HANGING OUT ON THE RIALTO BRIDGE, VENICE, ITALY: The current version was built in 1581 while the first was erected in 1181. That 12th century pontoon bridge lasted until around 1250 when it was replaced by a wooden, arched version. It lasted until 1444 when it collapsed during a wedding (What a way to remember your wedding anniversary!) Finally, in 1588 the Venetian government commissioned Antonio da Ponte and commenced building a single arc stone bridge– the one that stands there to this day. The Rialto Bridge is one of Venice’s top gathering places and a top site for tourists. Most of the restaurants along the canal near the bridge are high price/low quality propositions. If you go, remember you are paying for the view and not the food! The Rialto Bridge is a great place for people-watching too. It’s fun to sit and watch the sea of humanity stroll by.
Shot handheld with a Nikon D3100, 18-200 DX zoom lens at 68mm, f32, 1/3 sec, ISO 100 Copyright photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography.
KOALA BEAR, KENNETT RIVER, AUSTRALIA: Seeing koala bears in the wild was a priority on my road trip, with my son, along the Great Ocean Road in Australia. We had heard that a surefire place to see the cuddly creatures was near Kennett River. We were not disappointed. It took a while to train our eyes, but once we did, it was easy to spot the little balls of fur, typically 15-20 feet above the ground in Eucalyptus trees. The problem was, true to their reputations, virtually all of the koala bears we saw were fast asleep. Thanks to a quick YouTube search for “mating sounds of koalas” we soon found a way to get their attention.
Shot handheld with a Nikon D300, 70-300 DX zoom lens at 250mm, f10, 1/250 sec, f25, ISO 1000 Copyright photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography.
CALIFORNIA COASTAL ZEBRA? It was a strange sight, travelling along California Highway 1— the beautiful coastal road. There, standing amid a herd of cattle was a zebra! I wondered for some time why a rancher would keep a zebra among cattle. A little on-line research provided the answer. It seems that cattle grazing with zebra actually gain more weight. In the wet season, grass grows fast. It gets tall, fibrous and unappetizing to the cows. The zebras eat these top shoots on the tall grass. That, in turn, causes regrowth of shoots at the base of the plant, nearest the ground. The fresh shoots are tasty to the cattle and they eat more, causing them to gain weight more quickly than fields without zebras. And, apparently, the cattle and zebra get along with each other quite well.
Shot handheld with a Nikon D300, 70-300 DX zoom lens at 70mm, f4.9, 1/250 sec, f25, ISO 1000 Copyright photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography.
Road-Wise Wallabies Look Both Ways, Phillip Island, Australia: photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
Fun fact: When Captain Cook first landed in Australia, the kangaroo population was estimated to be under 3 million. The Australian government estimates that currently, the ‘roo population is between 50 and 60 million. Annually, about 2.5 million are ‘harvested.’
WALLABIES, PHILLIP ISLAND, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA: That’s right, these are wallabies and not kangaroos. Wallabies and kangaroos are similar. They are both native to Australia— marsupials, similar looking and both make “boing, boing, boing” sounds as they hop along. Okay, they don’t actually make that sound, but it’s pretty funny when you see them jump along and you add your own sound effects.
SUNFLOWER, ARSIE, VENETO REGION, ITALY: This beautiful sunflower stood out against a blue sky in the Dolomite Mountains of northern Italy. I like the shot because of the way the leaves create a feeling of motion. It was also one of my big sister’s favourite flowers. The photo was taken in the town of Arsie, which is located roughly 80 kms. northwest of Venice in the Veneto Region. Arsie sits on a plain surrounded by mountains near Lake Corlo, an artificial lake created in 1954 along the slopes of Monte Grappa for the production of hydro electricity. At its height in 1911, approximately 11,000 people lived in Arsie. Now, there are roughly 2,500 people living in the town. 6 Catholic parishes, 5 schools and 2 banks and 1 pharmacy serve the town.
Shot handheld with a Nikon D300, 18-200 DX zoom lens at 82mm, f25, 1/250 sec, ISO 1250
Copyright photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
TRANSYLVANIA, ROMANIA, HAYSTACKS: A drive through the rolling countryside of Transylvania is a great way to spend part of a day. Meadows, creeks and distant mountains paint a pretty picture. But the picture would not be complete without the famous Romanian haystacks. Some say they are like this nowhere else in the world. In a country where 60 per cent of the milk is consumed right on farms with 2 or 3 three cows, it’s no wonder that the haystacks—the feed for the animals— are everywhere. At harvest time you’ll see people young and old walking the roads with pitchforks and scythes over their shoulders. Hay-making is a family or community exercise that’s been going on for centuries. The process starts with a central pole with, typically, three angled poles forming a tripod. After the hay has been cut in the field and dried out substantially, it is tossed on to the frame. The whole pile is groomed to a gentle slope so that the water runs off it. That’s the simplified explanation. Search the ‘net and you can practically find dissertations on the art of haystacks! Fun fact/myth: A ‘love fork’ is the name for scars on young men who’ve been stabbed by angry farmers whose daughters have cavorted inside the haystacks.
Shot handheld with a Nikon D3100, 18-200 DX zoom lens at F32mm, ISO 3200, 1/320 sec., f25. Copyright photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
SICILY COUNTRYSIDE: Sicily is one of my most favourite parts of Italy. The people are very friendly. Its ruggedly beautiful landscapes are breathtaking. This photo was taken not long before a much-needed summer downpour of rain.
There are few places in the world that have been influenced and shaped by so many different cultures. The rich history of Sicily has been formed by Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Austrians, French, Germans, Spanish, Italians and the British.
Shot handheld with a Nikon D3100, 100-300 DX zoom lens at 240mm, ISO 400, 1/400 sec., f8. Copyright photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
GARDEN TERRACE, GETTY CENTRE, LOS ANGELES: A visit to the Getty Center is a great way to spend half a day in L.A. The location and the view it offers is reason enough to visit this mountain-top landmark. The collection includes many wonderful paintings, including van Gogh’s Irises, Monet’s The Portal of Rouen Cathedral in Morning Light, Rembrandt’s An Old Man in Military Costume and wonderful sculptures, including my favourite, Marino Marini’s Angels of the Citadel. Architect Richard Meier’s design of the complex is inspired. 1.2 million square feet of travertine stone was used. This photo is an elevated view of the Garden Terrace restaurant on a sunny winter day. Yes, it’s worth a visit to the Getty Center. The on site Restaurant has an excellent menu and reservations are a good idea.
Shot handheld with a Nikon D3100, 18-200 DX zoom lens at 65mm, ISO 800, 1/500 sec., f4. Copyright photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL STATUE, LONDON, ENGLAND: The beautiful bronze statue of one of Britain’s greatest statesmen stands in Parliament Square in a place chosen by the great man himself. Churchill was born (two months premature) on November 30, 1874 in Blenheim Palace. So, he’s probably one of history’s greatest ‘preemies’ too! Churchill died at the age of 90 on January 24, 1965 (70 years to day after his father’s death). His funeral was the largest state funeral in history at the time.
The statue is the work of Ivor Roberts-Jones. In designing the mould for the giant bronze, he made some changes in response to feedback that the head resembled the much reviled Fascist Benito Mussolini. Over the years the statue has been copied with replicas or variations erected in other countries, including the Czech Republic and Australia. Fun fact: the London statue is electrified to keep pigeons from pooping on the great man.
Shot handheld with a Nikon D40X, 18-200 DX zoom lens at 40mm, ISO 1600, 1/30 sec., f7.1. Copyright photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography