andrea and I got ready to leave, carefully choosing the right airline company. The advent of low cost flights has had an impact on cabin baggage restrictions which can range from 10 kg to a measly 4 kg on certain companies such as Meridian, when small aircrafts are used. So it’s a real problem for those, like us, who have to make sure their baggage arrives without any problems so as to be able to work efficiently.

Once we found the right flight we began preparing our baggage, with the help of a scale. We had to take Meridiana airlines on this trip and as a result we had 8 kg baggage allowance per person.

We decided to use 2 Bumble Bee Manfrotto backpacks for our trip; we usually use the RB70 trolley, which is capable of holding all our work equipment, but in this case it was impossible to take it on board, given that when it’s fully loaded it abundantly exceeds 20kg. The Bumble Bee backpack was the only possible solution.

It’s a really unique backpack; its shape is shell-like and it’s exceptionally light (slightly over 2kg). Its size fits perfectly in the check-in requirements – 56x45x25, the standard size so feared by travelers, and many other parts of the backpack are intelligently removable, like for example the belt lace, which is essential for long walks, but also rather bulky.

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On the inside too it comes with removable padded containers, and a large number of partitions that allow you to securely hold of a lot of equipment, a lot more than the limited hand baggage weight allowed us to carry.

In the end we had: 3 D4/D4s camera bodies, a 24-70 2.8, a 70-200 2.8 and 4 fixed lenses: 105 micro 2.8, and 35, 50 and 85, all 1.4. Basically a lot of stuff, including 3 backup batteries and relevant chargers. What’s more, we also had a portable 15″ Mac Book pro retina, its charger and a graphics tablet.

The overall weight no doubt exceeded the permitted limits, I think the total amount was around 18-20 kg, but with a bit of courage we headed for the check-in carrying the backpacks on one shoulder with great self-assurance, and hoping the attendant was going to be inattentive (or possibly good-hearted).

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Once we got past the check-in, we were ready to roll. Bumble Bee is extremely comfortable to carry thanks to the particular, but resistant, lightweight shoulder straps that cushion the weight through their elasticity and softness and the small luggage compartments are more than enough to accommodate the backpack’s curves and smooth forms. These details might seem insignificant, but they certainly aren’t: a backpack full of laces and bulging pockets immediately becomes less manageable; often full pockets will make the backpack even more cumbersome and dangling laces will get stuck just about anywhere, especially on airplanes or boats. Bumble Bee on the other hand is quite compact and practical, and each pocket or outer housing is attached to the bag, which will let you easily stow wallets, documents, sunglasses and other personal items.

And finally we arrived on the work site: once we reached our destination, the backpacks tagged along to each location, both on land and sea, and we were able to take advantage of their internal compartments, once we took out the cameras and lenses, to stow our windbreakers and sweatshirts, which were very useful in the early morning, but cumbersome during the day. Basically, it’s a fantastic journey companion: robust, versatile, quite spacious and compact. It has quite a few interesting technical solutions; but its main feature is its flexible modularity, which makes the Bumble Bee backpack the trip’s real quick change artist.

 

Client: SLAM Advanced Technology Sportswear

Models: Paola Turani, Davide Mariella, Stefano Lisi

Styling: Manuela Barone

Assistant: Andrea Sottana

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2049_GDQ_1369-copia 6 Nov 2014

AMONG THE ABANDONED RADARS.

Blackfin Titanium Eyewear: an Italian brand, young and with a very incisive design. For the past four years now, keeping in line with this style, we’ve been called to interpret these wonderful collections of glasses by taking advantage of places that are very sought after and truly out of the ordinary.

After a shoot in a minimalist factory by a famous architect, a spectacular rock quarry in the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines and a closed power plant, here we are this year crossing the threshold of an abandoned US military base. A surreal and fascinating location, like I’ve rarely ever seen. When taking a photo shoot like this it is important that everything is consistent and once you’ve established the “mood” you want to transmit each element has to contribute to make it look more credible and effective. We wanted powerful and fascinating surroundings for this shoot and the light too had to be evocative of a precarious and insecure atmosphere, where the two models move around like two explorers in a hostile environment.

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As a result, the production plan was created with this objective in mind:

a really early morning flight, pick-up at the airport with sandwiches and lots of water, and then after a couple of hours inside a “blender” – a van going through twists and turns – a quick make-up session and here we are ready to shoot in the early afternoon right through to dusk. This was the only way we could get the light we wanted; the sun constantly in our camera, lots of “flare”, and the soft sunset light.

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A relaxing dinner in an excellent and typical farm-house finally gave us the chance to sit down and relax, and after (little, but intense) regenerating sleep, we were ready for the second day at work. This time the program was the opposite of the previous day’s: we woke up very early and were ready to shoot before sunrise with the intention of finishing late in the morning so as not to overburden our models with too many working hours. Let’s say this is the classic “No pain, no gain!” photo shoot, because with such a captivating setting we had to play our cards right even if it meant losing a few hours sleep. Glasses, in fact, are a very difficult product to photograph; obviously due to the reflections, which become more difficult to manage as the lens curvature increases. Wrap-around sunglasses with mirrored lenses create the highest level of difficulty when taking photographs, and often, in addition to taking all possible measures (shooting with a telephoto lens, dressing darkly, “angling” precisely the models’ faces, etc. ) you still have to intervene in post-production in order to remove any unwanted elements. And also because the shooting is done… in a hurry! The best lighting phase lasts less than an hour and during this time you need to do your best to “bring home” as many pictures as possible.

This, however, is the type of work we prefer: evocative settings, fascinating models, beautiful products and a client that not only lets you express your creativity but is also constantly stimulating it; you really can’t ask for anything better!

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Next to us, like in all our air travels, were the incredibly versatile Bumble Bee backpacks. On this occasion we flew with Alitalia (8kg cabin baggage allowance) but we got on board with roughly 11kg each; we put a few lenses or Hard Disks in our pockets. Once we arrived at destination, the Bumble Bee backpacks were the ideal system for carrying all the necessary items because the abandoned military base area was quite large and very rough and rugged and a trolley would have made it much more difficult to move around with. So instead, once we “armed ourselves” with the three cameras and relevant lenses (All of which were Nikon D4/D4s, for the best results at a high ISO, with fixed lenses to minimize as much as possible the depth of field) only the three zoom lenses were left in the Bumble Bee (a 14-24, a 24-70 and a 70-200) as backups or if needed for particular photos, and of course the k-ways / scarves and all that’s needed to protect yourself from frequent temperature changes during this season depending on whether it’s sunny or cloudy. The other backpack was left in the van along with the portable computer, accessories, cables and battery chargers. This way Andrea, my assistant for this work, could access all that is needed while keeping his hands free so as to be able to move safely and help me with the reflector panels. Once we finished the second shooting we left for the airport, after balancing the weight of the contents in the two backpacks. Once again, the Bumble Bee really came through; it got us through the airport checks without any problems at all and it was really versatile when we were working.

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Client: blackfin.eu

Models: Flaminia Romeo, Lorenzo Quaglia

Stiling: Andride design

Assistant: Andrea Sottana

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This day with me