En­dur­ing in Prague

Fight­ing chills and lack­ing gear, Brett Stan­ley made the most of his Prague ex­pe­ri­ence — cap­tur­ing sought-af­ter im­ages de­spite the odds

The Shed - - Column - Brett Stan­ley

Say­ing it was cold would be an un­der­state­ment: I’d al­most lost feel­ing in my fin­gers, and my nose had long gone. I was ly­ing face down on the Charles Bridge — one of the most in­ter­est­ing and pho­tographed bridges in Europe, si­t­u­ated in Prague, in the Czech Re­pub­lic. It was about 6am, close to freez­ing, and I was do­ing my damnedest to find a new an­gle to shoot this beau­ti­ful sight.

Prague is a dream city for many pho­tog­ra­phers. It’s over 1000 years old, straight out of a Grimm Brothers fairy tale, and one of the few cities in Europe that didn’t have the crap bombed out of it dur­ing World War II. Its Gothic ar­chi­tec­ture and nar­row cob­ble­stone streets are very easy on the eye, and the city has tried very hard to keep it this way.

For a pho­tog­ra­pher, it’s a great walk­ing city, as cars aren’t al­lowed on many of the streets. But this also leads to hu­man traf­fic jams, with tourists cre­at­ing bot­tle­necks around ev­ery cor­ner — ei­ther tak­ing pic­tures them­selves or lin­ing up for hot wine and pas­tries.

Hence my 6am start — it’s the only way to pho­to­graph the iconic ar­eas, as, come 9am, they will be cov­ered with bod­ies.

So, here I was, bel­lyflopped on the bridge and us­ing my numb fin­gers to prop the cam­era up, as this dumb-arse didn’t pack his tri­pod. I was low­er­ing my­self down onto the cold stones (which is not that easy now that I’m get­ting older/fat­ter), when a group of Ja­panese cam­era en­thu­si­asts plonked their wheelie bags and tripods right down in front of me. I usu­ally wouldn’t have said any­thing, but, af­ter re­al­iz­ing how long it would take me to get back up again, I knew I had to get at least one shot for my ef­forts. Af­ter some po­lite shout­ing, when they fi­nally found me on the ground, they hap­pily shuf­fled to the side while I got the im­age I prized, then gig­gled as I un­gra­ciously got to my feet and tried to warm up again.

Through­out my life, I’ve been drawn to in­ter­est­ing light sources; I know that’s a bit re­dun­dant con­sid­er­ing that I’m a pho­tog­ra­pher, but I mean lamps, pri­mar­ily, and Prague has some stun­ning ones lin­ing its streets. I knew that I had to get off the bridge, as it was get­ting crowded, so I went for a wan­der down the side streets, hunt­ing for pools of light. The colour of the stone used in the Czech Re­pub­lic is lovely and warm, and, even in the bit­ter cold, it is invit­ing. The lamp light is a clas­sic yel­low, not the green or blue of mod­ern lights, so it gives a sense of time­less­ness that is just magic — es­pe­cially in that sur­real gap be­tween night and day.

Af­ter a lit­tle wan­der and hot pas­try–filled thoughts of coffee, I stum­bled across some de­serted streets and pro­ceeded to see how low I could drop the shut­ter be­fore my shiv­ers be­gan to ruin my shots. With­out a tri­pod, it was a tricky mix of high ISO, low shut­ter, and wide aper­ture. I have to say that I was pretty sur­prised by how steady the shots looked; per­haps my frozen limbs were more sup­port­ive than I first thought.

The city of Prague is amaz­ing, es­pe­cially in the win­ter time when the bleak skies pro­vide a per­fect back­drop, but you’ll have to get up early to catch the worm, as it’s li­able to be tram­pled to death by the masses come sun up!

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