Behind the Shot: St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

f4, iso 3200, 1/50 second handheld with 5d MKIII and 24mm f1.4 L II

Vatican City is a fascinating location for travel photography, but it can be extremely busy so you have to prepare yourself for the crowds and plan your time accordingly. In most travel situations, I want to portray the most idyllic situation, so I’ll try not to include hordes of distracting people in the image.  With St Peter’s Basilica, that’s pretty easy, just look up!

One tricky thing about this location is that tripods aren’t allowed, so you’re going to have to have a pretty fast lens and a camera that performs well at high ISO – full frame will be preferable. As you can see, I was all the way up at ISO3200, pretty open at f/4 and I still got a barely hand-holdable 1/50 second shutter speed. TOUGH conditions, but that’s often how it is with interior shots in these kinds of places, whether it’s Rome, Paris or London.

The shafts of light coming through the windows was definitely fortuitous, and they are entirely real, no Photoshop as some people have asked in the past when seeing this shot.  They haven’t even been specifically enhanced in Lightroom either. Only basic edits have been performed to bring out a little more contrast in the mouldings on the wall and ceiling, and of course noise reduction was applied as well.

The Canon 24mm f/1.4 L II is a great lens for this kind of work because by f/4, you are stopped down enough that vignetting is minimized.  I could have used a 16-35 f/4 L IS or something similar, but I would have been wide open and this would definitely have impacted the sharpness and vignetting.  The 24mm f1.4 L II is a pretty specialized lens, but I often find travel photography situations that suit it well.

Equipment Used For This Shot

Photo of author

Dan Carr

Founder of Shutter Muse, full time photographer and creative educator. Dan lives in the Canadian Yukon, but his wanderlust often sends him in search of images all around the world to meet the needs of clients and readers alike.

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