This is the blog of Steve Burkett of Italy, Our Italy

Transforming a Sunken Door

Original snap shot of The Sunken Door

I'd have to say that the construction of the door in this article was probably a bit ill advised. It seems that there would be a water issue because of the below-ground-level entrance.

I was not able to detect any sort of rain-water diversion for this door - the stone work of the pavement is not even raised a bit..

You can imagine water flowing into this ‘door well’ as the streets of Venice begin to flood.

Additionally, there is this thing in Venice called 'aqua alta', which literally means high water. Aqua alta occurs when the tide and wind are aligned in such a way as to push water into the Venetian lagoon in excess of what it can handle - this causes flooding in the town of Venice. This flooding can be as much as a few inches (normal) to around three feet (abnormal). 

You can imagine water flowing into this 'door well' as the streets of Venice begin to flood. Fortunately, not much life occurs on the first floor in Venice...the second floor is where most of the traditional living begins, while the first floor is relegated to storage and such.

To transform the snapshot of this door, I began as I always do for Venice photos by removing extraneous conduits, pipes, etc. that are ubiquitous to Venice. Though these items do create a bit of an eyesore, the nice people who live there do need their electricity, gas and water. And, it is a bit of a chore to get these needed utilities into the old stone buildings. But hey, it's my job to remove these modern intrusions in my efforts to create a Venice of a by-gone era when these modern conveniences didn't exist.

Extraneous elements removed

This second photo shows that I have now removed these items from around the entrance, and I have also gotten rid of the mail slot and modern keyholes and such on the doors.

As the original snapshot was a bit 'flat' - i.e. lacking in contrast, saturation, and such - I worked a bit on those elements to get to this next point.

Finally, my assessment was that the door itself was still a bit on the boring side, and was being overshadowed by the surrounding area in terms of color and texture. Wouldn't you agree? 

You will note that the area at the top of the door in the previous photo has red tones, and the bottom of the door has some cyan, or aqua, tones. It's subtle, but it's there. So, I brightened that door and increased the saturation of those illusive tones to achieve my final product - as you can see below.


As this entrance has most likely been a couple of centuries, I suppose we shouldn't worry too much about the owner's water issues.


[As a bit of diversion back to two weeks ago, a couple of you wrote to let me know that the doors in 'Securing Your Haven' still had a bit more clandestine mystery. You noted in the original photo that there was still another lock hidden behind that long-vertical-squiggly bar, and you were right! And again, that lock is not accessible unless that long-vertical-squiggly bar is itself unlocked and moved aside -- the plot's as thick as day-old oatmeal! Thanks for the heads up!]


Ciao for now,






Securing Your Haven

[Note: This article has two parts: the usual transforming the snapshot part, and a part about this doors mysterious and flabbergasting security]

Formidable is the word for this green door with its complex locking mechanism. Maybe this old timer was the home of someone with a lot to protect, like a Venetian jeweler.

I have an affinity for old, Italian doors. That affinity is somewhere between I-think-they-are-swell and I-have-an-old-door-fetish.

I am captivated by their historical significance. Like, for the door below: who lived beyond that entrance? How many lifetimes were experienced here?

What was their profession? How large was the family? What was their fate? Did they help to shape the fate of Italy? Or were they maybe early-day couch potatoes just whiling away the day doing nothing?

Whatever happened behind those closed doors, it happened a long time ago, and over many, many years. 

And these particular doors? Formidable is the word for this green door with its complex locking mechanism. Maybe this old timer was the home of someone with a lot to protect, like a Venetian jeweler.

And regarding its level of security, I was flabbergasted! So don’t miss the ‘Extra-Added Bonus’ at the end of this article.


The Door Transformation

When I took the original snapshot to the left, I made a big mistake. That mistake was in my framing of the original shot and my unwittingly not accounting for a more robust aspect ratio for later printing. What I mean is that if I wanted an 8x10 print, and if I cropped down from the top to the spot I wanted so that I could eliminate uninteresting space above the door, I would have white or blank space to the left and right of the door.

To avoid this problem, I usually try to back away from the subject of my photo to capture more than I think I will need. Using a Nikon D800 with its 36mp sensor, gives me a lot of image area in which to crop to common printed photo sizes without losing resolution. 

What all of that gibberish boils down to is that I needed a bit more image to the left and right of the door to allow me to keep the composition I wanted while satisfactorily allowing me to print to, let’s say, an 8x10 photo. But as usual with Photoshop, where’s there’s a problem, there’s a solution.

That solution can be seen in this next photo, where I’ve added more image to each side. In the photo above, notice that there are not quite 3 long-carved-out-thingies to the right of the top of the door; where in the photo below, there are 4 ½ of these long-cared-out-thingies. [Please forgive me for using such technical photographer’s terms here] You can see a similar transformation to the left of the door. Now, with the extra added bit of photo to the left and right, if I crop down to the point that I want, I can have a pleasing composition.

Next I can work on aging the door a bit, primarily through color, texture and making it richer through darkening, as in this next photo. 

But we’re still not there.

I’m not sure exactly when mail slots in doors came about, but it was surely after the time period that I wanted to portray for this door. So I eliminated the modern mail slot. And note that in the version just above, I had already eliminated the round-key-hole-thingie in the center of the door (sorry about using those technical terms, again). 

As I found the door color and finish to be a bit bland, I transformed it a bit to brighten it up, as you can see in this final image.

Pretty cool huh? But that’s not the half of it, folks!

So, there you have it! One more door transformed to satisfy my door mania.

When I run out of doors to transform, I think another trip will be in order!

You can find this door and many more on my website in the Venice-Doors gallery.

Extra-Added Bonus

But, here is an extra-added bonus about this door and its locking mechanisms. And first, let me say that though I did eliminate some of the elements on the door as described above, I have added absolutely nothing to the image with Photoshop. What you see below is actually there.


When you look at the finished photo above, see that long squiggly bar going from the top of the right door to the mid-point of the left door? Well, that little orangie thing in this photo…

…has a key hole to release that bar so that it stops doing its security thing. Open that lock and you can then rotate that squiggly bar away to open the doors.


Then, just below the door pull on the left part of the door is a small key hole that takes a squarish key – as seen in this photo.

What’s that about?







And for even more mystery, there are two keyholes in the lower part of the right door – seen in this photo. Why are they way down at the bottom of the door, and why are there two of them?

Hmmm, the plot thickens.


Pretty cool huh? But that’s not the half of it, folks! 



In the finished door photo way up above, see that long bar that hangs down to the steps in the lower part of the right door?

When you swivel that bar up to the left to its horizontal position, and when you put a pad lock on it through the ring on the left door –seen here…




…that horizontal bar covers up the two keyholes you just saw so that a key can’t be inserted into either of them. Holy my golly, what is that all about?! This is like some dawn-of-man combination locking system.

I must say that this door, with its complicated locking mechanisms, really appeals to the engineer that still lurks somewhere inside of me. 

I hope you found this door interesting. Tell me what you think about this door using the comment box below.


Ciao for now,





Transforming a Graffiti-Clad Door

Graffiti is pretty much a world-wide problem. I’ve seen it everywhere I’ve been. 

Fool’s names like fool’s faces, always seen in public places

In only one instance did I not find it objectionable, and that was along the parts of the ‘fallen’ Berlin Wall which had not actually fallen. Those who had to live behind that hideous façade had all the right in the world to express their displeasure with it, to decorate it as a way to rebuke it in its defeat.


The original graffiti'd school entrance - two photos stitched together in Photoshop

I was really put off by the graffiti on the very old entrance door in Rome, as seen in the photo to the right. What this doorway serves is the Veneto & Triste Elementary School.

I can’t imagine what draws one to ‘tag’ structures. Though some graffiti artists are really quite talented, it seems that other surfaces could be found where their work would be welcomed, and commissions sought for their talents.

Graffiti is Nothing New

My earliest remembrance of graffiti was on a vacation while we were returning to Texas from Disneyland when I was 10 years old.

While we were stopped at a road-side park (we now just call them rest areas) overlooking a large expanse of west Texas, scratched into the woodwork was someone’s name and address (the address part was pretty stupid, wasn’t it, when one is defacing public property).

My mother had purchased several postcards during our trip so she whipped one out, addressed it, put a stamp on it and mailed it later. On it she had written the following message (from a Burma Shave sign set, I believe): “Fool’s names like fool’s faces, always seen in public places”. And then, “Please do not write on our road-side parks”. See, I was listening to my mother after all! And that learning moment stuck with me.

Transforming the Roman Graffiti'd Door

My first impression was to pass bye the door that you see above, but then I thought, ‘Hey, why not document it as a kind of juxtaposition of the old and new?”. I really hate to put quote marks around that thought because I’m not entirely certain that those were my exact thoughts…but its close, OK?

By the way, that photo above is actually a combination of two photos, one of the lower part of the entrance and one of the upper part of the entrance...the two were stitched together in Photoshop.

To accentuate the timeworn doorway surround, I gave it a good bit of texture and then I darkened it a bit. 

Timeworn entrance to elementary school

At this point, I was just about through, but then I realized I had one more task.

The two don’t-do-it signs (‘no parking – allow free access’ and ‘no parking at night’) and the poster announcing that this is also a ‘primary school’ or kindergarten did not fit my nearly-ancient mindset for this door, so I got rid of them.

Then I noticed the plaque above the door with the historic ‘SPQR’ reference, which stands for Senatus PopulusQue Romanus, or ‘the Roman Senate and People’. No, this door isn’t that old…SPQR is used by the municipal government of Rome today to kind of say, “This is a municipal property”. Anyway, when I saw that plaque, I decided to accentuate it a bit by lightening it.

Final entrance with juxtaposition of old and new

So, there’s the final product. It’s not a photo that I would hang in my house, and it isn’t on my website, but I enjoyed working on it to transform it into the juxtaposition of old and new.

As always, feel free to leave a comment.

Ciao for now,


The Venice That Isn’t There

If you've taken a look at my Ancient Venetian Doors collection, what you see is a Venice that doesn't really exist. 

What you see in the door photo below isn’t exactly what you would see walking the streets of Venice today.  What I create for you is the door you would see if you were walking the streets of Venice 600 years ago.

I spend hours removing electrical conduits, mail slots, bells, and any other items that contradict the feeling that you are in the Venice of yesterday – which is just where I want you to be.

You can see the difference in the ‘before’ photo below.  That’s the year 1415 above, and the year 2015 below. It’s the same door, it’s the same surrounding brick, stone and plaster – it’s just a different time.

Now here is another example of the classic Venetian door of yesteryear. 

While below is the door of today – laden with ringers and extraneous piping.  This is the Venice that I don’t want you to imagine in your dreams.  It’s not the more romantic Venice of a time gone by when electricity was not even an imagined concept.

Finally, the example below finds us passing a more modest door – this one not an entrance to a canal-side palazzo, but a more humble abode.  No matter the stature of the residence, I believe in presenting the entrance in a more generous light…giving it the best chance of a days-gone-by charm – just for you.

Notice that I’ve taken the liberty of moving the early peacock-themed plaque from above the wall  to the place where a window used to be.  We’ve moved from an entrance with very little charm, to one loaded with charm. This takes us from a blot on the conscientiousness to an agreeable memory.

Whether in Venice or any other Italian town, I just can't pass up a door or window without stopping to take a photo.  Sometimes I really have to stretch my imagination to visualize a dramatic improvement from what is before me.  But, this transformational process is what fuels my passion for processing my photos.

Each of the ‘Ancient Venetian Doors’ on the website illustrates how I am dedicated to bringing you a fine-art photographic memento of your dreams of Venice…your dreams of walking through Venice in a different time…your dreams of love and romance in a timeless city in a magical lagoon within a by-gone world. I hope you don't mind!


Ciao for Now!

p.s. Feel free to comment below