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

Transforming A Corte

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Today I give you a short transformation. This is where I show you how one of my photos goes from a snapshot to something more in line with a fine-art photograph.

I really like the lion medallions above each side of the entrance. And I also found the plaque, with what I will call a coat of arms, interesting.

Last week, I showed you the sestiere of San of the six districts (aka sestiere) of Venice. I have taken several photos within San Polo over the years, and as I was looking through those for last week's article, I came across the one which is the subject of today's transformation.

The site to be transformed is the Corte Petriana. A 'corte' is what we would call a 'courtyard' in English. I could find no translation for Petriana, so I would assume that's the name of the family to whom this courtyard belongs.

Here is the original snapshot of the entrance to the corte.

Ugh. I have to agree with you...not a very pretty site as it sits in the real world. But, as it is my job to transform the real into the Venetian world that I imagine, that's exactly what I did.

First, things are a bit wonky with the alignment of the entrance to the corte. Then, within the corte itself, there are some distractions, like a water pipe and an electrical conduit. 

[As an aside, let me write a few sentences about water and electrical conduits. You will see these throughout Venice. They are not something that one enjoys seeing, but they are necessary. Imagine a Venice of 1,000 years ago, or even 300 years ago -- you will not see water or electrical conduits because they didn't exist. Water was gathered at the local pozzo (which I wrote about here), and electricity had not made it on the scene. The houses in Venice do not have basements (obviously) and all of the walls are made of stone. This pretty much necessitates running both water and electrical conduits up the outside of walls, and then through them. But just for you, in my quest to present you a Venice of days past, I feel compelled to bring a Venice to you without these distractions. OK, now back to the photo transformation.]

Next, I felt the whole areas surrounding the entrance to the corte was not what I would want to personally discover as I was wandering my romantic, ancient Venice -- so I got rid of the walls on each side of the narrow calle (aka street). This required a good bit of demolition and masonry work on my part, but that's my job, and I love it. 

So here is the final photo of Corte Petriana. 

And here is a black and white version if you prefer.

I really like the lion medallions on each side and above the entrance. And I also found the plaque, with what I will call a coat of arms, interesting. Here is an enlargement of that feature.

Note the crescent with the tree on the shield...hmm.  Then there are the two dragon-like creatures at the bottom. A couple of angels are at the top corners. But then there is the curious main feature of person and child. One could assume that the adult is Mary, but it isn't too clear, and perhaps there is a crown on the head? The cross is the hand of the adult is the kicker for me...if the child is the Christ-child, the cross would be a concept that is about 30 years too early. If you have thoughts, please put them into the 'Comments' area, below.

Just so you know...and I figure that you are wondering...I had not Photoshopped the basketball backboard and hoop into the was there when I showed up...really. But, I decided to have a bit of fun with it, so I've titled the resulting photograph "The Court of the Venetian Baseketmaker". Your absolutely right, that was clever! 

But, I decided not to stop there. So, in the next more whimsical and non-official photo, I've added a basketball in its arc towards the basket, as well as a bit of shadow of the ball's shooter. 

So, there you have it. A transformation of an ugly snapshot into the more charming "Court of the Venetian Basketmaker".

Ciao for now,


My Instagram feed...

Major Renovation

I recently completed a major renovation. 'At your home?', you ask. 'No', I say, 'it's another remodel in Venice.'

As you probably know by now, I don’t want to present today’s Venice to you, but one from several centuries ago. So...with tools in hand, I begin the renovation.


That's the subject of today's article...another Italian door transformation, but this one, a major renovation. See what I mean below.

Below is the original snapshot that I captured in Venice in 2012. As we find in many renovations, there was a lot that I didn't like when I saw this door, but I also saw some potential.

The original snapshot showing the renovation job ahead of me.

Here is what I didn't like about the scene as it appeared before me. I felt that the symmetry was ruined by the sliver of canal on the right. Does that drainpipe and bit of window on the left add to the architects vision? I don't think so. 

As you probably know by now, I don't want to present today's Venice to you, but one from several centuries ago. So, the six apartment ringers on the left and the one on the right need to go. With tools in hand, I begin the renovation.

The canal demolition was easy...with crop tool in hand, all I had to do was chip away a bit at the right side of the image. 

I removed the ringer at the right and then patched the hole that was left. Ditto the set of six ringers on the left...but it took a bit more plaster to complete that job.

That pesky drainpipe was a problem. As was the short half pillar. And then there is that bit of wall with window. But, as they say in Italy, "Nessun problema!"

With the proper tools, I was able to cut out the drain pipe, form up and cast the short pillar, and I even though I'm not a stone mason, I had the skills to do some repair to the stone pavement. I'm beginning to see that this job is not insurmountable. 

So, below is the current status of my renovation. 

Here is the current status of this renovation 

Now, this is more of what I had envisioned when I saw the scene before me. Things are beginning to take shape.

There is still a bit more to do, though.

I think that only a designer with a skilled eye can see the changes wrought below, which mainly constitute applying a bit of darkened patina to the plaster work.

But, you with your skilled eye can, I'm sure, see that I've missed a significant element in my renovation work. Yes, it's the mail slot! That mail slot has to go...and it did. Don't bother to look around in nearby trash bins, as I've hidden it away where the residents won't be able to find it!

But, after I got rid of the mail slot, I felt that the huge knocker on the right sat lonely. I went to my catalogs and was able to find a duplicate, which I duly ordered and then installed on the door on the left. Better...I find the two big knockers to be satisfying.

Oh, I then called in an un-locksmith to un-install the modern lock. Gone.

And then as most renovations end, I went through paint chips so that I could apply a fresh coat of paint to the doors. The basic color was the same as the original doors, but I selected a more saturated blue, with just a bit more white in it to lighten the color.

That's it for this week. A complete renovation of a Venetian door. This one fairly dramatic with the removal of that wall et al on the left...and the complete removal of a Venetian canal.

Those knockers remind me of a knock-knock joke. Here it is. I'll leave it to you to start it off -- go ahead:

  • You: 'Knock-knock'
  • Me: 'Who's there?'
  • You: 'Uhhhh....'
  • Me: [I'm laughing uproariously] 


Ciao for now,


Transforming a Water Gate #2

On March 22nd, I presented to you Transforming a Water Gate #1. Today, I transform another of these uniquely Venetian phenomena....just for you.

So, there you have another example of Venice brought back from the present to the past

Here is today's water gate, with modern distractions which give me great pause in my quest for a Venice of days-gone-by. But I'm not averse to all of these distractions. Normally I would eliminate the downspout, but I'm thinking that I can age it a bit and not treat it as a character flaw. And the laundry and plastic at the top can be cropped out.

Original snapshot with distracting elements

Below is the image with a tighter crop and some alignment of verticals. 

The lines are now straightened and some elements have been cropped out

And here we are at the stage where I start to add an atmosphere of aging to the image.

Starting to look a bit more old-Venetian

And for the final photo, more cracks, grit and saturation of the colors.

So, there you have another example of Venice brought back from the present to the past. That's my job...and I enjoy it. I hope you do, too.


Ciao for now,



Transforming a Blue Boat

Just a quick transformation today to remind you what I do with snapshots taken in Italy, to take them back into that more ancient time for which I strive.

Here is the original photo of a blue boat in the Cannaregio sestiero (district). 

Original snapshot of the blue boat

If you've read many of my transformation articles in the past, you will notice several issues that displease me here -- specifically the modern objects that I loathe in my Venice photos. And there are several modern objects in this photo. Like a boat motor and metal conduits that just did not exist in my timeless Venice. And I don't like that piece of window to the right. So, they have to go. Here is the photo without those distracting elements.

Distracting elements removed from the photo

There seems to be an imbalance in the photo just above. I don't like that large blank area to the top right. It needs something of interest. I'm thinking that another stone balcony would work well here. So, I duplicated the balcony to the left, flipped it horizontally so that the perspective would be correct, and placed it to an appropriate place to the right. Below is the new image. 

New balcony added to the top right of the photo

Now we're getting close. I need to add a bit of mood to the image, so I darken it some and add some texture, to get this image below. 

Mood added by darkening and texture...but a few distractions remain

At this point, I noticed a few more distractions and I just have to remove them. There is a boat registration number on the boat that I doubt would appear in times gone by. And there are a few more items, like a small piece of rope on the window to the right, and some items at the bottom of that same window. Oh, I also note that there is a light bulb above the door. And that bright wood behind the door's wrought iron is too bright. Here now is my final photo.

There you have it...but as usual, I also like to create a digital painting version of many of my here is that photo, also.

That's it for today...just a simple transformation of a Venetian scene with a blue boat.

Ciao for now,


Transforming the Pozzi

Last week, I showed you several of the water wells that can be found around the city of Venice. Though these wells, or pozzo (singular) and pozzi (plural), are not used today, they have a certain historical significance for the Venetians.

The last pozzo is the most challenging...there is no way to remove these elements — right?

The photos you saw last week were a far cry from what I stared with out of the camera. So, this week, I give you a look behind the curtain to see what transpired to get the photos more presentable for you. After all, you may remember that my goal is to present to you a Venice of bye gone eras. This means that I have to meet the challenge through manipulation. So, here goes...

Pozzo #1

In this first snapshot, you can see that the pozzo is not the center of attention. It has to compete with a doorway, doorbells, and conduits of various sorts. Want to see a larger view of a photo, just click on its image.

1 - Yucky original snapshot.

Below, the distracting elements have now been removed.

2 - Distractions removed

Finally, a richer texture was added and the pozzo was isolated by blurring the newly-created background a bit.

3 - Final photo

Pozzo #2

This beautiful floral-themed pozzo is found in a nice, quiet courtyard. The original snapshot was off-kilter a bit, and it had a distracting background.

1 - Unlevel cluttered snapshot

Below, I've worked on the background to simplify it so that more focus is given to the pozzo.

2 - Background simplified

Finally, the background has been darkened and placed out of focus, and the pozzo has been given a richer texture.

3 - The final, cleaned up pozzo

Pozzo #3

Here is another pozzo that is found in a campo with distracting elements -- in this case, iron-barred windows -- I'll show you more on these windows in the future.

1 - Distraction abounds beyond this pozzo

Below, you can see that the windows have been removed, as if by magic.

2 - No more windows!

Finally, as before, the pozzo is given focus through isolation and texture.

3 - The completed pozzo photo

Pozzo #4

This last pozzo is the most challenging...just look at all of that stuff in the background of this busy campo. We have plants (palm trees, no less), windows, urns, lions, and even my reflection in the door of the Venice Best Western hotel. For sure, there is no way to remove these elements -- right?

1 - A busy courtyard with busy, distracting elements

As if by magic, I was able to reproduce enough of the wall stonework to fill in the background...but I have to admit that I had the help of Harry Potter as I worked this magic.

2 - Now, no distracting elemnents

After a considerable amount of time and effort, I present to you the final photo, below. I doubt that you noticed, but there is a bit more water issuing forth from the spigot than the trickle of the original snapshot. 

3 - The final photo with its rich texture and color -- along with a more generous stream of water

Well, that's it for this weeks transformation. Though the Venetians no longer have to rely on these pozzi, rest assured that they treasure them. And, I'm proud to present them to you in a more positive light.

Photo Tip: When photographing an object like these pozzi, get low before you snap the photo. The subjects will be much more interesting than if photographed looking down at them. And this works especially well when photographing children!


Ciao for now,