26th July – ASHLEY FRANKLIN – “Under A Tuscan Sky”

It is a quite remarkable fact that Ashley FRANKLIN (ARPS, ABPPA, APAGB) took his family to Tuscany in 2003 to a venue that was neither familiar or known to them, with little grasp of the Italian language, and yet through his extraordinary photographic talents, and willingness to rise early, he was able to capture and describe to us the Val D’orcia region of Tuscany. Without doubt his love of this area has led to many more visits, including workshops to bring to us the fascination of Italy, through the Zoom platform, at the end of a very testing time in our lives.

Having absorbed Charlie Waite’s book on Italian Landscapes, clearly the scene was set for an exciting presentation – we were not to be disappointed – coupling his talk with selected poetic segments this “lumpy bumpy” landscape with its Cypress trees, Poppy fields, isolated churches all available from roadside vantage points, was brought to life with a genuine artistic passion, with considered composition and thorough understanding of light.
As many of us know our photo trips can occasionally bring us face to face with a local event, a festival or a parade and on this occasion the famous Mille Miglia (thousand miles) passed through affording the opportunity to record many wonderful cars who were taking part in this unique rally. It was originally a race on public roads and was won, in 1955, by Stirling Moss driving, a Mercedes 300SLR, at an average speed of 99mph.

Nearby is the Palio de Sienna, the various Sienese “contrade”, or areas in which the city is divided, where they challenge each other in a passionate horse race in the heart of the city in the Piazza del Campo.
We were introduced to the work of Sandra Santioli, landscapes of green giving way to browns to be seen from the Belvedere Hotel every morning showing the carved contours of the land making an artistic statement. These views were regularly photographed from 4:40am before sunrise, so as not to miss their captivating splendour. The villages and hill top towns of this entire area have provided our author with a host of awards and exhibitions. And indeed, will continue to as he has planned to lead photographic tours through until 2023. Another fabulous series of images were taken in the Bagno Vignoni, it is one of those places in Tuscany that is quite popular despite its very small size. Because it is enchanting and charming… and has hot springs! Add a stop here to also enjoy the wonderful views of the Val d’Orcia all around the small town, including the Rocca di Tentennano in Castiglione d’Orcia in the distance, whose enchanting waters with the Sun’s rays dancing on them provided great joy for us all. Naturally a visit to a local market could not be missed with vividly coloured stalls selling clothing, the colours and textures of the fruit and vegetables and naturally the opportunity to taste the ice cream and wonderful food that we associate with Italy.

The verdant countryside in May is described, by Ashley, as the gift that keeps on giving and olive trees, bright Tuscan skies, more poppies, all were pictured amongst the green rolling hills as a soft baby’s blanket with paths of light amongst dark. Cloud formations fill the expansive skies and, of course, bright blue was a regular upward delight. The valley also provides a montage of flowers, butterflies, mustard plants encouraging the drone photographer to capture the hugeness of the panorama.
Finally, we see the Gladiator, Russell Crowe, as his journey brings him along a cypress tree lined avenue, so typical of Tuscany. It is only then, however, that Maximus realises that his little slice of paradise has been corrupted by the outside world and that he has arrived too late to save his family. In the second scene filmed in the valley, Maximus stands alone in a field of wheat, allowing the wind to brush it against his palms. Eerie light filters around him as he stands in what is, in this case in the film, quite literally paradise. This scene was filmed just at the walls of Pienza in the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Val d’Orcia.
For more information we commend Ashley’s website at – https://www.ashleyfranklin.co.uk/

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