Fountains, Peterhof Summer Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

Spectacular water fountains, beautifully framed by surrounding architecture, at Peterhof Palace near St. Petersburg, Russia.

I visited St. Petersburg, Russia in mid August. The days were warm and long and I was able to photograph, unhindered, day and night. My visit to Peterhof Summer Palace was certainly a highlight of my time in St. Petersburg, a most beautiful city that’s full of the charm and splendor of its imperial past.

One afternoon I hired a car, driver and guide and made the short trip to the Peterhof Summer Palace about 45 minutes out of St. Petersburg.

Peterhof is based loosely on the Palace Of Versailles, just out of Paris. My new Russian friends were keen to tell me that Versailles was somewhat inferior to the local counterpart.

 

A young boy, surprised by a trick water fountain at Peterhof Palace, near St. Petersburg, Russia.

 

There’s certainly lots of different water fountains at Peterhof, including the famous Grand Cascade and a series of smaller trick fountains.

Though I've visited both, under similar weather conditions, I don't really have a firm opinion on the matter. But, despite the large crowds and bright, afternoon light I enjoyed the challenges of making photos at both locations.

Both Peterhof and Versailles are famous for their fountains which are spread throughout each sites substantial grounds. The photo at the top of this post features a small section of larger series of fountains around the edges of a small amphitheater.

Water fountains and statues at the fabulous Grand Cascade at Peterhof Palace near St. Petersburg, Russia.

Photographing Fountains at Peterhof Palace 

Because it was really sunny it was going to be difficult to retain subtle details in the highlights and deepest shadows. I wasn’t too concerned about the shadows, as it was the cascading water fountains that I was interested in photographing.

To solve this particular problem I walked around the fountains until I found a group in relatively subdued light.

I positioned myself so that the outer columns provided frames for individual fountains. It’s a good example of the concept in composition known as a frame within a frame.

I think the repetition of the columns, spaced at relatively equal distances from each other, provides a rhythm and sense of unity to the image.

The columns that surround the fountains are also

The trees provided a great background as they blocked the sky and allowed the water to stand out. This allowed me to reduce the contrast and flare in a way that would not have been possible photographing the fountains with less restricted framing.

 
Statues, Peterhof Summer Palace, St. Petersburg

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Forget the Rules Of Photography and have Fun

I find it interesting to contrast the solidness and stability of the stone with the flow and transient nature of the water.

So, even under bright, sunny skies it’s possible to make lovely photos in the middle of the day. It’s not my preference, nor is it always easy. But it’s certainly possible.

Marly Palace was a lovely, quiet retreat for the former Tzar in the grounds of Peterhof Summer Palace near St. Petersburg, Russia.

Great Photos Celebrate Composition

As a case in point the photo of the lovely Marly Palace, situated in the grounds at Peterhof, you can see how I’ve used the leaves of a tree to cover much of the brighter sky.

I’ve also used a polarizing filter to deepen the color of that sky and to reduce the reflection of the bright sunlight off the white railing and the front facade of Marly Palace.

Because the brightness of the highlights has been reduced, so to has the darkness of the shadows. The result is an image that, straight out of the camera, features a lower dynamic range than most other folks would have achieved photographing the same scene at that time.

You can see how carefully I considered composition when making the photo. Line, pattern, repetition, color contrast and symmetry underpin this image.

If you find yourself in the lovely city of St. Petersburg, Russia I’d certainly recommend you put aside at least half a day for a visit to the charming Peterhof Summer Palace.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru