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
THE EASTERN ROAD, NASSAU, GAZEBO: This enhanced image was shot along the most picturesque section of public beach along the Eastern Road. The gazebo is quite derelect now but still makes for an evocative image.
Shot with a Nikon D3100, 10-24 DX lens at 13mm, ISO 800, 1/200 sec., f25. Copyright photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
MUIR WOODS, CALIFORNIA: This National Monument park is a great place to see giant redwood trees. The park is named after John Muir, a Scot whose family moved to Wisconsin in 1848. He became one of America’s best known environmentalists and fought hard to protect many important natural heritage areas including Yosemite, Sequoia and even the Grand Canyon. The park is a short drive from San Francisco and probably the closest location to see giant redwoods. This photo was taken from a footbridge. To get the perspective I wanted, I mounted my camera on a monopod, set the 10 second timer and hung the unit as far below the bridge as I could reach. Got a lot of stares from other visitors too!
Shot with a Nikon D3100, 10-24 DX lens at 10mm, ISO 800, 1/30 sec., f8. Copyright photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
TUSCAN FARM BUILDING, ITALY: I love shooting photos in Tuscany. This photo was taken in early July, late in the sunflower growing season. The Tuscan region is where the Italian Renaissance was born– home to Michelangelo, da Vinci, Botticelli and Puccini. And, of course, it’s also the home of Chianti wine.
Shot with a Nikon D300, 70-300 DX zoom lens at 155mm, ISO 1250, 1/250 sec., f32. Copyright photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
PINOCCHIO PATTERN, ROME: The ‘lovable’ Pinocchio can be found in shops across Italy, particularly in Rome and Florence. Many of us no doubt have fond childhood memories of the Disney movie about the puppet who came to life in Geppetto’s workshop. But did you know that in the original 1883 book by Carlo Collodi, Pinocchio was a lot less charming? In a nutshell, when Pinocchio comes to life he runs away as soon as he has legs. He gets picked up by the cops and Pinocchio tells them Geppetto has abused him. The old guy gets tossed into jail. Back at home Pinocchio then kills Jiminy Cricket with a hammer. He sells his school books and runs away and gets mugged by a fox and a cat who also try to hang him. Pinnocchio finally shapes up but not before he checks out an island where badass boys get turned into donkeys. There’s a moral in there somewhere.
Pinnocchio puppets, dolls and related paraphernalia can be found in many Italian shops. The collection in this photo sat on a shelf in a shop near the Pantheon in Rome. I liked the bright red pattern of the tiny wooden dolls. But remember kids, the ‘real’ Pinnocchio was evil. Evil!
Shot handheld and braced with a Nikon D300, 18-200 DX zoom lens at 135mm, ISO 3200, 1/640 sec., f7.1. Copyright photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
CEILING OVER NAVE, AMIENS CATHEDRAL, FRANCE: Amiens’ Cathedral of Notre Dame sits atop a gently rising hill above the peaceful River Somme in northern France. While the actual date of completion is somewhat disputed, most historians agree the church was completed around 1270. It took approximately 50 years to build— in an era of no motors, cranes nor any electrical or gas powered tools. It was built with brains, brawn and stone using clever hoists, ramps, levers and fulcrums. Amazing, really. Although Amiens is not the tallest Gothic cathedral in France (that’s Beauvais, although it remains incomplete), it is the largest. The nave ceiling rises 139 feet above the floor, roughly the same height as a modern fourteen storey building.
In the First World War, the town of Amiens sustained heavy damage during the “Kaiser’s Battle,” the last major offensive of the German Army. The battle raged within miles of the cathedral. It sustained some heavy bombardment and several chapels were damaged. The main structure remained sound. I like this photo for its geometric patterns and the various gradients of pink and yellow colour cast by the sunlight beaming in through the upper windows.
Shot handheld and braced with a Nikon D300, 16-85 DX zoom lens at 16mm, ISO 3200, 1/80 sec., f11. Copyright photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
LONG HOUSE, SAINTE-MARIE AMONG THE HURONS: This attraction near Midland, Ontario, attempts to interpret and share the history of First Nations peoples and their early contact with Europeans– specifically the French Jesuits.
Virtually nothing of the original settlement here remains. Aside from artifacts on display and pieces of two hearths, everything one sees is a recent recreation or re-imagining of what the site was like in the mid 1600s.
There is a small guide given to visitors, who are then encouraged to speak with staff. They are everywhere! Unfortunately, they know very little beyond the obvious. On my visit, after a while I gave up as they were so poorly informed. Given the origin of Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, I was most shocked with the lack of knowledge about Catholic faith and practices.
Shot handheld and braced with a Nikon D300, 16-85 DX zoom lens at 48mm, ISO 1000, 1/4 sec., f4.5. Copyright photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
NIAGARA FALLS SPRING TULIPS: They are not out yet, but by late April, the tulips will be in full bloom throughout the Niagara Falls parks system. It’s a favourite place to visit early in the spring when millions of tulips adorn the well-kept gardens, the daffodils carpet Queen Victoria Park and the magnolias bloom along the path near the Floral Showhouse. If you plan your visit for when the magnolias are in full flower (usually late April/early May, depending on the year), you’ll also see plenty of tulips and daffodils too.
These tulips were at the Floral Showhouse, just ¼ mile south of the Horseshoe Falls at 7541Niagara River Parkway. The outside gardens are free to visit. There’s a paid parking lot right there. You can even stay up to speed with the pace of your favourite flows signing up for the Niagara Parks Bloom Watch.
Shot handheld with a Nikon D3100, 18-200 DX VR lens at 200mm, f/32, 1/100 sec., ISO 800. Photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
SOUTHERN ITALY HILL TOWN: Travelling through Italy, it’s hard not to fall in love with the beautiful hill towns– especially in Tuscany, Umbria and further south, en route to Messina. While they may look picture postcard– and many certainly are– they were built for far more pragmatic purposes. Hill towns provided a defensive position against attack. They also provided defense against raging rivers in the valleys below. In the Middle Ages Italian hill towns were protected by natural cliffs along with earthen walls, rough stone and wood. Later, masonry and cut stone were predominantly used. Watch towers, churches, and impressive residences were major architectural features. Because of their location and sometimes great distance to the next town, it was not unusual for people to spend their whole lives in such towns. While many hill towns in Italy have been lost, the landscape is still dotted with pretty little towns like this one in southern Italy.
Shot with Nikon D300 with 18-200 Nikkor lens at 28mm at 1250 ISO, 1000 sec, f/14, photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
BODIE, CALIFORNIA, A GENUINE CALIFORNIA GHOST TOWN: A trip to this high Sierra Mountains town is a trip back in time to the California Gold Rush era. There were over 2,000 buildings in Bodie’s heyday and up to 10,000 residents. But boom became bust with mere hundreds living there in the early part of the 20th century. Bodie became a National Historic Landmark in the 1960s and has been a photographer’s dream ever since. Read my story and see more pictures here, about Bodie, a genuine California Ghost Town. Shot handheld with a Nikon D3100, 10-24 DX VR lens at 15mm, f/22, 1/200 sec., ISO 800. Photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
CLOISTERS, BRESSANONE (BRIXEN) CATHEDRAL OF THE ASSUMPTION, ITALY: The word ‘cloisters’ is derived from the Latin ‘claustrum’ or enclosure. It’s an open space surrounded by covered walks, usually in the form of a square. It is open space in a monastery or nunnery that still affords much privacy. If you’ve ever heard or used the word ‘cloistered’—meaning a sheltered existence—that’s where it originates. This cloisters is attached to the Cathedral of the Assumption. It was were built around 1200 A.D. in the Romanesque period. There are many beautiful frescoes on the vaulted ceiling, mostly from the 14th to 16th centuries, many of which have been restored. While the town is officially Bressanone, it is also popularly known by its Austrian name, Brixen. More that 70 per cent of the peole there speak German. Shot with Nikon D3100 with 10-24 Nikkor lens at 12mm at 1600 ISO, 1/25 sec, f/6.3, photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
AGIRA, SICILY, ITALY: This long abandoned building is near Agira, Sicily. It’s now home to a sizeable pigeon population that calls the old building home. The building is not far from the Agira Canadian cemetery which is the only exclusively Canadian cemetery in Italy from the Second World War. Elsewhere in the country, Canadian war dead were often buried with other Commonwealth soldiers. Agira is the final resting place for all 490 Canadians killed during the Sicily campaign.
Operation Husky was the code name for the invasion of Sicily. On July 10, 1943,160,000 British, Canadian, and American troops landed in southern Sicily in advance of future Allied landings on mainland Italy. The terrain in southern and central Sicily is very hilly and was mostly barren in 1943. The German defenders put up great resistance and the Canadians had it tough in their advance toward Agira. Still, today, one can see the locations of the German defences and the route Canadian troops took in their attack on the town.
After the taking of Agira, most of the Canadian troops were merged with the British for the final advance toward Messina on the northern tip of Sicily. Sicily finally fell on August 17th, 1943, just five weeks after the landings. Shot handheld with a Nikon D300, ISO 250, f/20, 1/40 sec. 56mm on Nikon 18-200 lens, photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
WINDOW SHOPPING, VENICE, ITALY: Shot handheld with a Nikon D3100, 18-200mm DX VR lens at 95mm, f/7.1, 1/80 sec., ISO 400. photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography
HIDDEN CONFESSIONS, CHICAGO: Chicago is one of my favourite cities. I love to wander around and mostly shoot the beautiful architecture. People watching is also fun and I grabbed this shot on my way back from Marina City, just up river from the plaza where the photo was taken. Shot handheld with a Nikon D3100 with a Nikkor 18-200mm lens at 120mm, f14, 1/60 sec., ISO 800. Photo by John Ecker | pantheon photography