Venice Noir

View the whole series

I’ve been very excited to complete the edit of two specific series of images from Venice and Palermo. One is about the tourists, and although I’ve not quite settled on a name, it is definitely about the tourists. In fact, I have images from Japan and Los Angeles that will also fit in the series, so I think this will be a longer project. I’ll be revealing that series in a few weeks.

The other is a series of images of Venice after dark, or Venice Noir. The first few images started as a lark. Amusing myself while walking home from a cultural-appropriate late dinner, I was feeling lighthearted and frisky from the good food, good company, and ample drink. During the week, the weather was mostly overcast with episodes of rain. Nothing dramatic, but certainly enough to bring out the umbrellas and turn the cobble-stone streets into shinny surfaces of light and color.

The patchy light and dark scenes made perfect photographic backdrops. Perfect, that is, if you are not bothered by extreme contrast, slow shutter speeds, and high-ISOs. Is it the fool-photographer who tries to make these images handheld? My shutter speeds hovered around 1/15th of a second and I often underexposed the image in order avoid loosing all detail in the highlights. With a fixed 35mm lens the walls tilted in and out, and the horizon was not always level. But I was not so concerned about perfect images, I was willing to accept all kinds of aberrations in order to capture the mysterious mood of these night-time Venice streets and canals that was in such stark contrast to the hustle-bustle commercial day-time vibe.

There is no “secret” to how I took these images with such low light and high dynamic range. I just went out and made the images. I looked for light and color and waited for some unsuspecting human presence to add some spice.  In post processing I applied, what is for me, a liberal amount of noise reduction and my standard sharpening.

The series is currently featured on my website at I’ll be posting and explaining more of this series on this blog and on my instagram (nancy_lehrer) and facebook (Nancy Lehrer) streams. This, I think, is how Venice should be experienced.

A Street Photography Manifesto Cover JPGLearn more about making compelling street photographs in my book Life Happens in Color – A Street Photography Manifesto, or you can hear me talk about my photographic process in a couple of recent interviews – one on Martin Bailey’s podcast number 616, and the other with Ibarionex Perello on The Candid Frame.

Footnote about Lightroom and graphics acceleration: For a while now (a long while now – perhaps over a year) I have been struggling with my images in Lightroom not looking like the images after being exported from Lightroom. If the images looked right in Lightroom, the exported image had with too much contrast. Before you get on your “calibrated monitor” soap-box – yes, my monitor is calibrated and I assure you the problem is related to something else, as I was finally able to fix it. I had resigned myself to recalibrate my eyes and to make the images look a little washed out in Lightroom in order to print and export correctly. Needless to say, this was never really a satisfactory solution as it was sort of a crap-shoot to determine if I had gotten the adjustment just right. Last week, however, feed up, I took one more dive into a Google search and the Adobe support pages and finally found the answer. The problem was being caused by having graphics acceleration turned ON. Go figure? I turned it off and I am a happy, happy camper. It is in the Preferences menu in Lightroom. If this is happening to you, go take a check. You might want to also check your preferences in Photoshop.


A Venice Story: Mercati di Rialto – Two Views

I just came back from a two-week photographic trip to Palermo and Venice with Within The Frame Adventures led by Jeffrey Chapman and Winslow Lockhart. Even with six international photography trips under my belt, I still feel like a novice international-travel photographer, or maybe it is just my nature to take each trip as if it were my first, since each location reveals itself to me in a different way.

Having just completed my book Life Happens In Color – A Street Photography Manifesto,  I carried with me to Palermo and Venice a high-bar standard for my photography with my book’s first principle: Create a compelling story. A pretty picture alone was not enough. Each image must say something, give the viewer something to think about, or tell a story. In Venice, in particular, what is the story that would emerge from this over-traveled, over-photographed, but unique jewel-box of a city the locals call Venezia? What could I say that hadn’t been already said by dozens of photographers and in dozens of travel books?

My answer laid in staying away from the obvious images of historic landmarks and gondoliers. Instead I embraced the markets, the tourists, and the darkened alleyways and canals at night.

In every photographic outing or trip, there is always a very small set of images that rise above the rest. These tell the story with all the other elements of color, light, moment, and composition that elevate a simple photograph into something more. I am always most nervous about sharing these top two or three images. There are two reasons: 1) I have the most to lose if others don’t also see their brilliance, and 2) if I show these first, will all the others pale in comparison?

None-the-less, here is one of my images from Venice, one that I think rises to a very special place in my portfolio. Two Views – The Realto Market. OK – yes, another reflection image from Nancy; but this image has at least three layers of story 1) the story of the local butcher market that still thrives so brilliantly in some cities, and is almost completely dead in large American cities and suburbs, 2) the story of the repeat customer being waited on by not one, but by two butchers at once…she wearing a magnificent reptile-patterned oversized coat, and 3) the fruit seller that is just a few small steps away, enabling this community to buy everything it needs fresh for today, and then repeat again tomorrow.


I had spent about an hour or so wandering through the market. Most of the vendors pretty much ignored me (and the other photographers who were hanging around). They had business to do. This butcher shop, however kept waving for me to come in, which I did after I took this image. They didn’t know that I needed to be outside in order to capture both views of the market. What I like most about this image is that I was able to capture all 6 hands of the main subjects – each of the butchers and the two hands of the fruit seller seen outside the front window.

A Street Photography Manifesto Cover JPG

Learn to take more compelling street photographs with my book  Life Happens in Color – A Street Photography Manifestoor you can hear me talk about my photographic process in a recent interview on The Candid Frame.

Available Now: Life Happens in Color – A Street Photography Manifesto

Buy It Here!

A Street Photography Manifesto Cover JPG

I believe in the use of photography to tell candid stories that document the human condition in order to bring people together with understanding and acceptance.

In the chapters of this manifesto, I explain my approach to street photography as an informal genre of documentary photography and visual storytelling. I explain how I go about recognizing and then communicating the stories that I observe. Within the descriptions of my images, I detail my process for identifying photographic opportunities, my thoughts while taking an image, and how I evaluate an image’s narrative strength during editing.

These are the principles that guide my photography:

  • Create compelling stories: Say something, ask questions.
  • Life happens in COLOR: Color carries emotional content.
  • Create visual poems: Composition matters.
  • Composition is additive: Use a lot of adjectives.
  • Connect the dots: Capture the scene as the subject.
  • Create short stories: Tell a story through time.
  • Travel: Spread a worldview of understanding and acceptance.
  • Take chances: An image is more than the sum of its pixels.
  • Follow the National Press Photographer Association’s Code of Ethics.

Buy It Here!

Life Happens in Color - A Street Photography Manifesto

A Street Photography Manifesto 

By Nancy Lehrer
Photo book


Be Curious – Larry Fink

From his work “Social Graces” contrasting the high-society and a rural family

Viscerality is my perceptual mode. Simply spoken, it means that I want to touch everything that I love. Hopefully my pictures are a testimony to the love of the senses. – Larry Fink

Thanks to Ibarionex and the Candid Frame #401 – MSPF: NYC Street Photography Panel, I recently had the opportunity to hear Larry Fink talk about his approach to photography and his career. He is a very metaphorical speaker and this mesmerized me as he talked about some profound ideas about being curious, showing empathy, and portraying a moment of observation.

His photography is B&W, mostly all in a square format. I would describe his images as naked truth. He not a documentary photographer though he shoots in a documentary style.

I encourage you to listen to the episode and discover more about Larry Fink through these links:

  • Larry Fink Photography
    Be sure to look through his blog. Although the last posts were in early 2013, Larry posts many images. I was especially taken by the work he did during the 2012 Presidential election time period. Many of the memes we are struggling with now during the Trump administration were already starting to rear themselves. I find the posts from May 2012 and Feburary 2012 where he covers Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich particularly relevant to today. Buttons reading “Do not trust the liberal media” were apparently already circulating in right-wing circles.
  • NY Times Interview: A Moment with Larry Fink (January 2011)
  • The Photography of Larry Fink (video on Youtube – Larry, and this link, starts around minute 26)
  • Larry Fink on Composition and Improvisation. The Photography Workshop Series, Aperture

If you, like me, like to collect and study monographs, I recommend “Social Graces” which is readily available.

Moving Day


Perhaps my favorite memory from my recent trip to Mongolia was our stop to help a family backup their home (their ger) and belongings in a rain storm. I thought we had stopped in order to get the photographic experience. But instead, as a comment on the true Mongolian giving, we stopped so that our guide and drivers could help. In fact, they shooed us back into the vans as it started to rain. I obediently complied but kept the door open and kept shooting. I wish I had been more stubborn and stayed out in the rain. None the less, I came back with some unique images and memories.

In addition, the wind-blown image of the wife rolling up the blue bedding received acceptance into the PhotoPlace Gallery on-line gallery for their January 2018 exhibit, The Decisive Moment, juror Sam Abell.

Moving Day 1_Lehrer.jpg

The Decisive Moment


I am once again honored to be recognized with not one, but two images which are now exhibited on the online gallery of The PhotoPlace Gallery in Vermont for their January 2018 exhibit The Decisive Moment, juror Sam Abell.

The Meeting was taken during a week-long trip to Oaxaca. Each day I would walk this street to and from the central areas of town. Invariably, I would pass this group of young men with their pit bulls. I was intrigued by the relationships and obvious friendships. Each day I would work on getting a few photographs of the dogs playing. The image always alluded me. This evening, however, the scene all came together.

Congratulations to @George Nobechi and @Gene Nemeth who were also honored with acceptance into the exhibit

Sam Abell Juror’s Statement for The Decisive Moment

Henri Cartier-Bresson was the shadow juror for this exhibit. And why not? ‘The Decisive Moment’ is the comprehensive phrase used to describe Bresson’s process, aspirations and results. It is also the title of the influential book he published in 1952–a book, and a body of work, so timeless it became the theme of this exhibit 65 years later.

As juror I tried to bring Bresson and his work to bear on my selections. ‘What would Henri say about this picture?’ was a recurring thought of mine. That question presented a daunting challenge for any one image to live up to. For Bresson’s work is known not just for moments but also for the setting which surrounds those moments. It is the elegant choreography between fleeting moment and enduring setting that has made his images so celebrated.

Therefore please take time to appreciate how the photographers whose images are included in this exhibit actually worked. They worked like Bresson. That is, they saw the whole scene within which a moment–a decisive moment–could occur. Their work is honored because it lives up to Bresson’s succinct definition of the act, and the art, of photography:

To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.

Sam Abell


Lighroom and Photo Reorganization Day

Found this little gem while reorganizing my Lightroom catalogs and image folders. I’ve also been looking at a lot of Martin Parr‘s imagery which I think may have had an influence on my picking this one out today.

(Warning – Lightroom geek talk ahead)

For the past few months I’ve been experimenting with some different Lightroom catalog organizations, and today I reorganized it all again. (Note: Don’t try this at home, unless you are already comfortable with understanding the relationship of LR catalogs to folders on your hard-drive. I’m outlining my thoughts here to provide you with ideas for how to organize your work, not as a tutorial on LR catalogs.)

I have been using Lightroom since its first release in January 2006, which luckily for me, closely coincided with when I got back into photography as driving by the maturation of consumer-priced digital SLRs.  (As an aside, my first digital camera was the 8MP Canon Rebel XT (EOS 350D) which I used until the release of the second generation Canon 5D mk II in November 2008. In March 2012 I was an early adopter of the Olympus OM-D EM-5 and I have been shooting Olympus OM-D models ever since.)

For all these years, I have been organizing my photos into folders by year and subfolders by date. This worked well for the most part, but catalog backups and Lightroom startup times were starting to creep up. In addition, as my library grew it was becoming more difficult for me to find specific photos (I’m not very disciplined at applying keywords). I also started to travel in 2011 and each trip would add another large collection of images that I would pretty much want to find by location. So earlier this year, on the suggestion of a friend, Carl – you know I’m talking about you, I went through and created a separate catalog for each trip. I also divided my large non-trip related photos into two catalogs, arbitrarily picking 2015 as the dividing line.

Breaking up my catalogs into smaller pieces certainly fixed the catalog sluggishness I was experiencing. It also was good for some very specific situations. Say I wanted to review all my images from Japan. I knew exactly which catalog to open. There was a one problem however. If I wanted to pull together a set of images that were not connected by trip or year, I would have to open and close several catalogs to gather together all my images as exports onto my hard drive. I could not use the LR collection function to pull together a loose set and then reorganize and cull from there. In other words, it was a pain.

So today, I decided to swing back the other way, back to larger catalogs again. I also decided to reorganize my folders by subject areas instead of just by date. Here is how it goes now.

Today, I now have 2 catalogs, General and Travel.  Within Lightroom, I then rearranged the folders on my hard drive by category and then by date. Remember to do this within Lightroom so that you don’t have a mess of “?” unfound images when you are done. Heed my early note, “don’t try this at home” unless you really are comfortable with your understanding of the relationship between your hard drive folders and a catalog folders.

My Travel catalog goes to my “Travel” folder which has a sub-folder for each trip and subfolders by date under that. For example: Travel\Cuba\2013-01-30. My General catalog goes to my “General” folder which is organized into subfolders based on what I do most and then date-organized beneath each subfolder.


  1. Street SoCal
  2. Fairs and Dog Shows
  3. Workshops
  4. Projects
  5. Misc
  6. Film Scans

What will be most interesting is how this organization works out when I start to import photos. I will definitely need to be a little more attentive to the import dialog.

And hey, I found the image at the top of this post during this reorganization process. Sort of made it all worthwhile.