INTO THE WOODS

I grew up in a small town in Southern Philippines where the main industry was paper and timber so trees were a predominant part of my daily life. I can still remember, like it was yesterday, the refreshing scent of leaves as well as the woodsy aroma of tree trunks especially after a rainy day, which was a frequent occurence in my sleepy hometown. During my senior year in high school, I was president of the InterAct Club (Rotary sponsored club) and on Sundays we would drive to the mountains and teach classes to the children of a native tribe. The village was situated in the middle of a rain forest and I always look forward to the long and rugged drive past giant trees along rough gravel roads. All these childhood memories were stirred up while on a trek in an Alaskan forest a few months ago. It was raining during the trek and the scent of the damp forest transported me back to my old hometown evoking wonderful memories of my childhood. I immediately pulled out my camera to take a shot of the forest before me. Unfortunately, I no longer have any of my childhood photos after my parent’s house got burned down a few years ago. This photo will be for now my new window to the past…

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SOUTH FLORIDA DREAMIN’

I consider myself very fortunate to live in this part of the country as other people have to save money and plan vacations just to experience this.  Meanwhile, I wake up to this every morning as part of my daily routine…I jump out of bed, put on my flipflops, leash my dog and walk 5 minutes to the beach to greet the sunrise. Each morning may not be as dreamy as this but watching the sun rise from the horizon is quite a liberating experience.  To live near the beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida is like living in a dream…and moving here is probably one of the best decisions I ever made in my life.  My encounter with the sunrise every morning rejuvinates and at the same time excites me…and thankfully, my ever reliable iPhone is always in my pocket ready to capture the promise of another beautiful day.

SEAWATCH ON THE OCEAN

Imagine sitting on this balcony enjoying the view while sipping on refreshing cocktails and munching on fresh seafood…possible if you live in sunny Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I just did it earlier tonight to celebrate the end of work week and the start of an exciting weekend. Seawatch On The Ocean Restaurant has floor-to-ceiling glass windows designed to provide guests a view of the ocean from every seat in the restaurant.  This is one of my favorite restaurants in the city and my go to place when the weather is good. I usually sit on the balcony for happy hour before heading downstairs to the main dining area for dinner. This restaurant serves good seafood and was named one of the most scenic restaurants in the United States.

RAYS OF LIGHT

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and we were sailing out of Vancouver, Canada towards Ketchikan, Alaska for a week of cruising in “America’s Last Frontier” when suddenly the skies transformed from bright blue to gloomy gray. We were aware of the weather forecast expecting rain throughout the cruise but didn’t expect the change to happen two hours after we left the port. So I headed for the Crow’s Nest of Holland America’s Noordam ship where I thought I would find the best remedy to a gloomy weather…alcohol! As I quietly enjoyed my White Russian while staring out at sea, I noticed the rays of light filtering through the clouds reminding me of those curtain lights they use in the theater.  It suddenly dawned on me that nature’s spectacle was occuring before me so I pulled out my ever reliable iPhone 7Plus and took multiple shots. Had it been a regular sunny day, the scene would have been a plain and simple view of the sky, islands and sea but thanks to bad weather, I captured a hauntingly beautiful photo of the ominous clouds filtering the sunlight and casting dark shadows on the water. On that day I learned how bad weather surprisingly turned out to be the best thing to happen with my photography.

FLIGHT OF THE ALBATROSS 

I always envy how birds can just soar freely into the horizon and visit exciting destinations without worrying about pricey plane tickets, uncomfortable seats, lost luggages or nasty flight attendants.  I on the other hand had to work around my limited vacation days at work and patiently await for dollar-saving deals before I can start packing my bags. How I wish I was a bird so I’d be able to explore distant places to as far as my wings can take me. Just like the Albatross in my photo above, it was instantly headed towards its next adventure by just a flap of its wings.  The most I could do was enviously photograph it as it soared towards me with its gaze focused on my camera as if reminding me how I was unfortunately stuck in my stateroom’s balcony. What a cocky bird (uhm!)!

SOUND OF SILENCE

The Slide Cemetery near the ghost town of Dyea was one of the stops of the photography tour I joined in Skagway, Alaska. When our tour guide announced where we were headed, I froze in fear at the thought of being in a cemetery in the middle of a forest with 4 complete strangers.  While hiking towards our destination, I immediately recalled the movie Blair Witch Project and started feeling goosebumps. I have to admit I was petrified that the sound of twigs snapping as we walked towards the cemetery made me jumpy.  The most peculiar thing about this cemetery is that everyone has the same date of death except for four. Apparently, the casualties of Palm Sunday Avalanche on April 3, 1898 were laid to rest here. In Alaska, they call avalanches as slides thus the name Slide Cemetery.  The place was totally eerie but I decided to focus on my photography and made sure I stayed close to everybody throughout our photoshoot. This was the only time I discarded my curiosity and didn’t attempt to wander around. Thankfully, my photos turned out well minus any weird reflections, orbs or unwanted photobombers. LOL!

GELID PEAKS

We were sailing slowly down Glacier Bay in Alaska towards the Johns Hopkins Glacier when I noticed these massive snowy peaks majestically reaching up for the cotton white clouds in the sky.  I also noticed a long white swath of cloud floating across the middle as if dissecting this monstrosity into an upper and lower half of a mountain.  All this time I was standing at my stateroom’s balcony freezing yet determined to brave the icy temperatures for the sake of my photography. The frosty wind was blowing into my face freezing my expression of awe over the wondrous beauty in front of me. I took multiple shots and this one is my personal favorite having captured so much detail…from the silvery waters of the bay and the lush green, red and browns of the island in the foreground to the steel blues, purples and whites of the snow-capped mountains in the distance. By the time I finished taking these photos, I could barely feel my skin that I thought I was suffering from frostbite.  Aaah! The things we do to capture the best shot.

SOARIN’ O’ER SUNRISE

Flying is for me one of the most exciting aspects of travelling. I love the thrill of the takeoff from the powerful vibration of the aircraft to the ferocious rumble of its engine. I always sit by the window to watch everything speed by until the aircraft touches the sky and everything below looks like a miniature toy set. During my vacation last month, my flight’s takeoff schedule coincided with the sunrise so that got me excited hoping to capture a few interesting shots. As soon as I got a glimpse of the sun I started snapping with my iPhone 7 Plus and framed the wing as an additional focal point to my composition.  I also included my home city of Fort Lauderdale below for a sense of height. The rich golden yellow light of the sun casting shadows all over also created a multidimensional effect on the clouds.  One technique I do when using my phone on a plane is to press the phone flat on the window to prevent reflections. Here are four photos I took as my plane soared over the Atlantic Ocean on it’s way to my vacation destination.


ALASKAN SPEED

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In Skagway, Alaska, I joined a photography tour that brought me to a ghost town, a cemetery where everyone but four had the same date of death and an inlet teeming with Alaskan wildlife.  The fourth stop was the most exciting and supposedly a surprise…we sped up a mountain and parked on the side of a cliff overlooking a waterfall.  I immediately noticed a railroad track right above the cascading water and from a distance saw this train speeding up the mountain.  I finally realized the surprise and impressed that our tour guide timed it perfectly.  I hurriedly adjusted my camera settings and took a few test shots to ensure the perfect photograph. By the time the train rolled above the waterfalls, I was perfectly positioned to capture as many shots as I can. Here are four of the many photographs I took of the White Summit Pass Train speeding above the majestic Pitchfork Falls.

UNFRIENDLY SKIES

My home state of Florida is under major threat from massive Hurricane Irma, which is probably one of the strongest storms in the Caribbean basin.  I will be in my condo building by the beach hunkering the storm and should the winds get too strong, the stairwell will be my refuge for a few hours.  Having grown up in the Philippines, I’ve had my fill of hurricanes or typhoons as we call it on that side of the planet.  However, Hurricane Irma will be my first Category 5 so I’m bracing myself for some crazy and scary experience.

Since I am in the middle of a hurricane experience, I reckon the photo above is the most appropriate to post today.  This photo was taken a month ago at the beach area of the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort and Spa where I was lounging at the poolside to take advantage of my club membership.  I saw these ominous looking clouds rolling from the west and hurriedly pulled out my iPhone 7 Plus to capture as many photos as I can.  I actually submitted this photo to The Weather Channel’s It’s Amazing Out There Photo Contest and I hope it gets recognized.  Announcement of winners is on Monday, September 11, 2017 while I’m hunkering from the wrath of Irma.  I sure do hope that by the time the storm passes,  good news will be waiting for me from The Weather Channel.

BEAUTIFULLY RUGGED 

Having lived my entire life in a tropical climate, the Alaskan wilderness was quite a significant change of scenery for me, add to that a major change in temperature as well.  From tree lined rocky shores and rugged mountain ranges to snow capped peaks and majestic glaciers, it felt like I was in another planet…an enchanting and magical planet.  The Alaskan terrain also drew out a deep sense of adventure in me…I found myself trekking alone inside a rain forest just to see a glacier. I did realize much later what a stupid thing I did, I could have encountered a bear and that could have been the end of me. Anyway, I never saw any bear, moose or deer until the last day of my trip when my ride to the airport dropped by an animal conservation center. So yes, I was in Alaska for 8 days and only saw wildlife inside a mini-zoo.

PLACID 

It was a calm afternoon at sea and my cruise ship was sailing steadily towards our first port of call…Ketchikan, Alaska. The air was a bit chilly but that didn’t deter me from stepping out to my stateroom’s balcony to check the view.  It was foggy earlier in the day so I was excited to see the fog finally lifted and the islands visibly clear from where I was standing.  From a distance, I saw this tiny boat slowly glide towards us while staying close to the island obviously trying to maintain a safe distance from the behemoth of a ship it was encountering. As both vessels got closer, I noticed how still the waters were creating a mirror effect of the boat and the island so I immediately got my camera busy to capture as much as I can of the magical scene.  It was such a treat to photograph the boat as it carefully sliced through the silent waters and gently stirred up the serene reflection of the lush Alaskan forest in the distance.

TALE OF TAILS

Last week I found myself in foggy, rainy and chilly Alaska for a 7-night cruise in America’s Last Frontier. When one thinks of Alaska, nature and adventure immediately comes to mind as well as its hostile environment, which can be frightening and exhilarating at the same time. One of the cruise’s excursions I signed up for was a photography tour in a rain forest, the Mendenhall Glacier and some whale watching. My post today will feature photos I took during the whale watching, which was quite an experience in itself with the rain and fog providing an additional challenge. We were herded into this small boat (big enough to sit 14 of us) and was brought to an inlet where other boats were already stationed waiting for the next sighting. Apparently, when one boat sights a whale, the other boats get radioed on the location so everyone gets to view the whales. Otherwise, we get a refund if no whale is sighted during the tour. Our guide/instructor taught us how to capture the flukes (whale’s tail) by observing how a whale dives down. He told us to focus on the dorsal fin stating that once a whale dives and exposes its dorsal fin, the tail will definitely come out for a wave. True to his words, we were able to witness and capture a good number of whale tails. I’m sharing below five more of the many tail photos I took that day.

Note the dorsal fin above as the whale attempts to dive…the tail came out after this.

BC PLACE, VANCOUVER 

Yesterday I found myself in the heart of Vancouver, Canada while trying to escape the insane humidity of the Florida summer. I’m here for a layover to catch my cruise to Alaska later today in a last minute attempt to freeze my sweaty ass for a week. It is my first time in Vancouver and true to its reputation, this city is one vibrant  kaleidoscope of cultures. This city reminds me very much of Hong Kong but with a more western flair to it. Being of Asian descent, I also feel very much at home in this bustling metropolis notorious for its huge Asian population. The architecture is very interesting, the culinary options endless while the people are the friendliest amongst mega cities I’ve ever visited (I do feel the need to point out that Canadians look pretty much happy and contented). Vancouver is probably one city I won’t have second thoughts to live in…on the contrary, I don’t know how it is during winter season so maybe I will stick to my old tropical Florida for now as I’m no fan of extremely cold weathers. Anyway, my hotel in downtown Vancouver is right across the BC Place, a multi-purpose stadium and currently home to the BC Lions, Vancouver Whitecaps FC and at one point by the 2010 Winter Olympics. The rooftop of my hotel offers panoramic views of the stadium as well as that of the city so I immediately got busy with my DSLR. Unfortunately, I do not have a wide angle lens so I never got to capture the entire stadium. The photograph above is for now the most that I can capture of the stadium and the vibrant city of Vancouver.

CHEERS TO TWO YEARS!!!

What began as an accidental hobby turned into two years of  joy sharing with you all my deep passion for photography.  It all started with a humble point-and-shoot camera before advancing to a DSLR and now with my iPhone 7 Plus out of convenience.  I work hard on my craft in order to creatively capture exciting destinations as well as breathtaking moments for feature posts on this page.  The photo above was taken at my balcony with me raising my wine glass to the sunset toasting chapter three (and hopefully more) of my photography page. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you all for following my page especially those who always take the time to leave a comment or two as your kind words are my sources of inspiration. I hope you will continue to visit this page and I promise to deliver better quality photos in the future. Thank you very much.

A NIGHT IN THE PIAZZA

The Piazza della Rotonda is a city square in the heart of Rome where the ancient Pantheon majestically stands. The square features a central fountain surrounded by shops and restaurants where one can leisurely sit, eat and people watch.  When in Rome, I always stay in this neighborhood at a hotel just right behind the Pantheon because every major landmark is just a few minutes away by foot. Walking around this neighborhood can be quite an experience…one gets magically transported to a different era while walking on cobblestone streets, through narrow alleyways and along historic buildings. I also personally enjoy walking around this plaza at night, which can be quite romantic with the golden lights illuminating the entire plaza just like in the photo above, which I took on my way back to the hotel after a hearty Italian dinner.  So when in Rome, I never pass up the chance to enjoy a night in this beautiful piazza.

SILHOUETTES AND SUNSETS

My balcony faces west so I get a front seat panorama of spectacular sunsets almost every day.  I’ve been taking photographs of the sunset from my balcony but the lack of an interesting subject in the foreground produced less interesting compositions. One day I noticed my little buddha on the balcony floor and decided to be creative with my photography. Instead of using the sunset as my subject, I focused my camera on the buddha and used the blazing sky as my background.  The photo above was taken a few weeks ago and was my first attempt in capturing the buddha as a silhouette. Today the sunset had the sky blazing again so I dropped on my belly with my iPhone and captured the photos below.

HEART OF ROME

Friends of mine are currently touring Italy and browsing through their pictures brought back pleasant memories of my vacation to this exquisite country last year. I immediately revisited my photo bank of the trip and discovered a good number of photographs worth posting in this page. My trip brought me to Rome, Florence, Tuscany and Venice before flying to Spain for the second half of my vacation. These places are rich in history and culture and my hundreds of photographs will never be able to give justice to the spectacular beauty I saw in person.  So the next series of photos on this site will feature photographs from my Italian trip beginning with the Colosseum right in the heart of Rome, which was recently cleaned up for a fresher look. This architectural wonder has become the city’s symbol and I captured it using my iPhone7 Plus in Pano mode in order to photograph the entire subject in a single shot.

SHOT ON THE 4TH OF JULY

Yesterday the United States of America celebrated its Independence Day commemorating the day the 13 American colonies declared independence from the British empire. The highlight of this holiday is a festive fireworks display celebrated all over the country.  Luckily, I live 5 minutes walk to the beach where my home city’s firework showcase was to be held. It being a last minute decision I ended up not finding my tripod and taking the photos handheld. I enjoyed watching the fireworks display and captured a few decent shots. I am posting 16 shots that I personally like and hope you guys like them too. The settings I used were f/16, 4 seconds and ISO100. Happy 4th of July to all!

PEGGY’S WINDOW

During my trip to Venice a few months ago, I visited the Peggy Guggenheim Collection to view her vast treasury of artwork ranging from Picasso and Metzinger to Dali and Brâncusi. The museum is a famous destination in Venice with its main entrance accessible through the Grand Canal. Peggy bought the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, which is an 18th-century castle, in 1949 and started showing her art collection in 1951. While exploring the museum, I happened on this window with a great view of the canal but interestingly curtained by a patterned metal grill. I pulled out my iPhone 7 Plus to photograph the outside view incorporating the patterned grill to create a layered effect on my photo. I thought it would be nice to capture Venice and the Grand Canal through Peggy’s window.

TWO BY TWO

I was strolling along the High Line Park in New York City when I noticed these two couples walking in opposite direction. I thought it amusing to photograph them just as they were right beside each other. I hurriedly stood in the middle of the pathway and centered them in my camera screen. I reckon the couple walking towards me noticed I was taking their photo as they immediately flashed me their pearly whites. The lush greenery also framed them beautifully.

EAGLE POINT

This photograph will be the last feature of my Grand Canyon photo series unless I find something in my photo bank worth featuring later. The Eagle Point in the west rim of the Grand Canyon is aptly named after a natural rock formation that looks like an eagle.  This majestic geological wonder is one of the highlights when visiting the west rim of the Grand Canyon. If you focus your attention to the top of the left wing on the photo, you will notice a line of red rocks that looks like a sleeping dog. The natives call it the “Sleeping Dog” rock formation for obvious reasons. When visiting the west rim of the Grand Canyon for photography, I think it is best to see it in the late afternoon when the sunlight is at its most golden further enhancing the redness of these natural wonders.

CROWN OF CLOUDS

During my last trip to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, my parents and I joined a bus tour out of convenience. I didn’t like the idea of getting lost in the middle of nowhere as it has been years since my last visit by car. The only downside with taking bus tours is you don’t get to stop anytime for photos. You follow a specific schedule, which oftentimes get delayed by inconsiderate fellow passengers…but I will not dwell on that. Anyway, I ended up taking my photos from inside the bus, which at most times end up blurry. This photo was taken when we were about half an hour away from the west rim of the Grand Canyon. I noticed how these jet-stream clouds were filling up the sky and jetting out of the mountain top like a crown. I took multiple shots but the roadside portion of the photos were a bit blurry due to the speeding bus. I decided to angle my iphone 7plus towards the mountain top so as not to capture the roadside in a blur. This one turned out sharper although I would have loved this more had there been a man on a horse on the mountain top. LOL!

MAN IN THE WINDOW

The hallway to the restrooms at the Guano Cafe in Guano Point, Grand Canyon West have these huge windows that frame the amazing views in the distance. I was stepping out of the restroom when I saw this man looking out of the window obviously mesmerized by the spectacular view in front of him. I immediately pulled out my phone and quietly took multiple shots. I also took photos of just the window but I prefer this one as it shows how the Grand Canyon captivates its visitors. The man is actually my father waiting for me and my mother to step out of the restrooms. This was his first trip to the Grand Canyon and I’m glad to have brought him and my mother for an experience of a lifetime.

GRAND CANYON

The Grand Canyon is probably one of the most photographed natural wonders and possibly one of the most visited in the world.  It’s western rim is best accessible from Las Vegas, which is about 3 hours drive each way. This was my second trip and I promised myself to enjoy the view instead of spending time taking photos. I was with my parents who were visiting for the first time so of course I made sure they got their souvenir photos. After which, I took the time to inhale the fresh dry air and scan every inch of the wonder before me…as far as my eyes can see. The photo above was one of the few I took using the Pano mode of my iPhone 7 Plus. Lately I have been travelling less with my DSLR and have resorted to using my phone as my primary travel camera. Who would have thought that a phone could capture such detail and color?…Big thanks to Apple…photography has now become more comfortable (no heavy cameras around your neck) and more convenient.

CANYONS AND CROWS

During my recent trip to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, I took a good number of photos which I will share on this page in a series of posts. The photo above is one of my favorite having been lucky enough to capture one of the crows attempting to land on a branch. Since today is Earth Day, I decided to post this photo to celebrate the beauty of nature and the wonders of life in this planet. It was a cold and windy day during my visit and dozens of crows were eagerly waiting for food to be blown away from people’s trays. This leafless tree was just a few feet away from my table and I noticed the two crows quietly perched on the branches. I thought to myself how nice it would be to capture a third crow flying just above the tree. I decided to point my camera phone to the tree and patiently waited for my lucky moment. It didn’t take long before one started swirling above the tree. I immediately got busy snapping photos until the crow finally landed on the branch. Wildlife photography is a test of patience…it can never be staged or timed or reshot. You only get one chance and you better be ready for it. Thanks to my lousy lunch, I had more time focusing on my subject, which graciously gave me the opportunity to photograph it exactly how and where I wanted it. Photographing nature is such a thrilling and gratifying experience. And with many parts of our planet at risk of permanent destruction…photographs allow us to educate people how beautiful is this world we live in and that the responsibility of protecting this planet lies on our very shoulders. We owe it future generations…let us all contribute to help protect our only home. Happy Earth Day everyone!

NATURE’S ARTWORK

A trip to the Grand Canyon in Arizona is something one must experience once in a lifetime. This beautiful work of art by mother nature exposes about 2 billion years of geological history. Last week I revisited the west rim of the Grand Canyon and brought my parents with me to see it for the first time. My father, who is a National Geographic aficionado, had the grandest time of his life. Meanwhile, my mother who had a few good screams everytime my father walked to the edge of the canyon thought it was an experience of a lifetime.

The park is inside the Hualapai tribe reservation and thankfully they opened a section of the canyon for public viewing. At the site, a skywalk was built so people can walk on glass floors above the canyon for some gut wrenching experience. We opted not to try it as my mother was not excited on the idea of walking on glass floors. Also, I wouldnt’t be able to bring my camera or my camera phone on the skywalk. Instead, they will have to take your photos and you buy them for a premium. I am not a fan of altering natural beauty.  I always believe that the Grand Canyon is best experienced by standing at the edge of the canyon with both feet firmly on top of those billion-year-old rocks. By the way, I took this photo using my iPhone 7 Plus.

SPRING AWAKENING

I was in New York City this week to accompany my parents for their first visit to the Big Apple. They are currently in the United States for vacation so I thought it would be great to take them to NYC while they’re still strong enough to handle all the walking. A trip to New York isn’t complete without visiting Central Park so we braved the cold and headed for this famous destination. Most of the trees were still bare while the grass were mostly yellow, although, signs of green were slowly sprouting all over the park. I’ve always visited Central Park during the summer so this visit kinda provided me a different look of the park. The bare branches allowed more sunlight to reach the ground creating a brighter look and exposing more details.  The photograph above was taken by my iPhone 7 Plus using the Pano mode.

ANCIENT REFLECTIONS

img_0663The highlight of my trip to Granada, Spain was a visit to an ancient palace called The Alhambra. This gigantic complex of walls, palaces, courtyards, gardens and pools was created in the mid-13th century around the end of the Muslim rule in Spain. Alhambra literally translates “The Red (Female)” in reference to the red clay used for the construction of the buildings.  The complex is also filled with jaw dropping Islamic art and architecture reminiscent of the Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace, both of which I visited in Istanbul, Turkey a few years ago. The photo above was taken at the Court of the Myrtles, named after the myrtle bushes surrounding the pool. At the center of the photo is the northern chamber, a portico with 6 beautifully decorated arches and a tower all magnificently reflected into the pool. The tower is actually part of the Comares Palace, which was the official residence of the king. I tried taking photos of the courtyard at various angles but I realized the best way to capture the courtyard was from the middle at the end of the pool. I used my iPhone 7 Plus to take this photo using the Pano Mode for a wider capture. A friend insisted that I visit the Alhambra while in Granada and I’m glad I listened to her.

SILENCE

img_0662I enjoy taking photographs of empty spaces because I love the stillness and silence it projects…It may also be a reflection of my pensive and introvert personality…I had such a moment when I visited this empty bullfight arena in Palma de Mallorca, Spain…I was on a photography high shooting different sections of the building minus the noisy crowds filling the hallways during fight days…I enjoyed capturing the arches, the chessboard-like floors, the shadows casted by the afternoon sun, the still palm trees outside and the empty hallways before me. I was very lucky to be there on the right day and the right time.

FADED BEAUTY

The Procuratie are three ancient buildings surrounding St. Mark’s Square in Venice and currently housing offices, souvenir and retail shops as well as restaurants including one of the oldest coffee shops in the world, the Florian.  I took this photograph in one of the passageways of the Procuratie Vecchie, which is the oldest of the three buildings dating back to the 12th century. These buildings provide us a glimpse of old Venice when it was a major financial and maritime center around the Renaissance and the Middle Ages. I initially noticed the roughened look of the passageway from the chipped vaulted ceilings and eroded walls to the washed paint and crooked lines creating a beautiful ugliness to the place. I can only imagine how beautiful this passageway must have looked back then…today, all we have left to enjoy is its faded beauty.

GONDOLA SURPRISE

When in Venice, a gondola ride is quite inevitable…so during my trip to this floating city last October, I found myself sailing in one along this ancient city’s narrow canals. The sailing was smooth despite it being a tiny boat and was filled with pleasant surprises at every turn.  Imagine my shock when in the middle of the tour the gondola glided out into the wide Venetian lagoon. I am not scared of sailing into open waters just as long as I’m in a huge boat…but when you’re in a tiny gondola rocking in a large body of water it wasn’t difficult to start panicking. Apparently, this was part of the route and the gondolier wanted to show me the Doge’s Palace from out in the lagoon when he found out I was into photography. It was a spectacular view indeed but I couldn’t help myself from clinging on the boat for life’s mercy. Despite being partially frozen in fear, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to take a photograph so I slowly pulled out my iPhone 7 Plus and took a number of shots. I was also too chicken to move to the opposite side of the boat so I ended up capturing a portion of the gondola, which surprisingly added an interesting perspective to my photographs…This one turned out to be my best and favorite shot.

A NEW BEGINNING

I have been on creative hibernation for more than a month now thus the absence of new posts on this page. Apparently, I’ve been struggling to find the right words to effectively describe my photos and it seems like the year ended and so did my writing skills. To my defense,  I did mention in my profile that I am not much of a writer so I hope you guys understand.  Anyway, I am giving myself, my photography and this page another chance, which is why I decided to use this photograph I took of the sunrise somewhere in the Atlantic as my feature photo for this post. Sunrises mean new beginnings so I thought the photo best represents my return to this page.  I’m back and looking forward to hearing from you all again!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!

Happy Holidays to everyone! By the way, that’s my dog Lily posing for me beside my Christmas tree. She can’t wait to open her gifts in a few hours. Hope everyone is safe and sound at home and with your loved ones.  May this season bring love and joy to you and your families.

ROME IN RUINS

The Palatine Hill in Rome is one of my favorite places to visit in the city. The whole place may be in ruins but it provides you an amazing picture of how great an empire Rome was centuries ago. On my first walk around this archeological heaven back in 2014, I was lucky to join a small guided tour with the most informed tour guide one could ask for. The most amazing thing I learned during the tour was that ancient Rome was right underneath modern day Rome. During my trip this year, I decided to head for the Capitoline Hill to capture a photo of Palatine Hill from a higher angle. In this panoramic photo I took using my iPhone 7 Plus, once can see the Roman Forum, Temple of Saturn and even the Colosseum in the far distance.

BRIDGE OF SIGHS 

I always thought it was called the Bridge of Sighs because of the emotions it brought out of the viewers outside. However, I found out during my tour of the Doge’s Palace that it was called as such due to the emotions of the convicts crossing towards their prison cells seeing freedom for the last time…thus the sigh. The bridge is a key landmark in Venice as you can tell from the large crowd gathered on the bridge. I also stood on that bridge and took a number of photos but this one I took from the opposite side turned out better. The gondolas sailing towards the Venetian lagoon added a dramatic effect to the composition without taking away the focus from the bridge above. And just like everyone else who stood before this famous bridge, I took a sigh of appreciation for its beauty despite the tragic purpose of its very existence.

TORO LAND

One thing I dislike about guided tours is when they take you to these little factories for product demos followed by desperate sales pitches. In Kusadasi we were taken to a rug factory, in Pompeii to a trinket shop and in Tuscany to a winery. Oftentimes, you are trapped with no choice but to patiently listen to the entire demo. Fortunately, my tour in Palma de Mallorca, Spain turned out differently as across the street from the jewelry factory was the Plaza de Toros – a bullfight arena. About half of the tour group decided to head for the bullring, which was inexplicably open that day…no guards nor ticket staff in the property.  We all walked in and found ourselves inside the expansive property, which I later found out can accomodate more than 11,000 people . I took a number of photos but the wide expanse of the ring couldn’t be captured in its entirety so I used the panorama mode on my phone to capture the photo above…sans the crowd and a poor bull fighting for its life.

MUSEO DE BELLAS ARTES DE GRANADA

The Museum of Fine Arts in Granada, Spain is housed inside the Carlos V Palace right beside the Alhambra, which was the main destination of my tour. The museum houses famous artworks such as The Allegory of Death by P. Toma and a painting of St. Francis of Assisi, which were both created during the 17th century. The photograph above was taken at the round courtyard of this Renaissance building using the pano mode of my iPhone 7 plus. I was initially planning to capture the entire courtyard and its columns but at the last minute decided to capture only a section and included the hallways for a better perspective.

LA LUNA ROMANA

The full moon beautifully soared over the Altare della Patria or the National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II during my recent trip to the historic city of Rome. I took this photo just as I was turning on a corner while heading back to the hotel. I was hoping to photograph the moon above the Colosseum, however, the moon was way too high up in the sky by the time twilight made an entrance. Gladly, I looked back at the monument for a last gaze otherwise I would have missed the chance to photograph such a magical sight. The  monument was illuminated at the right spots while the sky was at its perfect brightness and blueness to allow for the bright moon to pop out. What a beautiful night that was!

MEMORIES OF CHILDHOOD

I grew up in a sleepy village called Mangagoy in the southeastern part of the Philippines where the sapphire ocean meets emerald forests.  Every 19th of July, the village celebrates its “fiesta” (founding day) highlighted by the presence of a carnival, visiting from another part of the country, and offering every child’s dream ride…except for a carousel.  I remember riding a ferris wheel, caterpillar, octopus and bump cars…but never a carousel. So when I visited Florence, Italy last month, my heart skipped a beat when I saw a carousel in one of the town’s square.  A part of me wanted to take a ride but my shyness overcame me when I saw kids lining up so I decided to just take photos instead. During my photoshoot, a woman with a cluster of balloons passed by and I luckily captured her in one of my photos. While reviewing my travel album a few days ago, I came across this photo and got transported back to my childhood with flashbacks of those happy fiesta days. I eventually rode a carousel on the cruise ship I went on a few days later but everytime I see one, my heart always aches for that missing memory of a young me happily riding a carousel.

GONDOLAS AND THE GRAND CANAL

The Grand Canal in Venice is rarely this deserted so when I noticed the absence of motorized boats with only two gondolas on the water, I immediately grabbed my phone and snapped this photo. This majestic waterway, seen here from the Rialto bridge, is usually busy with motorboats sailing in all directions while transporting locals and tourists to different sections of the city. On the other hand, majority of the gondolas sail along the narrower canals for tourists to explore the unwalkable sections of Venice. The gondola and the canal are both emblematic of Venice so I am very pleased to highlight them both in this photograph.

LA SAGRADA FAMILIA

A trip to Barcelona isn’t complete without visiting the world famous Sagrada Familia or Church of the Holy Family.  This architectural masterpiece by Antoni Gaudi began construction in 1882 and is expected to be completed by 2026. I have not been compelled to visit churches when travelling as they all usually look the same. However, the Sagrada Familia is not your typical church…from its ornate facade to its otherworldly interiors, visitors step out of the church with an overwhelming feeling of reverence for Gaudi. My photo above features the Nativity facade of the church, which serves as the main entrance for all visitors. I decided to take the photo at an angle to capture as much detail as possible as I was only using my iPhone.

MOON OVER DUOMO

The moon was at its fullest during my last night in Florence, Italy and the sky was blanketed with a thin veil of clouds creating a magical atmosphere in this medieval city in the heart of Tuscany. I initially wished the sky was clearer but I realized the clouds provided a dramatic effect to the night sky for my photography. My hotel (Hotel Spadai) had a viewing deck on it’s rooftop so I climbed up around midnight and happily clicked the night away without distractions from other hotel guests. Fortunately, the moon was positioned close enough to the Duomo allowing me to capture both in a single shot.

ALHAMBRA PALACE

I visited the ALHAMBRA palace and fortress complex in Granada, Andalusia, Spain during my recent trip to Europe. This palatial complex was constructed in AD 889 and then renovated and rebuilt by the Moorish emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada during the mid 13th century. Poets often refer to this palace as “a pearl set in emeralds” and UNESCO declared this a World Heritage Site. The Alhambra reminds me of the great contributions by Muslims to education, healthcare, philosophy and science. In fact, between 8th and 15th century Andalusia was the world’s center for education and knowledge. The photo above was taken in one of the courtyards inside the palace.

MORNING HAS BROKEN

It was my first Transatlantic cruise and I was prepared for a rollercoaster ride in the Atlantic Ocean on board Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas. The trip took 13 nights from Barcelona, Spain to Fort Lauderdale, Florida with only two stops…Palma de Mallorca and Malaga. A friend cautioned me that during her crossing last year, she experienced 25-foot waves so I had my prayers ready. I was a little bit confident though knowing that I was on the largest cruise ship in the world…although, we all knew what happened the last time somebody bragged about being the largest ship in the world. To my amazement, we had the smoothest sailing with the ocean so calm it felt like we were crossing a lake. Being in the middle of the ocean, my only photo opportunities were sunrises and sunsets aside from taking photos of the ship. One morning, I decided to wake up earlier than usual to witness the sunrise from my balcony. I was astounded by the fiery glow of the cloudy skies that I thought we got transported to an enchanted sea and was waiting for a pirate ship to appear from out of nowhere. I grabbed my iPhone and snapped this photo before the lights could change as the sun rose higher and higher. This happened during the fifth day of our cruise and was never duplicated again. I tried waking up early to catch the sunrise but we never had one as beautiful as this. Thankfully, I woke up that day just in time to witness and capture that beautiful moment.

PONTE VECCHIO

The Ponte Vecchio is probably one of the most photographed bridges in Italy and I made sure I got my photo when I visited Florence about two weeks ago. This medieval bridge crosses the Arno River and was the only bridge in Florence that was not destroyed by the Germans when they retreated from the British liberators during the Second World War. The bridge is lined with jewelry and souvenir shops although centuries ago butchers were the main feature of the bridge. Most photos of this famous landmark are usually taken from the bridges on opposite sides or along the river banks and I did a number of shots at those angles. However, during my visit to the Uffizi Gallery I noticed that one of the upper floor windows looked down into the bridge although the reflection on the glass window became a challenge. I decided to use my iPhone to take this photo by laying it flat on the glass window to avoid any reflections. I finally got my photo of the Ponte Vecchio at an angle different from your typical tourist photo.

FONTANA DI TREVI

When I visited Rome two years ago, the Trevi Fountain was closed for renovation and the pool was totally drained of water.  Visitors were able to walk on a ledge above the pool for a photograph and some were even throwing coins into the empty pool. I took a number of photos but none were worthy of a feature on my page. Two weeks ago I found myself again in Rome and this time I made sure the Trevi fountain was a major stop during my walk around the city. Unfortunately, my back was killing me after I pulled it while clearing my backyard for Hurricane Matthew that carrying a DSLR around my neck was intolerable. I had to use my iPhone 7 this entire trip so as not to aggravate my back. Surprisingly, using my iphone allowed me to capture wider panoramas like the photo above. I wouldn’t have been able to photograph the fountain in a wide span like this using an ordinary lens. I also wanted to capture the fountain devoid of tourists but my parents are not filthy rich enough to lock down the area so bear with the humanity bordering my photo. LOL!

CASTELL DE BELLVER

This Gothic style castle on top of a hill in Palma de Mallorca, Spain is one of the few circular castles in the world and was built for King James II of Majorca during the 14th century. From the 18th to mid-20th century, the castle was turned into a political prison before it was eventually turned into a museum in 1932.  The castle was my first stop on a tour of Palma de Mallorca a few days ago and I was having a hard time photographing the place as it was filled up with tourists. While on the roofdeck of the castle, I noticed that the last tour group was heading for the second floor so I immediately ran down to the ground floor to take advantage of the empty halls. I only had a 10-second window to capture this part of the castle as the first tour group came down just as I finished my panoramic shot using my iPhone 7 Plus. This was just a single attempt done hurriedly and I could not be any happier with the outcome.

VENICE…LIKE NO OTHER

A week ago I arrived in Venice with very high expectations having known so much about this Italian city from movies, books and magazines. This was my first trip to this romantic city and true to my expectations, I was bowled over by what I saw. I may have to mention my wonderful stay at the Baglioni Luna Hotel, which made the entire experience more memorable, from the amazing service to my fabulous suite with a panoramic view of the Venetian lagoon (I will post a photographic review of the hotel later). A trip to Venice won’t be complete without a gondola ride and the tourist in me insisted that I had to give it a try. I found myself gliding through narrow canals between centuries-old buildings seeing a side of Venice one won’t get to see from the streets. Venice is such a beautiful city that I can’t find the right words to best describe it. This is one of those places that is better experienced than described.

FIRENZE

I am currently in the enchanting city of Florence and I’ve never said wow so many times in my life. This city in the heart of Italy’s Tuscany region was once a powerful kingdom and a major trading point in Europe. The city is rich in culture and traditions as well as impressive architecture such as the Basilica of Saint Mary the Flower with its behemoth of a dome towering above the city as seen in the middle of my photo. The city’s other famous landmarks include the Ponte Vecchio (bridge on middle left of the photo) and  the Church of Santa Croce (middle right), which serves as home to the remains of famous Italians like Galileo, Michelangelo and Dante. This photo was taken on top of a hill at the Piazza Michelangelo and the view from the top was worth every step of the climb.

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