One thing has to be said right at the beginning: Prague is seriously good looking city! If you haven’t been yet, GO! I’ve rarely visited a city so full of architectural gems and atmospheric cobblestone streets. It really is a photographer’s paradise. At the heart of the city lies the Charles Bridge, the narrow 15th century stone bridge that connects the old town to the Lesser Quarter and Prague Castle.
The Charles Bridge was named after Charles IV, the Holy Roman Emperor who ruled from 1346 until 1378. He must have been pretty popular to get his own bridge. The bridge is lined with 30 statues of various saints and is protected by three bridge towers. It’s quite long, measuring 621 metres but is only 10 metres in width. With the exception of very early in the morning, it is permanently thronged with tourists and people selling tourist tat. This can make taking photographs on the bridge itself quite tricky. A tripod is useful in this instance. In my experience, swinging it wildly around your head will help clear some space.
On my first evening in Prague, I headed straight to this famous old bridge to record my first shots of the trip. I knew it would provide a ton of interesting photographic opportunities. The fact that the bridge is surrounded by several bars and cafes selling cheap and delicious Czech beer was purely coincidental. I was very lucky to arrive in Prague when I did as the following week, the River Vltava burst its banks and Prague experienced its worst flood in a decade. I hadn’t even brought my wellies.
Charles Bridge and Prague Castle at Night
Aperture: f14 | Shutter Speed: 5 sec | ISO: 100 | Focal Length: 56 mm | Lens: Sigma 24-70 mm
The first location I set up my tripod was on the terrace of Café Lávka. This circular terrace that juts out over the River Vltava provides one of the best views in Prague. The Charles Bridge is right in front of you while the fairytale-esque Prague Castle rises up in the background.
For most of my night shots, I try to shoot during the blue hour, that period after sunset when the sky is a deep shade of blue. I find this makes for the most attractive images. There is is still enough ambient light left to expose for the buildings while the deep blue night sky is far more appealing than a completely black one.
As in a lot of my urban landscape shots, I zoomed in (to a focal length of 56mm) to compress the perspective and make the castle appear closer than it actually is. Thankfully, the Café Lávka didn’t need a zoom lens to appear closer and I finished off the evening sampling some tasty Czech beer and wondering what I would have to do to get a Barry Bridge built in Dublin.
Chales Bridge Statues and Tower at Night
Aperture: f16 | Shutter Speed: 15 sec | ISO: 100 | Focal Length: 26 mm | Lens: Sigma 24-70 mm
The following evening, I returned to the Charles Bridge to take some photos on the bridge itself. As expected, the bridge was packed with tourists and trinket sellers. Thankfully, I had my cattle prod with me so I was able to clear a space and set up my tripod. For this photo, I set a long exposure of 15 seconds in order to really blur the people walking on the bridge. I wanted to portray that sense of the busy movement of the people as they crossed the bridge.
In this shot, you can see two of the thirty statues that line the Charles Bridge. I was particularly interested in seeing one called “Statue of the Madonna attending to St. Bernard”. I have to admit to being quite disappointed by this statue. There wasn’t an eighties pop star nor large dog in sight. It’s flagrant false advertising if you ask me.
Widget not in any sidebars
Charles Bridge Street Lamp and Prague Castle
Aperture: f22 | Shutter Speed: 5 sec | ISO: 100 | Focal Length: 60 mm | Lens: Sigma 24-70 mm
At this point in the evening, the sky had taken on a very unusual but attractive marbled appearance. I decided to use it as the backdrop for my next shot. The bridge is lined by ornate street lamps so I decided to focus on one of these with the castle in the background. In this case I wanted to ensure that the castle was also sharp so I used a very narrow aperture of f22 to achieve this.
Charles Bridge Towers at Night
Aperture: f14 | Shutter Speed: 8 sec | ISO: 100 | Focal Length: 64 mm | Lens: Sigma 24-70 mm
I walked to the far side of the bridge towards the ‘Little Quarter’ hoping to maybe see an “Elton John Walking a Labrador” statue along the way. Sadly, there was no such statue. Composing myself after this disappointment, I set up a shot of the two bridge towers at this end of the bridge with the spires of the Church of Saint Nicholas in the background. Again, a slow shutter speed of 8 seconds created a motion blur effect. I am often asked about the star effect you see on the street lamps and how to achieve this. This is simply one of the side effects of using a narrow aperture, in this case f22.
The Bridges of Prague from Above
Aperture: f16 | Shutter Speed: 15 sec | ISO: 100 | Focal Length: 70 mm | Lens: Sigma 24-70 mm
On my final evening in Prague, I decided to make a trip up the hills of Letna Park to capture one of the classic views of Prague. Unfortunately, I underestimated the steepness of the hill and my own fitness levels. I arrived at the top of the hill sweating profusely and gasping for breath with a face as red as a Prague tram. I think I frightened some locals who probably thought I was in need of urgent medical attention.
After taking some time to recover a more natural skin tone, I realised that I was completely alone to enjoy this stunning view of Prague and its bridges. In this photograph, the Charles Bridge is the second from the bottom. With the photos in the bag, I gently rolled down the hill and straight in the door or a convivial Czech tavern at the bottom where I spent my final evening once again sampling a large selection of Czech beers and wondering how I had possibly managed to become so unfit.
Widget not in any sidebars