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 Impression – Siwash Rock

Today, I’m filled to the brim with appreciation for where I live. It’s mid-December…and it was a spectacular day here in Vancouver. The last few weeks have been pretty cold, but the sun has been out most of the time, whereas we’re normally accustomed to grey dreariness and rain, rain and more rain.

Today, I was in English Bay and walked half the seawall in Stanley Park with Shiraine. We hadn’t seen each other since I left Italy. Of course, we’re both missing Italy, but, conversation was geared towards, “Look where we live!”, “Days like this make you remember why we live here…”, “Can you believe how spectacular this is??”.

Both of us, armed with iPhones and point and shoot cameras, stopped in our favorite spots along the wall to shoot the views of the harbour – laughed at bobbing birds in the water, jostled with joggers and got sprayed by waves leaning too far over the wall while shooting…a day of play.

Siwash Rock has been photographed countless times, and it remains as one of my favorite spots in the city. I’m in the beginning stages of planning and working on a rather large project that will showcase Vancouver from my perspective in a “Close To Home” kinda way here on the blog. Here is my version of Siwash Rock today, in winter, as the sun was going down. Stay tuned for more “Vancouver goodness”!

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.


Florence has been referred to as the “Cradle of the Renaissance”. It is the capital of the Tuscany Region in Italy and it houses some of the greatest artistic treasures in the world. If you asked me what a highlight of my trip was, hands down it’s Florence – I absolutely loved this city. A strong artisan community with a long list of must sees and must dos that could keep you exploring endlessly. I had 3 days and I am a huge art fan, especially from the Renaissance and Impressionist periods. Going back and continuing my exploration is a requirement – I barely scratched the surface.

As Florence is a very walkable city – I decided to put aside my map and wander. I find this is one of the best ways for me to explore a new place. One of the first things I took note of in my wanderings was the wonderful architecture. To be clear, all of Italy has beautiful architecture, but Florence was unique all over again. I have a love for windows, doorways and courtyards – of which there was no shortage in this lovely place.

Wandering straight down one of the streets off-shooting from the Grand Piazza Duomo where my B&B was, I passed the Uffizi museum and then a couple of blocks further ran straight into the banks of the Arno River where the infamous Ponte Vecchio is. Ponte Vecchio means “old bridge” – built in 1345,  it was Florence’s first bridge from the medieval days to span over the Arno River and the only surviving bridge after the devastation of World War II. It is a beautiful sight on a sunny day with all its old world charm and lovely pastel colors. You can walk over the bridge (along with 5 million other people ;)) and enjoy merchants selling gold and silver, restaurants, cafes, and countless artisans displaying art and working their craft.

Back to the Galleria degli Uffizi – this museum is one of Italy’s most crowded, as it holds the most important pieces of art from the Renaissance period – paintings, sculptures, and tapestries. Highlights of the artists work you will see here are Michelangelo, Giotto, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Perugino, and Raphael. If you’re an appreciator of art, I can’t recommend this museum highly enough. It was indescribable how it felt to stand in front of original Michelangelo and Boticelli pieces. Paintings as large and larger than my living room walls. Beautiful. Best thing to do when you arrive in town and you want to see this gallery, ask your concierge at the hotel or owner of the B&B to make you a reservation. You’ll be appointed a time to visit, and then won’t have to deal with the endless lineups to get in. For an extra 5 Euros, it’s completely worth it.

The other museum that is also worth making a reservation for is the Galleria dell’ Accademia – this is where the infamous Michelangelo Statue of David resides. I decided to limit my museum going this time to the two above mentioned galleries.

I spent the remainder of my time wandering the city and conversing with a few artisans along the way. And believe me, they pop up everywhere to do their work. This gentleman below set up shop on a sidewalk and was painting his current inspiration of the large Duomo (Cathedral dome). He was lovely to talk to – although limited in his English and me in my Italian…he welcomed me to photograph him at work as I liked.

I have to be honest and confess that creating images on this trip up until I reached Florence had been an enormously painful challenge – and I think a separate post dedicated to that topic should be written.

Why this was, I wasn’t certain at the time. I believe that this was happening for a variety of reasons.  I felt as though my vision was consistently 10 miles ahead of me – and cruelly taunting me from that distance…leaving me feeling like a miserable and lousy artist/photographer. If any of you are familiar with Julia Cameron’s work (The Artist’s Way, The Vein Of Gold, Walking In this World – to name only a few titles) she has a daily program of morning pages and weekly artist dates – meant to refill the creative well. All too often we forge ahead in our creative lives and get so busy creating, we forget that the artist inside us needs replenishment, nourishment and extreme care. And if we don’t take care to refill the creative well as we’re working feverishly away, we run the risk of having those dry spells, feeling blocked and like nothing works.

I can see now, that Florence, was the place for me to put down my creative burdens, rest for 3 days, and refill the creative well. I didn’t take many pictures. Instead, I immersed myself in the museums, drank in all the beautiful art of the Renaissance masters, took in the street artisans, talked with them, absorbed all the sights, the architecture, the morning sunrise along the Arno River, and fed that starving artist that had become so depleted. I thought I had come this far to Italy to take pictures, but in fact, I understand now that it was the place for me to have a creative revival of the best kind!

Thank you Firenze!

oxo Ellie

Piazza San Pietro


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!


Random Goodness

So in the meantime, while I am editing the rest of my images and writing up some new posts, I wanted to share these two images I took while wandering the streets of Florence. Or rather, Firenze, as the Italians call it.

As I’ve been editing, I’ve discovered a love for a particular grungy sepia look for several of the images I shot on my trip. It works like magic to bring out that old, gritty and worn, timeless European feel with architecture, and in some cases, images shot at night.

I think I literally developed a mild form of, I don’t know if you could call it whiplash, but my neck was done at the end of 3 days in Firenze – there’s way too much to see and take in – you’re literally looking up most of time! The balconies, the stonework, the shutters on windows, windows all dressed so differently, the laundry, the flowers, the churches, the plazas, markets, museums – it’s like being transported back in time…and I was saddened when I had to say good bye and get back on the train to Rome. Florence and the outlying areas in Tuscany deserves a good chunk of time for exploration – and I’ve promised to go back for more.

More to come on Rome, Firenze and the Amalfi Coast…

Postcard from Positano


A quick hello and an image to share from the Amalfi Coast.

We arrived in Sorrento yesterday morning after taking a bus from Rome. This part of Italy is magical, it’s so beautiful – and a place I will definitely come back to and spend more time.

Today we hopped on the city bus that took us to Positano – another small town perched on the cliffs of the Amalfi coastline – and one I have dreamed of visiting since I was about 15 years old. The weather wasn’t one to cooperate today unfortunately – it thundered and rained all day long. And still, this little town didn’t disappoint in her beauty, in spite of mother nature not cooperating. I strolled along the old cobbled stone streets and photographed my way down from the top of the cliffs where we arrived to the beachfront. We ate lunch at a restaurant recommended to me by my dear friend Suzanne Le Stage – Chez Black’s. What a great recommendation. Fantastic service, gorgeous food – and lots of entertaining guests and characters around us the entire time. At one point, Kirstie Alley came running in from the rain with a large golf umbrella that happened to open up and trip her just as she was walking past our table – a very comical moment that had everyone in stitches laughing! A moment handled with panache and comedy as only Kirstie can do!

Lunch was a “most of the afternoon” affair – I’ve learned to slow down to the pace of life here in this country – these people know how to “do lunch”! The schedule that Italians live on is quite different from us, as most of you know. People will work here from 9am until 1pm, then break for lunch from about 1-4pm, then resume work after 4pm and work until 8pm. During the time from 1-4pm, most places will literally shut down, and people either go home and eat or eat out – and take their time enjoying themselves with several courses over the largest meal of the day with family and friends. It’s a wonderful experience to partake in at a large table. I had the opportunity to do this last weekend at a Saturday afternon BBQ, which I shared on Facebook a few days ago. So fun!

I’ve had many adventures since I last posted when I arrived in Rome – but those will have to wait a few more days. I’ve got lots to talk about re: Italy and my experience photographing on my trip. In the meantime, I am going to enjoy the next couple of days before I come home. The weather is supposed to clear up for us tomorrow, so we’ll be exploring more of the coastline and I’ll be photographing, of course!

Ciao for now, more to come… !