Photographing Burano — A Kaleidoscope of Color
If vibrant colors make you supremely happy, then this destination is an absolute must for you.
Remember how mesmerized we were as children when turning a kaleidoscope produced endless combinations of brilliant colors and beautiful shapes? Well, the small island of Burano in the Venetian Lagoon is an architectural equivalent of that — over-the-top colorful and amazing at every turn.
This is the reason why any trip to Venice absolutely must include Burano as mentioned in our article about photographing Venice last week. You can find this article by clicking here. »
Burano, an island in the Venetian Lagoon, is without exaggeration the most colorful place we’ve ever experienced and photographed. It’s heaven! Embarking on a 45-minute Vaporetto (water bus) journey from Venice to Burano is undoubtedly one of the highlights of our Venice Photo Tour.
How we got hooked on photographing Burano
Our first visit to Burano many years ago will forever stay with us. We hopped on the first boat departing from the Fondamente Nova in Venice and experienced the breathtaking sunrise over the Venetian Lagoon. It was glorious!
This was during the time of film photography before the digital era took over. Jim had packed his trusty Nikon camera and an impressive amount of Fujichrome Velvia film (40 rolls!) which was back then renowned for its vivid colors.
After the 45-minute journey, we disembarked and found ourselves immediately surrounded by the locals known as Buranelli, who were rushing to board the boat heading south to their jobs in Venice. Once this flurry had stopped, it felt as though we had the entire place to ourselves.
The sun’s warm morning rays cast a beautiful low-angle light that filtered through the maze of extravagantly colorful houses and touched the laundry pinned to clotheslines that were suspended between the buildings and supported by rustic wooden poles. As we stepped into one of the small squares, filled with laundry fluttering in the breeze, Jim, the passionate color photographer, knew that he had “arrived.” He was completely captivated by the vibrant colors and geometric shapes all around him. So he took off and left Magrit, who was not a shooter at that time — we’re talking good 25 years ago — to fend for herself. Savoring several cappuccinos and just hanging out surrounded by an ocean of color wasn’t so bad either. ;-)
Jim kept shooting until the final evening boat departed for Venice, returning to our hotel well past nightfall. Magrit had taken an earlier boat back. Ever since Magrit became a passionate photographer herself many years ago, she would not dream of leaving before the very last Vaporetto. On this first visit, Jim made the blunder of disembarking in Murano, a neighboring island thinking that he had arrived in Venice. When he asked for directions to our hotel from a local, he responded with a wide grin while mimicking swimming motions with his arms. Fortunately, there was one more boat available that night.
From that moment on, we were forever hooked on Burano and have made numerous return trips to this amazing place. And of course, a day in Burano is on the itinerary during our 4-day Venice Photo Tour.
Why we keep coming back for more
We’re often asked if we ever get tired of revisiting such a small place year after year. The clear answer is a resounding NO (that’s the staccato Italian version of “no”), and you can probably understand why when you look at some of these images. We always stumble upon something new, be it that buildings have been repainted in a different color, that the light hits a subject matter in a different way, or even that we’re in a different mood and are “seeing” differently. Despite its small size, this island is brimming with an abundance of photographic surprises and possibilities.
The vibrant and harmonious colors, along with the unique shapes of doors, windows, stucco-covered chimneys, canals, and boats, all combine to create the perfect elements for crafting stunning compositions.
A typical day photographing Burano
On our photo tours, our typical day in Burano consists of immersing ourselves in its charm. We indulge in snacks, savor a couple of cappuccinos (or more), maybe even treat ourselves to a Spritz, and later enjoy a delightful dinner at one of the many excellent restaurants. In between and after meals, we wander along the narrow lanes, capturing the essence of “Open Shade”— a type of light that deeply enhances the vibrancy of colors. We photograph one side of these lanes while this side is in Open Shade and then return when the sun has shifted, revealing the other side in all its Open Shade glory. More on Open Shade here. »
There’s also some time for shopping if so desired. Burano is famous for its hand-made lace and you can purchase unique lace gifts crafted exclusively on the island. And instead of importing Venetian masks from China, Martina and Eugenio hand-paint them in their small studio. They also kindly offer a closet in their shop for storing our tripods which we don’t need during the day but will use later during the Blue Hour shoot.
And, speaking of the enchanting Blue Hour: This is when Burano truly glows. However, it is crucial to be aware of the departure time for the last boat to Venice. It’s important not to miss this as accommodations on Burano are limited and swimming in the lagoon is not recommended. We make sure that our group makes this boat and does not accidentally disembark in Murano. :-)
In Burano, you will find many photo ops but you can also focus on a theme, like doors and windows, everything in the color blue, or, for instance, the humble laundry.
Many of you may understand the exhilaration of hunting for mushrooms — the satisfaction and joy when you finally stumble upon a cluster of chanterelles. We can translate this same thrill into photography by embarking on a photo “hunt” with a chosen theme.
Unlike disappearing into the discreet hiding spot in our electric dryers, laundry in Burano takes center stage. You’ll find clothes swaying in the sun and Mediterranean breeze all over the island. Dryers are a rarity here. The locals just don’t see a need for them since they can save on their electric bill and the scent of sun-dried linens is simply heavenly. Photographing laundry can certainly add a touch of humanity and whimsy to our images.