Regular visitors to our site will know that here at 'CapturedInTheMoment', we have a deep love for the Beautiful City of St Petersburg. It is an Architectural Photoraphers dream, with so many opportunities for framing the different styles and scales of building. Here's a list of our Top sites. Of course this is not exhaustive, and we welcome ny other suggestions that we should put on our list for our next visit !
1. Church of the Spilled Blood. (Map)
Known by various names including "the Savior on Spilled Blood", "Temple of the Savior on Spilled Blood " and Church of the Resurrection". It's incredible location flanking the Griboedov Canal, enables it to stand out from the building around it, and provie a perfect vista when standing on one of 2 bridges slong the south stretch of the canal.
Of course, this is the classic location, and you'll see reams of images online from those locations - though you cannot leave with trying your own hand - no 2 shot's are the same. However, don't overlook other locations from the North side of the canal wiht similar but unique views. Make sure you allocate plenty of time, shoot at different times of day and experiment with Long Exposure shot's to smooth out the water.
Also for a different view entirely, consider the Mikhailovsky Garden to the East. It's an unusal view and skips the canalside entirely, but good opportunity to focus on the medieval Russian architecture (when close up using a wide angle lens), or to capture the upper half of the building floating over the trees.
Finally, make sure you take the time to marvel at the intricate details of the dome's and columns, they make for veyr satisfyingcolurful close-up's.
Check out our previous Post covering this location, but also covering the internals.
2. St Isaacs Cathedral (Map)
The largest Orthodox Church in the City, and built in the new-classical style. There are 2 most obvious and predictable ways to shoot, and what everyone else will be doing...
Firstly Directly opposite the facade is the open space of St Isaac's Square with ample room to get the whole Cathedral into shot.
The other is to pay your money and climb up to the walkway encircling the rotunda. This will avail you shot's of the City rather than the cathedral, but there are some interesting statue's that you could use for framing your city shots.
For something different, try getting up close to one of the corners, and try capturing the sheer Size, with some oblique shots looking up wiht a wide anfgle lense. This is a building where you do not need to straighten the walls - leave the vertical distortion alone and it will emphasie it's towering nature.
Also, try heading out the the park behind and towards the Admiralty Embankment. You will find the statue of the Bronze Horseman in Senatskaya place. You can look back over the Horseman's shoulder to the Cathedral which will rise up over the trees.
One recommendation - There is a great cafe just opposite the East corner of the Cathedral called Schastye (Translation : Happiness) which serves a fabulous (and good value) breakfast, cakes, coffees, and from which you can admire great view of the cathedral. Indeed it's perfect for those with a sweet tooth any time of the day !
3. Vasilyevsky Island from the Winter Palace (Map)
Standing either on the Dvortsovvy Most (Bridge) or on the embankment by the Winter Palace, there are some interest opportunities to cature activity on the other side of the River Neva to the Visilyevky Island and specifically the Strelka (tip of th arrow) which includes the two Rostral Columns built to celebrate naval victories and very popular in Russian Architecture.
The bridge itself is interesting with it's constant stream of traffic that makes for intriguing light streaks (in evening /night) leading the eye over to the island architecture.
4. The Passazh (Map)
A glass covered walkway that has been a key marketplace since the city was founded, and now an elite shopping mall. The current design of the 180m long glass roof has remained hardly changed since it's original construction despite intense bombing during the World War II siege of Leningrad. It feels almost like a trading palace, with sumptious atmosphere and up-market boutique shops.
For a photographer, it presents a great opportunity for capturing those dramatic leading lines. The ceiling, the walls, the balcomies and the floor all combine to give you that tunnel vision.
Get your tripod out, and set up for wide Depth of Field, to ensure you capture the detail throughout the shot. Depending on the time of day, you may may light falling through the glass is not adequate.. so may need to expose longer (hence tripod).
If you are furtunate with timing and weather, you may catch the sun streaming through the glass and prividing a quintessential ray through the hall. Unfotunately I was not so lucky :-( but still mightily pleased with the below. You cannot get a bad shot here.
5. Kazan Cathedral (Map)
Otherwise known as Our lady of Kazan, is a Russian Orthodox church on Nevsky Prospect. Looking more like a triumphal bastion of some Military reference, perhaps due to it's intent to represent a memorial to the victory over Napolean. It was modelled on St Peter's Basilica in Rome.
Photographic challenges are in trying to fit the whole thing in. It's vast span of collonades will need a wide angle lens, and step back as far as possible. You will find yourself on the other side of the road, so you'll have to contend with passing traffic. Another opportunity to get out the tripod and take long exposure shots to make the passing cars and people disappear.
For more interesting shots, try in the evening light, and capture the light trails of the passing vehicles.
If you have the time, try taking oblique shots looking back towards the centre from the ends of the collonaded. Some interesting perspectives will ensure you get something different to the box standard. That's definitely on my to do list for my next visit.
Exif for the below : 19mm, ISO100, 46s, f29.
6. Peter & Paul Cathedral (Map)
Located in the Forthress of the same name, the cathedral is the oldest landmark in the city, dating early 18th C, and nestling on an Island to the North side of the Neva River. The golden bell tower is the tallest orthodox Bell tower in the world and it's claimed therefore to be the tallest Orthodox Church in the World It's also unusual in it's contrast from the mor etraditional 'Onion' shaped towers that dominate most Russian cathedral skylines. It's therefore an opportunity to showcase the dominant slender tower, and there's plenty of space in the square around the church to get it all in.
An alternative option to the standard shot from the square, try walking alongside the wall of the of fortress, and find an spot with an oblique view view. The below example subtly masks the body of the church, allowing the focus of the viewer to rest on the spire itself
7. Church of the Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God (Map)- on my to-do list !!
Completed in late 18th C, a fascinating combination of baroque and neo-classical architectural styles. The church is crowned with five onion-shaped cupolas, which rise into the sky above Vladimirskaya Ploschad in one of the most historic areas of the city. An impressive four-tiered bell tower stands adjacent to the church. The church is also home to one of the oldest and most elaborate iconostases in Russia.
Frequented by Russian Notables, including Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and although most of the church's treasures were looted during the Revolution, the incredible iconostasis on the church's upper level survived.
Closed during the 1930's, and used by the Soviet's as an Underwear factory (highly amusing, if like me you were born into a family of Hosiery Manufacturers ;-) Nowadays, one of the busiest churches in the city, with throngs og Babushka's and beggars outside. Great potential for some portrait photography while there too.
I missed out on this site during my trip - but is first port of call for next time
8. Hermitage & Winter Palace (Map)
Probably the one site that has brought you to St Petersburg in the first place. The Hermitage Museum complex consists of six historic buildings (one of which was the former residence of Russian Tsars) today make up the Hermitage Museum, housing one of the finest art collections in the world. Allegedly, Catherine the Great bankrupted Russia in the process of building this incredible museum, which collections containing over 3million items include many works of the great masters such as Rembrandt, Rueben's and Van Dyk, plus many, many others.
The Hermitage is as huge as it is amazing.You’d struggle to visit even the most important sections in one day. If you go independently, you must choose what to see before starting your tour but it will be unlikely for you to enjoy the Treasuries. Artwork aside, the interiors are breathtaking and you can get up close to both furniture and paintings & get a real sense of how the Romanovs lived. Must sees include the Gold room, the crimson boudoir, the church, the Jordan staircase & peacock clock. The signage isn't great & it's huge so do your research in advance, or you’ll spend a lot of time retracing your steps.
Make sure you don’t miss the Raphael Loggias, designed to mimic the Gallery n the Papal Palace in Vatican City. It’s s fantastic tunnel like hallway, with concentric arches the whole length, making for a great photo opportunity. Take some shots of the full gallery, but also zoom into sub-elements to focus the eye.
The experience is just as much about the building, not just the stuff on the walls. All you need to do is walk from room to room and try not to let your jaw drag on the floor. As a drop dead imperial statement these buildings are without equal. Wander and look up, look down, look out the windows at the river or out across Palace Square and let yourself be impressed. Then get a coffee and something to eat and go to the building on the other side of the Palace Square, The Building of the General Staff. It was the Foreign Office of the Tsars and recently had an internal refit. It houses the 19th and 20th century French collections and is one of the greatest art experiences it's possible to have. Forget the museums in Paris, these galleries are the greatest visual art experiences you'll ever have.
Tickets for the complex are very limited and you must arrive at dawn to secure your entry. Some hotels also sell tickets, so if you have that option then it’s worth considering, as you’ll bypass the queues. If you have connections, or your guide is approved, you maybe able to get in on a Monday, when it's closed for the public. On any other day, or unless you go in Winter, the museum will be very crowded - don’t expect to be able to be left in peace to ponder over individual items as you’ll likely be shunted along. The Museum is free of charge the first Thursday of every month.
To get the most from this place, a Guide would be helpful. They’d be able to explain the history and significance of key items and rooms, ensure you don’t miss any critical pieces, and provide insight into the life of the Royal Family .. however, from a photographers pov, that may be not a good option. Guide’s are generally not happy to sit around while the guy with the DSLR stops to take photo’s through a random window of the view down below the street, or fiddles with their camera settings for 15mins while taking experimental shots of the ceiling.
Photography is permitted, but strict rules on camera equipment and bags… you’re not allowed any bags or tripods..Also, you will not be allowed to go back to your bag unless you have a multi-entry ticket so you’ll need to be some creativity If you need more than 1 lens (e.g. zoom and wide angle) then you'll’ need to be able to put one in a coat pocket or very small handbag. You’ll not be allowed to use a flash anyway, so you’ll need to to be running at high ISO’s unless you can leverage natural light coming in through the large windows, but that’s only good for a few of the rooms. You will not be allowed to take photo’s in the Gold and Diamond Rooms.
I always believe that first impressions last. So if you want a an impressions you won’t forget, I recommend approaching via the small side street 'ulica Bolshaya Morskaya’ which will lead you North and under the Archway of the 'Building of the General Staff. This will open up into the vast Palace square revealing the museum entrance directly opposite you, and beautiful in each direction.
To the North is the triumphal central column and the aqua coloured museum, west is towering domed roof of St Isaacs, behind you will be the gentle neo-classical curve of the General Staff Building. The square is a fascinating place, try and spend some time there spread out over the day. You will find yourself transported into a Romanov period setting, with player's dressed in Romanov costumes trying to get tourists to take their photo’s for a fee, traditional horse carriages, and if you are really lucky you may even find a film crew making a period drama, complete with extra’s. In the evenings, the square transforms into a concert arena, with impromptu bands blaring out various genres of music and the youth of city dancing.
The monastery, named after the patron saint of St Petersburg, is the grandest on the city one of only 4 in Russia to have been the status of Lavra. . It's location is an oddity, as it's thought Peter the Great wrongly thought this was where the military leader Prince Alexander of Novgorod had beaten the Swedes in 1240 on the River Neva 12 miles away. The battle earned Alexander the nick name "Alexander Nevsky" (Alexander of the Nev), and his remains lnow lay buried here. Interestingly the actual battle site is regarded by modern Swedish maps as the place where the Swedish Fort of Landskrona once stood.
Now, a working monastery attracting the most devout believers, and the gravesite for some of Russia's most famous artistic figures. The grounds are free to wander but tickets are required to enter the two most important graveyards.
I always find visiting cemetery's a humbling experience, particular one which holds the remains of such famous cultural icons as Tchaikovsky, Dostoevsky, and Glinka. A reminder of your mortality, and time to reflect on one's own contribution to humanity, compared with some of the above.
One of the few churches in St. Petersburg that was allowed to function during the Soviet era, the cathedral's Neoclassical design stands out among the monastery's predominantly baroque architecture. At one stage the complex was home to 16 churches, though only 5 now remain, with many being sold off and turned into offices, museums etc. Grave trading continued until late 1950's. but the remaining buildings have been well restored after suffering the ravages of the Revolution.
Entrance is through the archway of the elegant Gate Church, The walled pathway is flanked by two cemeteries whose entrances are a short walk down the path. The Lazarus and Tikhvin Cemeteries known as the "Necropolis of Masters of Arts." contain the ornate tombs of Mikhail Lomonosov, Alexander Suvorov, Nikolay Karamzin, Modest Mussorgsky, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Fyodor Dostoevsky, etc.
The monastery structures include two baroque churches, the majestic Holy Trinity Cathedral, and various lesser structures.
Although a little bit out of the centre of the city, this is certainly worth a visit. Being a working Monastery and place of solace, you will need to be careful an respectful with Photographing.