"My Favorite Pictures"

As strange as it may seem, even though I have taken many thousands of slides in more than fifty- five countries and on two dozen cruise adventures, I really do remember every one of them.

I would come back from a trip on which I had shot more than 300 rolls of film and when I got them back I would know if one shot was missing, the guys at the photo shop could never get over that one. I keep a special section of slide sheets with my all time favorite shots in them and I want to share some of those shots with you now and tell you about them too.

Let's start off with "The Old Lady" with her hand extended. I was part of a Canadian trade mission to South America with leading Canadian Construction Executives. It was a Sunday and no meetings had been scheduled so a van was laid on to take a few of us on a drive through the Ecuadorian countryside and mountains. It was a beautiful sunny day, nice and warm and the scenery was fantastic.

Old Woman of Ecuador

We had come upon a small village on the top of a somewhat small mountain. We were surrounded by incredible panoramic vistas in every direction. There was a wonderful fragrance in the air and an atmosphere of holiday in the actions of the people we saw. It seemed that everybody had brought their wares to market day on the mountain.

We were attracted by the roadside event where the groups of people were looking over a delightful variety of wares not unlike our own Sunday morning garage sales. We stopped to do a bit of shopping and I picked up two lovely wooden statues of men that had been hand carved by one of the local people. I remember thinking at the time that a great deal of hard work had been done for such a small price, I really felt I had gotten a bargain. I still have one of those statues and my mother has the other.

I had returned to the small van or bus that we had and was sitting in the front seat when the lady walked up to the door and extended her hand asking for a few pennies to buy something to eat. Without even thinking I quickly raised my camera and without even looking through the viewfinder just pointed it in her direction and shot. I did give her some money and once I was home and first saw the shot that I had taken so quickly In knew instantly what had prompted me to take that shot.

There are so many stories written into the lines on this ladies face. It is obvious that she had not had an easy life, she had lived as a survivor in her mountain world. What really struck me was that in spite of the fact that she was poor there was a powerful dignity in her face and a treasure chest of stories behind her piercing eyes. She seemed to be saying, "I am a person, help me" but in no way was she apologizing for being poor. I liked that. This picture is proof that even in poverty there is elegance, pride, accomplishment, dignity, personality and more than anything personal value. This has indeed been one of my favorite shots, from the instant it was taken that Sunday morning on that mountain in Ecuador.

I took the next shot the moment the ferry boat I was on arrived at the docks at the base of the cliffs of Sorrento in Italy. I looked up and what I saw was like a magnificent painting. It looked more like a vision than just another ordinary sight.

Beautiful Sorrento

This kind of unbelievable visual beauty seemed to pop up at every turn in Italy. I found Sorrento to be a storybook village. The air was spiced with the fragrance of flowers and citrus plants.

One morning I was out for a walk very early and I came upon a gentleman who saw me taking pictures. He came over to me and said, " You are in love with my beautiful Sorrento" to which I quickly agreed.

I have been asked on many occasions to provide blow ups of these shots for various people who saw in them the same magic that I did. This particular shot will always live in my mind as the prelude to an unforgettable visit to the Italian town of Sorrento, without question one of the most charming and beautiful places in the entire world.

Most great pictures happen at the spur of a moment and quite by accident. In so many cases a potential image remains for just a few seconds then just changes, so you have to trust your instincts to grab a shot while you can. That was the situation with the two giraffes.

Giraffes

You may remember an old toy back about forty years ago called a push-me-pull-you. This unusual beast first made its appearance in a movie called Doctor Dolittle with Rex Harrison, the original Dr. Dolittle.

Well when I saw these two giraffes standing so gracefully in this push-me-pull-you pose I again shot without thinking and it is a good thing I did because in a split second they had moved, and had I not acted instinctively with my camera this shot would have never happened.

The icebergs in the next shot were taken at a place called Illulisat, Greenland. It was actually from here that the berg that sank the Titanic was said to have come. These bergs are absolutely fantastic. They stand like some sort of silent sentinel with just one tenth of their mass visible above the water. Some of the icebergs can be as high as forty or fifty story office buildings. In this shot you can actually see the huge mass of ice reaching down under the water as far as the light cuts through the clear liquid of the northern sea.

Iceberg

We had gone out on a small boat that itself looked like a story that might have been written by Hemingway. Because I wanted this shot to really be something extra special I took it with a full - frame fish eye lens, which allows me to give it the appearance that it is on top of the world.

For the next picture we have something completely unique and when I first saw it I have to tell you that it really blew me away. I was touring Portugal at the time with a gentleman by the name of John Gabrielle who worked for the Portuguese Tourist Board and was acting as my host and guide for the trip.

We had left Lisbon in the morning and were driving to the Algarve, Portugal's beautiful beach and golf resort area. We were passing through a small town that was quite picturesque and John said "I want to show you something really different" and he wasn't kidding.

He took me into a chapel that was made entirely from the skulls and bones of the Monks that had lived their lives in a nearby Monastery. What you are looking at is just part of one wall, all the walls and the ceiling were made up of these human remains. I don't know what the idea was but I sat there for a long time looking at the skulls trying to wrap my mind around the thought that every one of these was a person who lived and breathed, laughed and cried, felt good and felt fear. These were real people who in death had been used as building materials. I should have taken more care to research the real story behind this macabre setting but we departed to finish our journey before I had time to do anything about it. But, I will say it is something that once you see it never leaves you. There are some truly strange things to be seen in this world of ours.

Skulls

Do you remember a movie called "Three Coins in The Fountain?" The song was done by one of my favorite groups of the fifties "The Four Aces" and the movie featured Clifton Webb. It was made up of the story of three women who had come to live in Rome to find romance and in each case their lives were in some way touched by the Fountain of Trevi.

The movie gave the impression that the fountain was in some enormous area of the city. I was surprised to find that in actual fact it was locked away in a very small corner of a group of streets in one of the business districts of Rome.

When I saw the fountain it was with my first wife. I should have had a hint of impending trouble in the marriage when I did what all the tourists are told they should do and that was to throw in three coins. The story was that if you threw three coins in then made three wishes, those wishes would come true and one day you would return to Rome. Well I threw the required three coins but one of them missed so that meant not only that none of my wishes would come true but I would have bad luck.

Shortly after that trip, we broke up but depending on how one looks at it, that is not necessarily bad luck. For me it turned out to be very much the opposite.

We were only in Rome for a few hours between planes but I was determined to see this very famous fountain. It is one of the most beautiful works of art I have seen anywhere in the world but Italy is a country that is in itself a major work of art.

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