The Structure of Photography

DATES: 10/06/2018 - 10/13/2018
LOCATION: Tuscan Renaissance Center
PRICE: $3,550.00

Tillman Crane is a large format photographer specializing in platinum/palladium photographic prints. Artist, teacher, philosopher and photojournalist, Crane has been professionally involved with photography for over thirty- five years. In 2016 he was inducted into the Alabama Artist Hall of Fame and had a solo exhibit of over 100 platinum prints at the National Art Museum of China in Beijing.

His images use available light, texture and space to create a unique perspective of both the ordinary and extraordinary structures of our world. Prints are made one at a time using a 19th century hand- coated process. The deep, rich look of platinum prints results from the gradual tonal change from black to white and choices of base papers and developers. Crane’s mastery of his craft is apparent from beginning to end, from exposure to the final print.

Crane has published four limited edition books: Tillman Crane/Structure (2001), Touchstones (2005), Odin Stone (2008) and A Walk Along the Jordan (2009). For the discriminating collector, he collaborates to create one-of-a-kind handmade books of platinum/palladium prints.

A skilled teacher, Crane offers workshops for all levels of expertise and camera formats in a variety of locations. These Spirit of Structure workshops include north Alabama, the Erie Canal, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Scotland & the Orkney Islands as well as China. He also teaches the craft of platinum printing for both group and private individuals.

Read More

Artist Statement

Making photographs is my work. It is work I love, work that is at times frustrating, hard and seemingly impossible and at other times the source of some of my greatest joy. I can explain the “where’s” and “how’s” of my photographs with minimal effort but asked to explain the “why’s” reduces me to a tongue-tied teen. Perhaps looking at the world through a lens upside down and backwards prevents the brain from developing a wordsmith’s ability. More likely it is the result of being so thoroughly absorbed in the process that thoughts of “why” simply don’t break through the experience. Maybe telling you “how” I work will bring us closer to the “why” of these images.

I’m not a conceptual photographer, but rather a reactionary one. That is, I react to what I see the light doing. I often photograph in and around buildings, not for the architectural information per se, but for how the corners, windows, and doors work to bend and shape the light. Some of the time I work with the light as I find it. Other times I have to return to a place over and over again before the light is right. Every once in awhile I will be in the right place at the right time, camera and film ready when a moment of perfect light illuminates a spot in front of me.

My photographs are always about the elusive qualities of light. Regardless of the subject – stone, tree, building, machine, or object – it is the light that I am really trying to capture. I can be fascinated by an object and photograph it, but if the light is not right, the image doesn’t work.  Each object has it’s own threshold for light and a diffuse, overcast light which illuminates without creating dramatic shadows is my most favorite light to photograph under. This soft light still presents with a sense of direction but more importantly it wraps around the subject, blending with its very skin and bringing something new to a previously ordinary object.

I photograph with view cameras, from 5 x 7 to 11 x 14 in size, and more recently with a digital camera. What draws me to the view cameras is that they require me to work slowly, one sheet of film at a time. I have to take time to set the camera up, knowing that I have to compose with care to get everything right. I have to choose the “right” lens for both the format and the effect I want, check light readings and think about how I want tonal values to appear later in the print. Seeing the image inverted on the ground glass abstracts it for me and allows me to see the design and composition without worrying about what the object is. Working with these cameras is almost a method of meditation, of relaxing deeply, of seeing and working within myself. The multitude of physical and mental steps required to make an image requires that setting up the camera becomes a ritual. This physical ritual frees up my mind to focus on what caught my attention in the first place.  It allows me to stop over-analyzing the subject and simply compose the image on the ground glass.

Of late, the challenges and costs of getting the view camera gear to a distant location began to exceed budget and experiential needs. As a result I began to experiment with a digital camera package. Coming from my 35 mm days as a photojournalist the smaller camera is familiar and the digital capture makes larger negatives possible. The challenge, for me, is to slow down when working with this smaller format so that I can see what I came looking for.

I print my negatives solely in platinum and palladium these days (refer to Platinum Printing explanation). I like the color and the longer tonal range I can achieve with this hand-mixed emulsion. I enjoy the slower tempo of working one contact print at a time. For me, there is a painterly feel the process in that makes each print essentially a monoprint, exhibiting slight differences from one another, even though made from the same negative.

In today’s world of digital photography my methodology is often viewed as that of the “old school” meaning “like back in the days of the dinosaurs”. In reality, the world of photography has made enormous leaps and bounds since the first documented permanent photographic image was made in 1839 and each artist gets to choose how they want to work with the medium. There is no “right or wrong” to these choices, they are simply preferences. For my process, as long as the materials are available – film, platinum and palladium – I will continue to focus my work in the more slow, completely hands-on way that I have chosen because it works for me to do so.  However, where necessary I will adapt my process to the equipment at hand.

Tillman Crane, 2017

The Platinum/Palladium Print Process

For people who collect photographs, platinum/palladium prints are known for their beauty, archival stability and unique, one-of-a-kind print statement. Made from the salts of platinum and palladium, these prints are also called “platinotypes” or “platinum” prints. Platinum and palladium are noble metals on the Periodic Table and are resistant to oxidation. The platinum salt emulsion is imbedded into the fiber of the paper during the printing process.

As with most historical photographic processes, a platinum print is made by placing the negative and emulsion-coated paper in direct contact. Therefore, the size of the photographic print is equal to the size of the negative.

Platinum prints have a different “look” from silver gelatin or digital prints. All platinum prints have a matte, not glossy surface, because the sensitizer is absorbed into the paper rather than sitting on the surface. A platinum print also has a more gradual tonal change from black to white. To the eye accustomed to the punch of a silver gelatin print, a platinum print will often feel “softer” or lower in contrast. In reality there are actually more steps between pure black and pure white in platinum prints than in a silver gelatin print. This contributes to the deeper, richer feeling you experience when looking at these prints.

My platinum prints are made from hand-mixed and hand-coated emulsions. These sensitizers are mixed just prior to use, coated on the paper with a brush or glass rod. Once dry, a negative is placed in direct contact with the paper, and then exposed to “actinic” or ultraviolet light. Exposure to the light source takes a few minutes to an hour or more, depending on the density and contrast of the negative.

The image tone of a platinum/palladium print can vary widely in color. These prints can range from a cool, slightly purple black to split tones of brown and warm black, to a very warm brown. The proportions of platinum to palladium in the emulsion, choice of developers and the temperature of the developer control the final color.

As these emulsions are mixed and coated by hand no two prints are exactly alike. I like to think of them as “monotype” prints from the same negative. Some practitioners of these historic processes leave brush strokes plainly visible. My goal is to make prints as smooth as possible, but occasionally brush strokes can be seen in some of the prints. They should be seen as the marks of the artist.

Tillman Crane, 2017

Soft Focus Does NOT Mean Out-of-Focus

My interest in soft focus photography may seem incongruent with my earlier view camera work, which has been more in the style of the f/64 group. For almost thirty years of working with large format cameras I have worked hard to create images of fine focus and detail. However, I have always had a soft spot for the Pictorialist photographers who created and worked with lenses that added an Impressionistic quality to their images. Aside from the obvious softness in the image, when the best features of a soft focus lens are used, a luminescence occurs in the image that I haven’t been able to create with my other lenses. It is this burst of light that creates, for me, the tension and excitement in these soft focus photographs.

Working with a soft focus lens is very different from working with the anastigmatic, rectilinear and apochromatic lenses found on most cameras today. To begin with, most soft focus lenses are either of a normal or slightly long focal length for any given format. In addition, there is no specific point of focus with a soft focus lens but more of a zone of focus. The effects of soft focus lenses work because of the spherical and chromatic aberrations. (The earliest manufactured soft focus lenses used both spherical and chromatic aberrations but later lenses were corrected for chromatic aberrations.) Although soft focus lenses can give a sharp image within their prescribed field of coverage when the apertures are completely stopped down, most do not have the resolving power of anastigmatic lenses, contributing more to the softening effect. Furthermore, outside the field of focus the image degrades rapidly to the edge of the negative.

The earliest designed soft focus lens, the Dallmeyer Patent Portrait, was made for portrait work in the 1860s. Though some believe soft focus lenses were made in direct response to the Impressionistic movement in paintings, records from Royal Photographic Society meetings of the 1850s show that photographers had already begun looking for lenses that gave a less literal rendering of a subject and more poetic one. By the late 19th century amateur photographers became a bigger market in photography and their artistic interests, rather than commercial needs, resulted in the development of lenses designed specifically to give a softer effect.

Regardless of their history, soft focus lenses work differently than other lenses in how they record subjects on the ground glass and on film. Each lens requires patience and experimentation to master, owing to a variety of traits, which make them distinct from each other and all other camera lenses. Even two lenses manufactured at the same time will have different personalities due to the differences in their naturally occurring aberrations. When you learn the “character” of your individual lenses you can begin to have more control in the use of these lenses. What is important to remember is this: a soft focus image produced using soft focus lenses is NOT the same as an image produced with a fixed focal length pinhole or plastic camera or other manipulation (physical or digitally created) causing an overall out-of-focus or “fuzzy” effect. These are completely different processes and should be examined and evaluated on their individual merits and not clumped together as “soft focus”.

Tillman Crane


Spirit and Structure of Tuscany

Calling all photographers to the Chianti region of Tuscany! With inspiration around every corner, your images will come alive with Instructor, Tillman Crane.

Based at the Tuscan Renaissance Center in the 12th century monastery of San Fedele, we will explore the spirit and structure of small towns and villages, wineries, churches and monasteries. Between every structure is the land and light of the Tuscan landscape. This heart of wine country will include photographing in the nearby wineries of Dievole or Castle Vecchi. Nearby artist studios of pottery and cashmere and the market in Poggibonsi will provide a different focus.


Chianti vineyards in the fall, photo by Chris Corradino

The San Fedele monastery has been meticulously restored using traditional building methods and materials. Remaining true to its original spirit and rich architectural detail it offers itself up well for both a photographic subject and comfortable accommodations.

Photographers in Siena, by Judy Thompson

Come study with Tillman in this beautiful region of Tuscany! All levels of experience welcome as well as all camera formats. The only requirement is that you know how to use your camera of choice. We will have group critiques of our work throughout the week. Participation encouraged but not required.

Additional Activities: Our daily class will involve adventures such as:

  • Day trip to Medieval Siena to explore (and shop)
  • Excursions to nearby hilltowns like Radda, Castellina, Monteriggioni, etc.
  • Visit to Chianti winery for a tour and tasting
  • Variety of photo shooting locations designed to meet the interests of the group, escorted by our guide
  • Discussions of Tuscan cuisine with our personal chef

Dinner is served by our chef Andrea

After excursions or working in the photo studio, we’ll return each evening to relax in our 1,000 year old monastery to enjoy the surroundings, have a glass of wine and an informal critique of the day’s work. Then we will move to the dining room (the authentic refectory where the monks used to assemble) to enjoy our local chef’s authentic, home-made Tuscan meal, recapping the day’s adventure with good company.


Price: $3,550 p/p; non-participants $3,250
Reduction:  $500 p/p for sharing a room

Tuscan field-LL

Olive Trees by Lester Lefkowitz


  • Accommodation (single room or discount for shared double, as priced above) in restored monastery
  • Daily traditional breakfast and dinner, including wine
  • Daily photography classes and critiques
  • Full day excursions to Siena and Florence
  • ½ day excursion to nearby hilltown (San Gimignano, Monteriggioni, Radda, Volpaia…)
  • Pick up from Florence train station at 3:30pm on arrival Saturday
  • Transfer to bus/train station in Siena on final day

Does Not Include:

  • Airfare
  • Lunch (lite lunch will be available for purchase on days we are not out on excursion)
  • Museum entry fees
  • Gratuities
  • Independent meals and sight-seeing
  • Travel insurance (which we strongly recommend)

To Register:  just click on the Sign Up Now button.  A non-refundable deposit of $500 is required to secure your spot in the workshop.  Payment can be made on line with a credit card, or you can follow the instructions to send in your registration and payment by mail.  Once we receive your deposit we will send you a formal Registration Confirmation with further information about the program.  You will receive 2-3 other correspondences by email prior to the workshop with information about Italy, a supplies list and an electronic invoice for the balance.  Final Balance is due by August 15th.  Any time prior to your arrival, if you have questions about anything regarding the trip or the program, you can contact us by email or phone and we’ll be happy to assist you.

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

Borgo San Fedele

— San Fedele is a restored 12th century monastery floating in the Chianti hills —

T©Lester Lefkowitz 7003-001he Il Chiostro at San Fedele is the combined skills of Linda and Michael of Il Chiostro joining together with Nicolo and Renata of San Fedele to produce a unique and inspiring environment rooted in the traditional Tuscan values of beauty, great food, an appreciation for nature and the value of community.  The monastery, dating back to the 12th century, was meticulously restored using traditional building methods and all original materials. Today, the monastery remains true to its original spirit, rich architectural detail. The 16 rooms and suites where participants are housed have lovely modern bathrooms, screened windows, air conditioning, period furniture, wi-fi internet service, satellite television and minibar, all designed to perfectly complimentthe medieval surroundings.

The original soaring chapel is now used as a large art studio or workshop space. The monks’ refectory, where a lost 16th century fresco was uncovered during renovation, is now the dining room connected to a state-of-the-art kitchen and the old stone cantinas where they stored their wine have been transformed into studio and classroom space.

For information about the history of this monastery, Click here to go to San Fedele’s web site…


Rather than  hotel, San Fedele is classified as a historic residence in Italy.  That means that it is an intimate setting, preserved along strict historical guidelines to preserve the spirit of the setting.  The owners are on site to oversee this unique combination of historic landmark and modern day comfort.

Accommodations are spacious shared double rooms or junior suites. Each room, because it was converted from the original structure of the monastery without altering the building, is unique in shape. Furnishings and decor were selected to coordinate with the historic, subdued feeling of the monastery, but in a comfortable, modern style. All rooms have two beds that can be separated into twins or combined into one large matrimonial. There is a sitting area, refrigerator, DSL wi-fi, television, air-conditioning, heating, modern private bathroom with shower and hair dryers.

lester-lefkowitz-room3 lester-lefkowitz-room2

There are a limited number of single rooms available at a supplement of $550.

2 Jr. Suites for a minimum of 2 people are available for a supplement of $250 per person.

Night shot piazza©Lester Lefkowitz 7003-010© Lester Lefkowitz 7184-022Archway from rose garden and breakfast buffet in the refectory (photos by Lester Lefkowitz)

Terrace-MJossThe back of San Fedele is surrounded by a large al fresco dining terrace with the original terra cotta tile designs reproduced down to the smallest details. The terrace overlooks the same organic vegetable and flower garden tended by the monks for centuries. Beyond are the rolling Chianti vineyards that make this part of Tuscany so breathtaking.

Other common spaces include a large classroom carved into the rock of the ancient wine cellar, an expansive private piazza, a 16 x 7 meter swimming pool and sprawling landscaped grounds on a rolling hillside.

To San Fedele-LMFlorence will be our meeting point on the first day of the workshop. A van will pick up the group at the train station at about 3:30 pm on Saturday afternoon.

We recommend that you fly into either Florence, Pisa or Rome (Milan is a bit too far away). Florence is closer but it doesn`t have an intercontinental airport, so there are no direct flights from the US. You would have to change planes in a larger European city. From the Florence airport you must take a shuttle bus (Volainbus) into the center (20 minutes).

There are more scheduled flights from the US to Rome, many of them direct. From Rome, you will need to take a train to Florence (about 2 1/2 hours).
Important! In making your return flight arrangements, if you are flying home on Saturday after the workshop, try not to book a flight too early. From our location allow 1 ½ hours to get to the Florence airport or 3 ½ hours to get to the Rome airport.

For suggestions about getting to Rome or Florence, accommodations or other logistics, please consult ourTraveling to Italy link. Renting a car from all the major rental agencies is possible if you prefer to be more independent during the week.

Fall vineyards

Fall vineyards


Borgo San Fedele sits conveniently on a country road connecting the charming medieval walled town of Radda and the village of Vagliagli. Other nearby hilltowns include Castellina-in-Chianti, Monteriggioni and Volpaia. It is about 45 minutes from San Gimignano and Volterra. Many of these towns have roots in the earlier Etruscan civilization that permeated this area prior to the Romans.

San Fedele is located about 12 km northeast of Siena and 45 km south of Florence.

The Food

For us at Il Chiostro, helping our guests to experience the traditional food in one of the earth`s richest, most sensual areas is our pleasure. The Chianti region of Tuscany is Italy’s famous wine and olive oil producing region. Here we want to expose you to the wonders of simple Italian cooking known in the area as cucina povera. Our chef Andrea is a Tuscan native who uses recipes from his mother and grandmother to bring the tradition of not only Tuscany, but specifically the Chianti region, to the table each evening.  We use seasonal, organic products, locally produced by small farms and family shops. Our chef searches for the best of Tuscany to serve you. Tuscan cuisine is a simple art that has been refined over the centuries to surprise our palates while the red chianti wine comforts our souls. Come explore what food can really be all about.

© Lester Lefkowitz 7184-057Candle Light Dinner2-CharlesAnderson
About Your Il Chiostro Hosts
Linda and Michael, and their program managers will host your program in Tuscany. They have been organizing workshops in Italy since 1995 and each person brings a special talent to the program. You can read more about them by following the About Il Chiostro link. At the Tuscan Renaissance Center, the owners of San Fedele, Nicolo and Renata, live on site. They will be available throughout the program to talk about the history of the monastery, the renovation and this area of Tuscany they call home.

In addition to your workshop
Optional activities offered with this program will focus on the cultural, gastronomic, historical and artistic heritage of Tuscany. This area has been an inspiration to countless people for centuries. What Tuscany offers its visitors is truly astounding:

Bell tower-smallArt – San Fedele is located conveniently between the cities of Medieval Siena and Renaissance Florence packed with some of the most famous masterpieces in the world.

Wine -You are in the heart of the Chianti region, synonomous with the most famous wine that Italy produces. But the innovative Tuscan vintners are also producing Super Tuscans, red varietals that are quickly ascending the ranks of world-class wine.

History – this area was settled by the Etruscans centuries before the Romans were a civilized society. Their necropoli dot the fields throughout the area. Nearby towns like Radda, Vagliagli and Castellina date from the early Middle Ages. Florence was the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. San Fedele witnessed most of this from its panoramic perch atop the hillside.

Foodcucina povera is the typical Tuscan cuisine that has become popular around the world. The recipes are simple, emphasizing local and seasonal products: porcini mushrooms, salumi, legumes, vegetables, pasta, bread and game meats. Visiting an outdoor food market, you will understand the wisdom of this very healthy cuisine.

Crafts – perhaps the harmony of the landscape has been the inspiration for many local craftsmen. Exquisite hand-painted ceramics are the prime example, closely followed by mosaics, leather, woodworking, and textiles.