The Quest for Unique Perspectives in Endlessly Photographed Italy

Italy is more popular than ever for photography, but there are still unique compositions to be found.

Tuscany of the north [NIKON D810 + 70-200mm f/4 @ 75mm, ISO 640, 1/10, f/16.0]

Italy is one of the most photographed places in the world. And yet, with the advent of social media and location sharing, more and more of these photos are limited to a few popular locations and compositions. Readers who’ve spent any time on the major photography websites know exactly what I’m talking about: the church in the Dolomites, the villa in Tuscany and that one Venetian scene – all keep appearing over and over and over again. The result is that a great deal of potential – and there’s an insane amount of potential – is untapped. In this photo essay I’ll try to tap into some of that potential and share photos from lesser known (from the perspective of photography) parts of Italy as well as some unique compositions from parts that are better known.

Let’s start in the northwest, with Piedmont. When we think of rolling hills and vineyards, the part of Italy that immediately comes to mind is Tuscany. But Piedmont can certainly hold its own when it comes to dreamy countryside vistas.

Piedmont Countryside [NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 31mm, ISO 160, 1/30, f/8.0]

This region is home to the slow-food movement, the birthplace of chocolate as we now know it and renowned for its hazelnuts and truffle. Just get yourself a table with stunning views of the surrounding countryside in one of the many impossibly beautiful medieval villages that dot the region and enjoy la bella vita.

Village Views [NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 65mm, ISO 160, 15/1, f/8.0]
Piedmont Magic
Piedmont Countryside [NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 112mm, ISO 64, 1/15, f/8.0]

It only makes sense that this is the place that gave the world the pure, unadulterated joy that is Nutella.

Alba: Gave the world Nutella [NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 120mm, ISO 64, 1/200, f/8.0]
Tower View
Tower View [NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 38mm, ISO 64, 1/80, f/8.0]
the calm after the storm
Bra: Birthplace of Slow-Food [NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 24mm, ISO 500, 1/25, f/4.0]

And then there is the wine. It’s supposed to be some of the best in the world. I don’t partake so I wouldn’t know. But from what I’ve heard, it is something else.

Vineyards [NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 95mm, ISO 160, 1/30, f/8.0]
the greatest thing since Tuscany
Rolling Hills [NIKON D810 + 70-200mm f/4 @ 98mm, ISO 64, 1/25, f/8.0]

Now let’s turn our attention even further north, to the Alps. Certainly the Alps as well as the Dolomites are not undiscovered. The opposite, in fact, where celebrity Instagram shots from the peaks of Italy seem to be attracting more and more selfie-chasing crowds every day. But again, so much of the potential of the area is unrealized because everyone wants that same shot in the same post with the same backdrop as what Miley Cyrus ‘grammed five minutes ago. But that’s ok – it just means more amazing compositions for the rest of us.

Tyrolean Sunrise
Alpine Morning [NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 70mm, ISO 100, 1/100, f/8.0]
Pizes de Cir
Dolomite Sunrise [NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 31mm, ISO 64, 1/30, f/8.0]

I was driving around exploring the area when my wife pointed out a swarm of photographers on top of an elevated view point. I made a quick stop to see what the fuss was about and saw this scene unfolding, where the color of the Dolomites goes through various shades of pink/orange/yellow at sunset and sunrise. I quickly fired off some bracketed shots, handheld. Later I was able to blend them together using Luminosity Masks to get a result that I felt did justice to the dynamic range of that scene.

Passo Gardena
Dolomite Color-fest  [NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 24mm, ISO 64, 1/30, f/8.0]

Earlier in the essay, I had mentioned the famous comp of the church in the Dolomites. There are some truly spectacular views in the vicinity of that area that are begging to be captured. Here’s one I spotted during a quick stop by the side of the road.

Wall Art
Naturally Occurring Wall Art [NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 30mm, ISO 64, 1/15, f/8.0]

This area, let’s not forget, has been cited by the author of the Lord of the Rings as one of the inspirations for the fantasy worlds depicted in his books.

Lord of the Rings
Tolkien’s Favorite Park  [NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 62mm, ISO 64, 1/40, f/8.0]

Finally, let’s do a quick stop in Milan. For me, the architecture of the Duomo di Milano (or the Cathedral Church of Milan) defies the usual superlatives – it looks like something left behind by an alien civilization. And so I felt a typical composition just wouldn’t do it justice. Luckily for me, this flock of birds appeared just in time to provide a unique foreground and perspective.

Bird's Eye View
Bird’s Eye View [NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 24mm, ISO 64, 1/125, f/4.0]

There are many creative composition opportunities from on top of the Duomo as well. The views are breath-taking and it is possible to get really interesting shots by incorporating interesting elements of the Duomo’s structure in the foreground.

in cima a Milano
Duomo Terrace View [NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 24mm, ISO 160, 1/250, f/8.0]

Here is a 65MP panorama shot handheld from one of terraces of the Duomo:

65 MP panorama shot hand-held.
Milano Panorama [NIKON D810 + 24-120mm f/4 @ 24mm, ISO 160, 1/200, f/8.0]

By sharing what I’m hoping are unique and interesting perspectives from a place that has been endlessly photographed, I’ve attempted to demonstrate that even in this age where we are drowning in photographs, it is possible to be creative, inspired and original as a photographer. All you need to do is get off Instagram, forget about the hashtags and the likes, pick up a camera and have fun!

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