A Firework of Color — Burano in the Venetian Lagoon: Where Color meets Shape
By Jim Nilsen
I will never forget my first visit to Burano.
Magrit and I caught the first boat leaving from the Fondamente Nova in Venice and witnessed the sun rising over the Venetian Lagoon. Wow! So magical.
This was many years ago, in the era of film and pre-digital, so my camera bag was loaded with my Nikon and 40 rolls of Fujichrome Velvia film. That was the hot film in those days for getting super-saturated colors.
After 45 minutes we disembarked and were immediately surrounded by locals called Buranelli rushing aboard for the ride south to their jobs in Venice. After the flurry of locals disappeared onto the departing Vaporetto, we practically had the place to ourselves.
Beautiful low-angle sunlight filtered through the maze of over-the-top colorful houses, kissing the freshly hung laundry that was pinned to clotheslines suspended between the buildings and propped up with rustic wooden poles. As I entered one of the small laundry-filled squares, there was no looking back. I was blown away and in awe of such vibrant colors and beautiful shapes.
I was hooked forever and have since returned to this magical place many times over.
For a walk through Burano and an entertaining history lesson, watch the video at the bottom of this post.
I was so immersed and mesmerized by what I found here to photograph that I stayed until the last evening boat back to Venice, returning to our hotel well after dark. Magrit had taken an earlier boat back. I don’t think she was shooting at that time yet as there’s no way she’d leave until the very last Vaporetto these days. And I, this being my first visit, made the mistake of getting off the boat in Murano, a neighboring island, thinking that I had arrived in Venice. When I asked a local for directions to our hotel, he answered with a wide grin while making swimming motions with his arms. Thankfully, there was one more boat that night.
People ask us if we ever tire of visiting such a small place over and over again. By now, we must have visited Burano 15 times already. Don’t we get tired of photographing the same thing? The short answer is a resounding No and looking at these images, you probably understand why.
Both Magrit and I never get bored with photographing Burano.
We always find something that we are excited about. New paint, old paint, walking down a lane in the opposite direction, great light, fog … or a different mind set as Magrit likes to point out. For such a small island, Burano is jammed packed with a plethora of photographic possibilities.
The colors are vibrant and harmonious and the shapes of the doors, windows, stucco-covered chimneys, canals, and boats all make for wonderful elements for creating stunning and pleasing compositions.
We usually spend the major part of the day in Burano. We have a snack, a cappuccino or two, maybe a Spritz, and later dinner at one of the quite good restaurants. In between and after dinner we photograph small lanes in Open Shade, a quality of light that really makes colors pop. We photograph one side of these lanes and then return when the sun has moved so that the other side is now in Open Shade.
And then, there’s the magical Blue Hour. Don’t miss this photographic treat but make sure that you know the departure time of the last boat to Venice and definitely do not get off in Murano. ;-)
And for a fun break, ask for Eugenio and Martina Vidal’s gift shop called Meraviglie where you can have a lovely conversation with Eugenio who’s a passionate bird photographer and watch Martina as she hand-paints the famous Venetian masks (rather than importing them from China). You’ll also find gifts made out of delicate lace, a craft unique to this tiny island.