Photoessay: The boats of Venice

_64Z4888 copy
Endless repetition

Venice is a city of water. Perhaps the city of water. And in such a city, a boat is a necessity, not a luxury – today’s photoessay is a little celebration of the the Riva, a tribute to the workhorse vaporetto, a nod to the cruise liner that dwarfs the city it arrives at, and a grudging acknowledgement of the ubiquitous gondola. They’re so ubiquitous that it’s near impossible to make an image of Venice that doesn’t have one in it somewhere, in some form – whether literal or represented only – and even more difficult to have that image not turn into a cliche. Enjoy! MT

This series was shot with a Pentax 645Z and Ricoh GR.

_64Z4662 copy

_G009102 copy
This is an average commute

_64Z4916 copy
Gondolas at leisure

_64Z5663 copy

_64Z4733 copy
Not another building

_G009282 copy
The Delivery

_64Z5266 copy

_64Z5499 copy

_64Z4859 copy

_64Z5012 copy
Slow afternoon

_64Z6111 copy
Speed and time are relative

_64Z4706 copy
Last one for the day

_64Z5217 copy

_64Z5672 copy
Off into the night


Limited edition Ultraprints of these images and others are available from


Visit the Teaching Store to up your photographic game – including workshop and Photoshop Workflow videos and the customized Email School of Photography; or go mobile with the Photography Compendium for iPad. You can also get your gear from B&H and Amazon. Prices are the same as normal, however a small portion of your purchase value is referred back to me. Thanks!

Don’t forget to like us on Facebook and join the reader Flickr group!


Images and content copyright Ming Thein | 2012 onwards. All rights reserved


  1. Beautiful pictures, and impressive to see that even with limited time you managed to get a good set of non “standard-tourist” photos. I find the less time I have in a place, the more likely that my photos end up looking like everyone else’s……

    • Always the challenge in a place that’s heavily photographed. We’re very influenced (both consciously and subconsciously) by what we’ve seen already, sometimes to the point of having tunnel vision for our explanations. I find it’s sometimes easiest to actually forget you’re in a particularly distinctive place, look for interesting compositions, and if you can let some locale-specific cues sneak in afterwards, all the better.

  2. Ron Scubadiver says:

    Lovely photos, now I have to go back and look at mine.

  3. Speed and Time are Relative is beautiful! But this entire set is fantastic! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Fantastic series Ming!

    My favorite is your freezed shoot “speed and time are relative”!! One of the best cityscape/panorama shot of venice I’ve seen so far! I guess the clarity and color depth (medium format look) of the 645Z made it even more an pleasing eyecandy!

    However I am always and still ongoing surprised about the IQ, achieved files of the Ricoh GR this little gem is so wonderful to use, versatile and the firmware upgrades made it even better, the crop modes are not bad and the macro mode is very good if not excellent for being only a macro mode (best built in macro mode of a camera I ve used so far!)….
    I have one since two years as my main camera just being an enthusiast taking pictures in my leisure i am missing nearly nothing in some situations it could be a little wider if i cannot step back and for portraits the FL could be a bit longer and larger aperture (1.8 =2.8 fx equiv.) for shallower depth of field but the camera would probably be larger….maybe they can improve the crop modes 21, 50mm having even better IQ…

    Hopefully we will soon get the Ricoh GR VI its time according to the two years product cycle with a built in evf, ibis and wifi/gps built in, slightly faster lens like the Sony RX 100III….but only time will tell!

    Anyway thanks for sharing! Always a pleasure to look at and to read!

  5. Beautiful photos as always Ming. Venice has such wonderful source material to work with. I’d love to get back there with my camera; I took a 3MP p&s there in 2005, took way too few photos, and would love a crack at it again.

  6. Beautiful city!

  7. Great collection, Ming! I was at Venice last summer and took many, many photos of the boats and canals. It’s very educational comparing your photos to mine. Your stuff is so inspirational!

  8. Hi Ming, nice pictures after a short stay. We live in Venice and on our website (in French, sorry!) we publish a new picture every day. Next time you come to Venice, do not hesitate to contact us to discover our little venetian gems with us.
    Our March pictures:

  9. I know, I know- you get what you can while being where you are, but where`s the poetry and magic? The russian poet Joseph Brodski said once, Venice will reveal it`s soul in the dreary winter time, when the weather is at it`s tourist worst and the fog starts erasing your memories what Venice is or should be. Der Tod in Venedig, writers block, Thomas Mann and the Weltshmertz surrendered by rotting beauty of passing aesthetics call for the broken self-esteem and imperfect thoughts, thoughts, thoughts.

    • Daniel Boyd says:

      Got that you’re knowledgeable but enjoy the images. I myself love them, especially Off into the Night one. Would love to see some of yours taken from this same place with the magic shinning through?

      • Agree, agree. Off into the Night is my favourite too, though a drunken poet/customer staggering out of door of the bar would drive the nail in the coffin of perfection. By the way, I do hope not be taken as a heckler on the fence. I esteem mr.MT`s blog as one of most knowledgeable and personally integrated work of professional sharing. It`s just my thoughts, thoughts, thoughts.

        • I think all of the drunken poets and customers were getting more drunk that night. It was let us say not very pleasant conditions…

  10. Jorge Balarin says:

    Wonderful city and photos.

  11. Love the Off Into the night photo . It is a very fitting ending to this photo essay.

  12. You have certainly captured the essence of Venice and the water culture. Such beauty!

  13. Homo_erectus says:

    Beautiful work Ming. I particularly like “Speed and time are relative” and “Last one for the day”. Thanks for sharing your work!

  14. Love them all! ‘Off into the night’ does capture the imagination quite a bit!

  15. I believe, the inside architecture of the palace buildings, are much more interesting, as the well known facades and boat channels of Venice!

  16. 🙂 I was curious to see “my” Venice here Ming. And it was funny to see places that I see almost every week end (or even more often). As you wrote, gondolas are ubiquitous, like it or not, as tourists. The better thing to do is to wake up early in the morning and walk around till late. Did you have the chance/time to visit the colorful Murano?

    • Now I’m curious to see if I did it justice or fell into the tourist trap!

      Sadly not enough time. I was teaching for all the time I had on the ground then had to leave immediately afterwards.

      • Sorry for my belated reply Ming. No, no tourist trap as I can tell. I mean: you took photos from Rialto Bridge, from Riva degli Schiavoni, at Ponte dei Sospiri. These are all iconic places of Venice, millions, billions of pictures are taken from there, but that’s not what I call tourist trap.
        The tourist trap is when a photo goes soon “lost” and forgotten among thousand similar others.
        Your photos differ from the vast majority, thanks to your discipline and eye. Therefore, mission accomplished.

        Yesterday I was with a friend of my wife, she works on San Servolo island and I had a couple of assignments from that Association. I recognized the place in one of your photos, so I asked if maybe you were there during the workshop and she remembers about you.
        We are all linked. 🙂

        • That’s a very small world indeed. Yes, I think I may have met her and had a conversation while waiting for the boat – we did the first and last days at the university conference rooms there… 🙂

  17. Wonderful images. My favorite is Slow Afternoon. The composition, scene and perspective are wonderful.

  18. Fantastic images, as always, Ming!

  19. Gary Morris says:

    So cool! One of the few places on the planet that I long to visit. Thanks for making my evening.

%d bloggers like this: