Anybody who has more than glanced at these pages will have noticed that apart from a twisted devotion to snow and ice, I also suffer from a chronic obsession with Venice. There’s no cure for either, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It would be interesting to hear what a psychoanalyst would make of these recurrent themes.
So, more Venice. Back in June, sort of on a whim, I took part in an Olympus-funded photo workshop in Venice. Now, I don’t function well as a photographer in a group setting. I try to impress, or I try not to impress, I get distracted, I make terrible mistakes, and by and large terrible photos. But I enjoyed the vibe, a lot. Nevertheless, knowing that this would happen, I made sure I had some time beforehand to myself. I had a number of pieces of the jigsaw to track down.
It was a hot, sunny day, quite busy, which in Venezia equates to “very crowded” for other cities. But as usual, away from the main attractions and routes between them, it was quiet, alternating between peaceful, and slightly eerie. In other words, perfect.
This selection of photos has been staring back at me for sometime, but with so many ideas and projects clamouring for attention, not to mention the rest of daily life, it’s taken a while for me to let them out. So here they are.
The idea of presenting the first and last as diptychs, I must confess, is partly inspired by the wonderful work of Johnny Patience, which I’ve been devouring in the past few days. However it’s also a nod in the direction of another idea which has been bouncing around my skull for a while. Maybe it will emerge.
All these photos taken with the Sigma DP3 Merrill and brought to life by Iridient Developer.
Although my most recent visit to Venice was, officially, under the auspices of Olympus UK’s OM-D workshop, I could hardly not take my XPan with me. So, before, and indeed during, the workshop, I sneakily grabbed a few frames using not only a non-Olympus camera, but even a non-digital camera!! The sky did not fall, however.
I think this is my favourite shot of from the couple of rolls I shot. It’s taken way, way away from the mainstream tourist traffic.
This, along with a few other panoramic masterpieces can be enjoyed in my recent work gallery. Go on, what else have you got to do for the next five minutes ?
Well, that’s now in the past, and it was a great experience. Neil and Steve are great photographers, excellent and attentive teachers, and wonderful people. They worked extremely hard to make sure all participants got plenty out of it. From my point of view I found being
forced strongly encouraged to photograph the standard scenes of San Marco and Rialto thronged by tourists and in very harsh light, rather than skulk way off the beaten track to my usual dingy haunts frustrating at first but very rewarding at the end. I also found the very new experience of photographing models quite captivating. Again, being encouraged to do this in the mid-day hothouse of Piazza San Marco, literally engulfed by excited tourists, really pushed the envelope. Neil set up the lighting, directed the models, leaving us to just grab the opportunities. I don’t think I’m going to branch out into yet another direction photographically, but it was a far more engaging and enjoyably creative experience than I expected.
From the cityscape / landscape side, Steve helped me a lot to put some order into my jumbled approach, and to point me in the direction of themes I had started on but not really recognised. I have to admit that at one low point, between being kept awake, dead tired, at 1am, with an alarm call pending at 4am, I'd decided to hit the pause button on photography after the workshop, but the next day completely revived me, even if some of my co-participants made a lot more of the 5am session at Rialto than I did.
Just for fun, here is a small selection of model portraits I shot. In at least two of these cases I was wilfully ignoring the directions / advice Neil was giving. I hope he’ll forgive me!
Thanks as well to our two very patient and professional models, Ira (first three) and Chiara.
The Olympus E-P5 was kindly leant to me by Neil Buchan-Grant. It’s a very nice camera, and the output is distinctly better than my E-P3. Quite shockingly so, in fact. There is far more dynamic range and the highlight rolloff is much smoother. However, it probably wasn’t such a good idea to use an unfamiliar camera in such an unfamiliar context.
In a few weeks I will be going back to Venice again, but this time in a different context. I decided to sign-up to the Olympus sponsored workshop led by landscape photographer Steve Gosling and Travel and Portrait photographer Neil Buchan-Grant.
At this point I should probably have a clear idea of my objectives and how I expect this workshop to “take me to the next level”, and to “further developing my own eye and style”, as photo guru Ming Thein puts in in the prospectus for his own (far, far more expensive) Venice workshop.
Of course, the truth is, I haven’t got a clue. I don’t know if can get to the “next level”, never mind if I want to or need to. I’m not sure I even know where it is, or if I’d recognise it if I walked into it. What I do know is that I have a recurring dissatisfaction with my photography, which is increasing in frequency, and I think it might kick me out of a rut to be able to spend some dedicated time with other photographers, in a location I know well enough that I won’t be hampered or distracted by unfamiliarity. And I like the work and writings of both of the two workshop leaders. And, I assume thanks to Olympus, the cost is astonishingly low (slightly more than 1/10th of Ming Thein’s offering).
To get some idea of what my objectives might be, I decided that establishing some kind of baseline might be a good idea. This meant finally getting around to selecting 16 photos for a Venice set to add to my galleries. I was surprised how quickly this fell into place, normally it takes much longer. It was helped by the extensive pre-selection I’ve been doing over the past few months, but even so. Maybe it will give me some idea of where the mysterious next level is, although in Venice of course one never really knows…
Maybe in a few weeks time I’ll have been transported to a higher (Olympian) plane of photographical excellence and I’ll be able to junk all these. We shall see.
I’m very familiar with the paving attributes of the Road to Hell. And speaking of which, the A4 Autostrada from Milan to Venice could often qualify as a strong contender for that title. Then again, it leads to Venice. And it lead me to Venice, in the company of my significant other, last Sunday. The principal objective was to visit the Franco Fontana retrospective, which was well worth the 3 hour drive, but, well Venice remains Venice, and a bright, breezy April afternoon with a surprisingly low tourist turnout was not an photographical opportunity to be missed.
So here we go. Another small selection of absolutely-definitely-not street photography from Venice. Dedicated to my friends at The Inspired Eye.
Tech footnote: all Olympus E-P3, with ZD 17mm 1.8 or ZD 45mm 1.8