Fifth Time is a Charm.


There's an ancient, isolated chapel in Tuscany that I have photographed on five occasions during two different trips to Italy. It takes an effort to find the chapel; a drive down a long dirt road where at a point you have to leave your car and hike the rest of the distance on foot. The hike takes you through rolling open fields with views of the beautiful distant hills dotted with the occasional cyprus trees. How do you say "big sky country" in Italian? It is a glorious hike. I went at different times of the day, both mornings and evenings, to catch the chapel in varying light. I was pleased with the photographs that I took during the first few visits; an assortment of compositions, different light, different skies, some with beautiful cloud formations, a few with the chapel bathed in the amazing tones of a Tuscan sunset; lavender and pink. For composition, the surrounding elements needed to be organized and simplified by positioning myself and framing. There's a well house close to the chapel, a large barn next to that, and a house further down the path that I wanted to avoid. So there were limitations to the composition, but I came away with a few wonderful portraits of the chapel.

On my fifth visit to this magical place, however, my context became different. I was no longer simply photographing the chapel, but more the journey, the pilgrimage. I had something else to say. After so many hikes down that dirt path from the distant hills, my final pilgrimage and the ultimate composition needed to speak to that. 

I put the chapel off to the side with the face of the building turned to the left, the only other element I left in the composition is the lone tree, keeping the well house just out of frame. The diagonal plane of the side of the chapel and the diagonal line of the cyprus tree trunks point toward the distant hills and light where the pilgrimage begins. On the right side of the composition the path and tree create a complimentary diagonal line bringing your eye to the same distant hills and light. The elimination of all other elements beyond the one biblical tree, which anchors the right side, gives the place a remote and peaceful feeling. Both chapel and tree also add sub-framing for that distant point, creating space for the eye to pass through and wander to that far horizon.

The final photograph of the chapel not only shows the beauty and isolation of the place that I wanted to capture, but in the end it expressed my experience and feelings; my pilgrimage to a lonely and remote chapel.