Wander-ful Rome

“For us to go to Italy and to penetrate into Italy is like a most fascinating act of self-discovery— back, back down the old ways of time. Strange and wonderful chords awake in us, and vibrate again after many hundreds of years of complete forgetfulness.”                – D.H. Lawrence

Although there has been a lag in my posts about Italy – rest assured, I’m not done yet!

I arrived back in Rome from having been in Florence for a few days – both rested and loaded up with creative inspiration from it’s artisan community.

From that point in the trip, I felt like I had flicked a switch internally and surrendered to the creative pressure I seem to have placed myself under. Instead, my focus became one of play, and total curiousity when holding the camera…

Via Delle Quattro Fontane (the street of the four fountains) was a street Shiraine and I wandered down, fell in love with and got completely lost on…we wandered aimlessly, and played photographically in the balmy sunny afternoon…me, indulging in my love for architecture, doors and windows. I still remember that afternoon and evening with a WOW! feeling from it. A seriously amazing city to wander and get lost in…and I want to share some of the photographs that came out of it…

Artful Impressions – Coliseum Sundown

The sun was going down, it was a warm afternoon, and I had been wandering the streets of Rome all day with Shiraine, we were having a ball…up until about 10 minutes previous to this image, we were kinda lost…had no idea where we were – and loving it. One of the last streets we decided to explore revealed at the end of it…the Coliseum. Lost no more…

I “played” while photographing this beautiful building….testing out different apertures, shutter speeds, and panning while walking along the street just opposite it, as people, and the traffic whooshed by me…At the time I photographed this I didn’t think much of it looking at the results on the back of the camera…I was just happy to be playing – but the more I saw it while editing, I’ve really fallen for it. It’s one of my favorites from the trip.

There is sun flare, and not a stitch of this image is sharp, but it “feels” like Rome to me. I captured the feeling of a sun setting on an ancient building sitting right in the midst of modern daily life as people, traffic and time rushed by.

Piazza San Pietro

Image

After being in Rome and fighting the crowds four days into the trip, photographing late at night became my shooting time of choice. They say it “slows down” in October…and well, I guess it depends on what your definition of “slowing down” means.  Comically, I learned that for me, it meant something entirely different than what it means to Italians. 🙂 “Ah, no, this is not busy at all, you can actually walk freely on the streets now without getting completely squished!” Oh, dear…

Suffice to say, you definitely don’t want to be there in the summertime months, when tourism is at an all time high while also dealing with temperatures peaking at 45 degrees celsius in the centre of Rome! I digress…

The following image was taken some time after midnight at the Vatican City – this is Piazza San Pietro – or known to us as St. Peters Square. It’s enormous, and hauntingly beautiful at night. My already very wide angle lens couldn’t take in the entire circumference of columns and saints.

At a certain point late in the evening, this plaza is entirely fenced off to the public and only patrolling police cars can be seen inside. Anyone caught walking behind the fence in the plaza once it is cordoned off like this is quickly nabbed, questioned, and in some cases as we witnessed, arrested.

On this particular evening it was very cold and windy. The wind seemed to howl through the columns giving the entire plaza a very spooky, and eerie feel. I have always had a type of horrified fascination with the Vatican City and the feel of the environment this evening really gave both Shiraine and I chills – and yet through the trip, I kept coming back here, it pulled me and my camera in like a magnet. Thus, treating the images in post production with an old, vintage sepia tone helped to express that feeling for me.

The apartment we rented while in Rome was in a neighbourhood a couple of miles behind the Vatican City walls, and I learned that while navigating my way back home – the blue dome of St. Peters Basilica was a guiding landmark in case we ever got lost – which happened a few times ;). This image below was shot on a different evening than above, and early enough that I could still walk through the plaza on my way home when this point of view behind the Bernini water fountain caught my eye.

We walked through this area many times on our way to and from the centre of town. There is always something interesting to see, no matter what time of day. During the day, I sometimes caught the most interesting looking priests dressed in different garb depending on where they found themselves in the hierarchy of the church. This one in particular is a favorite image. He is actually talking on a cell phone as he was marching through the plaza, but it’s hard to tell from the angle at which I photographed him.

Seeing, and in some cases interacting with the clergy, while they were out and about throughout the city dressed in their attire was an experience that left me with definite ideas of going back and revisiting to work on visual stories. One night at a restaurant, Shiraine and I witnessed a table of priests acting more like they were a group of guys out on a stag party. Quite lively, and when leaving, there was one in particular that was so drunk he could barely walk – but he was stopped by a couple of patrons that engaged the group of them in a prayer circle before stumbling out to the car and driving away. Nuns were also ever present – one afternoon as I was out on my own commuting in to town, it seemed that the station was full of nuns all flocking onto the tube. When I asked what the occasion was, I was told that the Pope had come back to town. Ah, I laughed…they all got off at the Ottavianno stop where the Vatican is.

Challenges? I found that having a large DSLR to photograph with wasn’t always the easiest way to catch images “on the fly”. Especially where photographing clergy in the plaza were concerned. Shooting candids and “street photography” with a large camera like mine only raised eyebrows, and in some cases suspicion with the police as they cruised in their “golf carts” at St. Peters. One was following me at one point, and I literally had to hightail it out of there as inconspicuously as possible as I could tell they didn’t like the work I was doing singling out the clergy for photographs. I didn’t feel like being put in a position to explain either. Ciao! and off I went for a gelato instead :). Phew. Close call.

There were times when I was just dying to photograph priceless moments, however, they would know, and it was sometimes downright inappropriate. In some cases, you could, and I did indeed ask, and they were fine with it. However, many of those moments required a natural spontaneity of not knowing a photograph was being taken, otherwise the beauty of the moment was just gone. As much as it was frustrating, I chalked it up to valuable learning and simply that is just the way it goes at times. Practice, and try and try again.

So there are moments that will have to remain forever in my memory. One in particular, was a very large German nun in her habit, gathering what you had to assume was a travelling group of young Catholic teenaged girls into a Gelateria for treats  – the sight of them all eating Gelato and laughing was gorgeous – but pulling out my camera in that moment in such a small space would simply have been outright intrusive and wouldn’t have been appropriate. Next time, I’ll equip myself with a smaller, compact camera in addition to my larger full frame Mark II for a trip like this one.

I’m making my way through editing more images and writing about Florence and the Amalfi coast. I also have posts from the summer that I have worked on from my time at the Artists Round Table in Port Townsend, and more recently the Close to Home Workshop with Stuart Sipahigil and Ray Ketcham. All good stuff and coming soon!

 

Rome

I’m currently travelling and realizing a dream I have had longer than I am willing to admit. Italy. We arrived in Rome yesterday morning. While it definitely feels a bit surreal to be in Vancouver one minute and then a matter of hours later to be walking along cobble stoned streets thousands of years old eating gelato – I love it! We were greeted with a day of 30 degree Celsius weather – nice!

I did a walkabout around central Rome late yesterday afternoon with friends and had a meal for dinner. I think that I would be remiss to only share photographs of this trip – as food is also going to be a central experience that will also be shared. Such a simple meal, but I believe I just ate the Caprese salad of my life followed by a gorgeous dish of pasta unlike anything I’ve ever eaten. Simple food packed with flavour.

Just that initial walk took us past some of the biggest sights in the city – The Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, and the list goes on… I decided against bringing along my larger DSLR camera for this initial foray into the city given how tired I was and just chose to shoot with my iPhone instead. I really just wanted to wander and take it all in on my first experience.

The Spanish Steps...

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

Pantheon

Dome ceiling inside the Pantheon

If I am to be completely honest, I am feeling visually overstimulated – everywhere I turn there is something to see, photograph and experience! The architecture alone is mind boggling.

Nearly every building has beautiful and unique doorways and windows – my favorite things to photograph about architecture.

Piazza Navona

Then there is art, people, food…. I could go on and on…and I will in the following days as I spend more time exploring the city and places outside Rome with my camera.

For the most part on this trip I will be walking a fine line of being a tourist and also fitting in to the local scene. I’ve rented an apartment with my friend Shiraine – Rome will be my base. It’s been an interesting experience setting up house, grocery shopping and getting to know the neighbourhood we’re in.

Stay tuned for more entries in the next few days…really looking forward to diving in on this new adventure! 🙂