Between January 31st and February 4th I visited Venice, one of my favourite places on Earth. Together with Damien Lovegrove we ran the first FujiLove Photography Workshop exclusively for Fujifilm X Series camera users. Damien was teaching portraiture and lighting techniques and I was working with the participants of the workshop on the streets of Venice, sharing my approach to street photography and my camera techniques with them. We had an amazing time.
Venice is a unique place. Every time I visit it, I feel like I am travelling in time. Its narrow, obscure and mysterious streets, abandoned buildings, its character being created by beautiful architecture of imposant churches and palaces mixed with some of the simplest, basic and often forgotten houses… All around you makes you wonder how many hundreds or thousands of different stories unfolded on this magical island.
Just yesterday Damien published his first set of images from Venice over at his website. Make sure you visit his blog and have a look at some stunning photographs he took.
What I want to do today, in this first part of my “Venice Report”, is to show you what happens in the streets of Venice in the very early morning. When arriving at any given destination, I love to get up very early, go out on the streets and observe and photograph the place just waking up. People start appearing on the streets and merchants begin to open their stands and shops. This time in Venice (and it was my eighth visit to this town I guess) something very special happened on the very first morning I went out. The whole city of Venice was enveloped in a very thick and low fog. Pure magic. The fog added even more mystery to this already very obscure and intriguing place. I happened to had chosen the new Fujifilm X-Pro2 with the XF56mm f/1.2 lens to use on this very morning, so all the images you are seeing in this post are taken with this camera/lens combination.
This particular set of images I am sharing with you today, is a reflection of what I am usually looking for on my photography travels. I love exploring any given place with one camera/lens combination at a time. Knowing that I have no choice when it comes to focal length, I quickly forget about technology, settings and dials and immerse myself into the place I am visiting. I am trying to mingle with the locals, trying to walk the streets like it would be my own town. I want to feel and breathe the place. Only then I will be able to capture images, which reflect the character and feel of the surroundings.
X-Pro2 is a lovely camera. Preset to my favourite street photography settings, it quickly “disappeared” in my hands. When walking down the streets and observing real life, you never know what situation you will encounter. But when you do spot something interesting, you have to be quick. That’s why it is crucial to have your camera preset and ready to shoot.
Let me share a few basic settings I usually dial in before getting on the street:
– I am shooting 99% of the time in the Aperture Priority mode (I set the shutter speed dial to “A”, meaning the camera will be choosing the shutter speed automatically for me)
– in the camera menu I scroll down to ISO AUTO SETTINGS and choose the following:
- Default Sensitivity: 200
- Max. Sensitivity: 6400
- Min. Shutter Speed: 1/125
My main priority is to capture sharp images. I know I may have people walking in my photographs, that’s why the minimum shutter speed of 1/125 sec (there may be some exceptions to the rule).
You can see that I let the camera decide on the ISO value and that I am setting its range between 200 and 6400. When walking the streets of a city like Venice, the light conditions might be changing very quickly. It is often enough to make a turn into a narrow, dark side street to realise that in order to maintain 1/125 sec shutter speed you have to bump up your ISO value much higher. If you are photographing people, there is no time to do it manually.
The FujiLove Venice workshop was taking place during the famous Venice Carnival and I will be sharing some photographs from this wonderful event in the next part of my report. Visiting a place like this during a world famous festival or other kind of event, makes my urge to explore the unknown even stronger. When getting back home and looking at my photos I just love the feeling of having with me a “real part” of the place I have visited.
I guess one of the most magical and important aspects of being a photographer is the privilege and possibility of participating in real, every-day moments of people of different nationalities and cultures. It is all about these invaluable fractions of time, when me, my camera, the photograph I am taking and the scene I am photographing – it all becomes ONE.
I want to thank all of you who participated in the workshop and especially those of you who personally expressed your gratitude for sharing my thoughts and my approach, and for taking you to those off-the-beaten-track-places.
I also want to say a big “Thank You” to Damien Lovegrove. I have been following Damien and his work for a couple of years now. He is a real master of portraiture and artificial lighting techniques. I was really happy to finally meet him in person and to discover what kind of a great guy he is.