On Location Photographing Venice - Part One

In July, I spent a few nights in Venice and wow, what a city. It really is something else. The architecture, the history, the romance. I had a great time wandering around the city capturing the views on my camera (Fuji X-T10), so in this two-part blog post, I'm going to share some of the pictures I took accompanied by some information about the location and maybe a bit of history thrown in for good measure.

Traveling from Venice from the UK was so quick. It took just 1h 45m. Once landed, I took a boat from the airport to the city, dumped my bags at the hotel (more on the hotel later) and went to explore this beautiful city.

Bridge of Sighs

The first image below is a slightly different view of the Bridge of Sighs. This is a really popular bridge in Venice and as you can see below, the bridge in the distance is packed with tourists trying to grab a view of the beautifully sculptured walkway.

This ornate, limestone walkway was a solution to a problem way back, when authorities needed to transport prisoners from Doge's Palace to the new prisons across the Palazzo river. Thought to be named because of the sighs that could be heard from the prisoners, the bridge, or more specifically the holes in the side would have provided prisoners a last glimpse of the outside world before heading to their cells.

The image below was taken from Memoria Ponte. Link on Google Maps. Although still busy, it is a much quieter location than the one opposite.

One thing to note is that although I took multiple lenses to Venice. I would tend to only go out with the lens attached to the camera. Having the restriction of one lens is actually quite liberating. There is less to carry and it removes the fuss around changing the lens or not being sure which lens to use for each shot. I see the shot, pick the best composition, move if I have to (or can) and snap away. The first three images below are taken with the XF18-55mm.

Photo of the Bridge of Sighs in Venice taken by Trevor Sherwin

1/420th sec
f6.4

ISO200
55mm
Fujifilm X-T10
XF18-55mm

I would be lying if I said I could remember where the next shot was taken. It was just one of the hundreds of bridges over the miles of canal somewhere in Venice. All I do know is that based on the time stamps on the images, it is only 7 minutes walk from the next image below. It was the red and black mooring poles here that caught my attention. They were quite striking and a typically Venetian.

Photo of a canal in Venice taken by Trevor Sherwin

1/120th sec
f5.6

ISO200
55mm
Fujifilm X-T10
XF18-55mm

One of the more surprising observations I had when wandering around Venice is that there are very little in the way of paths running along the canals, particularly the Grand Canal. It was something I didn't really consider before which does actually seems obvious to me now. This means getting pictures of buildings along the Grand Canal is more difficult than you might imagine. You will tend to cross the canals rather than walk along them in this city.

Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute

The next few images focus on the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. I took the image below from a jetty along the Grand Canal, just opposite (Link to Google Maps).I think it is such a beautiful and recognisable structure along the canal. Maybe it's because the dome has a little St Paul's Cathedral about it which as you may know, pushes the right "London" buttons for me. Officially a minor Basilica, this structure is one of the largest churches in Venice.

The church was built on the back of a promise the locals made to the Virgin Maria in exchange for salvation from the Plague and when the plague was finally defeated in 1631, the church was erected.

Photo of Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute by Trevor Sherwin

1/350th sec
f13

ISO200
28mm
Fujifilm X-T10
XF18-55mm

The hotel I stayed in was fantastic. It was right where you would want to be while staying in Venice, a few minutes from the Piazza San Marco with riverside views of the San Marco Basin and the mouth of the Grand Canal. The hotel we stayed in is called the Hotel Locanda Vivaldi. I booked the hotel because the location was great and it had a traditional Venetian look and feel and during my visit I really wanted to soak up as much of Venice as I could and this hotel really delivered.

The shot below was actually taken from my hotel room window. I purposely booked a superior room as they all have waterfront views and as you can see, it did not leave us wanting.

Photo of Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute by Trevor Sherwin

1/850th sec
f5.6

ISO200
128mm
Fujifilm X-T10
XF55-200mm

For the shot above and the two below, I used my XF55-200mm lens. I've not had this lens too long and yet to see its full potential.

On the image below you will see the start of what turned out to be quite an epic storm coming in from the mountains to the north of the city. It turns out this is quite a regular occurrence in the late afternoon during the summer months. Thankfully it only happened the once during our visit and only lasted an hour or so but when it hit, it was epic.

Photo of Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute with stormy clouds by Trevor Sherwin

1/200th sec
f5.6

ISO200
55mm
Fujifilm X-T10
XF55-200mm

To give the lens a run for its money I grabbed a close up of the church's domes from across the San Marco Basin. I loved the way the storm clouds gave the dome a moody backdrop and even at 200mm, the image was nice and sharp and no tripod in sight. The storm clouds really help the statue at the top of the bell tower stand out and I really like how the windows reflected the warm, yellow evening light too.

Close up photo of Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute with stormy clouds by Trevor Sherwin

1/75th sec
f5.6

ISO200
200mm
Fujifilm X-T10
XF55-200mm

San Giorgio dei Greci

Traditionally Venetian on the outside and Greek Orthodox on the inside, the leaning tower of Chiesa di (church) San Giorgio dei Greci in the picture below is one of the tallest bell towers in Venice. Located beside the canal running alongside my hotel, I took this picture of the tower with the 35mm F2 lens attached. There is no distortion in this image despite how it appears, the tower actually does have an obvious lean which, so I read, started pretty much as soon as the tower was completed.

Photo of San Giorgio dei Greci along the canal in Venice by Trevor Sherwin

1/120th sec
f4

ISO200
35mm
Fujifilm X-T10
XF35mm F2

Piazza San Marco

At the end of my first day in Venice, I ended up in the Piazza San Marco (St Mark's Square). When wandering around the city, this square seems to have some kind of strange magnetic force as no matter how far I walked and how lost I got throughout my stay, I always seemed to end up at St Mark's Square.

The ambience of the square late at night is very different than during the day. In the day there are literally thousands of people around the square trying to capture the views around the square or standing in a very long line waiting to get into the St Mark's Basilica. At night, it is surprising how fast the square quietened down. With a lot fewer people, the bands playing romantic music around the square, it was a nice time to walk around and soak in the romance of the city.

Still, with the 35mm attached, I thought that the architecture in the background creating deep shadows and the sculpture of the traditional, ornate lamp post casting the light across the ground captured the feeling of this location beautifully. The detail rendered by this great lens made it a great choice for the job too. Link to Google Map of the location this image was shot from.

Photo of an Ornate lamp in St Marl's Square Venice by Trevor Sherwin

1/25th sec
f2

ISO1600
35mm
Fujifilm X-T10
XF35mm F2

 

Accademia Bridge

I continued with the X-T10/35mm F2, camera/lens combo the next day as I ventured to one of the famous bridges across the Grand Canal, the Accademia Bridge (Ponte dell'Accademia). Most famous for two reasons. The first is obvious and that's the classic composition it provides of the city. Arguably the most recognisable view in Venice. Secondly, the bridge's history. The bridge was supposed to be temporary and was built after the previous iron structure was removed in 1932. The bridge was actually replaced in 1986 with a bridge made from the same plans as the original.

Photo of the Grand Canal taken of the Accademia Bridge by Trevor Sherwin

1/16000th sec
f2

ISO200
35mm
Fujifilm X-T10
XF35mm F2

So after crossing the bridge, I had a wander around to the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute and on the way back, found a cute little area with a bridge across a small canal right next to a cafe that served the best ice cream in the city and trust me, we tried a few.

Time for ice cream

The cafe was called Luganegher (google street view link) and with the temperature up near the 30s, it went down a treat!

Back at the Bridge of Sighs, I found a great little spot to have rest and dip my feet in the water while watching the gondolas float past. I since found out that putting your feet in the water is probably a bad idea as the city does not have a sewer so you can imagine where it all goes ;-) but with the temperature as it was it felt so good at the time.

Photo of venetian ice cream in Venice taken by Trevor Sherwin
 

I grabbed the shot below of the gondolas starting their circuits around the canals with a new batch of paying customers. In this picture, the river leads the viewer nicely into the shot and the canal is also nicely framed by the bridge above.

Photo of Gondolas under the Bridge of Sighs in Venice by Trevor Sherwin

1/280th sec
f10

ISO200
35mm
Fujifilm X-T10
XF35mm F2

I mentioned earlier in the post about the hotel I was staying at but one thing I left out was its roof terrace. A cute little area to have some food and drink with some great views of Venice. It also provides a nice view straight down the adjacent canal so I grabbed my 55-200mm lens again and zoomed in down the canal which gave a lens compression effect which works quite well for this shot.

Photo of a venetian canal taken by Trevor Sherwin

1/125th sec
f9

ISO200
135mm
Fujifilm X-T10
XF55-200mm

The Grand Canal

I decided to venture out into the city just before sunrise. I often do this in London to capture the sunrise and there is no better time to experience any city in the world. While everyone else is asleep, the calm and tranquillity a city has to offer without the hustle and bustle is quite something to experience and I recommend to photographers and non-photographers alike to experience this when visiting a new city.

Using the 18-55m lens again, I started off capturing the view I've always wanted to get in Venice namely the Grand Canal and the Basilica. I had already checked the sunrise location out on suncalc.net so I knew that all being well with the weather, the sun would rise in the general direction I was shooting. The sky was pretty clear on this particular morning but not wanting a too cluttered composition, I was fine with this.

Photo of the Grand Canal and the Basilica in Venice taken by Trevor Sherwin

0.6 secs
f10

ISO200
18mm
Fujifilm X-T10
XF18-55mm

Using a 10 stop ND filter, I captured a long exposure of the shot above which you can find in my portfolio here.

During the day, the Grand Canal is full of water taxis, gondolas and all manner of boats so experiencing this view without all of that was a bit special. I'm pretty sure this morning's photoshoot was the one and only time I used a tripod during my stay in Venice and with the camera firmly mounted, I captured another composition of this classic view below. Link to Google Maps of this location.

Photo of the Grand Canal and the Basilica at sunrise in Venice taken by Trevor Sherwin

0.5 secs
f11

ISO200
37mm
Fujifilm X-T10
XF18-55mm

While on the Accademia Bridge, I checked the view facing up the canal and I spotted the scene below with the morning sun lighting up the few clouds drifting past and I could not let that escape without capturing it. I love the way the different shapes and sizes of the buildings that line the canal provide the character of the city. I am sure each and every one will have a story to tell especially as some date back around 1000 years.

Photo taken at Sunrise on the Grand Canal by Trevor Sherwin

0.6 secs
f11

ISO200
37mm
Fujifilm X-T10
XF18-55mm

That's it for part one of my trip to Venice. click on the link below to see the next instalment.

Photographing Venice - Part Two