My friend and I woke in the darkness before the first light of dawn in our hotel near the Spanish Steps in Rome. We grabbed our cameras and tripods, donned our headlamps, and walked west to the Tiber River, which was swollen with autumn rains. The river itself ran sluggish and muddy in its broad channel between two steep embankments. A stair led down to the river bank, and a pedestrian path followed the river. As we walked towards the Vatican and central Rome, I noticed homeless camps beneath the bridges with the kind of makeshift shelters that you find in all the major cities of the world in places where poor people can escape notice for a night.
We stopped by the Ponte Sant’Angelo, originally built by the Emperor Hadrian in 134 A.D., to photograph the first light of dawn. This is a location in the heart of the ancient Roman Empire, and near to the core citadel of the Roman Catholic faith, but if you look carefully you can see the incursions of the modern world—the reflections of the lights of an Apple Store in the muddy waters of the Tiber River.