Join Tim Grey for an in-depth discussion in this video Boats on the Grand Canal, part of Travel Photography: Venice.
- The Grand Canal in Venice is, of course, buzzing with activity much of the time. Boats going to and fro. Tourists wandering around. All sorts of activity. And that's part of the charm, part of the appeal, really. And it makes me want to photograph the Grand Canal, and try and show a sense of that bustling activity. And, of course, showing the boats, showing the people, showing the buildings, and trying to get some good light in the process. And one of the best advantage points, I think, to photograph the Grand Canal is the bridge that you can see off in the distance, the Rialto Bridge. That too is always bustling with activity.
Lots of tourists along the bridge, so it can certainly be a challenge to get up there, to claim a spot, and to capture the photo that you need. You might just be able to tell, but from this side things are not looking all that great. And so, I generally find that photographing the bridge itself usually doesn't work out all that well. In this case, we have a sign up on the bridge. There's a crane behind the bridge. There's just a lot of distractions that I think won't work well photographically. But getting on to the bridge gets you that high vantage point over the grand canal, and then you can compose a shot.
Now, what are the things I wanna pay attention to. First and foremost is to create a good overall composition. To find a set up for the buildings that works well. Trying not to cut off any of the buildings, or parts of the buildings in an awkward way. Including a lot of the canal in the foreground, of course, because Venice is all about the canals. Once I have that basic composition established, then I'm mostly going to wait. I'll certainly capture a lot of images along the way while I'm waiting, in large part because I'm impatient. But I want to pay attention to where the boats are specifically within the frame, and wait until I have a good mix of boats, boats that are sort of spread out a little bit.
Preferably maybe a gondola in the foreground. Lots of boats doing lots of things, in lots of areas. I'll find in many cases that the light, especially if I'm photographing under early morning or late afternoon light, that there'll be some long shadows, and so I want to also pay attention to whether the boats are moving into or out of the shadows. I don't want the boat partially in the shade, for example. For the most part, I want the boats out in the sun. And so, I'll get up on top of the bridge. Get that high vantage point. Compose my set up, and then try to find just the right moment to capture the image, the decisive moment, as it were, paying very careful attention.
and taking my time. Spending enough time up there so that I have many opportunities with some of the gondolas, some of the water taxis, some of the larger boats. Just trying to get as many variations as possible, and really just wait. Being patient and waiting for the composition to take care of itself, so that I have an interesting arrangement of those boats. Making sure that I have something in the foreground so that I don't have this open water in the foreground, for example. But the point is to really pay attention and to wait until the scene sort of composes itself. So, I'll head up on top of the bridge and see what I can come up with.