Being Here Now
The Art & Practice of Street PhotographyTM
A Venice-Murano-Burano April 2020(trip extensions to Florence or Rome available)
Republic of Italy
Photo & Travel Workshop
By Photographers – For Photographers!
April 2020(trip extensions to Florence or Rome available)
Photography "has little to do with the things you see
This Workshop & Tour is open to photographers who desire to hone both their skills in developing style and capturing content, all in the beautiful and mysterious environs of Venice, Murano and Burano, Republic of Italy – preferably using Fuji X or Leica M digital cameras. Both of these systems are well suited to the classic image-making activity we will be practicing: “street portraiture” and “street photography”* as well as the practice of capturing static objects like buildings and monuments.
* The distinction being that the "street photography" genre involves images captured without the subject being aware. In either event this Tour is for photographers who prefer to capture a moment rather than create it.
Buy experiences instead of things.
Venice, Murano and Burano
Most Americans and many photographers go to Venice and its outlying islands and never venture past the main avenues or well-worn hotspots. Nor do they often visit with locals (who, admittedly, are getting scarce on the ground in Venice itself!)
This 7-day, 6 night Tour and the Photo Walk workshops are all about the light and the way you see it. Not necessarily about the particular light of Venice, but light as the over-arching necessity for photography – the science and, more importantly, art, of natural illumination and your individual point of view.
We will encourage participants to choose one fixed (prime) lens for each morning and afternoon walkabout session and stick to that lens for that entire session. Zooms are great tools: you always get a photo of some sort, but they do not always force one to think in the most creative way about the potential photo at hand. With a zoom most photographers begin to shoot by pondering, "Do I want to take this at 28mm or at 50mm?" After this decision you still have the rest of the picture-taking process to figure out. Alternatively, when faced with a picture opportunity, fixed lens at the ready, you will start by thinking, "How can I best frame this image with what I have at hand?" "What angle of view will create the most dynamic photo?" "What f-stop will give me either complete focus through the whole distance or create the bokeh I want to isolate this subject?" You will begin to think about this image before you and only this image instead of thinking, "If this first photo doesn't do the trick I can always zoom in or out to better advantage!" You will begin to practice what might be called the Buddhism approach to photography.
Just as Buddhism attempts to get one to live in the present, in the now (as that is all we really have; there is no guarantee for a tomorrow), your picture-making will begin to focus on the image you have in front of you right this moment. The idea is to make the best, most interesting photograph you can with this one chance. Digital has made many of us move this idea to the rear of our consciousness. We know we have hundreds of images to burn freely and forget that it is this one that is the most important image we will ever take – at least until we approach the next shot. Take your time with this photo. There may be instances where you will have to react quickly to get the picture (even though, with time, you may have anticipated it) but just as often you will have extra seconds to do the job right. A 50mm, or wider, fixed lens also gets you into the action (which will show in your point of view) rather than let you stand outside the action, clicking from afar (a distancing that almost always shows in the final photo.)
All modern, as well as many vintage, cameras have the ability to create excellent photographs. And, in the final analysis, viewers of your images (other than other photographers!) won't give a fig whether your tool was a $7000 Leica or a $100 plastic Holga. What they will care about is that your photographs are engaging, emotion-generating, thought-instilling creations. Otherwise, why bother?
While we welcome any DSLR, rangefinder or so-called mirror-less model in this workshop adventure, we are gearing it with the Fuji X camera system and Leica M cameras in mind. These are clean, somewhat pared-down systems without the instrument clutter of most modern DSLRs. More bells and whistles only distract from the task at hand. Really, all we need on our chosen tool is a way to adjust ISO, lens aperture and shutter speed. We used to think all the rest was 'gravy' but, increasingly, many have come to see and understand that this 'gravy' is a system-clogging, artistic distraction from the central focus of our craft. Adding functions to a camera body ought not be confused with increasing its functionality.
With the above said, we will still be taking large numbers of shots during our six and a half days on the waterways of Venice, Murano and Burano. Not from nowhere do we have the old saying "practice makes perfect". The great photographers that we all admire paid their dues in time and shooting to get their iconic status. In Malcolm Gladwells' book Outliers he wrote, after studying success in various fields, that about 10,000 hours of actually doing a thing are required before the hard work of practice - paying one's dues so to speak, truly starts paying off. Gladwell found this was true for the 'naturally gifted' as well as those who were... well... more ordinary in their talents. What the research really means is that there are basically no shortcuts to fluency; one must Do The Work.** (What 10,000 hours boils down to is forty hours a week for five years, or twenty hours for ten years, etc.!) And remember, Ansel Adams once said that if he got twelve really good photographs during the course of a year he was happy!
This is a photography workshop, NOT a computer software class. But, while we like to spend as little time as necessary at the computer with our photographs (basic composition is easiest in-camera), some working knowledge of the essential software used in photo post-processing manipulation is really a requirement with today's digital image-making workflow. Accordingly, there are a couple workshops in this Tour where we will teach participants the basics of post-processing digital images with Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom and Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 (black & white creation and manipulation.) Lightroom and Nik may be downloaded for 30 day trials before you get to Italy. Photoshop is no longer available as a stand-alone program. It can only be purchased as a cloud application for about $10 per month. The monthly subscription also includes Lightroom. However, you will only be able to access the cloud applications at cafes with Wi-Fi or in the evenings at our lodgings. If you do not have Photoshop on your laptop not to worry, it will not be a problem. NOTE: If you already have a competence in one or all of these software programs you can go out with a Tour Leader for additional Photo Walks.
* Everything on a Tour is, at all times, in flux. While we make every effort to stick to the schedule of the day, things can happen to make improvisations with comparable alternatives necessary! Come prepared for the delightfully unexpected and serendipitous. The flexible – and prepared – good photographer takes such events in stride and makes the most of any opportunity.
** I would encourage you to read Gladwell's books as well as Steven Pressfield's Do The Work! Overcome Resistance and get out of your own way.
Total cost for the photo tour is based upon 4 to 6 paying participants and is US$2995 per participant, double occupancy. Our accomodations will be private apartments in Murano.
The group will contain at least 4 but no more than 8 participant-photographers.
All prices on this site and in any promotional and informational material are listed in US dollars. Prices while we are on the Tour may be in either US dollars or in euros. Here is an on-line currency Converter.
If you have participated in other Tours/Workshops with us you are eligible for a $250 discount on the price of our Venice trip!
Your tour price includes and pays for:
Double room with en suite bath for 6 nights.
Photo Walks with a Tour leader(s)
2 of your 7 dinners (the first night and a wrap-up last night)
Entrance fees for Tour-included activities
Pre-Tour instructions to prepare you for Italy as well as hundreds of pages of street photography readings
NOT included in your tour cost is:
– your airfare/transportation to Venice from your home base*
– your transportation to our hotel from Marco Polo airport**
– Italian visa, if your citizenship requires one
– airline baggage charges
– lunches and 5 dinners while on the Tour
– drinks (after the first, included, one during the two paid meals)
– personal outings and entertainment and incidentals (music/dance, gifts, etc.)
– medical insurance (travel medical insurance is highly recommended!)***
– medical expenses incurred before, on, or after the Tour
– money exchanging fees
– travel insurance
– any optional activites not required by the Tour
– vaporetto/water taxi pass (a big savings over the per-trip costs of riding the system)
– a single room with en suite bath (single supplement addition is available for added cost)
– tips for meals and services
Do ask about any other items if you have questions.
* We use the Robert Treat Hotel in Newark for overnight stays before and after our Newark International Airport departure and return if it is necessary. JFK departures are usually numerous enough for one to get a Europe-bound leg in line with their flights from home.
** The Venezia Unica card provides discounts for museums, churches, the ACTV vaporetto, etc. The current best deal, for those over 30 years old, is probably the Euro 137 card that includes museums, 7 days unlimited use of the ACTV public transport (including round trip to/from Marco Polo International Airport and our lodgings in Murano), use of public toilets and 24 hours of WI-FI. There are several iterations of the card and this package also includes the right to enter Teatro Fenice and take photographs.
*** Your regular U.S. medical insurance policy may cover you in Europe if the policy is a global policy. Do check to find out whether this is the case. If you are not covered we have a very good option for our participants.
Photography in Venice near the week of the April full moon provides night illumination that can be used to great advantage by photographers, especially in a city with lots of darker neighborhoods. Also, as most of us do not want to work when the heat and humidity are at the highest, we prefer conducting our European Tours during the northern hemisphere spring and autumn.
Please confer with us before making reservations and paying for any non-refundable flights or hotels!The 2020 Venice-Murano-Burano Tour will be during April.
Accomodations & Spouses
We will be staying at the Best Western Hotel Bologna in Mestre, a 5 minute train ride from Venice. Rooms are based upon double occupancy. If you require a single room you will pay an additional supplement of at least US$400.
Participants coming alone may be teamed (for accommodation purposes) with another photographer as a roommate if there is another suitable participant.
Spouses and significant others are welcome to join participants in coming to Italy but will need to FIND THEIR OWN ACTIVITIES (except for joining us at dinners if desired.) Those accompanying photographers in the photo program will pay the regular accomodation cost.
Physical Requirements & Dietary Information
As there will be lots of walking, the ability to walk a couple hours in the mornings and three hours or so in the afternoons is a necessity. Anyone who can get around any large city at street level with ease should have no problem. If you have ambulatory issues you must let us know!
Walking any distance with a camera to your eye is a recipe for physical disaster. Venice is crowded and it can be easy to fall into a canal if you are not looking where you are walking. Look down frequently and don comfortable and stable footwear for our daily activities. Save the fancy shoes for your nights out (when wearing such attire might be more appropriate but will expose you to even greater danger of tripping in poor light.)
Almost all evenings will be free after about 6:00 p.m. for individual exploration – music, dance clubs, bars, etc. Whatever you decide to do in the evenings is fine as long as you are ready for our activities at 9:00 a.m. the next morning! When you are late you hold all your companions up! Venice is in the Central European Time Zone, 6 hours ahead of the eastern U.S.
Italy is a culinary delight! Just about everything you might want, and some you might not, is available.
If you have any dietary issues or requirements please let us know. For those with gluten-free and other dietary needs Venice ought not be a problem. Vegetarians ought to be okay; vegans?
Do check with your medical insurance carrier to find out whether you are covered in Italy. If your medical policy will not cover you in Italy there are several international companies whose coverage is very good and whose cost is reasonable. Our providing a list does not imply an endorsement of any such companies.
We do not require travel insurance but, depending on your circumstances and location (a snow belt where airport closures are possible, for example), it may be prudent to purchase it. We will not provide refunds to you if you call us and say you are stuck in a snowstorm in Boise and cannot get to Venice for another couple of days! There are many providers of travel insurance so you may wish to consult a travel agent as to one that meets your needs. Before you purchase, read the whole policy; the big print giveth, the fine print taketh away!
What to Bring
Good shoes are more important than a good camera.
Good shoes are more important than a good camera.
Comfortable clothes that you can get a bit dirty and that are easy to wash in a sink or shower. Venice and its environs is humid so quick-drying (a relative term) fabrics are best. Galoshes may be needed if there is high water (aqua alta) while we are there
Bring a circa 50mm or wider lens. You will want to get close, perhaps uncomfortably so. But this is a technique we will tackle on the tour. A wide angle is great for getting it all in for churches, monuments and campos (squares).
Laptop computer with Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom and Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 installed. If you have other programs that you use and prefer for your workflow let us know. A laptop is not required but will be most helpful. If you do not have all these programs, don't worry.
Obviously, any medications you use on a regular basis. Keep them in the original container with the prescription on the label.
Accessories (Plenty of SD/CF cards, cable release, extra batteries, filters, 3-way adapter plug, multi-outlet power strip, power cords, etc.) More on the specifics in our Tour Package Info.
Who Should Come
The ability to get on well with a group is of crucial importance. This is your photo tour but you are also a member of a group; a group where everyone has a strong personality and an urge to do certain, specific things. Some may want to get more comfortable approaching potential photo subjects on the street while others may want to refine their technique and vision. Tour leaders will address your concerns and questions in areas you wish to explore and provide practice tips for you.
This tour is for those photographers who already have good working familiarity with their digital cameras. No basic instruction on cameras or photography is included in this tour.
Most of our time will be spent in taking photographs. About 20% of the time will be spent with the instructors analyzing the results of all that work behind the lens.
With only 4 to 8 participants in the tour we will usually stay together as a group but if interests diverge more than can be accomplished under this rule, we may split into two smaller groups for any particular session.
Street photography is 99.9% failure. – Alex Webb
Staying in Touch With Home
Only a few cafes offer internet and most do not provide the option of using your own laptop. Many of the bigger hotels do have an area where you can pay to use the internet.
SIM cards for either your own (unlocked!) cell phone or an inexpensive phone you buy on-site are good options against paying the huge per minute fees most US carriers demand. Vodaphone sells one and has a convenient location near a main bridge.
Deposits, Refunds, Cancellations
Within 7 days after you make your reservation (by telephone, email, facsimile or other means) we require a deposit of $1000 per person to hold your place for the Tour. We will send you an invoice for this deposit and then one afterward that includes the payment and your balance due, with the sequence of due dates for your other payments. The final payment for your place in the Tour will be due in full 90 days before the start of the Tour.
Your place in the Tour may be cancelled without notice if you have not paid any fees upon their due date.
If you find you cannot go on the Tour after you have made a reservation/payments to us, you can cancel your participation. To do this you must notify us in writing. An email and/or a telephone call concerning your intent to cancel will also be helpful as this is a small group endeavor and your cancellation will affect the whole Tour.
Please read this page carefully as it describes our Cancellation Refund policy in full.
Wilbur Norman is a Santa Fe writer and photographer
who studied social anthropology and has worked as a rare book and tribal art dealer. His first camera
was his father's Brownie Hawkeye, though he has ‘upgraded’ many times to where he now feels somewhat
competent to handle his current image-making tools: the Leica M6 (film), Leica M-P 240 (digital),
Fuji X-T1 and, notably, the Fuji X-Pro1 that re-ignited his interest in photography when it was introduced
a few years ago. These cameras are all kit chosen because of the fantastic rendering produced by their
companion lenses. He is quite partial to black and white whether on film or on digital, except in the
tropics where color is (usually!) king.
Happiness does not come from doing easy work but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best. – Theodore Isaac Rubin
Below is our schedule and itinerary. While we make every effort to stick to the plan, things happen and you, as both a group and as individuals, may ask to vary it.
Move your mouse over the DAY to see the schedule. A detailed schedule is here
Day 1 - Friday
Check into our apartments in Murano
Turn in early after a day of travel!
Day 2 - Saturday
Photo Walk along the canals in Venice
Lunch in Venice
Photo Walk in Murano
Day 3 - Sunday
Photo Walk along the canals in Murano
Lunch in Venice
Photo Walk in Venice
Day 4 - Monday
Photo Walk in colorful Burano
Photo critiques of the previous days' work
Evening photo shoot
Day 5 - Tuesday
Photo Walk at St. Marks
Photo shoot at an abandoned building
Day 6 - Wednesday
Train to Treviso for the day
Day 7 - Thursday
What about shooting film?
Pick your own activity
Evening free for packing
Day 8 - Friday
Events Subject to Change
Photo tours are often susceptible to unplanned requirements for schedule change: torrential downpours, sudden availability of a previously unknown opportunity, etc. While we make every effort to stick to the schedule of the day, things can happen to make improvisations with comparable alternatives necessary.
Come prepared for the delightfully unexpected and serendipitous. The flexible – and prepared – photographer takes such events in stride and makes the most of any opportunity. Also, activities may be amended with the consensus of participants.
Photo Release / Tour Review
PhotoVenezia may ask you to submit a few of your photographs from the Tour to use on its web site or in promotional/publicity materials. We will always give attribution for your photographs if and when we use them!
We may ask you to submit a brief blurb on your opinion of the Tour to use on our web site or in promotional/publicity materials. Also, after your return home, we will ask you to fill out a brief questionnaire rating us on the trip – both the good and the bad.
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