The technique of rowing a gondola with one ore while standing and facing forward is called Voga alla Veneta. It is a movement of both grace and efficiency for it allows the gondolier to move the gondola surprisingly quickly and with precision along the narrow and often crowded canals of Venice.
My wife and I spent several days wandering around in Venice last fall enjoying the ambiance of one of the best preserved medieval cities in the world. The complexity of the canals and pedestrian walkways in Venice is so confusing and difficult to navigate that the casual visitor is virtually guaranteed to become quickly lost.
After countless hours of wandering around with only the vaguest notion of where we were, I was pretty much resigned to the fate of being just another "tourist with a camera". As I walked around, I had in the back of my mind a vague concept of a black and white gondola picture I was hoping to take, but try as I might, I just couldn't seem to find the right light or location to put it together.
Late in the afternoon on our the last day in Venice, we were crossing Piazza San Marco and my wife mentioned that we hadn't seen the nearby "Bridge of Sighs", so we headed over to the Rio de Palazzo to take a look. The Bridge of Sighs is a famous tourist sight, and predictably, there were both crowds of tourists on the bridges and gondolas vying for position in the canal. However, when I saw this canal and the gondolas, the image that had been submerged in my subconscious finally floated to the surface and I knew this was what I was looking for.
With the sun setting, we rushed down through several minor passageways to a small, narrow bridge where I could look out over the gondolas coming down the canal. The light was perfect, reflecting down the canal, back lighting the gondolas and giving a mirror-like quality to the water. I had only a few minutes to get my picture before it was too dark. Luckily, there was a gondola coming through at just the right moment and I squeezed off several shots as it passed below the bridge. I set the shutter speed at 1/250 of a second to freeze the gondolier's movements, while the aperture was set to f/8 to give some depth of field. In an attempt to hold it all together I set the ISO at 1250.
The result: well, initially it was disappointing. In colour this image is rather dull; the flat light from that overcast, slightly foggy day gave a lifeless appearance to everything. Not at all what I had remembered. So after opening the raw file in Camera Raw, I made some basic exposure adjustments, and exported it into Photoshop. There, I reduced the noise with Topaz Labs' DeNoise plugin and converted the image to black & white using Nik Software's Silver Effects Pro. Some further adjustments to brightness and contrast in Photoshop were needed to balance the reflections from the water, but it's those mid grey tones that really bring this image to life. So as it turned out, this was exactly the image I was looking for, but the reality is that it existed as much in my imagination as it did in the real world.
This image is available for sale as a fine art print, see: Voga-alla-Venta.
|Camera & Lens:||Sony DSC-RX1 with Zeiss 35 mm f/2|