The Academia Bridge is the last one to cross the Grand Canal before St Mark’s Square. And from that vantage point, you can see the palaces of the lower Canal, the church of Santa Maria dei Salute and the open water. Given the fact that this viewpoint faces east southeast, early morning is generally the best time to get this photograph.
The shot was taken in early June. So the sun is about as far north as it gets. A little later in the year and you can probably get the actual dawn light down by where the canal opens up. But even here the buildings to the right side of the Grand Canal are all lit up with that warm glow. I did have to adjust the exposure on buildings on the right in post so that they aren’t too dark or flat. That’s an easy fix in Lightroom.
But one of the keys for this shot is that the flowing water is such a major player in the design. This huge expanse of water allows the mind to settle into the image.
Part of the reason you get up early for this shot is to get that golden glow of course. But the other issue is that once the city comes to life, the Grand Canal is teeming with boats. After 9 am, the clutter and wave action along the canal means your thoughtful mood is gone.
But as much as I liked the shots I got on this day, I wanted to see if I could take the mood down another notch. By that I mean, control the wave detailing with a neutral density filter. This shot has a shutter speed of 1/200. I could have cranked the f-stop up to the max, f-22 with this lens but the shutter speed would still have been around 1/40. That wouldn’t have changed the texture of the water enough.
So the next morning I brought along a 8x neutral density (ND) filter. It blocks out over 90% of the light that enters the camera and with that in place, I was able to get the shutter speed down to .6 seconds. Here’s how that looks.
The water still looks natural enough but it has less details and is more smoothly reflective. Here the sun is just a bit higher as well. And I was able to get a nice light shaft by adjusting my position on the bridge so the sun’s rays were partly cut off by the museum on the left. I also spent a while waiting for the canal traffic to die down. Even at 7:30 there are a fair number of barges heading down the canal and I didn’t want one of them to steal the visual focus.
This smooth sheen you get with longer exposures can be a great tool. But if you’re shooting in full sun or even on overcast days, then you need to have a strong ND filter and of course, a tripod. All I used was a little Gorilla tripod — I wrapped it’s legs over the bridge banister and used a cable remote.
Here’s what the view is like from the opposite direction (towards the Rialto Bridge) with this same filter.
This is a view of Venice most tourists never see. Kinda nice, huh.