'Photographing the World' BTS Episode 2: Scouting Positano, Italy

A few weeks ago we released "Photographing the World 3," the newest installment of Elia Locardi's PTW series. As with with many of our tutorials, we have also produced a behind-the-scenes series that shows exactly how we filmed and produced this landscape tutorial. You can watch all of the PTW 3 behind the scenes here, but in this week's episode Elia covers the importance of scouting, Lee discovers a way to make his sandwiches even tastier, and I test out one of Tamron's newest lenses for time-lapse.

If you are not yet aware of Elia Locardi, he is not only an amazing travel and landscape photographer, but he is also one of the best educators in the photography world. His techniques both on location as well as his postproduction in the studio allow him to make some of the most beautiful landscape photographs I've ever seen. Years ago we teamed up with Elia to produce "Photographing the World" 1 and 2, but in 2017 we paired up once again to continue the journey through Italy, Dubai, and New York City. For the first part of this full-length photography tutorial, we started off on the Amalfi Coast of Italy where Elia brushed up on some of the basic techniques he uses for capturing these amazing coastal towns.

One of the most important yet overlooked aspects of landscape photography is finding the best place to place your camera. Picking out the proper composition is crucial in Elia's work so throughout this tutorial Elia takes time to show you how different elevations and positions can drastically affect the mood of a photograph. The small town of Positano offers a lot of unique vanish points because it is built into a mountain side, but unfortunately not every single viewing point will give you the best composition. Below are a few of the different compositions Elia found while scouting and the resulting before-and-after image shows the final image we produced in this tutorial. 

While filming these tutorials that require a lot of travel, it's super important for us to travel as light as possible. Usually that means that Lee and I can only have one or two bags maximum of camera gear and production tools. One of our favorite lenses of all time is the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens (you can watch my Nikon versus Tamron review of four of these lenses here), but unfortunately this particular lens is quite large and heavy to travel with country to country.

For this tutorial, we wound up trading our Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 lens for one of the new Tamron 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 DX lenses because we also brought along a Nikon D500 DSLR camera with us. Earlier this year the only 4K video solution Nikon offered in a semi-profesisonal body was the D500 (I should note it also has a horrible crop factor when shooting 4K video) so we decided to test Nikon's best video DSLR as we traveled. I have to admit that like many professional photographers, I too can sometimes snub my nose at a lens that has a variable aperture and does not have the "professional" f/2.8 aperture. However, I found that for video work the Tamron 18-270mm lens was perhaps my favorite lens ever because it offers so much versatility. I could easily shoot time-lapses and 4K video at 18mm and then quickly change to 270mm to capture detail shots and telephoto shots all with one single lens. The only time this lens really struggled was at 270mm in low light because the aperture is f/6.3 but honestly that issue rarely came up.

Another common problem we have when filming our tutorials is dealing with clean and reliable audio. Over the years we have tested many different wireless lav systems and they all work pretty well. The system we first started with and have found to be our favorite is the Sennheiser 3G lav system. As great as this system has been for us over the years, we have found that the Sennheiser microphones that come with this set aren't necessarily the best sounding mics you can buy. A few years ago we upgraded the mics to the Rode Micon series lav mics because they sounded a little clearer but they also have the best deadcat windscreens have ever used (although they do look a bit obnoxious, am I right Joey Wright?). As you can see in the behind-the-scenes video, the problem with these microphones is that they are often breaking at the contact points. Despite Rode's claims that these mics are reinforced by Kevlar, we have found that many of the connectors still crack enough to cause static in your signal or break entirely. Luckily we have found that the Sennheiser MKE 2 mics are some of the cleanest mics we have used and they also accept the same windscreens that we liked from Rode. We also haven't had any problems with the connections breaking or cracking. 

In this episode we also face a common theme that will be found throughout Italy, and that is our general distaste for "authentic" Italian cuisine. I know this is a very controversial topic as you will see in the YouTube comments, but I will stick to all of our claims 100 percent. Lee and I are both pretty well-versed world travelers (30-plus countries so far) and together we both have about 200 meals in Italy. To be very clear, neither one of us really enjoys McDonald's but we do appreciate that we know the quality and expectations from a value meal there (and sometimes overseas McDonald's actually tastes much better than American McDonald's). I also think it is pretty fair to say that since we were traveling the Amalfi Coast during the off season, perhaps the most highly praised restaurants were closed for the season or they had the second string chefs on board. That being said, we did eat at the highest rated restaurants that were open and in many cases these small towns only had 2 to 4 restaurants that had 4 out of 5 stars or higher.

Italian Steak or Waffle House Steak?

In the end, I believe that maybe the Italian palate is not as diverse as ours and they appreciate more bland simple foods than we do. No matter what anyone says, I do not believe that a sandwich made with only hard bread, thin bacon, and cheese could ever be objectively considered better than one with lettuce, tomato, vinegarette, mustard, mayo, bacon, fresh meat or meats, a variety of cheeses, and offered on a variety of breads. It's like saying you prefer the look of an 8-bit video game over a 64-bit game. Fear not though, we will experience some amazing Italian meals in episodes to come that are so good that I actually find myself craving them now that I'm back home.  

You can learn more about this entire tutorial in the video below or head over to the "Photographing the World 3" sales page here. If you want to follow along with the behind-the-scenes series, make sure you subscribe to our YouTube Channel and follow the "Photographing the World 3" BTS playlist here.

Patrick Hall's picture

Patrick Hall is a founder of Fstoppers.com and a photographer based out of Charleston, South Carolina.

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Those BTS videos are supposed to market the tutorial, not the opposite. Of course you can have a negative opinion about stuff and communicate it. But by insisting negatively soooo much (i.e. bashing) on a point of view unrelated to your main field, you’re just displaying a condescending attitude. That is just plain annoying and uninteresting even if one actually agrees with you.

So in short: yes the food may not be good even in Italy and it’s ok to say it, but it’s not fun or useful to repeat it over and over.

Thankfully, you nuanced that in the text here. I am happy to see you can take care your communication's tone of voice. I am looking forward to the rest of the BTS cause besides that, it's entertaining as usual :-) .

Cheers guys. Keep it up.

While the BTS might market the series in general, they reflect our real experiences and opinions. I promise the series deviates from the food eventually but this was the main topic of conversation the first few days in Italy (or all of Italy). To cut that out would mean cutting a lot of the experience out. I don't have any issues sharing with people our true feelings and experiences. One might say I probably hated the food in Cambodia and Hong Kong but that was not the case. Your post history shows that this is a really sore spot for you for some reason.

"Your post history shows that this is a really sore spot for you for some reason." --> It is. But don't misunderstand what "it" actually is. "It" is not food, "It" is : repetitive non-relevant negative content.
Thankfully there is still a lot of value on fstoppers :-).

To each their own. To some it's negative content, to other's it is a good heads up :)

Whining and chewing...
You kind of ordered the wrong kind of steak. You should have asked for "Fiorentina al sangue", Tuscan version of porterhouse steak / rare. In that area where you were, probably the better dishes may be more seafood based. You probably played it too safe and not tried some local specialities. You were like someone visiting the US and ordering overcooked risotto and pasta. You could have gone to a bar and got a decent panino, grilled and warmed up that makes the bread softer. In Italy even if you go to a train station or airport you can get a great sandwich. Less condiments than in the USA; you can have more meat in it if you ask for. By the way mustard is common: more mustards available in Italy, and many kinds. in the US often you get just that fake looking yellow French mustard (as in not from France). In the US often (like at airports) sandwiches are pre made , kept in a fridge and your spend $11 to eat a cold piece of gummy bread with refrigerated filling. . If you drive in the south of the USA, you may mostly find processed meat and fried chicken. I was in Arkansas / Tennessee it was really hard to find any vegetables at all apart some crappy lettuce or some overcooked greens, after all that pulled pork and BBQ, I was craving something different, with more fiber. Even fish in the USA is often cooked too dry, breaded and fried, healthy food made unhealthy. Maybe you could have pulled out your TripAdvisor or Yelp and got some better places to go. Also chewing with the mouth closed and not talking while eating would look better on camera.

Yes I would agree, but you may get tired to eat red meat or bbq every day, and steaks are expensive in the USA. In Italy I'd order carpaccio or tagliata (sliced beef seared on one side only, the other side raw). I hate thin well done steak as well, but this video is too much of a rant. Without their attitude they could have found better food choices and enjoyed the place more.

Last time I ate "American food" I had severe food poisoning followed by several days of diahrrea. If that floats YOUR boat, it surely doesn't float mine. And if you want to argue that one, on the basis that it was only one experience of "your" food, may I also point out that your experience of Italian food is just as limited as that remark of mine about America's food supply?
I prefer when people don't use the net as a forum for trolling - in this case, Italian food (one of the finest cuisines in the world - ranging all the way from "bland simple food" to some of the most exotic anywhere on this planet).
Perhaps we could stick to photography. BTW next time you're in France, and you make remarks like that, don't be surprised if the French aren't as polite as you'd like them to be.

What I found in Italy - or rather, what the Italians who were my hosts showed me - was that the best food was "off the beaten track", in places where there were less likely to be tourists and the majority of the customers were locals. Example - food around Venice, in tourist areas, can be quite expensive and not all that interesting. Instead, we went to a small trattoria down near the arsenal, miles away from St Mark's Square, and had a wonderful meal - and it cost a fraction of the price of a meal back near the Square.
I thought about our informant's plight last night, for some odd reason - can't think why - but really, why order steak, just because you eat it in America? - why not eat some of the local food? The poor man at the restaurant probably did the best he could to provide what the customer asked for, but wasn't on the menu, and could almost certainly have provided a far more interesting meal from what WAS on the menu.
Anyway - this is a photography forum, and no place for a dispute between gourmets and gourmands.

Photography wise this was a waste of time watching but comedy wise it would have been fun if that was the intention, coming to the Amalfi Coast (in the off season) and order a steak (as pointed out that wasn't...) is like going to, say, to a ski resort in summer and ordering a tuna tartare...

I live and work in the neighbor area and if I didn't know this is a parody I would really be upset, in a few miles radius we have some of the best restaurants in the whole Italian land and, pardon me, you really made it sound it so very bad...

This all besides I hope you had a enjoyed it as well as million people do and took some good pics for your project which I am sure you did because this was a photography tour, not a foodie one isn't it?!

I dunno about ordering a steak out of season. It probably wasn't Lee's wisest decisions but we both live in a very touristy city on the coast of South Carolina. The best steak I've ever had in my life (or least top 2) is cooked here and they outsource their USDA Prime steaks from Chicago (https://hallschophouse.com/about-us/our-allen-bros-steaks/). We don't have many cows here yet restaurants have no problems importing them and offering them fresh (and if they were frozen, well they still taste hella delicious). If I buy a $25 steak from my local butcher, I can cook a steak that rivals most places as well. I don't think I would see a steak like we saw in this BTS even in an Olive Garden or Ruby Tuesdays.

My experience was I ordered the fish as much as I could because, well the ocean was right there. Living in an ocean town myself, I have to say the fish I ordered was more like a farm raised Talapia than a fresh catch. I don't even remember any of the restaurants having options like grouper, halibut, cod, red snapper, mahi, etc etc. Here in Charleston (and most coastal towns), you have a full fish menu. I'm not saying that doesn't happen in Italy but it seemed a little rare especially considering people rave about the seafood. I know a lot of our shrimp now comes from China but on a whole, the seafood I've had anywhere on the east coast of the US was much better than Italy. I can say the same for Iceland, England, Honk Kong (their food is unbelievable), Mexico, Singapore and many other places I've been on the water.

I'm not trying to piss on Italy specifically, nothing would make me more happy than to have purely positive things to say about their food, but for some reason I've always been disappointed. Don't worry, we have a few great meals coming up and we are quick to sing their praises but I'm not convinced Italy is this powerhouse of cuisine like so many people claim.

I love Fstoppers and the range of content that you produce. But for the first time, in my opinion, you've really gone too far in your BTS video.. putting down the food of Italy, one of the finest food producing countries in the world as well as one of the top cuisines. (by the way, I'm not Italian).
First of all, that bread you bought is mainly for making toast, that's why is quite dry (but it does make the best toast). The clue is on the photo on the packaging! Secondly, Italy is one of the best places in Europe for food, you just have to know where to go and what to look for. Positano and nearby has some great places to eat, even out of season, but very little in the way of pre-packed, pre-prepared "plastic" foods. Like the rest of Italy, you should be looking for fresh ingredients in one of the finest food producing countries in the world. As for your comment about condiments... have you ever had pressed virgin olive oil or 15 year old balsamic vinegar? I guess not, they're so much better than almost any ketchup or mustard.
So here's the thing, I have been lucky enough to have traveled extensively with my photography and I keep returning to Italy as one of the most wonderful countries to stay in and shoot in. I even decided to get married there rather than in London. I challenge you to meet me in Italy and I'll show and teach you about the food from producer to plate, the different types of cuisine across the regions and, of course, the best pizza and pasta in the world, not forgetting the wines too!
How about it? A whole new BTS series... Food Stoppers!!

I hear you and I hope you don't really think we don't know good food because I would say my daily diet is probably made up of food most people would call higher quality than normal. I don't agree that the bread we bought was "quite dry" because it was honestly more soft and moist than most of the bread we did eat in Italy. And I can say the same thing about most bread in Europe. I think it has something to do with Europeans needing to make bread that could survive droughts and famine or something because in America and other parts of the world the bread is super fresh, soft, fluffy and sometimes even similar to hard bread if you want it (again, it's all about variety). French bread is amazing but they seem to break the mold.

Yes you are correct that the fresh olive oil in Italy is pretty amazing and generally better than most of what we get here in the states. Keep in mind though, the US can get pretty much anything shipped to us within 24-48 hours so we do still have those expensive fresh pressed olive oils here too. There hasn't been a local Italian wine I haven't been able to purchase through some local US wine distributor.


I think it's really funny that you've had to spend so much time defending the responses to your comments about Italian food in the BTS video - rather than on the main focus of the BTS. A simple "sorry about that" would have bought the discussion back to the core of the video, instead you're now trying defend your view by insisting that American food is so much better. Whilst I'll remain impartial on that one, I think that I'm up for making a foodie vlog about Italian food. It's obviously a very passionate subject. Anyone else interested in collaborating on this?

Ah it's no big deal. The main focus is actually our experience; the tutorial focuses only on photography. I don't feel like I need to defend anything really. Just trying to tell it like I experienced it.

Hi Patrick, nice article! ... A message for Lee: Hi Lee, you say great things about photography (not always!), but you don't know anything about food! Next time come with me in Italy and you will regret when is time to go back to the States! ;-) Great job to you all!!!

He may have no appreciation for food he is not familiar with. If the raw prosciutto is good, you do not really need ketchup or mustard in your sandwich.

It's obviously a joke, only for comedic effect. I mean, we are talking of people who put pineapple on pizza after all...

Variety is the spice of life. I never order the same pizza twice and I love that this sort of variety is an option.

Man, this turned into a foodie vlog fast! Nobody should be surprised that ordering food in one of the most touristy towns in Italy during the shoulder season is a risky maneuver. I've had my share of shitty food in Italy, but some of my favorite meals ever have also been in Italy. You'll find the same gamut of quality in any tourist destination. "What, NYC has some shitty food options? Why I never!"

BTW Patrick, whoever said you should drive the Amalfi coast on a scooter hates you and wants you to die under a tour bus.

Okay, back to the photography. :)

Hah, I've had lots of friends say they've driven the Amalfi Coast on scooter so it seemed like a reasonable idea.

I still struggle with this idea people say like "of course the food in a touristy town in the shoulder season is going to be bad!" I live in a super touristy city on the coast, Charleston, and we have amazing food here all year round. In fact, Charleston is rated as one of the top foodie cities in America. I understand Charleston is larger than Positano or Atrani but that doesn't mean they shouldn't still have solid food year round.

If I go to NYC or Charleston in the dead of winter and look up highly rated restaurants on Trip Adviser or Yelp, I still know I'm going to eat a great meal 9 times out of 10. Of course some tourists might rate the Apple Bees in Time Square as a 4 star but I could make the argument that even Apple Bees still serves a pretty decent steak, soup, salad, trio of a bunch of random stuff.

Having been to Positano it is hard to understand not being able to find good food to eat! Italians use fresh local ingredients to create a wonderful cuisine - and the package of stale white bread is because NO ONE ever actually buys that when there is so much fresh bread available!! I am sure you landscape/city photography is wonderful- but leave the food reviews (and perhaps the food photography- lol) to others!!

We were there during the off season so maybe they were out of fresh food (the lemon trees were all covered but I did pick a few and they seemed great). Still shocks me than a country like Italy can't have fresh food shipped in from anywhere but maybe the demand in Positano for fresh food on the off season is low. All I know is that we tried.

@13:00 FYI, if you own a D500 and have 01 version of en-el15, you are eligible for a free upgrade.

Well we have had the ENEL15 since whatever camera that first started shipping with (D7000 maybe?) so we had about 30 of those batteries. I doubt one upgrade would fix the situation.