If you want to photograph St Mark’s square with the sun lighting up the campanile and basilica then you have to wait until the afternoon for the sun to get into position. Trouble is that by then there are hundreds of others getting into position then too; setting up their selfies with the same background, chasing the pigeons, comparing the prices at Florian and Quadri, and just generally milling around.
In an attempt to ameliorate this problem I decided to try shooting with a “stopper” filter, effectively placing a piece of glass so dark as to be virtually opaque between the lens and scene before me. This has the effect of necessitating long exposures to get enough light into the camera to make a decent image, long exposures in which moving objects fail to register but buildings and fixtures do.
That’s the theory anyway. Some people are more mobile than others and those who stop to chat or just to stand and stare will remain, or blur slightly reflecting their eventual departure. Photographically they become ghostlike.
I shot a number of exposures from the corner of the Piazza as the random effects of the people couldn’t be predicted, and the environment is changing (clouds move, shadows shift) from shot to shot when each exposure takes 30 seconds or so.
Some inevitably worked better than others; this was my favourite.
Basilica San Marco was blighted by being covered in canvas during our visit, breaking up the shape, and replacing beauty with grey ugliness. A pity for those who have not experienced the glittering gold mosaics that shine from underneath the Byzantine arches, but in the long term any preservation for those who will come in the future will be welcomed.
The trouble is that the scaffolding is a disincentive even to look up, which is a great pity because there is still a great deal of detail to please the eye. The fact that this point of this arch is so high above the eyes of those in the Piazza does not mean that the workmanship was less important. I wonder how many modern buildings would continue this attention to detail into places where few would benefit?
Although the shape of Piazza San Marco and the long colonnaded porticos around it focus you both physically and visually towards the Basilica San Marco there is so much going on within that crowded space that it is very easy to overlook the church of gold. Particularly when so much of it is covered in scaffolding, tarpaulin and wooden boards at the moment. The symmetry and repetition of its curved arches, lunettes and domes is completely destroyed when half of them are hidden behind rectangles.
Even the rays of the setting sun, which often show the cathedral in its best light as the yellow rays reflect from the golden mosaic, are fighting a losing battle against blocks of grey.
For the determined viewer, it is the detail of the remainder that impresses, and as Jagger sang so long ago
You can’t always get what you want.
This wasn’t Acqua Alta, the combination of seasonal tides and sirocco winds that flood large sections of the city, but a lesser version. The tide was high, the winds were strong, and so the quays were overrun in places.
Whilst not belittling the problem that flooding can cause, like any settlement that regularly faces extremes of weather they have learnt to cope and adapt in ways that countries like the UK can’t justify; which is one explanation for why we seem to get caught out by the weather so much!
Venice deploys a system of gangplanks along major walkways when the floods come, and so even when they aren’t so great, the hordes queuing to view St Mark’s can still do so.
Makes for a great reflection too!