It’s really the only way to describe the workshop I attended this past October given by Jose Villa & Gene Higa. There have been moments as a photographer that I knew something big had happened, something significant. These moments paled in comparison to this experience. All of my past experiences had culminated in this one, life-changing moment. Now maybe it was the beautiful setting in the chianti hills of Tuscany, or the fabulous home-cooked food, or the numerous cases of red wine. But no…it was something bigger. It was the love of photography that filled the room, the talented speakers Jose & Gene, the wonderful colleagues that I met that I now call friends.
The workshop was held at La Selva Villa, an old farmhouse down a little dirt road in the hills of Tuscany. The villa sets on acres of land that is a nature preserve. The grounds were beautiful and a photographer’s dream with lots of great places to shoot. We began the workshop with a welcome party at an underground cave with local wine and cheese. Each night, the group shared a family-style, authentic Italian dinner cooked by our personal chef Maria. The food was amazing and it was so nice to network with everyone and enjoy the local food and traditions.
Besides learning so much from Gene, Jose and other great photographers, one of the best parts of the workshop was meeting everyone and forming new friendships. When I think back at this experience, it feels like it was only yesterday, but also feel like some of the people there I now have known forever. On the last night of the workshop, all of a sudden, everyone realized that it was all about to be over. I think it was then, that I realized that something magic had happened, something that I would remember for a long, long time. Jose asked everyone what their experience was during our four days there and you could really tell that this experience changed people’s lives. There was laughter, tears and lots of hugs.
It almost feels like a dream now, but will forever remain in my memory. Thanks so much to Jose & Gene for their openness, honesty and sharing so much to help me grow as a photographer. Not only did you teach and mentor, but showed me what a great industry this is and that so many people are willing to teach and help others. We also had several other special guests who really made the entire workshop run smoothly, kept us fed, happy and acted as our cruise-directors for the week. Special thanks to Joel Serrato, Ann Hamilton and Jen Curtis – you guys were awesome! Also thanks to everyone at La Selva Villa and Borgo di Fontebussi for making us feel so welcome and at home. Lastly, I am so thankful for all of the other attendees who I was able to meet on this journey. I did not expect to meet so many wonderful colleagues who would become my friends. Thanks to all of you for your continued support, mentoring and most importantly, your friendship!
The very talented Jose Villa in action.
Gene Higa getting his gear ready for a shoot.
Jose showed us how he shoots with his Contax 645 medium-format film camera.
The beautiful Tuscan countryside where the workshop took place. La Selva Villa and the Borgo di Fontebussi sat in a valley among the hills with mountains in the distance. Every morning, the lower part of the valley was covered in fog and it was so beautiful!
The beautiful Borgo di Fontebussi resort. Words cannot describe this place. It was built around an old, abandoned village which still remains today. We did a shoot in the old village which you will see later this week. The resort also had a small conference center, a pool, and lots of great little cottages and rooms. There was a restaurant on-site and a spa nearby. The villa was set among beautiful olive groves that covered the hills.
A small view of the old, abandoned village. The village had a tiny, tiny chapel that was lit with candles and so beautiful at night.
The view from my room! So spectacular!
The grounds were beautiful with lush grass, plants, flowers and even an herb garden. Fall was in full-bloom and many trees were on fire with oranges and yellows.
La Selva Villa was equally as beautiful. The old farmhouse was so quaint and quiet. There were so many cool details in and around the house.
Next up is an romantic engagement shoot at La Selva Villa and two gorgeous wedding shoots at Borgo di Fontebussi.
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