St Mark’s Square is one of those rare places that truly lives up to and probably even surpasses the expectations of the first time visitor. The square is dominated by Saint Mark’s Basilica and the towering Campanile at its eastern end. Several cafés occupy the arcades that line the other sides of the piazza. If you’re prepared to remortgage your home or possibly sell your first born, you may even be able to afford a coffee in one of them. St Mark’s Square is obviously a dream location for any travel photographer. The unique architecture and street life means you can point your camera in almost any direction and find something worth capturing.
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St. Marks Basilica Reflection
St Mark’s Basilica is an obvious starting point when it came to photographing St Mark’s Square. The building it self is an attractive blend of Eastern and Western influences with rounded Romanesque arches and a series of Byzantine style domes. I took this photo on my first night in the city. The Piazza was still covered in large puddles from the previous days flood or ‘acqua alta‘ as the Venetians call the regular (and in my opinion rather rude) incursions of the Adriatic Sea into their city.
Empty St. Mark’s Square
The square gets pretty packed during the day time which can make it difficult to take photographs without well meaning couples in matching shell suits (usually in colours that don’t exist in nature) getting into every frame. Early morning is a fantastic time to capture the architecture of the square with minimum distraction. As you can see from the shot above, I was almost alone at about 6am when I took the shot. Eagle eyed readers might be able to spot another photographer in the left of the frame. Who else would be enthusiastic (or daft) enough to be up at this hour? My wife would definitely choose ‘daft’ in my case.
St Mark’s Square Archway
The arches at the western end of the square present an excellent opportunity to create a ‘frame within the frame’ style shot of St Mark’s Basilica and the Campanile. Notice the deep blue of the pre-dawn sky. We often forget that there is a blue hour in the morning as well as after sunset.
Empty Café and St. Mark’s Basilica
The cafés that spill out from the arched arcades provide excellent foreground interest to the basilica at the far end of the square. In a few hours these outdoor seated areas would be teeming with tourists staring in disbelief at the bills they have just been handed.
St. Mark’s Campanile
The famous Campanile of St Mark’s Basilica towers over the piazza. In the photo above, I chose a portrait format to really show off the scale of the tower. The original tower collapsed in 1902. The only fatality was the caretaker’s cat. Apparently six shirts that the caretaker’s wife had ironed were found unharmed and still uncreased under the rubble. When the Campanile was reopened ten years later, the six shirts were worn by six of the guests at a banquet held to celebrate the reopening of the tower!
As in the first photo in this post, I used the pools of water to capture the reflections of city lights at night. Once again, I got my feet wet. The wonderful thing about the piazza at night is the collection of mini orchestras playing outside the various cafes. This being the city of Antonio Vivaldi, I expected to hear the the melodious refrains of “The Four Seasons” filling the night air. Instead, they appeared to be playing “We Will Rock You” by Queen. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Queen but the subsequent rendition of “Radio Gaga” did seem slightly out of place on the Piazza San Marco.
In the photograph above, I decided to focus in on a couple who were watching a mini orchestra performing outside the famous Ristorante Quadri. A shutter speed of 1.3 seconds helped create some motion blur as the violinist played. It also makes it look as if he has two heads. After taking this shot, I discretely listened in on the couple’s conversation as they debated which of their children they would sell to pay for their meal. Personally, I’d choose according to future earning potential.
Doge’s Palace and Piazetta
The section of the square where the Doge’s Palace faces is called the Piazzetta. This smaller space offers a superb view of the eastern facade of the building. I photographed the palace during the evening golden hour when the sun bathes the facade in a warm golden light and casts long shadows across the Piazzetta. In the distance you can see the church of San Giorgio Maggiore between the two columns.
Couple by the Doge’s Palace
In the photo above, I focused on a couple as they talked on the Piazzetta. The corner of the Ducal Palace is to the left while the famous columns of St Mark and St Theodore frame the view of the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore in the distance. You can clearly see the winged lion of St Mark on the left hand column. The city’s less famous Saint, Theodore occupies the right hand column. Theodore may be less illustrious than Saint Mark but he does have a crocodile on his column which I think makes him more of a badass.
With a few keepers in the bag, I headed back to our apartment but not before stopping for a drink outside one of the cafes on the piazza. After exchanging a kidney for a small beer, I sat down and once again simply took in my surroundings all the while listening to the strains of AC/DC expertly played by the cafe orchestra. I wonder what Vivaldi’s opinion of ‘Highway to Hell’ would have been.