#475. The making of InSight: Venice – part 1

By Paul Perton | Travel Photography

Apr 24
Late sun - Fuji X-Pro2, Fuji 16mm f1.4 @ f2.8

Late sun – Fuji X-Pro2, Fuji 16mm f1.4 @ f2.8

Airport security concerns aside, it’s never just as simple as jumping on a plane from Cape Town to anywhere. As DS readers in Alaska and New Zealand will doubtless concur, there’s almost always a connecting flight, transfer times and an eventual arrival at one’s destination at the least convenient moment.


Making a bad situation worse, there aren’t many choices of carrier from Cape Town. My preference is Emirates. This means flying via Dubai, but the upside is new(ish) aircraft, polite, interested and helpful aircrew, halfway edible meals and a decent in-flight entertainment system. On the other side of the coin, BA can’t even manage to get it’s clapped out 747s and couldn’t-give-a-toss aircrews here and back to Heathrow without the toilets breaking down or running out of scotch on board; best not go there if you were feeling like suggesting such.


So, Cape Town, Dubai, Venice it was. Nice. Aside from an 05:30 arrival in the Sandpit and a couple of hours transfer wait, we arrived in the city of a thousand canals (and a billion tourists – more of that later) at lunch time. How convenient.


Several hours later, we are safely ensconced in our delightful hotel at the end of the narrowest cul-de-lane imaginable and soon decide on a wander, some photography, dinner and a relatively early night.


Meeting adjourned - Fuji X100T @ f2.8

Meeting adjourned – Fuji X100T @ f2.8


Street scene - Fuji X100T @ f4

Street scene – Fuji X100T @ f4


Street games - Fuji X100T @ f2.8

Street games – Fuji X100T @ f2.8


The following morning (Saturday), the Rialto fish market next door got a start at 04:15, with all the brio you’d expect of half-a-hundred Italians going about their business. After my 22:00 turn-in I was just about awake anyway – those readers of a slightly older persuasion will know all about this knock-on effect of ageing. So, I got up, pulled on some clothes and decided to edit the preceding evening’s pics while I waited for my planned 06:00 departure to wander and phot before breakfast.


Two things are immediately apparent; the first – unlike Paris, Venice is not a city for black and white photography. The second, shooting my interpretation of Venice was going to be harder than I’d imagined. This is still low season, but there are tourists everywhere, the closer to St Marks, the more you’ll encounter. When I mentioned my upcoming trip to Philippe, he said; “When you see the funnel of a cruise ship entering harbour, head in the opposite direction” and he wasn’t altogether wrong; the city is seemingly full of Americans, Europeans of every stripe and Chinese folk all seeing the sights on a strict time and money budget. Who knows what it’s like in August’s high season…


Abstract - Fuji X-Pro2, Fuji 35mm f1.4 @ f1.4

Abstract – Fuji X-Pro2, Fuji 35mm f1.4 @ f1.4


Rain - Fuji X-Pro2, Leica 50mm Summilux f1.4 @ f2

Rain – Fuji X-Pro2, Leica 50mm Summilux f1.4 @ f2


"Let's just neck this sucker and head straight back to the hotel?" - Fuji X-Pro2, Leica 50mm Summilux f1.4 @ f2

“Let’s just neck this sucker and head straight back to the hotel?” – Fuji X-Pro2, Leica 50mm Summilux f1.4 @ f2


The sights aside, Venice’s streets are narrow and daylight penetration is very low in many places. As a result, my preference for Fuji’s Velvia colour rendering requires a touch more work in recovering shadows than I am normally required to exert. I’m shooting at +1/3 stop, sometimes +2/3, depending on the XPro’s histogram. After that, adding yet another half a stop is easy in post (on screen).


No matter though. It’s fun, vibrant and the gondola gridlock behind St Mark’s made me smile a lot. At €80 a pop that’s a very expensive go-nowhere fast.


Let’s be honest here; if crowds aren’t your thing, either visit Venice in the depths of winter, or plan to go somewhere else. The current visitor count is close to 30 million annually – that’s 82+ thousands a day, or put another way, 25% more visitors every day than the permanent population.


OK, numbers out of the way, let’s go back to photography.


Like the recent Paris workshop, my camera bag is a virtually all-Fuji affair; the essential X100T (bought yours yet Pascal?), with the newish X-Pro2 and the older X-Pro1 as a back-up. To work with the X-Pros, I’ve bought the 16mm, 35mm and 90mm Fuji primes and because I’m hoping to have plenty of time for manual focussing, my 50mm Leica Summilux and 25mm Zeiss Biogon.


St Mark's tourists - Fuji X-Pro2, Leica 50mm Summilux f1.4 @ f2

St Mark’s tourists – Fuji X-Pro2, Leica 50mm Summilux f1.4 @ f2


"No customers? Must be because you charged the last three Americans €100 for three coffees." Fuji X-Pro2, Leica 50mm Summilux f1.4 @ f2

“No customers? Must be because you charged the last three Americans €100 for three coffees.” Fuji X-Pro2, Leica 50mm Summilux f1.4 @ f2


Snack bar owner about to open up - Fuji X-Pro2, Leica 50mm Summilux f1.4 @ f2

Snack bar owner about to open up – Fuji X-Pro2, Leica 50mm Summilux f1.4 @ f2


Yesterday’s (Saturday) brief foray into St Marks was shot largely with the X-Pro2 and 50 Summilux. With time and a plethora of suitable subjects, the Leica worked it’s magic and I’m already feeling delighted at my decision to bring it along – its 75mm equivalence on the X-Pro’s APS-C sensor is ideal in Venice’s crowded streets and its ability to isolate key elements from a magnificently bokeh-d background is really appealing.


If you’ve been to Venice before, you’ll know that nothing is straight, square and/or level. In fact, as the city slowly sinks into the ooze of the northern Adriatic, the situation is only going to get worse, so don’t expect to have perfectly aligned images – your manual (re) alignment skills are going to be put to the sword.


Canal bend - Fuji X-Pro2, Leica 50mm Summilux f1.4 @ f2

Canal bend – Fuji X-Pro2, Leica 50mm Summilux f1.4 @ f2


"Say what?" - Fuji X-Pro2, Leica 50mm Summilux f1.4 @ f2

“Say what?” – Fuji X-Pro2, Leica 50mm Summilux f1.4 @ f2


06:25 - Fuji X-Pro2, Fuji 35mm f1.4 @ f1.4

06:25 – Fuji X-Pro2, Fuji 35mm f1.4 @ f1.4


Shooting the sights is probably best attempted – you have to try and get your pictures between the stream of humanity coming from each and every point of the compass – with a 35mm wide-ish angle. Much wider and the perspective of (say) a 24mm lens is not really going to work very well.


Similarly on the street, you’ll find anything between 35mm and 50mm and possibly up to 75mm is perfect. My 50mm Summilux works really well, although I am aware that it does keep me further from the (inter)action than I would often like.


Fuji’s wonderful 90mm f2 is a monster. I brought it to shoot some specific landscapes and with almost constant rain/cloud since our arrival, it’s not seen the light of day yet.


And yes, the X100T’s near perfect 23mm, 35mm equivalent is seeing lots of action as usual.


Bar, Fuji X-Pro2, Fuji 35mm f1.4 @ f1.4

Bar, Fuji X-Pro2, Fuji 35mm f1.4 @ f1.4


Canal abstract - Fuji X-Pro2, Fuji 35mm f1.4 @ f4

Canal abstract – Fuji X-Pro2, Fuji 35mm f1.4 @ f4


Nearby canal - Fuji X-Pro2, Fuji 16mm f1.4 @ f2

Nearby canal – Fuji X-Pro2, Fuji 16mm f1.4 @ f2


The weather is due to start clearing overnight and tomorrow (Monday), I’m hoping to start getting to grips with the photographic needs of a new InSight guide. More of that later in the week.


Email: subscribed: 4
  • Leonard says:


    My first and only visit to Venice was in 2004, for fours between trains. The streets were underwater, as was a not inconsiderable part of St Marks Square. I hadn’t noticed until you remarked on it that I also found the city to not lend itself easily to B&W.


  • David A. Mack says:


    I’ve been there twice several years apart. One of my favorite scenes is the every early AM fish markets. Got up about 0400, before dawn, went down to the street where fish were being unloaded in the early twilight under lights. I was also able to catch merchants weeping the street with traditional brooms, some fog that morning, adding a mystic quality under the street lights. No tourists ruining the shots.

    Gang tagging is really threatening the quality of photographs and there seems to be little energy to curtail the activity or pursue the perps. Sad. It can costs as much as $5,000 Euro to repair each tag. Not happening.

    Going to the south Lagoon to Chioggia via Lido Island was a great trip to see the fishing fleet. If you are in a hurry, the bus around the Laguna Veneta is much faster.

    I envy your trip.

    David Mack

    • paulperton says:

      Thanks David. If I stand up and look out of the window, the Rialto Marchetta (the fish market at Rialto) is 50m away and thankfully this morning, quiet. It’s Monday, so no-one went out yesterday for fish and there’s nothing fresh to sell this morning.

  • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

    Rule 1 – if you EVER think to see Venice, don’t put it off – plan to do it as soon as you can – the problems associated with the alta marea are only going to get worse, the problems with the aging of the piling that supports the city aren’t insoluble but cost a fortune & the funds aren’t limitless, and as if that’s not bad enough, the rising sea levels from global warming won’t just flood Miami – sea levels around the world will rise. We really have made a mess of the only planet we’ll ever have, and as I head towards the end of my life, I can only apologise the wild life I’m inevitably going to leave behind, one day. At least, I HOPE they’re still around.

    Back to photography. Is the reason for the X001T its small and relatively inconspicuous size, Paul? Just guessing – but I suppose you have more than one X-Pro to cut down on lens changes. At your suggestion, I am looking into the Fuji range and came across a note the other day, hinting that the X-T1 is expected to follow the path of the X-Pro2, and is scheduled to be replaced by a new X-T2 in June. This seems to be confirming itself here – the price of an X-T1 in Australia is way lower than you’d expect, comparing it with the price of the other two here – and comparing the price of all three, overseas, with prices here.

    So I scouted around to compare the three models, as best I can without hiring one of each. And while the X00T and X-T1 seem to perform better in low light, the colour & contrast & sharpness with the X-Pro2 seem to be better than the other two. Just my impression from going through a whole raft of photos on the net.

    At this point, I’m sitting on my hands, waiting for June. I’ve basically decided on the 16mm and the 35mm/F2 – reports on the 90mm are very encouraging, it seems like a wonderful lens, but I’d have little use for such a long tele. Which leaves me choosing the actual camera body. The X-100T is nice, but a bit limiting with a fixed lens. I can see “why” for other photographers, but it wouldn’t really hit enough targets for my purposes.

    So you can imagine the pleasure you gave me this morning, when I opened my emails and found your posting on Dear Susan, with all those photos from a variety of Fujis and different lens combinations.

    I have many happy memories of Venice, from earlier trips to Italy – met some incredible people there – because I was fortunate enough to be “taken” there with several locals who were friends of mine from nearby Friuli, I had something of a guided tour – introduced to places that aren’t on the standard Kodak tourist trail, places that were described to me as “la Venezia vera” – although of course that’s lost a lot of its meaning, since most of the locals live in nearby Mestre and cross the causeway each day if they work in Venice.

    Seeing your photos gave me gusts of nostalgia for a place which will forever be in my heart and mind.

    Other places nearby, that are worth a look if you ever have the time while you’re in Venice, include la Basilica d’Aquileia, where the Italians have “re-opened” some fantastic 4th century mosiacs which they uncovered beneath the floor of the basilica – and Lignano (“discovered” by Hemingway and his pals during WW2) and Grado, both of which are near Aquileia.

    • paulperton says:

      I read “If I EVER…” and wondered whether I was in for some kind of commentary long lashing. But no, just an admonishment to see Venice ASAP, a recommendation with which I agree wholeheartedly.

      Cut to the chase; the X100 is a massively competent small DSLR in a palm-sized box. OK, you can’t change the lens, but there’s nothing you’d want to change it for – it’s perfect, not too wide, not too long. I shoot on the street, landscapes and even some flora when out walking at home with mine and it comes up trumps every time. It’s extraordinary and should be available to us poor photographers on the National Health.

      For me, the X-Pro:X-T1 wrangle is a non-issue. For a reason beyond my explanation, I don’t like the Lilliputian DSLR and absolutely love the workman, bruiser-like feel of the X-Pro. As you mention, the prices tumble as kit gets to EoL (end-of-life), which is how I bought my X-Pro1; it was so well priced at that time that it would have to have been a colossal mistake to rue my purchase. It wasn’t, I didn’t and now own the -2 as well.

      Lenses? I’ve invested in the 16mm, 35mm and 90mm. I’d really like the 23mm too, but understand that’s X100 territory and I’d probably end up not using it anywhere as much – no doubt to my detriment in some way.

      Thanks for recommending places to see in Venice. It will be good to get photographs of places free of the usual tourist scrum – that’s the InSight ethos anyway.

      • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

        I must admit, I had enormous fun ‘far from the madding crowd’, in the areas you mention Paul, where the locals live & work. Far and away the best meal I ever ate in Venice was not at a *** michelins where the americans hang out, but a small cafe down near the arsenal – don’t be late or you won’t get fed, fixed three course menu, don’t leave a thing on your plate or nonna will fix you! But the food was to kill & die for, traditional venetian, no frills, fantastic quality, and cooked to perfection.

        I get tired of gloss & glitter – I prefer reality. Way back at the start, on my first trip to Europe, I found it was easy to spend 5 bucks on a rather ordinary coffee on the Via Veneto – or a hundred metres away, get a much better one for around one buck. And with my passionate love of the english language (sarcasm – ignore that!), the voices around me were much more melodious. Actually, I found something quite interesting, when I learned Italian – I found myself singing to myself as I walked down the street – a kind of fallout, from learning the language, which was quite unexpected but brought a contented feeling with it and a smile on my face.

        Thanks for your advice on the Fujis – the Pro2 would win if it had an articulated screen, I want the Fuji to do candid stuff and fixed screens don’t cut it. I thought the 90mm was a wonderful lens, but I rarely have a need for a tele lens these days so my Zeiss Makro 100mm functions as a standin for a more conventional tele – not quite the bazooka the 90mm Fuji is, but quite good as a tele lens. So I’ve settled on the 16 & 35 – and the f2 35 seems a better lens than the f1.4, at the cost of a stop. All that remains is which camera body – waiting till I can see an X-T2 before I decide.

        Right now, the X-T1 (black) is selling at half the price of a Pro2 in Australia. But if the choice was an X-T1, I’d rather go with your advice and get the X100T

  • MurphyWasAnOptimist says:

    Paul, your views of — and on — Venice are very refreshing, in every sense of the word.
    I’m overjoyed at your endorsement of the 75mm, or its APS-C equivalent. It happens to be one of my favourite focals, which I think widely underestimated, and ideal for a certain kind of atmospheric closeness in a place like Venice.

    But let me disagree categorically with one statement: “unlike Paris, Venice is not a city for black and white photography.” One of the most acclaimed photographers of Venice, Fulvio Roiter, died last week, aged 89. His “Venise à Fleur d’Eau” (1954) set Venice firmly on the black-and-white map. And really black and white, not just greyscale. The obituary from “La Repubblica” featured a few of his early images:
    Indeed, until Fulvio Roiter’s very own “Essere Venezia”, a full 23 years later, I didn’t think it possible to picture Venice in colour without getting corny or kitschy.

    One last thing about the Rialto fish market: in 2011 the Venice Port Authority tried to have it closed down (nominally ‘moved’ to Fusina or some other fleapit on terraferma) for some fishy embankment real estate reason. Venetians rose up in protest; but the threat persists. Good you got to see it alive while it’s still there.

    But that’s true for the whole of Venice, isn’t it?


    • paulperton says:

      Thanks – I’ll take a peek at Roiter’s site now.

      I can understand the fish market being a contentious issue; find your way east of Rialto and the tourist density is reduced dramatically and you’re in amongst the locals – there’s lots of them and I guess they won’t tolerate losing their market either.

    • jean pierre (pete) guaron says:

      It’s strange to an old hand – B&W or colour? Why is it an “issue”? For me, B&W was the ONLY medium worth using, at the start. Colour prints were lousy, Kodak had the slide market & I wasn’t shooting for slides anyway. It served me well. Anyway, I could do all my own processing, printing, enlargements & so on with B&W and I couldn’t have funded the cost of a colour processing set up at home. When I wanted colour, I used Ektacolor professional films and got them processed & printed by a specialist professional lab.

      Without the added complication of colour, teaching myself composition was far more straightforward. I still think new photographers could do themselves a service, by shooting in B&W till they get a feel for composition, because photography is a study of light and shade, shapes, DoF and other similar issues which are all in front of you, all the time, in B&W.

      Then chucking colour in on top will fit in well. Once you know how to compose a decent photo, composing for colour isn’t such a difficult exercise. Starting with colour is a bit like the day I was at a country race meeting, and when they opened the starting gates one of the horses ran backwards around the track. Photography is no different from everything else we do – we have to learn to crawl, before we can walk – and B&W is a good place to start our apprenticeship.

      And have you ever noticed that after the riotous colours of Kodacolor, a large number of photographers switch? – and start taking photos where colour is more subdued, more subtle, and more like something to add the perfect finishing touch to a photo which would really be just as good in B&W?

  • pascaljappy says:

    Lovely, Paul. Your post is a good proxy for being there. My wife has put a veto on Venice, I over-abused in the past, it seems 😉 To answer your quesion, no, I haven’t yet bought a Fuji X100T. Thing is, you gave me yours to play withfor an hour and I loved it. But then you also gave me that Biogon … and that brought back so many fond memories ! That lens is so quick, there’s really no need to for AF. Jury’s still out, then 🙂

    Back to venice, though. Fun fact about DS: this was post #1 !! https://www.dearsusan.net/2011/06/17/photo1-giudecca-venezia/

    Cheers, enjoy every minute.

  • Sean says:

    Hi Paul,

    … after having being to Venice in 2015 with the wife and experiencing the whole shebang, this whole post makes me smile – in particular this bit “Let’s just neck this sucker and head straight back to the hotel?” … keep up the good work, it’s refreshing and entertaining …

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