Photographing The Eternal City, Rome

I recently experienced all that Rome has to offer, be it that I was only there for 5 nights I crammed in so many locations, so much history and culture but most importantly I crammed in so much Carbonara and Galati

When I arrived in Rome I was greeted with one of the most breathtaking cities I’ve ever experienced. They say all roads lead to Rome and as a photographer, I’m extremely grateful I landed here

I made a list of locations I wanted to photograph and realised I was not going to have the time to get all the shots I desired. My plan was to only shoot when the light was right, so early mornings was to be the plan of attack.

I had to be extremely weight conscious on this trip so the camera kit had to be scaled down! All I would be armed with was the Nikon D750, Tokina AT-X 17-35mm f4 PRO FX, Hoya Fusion Antistatic CIR-PL & Hoya PROND64 & ND1000 and my Tripod.

This would be the first time I have really ran the Tokina 17-35mm through its paces!

Landscape / Cityscape photography in Rome definitely has its challenges but is also so rewarding. There are a number of things to take into consideration! So here is my guide to capturing amazing moments in the Eternal City.

Classic Vatican View

80 Seconds f/8 ISO 100 35mm
Hoya PROND1000
Tokina 17-35mm f/4 AT-X Pro FX

This sunset shot of the Tiber River and The Vatican was shot from Ponte Sant’Anglo. An extremely grand bridge that crosses the Tiber River directly in front of Castel Sant’Angleo. The bridge is a pedestrian bridge, there was a lot of people on the bridge snapping shots of the view and the castle! The balustrades to the bridge are extremely high, too high for my tripod to shoot over. The only solution is to place a table tripod or gorilla pod on top of the side rails, or as I did poke the camera through the opening of the balustrade. The Tokina 17-35mm gave me just enough reach to frame the shot. It was important I had the bridge and St Peter’s Basilica

Ponte Sant’Angelo & Castel Sant’Angelo

8 Seconds f/8 ISO 100 30mm
Hoya Fusion Antistatic CIR-PL
Tokina 17-35mm f/4 AT-X Pro FX

This blue hour shot of Castel Sant’Angelo was shot from Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II just a short five minute walk from Ponte Sant’Angelo. You could easily shoot the sunset from Sant’Angelo and race to Vittorio Emanuele II for the blue hour shot. The bridge is more tripod friendly, however I elected to just sit my camera on top of the balustrade and straighten the image up in post. Another great composition of this shot is from the norther side of Ponte Sant’Angelo, on the walk way under the bridge.

The Roman Forum

8 Seconds f/8 ISO 100 20mm
Hoya Fusion Antistatic CIR-PL
Tokina 17-35mm f/4 AT-X Pro FX

Hidden behind Piazza del Campidoglio is a narrow little street called Via Monte Tarnpeo. It’s here you have probably the second best view of the Roman Forum (The first being the view from Palatine Hill) The footpath is wide and tripod friendly. I think I only saw three other people during my sunrise shoot here. After shooting sunrise here, you could easily obtain a Golden Hour shot of Piazza del Campidoglio and an adjacent building.

Trajan’s Column

80 Seconds f/8 ISO 100 25mm
Hoya PROND1000
Tokina 17-35mm f/4 AT-X Pro FX

In all honesty, I hadn’t researched this location at all until one morning I walked past here on my way to the Coliseum.  There is a walkway called Foro Traiano that crosses Trajan’s Forum from the northeastern side. You will end up on Via Dei Fori Imperiali, if you follow this road south-east you will end up at the Coliseum. It’s ok to use a tripod here but foot traffic is pretty heavy! The orientation is North West, so sunsets here will be your ideal time to shoot!

St Peters Basilica

1/15 Second F/4.0 ISO 800 17mm
Tokina 17-35mm f/4 AT-X Pro FX

St Peter’s Basilica’s policy on use of tripods is a firm no! The lighting is poor and the place is packed with tourists! You need to get creative in here! It was here I really wanted the Tokina 16-28mm  for something a little wider! It was a tricky shot to try and capture this section of the roof in all its glory! I had the camera facing directly up, sitting on the ground and fired off 5 bracketed shots using the self-timer. I used the most balanced exposure and blended in the highlights on the roof. The 17-35mm wide open at 17mm did the job nicely

The Pantheon

1/25 Seconds f/4.0 ISO 640 17mm
Tokina 17-35mm f/4 AT-X Pro FX

The Pantheon is a magical piece of architecture from inside and out. A shot from outside was near impossible as each time I visited the Piazza della Rotonda it was full of people and scaffolding on each side. The situation inside the Pantheon was no different, it was full of tourists! You can’t use a tripod in here and lighting is very low. I had to get creative with the shot and unfortunately, my image doesn’t do the dome ceiling any justice at all.

The Trevi Fountain

4 Seconds f/8 ISO 100 Hoya
Fusion Antistatic CIR-PL (4x Pano)
Tokina 17-35mm f/4 AT-X Pro FX

Fontana di Trevi to me was perhaps the most beautiful location I shot while in Rome. I shot this very early, 4am to be exact! So my advice is, get here early! You might not get much action from the sky but if you plan on shooting this at sunrise or after the sun comes up, forget it! I returned later in the day to see the entire square and adjacent streets full of people standing shoulder to shoulder

The Coliseum

80 Seconds f/8 ISO 100
Hoya PROND1000
Tokina 17-35mm f/4 AT-X Pro FX

It’s the cliché shot of this Wonder of the World. But if you want it, shoot from the eastern side of the Coliseum and get here early! I’ve had to really clean this image up to remove other people.  The northern side of the Coliseum could also be another interesting location to shoot perhaps at dusk. It’s elevated on an adjacent street called Via Nicola Salvi.

I managed to scout lots of exciting locations but ran out of time to shoot these locations. I’ve been asked multiple times now if I would return to Rome… The short answer is YES! In a heartbeat. Rome is magic. The atmosphere, food, architecture is next level! If you love architecture, history and Italian food, pack your bags and book your flight… get here!

The Decision to travel only armed with my D750, Tokina 17-35mm & a handful of Hoya Filters has paid dividends. I needed to keep my weight light and I was over the moon with the results!

It’s fair to say I put the 17-35mm through its paces during this trip and I was wrapped with the overall performance of the lens. The lens has next to no distortion and was extremely sharp. The focal range was ideal for the style of my photography where I predominately shoot between 20 and 30mm. The lens feels weighty in the hand, the focus ring was easy to twist with a finger. It feels durable, THis lens has found its home… on the end of my D750.

IG @Andy_Leggett_

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