St. Mark’s Square at Night – Venice

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. The photos in this series were taken over a couple of evenings in Venice.

St Mark's Basilica Reflection at Night - Venice
F16 | 30 secs | ISO 100 | 12 mm

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. These puddles provided great opportunities for reflections (and wet shoes).

I returned to the basilica the next day with my wife and son. It turns out toddlers don’t particularly like dark cavernous medieval basilicas. Venice hadn’t heard screams like this since Napoleon’s invasion over 200 years previously. He much preferred chasing pigeons around in front of the basilica (my son that is, not Napoleon).

Doge's Palace and Columns at St Mark's Square
F22 | 10 secs | ISO 100 | 30 mm

Turning right at the Basilica will lead you to an extension of St Mark’s Square called the Piazzetta. This leads to the lagoon and a stunning view across the water to the island of San Giorgio Maggiore.

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 bad ass in my opinion.

View towards San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice
F22 | 15 secs | ISO 100 | 60 mm

For the next photo I pointed my camera out across the lagoon towards the island of San Giorgio Maggiore with its stunning Classical Renaissance church and campanile bell tower. The focal length of 60 mm compresses the sense of distance making the island seem a lot closer to the Piazetta than in reality.

Ristorante Quadri at Night on St Mark's Square in Venice
F8 | 1 sec | ISO 100 | 45 mm

As in the first photo in this post, I used the pools of water to capture the reflections of city lights at night. 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.

Ristorante Quadri Orchestra at Night - Venice
F9 | 1.3 secs | ISO 100 | 32 mm

In the photograph above, I decided to focus in on a couple who were watching a mini orchestra performing outside the famous Ristorante Quadri. Dining at this particular opulent eatery will require you remortgage your home and sell your first born child. Two coffees alone will set you back about €30!

That said, the terrace outside this Venetian institution provides one of the most spectacular settings in the world to enjoy a meal. Where else in the world can you look at the magnificent Basilica San Marco while eating a five star meal all while listening to an orchestral version of “Another One Bites the Dust.

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 go by future earning potential.

With a few keepers in the bag, I headed back to our apartment but not before stopping for a drink outside at the Ristorante Quadri. 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 genius music of Freddie Mercury expertly played by the cafe orchestra. I wonder what Vivaldi’s opinion of ‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ would have been.

You can view more of my photography from Venice in the gallery section.

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