JORDAN POND

Jordan Pond is a lake inside the Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. I visited it on my way to the peak of the Cadillac Mountain, which is the highest mountain in the Atlantic coast of the United States. I was there in the summer of 2019 and it was a sight to behold. Imagine this place in the fall, the colors are probably breathtaking. I was like on a trance that day having just stepped out of a hearty lobster bake for lunch. I actually don’t remember much this part of my trip including the time I stood by the lake to take these photographs. It was only yesterday as I was going through my iPad’s photo albums that I realized they’re actually a decent bunch of photos worthy of a feature in my page.

THE LITTLE ISLAND

New York City has a new public park called The Little Island located in the west side of Manhattan right on the Hudson River. This architectural masterpiece rises from the remnants of Pier 54 and is made up of concrete piles and tulip-like pots, which makes up the surface of the park. This new attraction also provides the much-needed additional green space from all the concrete that blankets this mega metropolis. It is open to the public but requires reservations for visits after 12 noon. Unfortunately, this visitor failed to check some info and arrived at 12:40 pm so now you know why my photos are all taken from a distance…I didn’t make it inside the park. 😢 I am presenting these photographs in monochrome as it works well on this architectural subject. I did spare the last photo in color so you’ll have an idea of how it looks in real life. Next time I visit New York I’ll make sure to come earlier or make a reservation so I can get some inside-the-park photos. By the way, these photographs were taken using an iPhone 11 Pro Max.

A LITTLE BIT OF OLD IN NEW YORK

I was walking down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan when I saw this vintage car awaiting for the green light right beside the Saint Thomas Church. From across the street it didn’t look interesting enough to deserve a shot but when I got closer at the crosswalk I realized it looked great with the church and the skyscrapers in the background. I immediately pulled out my iPhone and switched the camera to wide angle lens and took this single shot. I opted for a wide angle shot as it allowed me to get closer to the car closer while still capturing the crucial scenes in the background. The photo also makes you feel like you’re viewing the scene with your own eyes. I edited it to black and white for a more classic look and to evoke a sense of nostalgia…as if it was taken from a different time.

BENEATH THE BETHESDA TERRACE

The Bethesda Terrace is one of many architectural features located inside New York City’s Central Park. It’s lower passageway is a spectacular work of art that has been featured in so many Hollywood movies as well as tv and print ads. It has also become a favorite backdrop for multiple social media selfie posts. I am currently in New York City for a weekend of leisure and decided to spend the afternoon in Central Park while waiting for my hotel room to be ready. I’ve been to this spot many times but surprisingly has never taken a photograph of it. I didn’t bring my DSLR on this trip so I pulled out my ever reliable iPhone 11 Plus for this photo session. I also decided to play with my phone’s wide angle lens feature and got very pleased with how these three photographs turned out. To this day I continue to be amazed by the quality of photos my iphone has been giving me. Hope you guys like them as well.

LA RÉSIDENCE D’ANGKOR

During my trip to Cambodia in November of 2019, I was tossing between the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor and the Belmond La Residence d’Angkor for my accommodations. After reading multiple reviews and watching countless Youtube videos, I decided to go for Belmond. The hotel features Khmer architecture surrounded by a lush tropical garden creating a sense of being in the middle of the forest despite being situated right in the heart of the city. The resort is one of the first luxury hotels to open in Siem Reap and is renowned for its luxurious accommodations and excellent service. Here are some of the photos I took around the hotel as well as of my suite overlooking the magnificent pool, which I think is the centerpiece of the entire resort.

TRICOLORED HERON

Four years ago, I met a Japanese photographer whose hobby was traveling all over the United States photographing wildlife in national parks. We met at a common friends wedding he was photographing and I mentioned to him my interest in wildlife photography. He suggested I check out the Wakodahatchee Wetlands Nature Park, a nature preserve in Delray Beach, Florida, which is a sanctuary to a large number of birds plus a few other animals. He said that I’ll get a lot of good shots of these birds in their natural habitat. I’ve been planning to visit the park since then but I always fail to find time. This morning I decided to be a little more spontaneous and drove 30 miles to the park.

At the park, I encountered hundreds of birds but what really caught my attention was this lonesome tricolored heron that was trying to catch its breakfast in one of the many ponds around the park. I was standing on the boardwalk right above it but my presence didn’t seem to bother it all. I was able to take photos of it quietly standing behind the reeds preparing for its attack as well as of it flying over the pond to catch its next meal. My only regret is failing to capture it with a fish between its beaks.

Today I was finally able to try on fast shutter speeds (used 1/2000) to photograph this heron on flight but unfortunately missed to program my camera to multiple shots, which would have allowed me to take more shots of the entire flight. Still, I’m very happy with the results including the lighting and colors resulting to very minimal need for post-processing. I used a Canon Rebel T6s camera with a Canon EF-S 18-200mm lens for these photographs.

THE PINK LOTUS

The pink lotus is a sacred symbol in the Hindu and Buddhist faiths and in Asian culture it symbolizes purity and enlightenment. This majestic flower thrives in muddy swamps and its existence is oftentimes used as a metaphor to our daily lives with the muddy waters symbolizing the craziness around us while the pink lotus blooming above it symbolizing our ability to bloom into the best version of ourselves despite the circumstances.

These photographs of a pink lotus were taken near the ruins of Beng Mealea outside the city of Siem Reap in Cambodia. This solitary bloom was situated right in the middle of a swamp and I wanted to move closer for a close-up but my guide warned me of snakes so I opted to stay within the snake-free zone. I realized I’ll never be a National Geographic photographer as I don’t have the balls to risk it for the perfect shot. 😬

DREAMY VENICE

Venice is probably one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever visited. It’s like being in a dream, like you’re in a fantasy world. And it gets better at twilight when most of the tourists have returned to the mainland for the evening. Suddenly it seems like you have the city all to yourself with the sounds of life becoming softer and a stronger connection with everything around you is felt. You also start noticing the many things you failed to notice earlier in the day: the Renaissance-inspired architecture, the rich earthy tones of the city, the cobblestone streets leading to neighborhood squares, the narrow canals and the stone bridges that crosses them and the multiple arches and columns that line the many narrow alleyways turning the city into one giant maze. Venice is such a magical place and it surely is every photographers paradise. I was like a child in a candy store the first time I visited the city. Here are a few of the many photographs I took the day I fell in love with the City of Love.

VENICE NIGHT AND DAY

I took these night and day photos of the island of San Giorgio Maggiore from my hotel suite window at the Baglioni Hotel Luna in Venice, Italy. The belltower of the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore has been an iconic landmark of the Venetian lagoon and a focal point of view from the Piazetta. The first photo below was taken right before sunset while the second one was taken at night. Torn on which photo to use as my primary feature for this post, I decided to play with both by merging them together. I thought it amusing to see different times of the day on the same photo. By the way, I took these with my camera handheld so it’s just pure luck that I captured the same spot at almost the same angle. I used a Canon Rebel T6s for these photographs and the app Pixelmator to combine both photos.

PARTY OF FOUR

My friends Gary and Melanie have always been my ever reliable fans when it comes to my photography. I have taken their engagement photos back in 2015 and when they were expecting their first baby in 2019 I also took their maternity photos. So when they found out they were expecting baby number two, it didn’t come as a surprise when they asked me to take their maternity photos again. They wanted the photoshoot at the beach so I suggested the Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Pier just north of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I thought having the pier in the background would be a nice addition to the sun, surf and sand. We timed the photoshoot early in the morning so as the light from the sun was not at its harshest. These photos were taken end of January and on the first week of April they welcomed a healthy baby boy into their family. Perhaps our next project will be a family portrait…we’ll see.

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE BEE KIND

Whenever I see a bee, I always run the opposite direction. I grew up fearing them after seeing the swollen faces of neighborhood kids after getting stung by one. Today I decided to overcome my fear, after all, should I get stung on the cheeks or lips then I get instant fillers for free. LOL. I was walking my dog this morning when I noticed these bees happily hovering over a bed of flowers. Thanks to my ever reliable iPhone 11 Pro Max I was able to capture these pollinators at work. I took these photos with the subject about 6-10 inches away from my phone. I guess today is my lucky day as none of them got pissed at me for crossing into their personal space. No puffy cheeks and lips though but these close-up photographs are more than good enough for me today.

A RAINBOW IN THE LAND OF FIRE

The Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) province in the southern tip of Argentina is every nature lover’s paradise. I can’t imagine how Charles Darwin felt when he first explored this region almost two hundred years ago. This was first discovered by Ferdinand Magellan on his way to the Pacific and was named after the bonfires dotting the shoreline, which were produced by the natives most likely for heating. I visited this southernmost part of the world back in December of 2018 and captured this photograph at the area where the world’s southernmost post office stands. I did not have my DSLR ready and the rainbow was slowly fading so I used my iPhone 7 Plus to capture the moment. I later took more pictures with my DSLR (sans rainbow) and will feature them in another post.

COZUMEL BLUE

The island of Cozumel on the east coast of Mexico is a piece of paradise with the most beautiful blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. The endless coastlines of white powdery sand also contibute in enhancing the blueness of the waters. I have been to this island about three times all via cruise ships but never bothered to swim on the beach. Oh well! I live in Florida where the beach is just five minutes walk from my condo and yet I still haven’t swam in the ocean to this day. Let’s just say I prefer enjoying bodies of water from a distance or sailing on it. These photos of Cozumel were all taken far from the water (on the cruise ship for the first photo and the pier for the rest) but it does give you a nice perspective of the beauty that awaits you there. All these photos were taken using an iPhone.

LITTLE JAPANESE UMBRELLAS

I saw these beautiful mushrooms during my walk with my dog this morning. As she was doing her business, I noticed this cluster of umbrella looking mushrooms growing gracefully amongst grasses and shrubs. The sunlight, filtered by the trees above it, created the perfect mood lighting for a photograph. Thanks to my iPhone 11 Pro Max, I was able to instantly capture the scene and this one is my favorite. Upon further research, I discovered that they are called Pleated Inkcap, and sometimes as the Little Japanese Umbrella. Luckily I photographed them at the perfect time as they decay within 24 hours that by tomorrow I will never see any evidence that these beauties ever existed.

SUNRISE AT THE PIER

About two miles north of my apartment building is a pier that I’ve always wanted to photograph during sunrise but it remained a goal for so long now as I unfortunately have never been able to get out of bed that early. Today was a special case as my friends (husband and wife) asked me to take their maternity photos at the beach and wanted the shoot early in the morning to capture the sunrise. I agreed to the early morning shoot in order to finally cross out the pier on my to photograph list. It was a beautiful morning with a generous amount of puffy clouds for a much needed drama to my composition. I had my Canon DSLR with me but didn’t have my wide angle lens so I decided to use my iPhone 11 Pro Max for these wide angle shots, which surprisingly turned out very good. I love taking photographs of sunrises and sunsets and the sun in itself is magnificent enough for a subject, however, an additional subject in the foreground, such as a pier in this case, can make a sunrise or sunset photo more dramatic.

THE BLOOMS OF ALHAMBRA

A trip to Granada isn’t complete without visiting the majestic palace of Alhambra, which is one of the last Islamic palaces built in Spain by the Moors. The palace is one architectural masterpiece and its interiors remind me much of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey mostly due to the colorful mosaics and geometric designs. I also enjoyed exploring the palace gardens, which was bursting in a kaleidoscope of colors from the multiple flowering plants. Here are some of the photos I took of the garden blooms using my iPhone 7 Plus.

THE ROMANCHE UP CLOSE

Two years ago, I sailed through the Beagle Channel, which is a strait between Argentina and Chile in the southern tip of South America, passing through the breathtaking Glacier Alley. Charles Darwin himself sailed through this very channel and saw glaciers for the first time back in 1833. This was also my first time to sail in this part of the world but not my first to see glaciers. Of the many glaciers we sailed past, the Romanche intrigued me the most because of the waterfall flowing out of the edge of the glacier cascading down into the channel. I took these photographs of the Romanche from the balcony of my stateroom as we slowly sailed through this magical land named Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire).

A NEW BEGINNING

It’s just the first day of 2021 and everyone is already fervently praying for a much better year….way better than the previous one. I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about as none of us have been spared from the wrath of this pandemic, in one way or another. I personally have lost a friend, an aunt, family friends, colleagues and a sad number of my patients to the virus. This pandemic has made me change significantly the way I live my life. When I decided to compose this post, I struggled finding the right photographs to welcome this new year. I had to go back as far as 2016 to find the perfect photos, which were taken in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean during a trans-Atlantic cruise. I woke up early that morning to catch the sunrise and noticed the cloudy skies reflecting the sun’s rich morning light. I’ve never seen a sunrise that fiery almost looked like a sunset. I chose these photos as mornings symbolizes new beginnings. With this new year ahead of us, there is so much to be hopeful for although nothing is gonna change overnight but we have the power to change its course. Stay safe everyone…wash your hands before touching your face, wear a mask and social distance. Happy New Year to All!

LUNA GIBBOSA CRESCENTE DAL COLOSSEO

The title of this post is a literal translation of the phrase “Waxing gibbous moon by the Colosseum” to Italian. I thought the translation sounded sexier than the original English text. LOL! When I took these photographs my intention was to capture the Roman Colosseum in multiple angles until I noticed the moon in one of the arches so I started including it in my compositions. It would have been nicer had it been a full moon but a waxing gibbous moon was just as good, it being the phase prior to a full moon. Thankfully, the sky was still bright enough for me to capture the details on the moon’s surface. Had I taken these an hour later the moon would have been just a pale yellow ball in the sky.

If you visited Rome between 2011 and early 2016, you would have seen the ongoing restoration work on the Colosseum, which was mostly covered in scaffolding. The shoe-and-luxury goods maker Tod’s donated millions for the restoration of this architectural wonder so lucky me to have visited it just as the project culminated. Anyway, it’s good to see the Colosseum in a cleaner state and am glad to know that more restoration work are being done to this day. Maybe the next time I’m in Rome I’ll get to see the additional renovations and when I take new photographs a full moon will be high up in the sky to photobomb this magnificent piece of architecture.

EDEN BY THE SEA

Another one of my morning walk photos taken using my iphone. I was on the boardwalk and noticed two egrets walking on the grassy side of the beach obviously in search of breakfast. While photographing these beautiful creatures, I noticed the curtains of light streaming out of the clouds in the distance. The whole scene reminded me of drawings of the Garden of Eden…that if Eden was by the sea and had only two egrets for residents.

SA-FAUX-RI

I have always dreamed of going on a safari tour in Africa and photograph as many animals as I can possibly see. Unfortunately, that opportunity hasn’t come yet although that didn’t stop me from trying something close, or maybe not, to an African safari experience. A few years ago while visiting my sister and her family in Dallas, Texas, they took me to a wildlife center called Fossil Rim near Glen Rose, Texas. The facility is a conservation and research center focused on species in peril in an environment almost similar to an African safari. Visitors drive around in their own vehicles and some animals are even friendly enough to come up to your car. They sell feeds at the ticket center and visitors can feed the animals…something you probably will never be able to do in an actual safari experience. These are some of the photographs I took during our visit. Below is a link to the park’s website in case you’re interested in visiting it in the future: https://fossilrim.org

THE BIRD MAN

Two days ago, I was walking along the beach for my morning walk when I noticed a flock of seagulls swirling around a specific section of the beach. They would fly to the water then soar back to the beach then over the street before swarming back to the beach again as if anticipating for something big to happen. Suddenly I noticed this man walking towards the beach with a plastic bag and realized he was there to feed the gulls. It also seemed like this wasn’t his first time feeding them as the gulls seem to recognize him and were very excited to see him again. It was fascinating to watch the interaction between the man and the seagulls, which expressed their utmost appreciation for the free meal by making loud squawks. Thankfully, I had my phone with me and was able to capture the moment, except for the feeding part as I was too mesmerized and forgot to take more photos. It is truly amazing how humans and the rest of the animal kingdom can actually bond together…via food.

BLUE RIDGE IN THE DUSK

I first came to know about the Blue Ridge Mountains from the lyrics of the John Denver song “Take Me Home, Country Roads”. Growing up in the Philippines, this was totally an entire world away from me, an insignificant part to the lyrics of a famous song. But life is indeed full of surprises and I found myself immigrating to the United States and suddenly all these places I once heard in songs are now just a drive away.

Two years ago, my better half and I went on a road trip to Pittsburgh, a drive which actually took us through the very heart of this legendary mountain range. Since it was my first time in the area, we decided to stay for a few days in Asheville, North Carolina to explore the city and the surrounding mountains. We booked a stay at the luxurious OMNI Grove Park Inn, which sits on the western slopes of Sunset Mountain within the Blue Ridge Mountain range. One of best things about this resort is the breathtaking and unobstructed views of the Blue Ridge Mountains across the valley where the city of Asheville sits. We then splurged a little bit and got a room with endless views of the mountains.

On our last day at the resort, we decided to watch the sunset from one of the many viewing decks while enjoying a few cocktails to celebrate this leg of our trip. Unfortunately, it was a bit cloudy so we failed to see the sun go down behind the mountains. Although, the clouds filtering the last of the sunlight created this pinkish sky which perfectly complemented the hazy blues of the mountains. I also love how the shadows came in varying shades of blue further emphasizing the multiple peaks that make up the mountain range. The photographer in me immediately saw the need to capture the beauty before me so I rushed back to our hotel room to grab my camera.

I took dozens of shots of the mountain range before me zooming my lens in and out to capture multiple perspectives. I do love how dreamy the photographs turned out to be. Finally, the Blue Ridge mountains are no longer just a line from a song. They now evoke beautiful memories of our brief stay in Asheville as well as of our lovely drive through it on our way to our next adventure.

THE GUANACOS OF PATAGONIA

We were on our way to Peninsula Valdes, a nature reserve in Argentina listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, to see a colony of Magellanic penguins, sea lions and seals when our tour guide started pointing at these llama looking animals with the face of a camel. We were driving through the grasslands of the Patagonia so there was barely any obstruction to our view of these beautiful creatures. They’re called guanacos and they are close relatives to the camels, vicunas, llamas and alpacas. Unfortunately, we were on a scheduled tour so the bus didn’t stop to allow us to take photographs. All these photos were taken from inside a moving tour bus. I had to adjust the settings on my DSLR for sharper images. Thankfully, I had my zoom lens on my camera which allowed me to photograph them from a distance.

THE RESIDENTS OF MAGDALENA ISLAND

The Magdalena Island near Punta Arenas, Chile has probably the cutest of residents in the entire planet. This tiny island located in the Strait of Magellan is home to almost 50,000 Magellanic penguins and a few other species of seabirds. I visited this island back in December of 2018 and was initially hesitant to go due to stories of unpredictable weather producing very rough seas…and I easily get seasick. In fact, 50% of the trips to this island are cancelled last minute due to inclement weather. I guess luck was on my side that day as we had the most ideal weather the entire duration of the trip. As soon as we stepped out of the boat we were immediately surrounded by hundreds of penguins like a huge welcome party. To protect the penguins, petting and feeding is prohibited but photography isn’t so I took as many shots as my memory card could accomodate. The island is small and treeless so you have unobstructed views of the rolling hills dotted with thousands of penguin nests. A cordoned pathway around a section of the island was also built so tourists can stroll around without interfering with the penguins. I took hundreds of photographs during my visit and these are just a few of my personal favorites.

SAILOR’S DELIGHT

Sunsets on partially cloudy skies are always the most glorious. The sun projects all the red and gold into these heavenly puffs creating the wildest visions in the sky. The richness of the colors are just breathtaking and it evokes a sense of wonder while the dark shadows where light fails to touch create a sense of mystery. Visions like these make one appreciate this beautiful planet we live in. It also provides the viewer an opportunity to reflect on the day that’s just about to end. I certainly enjoy photographing sunsets especially when it burns the sky just like the ones in this post. These were all taken onboard a cruise ship as we were sailing south of the Atlantic Ocean to the tip of South America. They say red skies at night are a sailor’s delight and true enough it was smooth sailing the rest of the cruise. I used my iPhone 7Plus to take all these photos.

DAYBREAK IN HONG KONG

Hong Kong is one of my all-time favorite cities and if I can only afford it I will move there in a heartbeat. I just love looking at all the giant skyscrapers sitting on top of the most rugged terrain all reaching up for the skies symbolic of the city’s reputation as a center for global economics. When in Hong Kong, it’s always best to stay where one can enjoy the sweeping views of the city so on my most recent visit I stayed at two hotels so I can bask on the iconic views of Hong Kong from both sides of the harbor. The photos in this post were taken from the window of my suite at the fifty-third (53rd) floor of the Island Shangri-La Hotel. I just woke up and was getting ready for breakfast when I noticed the sun slowly rising from behind the mountains as if trying to quietly sneak into the still sleepy city. I used my GoPro Hero 7 Black and iPhone 7Plus to take these photos as there was too much reflection on the glass windows when I tried using my Canon DSLR. By laying the camera flat on the window it eliminates almost every reflection from inside the room. The colors of daybreak are always beautiful and I’m glad to have captured Hong Kong at a time when this dynamic city was at it’s most serene. Once this pandemic is over, I am definitely coming back.

PARK HYATT BANGKOK

The Park Hyatt Hotel-Bangkok was our home away from home during the Thailand leg of our Asian trip fall of last year. We were considering other hotels (Mandarin Oriental, Peninsula and Shangri-La) but being one of the newest hotels in town and having stayed at some of their properties we decided to book our stay with them. This 5-star luxury hotel is located in one of Bangkok’s nicest neighborhoods with access to the sky train making travel around the city highly convenient. The hotel sits on top of a massive shopping mall, which was a great perk for someone who loves to shop, although my favorite part of the complex was the infinity pool with amazing views of the city. The photo above was taken by the pool (yes those are my legs) while the photos below were taken around the hotel as well as inside our suite using my GoPro Hero 7 Black. We booked their Diplomat Suite, which was a huge and luxurious 1-bedroom suite with floor to ceiling windows providing us endless views of the city. The hotel was beautiful and well maintained but the service was unfortunately not at par with other Park Hyatt hotels we’ve stayed at. The hotel staff seemed to lack the warmth, hospitality and even the professionalism expected of a luxury hotel. Some staff had to be reminded repeatedly to deliver basic service, a waitress had to be followed-up 3 times for a cup of coffee while during dinner in one of their restaurants the waiter took away our unfinished bottle of wine (we had to call his attention) then hovered over after giving us the bill as if we were gonna sprint off without paying. They did apologized after we complained but first impressions last. Prior to Bangkok, we were in Hong Kong, Manila and Siem Reap and also stayed at 5-star hotels and resorts and we were amazed by the level of service they provided. Would we recommend this hotel? Most definitely not…the facility is impressive but if you’re willing to spend so much for a hotel stay then there are far better options around Bangkok.

Below are photos of our one-bedroom suite (Diplomat Suite)

WATERFALL IN THE CITY

Before I decided to become a full time clinician I was working as an executive for a healthcare company. When the office stresses became overwhelming, I would take short walks around the building’s neighborhood to relax, although, I wish there was a green space for me to sit and refocus. The only green space available for me back then was in the logo of the neighborhood Stabucks. So when I visited Hong Kong last year, I was excited to know that my hotel was right beside the Hong Kong Park, a green landscape in the middle of a busy commercial center. It was constructed so people can commune with nature to relax from the stresses of work. In the middle of the park was a man-made waterfall where one can sit and listen to the wonderful sounds of the cascading water. This was where I spent most of my time in the park…to enjoy the sight and sound of water crashing into the pool. Although I didn’t visit Hong Kong for work, it was still nice to have found a spot where I could sit and just enjoy nature right in the middle of a bustling city. How I wish there was a space like this where I used to work. I probably would be sitting there more often than inside my office. 😬 Here are some of the photos I took of that man-made waterfall in the middle of Hong Kong Park. I took these photos using a much longer exposure to create the cotton candy effect on the water.

LA BELLA LUNA

I was going through some of my old photographs and saw these moon series I did about five years ago. I was sitting on my balcony to enjoy the moon rise when I noticed that the bare branches of my neighbor’s dying Royal Poinciana tree were partially blocking the moon. It kinda created a beautiful yet eerie silhouette of the tree reminiscent of those old vampire movies. I started taking multiple shots and as always the moon comes out as a solid ball of light. I decided to process these photos by superimposing another photo I took of the moon with more visible details of its surface. The moon is such a beautiful and poetic object while at the same time can also be ominous and scary. With Halloween coming up in two weeks, I decided to post them to bring out the mood for the season. It’s just too bad that we won’t all be able to go trick or treating this year. Hopefully, next year…

ISTANBUL IN PINK

Many years ago, I visited the ancient and mystical city of Istanbul, Turkey and I would say it was one of the most exciting trips I’ve ever done. I was on a Mediterranean cruise and the city was a highlight stop so we docked for two days before sailing to our next destination. It also happened to be my first time to this part of the world so I made sure to visit every historical site from the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque to the Topkapi Palace and the Grand Bazaar as well as tasted every delicacy I could stomach. One of the best parts about cruising into Istanbul is that the pier is located right on the most historic part of city. The ship enters a waterway called the Golden Horn, which separates the Galata district (where our ship docked) from the Historic Peninsula district (where the mosques and palaces are located). When I booked my stateroom, I made sure my balcony would face the Golden Horn and the Historic Peninsula district so I can view all the magnificent minarets and domes rising above the city skyline. On the first night, I sat on my balcony to watch the sun set and prayed that its last rays would paint the sky with the brightest and richest of colors. Fate seemed to have favored me that day as the sky turned into this beautiful rosy pink, which transformed the scenery before me into some exotic and colorful work of art reminiscent of the Turkish rugs and lamps that are sold in the bazaars. Here are some of the photos I took of Istanbul’s Historical Peninsula district using my Canon Rebel XSi.

SLICE OF HEAVEN ON EARTH

One of the highlights of my Alaskan cruise was sailing on Glacier Bay all the way up to the Tarr Inlet where the Margerie Glacier slopes majestically. It was a day of cruising only but I thought what a relaxing way to enjoy the breathtaking views at the comfort of my stateroom’s balcony. We arrived at the mouth of the bay around 7 in the morning and to everyone’s dismay we were greeted by this thick curtain of fog and couldn’t see anything beyond 30 feet with just total whiteness as far as the eyes could see. My first thoughts were…there goes my photography. However, Mother Nature sure has many ways of surprising us as after half an hour of cruising, in the middle of total whiteness, the fog slowly started lifting itself up allowing for us to take a peek at the beautiful scenery along the narrow bay. I started playing with my camera capturing slivers of beauty sandwiched between the water and the rising fog. I thought the whole scenery was ethereal and mystical transporting me to a magical place and time. After another hour of sailing the fog eventually disappeared allowing us to enjoy the many magnificent fjords, inlets, cliffs, forests, waterfalls, islets and glaciers, which makes Alaska’s Glacier National Park truly a slice of heaven on earth.

ILLUMINATIONS

This lockdown had me looking at my old travel photos, which sadly gave me some untimely travel itch. Unfortunately, we Americans are currently banned in almost every country in the planet so we’re very much limited to just reliving international travel through our old photographs. I was in Hong Kong last year and really enjoyed that part of my Asian trip as I got to satisfy my intense cravings for authentic dimsum aside from the multiple photography opportunities. The hotel I first stayed at, Hotel InterContinental, was right by the harbour with spectacular views of the Hong Kong Island skyline, which provided me with many panoramic photography opportunities. The photo above was taken at the public square right beside the hotel on my way to the pier to catch a ferry that would take me across the harbour to the island side of the city. I love how I captured this iconic view of Hong Kong at night with the colorful building lights reflected on the water while framed by the architectural roof on top and the crowd of tourists below. The rest of the photos were taken while I was on the ferry and around the neighborhood by the pier on both sides of the harbour. Night photos can be quite a challenge to take especially when you don’t have a tripod or when on board a moving object like a ferry. Thankfully, I’ve learned to keep my hand really steady for a few seconds and also managed to be resourceful using rails, garbage cans and posts for the much needed steadying. When I took these photos, I intentionally framed it in a way that it captured the vibrant, bright, energetic, fast paced and exciting city that Hong Kong is. Hope you sense it too when you look at my photographs.

THE HONG KONG PARK

During my visit to Hong Kong in October of 2019, I stayed at two hotels to experience both sides of the city. The first few days were spent at the InterContinental Hong Kong on the Kowloon side of the city while the second half was spent across the harbor at the Island Shangri-La Hotel. The InterContinental neighborhood was a concrete jungle with block after block of skyscrapers while the Shangri-La neighborhood had more green spaces around it maybe because it was the mountainous side of the city. Across the street from Shangri-La was a park called the Hong Kong Park (I wish they came up with a more unique name), which featured a man made lake, waterfall, an aviary and even a sports center. I didn’t really spend much time at this park as I just passed by it to catch the cable car to Victoria Peak. During the two times that I crossed the park, I was able to take a few photos using my GoPro Hero 7 Black. I also wanted to capture the buildings around the park so I used the wide angle lens setting of the camera. The only thing I don’t like with wide angle lens is the curvature that happens at the edge of the photos. On the other hand, capturing more of the scenery creates a dramatic effect to the photograph. Here are some of the photos I took around the park.

SOARIN’ OVER LANTAU

Lantau Island is one of the largest islands in Hong Kong and is home to the 32-meter tall Tian Tan Buddha, which I featured on a previous post. The shrine is accessible in two ways, by car or via a scenic alternative using the Ngong Ping 360 cable car. During my visit, I took the cable car and even paid extra for one with a glass bottom for an added thrill. I’m not a big fan of heights but surprisingly I enjoyed the ride very much. I believe I also got so engrossed with my photography that the lofty heights didn’t bother me at all. The cable car took me across the bay, over lush mountains and into the Ngong Ping Village where a Starbucks, a monastery and the statue of Buddha are located. The ride took about 25 minutes and you get to see the Hong Kong International Airport at the start of the ride then the giant Buddha sitting on top of the mountain at the end part of the ride. I took a good number of photographs while inside the cable car and here are some of my favorites. The top photo was taken using my iPhone 7Plus while the rest below were taken using a Canon Rebel T6s.

MISTY SUNSET

It was a beautiful summer afternoon in New England and I was on board a cruise ship sailing out of Newport, Rhode Island when I noticed these breathtaking sceneries before me. The sun was close to setting and everything around was turning golden orange. It rained briefly that day so the warm summer air created the perfect recipe for some afternoon mists. From my stateroom balcony I could see the curtain of clouds shrouding the many magnificent beach mansions lining up the rocky shorelines just like the opening scene of a mystery film. I knew as soon as I saw it that I needed to photograph the beauty before me. I had to do some tweaking with my camera settings in order to perfectly capture the mists, the afternoon lights and the shadows. I also intentionally kept the photographs a bit darker to evoke a sense of mystery and suspense.

THE GRAND PALACE OF SIAM

The Grand Palace in the heart of Bangkok, Thailand has been the official residence of the Thai monarch since the 1700s. The complex is an architectural masterpiece covered mostly in gold with accents of red, green, purple and blue. The intricate details found in the carvings, mosaics, embroideries and sculptures are equally as magnificent as the structures. This palace is probably the most visited and most photographed place in Thailand with millions of photographs of the halls, pavilions, courtyards and gardens available online. This was my second visit in fifteen years and instead of capturing the palace on eye level, I decided to point my camera upwards towards the beautiful and colorful geometric structures that decorated the roofs. There are actually as much beauty on the rooftops as there are on the ground. Another reason for doing this was also because of the large number of tourists inside the complex. The crowd was just enormous and I thought they took away the magical atmosphere of the place. So here are some of my shots of the palace above eye level and I hope you all enjoy looking at them.

THE FLOATING VILLAGE OF KOMPONG PHLUK

The Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and along its shores are villages that are highly dependent on its ecosystem for their food supply. Two of these villages, Kompong Khleang and Kompong Phluk, have now become major tourist attractions because of the houses built on stilts to stay above water and also due to their proximity to Siem Reap. Our tour guide took us to the floating village of Kompong Phluk, which was the closest at around 15 kilometers from Siem Reap. This was a nice change of scenery after all the trips to the temples. The village sits alongside a river that is snaking its way towards the Tonle Sap Lake and our boat took us to the very heart of this village sailing past humble homes and friendly villagers. We continued sailing towards the lake and passed by a mangrove forest, which I will feature in another post. I’m glad I brought my DSLR with me during this tour for better quality photos as at one point I was so dependent on my iPhone for travel photography and has since regretted doing so. Here are some of the photos I took of the floating village of Kampong Phluk. The muddy water was a beautiful complement to the earthy tones of the wooden stilts and houses. Thankfully, the sun was out that day creating beautiful shadows with the stilts as well as saturating the colors of the water, the houses and the vegetation around the village. I hope you guys enjoy these series of photographs and don’t forget to like and leave a comment. Till my next post…stay safe everyone!

BAYON: THE TEMPLE OF MANY FACES

Bayon is an ancient Khmer temple located in the middle of Angkor Thom, which is the last capital city of the Khmer empire. The temple’s most distinctive feature is the multitude of serene and smiling faces carved on the roofs of all the towers in the complex. Interestingly, all the faces look similar and our guide told us that scholars suggested it was a representation of King Jayavarman VII. This ancient city is now part of the modern city of Siem Reap, Cambodia. I arrived in Cambodia on the last days of the rainy season and during my visit to the temples, the skies were leaden with overcast. Although, the sun trying to break through the clouds created a golden haze making the colors of the temple richer. The temple is every photographer’s dream destination from the carved facades, the stone statues, the towers with faces and the bas-reliefs on the galleries, there is just a bounty of subjects to photograph. I took hundreds of photographs in all available angles and these are some of my favorites. Hope you all enjoy looking at them and maybe they will inspire some of you to visit Cambodia in the near future.

THE MANY FACES OF TONLE SAP

A visit to Siem Reap means hopping from one ancient temple to another, however, there is another noteworthy visit nearby…the floating villages of Tonle Sap Lake. The village of Kompong Phluk is the most visited and just a few kilometers from Siem Reap. It offers a very good contrast once you finally had your fill of temples. Our private guide took us there on our last day in Siem Reap. The drive through the Cambodian countryside was truly a humbling experience. Watching people go about their lives in simplicity made me reflect on my life and how I’d like to live it moving forward.

I can no longer recall how long the drive was but I remember us parking beside a river and then hopping on a wooden boat that was to take us to the village. The water was muddy and looked like milk chocolate but with the sun out and bright I thought it provided an earthy and rustic tone to my photographs. As we sailed into the village I saw all these houses on stilts, although I didn’t expect to see a lot of human activity assuming that people stayed indoors to evade the prying eyes of tourists. Instead, we found ourselves cruising through a busy village. People busy with household chores, children playing, women paddling boats with stuff to trade, men fixing fishing nets and families just busy working together. It was fascinating to see all these people living in such an unusual environment. Of course I immediately got busy with my camera. I took a lot of photos of the houses, the river and the edge of the lake but for this post, I am featuring the many faces of Tonle Sap Lake.

THE BRIDGE TO BAYON

Angkor Thom is located in the Kingdom of Cambodia and is the last capital city of the Khmer empire. In the heart of this ancient city is the temple of Bayon, which is known for the multiple carvings of serene and smiling stone faces on its many towers. The city is surrounded by a moat and on it’s south gate entrance is a bridge lined with statues of gods and demons. Thankfully, our guide decided to have us walk through the bridge instead of driving by it so I was able to walk up to the statues and took as many photographs as my memory card can accommodate. It was such a thrilling and magical experience.  I can just imagine the sense of awe people felt as they walked across this bridge many centuries ago.  I’m glad they were able to preserve these archeological sites for us and for future generations to appreciate. Here are some of the photos I took of the bridge, the statues and the entrance gate to the ancient city of Angkor Thom.

THE LIONS OF THE BEAGLE

During our cruise to South America in December of 2018, our ship docked at the southernmost city in the world…Ushuaia, Argentina. The city is located in the banks of the Beagle Channel and we were told that Charles Darwin sailed on this very channel with Captain Robert FitzRoy on the HMS Beagle and saw a glacier for the very first time. Along the channel are hundreds of islands teeming with life, which can give any wildlife photographer plenty of photogasms. LOL!

We took an excursion that sailed around these islands and one of the stops was at a sea lion colony.  The water was rough that day and our small tour boat was rocking like crazy I had to cling on the rails for dear life. Despite nature tossing me around I was able to capture a good number of photos although there were also a lot of blurry shots.  It was amazing to see all these sea lions in their natural habitat as I’ve only seen them before in zoos. Here are some of the photographs I took and I hope you all enjoy looking at these lovely creatures in such a wild yet magnificent environment. If by any chance you decide to go somewhere wild and exciting, I highly recommend going down to the southern tip of Argentina.

A DAY ON THE BEACH

These are photos I took during my morning walks on the beach. The one above was supposedly just about the lifeguard tower, however, as I was about to snap a shot this red truck came rolling in front of me so I waited for it to park beside the tower for a much better composition. All I needed to complete that photo was a lifeguard.  The second photo is again of a lifeguard tower framed by palm trees for a tropical paradise mood. The third one is a group of yoga enthusiasts doing sun salutations on the beach. Luckily I live close to the water so I get to enjoy these fantastic views during my morning walks. It also helps that the new iPhone features a great camera for instant photos like these.

BENG MEALEA

The temple of Beng Mealea in Angkor, Cambodia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the many temples built around the Angkor Wat period. After I was told by our guide that we were visiting multiple temple ruins for four straight days, I was worried I’ll eventually get tired of them. To my amazement, every temple we visited was as magnificent and unique as the other. For Beng Mealea, I like that they kept the forest that encroached on the temple complex. They didn’t uproot the trees and the stone slabs were still covered in moss. It felt like we were discovering the place for the first time. This was one of the many archeological sites we visited that I really enjoyed photographing. Aside from it’s beauty, the place was also almost deserted allowing me to take photographs minus the crowd of tourists. Here are a few of the many photos I took during my visit. Enjoy them and I hope you can take time to leave a comment. Thank you.