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Bridge of Sighs, Venice

Posted by
Ian Bramham (Manchester, United Kingdom) on 20 December 2013 in Cityscape & Urban and Portfolio.

The 'Bridge of Sighs' was designed by Antonio Contino at the beginning of the 17th century and was used a secure way of bringing prisoners over the 'Rio di Palazzo' canal from the prison to the interrogation rooms in the Doge's Palace.

The name of the bridge is supposed to come from the sighs made by condemned prisoners as they crossed the bridge and saw Venice for the last time.

From a technical point of view this photo proved very challenging, mainly because of the bright spotlight that is directed at the face of the bridge. In order to avoid blowing the highlights I set the camera to fully manual and deliberately underexposed the photo by about 5 stops. I then lifted the very dark shadow areas in post processing to get the result you can see here.

The dynamic range that is available from the latest digital cameras (like the Nikon D800 that I use) is simply astonishing but you have to know how to set the exposure to optimise the potential of the digital 'RAW' file. Unlike film, the dynamic range potential of digital cameras lies in the shadows rather than the highlights so in landscape images like this one it's always best to expose the photo using the camera histogram so that you ensure that you don't blow out the highlights - they wouldn't be recoverable in post processing whereas the shadow areas can easily be lifted to give surprising results.

In this image I could have made those shadow areas even brighter if I had wanted to but I deliberately left them a little dark as I felt it contributed to the overall mood of the photo.

NIKON D800 1 second F/8.0 ISO 100 78 mm (35mm equiv.)

Like what you see here and are interested in photographic composition?.....the blog section of my website now has a complete set of 5 articles covering my personal approach to the subject: Ian Bramham Photography - Blog

For purchasing high quality archival prints of any of these photos you can send me an email by clicking here or by going to my website Ian Bramham - Fine Art Photography where prices are listed in the gallery sections under each individual photo.

Aubélia from Kortrijk, Belgium

The lighting and composition are wonderful.

20 Dec 2013 8:17am

@Aubélia: Thanks Aubélia!

Dexter Chee from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Beautiful photo.

20 Dec 2013 8:18am

@Dexter Chee: Thanks Dexter!

Veronique from Tarbes, France

Thanks for the "lesson" I'll remember your advices. The shining point disturbs me here I find it a bit too flashy.

20 Dec 2013 8:48am

@Veronique: Hi Veronique - I admit it was a difficult decision on how bright to leave that spotlight on the face of the bridge. It's that spotlight which is the cause of the reflected light on the water and I decided to leave the bridge spotlight bright to make it obvious where the reflection is coming from. It's a photo that I might revisit one day and make different post processing decisions.

Curly from South Shields, United Kingdom

This result totally debunks the "expose to the right" theory, which I've never been a big fan of.
Great frame Ian.

20 Dec 2013 9:31am

Ian Smith from London, United Kingdom

A challenge indeed! I remember a few years ago (ahem) with a similar problem on a film exposure, trying to do the same thing on a darkroom enlarger exposure - waving a ping-pong ball on a thin stick around the spotlight bit :-) (I miss those days). In a situation like this I would be tempted to blend two different exposured together - a bit more work, but it might have helped. Cracking picture though.

20 Dec 2013 10:19am

DarkElf from Perth, Australia

you have done very well indeed! there are no blown highlights and still there are plenty of detail in the shadows! as always, superb composition and balance!

20 Dec 2013 1:48pm

alex centrella from California, United States

fantastic light..

20 Dec 2013 6:18pm

Ludovic Roudet from Charenton-le-Pont, France


20 Dec 2013 6:55pm

Ana Lúcia from Leiria, Portugal

Fantastic light you've captured Ian, a stunning image.

20 Dec 2013 10:15pm

Focales from Entre montagnes et Bretagne, France

Very nice framing Ian and beautiful bridge also. Lovely light

21 Dec 2013 6:30am

Sergei Z from Türi, Estonia

Stunning! Because of your pictures I want to go to Venice now! :-)

22 Dec 2013 7:23am

hugo poon from hong kong, Hong Kong

Another classic through your brilliant compo and exceptional rendering! So beautiful are the framing and tonal quality! Great work Ian!

22 Dec 2013 2:21pm

tom from Germany

Wonderful. Love the light and the reflection in the water.

22 Dec 2013 7:36pm

Ana Lúcia from Leiria, Portugal

I Wish You a Merry♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪ Christmas♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪I Wish You a Merry ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥

23 Dec 2013 11:15am

Ainsley from Derbyshire, United Kingdom

As always Ian, this is superb. When/ if I next visit Venice I will surely make the effort to get out early before all the tourists transcend. And brush up on my photographic ability.

23 Dec 2013 11:32am



24 Dec 2013 8:03pm

Michael Rawluk from Williams Lake, BC, Canada

That is a beautiful shot.
Merry Christmas To You!

26 Dec 2013 12:04am

awil from france, France

superbe ! meilleurs voeux

26 Dec 2013 8:24pm

Hans ter Horst from Dippach, Luxembourg

Happy New Year, Ian!

1 Jan 2014 9:28am

Paolo Agati from Udine, Italy

taken from the opposite side and not from the more common pov, I'd say that the spotlight gives more to the shot than it takes away

good one

1 Jan 2014 6:13pm

Eric C. from Un peu partout, France

Superb !

6 Jan 2014 11:00pm

Jedna Chwila from Poland

really good :) like it!

16 Jan 2014 10:33pm

1 second
ISO 100
78 mm (35mm equiv.)