Carnivale Venezia! Venice is one of the most beautiful and photographed cities of the world. As the sun sets, it burnishes the old buildings with a splendid rosy glow that is reflected, then refracted, in the waters of its 150 canals. The city is luminously beautiful and startingly visual in the wintertime, especially when the cloud curtains part and trapezoids of sunlight reheat the ancient stones. Little wonder that, long before photography, Romantic painting flourished in Venice.

The Venetian gift for intrigue comes into its own during Carnival, a vibrant playful festival preceding the abstinence of Lent.

First held in Venice in the 11th century, Carnival consisted of two months of revelry every year. Carnival fell into decline during the industrialization of the 18th century and at its peak of popularity and outrageousness, but was revived in 1979 with such success that the causeway has to be closed at times to prevent overcrowding in the city.

Carnival in the 18th century began with a series of balls in the Piazza San Marco, as is depicted on the walls of Quadri's famous cafe in the square. The high spirits of Venetian women scandalized many foreign observers. Laws forbidding the wearing of costly lace were suspended at Carnival and fortunes were squandered every night at the state-run casino.

Today the 12 day festival is mainly a wonderful excuse for donning a mask and costume and parading around the city. Anyone can buy a mask and participate while watching the gorgeous costumes on show in Piazza San Marco. Numerous theatrical and musical events take place, both in theatres and in the streets and campi (small squares). Each year sees more lavish costumes and impromptu celebrations.

Many masks, and the characters that they represent, are deeply rooted in Venetian history. Though instantly recognizable, each character can be interpreted in a style that is unique to its maker, making each piece a true work of art. Mask designs range from Commedia dell'Arte motifs and animals, to modern abstracts from young designers that are very intricate and colorful. The "plague doctor" in his sinister Carnival garb is based on the medieval doctor's beaked face-protector and black gown, worn as a precaution against the plague. The"columbine" is a classic female Carnival figure who wears lace and an apron but no mask.

The official beginning of Carnival starts with the "flight of the angel". An Italian woman, wearing an angel's costume, is lowered on a wire from the top of the Campanile to the Plaza floor. It is an unbelievable sight to behold!

The costumed and masked revelers pose willing for photographs at San Marco and floating down the many canals in gaily decorated gondolas. No need for model releases here, since no one is recognizable behind their splendid masks.

Our hotel in Venice is located within a few minutes walking distance to Piazza San Marco, the center of all the action, with its cafe tables where pigeons and waiters alike swoop out from the dark arcades while one of the numerous orchestras begins another haunting melody. It is vital to stay close to San Marco as this is where the costumers come to display their creations. We do not have to stand in lines to take the very crowded vaporettos (water boats) to get to our best shooting locales. Unbelievably, many revelers show up at sunrise just to be photographed by the serious photographers and to be captured at the best light. It is photography at its best.

We arrive the day before Carnival starts so that we can get acclimated and photograph the iconic San Marco images before all the action begins. On the evening of the 25th we meet for our tour introduction followed by dinner and a good nights sleep to be ready to begin the next morning.

Light Fantastic has arranged for some of our fabulously costumed friends from Europe to pose for us throughout Venice. We will be shooting them in various photogenic locations to capture the most compelling images. We also bring along many props for our models to use. We have so much fun that our posers plan their visit to Carnival to coincide with our tour.

Light Fantastic Carnival participants are always amazed with the opulence and creativity that goes into the hand-made costumes and decorated masks. Each costume is literally more fabulous than the next. Many Europeans will come for the first weekend in one costume and then come back the next weekend with a different costume. It is also common to see a group with a common theme. There are a lot of theatrics that go into the posing and street performances taking place in many of the squares plus a live show takes place on San Marco Plaza every evening.

This tour is all about photography and we do not spend our time sitting inside each day and critquing photos. Although we will do some critiquing, the written critique we furnish upon your return is a much more detailed learning tool.

At dusk we will be practicing night photography in various locations. Although the Carnival festivities are the highlight, our tour encompasses a full week so that we can experience many areas of Venice that one must see and experience. You will also have free time to visit museums, shop etc. Our itinerary is always flexible. During our stay we will visit some of the best shops where the costumes and masks are hand-crafted and original designs are made to order. We will photograph these artisans creating the paper mache masks that adorn the Carnival revelers. The fish and vegetable market is another favorite with the colorful vendors and local Venetians purchasing fresh fish and local produce. Truly amazing creatures come from the local waters and the fresh vegetables and flowers provide many photo ops.

A highlight of the tour will be a short boat ride for a day spent on the storybook island of Burano, known for its intricate hand-made lace seen hanging from clotheslines and displayed in shop windows. Winding our way through narrow streets, we find each dwelling and boat painted a different, brilliant color and marvelously reflected in the small canals. It is an unbelievable display of color everywhere you look! We will bring some models with us to pose against the colored walls and reflected in the many canals. Since we are here for a week, many people like to spend another day in Burano since the boundless photo opportunities are hard to capture in one visit.

Movies shot in Venice to inspire you:
"Bread and Tulips" - a must see and shows the real Venice.
"Dangerous Beauty" - another must see
"Summertime" - a classic with Audrey Hepburn
"Wings of the Dove"
"The Merchant of Venice"
'The Italian Job" - first and best scenes are shot in Venice
"Fellini's Casanova"
"Blame it on the Bellboy"
"Blume in Love"
"Portrait of a Woman, Nude"
"Don't Look Now"

"A Thousand Days in Venice"- Marlena de Blasi
All the books by Donna Leon which are mysteries that take place in Venice

Click here to view photos taken by previous Venice Carnival tour participants on our Client Photo Gallery

"I was estatic that you ordered and received snow. I loved having our hotel so close to Piazza San Marco. It made everything so easy. The atmosphere was so festive and everywhere we turned there was a picture- it was intoxicating. The costumes were great against the beautiful buildings in Burano, along with the great reflections. Compared to other workshops I have taken, this one was right up there with the best."Carnival in Venice, '04, B. Wisecup,

"The preplanning on your part was really great. Having studied your web site before coming, my expectations were high and they were exceeded! I look forward to another tour with you." Carnival in Venice '06, A. Sieg,

"Good food and wine at reasonable costs, outstanding accommodations and guaranteed to get some great images of fabulously costumed people. Highly recommended workshop." Carnival in Venice, "04. W. Wisecup, MD

"It is a once in a lifetime experience. The photographer is put to the test of fast shooting in a constantly changing and exciting venue." Carnival in Venice, '04, J. Azen, CA

"Now that I am home I am really happy with my pictures. I mean really, really happy. I would like to thank you for a wonderful trip. My problem is that I have so many pictures that I am pleased with I am somewhat at a loss as to which to send for critique. With your help I think I took the best series of pictures I have ever taken" 2009, K. Connolly, Wa.


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