Rome, Rome, Rome! Rome was once the center of the world and a military super power in its hay day. Famous for a lot of things like the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain and of course… The Vatican. The Vatican is its own a city-state surrounded by Rome and home to Pope Francis and to the Swiss guard. The Vatican has lots of wonderful spots inside the city-state walls that look and feel like they have lost in time. You can walk the halls of Vatican Museums or take in the Gardens of Vatican City. It is also home to the famous Sistine Chapel that was painted by Michelangelo in the 1500 century. Ow, and don’t think about taking photos of that… trust me, I watched many of people get kicked out for even trying to take a photo of the ceiling. However, there are hidden spots that people walk by every day and never think twice about, like the Vatican Hidden stairway to Heaven…. that is located in the gift shop.
I booked a Private tour of the Vatican city that got me in 1 hour before the general public. I did this so I could get to best experience of the area and to capture a photo without a sea of tourists that come every day to the Vatican. As you enter the north entrance for the group tours, you go through the metal detectors area which ends at an open area where the tour groups regather before setting off on there tour. Once you got off the escalator on 2nd floor, there is a gift shop to your immediate right and the Stairway is in the very middle. It’s hidden in plain sight and I could not believe that everyone was just walking by it. It turns out this used to be the old north entrance but now it’s just a forgotten staircase that just hangs out in the new gift shop. So before anyone was walking down it, I leaned over and took a few images of the stairway in a few different spots.
I found this spot thanks to 500px and I used a technique which I learned from Scott Kelby about shooting in low light hand held with a low ISO. I set my camera to a low shutter speed that is around my focal length (in this case it was 1/15th of a sec). I set the camera to continuous high, then composed my shot, and fired off about 4-5 images in a row. Why do I do this? Well, it turns out that when you try to take just 1 image, the image turns out blurry about 90% of the time. However, when you fire off about 4-5 shots, you typically have one of them that will be very sharp. You are asking, “Why don’t you just raise your ISO higher or shot at a lower F stop?” Well, I wanted get the cleanest image I could so keeping a low ISO was the main goal.
The hard part of this was getting into the Vatican before everyone else. Shortly after I took this image, about 2,000 private tour people that booked a tour just like me came in and started to enjoy the place. So getting to this spot early is the key. The other hard part is having a lens that is super wide. I felt like my Canon 17-40 was wide but it could have been wider. The low shutter speed could be an issue for some but if you have a newer camera, high ISO is not that big of a deal nowadays.
No. of Exposures: 1 Image
EV Range: o in Aperture Mode
Shutter Speed: 1/30th
Focal Length: 17mm
Lens: Canon 17-40 F/4
Camera: Sony A7R
Software: LR5/PS/Nik ColorEfex
I hope this helps you on your travel to Italy and to Rome. If you ever find yourself inside the Vatican, Don’t forget to come to this spot. Even if you don’t have the lens or you have a crap load of people in the area, it’s still amazing to see this in person. If you have any questions about my travels and photography, please ask me down below.