Rome is arguably the most photogenic city in the world, and this view of Vatican City taken from Ponte Umberto I is one of the quintessential viewpoints in the city.
Finding the spot
Ponte Umberto I crosses the Tiber from Lungotevere Tor di Nona on the south over to Piazza dei Tribunali (Supreme Court) on the north side. Looking to the west we see this image.
First, the Tiber in the foreground. In the middleground we see Ponte Sant’Angelo, the pedestrian bridge across the Tiber to Castell Sant’Angelo. Finally, Vatican City and the spectacular St Peter’s Basilica in the background.
You can take incredible photos from this spot at all times of day – it’s a classic scene – but some particular times of day stand out.
Sunrise When conditions are right, the low sun casts a salmon hue on the ancient brickwork and ideally, the clouds above too.
Late afternoon Depending on the time of year, you may be shooting directly into the low sun at golden hour.
Sunset The sun sets behind Vatican City which is attractive enough, but if you patiently await blue hour you’ll also be rewarded with the Vatican buildings and Ponte Sant’Angelo beautifully illuminated.
Using Kase filters
With the composition, timing, and nice atmospheric conditions in place, it’s time to capture the image. The Kase KW100 10-stop neutral density filter really added to the image. In-camera, I was able to push my exposure to 20 seconds using F/22 and ISO31 before the highlights were blown. The addition of this filter allowed me to capture exposures of nearly 4 minutes.
Removing other people I strongly prefer my travel photos to be free of any people, if possible. As well as being aesthetically pleasing, it means there are no pesky release forms to sign. Even at sunrise, Ponte Sant’Angelo had a steady trickle of tourists and beneath, joggers and cyclists pass through during their morning commutes. The long exposure helps blend them out of the picture completely.
Smooth water The Tiber is not especially fast-moving, but the long exposure smooths and blends all the ripples and surface glistening over the length of the shot. This results in the appearance of milky-smooth water in the completed photograph.
Interesting skies As one of the most photographed locations on Earth, it is very challenging to find a take on this scene that hasn’t been done before. A sense of movement in the clouds adds an extra dimension to the image which sets it apart from the usual point-and-click snapshots.
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR @ 38mm
F/16 – 214s – ISO 64
Kase KW100 10-stop filter
Mathew Browne – http://www.mathewbrowne.co.uk/