I promised you a follow up to may last blog, once the trip to Venice and Padua was done. This is it. Thanks for your patience.
I liked our time in Padua (Padova to the Italians), mostly for the sumptuous art we saw there, particularly in the Museo Eremitani, and in the fabulous Scrovegni Chapel, which is rated in the top 5 of Europe’s top art treasures. Access to the Scrovegni is strictly controlled, to protect the Giotto fresco cycle it contains across its walls. At peak times, I gather this can mean waiting a couple of days to get on the list. Only about 25 people at a time are allowed in, and each group only gets about 15 minutes there. We were fortunate. On a November Tuesday morning, we were first in the queue and the group we went in with got almost half an hour.
Not that this was really any benefit to, I’m afraid, far too many of them. The place is one of only a few I can honestly remember that literally took my breath away on first sight. However, to most of the other visitors, it was nothing more than an excuse for a bout of “selfie” photos, with the astonishing frescoes as little more than an incidental backdrop. Sad.
There was something of a slight “homecoming” feeling, a couple of days later, when we left the Santa Lucia rail terminus in Venice and walked out into the familiar world of waterways. True, we’d passed through ever so briefly on our way to Padua, but only for about 10 minutes. I was hugely looking forward this “out of season” visit for several days.
As I alluded to in the previous blog, despite the huge volume of photos people (me included) have taken of Venice, it’s actually a difficult place to photograph in ways that catch the atmosphere away from the tourist honeypots. Places like St Mark’s Square and Rialto Bridge have become immense “selfie” fodder.
We couldn’t completely avoid St Mark’s, as we were staying very nearby. We had good weather (for November), so it’s a bit ironic that one of my favourite photos of the trip turned out to be this shot of that very place we generally steered clear of, and in the rain.
There’s a lovely spin off for the photographer of Venetian backstreets etc in the late autumn. Daylight is ample, but in many of the ‘canyons” off the beaten track, there is an absence of the deep, dark shadows which can make photography at sunnier times much more of a challenge.
Venetian sunsets are hard to get, mainly because the sun sets behind the docks and cruise-liner terminal, offering little by way of foreground to even the most dramatic skies. I’m no early riser, either, but with sunrise being at about 7.30, it was a great gift, at a time well before the majority of selfie-takers were out and about.
We walked miles – when we got home, I found that my iPhone pedometer app-thing had recorded we’d walked up to 15km on most days. That’s a lot in Venice, taking into account the hopping on and off vaporettos on the Grand Canal, and the time spent eyeing up spots for good photos. We made a conscious decision not to visit the islands on this trip. It meant we avoided “death by glass ornaments” on Murano, but also that we forewent time on Burano, with its insanely garishly-painted houses. On reflection, I really missed Burano.
If you’ve been following this blog, and reading me on Twitter (@Tomsprints), you’ll know that I’ve been using my iPhone 7 Plus for a lot of photography this year. Although I carried my Lumix and two lenses with me every day in Padua and Venice, the truth is that I shot a scarcely a couple of dozen shots on it during the whole of our stay. All photos in this blog episode are from the iPhone.
I’ve become fascinated to see what the iPhone can do, particularly when pushed into tricky situations. It seemed to lap up everything Venice could throw at it. I do almost no heavy-duty editing of my photos – not enough time, and too few skills. A commitment to post stuff on Twitter while in Venice meant posting often quite soon after some shots were taken. So, a tweak of brightness or saturation here and there, a few straightened horizons, and a bit of image cropping to bring out the best in a view, had to suffice. It was all done on the ‘phone itself, too – no downloading to anything more (allegedly) powerful.
It was while shooting a sunrise near the gondolas on the edge of St Mark’s that I had a ridiculous and insulting encounter. I was about to take a couple of shots on the iPhone, when a guy (an American by the sound of him), simply walked in front of me, and began setting up his tripod and digital camera. “Excuse me..” I said, in a justifiably indignant tone. “You don’t need to stand right in front of me.” He turned and sneered “Well, if you were using a proper camera, perhaps people wouldn’t stand in front of you.” Heavy emphasis on the word “proper”. “Keep your prejudices at home” I told him, and stood my ground. He walked away to obstruct someone else, and I was left astonished at the depth of his dismissal of phone cameras!
Many years ago, we got a free gondola ride as compensation from a hotel we’d booked into, which, for a couple of nights, wasn’t able to offer us the standard of room we thought we’d booked. I hated the experience. It was like being in a goldfish bowl, with everyone watching you, thinking “There go the rich gits”. Even more true now than back then, that this is something for the rich, with even the shortest trip starting at 80 euros (nearly 80 quid on the almost 1:1 exchange rate we got this trip). However, most participants seemed oblivious to that, and most other things beside. The majority we saw sat in their gondola, filming each other and taking selfies.
The musical title to this blog comes from Joan Armatrading, and was a real no-brainer choice.