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