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Black and white photography in Venice:A report by Sascha Hüttenhain

Schwarz-Weiß-Fotografie in Venedig

For professional photographer Sascha Hüttenhain, Venice is a photo destination that he has had in mind for a long time. A while ago he visited the city in the lagoon and took stunning black and white photos..

Schwarz-weiß-Fotografie Venedig

Church of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice

Filter:ND2000 gray filter +GND8 Soft Gray Graduated Filter

exposure time: 1m 30s at f/11

Camera: Canon 1Dx Mark II

Lens: Canon 16-35/2.8L


Venice, the lagoon city in northern Italy, has long been on my wish list of cities to travel to and photograph in Europe. The appeal of this city is its very special appearance, which gives us photographers a fantastic backdrop for creating extraordinary photo motifs. It is easy to reach and offers a large number of sights, locations and hotspots, all of which have their own appeal.

Time seems to have stood still in this city. It contains an abundance of photo motifs in a particularly small space with short distances overall. The water-washed palaces along the large canals look so unreal shiny and at the same time dilapidated that they could also come from a surreal film.

Black and white photos of the historical center with tripod and ND filter

In line with this, I took my pictures in black and white.
I particularly like the contrasts and subtle shades of gray in black and white photography. For me, monochrome pictures with few elements are usually the more exciting ones.

Of course, an interesting composition and the design of the picture are just as important as the picture and the picture detail. In my equipment I always have strong ND filters (e.g. ND2000) with me to avoid slow shutter speeds (long exposures) to make possible. With this type of photography you also have the opportunity to make motifs and places look a little different than they actually are.

Throughlong exposures you create a different world, which makes projects like the one in Venice even more interesting.
This makes the recordings even more timeless.
They are reduced to the essentials and different perspectives emerge than before. Depending on the image, color photos are a bit too distracting for me, which changes the effect.

Schwarz-Weiß-Fotografie Wasserstraße Venedig

Campo Santo waterway in Venice

Filter:ND2000 gray filter

exposure time: 35s at f/8

Camera: Canon 1Dx Mark II

Lens: Canon 16-35/2.8L

Towards the end of the year it is quieter in the city

In the quiet time towards the end of the year when I was touring the city she made me work well. The mass tourism to the sights such as the Doge's Palace, St. Mark's Square or the Rialto Bridge is then rather absent and it is quieter there, so that you can move faster from point to point.

An ideal basis for extraordinary recordings.
From time to time the weather showed its rather cloudy side, so that fog and light drizzle were my companions. But that didn't stop me from walking through the city with my camera early in the morning and taking the first pictures.

The good thing about the drizzle

A big advantage of the drizzle was that there weren't that many people in the well-known places and I was able to take some motifs in places that are otherwise very crowded or at least well filled.
When the bad weather eased up, I examined my first results in one of the numerous cafés. I was very satisfied with my first yield, which I was able to record within a few hours.

My RolleiLion Rock tripod and also the different onesgray filterthat I had with me did a great job. I found the handling of the filter holder very positive. You put it together very quickly and stowed it away in your photo bag just as quickly, so you don't have to spend long with it.

Scirocco requires good preparation

Besides the drizzle, Venice had another challenge in store for me at Aqua Alta..

A flood caused by the desert wind Scirocco towards the end of the year floods part of the city and makes it partly difficult to pass. Luckily I had already prepared myself and packed boots for my trip to Venice. For a long time I had thought about whether I should take them with me and ultimately decided on what later turned out to be spot on..

Schwarz-Weiß-Fotografie Rialto Brücke Venedig

Rialto Bridge in Venice

Filter:ND64 gray filter +ND2000 gray filter

exposure time: 8m 44s at f/13

Camera: Canon 1Dx Mark II

Lens: Canon 16-35/2.8L

Why carbon tripods are a huge advantage

During the flood there was little activity for a few hours until the water drained. When the hustle and bustle slowly set in again, I had my shots in the can and could move on.
I covered many points on foot, which is why the light, but still extremely stable Lion Rock Carbon Tripod is really worth its weight in gold. Because you learn to appreciate your equipment in a completely different way and you are happy about the weight saving.

Towards the end of my stay in Venice the weather was dry but the sky was overcast. Apparently reason enough for many tourists to go hiking on this day. That morning I really wanted to photograph the Rialto Bridge.
Unfortunately, I stayed a little too long at the Basilica San Giorgio Maggiore beforehand, so I was quite late at the bridge. For whatever reason, a lot of people were drawn there that morning.

Schwarz-Weiß-Fotografie Innenstadt Venedig

View from downtown on San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice

Filter:ND2000 gray filter

exposure time: 1m 25s at f/11

Camera: Canon 1Dx Mark II

Lens: Canon 24-70/2.8L

Long exposure times with ND filters

Luckily I had thatND2000 Filter included, which I combined with another filter, so that I could achieve an exposure time of almost 10 minutes for my long exposures.
This was necessary to make my subject look deserted. The looks of passers-by are extremely questioning when you stand in just one place for such a long time, but I didn't care because I captured the picture with this exposure time exactly as I had imagined.

With lots of different and interesting subjects, varied but still suitable weather, I finished the project in this city for the time being, but I know that I would like to travel there again in the future to continue it.
My gear on stronggray filters by Rollei and thatLion Rock 30 will definitely be there again.

What filters do you use for black and white photos?

Black and white photography thrives on contrasts, which you can vary and design as you like by using different filters according to your taste. There are many possibilities, so I would not limit the use to a single filter.
Red filters, for example, are particularly interesting for images with clouds, as they make the blue sky appear darker and more dramatic.
Yellow filters are also very suitable for increasing the contrast in the area mentioned.

Overall, you should make the use of color filters dependent on their respective area of application, because, for example, not everything in theportrait area looks good at whatlandscape photography still worked.
Personally, I rarely work with color filters directly in front of the optics.
In analogue times this was common practice, but in the digital age you can recreate these effects quickly and easily with a good image editing program.

Schwarz-Weiß-Fotografie Brücke Venedig

Bridge near S. Basio in Venice

Filter: ND2000 gray filter

exposure time: 60s at f/11

Camera: Canon 1Dx Mark II

Lens: Canon 16-35/2.8L

Use monochrome function Or rather the RAW filei?

Personally, I occasionally use the monochrome function as a preview option. This gives you a first impression of how the photo will look afterwards.

Overall, however, I would recommend every photographer to take the picture in RAW mode, as this gives you the greatest leeway in later post-processing and image parts are not filtered out beforehand, which would then be missing later.

Packing list for my stay in Venice:

By the way: In November 2020 Sascha Hüttenhain offers a photo workshop in Venice.here there is more info.


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