Against The Traffic: PIETRASANTA (Michelangelo’s Marble Mines)


Pietrasanta is a marvelous artists’ community located in northwestern Tuscany. It is less than 3 km from the coast, 32 km north of Pisa and part of Versilia. This jewel was founded in 1255 and was recognized by Michelangelo for the quality of the marble mined from the nearby Apuan Alps. Artisans by the dozens populate the area and draw fellow-artists and collectors world-wide.

By day, this town has a quiet, sleepy quality with exciting cathedrals, towers and museums to be taken in. At night, the excitement is rolled out! It’s as if the movie “Night at the Museum” is being played out in real life. The lights from the many restaurants, shops and galleries sparkle. In the Center Square you are treated to street musicians, mimes, and more. This is a wonderfully lively setting for those of us into night street shooting. The colors, action and energy explode!

For me, however, the true excitement is traveling into the nearby alps to search out its many marble quarries, some active, some not. It is easy enough to Google “quarries near Pietrasanta” for some guidance on locations. I preferred just driving around and hoping to stumble upon something interesting. I was fortunate enough to find one quarry no longer operational. Yet, I was able to walk through and marvel at this natural masterpiece. It was peaceful and oh so quiet. I will never forget it!

This is where you will have to remember to make the appropriate adjustments for exposure. Inside the quarries there are often strong reflections and bright glare, much like you would find in snow-like environments. My first outing into a quarry some years prior left me with most of my images being near pitch black and under-exposed when first opened. I was only saved through post-processing in PhotoShop. For the best way to handle this technically, I commend you to Jim Zuckerman’s discussion on white balance


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“Use your in-camera or hand held reflective meter to read a middle toned, or medium-gray, subject: a gray camera bag, a pair of jeans, a tree trunk or perhaps a rock outcropping. Any middle-toned object will work (regardless of color) as long as it’s receiving the same light as the scene before you. Once you’ve determined this reading, manually set the lens aperture and shutter speed and don’t use the automatic exposure mode to make the shot.” 

Pietrasanta is this photographer’s delight:  The combination of so many photographic challenges: indoor, street and natural shooting, makes this one of my favorite excursions against the traffic.


You can see other shots taken in Tuscany at

One comment on “Against The Traffic: PIETRASANTA (Michelangelo’s Marble Mines)

  1. Debra Kolkka says:

    I love Pietrasanta, I go whenever I can when I am at my house in Bagni di Lucca. It is only tiny, but the town is very interesting.


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