Vatican Visit Compositions

During our trip to Italy last year we had the opportunity for a Vatican visit with our tour group. This article shares a selection of images and discusses some of the composition choices made during our Vatican visit.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 34 mm, efov 91.8 mm, f/8, 1/80, ISO-400

As we approached the entrance to the Vatican I couldn’t help but notice a pair of scooters chained to a steel fence. I loved the intersection of the angles. My eye also saw an interesting triangle created by the hanging helmet, the cropped rear wheel and front wheel of the scooter in the foreground. There is also a nice pair of parallel downward angles just to the left of the front wheels of the two scooters. To my eye, all of these lines created nice symmetry in the photograph.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/8, 1/1250, ISO-400

When visiting very popular tourist destinations such as the Vatican it can be a real challenge to compose photographs without people in them. I made a conscious decision to use people in some of my images to give the buildings a sense of scale. With the photograph above I used the lineup of tourists to help accentuate the graceful right to left flow of the building.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/8, 1/250, ISO-160

Using the rounded pillars as reveal elements in the image above created a sense of intimacy in the photograph. Choosing a wide angle focal length pushed objects in the background further away visually. This enhanced a feeling of depth in the photograph.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/8, 1/200, ISO-160

I often look for a good foreground element to help ‘anchor’ one of the corners in a composition. With the image above I specifically avoided that technique. Instead, I used the repeating patterns of the rows of chairs to pull the viewer’s eye into the distance. This adds to the sense of grandeur of the buildings.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 12 mm, efov 32.4 mm, f/8, 1/1000, ISO-400

Combining the repeating shapes of the rows of chairs with the leading line created by the aisleway on the left hand side, pulls the viewer into the scene above. I purposely centred the bright red door horizontally to create a ‘target spot’ for a viewer’s eye to settle.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/8, 1/800, ISO-400

The photograph above uses the rows of chairs on the left hand side as a leading line to draw a reader’s eye towards the building in the background. The repeating pattern of chairs adds to a feeling of vastness with the image.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 60 mm, efov 162 mm, f/8, 1/1250, ISO-400

There are a number of ways to work with ornate carvings on buildings. We were treated to bright blue skies with some occasional clouds during our Vatican visit. The bright blue served as a perfect background against which the carvings could be contrasted.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 74 mm, efov 200 mm, f/8, 1/1250, ISO-400

My Nikon 1 gear is a terrific camera system for travel photography. It is light and portable, and the 20.8 MP BSI sensor in the Nikon 1 j5 has a good amount of dynamic range and colour depth. This helped to deal with the strong mid-day sun.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 100 mm, efov 270 mm, f/8, 1/400, ISO-160

The 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 is one of my all-time favourite travel lenses. The focal length provides wonderful flexibility in a small, lightweight lens. It enabled me to get in nice and tight with this photograph. I could frame this image exactly as I wanted without needing to crop in post.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 17 mm, efov 45.9 mm, f/8, 1/60, ISO-160

I am always drawn to repeating shapes and patterns. Even something as mundane as the chairs in the above image could be positioned in the composition to create a strong top left to bottom right eye flow.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 52 mm, efov 140.4 mm, f/8, 1/200, ISO-400

I enjoy finding abstract compositions and our Vatican visit did not disappoint. By choosing a longer, telephoto focal length I was able to create a feeling of compression in the photograph above. It was important to find the right shooting angle to take advantage of the highlights along the right hand edges of the pillars. This helps to separate them visually.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 13 mm, efov 35 mm, f/9, 1/200, ISO-160

Using a wider focal length in the image above helped to push the background elements further away visually. This created a feeling of more depth. I had to time my shutter release to wait for the other tourists to disappear behind the pillars. Not having people in this photograph adds to a feeling of quiet grandeur.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 93 mm, efov 251.1 mm, f/8, 1/800, ISO-400

One of my favourite images from our Vatican visit is illustrated above. I captured this image shooting directly towards the sun, making sure to use the statue to block its harsh rays. It took a little work in post to get this image to where I wanted it. The Polarizer and Pro Contrast functions in Color Efex 4 were helpful to use in post with this image. I also used the Levels adjustment in CS6.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/8, 1/1000, ISO-400

Man-made dividers can also be used as leading lines when photographing in large, public venues. By moving in tight to the draped dividers I was able to eliminate most of the other tourists from this composition. Starting in the bottom right corner, you’ll also see a strong reverse ‘Z’ shape. This helps to guide a viewer’s eye toward the building in the background… then sharply to the left across the front of it.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/8, 1/250, ISO-160

As illustrated in the image above, getting in very tight to a foreground element with a wide angle focal length, can help create feelings of intimacy and distance simultaneously. You’ll also notice that I composed this image with a pair of corner exits to add some symmetry. Overall, our Vatican visit proved very fruitful from a photographic perspective.

If you enjoyed the photographs in this article that were captured with the Nikon 1 system, you may find our eBook, The Little Camera That Could, of interest. This eBook is available for purchase and download. It is priced at $9.99 Canadian. Readers interested in purchasing a copy can use the link below.

Technical Note:
Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process.

Nikon 1 J5 + 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 @ 10 mm, efov 27 mm, f/8, 1/320, ISO-160

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