Venice, Day 2: Photographic Perfection, Vaporetto Dejection

After a great night on a great bed (I still find Viking beds pretty hard, but I am getting used to them) at our Venice B&B, I was up for the entire reason for us making the additional travel investment in staying two nights in the city when we had a perfectly fine place to stay back on the ship—my pre-dawn photo walk in a city I love. (Nothing like getting an entire paragraph in one long sentence 😜).

I woke up around 5;45 and checked my Photo Pills app on my phone. If you have never heard of Photo Pills, it is an iPhone (I am betting it is on android as well) app that tells me all I need to know about the light conditions where I am. For instance, as I write this, we are in Crotone, Italy (way down at the underside of the tip of the boot that is Italy) and when I opened Photo Pills this morning, here’s what I see.

First, it tells me the extent of my daylight; then, I get all the important times for photography, from Astronomical twilight to Day time. I know that I will get the best photos (if the weather cooperates—which it did on Day 2 in Venice) between 6:05 and 7:30 or so. So I made sure that I was up and out, camera in hand, no later than 5:30. In Venice, some of your best pictures are of artificial lights (doorways, streetlights, shop windows) before the sun even starts to come up. And to me, early morning are so much better than late night because there are a lot fewer people to get in the way. One or two people in a shot to set a mood is one thing but a whole bunch of people in different bright colors, looking everywhere, is not something I am after in a city like Venice.

My first few photos were in the dark. I did that on purpose. And a lot of Venice photography is vertical. That’s because a lot of Venice is tiny streets that lead to more open squares (called Campos). Those tiny streets make for great vertical photographs. They also make it easy to get lost…very lost. But in Venice, getting lost is the whole point. I just wandered. I could always see a sign nearby that pointed to a place where I recognized. For instance, from where we were staying, I knew that I had to cross a bridge over the Grand Canal someplace to get to Piazza San Marco (where I wanted to go), so I just kept following every sign that said, “Per Rialto” (to the Rialto Bridge). Sometimes I would find myself in an amazing little street that would give me one amazing photo I would love. Other times, those streets were just ways to get to where I wanted to go. If you go to Venice, get lost. That’s what you are supposed to do.

Since I have a LOT of Venice photos from this walk, I think I will break them up into smaller galleries, like this one that has photos from before it was light at all. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…

As the light becomes brighter, you move from twilight to the “Blue Hour.” From the chart above, you can see that the “Blue Hour” really isn’t an entire hour. In fact, today, it was more like 10 minutes. But it always comes before the ever-popular Golden Hour that most people have heard of. During the “Blue Hour,” you get some great shots with lovely blue tint. Come back during the “Golden Hour”, and the entire scene is different. Here is maybe my favorite shot of the Grand Canal during the “Blue Hour.”

After a couple of more shots of and from the bridge, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go. Here are my shots from there.

I made my decision about which way to go next when the first sign I saw after crossing the bridge said, “Per San Marco,” so I was off to Piazza San Marco, and I am so glad I went that way. Besides the light being amazing and the sky turning to fire, I got to see the piazza in all its glory—empty (or almost empty except for three other people and me and one—that’s all—pigeon). Here are my shots with comments. Again, Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…

From the piazza, I headed out to the promenade, where I would get a chance to see the entire sky for the first time. As Secondo said in the film “The Big Night,” it was so good, “I have to kill myself because I knew nothing would be better.” The sky to the east was on fire. And that made the city look awesome in the light. This morning had been a walking, talking photo lesson for me. It made me realize I had never done a post about my best travel photography tips, so I need to do that as soon as we are home. Here’s the next set of shots I got after getting out to the promenade.

I walked up and down the promenade to get photo after photo in that incredible light. Hope you like them. Don’t forget, if you click the first shot, you can then scroll through with your arrow keys or by swiping…and PLEASE…don’t look at my photography on a phone. Please…

By this point in our morning story, it was getting close to 7:45, and I had told Kathleen I would be back at the B&B by 8:30 so we could get breakfast. I thought about walking back, but then I saw that the #1 Vaporetto was almost completely empty, so I jumped on board and found myself a spot in the rear seats where I could continue to shoot photos as we went up the Grand Canal. Here’s what I got between San Zacharia and St Stae.

The Rest of the Day

A quick rundown of the rest of the day would start with a walk to Campo San Polo for a very traditional Venitian breakfast of cappuccino and croissants. This may not be traditional for everyone in Venice, but it is exactly what we had for breakfast when we were here before, so it is our tradition 😁. And this particular Campo (where we had never ventured before) was a must-see because one of our favorite fictional characters, Commisario Guido Brunetti lives near this Campo and often walks through it in the books. We felt like we knew the place. BTW: If you are going to Venice, try to read at least a few of Dona Leon’s Brunetti series before you go. It will truly improve your trip.

I mean, wouldn’t you take a water bus to get this?

Later that day, we had planned to take a Vaporetto to one of the two major outlying islands, Burano. Our friends Jayesh and Lisa had eaten an amazing late lunch there in July that included a plate of Frito Misto to die for. I am using his photo to show you what we missed. I really wanted that. Lisa said they had some good pasta that Kathleen would like, so we headed to Burano.

But it was not to be. Partly because we didn’t listen (or understand) the person loading and unloading the Vaporetto and partly because things changed a LOT in 20 years. When we were here the first time, we went out to the two big outlying islands on a Vaporetto. First, we stopped at Murano and walked around a sleepy little Italian island town known for its blown glass. Then we jumped right back on the same Vaporetto that took us out to the further island, Burano—where we wanted to go that day.

The first big change was Murano. What had been a sleepy little island town is now a major tourist attraction with chain convention hotels and six different Vaporetto stops. SIX! When we went there before, Murano had ONE stop, and then the same Vaporetto went on to Burano. Not anymore.

When we boarded at Piazzale Roma, we specifically asked numerous times, “Burano?” and every time, we were assured that the water bus was going to Burano. So we get to Murano, and we wait while passengers get off the Vaporetto and others get on. Then we go to the next stop, and the same things happen. We are marveling at how big Murano has become, how commercialized. Then another Murano stop, and another. After six stops on Murano, we are mostly empty, which makes sense because Burano is a small island, and not a lot of people head out that way…at least they didn’t in November 2002.

So imagine our surprise when the Vaporetto starts heading back to Piazzale Roma. I went up and asked the man I had asked when we got on, “Burano?” He laughed at me and said, “You should have changed at Faro (a stop on Murano). No one told us this. No signs said we needed to do this. It had not been this way before, but we guess now it is. So we are more than an hour into this boat ride and have to decide what to do. Do we go back to our hotel, rest up during the heat of the day and try to go out later who do we go right back out to Murano and switch at Faro and take the Vaporetto to Burano? We decide to do the latter. So we go back in, change boats, come back out…and this time we get off at Faro. We have now been on the Vaporetto to and from and to Murano for about 2 hours. When we do get off, a sign points further down the waterfront and says, “Burano Ferry, 50 meters.” We head down that way and can see the boat unloading, so we think, “YEA! We made it!” We should have been able to jump right on…except when we turn the corner to get on, there is a three-boat waiting line standing against a wall we could not see as we walked up. They were standing there in the direct sun, sweating like the proverbial swine waiting for more than 2 hours. We gave up!

Defeated, we walked back to the Vaporetto stop to go back to the main part of Venice, but since we had about a half hour to wait, we grabbed an Aperol Spritz and a panini sandwich (because by then, it was about 3:00 pm and we had breakfast at 8:30 and NOTHING makes you feel better about stupidity than an Aperol Spritz in Venice) and some water as well.

When the next Vaporetto stopped, we made very sure to ask if it was going to Piazelle Roma, where we could catch the #1 back to St. Stae and our hotel. We were told it would. What they neglected to mention was that it would also go the LONG way around and drop us at San Marco, where we could move to the #1. So what coming out had taken us 45 minutes now took us twice that to get back. Suffice it to say that by the time we got back to the St. Stae stop, we almost had to crawl back to the room; we were so tired. And once we got there, we stayed there just to try to recover for our last big day in Venice. And the panini they had brought us was so big, neither of us were hungry for dinner. Watch the next post for my Day 3 photo walk.

A realist, in Venice, would become a romantic by mere faithfulness to what he saw before him.  —Arthur Symons

3 thoughts on “Venice, Day 2: Photographic Perfection, Vaporetto Dejection

  1. Nick

    Great photos in the early morning light. I’m getting into photography at a late stage in life and would love to know the camera settings of some of those photos, any chance you could post these at the bottom of the photos?

    1. Hi Nick,
      As much as I would love to help you out, the photos (all taken with a Nikon Z7II with a 28-300mm lens) take me almost an hour per day to process because I shoot totally in a format called Camera RAW which is like having a digital negative I can work with. To add what you are asking could take me a lot of additional time.

      And I shoot all my early morning shots in Manual mode. If you use your Auto or Program mode your camera thinks you want everything to look like it is broad daylight. Shooting in Manual and knowing about f/stops and shutter speeds is the true key. I have been doing photography since before Auto existed, back when we shot nothing but film and had to develop it ourselves.

      My best advice is to get yourself a good camera (I would go mirrorless if you don’t already have one) and then watch a BUNCH of YouTube videos specific to that camera and the kind of photography you want to do. I shoot mostly travel so that’s what I watch. Also, please check out the rest of my pics here:

      I am happy to discuss photography with anyone further. It’s one of my favorite hobbies. My e-mail is under the Contacts in the menu at the top of the page.

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