Tips for Photographing Cinque Terre, Italy

Riomaggiore Italy

Italian village of Riomaggiore, Italy. Canon 70D, Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5 | 30secs @10mm f/8 iso100.

Benjamin Mourot is a french photographer who has captured fantastic and unique images along the rugged Italian Riviera. “The Five Lands” or Cinque Terre as it’s known around the world, is comprised of five coastal villages in the Liguria region which is on many travelers bucket lists. Below Benjamin answers some questions and shares his advice about the most difficult aspects of landscape photography at Cinque Terre and the nearby fishing village of Portofino: capturing the best light and finding unique perspectives. Head over to the Benjamin Mourot Photography Facebook page to see what else he is up to.

SUZ: Firstly, your photographs of Cinque Terre are inspiring and thank you for sharing your photography advice with us. Did you travel back and forth between coastal towns to get all the photographs you wanted or did you systematically shoot them one after the other?

BM: I had a tight schedule due to parking and possible train delays, so I would not have the chance to return unfortunately. This meant that I had to identify many of the best locations ahead of time using Google Maps.

SUZ: To capture the best natural light, what are the best times of the day to shoot the landscapes of Cinque Terre?

BM: One thing is certain, that the best times are early morning and late evening. These moments are magical for their wonderful light. All the villages of the Cinque Terre are oriented east-west, so you have to come early for the sunrise. Once the sun passes over the first houses, everything will be backlit. The midday sun is very interesting to get nice water clarity and a nice color rendering of these places. The best views of Cinque Terre are the paths leading outside, where you can admire the villages with hindsight. Another view that is beautiful but more dangerous is right on the dike where you can get the front view of the village (seen in the image above).

SUZ: Some photographs you took of Riomaggiore look like you got on the edge of the rocks or even on a boat. What advice can you share to get the best vantage points?

BM: Actually, no photos were taken from the water. They are mostly taken from a dike with water strategically framing the shot. The use of a tripod is not very practical but still possible. We must absolutely avoid going on the dikes when the sea is too strong; while material is fragile, man is mortal. Both Manarola and Riomaggiore dikes are fully accessible though it’s best to observe where the waves are before setting up your camera. The view of these villages is so amazing, especially because so few people go there.

SUZ: How did you manage to avoid people being in your photographs in the middle of summer, the peak time for tourism in Italy?

BM: I love the landscapes without a human trace. Several means are used to erase our tracks, the first is to arrive early before the crowds of tourists (preferably before 9:30am). At this hour it is easy to photograph the deserted city. The second way is to shoot long exposures. A long exposure of 15 seconds to a few minutes erases the effect of any moving objects. The last way is to use tools in Photoshop (Healing Brush, Patch Tool and Clone Stamp Tool) to erase any last traces.

SUZ: Are there specific lenses that you recommend photographers bring to Cinque Terre?

BM: I prefer a very wide angle lens for photographing landscapes and so I opted for the Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS lens with a Canon 70D camera. The wide angle allows me to capture an entire scene in one piece.

SUZ: Can you share any details regarding the post processing you applied to your Italian Riviera photographs?

Sure, but above all, what happens before taking the shot is most important. One thing I like to do is take long exposures of more than 30 seconds to give the images a surreal effect. The result is often assumed to be a post-processing treatment but in fact is done in-camera and only requires an ND110 filter. I always shoot in RAW for maximum control in post-processing and all of my pictures are post processed in Lightroom and sharpened in Photoshop.

SUZ: Lastly, you have some great panoramas of the villages. Were these created with horizontal or vertical photographs?

BM: All of my panoramas are combinations of 7 to 8 pictures taken vertically and mixed with Photoshop. To avoid any merging errors, the images are taken in manual mode with the same aperture, ISO and speed settings. I find that the one-third format is truly amazing to realize the beauty of a place!!


For help planning your trip to Cinque Terre, visit the Liguria Tourism website and the official Ligura Travel Guide.

Embarquement at Riomaggiore Italy

Embarkment at Riomaggiore, Italy. 13secs @16mm f/16 iso200.

Riomaggiore at Cinque Terre

Riomaggiore, Italy. 30secs @14mm f/18 iso100.

Riomaggiore Panorama in Liguria Italy

Panorama in Riomaggiore, Italy. 1/100secs @10mm f/16 iso100.

Manarola of Liguria Italy

Manarola, Italy. 30secs @10mm f/16 iso160.

Manarola Italy

Manarola, Italy. 30secs @10mm f/16 iso200.

Boats at Manarola

Boats at Manarola. 15secs @10mm f/13 iso200.

Portofino Liguria Italy

Portofino, Italy. 1/100secs @10mm f/16 iso100.

Taxi Boat at Portofino Italy

Taxi Boat at Portofino, Italy. 1/125secs @10mm f/11 iso100.

Portofino boats Liguria Italy

Boats in Portofino, Italy. 1/80secs @10mm f/16 iso100.

Portofino Panorama in Liguria Italy

Panorama of Portofino, Italy. 1/125secs @10mm f/11 iso100.

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