Everywhere you drive among the Tuscan hills in late May, early June the fields of poppies cut a swathe of picturesque red and strike a chord of nostalgia in those from countries where agriculture is now dominated by herbicides and pesticides. So the poppies are everywhere, medieval towns are scattered liberally over the countryside, but to find the two strategically placed at the right angle to each other, with the right light, to get the ultimate shot, involves a lot of driving down tracks and dirt roads.
Drive south from Siena, towards Montalcino, San Quirico d’Orcia and Pienza and you will find endless vistas of rolling hills, cypress trees, small towns on hills with Monte Amiata gently curving on the horizon, here and there splashes of red lure you into finding a strada bianca to get closer - could this be your shot?
Maybe we will have to allow for other possibilities in the background: a lone Romanesque church with a couple of sentinel cypress trees is a classic shot; or perhaps a tumble-down farm-house. It is very much a matter of luck and perseverance to find the right components of the shot -- the skill lies in choice of lens (telephoto or wide-angle), angle (lying low down amid the flowers or standing up to gain the panoramic view), time of day (morning or evening light).
Look at the shot through wide-angle lens first for greatest depth of field, make sure the background town doesn’t dwindle to nothing, fill the foreground with a sea of poppies. The telephoto gives more prominence to the town or church allowing a bright smudge of colour from the poppies in the foreground. Choose early morning or evening light - once you have found the right place to take the shot, you will have to calculate which is better and wait it out - midday sun will bleach out all colour and atmosphere.
Once the light is right shoot every possible combination of lenses, angles, apertures and framing (vertical and horizontal) that you can think of. By next week the poppies may be over or harvested and next year a different crop may have taken its place. So your shot will be unique, the definitive Poppies in Tuscany photograph of the year.