Venice at Carnival 2016 Trip Report

By Kevin McNeal on Mar 08, 2016

Darrell Gulin and I recently returned from leading the 2016 Venice at Carnival photo safari.  From the minute we arrived in Venice we were immersed in the excitement of the city’s age-old traditions of mask, costume and celebration.  Vibrantly-colored masks and costumes were everywhere!  Over our five full days of photography, the Carnival did not disappoint.
Our group stayed at the lovely Hotel Bucintoro in the Arsenal District—conveniently located with easy access to the host of activities all around.  With no cars allowed, we explored mainly on foot. Each morning we were out early in the Piazza San Marco where, by the iconic lamps of Venice, we photographed the gathered figures—the “masks”—in their colorful finery.  What a great introduction to the variety of the traditional masks and range of extravagant costumes!  With no shortage of models, our group had good daily opportunities to practice photo skills and flash use under diverse atmospheric conditions. During the week we photographed many of the same models, giving everyone a chance to get to know the subjects behind those fantastic masks and creating a good working relationship.
We were also fortunate to have an excellent select group of models who worked with us in special photo sessions—in an opulent Venetian ballroom at the palace and for an outdoor shoot in gondolas.  These iconic locations provided us with two very distinct settings and perspectives.  The indoor session gave us a chance to combine flash photography with the ambient sidelight from the windows. Our models posed in various sections of the ballroom and everyone in our group had a chance to capture the poses they preferred. 
Throughout the week, we worked all sorts of scenarios with “masks” in costume using different lenses to showcase the variety of images.  With longer lenses we could create intimate portraits or focus on particular elements of the amazing costumes. Using wider lenses we photographed the “masks” with the added perspective of the dramatic scenery of Venice in the background, creating landscape shots with the picturesque canals and iconic gondolas.
The weather cooperated—we had all kinds of conditions—which helped us achieve an assortment of distinctive looks for our images.  We had some of the classic early morning mist and fog that makes photographing in Venice so appealing.  On our last few mornings we photographed the “masks” against some stunning sunrises—the sun rose behind the models and their costumes and masks were lit in backlight.  Although challenging for fill flash and exposure, this situation made for the best images of the trip.
Tour planner Deborah Richmond has made sure everything is already set for next year when the Carnival commences in early February 2017.  Planned private photo shoots with our models, as well as opportunities to photograph the colorful “masks” in the most photogenic areas of Venice are already in the works.  Cannot wait until next year!