Life by Lens: Motion (in Italy)

This year marked 10 years that my husband Jonathan and I have been married. As a gift to each other, we decided a trip to Italy in October sounded like a great way to celebrate. I studied abroad in Florence for one semester during my junior year of college in 1997.  To be able to go back and experience where I was then and to make and record new memories now is a blessing and I feel so lucky to be able to do that with Jonathan. When I found out the theme for this month’s Life by Lens* series, I knew I could have fun with it on our trip. Shooting with a theme in mind pushes me to look for and capture images that I might not otherwise. Thankfully, Jonathan was very patient while I took shot after shot, waited for crowds to clear, made him be my model, and occasionally positioned myself oddly to get a specific shot. I used and filled up every single one of camera’s six memory cards and then had to rely on my iPhone camera on the last day of our trip. We got back from our 11-day trip last week. This month’s theme, motion, is defined by Google as:

  • noun:
    • the action or process of moving or being moved (movement, moving, locomotion, rise and fall, shifting).
    • a gesture. (movement, signal, sign, indication)
    • a piece of moving mechanism
  • verb
    • direct or command (someone) with a movement of the hand or head (gesture, signal, direct, indicate)
    • make a proposal in a deliberative or legislative body.

I have applied the motion theme very loosely to my images. The pictures either clearly show motion (stopped, blurred, etc.) or the subject of the picture moves or the motion is inferred from the imagery. Or there is a noted lack of motion. See, a very loose application. Now, on with the pictures! Our trip started in the City of Water, Venice.  The city, in and of itself, is in motion as it is slowly sinking into the sea. 20131004_5982 This city is unlike any other in the world. It’s a magical place that begs you to get lost at every turn, and that we did without even trying. Narrow canals are around every corner, with boats tied up, sitting near motion-less.  Canal in Venice There aren’t any cars on the islands of Venice. The primary mode of transportation is by boat: vaporetti (water buses), taxi acquei (water taxis) or gondole (plural of gondola). The finesse and speed that the vaporetto deckhand uses to quickly and temporarily anchor the water bus at each “bus stop” pontoon is fascinating to watch. Vaporetto Most of our days in Italy were pretty gloomy and chilly, but that didn’t bother us too much. To get out of the rain on one of the days, we toured the Palazzo Ducale (the Doge’s Palace). The Palazzo was once the residence of the Doges (once the supreme authority of the Republic of Venice) and the location of many political and government affairs, where I am sure many legal motions were made.


Inside one of the many institutional chambers in Palazzo Ducale.

On the island of Murano, just a short vaporetto ride from Venice, we watched the coordinated movements between the two glassmakers as they created a work of art, in this case a statue of a horse. Murano Glassmakers The island of Burano, a smaller island near Murano, is quiet and quaint. However, the colorful houses that line the canals are visually loud and keep your eyes in motion as you take in that this is fact a real city and not the backdrop to a ride at Disney World. Burano Houses Gondole were parked at their moorings near Piazza San Marco, rising and falling in the lagoon, waiting to be put in motion by their gondoliers.


Placed around the city were stacks of temporary pedestrian bridges, ready for the first Acqua Alta (literally, “high water” or flood) of the season. During the fall and winter, the lagoon water levels periodically rise above the seawalls, due to the tides and strong winds (not from rainfall as you might expect). Little did we know that these pedestrian bridges would be put to use just ONE(!) day after we departed when the city flooded.

Pedestrian Bridges

The Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice houses a premier collection of modern art, including Red Disc-White Dots by Alexander Calder. This kinetic metal sculpture, while perfectly balanced, was never quite still if you looked closely enough. Peggy Gugenheim In Piazza San Marco, the pigeons are everywhere. We had no interest in feeding the dirty birds them, but I spent some time capturing these kids with the constantly moving birds (I have no idea who these kids are). Pigeons in Piazza San Marco In Venice, one oddity that stuck out to me was the amount cables strung along a lot of the buildings. I don’t remember seeing that the last time I was there in 1997. I am guessing the cables have something to do internet/broadband (??) communication. Cables Every canal we came across seemed more picturesque than the last. For centuries, gondolas were the primary mode of transportation in Venice. Now, their primary purpose is to take tourists around the city. We skipped the expensive gondola ride, opting instead to buy some local artwork.

Gondola in Canal

At night, the cafés lining the piazzas were a good place to sit for a cappuccino and people watch. Piazza at Night We traveled from Venice to Florence in a Frecciarossa (high speed train). As we were got close to Florence, I was able to capture the graffiti-lined walls from the train. Train View In the evening, the Ponte Vecchio is a great place to get a picture as the sun sets beyond the Arno river.  I got that picture, but I also wanted to get a picture of the busyness on the bridge. I had Jonathan stand very still in the center of the bridge while the people passed him by (I left my shutter open longer than normal to catch the passersbys’ motion). Ponte Vecchio Later that evening, we spent some time in Piazza della Signoria. Thanks to my new lens**, I was able to get some really nice shots without even using a tripod. Located within the piazza is an open-air sculpture gallery called the Loggia dei Lanzi. The Rape (abduction) of the Sabine Women was carved from a single block of marble by Giambologna. It shows the three intertwined figures struggling, caught mid-motion.

Sabine Women

You can’t visit Florence without noticing the sheer number of vespe (literally “wasps”) on the streets. The streets are narrow and parking is limited, so riding a vespa is a smart mode of transportation.


When we were at the Bargello museum, known for its large collection of Renaissance sculptures, I noticed a window with the Italian and EU flags flying on the other side of it. Because of the circular glass in the window, the waving flags’ colors were distorted and made for an interesting view.

Bargello Window

Our last stop in Italy was a quick stay in Milan (we flew in and out of Italy from there). We managed to see a little bit of the city while there, including a stop to see il Cenacolo (The Last Supper). While waiting for our viewing reservation time, we watched several groups of boys play futbol against the church wall that’s next to the Refectory where the masterpiece is located. Outside of the Last Supper The biggest immediate difference to note between Florence and Milan is how much busier and less touristy Milan is compared to Florence. This roundabout was full of vespe, cars, buses, and trolley cars zipping around it. To take the picture, I braced myself well and left my camera’s shutter open for 1/5 of a second in order for the vehicles to show their motion blur. Milan The last leg of our trip included an overnight layover in London. We spent the few hours that we had in the city walking around and sight seeing. The best place to sight see there is taking a ride on the London Eye. The oversized ‘ferris wheel’-like contraption moves very slowly and it takes a good 30 minutes to make one revolution. The London Eye One of the few places that we stopped to check out in London was Buckingham Palace. Surprisingly to me, the guards did a little bit of marching around while we looked on (the official ‘changing of the guard’ wasn’t scheduled  until the next day). I think they do that so they don’t fall asleep while on guard. Then, once they finished, they moved back into their little huts and stood motion-less once more. Standing Guard And that wraps up a somewhat brief look into our mostly Italian vacation. We took about 2000 pictures when you combine my big camera and our two iPhones. My goal is to get the pictures above printed [already done!], sort through the rest of the pictures and post them online and print them, THEN get all of them into an album this month so I can document our travels before we start forgetting details of the trip. Thanks for looking!

Take a moment and check out the next photographer in our Life by Lens circle > > >  Joanna Robbins Photography from Carroll County, Maryland  < < <


*Life by Lens is a project I am participating in with a great group of photographers who I met on a photography web forum. Our goal each month is to document what is important to us — big or small. Our Life by Lens submissions will be published on the 20th of each month. **I have been needing wanting a better walk-around lens and got one just in time before our trip. I was debating between the Canon 24-70 f/2.8L II and the Tamron  24-70 f/2.8 DI VC. I decided on the Tamron lens because of price and the fact that it has image stabilization (“vibration control”). I didn’t realize how much I would rely on I.S. during our trip for low light/church interior shots, night shots and slow shutter speed shots. I’m so pleased with how my new lens performed and am very happy with my purchase.


  1. wow, these are totally fantastic! I enjoyed going on ‘vacation’ through your motion images of Italy (and London) What a great trip you two had!

  2. These are amazing! I’m so jealous of your trip, and your gorgeous pictures!

  3. Absolutely beautifully documented!! I loved scrolling thru and seeing all your gorgeous images and reading about your adventures. Loved every bit of it!!

  4. What an amazing way to celebrate 10 years together! The photos are gorgeous.

  5. So beautiful. I studied all of them:). I am in love with the color of the water in some of them. And the amazing blue of that evening sky while people watching. Always get excited to see anything you create. This was great.

  6. I am in awe. What a wonderful post! The pictures are amazing and you did such a good job explaining from one to the next. I was very intrigued. Happy 10 years!!

  7. You did an amazing job detailing your trip!! LOVE the images :)

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