Which lenses for Venice?
This is a question that is often asked and even more frequently ruminated upon by those heading off to Venice for the first time. Experience generally informs subsequent trips but only if honest reflection is undertaken and heads lead rather than hearts.
There are questions to be answered first of course – relating to the kind of subject matter and images we wish to create. Those indulging in street photography will in all likelihood use the same selection as in any city. Others may revel in picking out the details from a distance and so take along a longer lens. My answers usually follow from the premise that, for me, the landscape of Venice is the main subject.
A second and in some ways bigger question is to do with the degree to which we are prepared to compromise the enjoyment of the city by carrying too much weight. Photographing Venice involves a lot of walking and every kg seems to weigh double as the day goes on.
For many people the iconic images of Venice are long exposures and in order to achieve this even more extra weight has to be carried in the form of tripod, ND filters, remote release etc. I recently analysed all my ‘keepers’ from Venice and tabulated them according to number of images for each focal length. I rounded all intermediate focal lengths to the nearest ‘recognisable’ prime equivalent. Note needs to be taken that the graph represents focal lengths and not specific lenses. The 85mm length equates to 55mm on my Fuji X cameras. In my analysis this includes the 18-55mm @55mm, the 55-200mm@ 55mm and the 56mm f1.2. The outcome surprised me slightly and is of course influenced by personal style, conditions, time of year etc. It is probably also influenced by whim to at least some extent. The key findings as may be seen from the table is that very wide angle only accounts for 10% of the mages and effectively less than 2% of images are from focal lengths that exceed 85mm. 75% of all the images were, or could have been made with a 28-85mm(FF) or 18-55mm (APS-C).
The information can be used to plan which lenses to carry. An 18-55 (28-80 FF) and something wider would account for 98% of all my keepers. Adding a telephoto as the third lens brings this to 100%. A future blog post will concern itself with a detailed analysis of exactly what equipment I personally carry when visiting Venice. The problem we all face is a perennial one, that of being prepared for the once in a lifetime image that is beyond the popular range of focal lengths. Everyone finds their own resolution to this question but I would prefer to enjoy the days rather than carry too much. A further consideration becoming every greater is that of transporting the relevant equipment by aircraft.
The information above refers to my own favourite images from Venice over the past five years. These are partly represented by the Venice Gallery on my website.
My solution so far has been twofold. The first part is the use of Fuji X series cameras and the second to be
ruthless on lens choice, drawing from my own data rather than my heart. The next blog post will be concerned with an analysis of all the equipment that I would usually take on such a trip. This will include my solutions for managing a balance between photography and airline luggage restrictions.
If you would like to photograph this beautiful city and improve your own photography, I will be leading a workshop in April 2019 for Aspect2i. The workshop details may be viewed below.