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The Center of Venice; Piazza San Marco and Palazzo Ducale

Piazza San Marco Copyright 2013  Andy RIchards

Piazza San Marco
Copyright 2013 Andy RIchards

The big attraction for me to Venice, as a landscape photographer, was obviously the canals, streets and architecture. But perhaps the true “center” of Venice is St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco). With St. Mark’s Basilica, and the Doge’s Palace (Palazia Ducale), bordering the plaza, it is easily the most massive area of open space on the main island. It is the main public space in Venice and the palace and surrounding buildings once housed the entire Venetian government—at one time, perhaps the center of European civilization.

Clock Tower, Piazza San Marco Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

Clock Tower, Piazza San Marco
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

 

Exterior Sculptures; St. Mark's Basilica Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

Exterior Sculptures; St. Mark’s Basilica
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

As you enter the piazza from the Rialto business district, you pass under the famous clock tower. The bell tower for St. Mark’s Basilica actually stands alone, toward the middle of the plaza. We did not go up, but were told that from the top of the tower, you get a “bird’s eye” view of the entire island. St. Mark’s is perhaps the most famous of the many, impressive basilicas in Mediterranean Europe and Asia. Every time I saw one of them, I marveled at how they were build with basic human labor and tools which would have been primitive compared to modern commercial construction equipment. I also found the beauty and variety of color and pattern in the marble used for construction to be impressive.

Fresco, front of St. Mark's Basilica Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

Fresco, front of St. Mark’s Basilica
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

At the other end of the plaza, close to the Grand Canal, the plaza is framed by the two famous marble columns carrying sculptures of Venice’s 2 patron saints. As you walk out there, you see the more tourist-famous line of moored gondolas, along the canal front. But as you turn back and face the palace, basilica and clock tower, the immensity of the piazza strikes you.

Interior, St. Mark's Basilica Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

Interior, St. Mark’s Basilica
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

 

Palazzo Ducale Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

Palazzo Ducale
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

My ability to photograph indoors was, at times, limited by strict prohibition of photography. There was certainly little or no opportunity for flash photography, so my shot were often made handheld, in existing light conditions, with high ISO settings (as high as 6400 ISO) sometimes. Again, the NEX-6 comported itself well. I also experimented with an all manual, Rokinon, 8mm “fisheye” lens. While the coverage at such a wide angle is impressive, the distortion is just too much. By the time you correct it as much as possible, the results aren’t really better narrower angle of view lenses, and the quality is less. This experiment confirmed my already-formed impression that these lenses are really more of a novelty. I don’t believe I used the lens again after the day we visited the Palace and St. Marks.

Courtyard and Steps; Palazzo Ducal Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

Courtyard and Steps; Palazzo Ducal
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

 

 

Courtyard and Steps; Palazzo Ducale Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

Courtyard and Steps; Palazzo Ducale
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

 

Courtyard; Palazzo Ducal Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

Courtyard; Palazzo Ducal
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

We were fortunate to have a private tour of the Palace. Unfortunately, once inside, photograph was prohibited and the prohibition was rather vigorously enforced by the officials working inside. There is some very impressive artwork from the frescoes on the ceilings, floors and walls, to the canvasses that in some instances covered the entire wall of a huge greatroom.

Bridge of Sighs Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

Bridge of Sighs
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

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2 Responses

  1. Hi Andy,

    Taking a break from the grind of working on the web site/Journal/Newsletter to-do list to immerse myself in your wonderful photos of a city I’ve always wanted to visit for its long history as being an incubator of the fine arts.

    I’ve been reading your prior posts as well, just not enough time right during the moment to comment. You marvel at the skill and hand labor required of the beautiful examples of embellished architecture; I marvel at an entire city built on closely spaced piers, engineered through distributed load (?? don’t know–I’m not an engineer, but Dad was) to withstand the mass and live load forces of the structures and people it supports. I’ve been following the “sinking” problem and its cause, and the Venetian’s approaches to keeping it buoyed up.

    Thanks much for sharing the imagery, and the intimate landscapes of that only a landscape photographer would see the importance of to tell a story in context of the greater scenes of a city I’ll never get to see unless I take a slow boat. Enjoying it! …Jim

    • Jim: Thanks. Always flattering to me that you read and comment! Keep up the good work on the new site and the Journal. I am — likewise — enjoying it and seeing you back at it! Best to you and your “girls” and have a great Thanksgiving.

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