Venice re-visited with a tilt-shift lens

Written by Gary on October 21st, 2019

Venice has to be my most favorite city to stroll around and photograph – once you escape the crowds or explore it outside of the busy periods.

There is no denying its visual appeal, practically no matter where you walk, you can find photographic subjects – and this is perhaps the problem with Venice – there is so much it is overwhelming in quantity of imagery that it is often taken for granted.

Why does a unique city like Venice even exist?

Who in their right minds would build a city on a swamp land which floods the city frequently every time a king tide comes in.

It seems the story begins around 800AD borne out of necessity to escape the barbarian hordes on horseback invading Italy from the north as a result of the fall of the Roman Empire several centuries earlier.

Horses and swamps are not a great mix, but the early Venetians had a massive problem – fish to eat and water all around but no fresh potable water to drink. The clever Venetians designed an amazing solution – to build self-filtering wells in the centre of campi (squares) so the rainwater could be directed via gutters into an underground area of sand which filtered the water but prevented the water mixing with sea water by having the massive underground pits lined with clay. The filtered water would then pass through “pozzali” (bricks) and into the well pipe from which it could be extracted by authorized citizens who prevented it from becoming soiled, and kept it locked to secure it.  The surface area of the campi collecting rainwater equated to around 10% of the city’s surface area and each inhabitant had a right to around 6L of water per day.

These wells were critical to the success of the developing city, and when rain water was inadequate, from 1386, they were filled by water brought by boat from the mainland. The “acquaroli” who brought the water by boat also took the rubbish back to the mainland.

In 1609, a water channel was built to bring water from the Brenta River to Moranzani to reduce the distance of boat transport of the water.

NB. If the following images do not display in correct aspect ratio for your device, click on them an open them in a new browser tab. Unless specified, most of these images were taken using the Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 Pro lens – although slightly longer and heavier than one would like for travel, it is easily my most favorite travel lens which allows me to find vignettes and get past the crowds. There is no equivalent lens in the full frame market which can match the range and quality of this lens and this value adds to my Micro Four Thirds cameras significantly.

One of the hundreds of now dis-used wells with their secured tops in place.

In 1884, an underground water pipeline was completed which was the beginning of the end of the wells which had become difficult to maintain and were inadequate for the needs of the population.

One of the first wells to be removed, was the one in San Marco as this is the lowest part of the city and most prone to flooding, the well was perhaps most at risk and indeed it was frequently spoiled, and with the new pipeline opening, a fountain was created in the piazza.
The above photo was taken with a tilt shift lens with 3 bracketed exposures to allow the beautiful clouds at dawn to be rendered.
Doge’s Palace and San Marco at dawn. Taken with a tilt shift lens with 3 bracketed exposures.
The original bridges in Venice were made of timber and were relatively flat to allow horses and carriages to cross, while the city itself was made largely of timber creating a major fire risk. It is for this reason that a decision was made to ban the industry of glass making from the city and instead transplant it to the nearby island of Murano where the trade secrets were regarded with critical importance such that those workers were never allowed to leave Venice. They were well compensated for this although it did not totally prevent their skills escaping to northern Europe.
Packing up the wares for the day and hanging out the washing in Murano – a must visit island along with Burano – fantastic places to escape the crowds of Venice proper and explore the colorful villages where the houses are each brightly colored apparently to assist the fishermen finding their homes.
It is a fairly leisurely life for many of the locals on Murano.
Strolling around Murano….
The island of Burano is known for its textile industry and laces, but like most of Venice, it also has its leaning towers as depicted here as a tourist walks past in the reflection.
Umbrella vendor in Burano.
A canal in Burano
Venice conservatory region.
Interior of Chiesa di San Vidal
Many “aesthetic” towns have a uniform building code to create the appeal such as on the Greek islands most obvious on Santorini, but I love Venice because each building is different, and yet they all belong.
A gondolier awaiting business.
Even powered boats look cool in Venice.
Tourists strolling in the afternoon sun past a church of which I have forgotten the name. Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 lens with keystone correction.
A slow day for this salesman.
Chiesa di San Giacomo di Rialto
A lone tourist trying to find her way out of the maze of dead end walk-ways. Although this design was probably necessary, I can imagine how much easier it would have made for the locals to trap any invading force of foot soldiers.
I do love the ancient urban grunge, would Tintoretto, the Mannerist painter love it too?
Note the buildings are numbered and these numbers are not restricted to a given street as in most other cities but they apply to a region of Venice. This makes using Google maps even more difficult as the locals may juts use the address 2905 San Marco, and that will not be located by Google. Even if you do find your location on Google maps, the GPS is often inaccurate whilst you are in the more narrow lane-ways as it struggles to reach the satellites.
surely he could not resist such beauty?
and through each secret tunnel there is more … far more…
even the modern day artists have had a go at creating their own textures only to see it decay away into yet another form of beauty
and one could not write about Venice without mentioning the famed Venetian masks – the festivals which have caused so much grief to the law makers over the years as the masks were used to hide many nefarious or otherwise activities!
perhaps the feature of love the most is the retention of the lovely old street lamps whether they be stand alone as with this one, or the lovely ones attached to the walls of the many narrow lane-ways. This one is near arsenal which was once the greatest industrial centre in the world, building war ships and which was the main employment in Venice at the time.
a 3 shot bracketed exposures using a tilt-shift lens for perspective control to capture the lovely lamps in San Marco at dawn with the morning storm clouds starting to recede to make way for yet another day’s onslaught of tourist crowds.
water bottles at the ready for the start of a new day
and the tourists wake up and start to explore this awesome place they call Venice – another 3 shot bracketed exposure with the tilt shift lens.
many of who will come to see the ornate San Marco church.
and commence their walks until the day is no more

When one walks an average of 10km a day around these cities on holiday travels, a small, light, compact camera kit such as the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 mark III would allow a lot less back strain than carrying a Sony with the massive, heavy Canon TS-E 17mm tilt shift as I did on some days (it did end up being left in the room most days!).


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