Photographer's Note


This staircase designed by Giuseppe Momo in 1932 is one of the most photographed staircases in the world, and has appeared on Trekearth a number of times. With some trepidation I am also getting into the fray, submitting a wide-angle shot that I photographed on July 12, 2007 when I was visiting the Vatican Museum. The imaginative architect had used a pair of interwoven circular stairs — one for ascending, the other for descending — solving the logistic problem of ushering in and ushering out thousands of tourists daily. Several years earlier when I last visited the museum, both courses were open. Now it appears, they no longer allow visitors to ascend this way, making one of the stairs redundant. Viewing a circular staircase from the top (or conversely, viewing it from the bottom) creates the optical illusion of a mathematical logarithmic spiral. This is the same type of spiral that nature prefers, as it is seen in the chambered nautilus, the horns of a ram, the winds in a hurricane, the water in a whirlpool, and the stars in a spiral galaxiy. Nature does not particularly care for other types of spirals — such as the hyperbolic or the Archimedian spiral. Toilet paper is an example of the Archimedian spiral. One of the finest examples of these spirals appears in the interior structure of Joel berthonneau's Helicoid Staircase. His lighthouse staircase has a helical structure. The Vatican Staircase in my photo, is the "double helix," as Malgorzata (emka) pointed out.

My principle reason for visiting the Vatican Museum had been to see the classical statue, Laocoön, a work that had impressed Michelangelo. Indeed, in AD 1506, when the classical statue was unearthed in excavations being carried out at the Palace of Tiberius, Pope Julius II, dispatched Michelangelo to the site in order to assess the discovery. The great sculptor was so deeply impressed by the work, that the Pope decided to establish this, the first public museum in the world.

Nikon D-70, 18-70 mm Nikkor lens, UV-filter, ISO set on 200, tripod. Although I used the 18-mm setting, this staircase would best be photographed with a 10.5 mm fisheye lens which I don’t own.

PS on a suggestion from Korkut (bostankorkulugu), I've posted a b&w version of this photograph.

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Additional Photos by Bulent Atalay (batalay) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6774 W: 470 N: 12149] (41261)
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