It’s a relatively well known fact that the best time of day to go shoot photos are the two hours of the day known as the “Golden Hours.” The hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset provide the soft, golden variety of light that is excellent for outdoor photography. The morning hour also provides the added benefit of generally empty streets when shooting in urban areas. The couple of hours around either side of twilight can be a wee bit painful to wake up for at times, but for me it is my favorite time of the day.
Not often do I wake up before sunrise unless I am going out to shoot photos. It’s not that I dislike morning, or that I really sleep in for that matter, sunrise is just really freaking early. In fact, I rather enjoy my early morning shoots. There is a zen like quality to them. My morning alone with the Coliseum is the perfect example.
It was my second morning in Rome, and the first one to present me with the sunny, cloudless sky I desired for shooting. My girlfriend and I already had plans to head out to Ostia Antica for the day, but the morning was calling me. I snuck out of bed, and quietly gathered up my camera gear. After kissing her goodbye, I slipped out the door and into the dark blue of pre-sunrise. The streets of Trastevere, raucous with people just hours earlier, were now completely silent. Only the rubbish of the previous night’s festivities remained as evidence for just how busy these picturesque lanes could be. It was hard to believe as I was the only soul out at this hour.
Across the Tiber, a few more people stirred, but still not the crowds associated with the heart of Rome. Murmuring “Buongiorno” to the police officers just beginning to arrive at their posts, I quickened my step in anticipation of something I had been waiting to see. The Piazza Venezia was beautiful, but I didn’t give it a second glance. The Foro Romano whispered to me in the morning mist, nearly diverting me from my chosen path, but my goal was just coming in to view. There it was. Looming large in front of me. The Coliseum.
The Coliseum is by far one of, if not the number one, most popular sites in all of Rome. Thousands upon thousands of tourists flock to the ancient arena to marvel upon the Romans’ engineering and ingenuity. In all fairness, it is quite the site to behold. An absolutely massive architectural endeavor that has stood the test of time for more than 1,500 years. By 10 AM, the area around the Coliseum is flooded with tourists, street performers, police, and venders hawking their wares. It is absolute pandaemonium, and even thinking of getting a photo of the great monument devoid of people is absolutely absurd. The early hours of the morning are a whole different story. I had the whole area to myself. Outside of the traffic cops getting set up for the day, and a few people waiting to catch the bus to work, the area was totally devoid of the chaos that envelops the area later on in the day.
It was just the Coliseum and me. I took my time setting up the tripod for my shots. Enjoying the moment more than anything; shooting photos was just a bonus. The experience was surreal. I couldn’t imagine just how many people would walk these grounds throughout the following twenty-four hours. For all I could see, I was the last person alive in Rome. The mornings may be tough sometimes, but it was totally worth it.
If you have the chance, whether you’re a photographer or not, I highly recommend exploring at sunrise. Places that are inundated with people regularly are devoid of life in the early hours of the day. The experience can be magical if you take the time to enjoy it. So next time you travel, set that alarm a little bit earlier, you won’t regret it once the morning is over. Oh, and coffee helps.