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Month: February 2018

Grand Canal, Venice, looking south.

Ca’ Farsetti, Venice

East bank of the Grand Canal, looking south from the Rialto Bridge. The two buildings to the right of the yellow facade are the Ca' Corner Loredan and the Ca' Farsetti, both built in the the early 13th century (and later modified). These are the earliest major palazzi facing the Grand Canal.

East bank of the Grand Canal, looking south from the Rialto Bridge. The two buildings to the right of the yellow facade are the Ca’ Corner Loredan and the Ca’ Farsetti, both built in the the early 13th century (and later modified). These are the earliest major surviving palazzi facing the Grand Canal.

I have been researching the interesting history of Venice and the Veneto, and will be posting a few entries, mainly incorporating photos I’ve taken during visits there. (This one was taken 30 Oct. 2010.) The second building to the right of the yellow facade is the Ca’ Farsetti, a palazzo of historic importance.

Before 1200 the focus of life for most Venetians was the open campo outside each island compound’s church. However, as the city filled up, becoming one rather than many, the divisions between those compounds were blurred. The great open space of the Piazza San Marco became the city’s campo—a place for the citizens of a unified state to gather. In the same way, the Grand Canal became its central boulevard, filled with traffic of all kinds. Where the palaces of rich Venetians had previously faced their local campi, they now turned toward the Grand Canal. The wealthiest Venetians jostled for position along the waterway, each attempting to outdo the other in grandeur. The oldest surviving such palazzo is the Ca’ Farsetti, built by Ranieri Dandolo, the son of Doge Enrico Dandolo. This impressive Gothic structure near the Rialto Bridge is today used as Venice’s city hall…. Unlike family palaces in other Italian cities, the Venetian structures remained unfortified—a feature that speaks volumes about the lack of factionalism and lawlessness in the Republic of Venice.
—Thomas F. Madden, Venice: A New History

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Catchlight photo detail.

Catchlight

Carol in Ghent, showing catchlight.

Carol in Ghent, showing catchlights (see below for detail). This photo was taken on a boat bar in the university district, where animation was provided not only by catchlights but also by Duvels.

I don’t do much portrait photography. Most of my people shots are casual and unposed. The majority are of family, and it seems we are often wearing sunglasses.

But if you want to photograph faces the best way, catchlight is an important element to be aware of. A catchlight is a highlight caused by reflected light on the surface of the eye (as opposed to red eye, which is light reflected from the retina). Eyes without catchlights can look flat and dull, while catchlights add sparks that can seem to animate faces.

Catchlight.

Catchlight.

They come in all sizes and shapes, and it’s possible to have more than one. Studio photographers often use light reflectors to make sure they get catchlights in their portraits. If they get more than one they are likely to edit one out in post processing.  Traditionally, the best positions were thought to be ten or eleven and one or two o’clock. Some photographers will even add these highlights in post if they failed to capture them in making the photo.

In outdoor settings the best way to get catchlights is to focus on a subject who is in the shade facing toward the sun. (Some photographers carry pocket reflectors, which they usually position below the subject’s chin—these would be most useful in posed situations, and I’ve never tried them.) If the subject is looking at you as you take the photo, try to have the sun at your back. Just be aware that you might end up with your own reflection in the subject’s eyes.

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