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Fairy Tales of the Cinque Terre

Updated: Nov 25, 2019

Once upon a time I’ve got the chance to drive through the Italian mainland from north to south. I was moving down to Sicily from Hungary, and I wanted to use my own car down there. Honestly, I could write a different article about every stop during this trip; I’m planning to do it actually – just need to find some time... The first place to visit was Venice. It is useless and impossible at the same time to express my thoughts in a few words – that place is as priceless and photogenic as the Cinque Terre.


After this quick intro let’s engage with the main topic of this article; the second stop during this unforgettable Italy crossing trip: the Cinque Terre. It is a small region on the northwest coast of the Italian mainland, between Genoa and Pisa. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and I can totally see the reason. It consists of five small, but super pretty towns, namely Monterosso al Mare, Riomaggiore, Vernazza, Manarola and Corniglia. I was interested mainly in Vernazza and Manarola because they seemed the most promising regarding their photographic attributes. As usually, my lovely wife was there with me. All the towns are located on the coast, basically built on huge cliffs.


The surrounding terrain is full of hills and smaller mountains that makes the drive a bit more difficult and much more time consuming than driving on straight highways – but for adventure seekers (like us) this means pure fun! To find a decent parking spot for your car close to the towns is not the easiest task. We put it down relatively far away from the coastline and did a bit of a walk down to reach Manarola. The easiest and most comfortable way to travel to the Cinque Terre is by train. Local trains from La Spezia to Genoa and the rest of the region's network connect the villages of Cinque Terre. Intercity trains also connect them to Milan, Rome, Turin and Tuscany. We arrived on the early afternoon, so the light conditions weren’t the best for photography. A walking trail, known as Sentiero Azzurro ("Azure Trail"), connects the five villages. We did a little hike to scout around and explore some other trails – you can find along the trails great spots! As it turned into afternoon, we decided to have a refreshing drink and some finger food at a lovely little bar that is located just opposite the breathtaking Manarola. I couldn’t wait for the sunset to kick in and bring some lovely light into the scene. I was very excited to photograph at such a magical place! The golden hour, followed by the blue hour and the night – all offered some lovely perspectives. I found it easy to find great compositions; the sea can be nicely utilized as foreground, the main subject takes the middle part of the image, and the sky – with or without some part of the neighboring cliffs – makes up the background.


As at the time of this trip my Nikon D810 was a brand new member of my lineup, I was lacking proper full frame lenses, since almost all my existing lenses were specially designed for my previous APS-C Nikon D5300. Fortunately, I had my Jolly Joker lens with me, which works perfectly on the full frame and on the crop sensor cameras as well: the Samyang 24mm f/1.4. I was using my tripod and a remote shutter release, so the manual focusing wasn’t an issue at all – I had time to compose, setup, and change if necessary. Initially I was shooting with the “usual settings” – mid aperture setting, mainly hand-held. As it got more and more dark, I started to aim for long exposure shots. I reduced the aperture even smaller (higher f number, like f/18 or even f/22) that allowed to capture these lovely light beams from the houses and street lights. The crashing waves in the foreground worked out very well with the slow shutter speeds.


Getting to well desired places feels always fantastic. It makes you realize that you achieved something, and this is something we are all seeking throughout our life. A major ingredient of my philosophy is to realize and enjoy the moments of life. Sometimes it happens though that I am so overly excited on the spot that it takes time to “digest” what I’ve done, what I’ve seen, or where I’ve been. That’s one reason why I find photography a powerful tool – these photos are packed with feelings, achievement, excitement and passion. By editing my photos, I can recreate the magic of the moment. Regarding Cinque Terre, I would suggest all of you to find a few days and visit this breathtaking part of Italy.

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