5 Reasons Morning is the Best Time to Photograph Prague
October 5, 2015
It's undeniable: Prague is a beautiful city. The old buildings have been meticulously restored, the quaint cobblestoned streets are cleaned each morning, and the views from Prague Castle over the city are stunning. Yet even in a place this photogenic, you still need to put in some effort to walk away with the photos you envision. In my experience, this meant getting up and outside early. Here are the reasons (and photos) why you should, too!
1. The Light is Fantastic
Ok, I realize that this is not unique to Prague, and should probably be enough on its own to get you up and out the door early. What I appreciated most about the golden hour light was how it warmed up the red rooftops everywhere and made for some especially picturesque cityscapes. Now, you could also catch that beautiful light just before sunset, but you'll have far fewer crowds to contend with earlier in the day. Which brings me to my next point...
2. Empty Streets
Relatively empty, anyways. Most of your company will be the street cleaning crews who are working hard to tidy the city before it wakes, and the pigeons who are waiting for someone to feed them breakfast. So, this is the perfect time to photograph one of the popular squares such as Old Town Square (where the Prague Astronomical Clock is located) as well as those narrow, winding, cobblestoned streets which could be the perfect setting for a mystery. At least, my overactive imagination thought so!
3. Stroll the Charles Bridge
Sure, you can walk across it at any time, but your pace and purpose will probably be different at mid-day. Even at 6:30am in the middle of the week, you will likely find a number of photographers in Prague are on the Charles Bridge. That said, there's not so many people there; it's just that most of them are also there for photography. Some are taking wedding photos for brides and grooms, while others are doing the same thing you are. Despite this, you really shouldn't have any trouble getting some shots with no or very few people in them. For an empty bridge, you'll need to head out even earlier, but remember to adjust your plan according to time of year and light conditions.
As a bonus, at this time of day, you can take your time crossing the Charles Bridge enjoying the river views, watching the wedding photography sessions, and admiring the statues which adorn the bridge along both sides while taking your own photos. Actually I recommend this whether you want to take photos or not because just a few hours later and the vibe here is completely different. By mid-morning, the bridge is transformed into a bustling open air marketplace with vendors lining both sides of the walkway and multitudes of people stopping to browse their wares. Which is fine, and fun, if you want to chat with the artists, shop, or work on your street photography. But on that note, I found that by 10:30am (mid-June), the sun was reflecting off every surface of the Charles Bridge resulting in harsh glare and contrast everywhere. Bring filters for your camera and sunglasses for yourself!
4. Have the Castle All to Yourself
Well, almost anyways! Prague Castle is a fantastic place to watch the city awaken. Not only can you watch daylight dawn across the roofs in the Mala Strana below, you can also see how different spaces, such as courtyards and gardens are transformed as the morning wears on. Early on, you'll see the guards marching through the courtyards, staff arriving for work, and a few other photographers. You could even find a quiet place to read if you like! Eventually, more tourists will start to arrive on their own, as well as in school and tour groups. This is probably a good time to start descending the castle as it only gets busier from here. The good news is that in summer, the castle is open from 5am until midnight so you have plenty of time for photography before you need to contend with the crowds.
5. Relax for the Rest of the Day
I quickly found that going out early to take photos and afterwards having breakfast at a cafe before returning to the hotel to drop off my camera, etc. made for a pleasant system. I had the early morning hours to photograph and then spent the rest of the day without worrying about where my gear was, if it was getting bumped or damaged in the crush of people, or the possibility of theft. With only my purse and (then-ancient) mobile phone, I could relax and explore the city at leisure. I know this flies directly in the face of advice telling you to take your camera everywhere, but a) I still had my mobile phone with me and b) you need to take time to enjoy your location without a lens in front of you. If you'll be somewhere for only a day, this obviously doesn't work, but otherwise you can always return later with camera in hand.
Have you been to Prague? Share your tips for photographing this city in the comments!