How I Got the Shot – Il Duomo, Florence

Many of my best photos have been taken just after sunset during the “Blue Hour” when the camera sees an incredible range of colors.  The Blue Hour starts about 10 minutes after sunset and lasts about 30 – 40 minutes, until the sky goes dark.  The photo that I took of Il Duomo – the cathedral in Florence, Italy – was taken during the Blue Hour.  View a larger version in my Portfolio.

Joyce and I traveled to Tuscany in early autumn 2014.  Before leaving home, I had researched the best locations to shoot in Florence (very important), which directed us to Piazzale Michelangelo, a hill to the east of the historic center.  So late one afternoon on an unseasonably warm day, we trekked from the rear of Il Duomo through crowds and many squares, over the Ponte Vecchio, and then through backstreets until we arrived at the base of the Piazzale.  Carrying some of my gear as she always does, Joyce jack-rabbited up the long steep hill, leaving me gasping for breath at the bottom.  I finally made it to the top and was blown away by the panoramic view.  It was now about 90 minutes before sunset (very important to arrive early) so there was plenty of time to get my bearings, find the perfect spot, and shoot test shots to determine the best composition.  Here are three rules I’ve developed for myself that contributed to the excellent result:

  1. I always shoot this time of the day using a tripod with a cable release; this eliminates any chance of a blurry image. 
  2. I always shoot on manual mode and use settings that will provide the sharpest image for the camera and lens that I am using.  In this case I was using my Canon 7D with a 24mm – 105mm lens set to ISO 100 and F11. 
  3. I always bracket my shots: shoot one image lighter and one image darker than what the camera is telling me.  The resulting exposure was 10 seconds.  The best starting point to determine the correct exposure is the sky around your subject. 

Once I got my shots, I noticed that a photographer next to me did not have a tripod.  We learned that he and his wife were newlyweds on their honeymoon, a long way from Singapore.  I offered to lend him my tripod, which he accepted.  His wife offered us an apple, which we accepted, and he got his shots of a lifetime.  Then Joyce and I trekked back down the hill and had dinner at one of the little restaurants that we had passed on the way up.  Fabulous pasta and a fabulous bottle of wine. The walk back was much more relaxed than the walk out and I had gotten a great shot.  Join me for a class or a couple of hours of one-on-one tutoring.

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