Autumn Arts Festival – Tuscany Through Your Camera Lens

DATES: 10/17/2017 - 10/26/2017
PRICE: $3350.00

J Michael Sullivan has been a professional photographer since 1977. His evocative images have received numerous national and international awards. A pioneer in digital photography, his first color digital scans were made in 1989 and his first published color digital camera images were taken in 1992 — many years before consumer digital cameras were available to the general public. Published in 1995, his book, How to Make Your Scanner a Great Design and Production Tool (Northlight) was one of the first layperson’s books available describing in detail how to use a scanner as an artistic tool. For many years he was a regular speaker/lecturer at MacWorld, HOW, and The Seybold Seminars.

Currently, he is a full-time consultant for the software industry which takes him worldwide. A master printmaker, he operates the Printwright Studio out of his studio, an atelier for making museum-quality reproductions of local artist’s originals. He continues his passion and practice for photography to this day, which includes offering workshops for budding photographers to further master their skills.

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A member artist of North River Arts Society and a gallery artist of South Shore Arts Association, Michael lives in Marshfield Hills Massachusetts with his wife and artist Liz Haywood-Sullivan. For more of Michael’s photography check out:

Contact information:
web —
email —
phone — 339-933-2752

“Michael is a photographic master: Master with his camera techniques, with his artistic expression, a master printmaker, and he shares his love of photography with his students. If you love photography you’ll love his works.”
Connie Drapeau Kennedy

J Michael Sullivan Artist’s Statement

“Whenever I travel I always pack my photographic gear so that I may be able to capture the essence of wherever I am as best as I can. I often set challenges for myself, essentially giving myself assignments. I find that giving myself assignments assists me in focusing on the essence of the place and reduces the urge to “shoot everything”. In this same vein I lead my students on a similar adventure: each day there is a theme (or assignment) and I seek to guide and assist each student on their journey to better their own photographic vision via these assignments. The icing on the cake is the collaborative critique at the end of the day, each participating student having dealt with the assignment in a different and unique way. A dozen eyes will result in a dozen different interpretations — an experience that all will learn and build upon. Lastly but perhaps most importantly, I find photography as an art form to be both fun and challenging — and my desire is that my students see it in the same light and seek to join me in a unique opportunity to grow and learn.”

Il Chiostro celebrates the harvest time of the year in Tuscany with The Autumn Arts Festival. We offer 5 separate workshops that all overlap throughout this week-long celebration of the arts, the harvest, the wine and this wonderful region of Italy.  The workshops are:

In addition to your workshop we offer Italian Opera Appreciation lectures with Prof. Patricia Pease each evening before dinner.  This is open to all participants.

Program DescriptionTuscany Through Your Camera Lens:

If you are passionate about photography, Tuscany in autumn is a unique opportunity to hone your skills in this exquisite landscape. We will work in a collaborative setting with one-on-one coaching to improve the quality of your picture making. Not only are the photographic opportunities nearly limitless, but the fabulous cuisine, unique Tuscan light, history of the region, and camaraderie of being with a group of like-minded, passionate photographers under the guidance of J Michael Sullivan will make this a trip of a lifetime!

Starry Night with Dievole Chapel, J Michael Sullivan

Students of all skill levels are encouraged to attend. Michael has over 38 years experience as a professional photographer/art director and he will tailor the lessons to your specific needs and abilities. Each day we will work with a theme/assignment based on our location, but there will also be ample time for “doing your own thing” and pursuing your own vision. There will be a daily critique at the end of the day where students in a relaxed setting can present their work and receive feedback from both Michael as well as the other students. Optional night photography excursions will be arranged (scheduled depending on weather and timing of the moonrise) so that those wishing to hone their skills in nocturnal image making will have the opportunity to go out and make some unique imagery.

Students are encouraged to pack their camera gear as light as possible — not only for travel but for location searching once at Dievole. The ideal setup would be two or three prime lenses or a “walkabout” zoom with perhaps a single fast prime lens. Note: for those wishing to do night photography a super wide angle lens and tripod comes in handy. We will have plenty of time to discuss equipment and Michael is full of interesting and relevant tips and techniques from his years of traveling with cameras.
Michael is a photographic master: Master with his camera techniques, with his artistic expression, a master printmaker, and he shares his love of photography with his students. If you love photography you’ll love his works.   Connie Drapeau Kennedy


Ponte Vecchio, by J Michael Sullivan

A sample of our daily photographic themes/assignments will include, but are not limited to:

  • shooting the landscape, including panoramic images
  • macro photography
  • tips on how to shoot people; casual snaps, the natural portrait
  • timelapse and long exposure images
  • how to use flash/bounce light
  • urbanscapes and shooting architectural images
  • night photography
  • how to capture beautiful sunrises and sunsets
Michael’s instruction will cover topics such as: manual exposure vs. auto, composing your image, using your flash, exposure bracketing, post-processing, panorama software & techniques, RAW conversion, B&W conversion, HDR processing, and how to manage all your Tuscany images!
For images from Michael’s previous workshop with Il Chiostro at Dievole follow this link:

Students shooting in Siena

Price: $3,350 p/p;

optional supplements include:

  • limited number of suites available for a $450 p/p supplement (minimum 2 persons)
  • single supplement $600 (limited number available)

No single rooms or suites available.  Contact us to be put on waiting list for either.


  • Room (double or suite) with full bathroom-9 nights
  • 2 meals per day (dinner with wine and full Tuscan breakfast)
  • Workshop tuition and fees (except where noted)
  • General activities (except where noted)
  • Transfers between Siena train or bus station and Dievole

Departure is on morning of October 26th.


Dievole Pool, by J Michael Sullivan

General Activities Open to All Participants (in addition to workshop):
Most activities take place in and around the 900 year old Dievole estate & vineyard.

  • Winery tour and tasting, featuring Dievole’s Chianti Classico
  • Italian Opera Appreciation classes every evening before dinner
  • Excursion to Siena
  • Dinner in the old cantina
  • Various topical excursions with your class
  • Special evening events and surprise entertainment, TBA
  • Pig Roast celebrating the harvest and the arts

Price does not include:

  • Airfare
  • Museum admissions
  • Art supplies, laptops or other equipment for workshops.

Contact us for more information: or speak to us live at 800-990-3506.

Dievole Chianti Classico Winery, Tuscany

Dievole RoomParticipants in the Autumn Arts Festival will stay in Dievole’s 16th century inn and guest houses floating in the magnificent Tuscan hills. Rooms are doubles or suites with modern bathrooms and heating.

A limited number of single rooms and suites are available for a supplement:

  • Single Supplement – $550
  • Suite Supplement for 2 persons – $250 per person


Dievole is classified as agritourism so it will seem more like a family inn rather than an impersonal chain hotel. Dievole is located in the town of Vagliagli, about 12km northeast of Siena and 40km south of Florence. If you wish to explore the area independently during your stay we recommend renting a car. The link below will give you a glimpse of the winery:

Click here to visit Dievole’s web site…

Visit them on Facebook:


Die vole vineyards, photo by Jim Palmer

Dievole wine bottles-GRios

Dievole wine bottles, photo by Gilbert Rios

Gianni pouring-2014

Gianni pouring for a tasting, photo by Andy Holtzman


Dinner in the old wine cellar, photo by J Michael Sullivan


Dino ready to carve at the harvest pig roast


Early morning at Dievole, photo by Gabriella Pascoe


Orientation in the vintners’ room, photo by J Michael Sullivan

We will pick you up in Siena anytime between 1 and 5pm on the first day of the program. The recommended arrival airports are Florence or Rome from where you can take a bus or train to Siena. Florence is closer, but there are no direct flights from the US. You would have to change in another European city. Rome provides more flight options.

The bus/train from Rome to Siena is about 3 hours.

We can also arrange for a car to pick you up from Florence or Rome. You pay the driver directly. Just let us know a few days in advance so we can make the arrangemenst for you.

If you are departing from Rome on the last day, remember it is 3 hours by car or bus from Siena so try to book an afternoon flight.

If you have time, you might consider lingering in Italy for a few days extra on either end of the festival. Allow the Italian rhythms to seduce you. A few days in Rome or Florence upon arrival is a wonderful way to get over jet-lag. For other travel help check our Travel to Italy web page.

  • Full service travel agent if you prefer someone to do it all for you: arrange plane tickets, hotel accommodations and car rental, etc. (not just 1 night in a pensione, please) we recommend Patti Booth at Pisa Brothers Travel, (212) 2658420.
  • For this trip and whenever you travel, we strongly recommend personal travel insurance. It protects you against penalties should you need to cancel your trip at the last minute. If you don’t have a policy, contact Travelex (800) 5047883 or [Note: Travelex requires that you take out a policy within 21 days of registering for a travel program.]

Specific Travel information to get to Dievole:

By Train: There are regularly scheduled trains from all major towns and cities in Italy. Head towards Siena. From Rome there are several trains daily from the main station (Termini). You don`t need a reservation. Although you purchase a through ticket, it is necessary to change trains at Chiusi. The ride takes about 3.5 hours (approximately 240 km.) and the cost is around $20.
NOTE: in Italy it is the law to stamp your train ticket in the little yellow meter near each train platform. Failure to do so can result in heavy fines, even if you plead ignorance.
By Bus: There are also buses from almost anywhere in Italy to Siena. These are modern and comfortable coaches.

From Florence: buses leave the SITA terminal (next door to the train station) nearly every hour. If you take Siena Rapida, the ride is direct on the highway and should take 1 hour.

From Rome: the ride takes 3 hours (non-stop). If you plan to arrive at the Rome airport and plan to come directly to Siena, this is the quickest method. From the airport, take the train on the left-hand track to the Tiburtina station (NOT Termini). From there, go outside into the parking lot.
If you are already in Rome you can take the Metro to the Tiburtina station. Take the B (blue) line towards Rebibbia. Follow signs to Pzle. Stazione Tiburtina.
With the long side of the station at your back, cross under the overpass into the parking lot. Buy your ticket from the building marked Biglietteria C (17.50 Euros, approx. $20); the bus usually leaves from Gate 8. These buses leave every day at regular intervals. To get current fares and schedules for the SENA bus you can check their web site:

Once in Siena, get off at the Siena train station (Ferrovia). Don’t get off in the center of Siena.

Tuscany in autumn is a sensual feast. Russet and golden hills. Crisp air. Trees weighted with olives. Woods rich with mushrooms and chestnuts. The scent of grapes hangs over the valleys like mist. The harvest is the soul of the Tuscans. In autumn the hilltowns revert to the locals. Their art is to prepare the bounty: prosciutto, nuts, olive oil and especially Chianti. Traditional festivals celebrate every phase from the vendemmia (harvesting of grapes for wine) to the wild boar. Music, folklore, dancing in the piazza.And there, in the heart of Tuscany, is Siena. The legendary medieval town packed with history and art. In autumn, her museums and churches relax, uncrowded. The streets echo her architecture, art and heroes.

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Surrounding Vineyards, photo by Linda Mironti