Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #121: Focus on the Subject

Astronomical Clock, Prague

With the topic of “Focus on the Subject” selected for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge this week by Patti and with the upcoming change to Daylight Savings Time on November 1st, we’ve decided to focus on time. And, for us, there has been no more memorable timepiece we’ve seen than the Astronomical Clock in Prague, Czech Republic.

Prague's Astronomical Clock

Time is precious. Make sure you spend it with the right people.


Just finding a spot to view the clock can be difficult. Hundreds line up as early as half past the hour at Old Town Hall in Old Town Square to view the one-minute “performance” of the clock. But it took us three or four times of lining up early and watching the hourly time change to know what to focus on from start to finish.

Tourists line up early to see the astronomical clock strike on the hour. For taking pictures, finding a place and a focus can be difficult.

The clock — established in 1410, making it the fourth oldest clock in existence — is composed of three clocks: an astrolabe showing signs of the zodiac, a calendar clock showing the months, and a clock flanked by saints with the 12 apostles moving past the windows above. As amateur photographers, we wanted to capture all the movements, but we didn’t know where or when to focus our cameras on the exact “right” spot.

Images from Astronomical Clock, Prague
A change in focus allowed us to see these carved and painted pieces near the face of the bottom clock.

My success, part of it certainly, is that I have focused in on a few things.

Bill Gates

So, with several viewings, we learned to focus our cameras on the subjects, one at a time.

First, the skeleton rings the bell, so he became our first capture.

Skeleton on Astronomical Clock, Prague
When the skeleton (representing Death) rings the bell, the movements begin.

Then we re-focused as saints and other figures moved their heads or parts of their bodies.

Saints beside the Astronomical Clock, Prague
A focus on the saints came next as they moved their bodies side to side.

Throughout it all, however, we were also looking up, trying to capture any of the twelve apostles as moved, assembly-line style, past two small windows.

Apostles at Astronomical Clock, Prague
Throughout the striking of the clock, 12 apostles move past the windows.

Finally (and it took us three viewings to realize this), we focused on the cock at the very top. When he crows, the “show” has ended.

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.

J. R. R. Tolkein

And so by changing our focus, we were able to see more of the workings of the clock as each moved in turn, but we had to move quickly. The whole show lasted only a minute. Knowing where to look, however, made the difference as we tried to capture each event.

If you would like to see more of the movements of the Astronomical Clock in Prague, take a look at this video from the Official Tourist Website from Prague.

Astronomical Clock faces, Prague
Focusing on the saints beside the two faces of the Astronomical Clock in Prague.

Back in the present: Don’t forget to focus on the time change this weekend. We’ll be setting our clocks one hour ahead on October 31st and getting up to more light earlier in the day on November 1st. If you’re an early morning photographer, you’ll probably be happy to see this coming.

To participate in this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #120, link your post to Patti’s blog and use the tag Lens-Artists. We look forward to seeing your area of focus!

Travel timely,

Rusha and Bert

38 thoughts on “Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #121: Focus on the Subject

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      Thanks so much for taking a look! The memory of seeing that clock has stayed with us for several years now, and I’d still like to return. The more I read about its creation and the revolving circles, the more impressed I am.

  1. gallivance.net

    I absolutely love this clock Rusha, and we saw it on our trip to Prague last year. I’ve always been interested in the concept timekeeping when it was first done. City clocks were rare and a big deal at the time, and one this phantasmagorical must have been like a trip to Disney for the peasants coming to town. You did a good job of focusing on each of the parts and what it does, because there’s a lot going on with this baby. Fun post. ~James

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      You are so right — so much going on. And I still don’t understand all the circles and how anyone gets much information, especially standing in a busy square like that. But it’s sort of Disneyesque in a way — little mechanical parts all performing at once, much to the delight of the patrons. Would go back to Prague in a heartbeat and make a beeline for the clock!!!

  2. pattimoed

    We were supposed to go to Prague in March, but hopefully we’ll be able to go post-covid. I’ll make sure to take a close look at this marvelous clock. Your shots really capture all the intricate parts of it. Great details and great explanation of all the moving parts!

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      Thanks for lovely compliments. We really didn’t see much the first time — too overwhelmed with what the clock did in one short minute. But a second look confirmed what I suspected: this is a masterpiece, one that Prague should be very proud to show off. Hope you get there, Patti!

  3. Tina Schell

    OK, I am ashamed to admit that we visited and saw the clock but I never tried to capture the various elements as they presented themselves. In fact, I never got a very good image of the clock at all since it is so long and one needs to shoot from below. So good for you Rusha, for giving it its proper respect and attention!!! And you’re right, the perfect choice for the changing of our clock this week!

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      I was drawn to this clock immediately because I couldn’t figure out why there were three circles and what each could do. I’m still puzzled, but but I started enjoying the experience on another level. It’s almost Disneyesque in a way . . . performers on timers that enthrall us in various ways. So much fun. And a great thing to focus on when in Prague. I’d love to go back!!!

  4. Ingrid

    Fascinating clock! I’m not sure I would’ve figured how best to photograph it. You did a great job focusing and capturing the details.

    1. Oh, the Places We See

      Thanks, Ingrid. I couldn’t have done it the first time. But by the third time, I had an understanding of the timeline and where to focus the camera. It’s a treat to see this clock!! Thanks for commenting.

  5. WanderingCanadians

    This brings back such fond memories of when we visited Prague last year. Did you visit Old Town Hall? There is a viewing platform there, which provides a closer view of the twelve apostles when they are not in rotation.

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