Behind the Lens

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Sunrise Over Piazza dei Leoni

16 March 2023

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Sunrise Over Piazza dei Leoni

Venice, Italy | 5 June 2016 @ 5:26 | Canon 5D Mark III | 70-200 mm f 2.8 @ 100mm | 1/6400 sec @ 1250 ISO | offered in 2:3 Ratio | color and b&w

We flew direct from Toronto (east bound flights are half price from Toronto versus what they would be from Detroit!) the day before and felt literally "hung over" from the jet lag and dehydration. Venice was our beginning point of a three-week Mediterranean journey. We would make our way from Venice, down to Rome, Sicily, and to points east through Greece and Turkey. The day before this photo was taken, we arrived at around 8:00 a.m. local time, we ate a quick lunch (or breakfast as it were), and made our way to a bustling Piazza San Marco. We literally sat in the chairs keeled over like half-baked zombies. Our hotel wouldn't be ready for a few hours later and we were simply too tired to do anything else. So, we sat here and people watched. The first travel day is always a little rough.

On this next morning, I awoke spontaneously at 4:00 (22:00 Detroit time) not tired in the least. I ventured out from our hotel on the Grand Canal. When I rounded the corner of the Palazzo Ducale and Piazza San Marco, the first light of dawn was just peeking over the roof tops. I spent an hour wandering the empty streets of Venice almost completely alone, until eventually the city came alive. I remember reading years ago that the best photographs are always taken when you'd rather be doing something else (namely, eating, or sleeping). How true it is!

Grand Canal ~ 5:30 (nice light, cool air, no people!)

Grand Canal ~ 13:30 in about the same spot (crowds, heat, harsh light!)

The difference between our "glossy brochure" idea of a place and realty is the difference between a mythical, magical experience and downright misery. (See above.) As with many popular tourist destinations, Venice is teeming with people during midday! I believe a cruise ship (or two) descended on the city that morning, depositing thousands of people all at once. Interestingly, since the pandemic, Venice has banned (and pre-banned, and un-banned, and re-banned) cruise ships from entering the Grand Canal. Look at the photo on the CNN article about the CRUISE SHIP BAN. NO ONE'S idea of a breathtaking view on that pricey gondola ride.

The light bouncing through the canals, on the water, and against the warm-colored stone was luminous. The colors were golden. I came away with what I consider one of the best shoots ever and one of my favorite travel memories.

Piazza dei Leoni is adjacent to the Palazzo Ducale, straight behind the rows of chairs seen above. It is home to two red marble lion sculptures standing guard at Doge's Palace. The pair were constructed in 1722 by Giovanni Bonazza of red Cottonello marble. Sadly, the LIONS WERE VANDALIZED in 2018 with paint.

Luck is, as Roman philosopher, Seneca, says, when preparation meets opportunity. I could have had overcast or rain on this morning and the photograph would have differed, but it would have still been technically correct. I've put in my 10,000 hours and feel confident in capturing a well-exposed frame. But that light at that very angle at that very moment with no one else around is what makes the memory and this particular photograph so very sweet.

Available in color and black & white.

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