Venice—opulent, romantic and picturesquely decaying—is a compelling magnet for your camera. For two weeks during late winter, the city has but one focus—Carnevale. At Carnival time, resident and visitor alike are drawn into an old-world fantasy of color, pageantry and revelry. At Venice's medieval core is Piazza San Marco, the city's largest square—two football fields in length—and the most magnificent. Lined by some of Venice's renowned landmarks—the Basilica di San Marco, the Palazzo Ducale, the towering Campanile—the Piazza lies at the heart of the Carnevale tradition. Here, the living theater of Carnevale plays out. Day and night, revelers promenade bedecked from head to foot in gloriously-feathered and festooned hats, and richly-hued, lavish costumes that beg to be photographed. But it is the mask that is the icon of Carnevale. Steeped in the history of Venice, hand-painted, gilded with gold leaf, the masks are true works of art and what makes Carnevale unique and sets it apart from all other Carnival celebrations worldwide. Masks are disguise and possibility, cutting across social class and individual identity. From the striking monochromatic traditional designs of the commedia dell'arte and the ghost-like bauta, to intricate and colorful fantasies of gems and feathers, the masks attract the eye and the lens for striking "portraits."
"Venice at Carnival time is a photographer's delight. When people say 'WOW—AWESOME!!' when they look at my images of the more than 50 models dressed in vividly colorful costumes and masks with Venetian scenery as the background, you know you've struck gold."
In the quieter morning hours, as the sun appears over the mist-veiled waters of the Bacino de San Marco, costumed figures already begin to stroll the square—and numerous impromptu shooting opportunities present themselves. Throughout the daytime, the non-stop parade of revelers in theatrical guise expands and excitement grows. The world of the masquerade reaches the height of revelry in the evening with masked balls, renaissance-style processions, street artists, music and non-stop action.
Bring your most comfortable walking shoes! With a convenient, centrally-located 4-star hotel as our base, we are only short minutes from the Piazza—but, with no cars allowed in the city we travel by foot and water taxi.
Away from the midst of the bustle of the square, we also have time to discover quieter hidden corners of Venice and explore the network of winding narrow calli, the serpentine waterways of smaller canals, and some of the 400 graceful bridges that lace this medieval city. We capture the winter light that falls on rich architectural details, on elegant but often photogenically-decaying facades of palaces lining historic waterways, on churches and on sleek gondolas. In the evening, streetlamp reflections shimmer in the waters of the lagoon and canals.
In addition to photographing the throng of masked revelers, we have scheduled two special model shoots for our group. A 3-hour session with our models posing in gondolas on the canals and amidst secluded alleyways highlights one afternoon. During a private 2-hour interior session we photograph our models posing in one of the magnificent Venetian palazzos.
Leaving the city behind, we travel to the photogenic island of Burano, a quiet island of winding streets and tranquil canals, offering a refreshing counterpoint to the whirlwind of the city. Burano is an explosion of color, justly famous for its brightly-hued houses and fishing boats, as well as for the handmade lace seen hanging almost everywhere. We photograph lavishly embellished masks and costumes against deeply-pigmented backdrops—here, rich color, design and pattern all vie for our focus.
Keep your camera ready. The colorfully-gloved and bejeweled hand of Carnevale beckons. An extravagantly-costumed couple strikes a pose against a backdrop of Gothic architecture. Cloaked figures in fantastical hand-painted masks stroll the Piazza and emerge from half-hidden lanes. Join us and revel at what was once described as "folly and madness"—Carnevale in timeless Venice.
For more information on this trip, check out this trip report in the Photo Safaris blog.
Depart on flights from the US.
Day 2 (Feb 4)
Arrive in Venice in time for an afternoon orientation walk followed by dinner in the Castello District. (D)
At sunrise—today and on most mornings during our week—we are in the center of the action, in Piazza San Marco, to photograph elaborately costumed and masked models. Later, we photograph around the historic Venice Arsenale and, in the late afternoon, we walk to the Rialto, stopping en route to photograph palaces, churches, canals, bridges and other architectural delights of Venice. (BLD)
Following sunrise photography in the piazza and breakfast, we depart by boat for a full-day shoot to the island of Burano, known for its houses suffused in vivid colors. Burano's winding streets and its canals lined with fishing boats colorfully reflected in the water provide a short respite from the revelry in the city. In this quieter setting we concentrate on photographing fanciful masks and costumes against the saturated-color backdrop of Burano's buildings. (BLD)
Sunrise finds us back in the hub of activity in Piazza San Marco and just off the square to shoot at the main gondola staging area of the city—where rows of the photogenic city boats park along the canal. Midmorning we depart by vaporetto, the water bus, to the bustling, colorful centuries-old Rialto vegetable and fish market. (BLD)
Early this morning, we are in Piazza San Marco for our final sunrise shoot. As a highlight to our week at Carnival we have scheduled an exclusive 2-hour interior photo shoot with our models posing in one of Venice's elegant historic palazzos. In the late afternoon a vaporetto brings us to the Academia area, by the high-arched wooden Ponte dell'Academia spanning the Grand Canal for our last sunset shoot. (BLD)
Along with a local guide, we photograph palaces, churches, the opera house and the hidden corners of Venice. We have scheduled a 3-hour afternoon shoot with our models posing in gondolas along one of the smaller, less busy canals followed by sunset photography before dinner in Formosa Square. (BLD)
Day 8 (Feb 10)
Group transfer to the airport and depart for home. (B)
By the end of the tour I didn't want to leave; I wish we could have extended it! Our tour leader was wonderful and always willing to help and answer questions. Our Venice guide was very knowledgeable and gave us a great history of the places we visited. With the Venice at Carnival tour Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris has allowed me to experience an event that I will remember for the rest of my life.
This tour is a visual and sensory delight for photographers. It is a wonderfully intense photographic trip.