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.

MEN IN ORANGE

Buddhist monks have always fascinated me…their meditative and simple lifestyles require them to abandon a life of pleasure in order to reach Nirvana. Based on those basic requirements, I obviously am not going to become a monk. LOL! Their orange robes are also very eye catching and mystical at the same time. I saw a lot of them during my trip to Thailand and Cambodia and always wanted to photograph them. I was instructed not to come too close but it was okay to take their photos from a distance. I had so many opportunities to photograph them during the trip but decided not to until I photographed them by accident. I was in Angkor Wat taking photos from across the moat when these two monks walked past in front of me just as I was clicking on my camera. I photographed them by accident and the photo turned out perfectly. It sure was my lucky day. The other photos were taken after the one above during the tour around the Angkor Wat complex. 
I call this photo the Orange Phantom…again I tried to keep my distance when taking their photos but this monk walked too fast and so I ended up with a photo of his back. I do like the mood of this photo with the all the shadows and spot lighting…very mysterious.
These last two photos were taken while driving out of the Angkor Wat complex. There was a brief traffic jam and these monks were patiently waiting for their tuk tuk to start moving.

MOONLIGHT CRUISES

Here are some photos I took of the full moon during a few of my cruises. The photo above was taken somewhere in the Atlantic on our way to Boston, Massachusetts from Bar Harbor, Maine. I used the balcony ledge of my stateroom to stabilize my camera although a ship swaying in the waves wasn’t in any way helpful.
The photo above was taken on a full moon night while cruising the Rio dela Plata from Montevideo, Uruguay to Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Rio dela Plata is the widest river in the world.
This one I took on a cruise to Bermuda. I took a long exposure shot to capture the stars so I had to stand still for like 25 seconds.

 

PUERTO DE PUNTA DEL ESTE

Punta del Este, Uruguay was one of the stops during my South American cruise last December of 2018. These photos were taken at the pier while waiting for the tender to take us back to the cruise ship. I’ve been meaning to post these photos years ago but keep forgetting. These were actually taken using my old iPhone 7 Plus as I didn’t bring ashore my DSLR. I love how the clouds made the sky look very dramatic in these photos. The old yet colorful boats tossed by the tide also added a rustic feel to the composition. iPhones really capture good photos although the lack of depth always makes me regret not taking my DSLR with me.

MORNING WALK SHOTS

Every morning when I walk my dog we always head to the beach to enjoy views like this. Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on the sand so the boardwalk is the closest we can get to enjoy the beach. During my walk the other day, the sea was so calm it was almost like a lake. There was no breeze in the air and the humidity was at record high. The sun was already way above the horizon and the entire sky was curtained by these wispy cirrus clouds. Everything was so still as if they were posing for a painter…or perhaps a photographer. I immediately pulled out my iPhone 11 Pro Max and took these shots using the wide angle lens setting. The photo above was the very first one I took and is my favorite. I believe the beach is the perfect place to start the day…it is both calming and energizing.

COLORFUL BERMUDA

June of last year I went on an 11-night cruise along the New England area onboard the Celebrity Summit, which then crossed the Atlantic to Bermuda for a 2-day stop before returning to New York. It was my first time in this British territory and was amazed by the beautiful mix of Caribbean and English vibe on the island. The colorful houses look like a page out of a children’s book while the white sandy beaches with endless torquise blue waters is a piece of heaven on earth. I took multiple photos of the beaches and coves but will post them another time. For now I’ll be featuring the beautiful Bermudian landscape and the charming and colorful homes that dot it.

ANGKOR WOW!

Angkor Wat is located in Siem Reap, Kingdom of Cambodia and is one of the most magnificent archeological sites in the world. The complex was built in the early part of the 12th century then neglected around the 16th century resulting to the jungle recapturing the complex. Visiting this architectural wonder, which is listed in UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, is both a breathtaking and fascinating experience. My jaw got sore saying “wow” multiple times while exploring this humongous temple complex. If ever you get the chance to visit this place, spare an entire day to explore it as there is so much to see.  I took hundreds of photographs clicking on everything from panoramic views to close ups of the intricate carvings on the walls. Here are some of the photos I took during my visit a few months ago.

STEEL CITY LIGHTS

Two years ago I traveled to Pittsburgh to celebrate my partner’s birthday who once called this city home. Pittsburgh was named City of Steel due to the many steel-related businesses that once flourished here. I made reservations at Altius, a fine dining restaurant on top of Mt. Washington offering elevated cuisine and breathtaking views of the city. Thankfully we were given a table by the window so we got to enjoy panoramic views of Pittsburgh from sunset to night lights. I do have to mention that food and service was excellent at this restaurant so I highly recommend a visit if you guys find yourselves in Pittsburgh in the near future. These photos were taken at a viewing area close to the restaurant and I used a DSLR to take them. I had to mount my camera on an iron fence to stabilize it and minimize shaking so the photos won’t come out blurry. The last two photos were taken inside the restaurant using my iPhone 7Plus.


The photos below were taken inside Altius Restaurant using my iPhone 7Plus.

LADIES OF THE MOAT

I’ve always wondered what my initial reaction would be when I see Angkor Wat for the first time. Would it be a jaw dropping moment? Would it take my breath away? Or would it be a disappointing experience? My anticipation was further built up as the sunrise experience I signed up for was cancelled due to inclement weather. I was able to go later in the day, once the rain stopped, however the sun just made a very brief appearance that day. I was looking forward to photograph every nook and corner of the temple that day but the gloomy weather made photography a challenge resulting to less vibrant shots. The moment I stepped out of the van, my heart started to beat insanely, and got wilder the closer I was to the temple. For a moment, I thought my heart stopped beating when I stepped up to this flatform and saw the Angkor Wat complex rising majestically across this body of water, which I initially thought was a river but later found out was a moat. It was such a magical moment…an experience I would cherish for the rest of my life. In the moat I noticed this boat with four women scooping what looked like reeds out of the water. I got riveted to what they were doing including the pile of reeds on their boat, which I thought made an interesting shot. I immediately pulled out my camera to photograph them while at the same time captured a reflection of Angkor Wat in the water. I was there for less than 10 minutes and I already got myself these magical shots. Angkor Wat is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen and I made sure I took as many photographs as possible, all of which I would feature in my next few posts. For today, photos of these ladies cleaning the moat stole the show from Angkor Wat and will be the main feature of this post.

THE HOUSE ON A ROCK

I went on a cruise of the New England area last June of 2019 aboard the Celebrity Summit cruise ship and one of our stops was Newport, Rhode Island. The town is famous for its Gilded Age mansions and so I booked a tour of the Doris Duke mansion, which I will feature at a later post. What actually caught my eye during the trip was this house perched on top of a rocky island in the middle of the Narragansett Bay. The house, built in 1905, was named the Clingstone although locals call it the House on a Rock. The original owner was the nephew of Joseph Wharton, founder of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, until it was sold in 1961 to an architect relative for only $3,600, which was the amount owed in back taxes. The house caught my eye as we were sailing out of Newport just as the sun was setting. I thought it was beautiful with the silhouette of the Newport Bridge rising majestically in the distance.

STUNNING ACADIA

The Acadia National Park is located near Bar Harbor, Maine and is the only national park in the northeast. It’s magnificent coastline featuring granite cliffs, sandy and cobblestone beaches as well as crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean is every photographer’s paradise. These photos were at a rocky cliff with amazing views of the water and the rugged shoreline. In retrospect I wish I gathered enough courage to climb these rocks for more panoramic shots. But since I’m not much of a risk taker I just stood on even grounds and allowed my zoom lens to take these photos without me falling off a cliff.

ANGKOR IN ROUGE

The Banteay Srei is a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva located in Angkor, Kingdom of Cambodia. The temple was built during the 10th century and is smaller in scale compared to other temples around the area but it features the most elaborate carvings making this one of the most beautiful temples in Cambodia. It’s unique color is due to the red sandstone used as primary construction material. It was raining during my visit and the wet walls enhanced the redness of the sandstones. This temple complex is about two hours drive from Siem Reap but is a must visit due to its beauty and unique color. Here are some of the photos I took during my visit using a Canon Rebel T6s.

THE CHEDIS OF WAT PHO

The Wat Photharam is one of the oldest and largest temple complexes in Bangkok, Thailand. It is more commonly known as Wat Pho and is one of the most visited sites in Bangkok. One of the temples inside the complex houses the world famous Reclining Buddha, which is the sites main attraction. However, what most people do not know is that Wat Pho is actually the birthplace of traditional Thai massage, which to this day is being taught inside the complex. After exploring around for hours I treated myself to some foot massage, which was quite a heavenly experience. 

Around the complex are these pyramid-like structures called chedis, which remind me of the pawns on a chess board but much more colorful. These structures covered in beautiful mosaic tiles houses the ashes of members of the royal family. The larger chedis supposedly contain relics of Buddha.  The main photo above was taken using my iPhone 7 Plus while the rest below were taken using my Canon Rebel T6s.

BRIDAL VEIL FALLS

I have recently bombarded you all with photos I took during my recent trip to Asia so I’m giving everyone a break and will post those I took within continental America. No these photos are not from scenes in the Twilight movie nor were they taken in the middle of a rain forest. You’d be surprised to know that these were actually taken at the side of the highway on a foggy and rainy day in Skagway, Alaska. Our tour guide called it the Bridal Veil Falls, which if you look at it it does look like a bride’s veil. I took these photos using slow shutter speed and did it with my camera handheld, which one shouldn’t do when trying to create a cotton effect. I did have my tripod with me that day but it was just a quick stop so I decided not to go through the hassle of setting it up. I do remember holding my breath for so long so as not to shake my camera. Here are those that didn’t turn out blurry.

LILIES D’ANGKOR

966AFBDB-F689-4D49-BB50-26443D976273During my trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia, I stayed at the Belmond La Residence D’Angkor Hotel. This luxury hotel is situated right in the heart of town and the lush foliage all over the property makes you feel like you’re in the middle of a tropical forest. Just outside of the main lobby is a pond filled with beautiful purple and white water lilies. As soon as I saw them I knew I needed to photograph such mystical blooms. I took these photos late in the afternoon when lighting was no longer harsh and the sun was casting shadows in the water. I love how the dark pond waters made the color of the lilies brighter and richer. In Cambodian culture, the water lily is a symbol of purity, spontaneous generation and divine birth while for Buddhists, it is a symbol of enlightenment.

TO CATCH A DRAGON FLY

One day I was walking my dog around the neighborhood when I noticed dragonflies flying all over the place. I don’t remember seeing this many dragonflies so I wondered if maybe this lockdown thing has lowered the levels of air pollution and nature is having a party. Thankfully I had my phone with me so I started taking photos of the ones resting on plants. The photo above is my favorite as this specific dragonfly intentionally sat still while I was photographing it. I even moved my phone as close as five inches from it yet it never flew away. Best animal model one could ever ask for. I also love that it looks like it’s on flight but it’s actually resting on a branch. Photos were taken using my iPhone 11 Pro Max.

PHRA BUDDHASAIYAS

The Phra Buddhasaiyas is the main attraction at the Wat Pho temple complex in Bangkok, Thailand. This golden statue of Buddha in a reclining position is famously and aptly known as the Reclining Buddha and is one of Bangkok’s most visited sites. The temple is always packed with tourists so photographing it can be quite a challenge with so many people competing for the right spot to capture the perfect shot. Thankfully I went early so it wasn’t so crowded and I was able to work on my angles.  

Last time I was in Bangkok was 15 years ago and so much has changed since my last visit. However, revisiting this magnificent statue brought out the same sense of amazement I felt the first time I saw it many years ago. This time though I made sure I had my cameras ready and photographed every inch of the temple’s interior. The first three photos were taken using my GoPro Hero 7 Black with a wide angle setting while the rest were taken using my Canon Rebel T6s. I had to take a number of test shots to capture the perfect lighting, something one can do with a DSLR but not with a GoPro. I wanted to capture the serenity inside the temple at the same time highlighting the “goldness” of Buddha. These are my favorite shots!

CATCHING THE FISHERMAN

I have been taking photographs using a DSLR since 2012 but you’d be surprised to know that I’ve never used shutter speeds beyond 1/500. During my trip to Cambodia last November, my tour guide took me outside of Siem Reap allowing me to see the beautiful Cambodian countryside. Unfortunately, we had to work around a schedule so I didn’t have the luxury of making frequent stops to take photos. I had to capture most of the countryside from inside a speeding van and above is one of those photos I took while we were speeding down a country road. This was taken around 9 in the morning after I noticed a number of men lined along the river bank throwing nets to catch fish. I was hoping to capture one just as he was throwing his net and luckily I saw one getting ready so I focused my camera on him to capture the perfect moment. I think I used 1/1500 shutter speed for this photo and zoomed in at 200mm. I love how I captured the net midair and the man in his throwing pose. I wish I was able to capture this photo while on steady ground but this one isn’t too bad from inside a moving van. Hope you guys like this as much as I do.

TIAN TAN BUDDHA

I visited Hong Kong in the fall of 2019 and despite the protests occuring around the city, I went ahead with the trip and glad that I did. A friend who lives in Hong Kong told me I should be fine as I will be in the city during the week and most of the protests occur on weekends. True enough, I had a great time in this amazing city with no untoward incidents during my stay. One of the highlights of my visit was a trip to the Tian Tan Buddha, which is considered one of the largest statues of Buddha in the world. Located in Lantau Island, this famous landmark is best accessed through a cable car ride with amazing views of the HKG airport. This famous landmark sits on top of a hill and one has to climb almost three hundred steps to get close to it. At first I thought this was an ancient shrine but after a quick Google, I found out this was just built in the early 90’s. Still it is quite a magical experience climbing up the steps and coming face to face with Buddha. The photo above was taken inside the cable car as it was approaching the final station close to the statue. The photos below were taken at the steps during my climb as well as on the base of the statue at the top of the hill. By the way, I was told it was bad luck to look back during the climb so I didn’t. I’m not superstitious but I adhered to the instructions just to be safe…I didn’t want any protests/riots to spoil my vacation.

TA PROHM

The ancient temple of Ta Prohm was the first archeological site I visited in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The complex was just breathtaking with the roots of trees growing out of the ruins. In fact, this temple looks exactly in the same condition in which it was found. During this leg of my Asian trip, I hired a tour guide to show me around for five days and he was very informative about the places we visited. Unfortunately, I was too busy taking photos that I immediately forgot the trivias he told me as soon as we left the ruins. Yikes! The only thing I remember about Ta Phrom was it being used as set for the film Tomb Raider. Here are some of the hundreds of photographs I took around this magnificent complex.

ON THE WINGS OF LOVE

Somewhere in Siem Reap, Cambodia while waiting for my tour guide and driver to take me back to my hotel I saw this pair of butterflies having it away by our van’s window. I’ve never seen butterflies in action before so I got curious and quietly sat and watched them go all the way. Thankfully I realized I needed to photograph such a rare moment so immediately I pulled out my camera and took a few shots. This was the best shot so far as the van started moving disturbing the winged lovers causing them to fly. Lesson learned is to always have your camera ready as you never know what photo opportunities may unfold before you.

INTRAMUROS

I have lived in Manila most of my adult life and I’m embarassed to admit that while living there I have never been to Intramuros, the old walled city of Manila. During the Spanish colonial times, the seat of government was found inside the walls of Intramuros and was also home to the Manila Cathedral as well as other churches, schools, universities and businesses. Also found inside the walls is Fort Santiago, a fort that once served as primary defense of the Spanish government in the Philippines and the center of the spice trade to the Americas and Europe. During the Second World War, the entire city of Manila was leveled down including the buildings inside the walled city resulting to major losses to our heritage. Thankfully, the Philippine government allocated money in the restoration of the walled city and work is still ongoing to this day. Last November of 2019, I visited Intramuros for the first time with my parents joining me. The photos in this post were all taken around the Fort Santiago area of the old walled city of Manila.

DANCING LIGHTS

The nightly laser light show in Hong Kong always generate a lot of oohs and aaahs both from tourists and locals alike. The show is every eight o’clock in the evening at the Island side of Hong Kong and best viewed at the Kowloon side of the city. For four evenings I was able to enjoy this breathtaking show from my suite at the InterContinental Hong Kong. Unfortunately I was unable to open a window so all these photos were taken behind a glass partition. I used my Canon Rebel T6s for these photos pressing my lens flat into the glass window then turned off all the lights and pulled the curtain behind me to prevent my camera from capturing any reflections. If you plan to visit Hong Kong, stay at the InterContinental and get a room with harbour views to enjoy this nightly show at the comfort of your room.

THE GUARDIANS OF PHRA MONDOP

The Phra Mondop (The Library) is an architectural masterpiece located inside the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand. The building’s intricate decors plus the abundance of gold is the perfect representation of Thailand’s amazing culture. When I visited this magnificent royal compound three months ago, I thought I was going to run out of memory space in my camera. Every nook and corner was a photographers delight. Every inch of the compound was worth becoming a subject. I went for expansive angles to capture entire structures at the same time zoomed in to capture tiny details such as the materials covering the walls. In this series I am featuring the guard-like statues erected around the building. Their presence must have been intimidating to visitors especially those who saw these for the first time more than two hundred years ago. These statues actually look like they are ready to hit you with their clubs in case you misbehave. I admit that I envy the Thais for their colorful culture and I also salute them for ensuring that they remain preserved and protected for future generations to enjoy.

NANAY

My very first attempt on portrait photography was of my Nanay (Filipino for mother) in the picnic area at Joe Pool Lake in Dallas, Texas. This was in 2012 while she was in the country for vacation and was staying with my sister and her family before flying to Florida with me. As my mother was gamely posing in front of my camera, a butterfly landed on her shoulder, which surprisingly stayed there for a while as if wanting to be part of the portrait. I went wild taking as many photos as I can until the winged beauty decided it had posed enough and flew away. This is my favorite photo of my mother as the butterfly is a fitting symbol of her. In many cultures, butterflies are known to symbolize endurance, hope, journeys and life. My mother raised me and my siblings all by herself working hard to afford us quality education all the way to our university degrees. She taught us to value our education reminding us that it was the only gift she could afford. Her hardwork paid off as my siblings and I achieved successful careers eventually immigrating to different parts of the world and living lives we never would have imagined. Unfortunately though, our dreams also took us far away from her although thanks to technology, she was just a video call away. Last October 15, 2019, my mother celebrated her 70th birthday and she hosted her dream party celebrating it with family and friends…it was also her last birthday. Last month my mother passed away from complications of cancer. Her last wish was to not to die alone…my siblings and I were around her and holding her till her last breath. Her last words to us were….”I love you all!” As I was composing this post, I realized my mother was actually the butterfly to me and my siblings…she gave love, beauty and purpose to our lives…and when her work was done, she flew away leaving behind memories…wonderful ones that we can cherish…forever.

GIANT GOLDEN KISSES

The Phra Si Ratthana Chedi is a golden stupa or chedi, which is part of the Emerald Buddha temple, inside the grounds of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand. This stupa, which looks like a giant Kisses, is one of the most symbolic icons of Thailand often used for their tourism materials. These photos were taken during my trip to Bangkok last November 2019 and unfortunately we were there close to lunch time so the lights were a little harsh and the photos not as dramatic had these been taken earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon when the richer colors of the sun would reflect on the golden surface of the temple. Anyway, all these photos were taken with my GoPro Hero 7 Black using a wide lens technique.

MARCH OF THE WATER BUFFALOS

These photos were taken in Siem Reap, Cambodia from inside a moving van on my way to one of the many temples outside the city.  I was playing with super fast shutter speed and was amazed to have captured clear photos despite the speed of the van. I thought they looked cute marching down the street like they exactly know where they were headed. These animals are commonly used for farming around Asia and in the Philippines, we call them “carabao” and make white cheese out of their milk.

THE PEAK

A trip to Hong Kong isn’t complete without visiting Victoria Peak, an elevation on the island side of the city with breathtaking views of the metropolis and the harbor. The Peak, as locals call it, is accessible by a funicular tram from Central Hong Kong as well as by vehicle or by hiking up the hill. I took the tram as the station was just a short walk from my hotel. The Peak also happens to be the most visited place in Hong Kong and is probably every photographer’s dream spot for a bird’s eye view and panoramic shot of the city. Here are some of the photos I took using my Canon Rebel T6s during my trip to this fabulous city last month.

GIRLS OF ANGKOR

Siem Reap, Cambodia was one of the cities I visited during my trip around Southeast Asia. Of course Angkor Wat was in the itinerary and it was quite an experience seeing the temple ruins in person but I will feature my photos of the temple at a later post. For now, here are photos I took of these local girls in their traditional dresses posing with the tourists around the temple. Their costumes are just beautiful especially the golden headdresses…very exotic…very mystical.

SUNSET IN HONG KONG

I just returned from my three-week trip to Asia and happily I could say I had one of the best trips of my life. Asia is such a mystical and enchanting region and each country has so much to offer with one place amazingly much different from the other. First stop of my vacation was in Hong Kong, which had to be booked last minute due to the ongoing protests. Thankfully I have a friend who lives there so I got pointers on what days the protests are least likely to happen…weekdays. I booked a suite at the InterContinental Hong Kong and my room offered panoramic views of the city the kind we see on postcards and travel magazines. I took hundreds of photographs from my hotel room window capturing Hong Kong’s iconic views and here are some taken at sunset.

CRYSTAL CAVE

The Crystal Caves in the island of Bermuda is a natural attraction formed during the Ice Age located about a hundred feet underground. During my cruise to this lovely island last June of this year, I made sure to pay this awe-inspiring natural wonder a visit. The cave is about 250 feet long and 40 feet wide with a clear water lake at the bottom and a roof covered with thousands of shining stalactites. The cave was discovered in the 1900’s when two kids playing cricket accidentally discovered the entrance while trying to recover their ball. Today, the Crystal Caves is one of Bermuda’s major attractions. And here’s a little trivia for everyone…the very first tourist to descend into the cave was the legendary author Mark Twain who visited it in 1908. Next time you find yourself heading to Bermuda, make sure to put Crystal Cave on top of your must visit list. Below are additinal photos I took during my visit.

SUMMER IN GOLD

It was rather confusing to see leaves of gold along the coastal areas of Maine right in the heart of summer. Coming from a state where fall is just as green as spring, I reckoned this was regular occurence in this part of the country. Maybe those of you who live up north can clarify me on this. I took these photos during my New England cruise last June while the ship was sailing out of Bar Harbor, Maine. I thought the leaves were gorgeous while the rocky shorelines looked fierce. I would love to visit this part of the country again during the peak of autumn…and will most likely do it by land, not by sea.

EARLY MORNING FLIGHT

During one of my morning walks on the beach I saw this flock of birds flying along the shoreline so I immediately pulled out my phone to photograph them as they flew in front of the rising sun. I thought it was awesome seeing them perfectly arranged in a V formation with each bird knowing their exact position during the flight. Thankfully my phone was able to capture each bird including those right in front of the sun. It is amazing how well a phone camera can capture moments like this.

LES ECLAIREURS LIGHTHOUSE

Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse is a lighthouse located on a rocky island in The Beagle Channel, in the Tierra del Fuego Region of Patagonia, Argentina. The lighthouse is more famously known as The Lighthouse at the End of the World. I visited it on an excursion during my South American cruise last December of 2018. I was initially worried when I saw the small boat for our excursion knowing the seas were a little rough that day. With my personal history of motion sickness, I was readying myself for some projectile moments. I don’t know if it was the excitement of being in a faraway land or the thrill of taking photos on a boat that was swaying like crazy that I survived the whole experience taking hundreds of photographs. My only worry at that time was that the photos would turn out blurry due to the extreme motions. I’m glad they all turned out great. Resting on and flying around the tiny island is a colony of Antarctic Shags also known as Antarctic Cormorants, which are very common in that part of the world. Below are other photos I took of the lighthouse.

LADY LIBERTY

I’ve been to New York City numerous times but have never made it to the Statue of Liberty. Twice I booked a ferry ride around Manhattan and both times they were cancelled due to bad weather. Somehow fate seemed to be telling me I needed to stay away from Lady Liberty.

Last year I finally became a naturalized citizen and during my trip to New York early this summer I thought it was the rightful time to pay the lady in green a visit. I was filled with excitement waking up to a bright and sunny morning then catching the metro to downtown and waiting for the ferry to take me to Liberty Island. As the ferry sailed closer, a strong sense of exhilaration took over me when I came face to face with the Statue of Liberty. As an immigrant to this country, I can now relate how those early Europeans felt when they were greeted by this colossal statue as they sailed into the New York harbor more than a hundred years ago. My journey may have been much easier compared to those early immigrants but all the years of waiting for my employer to inform me that I can finally move to America was quite a stressful experience indeed.

As I walked around the complex I recalled the lines from “The New Colossus” a sonnet written by Emma Lazarus, which were inscribed on a bronze plaque and placed on the pedestal of the statue. The famous last stanza of the sonnet goes: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

My visit to the Statue of Liberty was both gratifying and liberating. It was the culmination of my long journey to this land of milk and honey as well as a validation to my American Dream.

HEAVEN’S ON FIRE

I’ve been absent from this page for almost 3 months now and despite trying to post a blog multiple times I always end up not uploading them. Don’t get me wrong, I have hundreds of photographs waiting to be posted but I just can’t seem to finish a blog. I admit I am not much of a writer so my struggle have always been with the narrative that goes with the photographs. So let’s just say for the past 3 months I lost the ability to write something comprehensible. Yikes!

A few days ago I was sitting out on my balcony to catch the sunset when suddenly the sky transformed into a pandemonium of reds, oranges and gold. I dashed into my apartment to grab my camera and took a few panoramic shots before switching to close ups of the blazing sky. When I saw the results I thought these photos may be the right materials for my comeback. Just like the fiery sky captured in these photographs my desire to post a blog finally started burning.

Yay! It’s good to be back!!!

THE VESSEL (TKA)

The Hudson Yards in New York City has a new architectural landmark called The Vessel (TKA). TKA is acronym for “Temporarily Known As” since the new construction does not have an official name at this time. The architect is actually encouraging the public to come up with a name and submit it at their website at https://www.hudsonyardsnewyork.com/whats-next. Here are some photos I took of the Vessel with my GoPro Hero 7 Black using the wide-angle lens mode. Access is free but you will need to get your tickets in advance as entry is on a schedule basis. I lined up around 11AM and got a ticket in 5 minutes for a 12 noon entry…Unfortunately, I got hungry and decided to eat and missed my schedule…so no photos from the inside. LOL!

BREATHLESS IN CAPE ELIZABETH

The Portland Head Light is a historic lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, Maine and is famously known as the most photographed lighthouse in the United States. I am currently on a cruise around the New England area and one of the stops was Portland, Maine. I booked an excursion that included a visit to this famous landmark in order to join the very many who were mesmerized by its breathtaking views. Cape Elizabeth was the last stop of a whole day excursion and upon my first glimpse of the lighthouse my breath was immediately taken away. Here are some of the photos I took and am very delighted with the outcome, although my only regret was not having enough time to photograph it from the other side of the cliff due to the limited 30-minute stop. I also tried the cotton effect for the waves but my attempts didn’t turn out well as it was too bright. Perhaps another visit in the near future to try that effect (with the right lighting) as well as have all the time in the world to capture this beauty from all available angles.

I DREAM OF VENICE

Venice is a place like no other…walking around this ancient city is like being in a dream. The narrow alleys, the endless canals and the magnificent architecture evokes a magical atmosphere one will never experience anywhere else in the world. During my visit to this water world, I felt like I crossed to another dimension and found myself in photography heaven. Every nook and corner of this city is just worth photographing with the one above being one of my favorites. This was taken from the Ponte dell’Accademia at around 10 in the morning on my way to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. I love how the Grand Canal looked deserted despite it being taken in the middle of the morning. The photo also looks a bit eeriee with the ominous clouds and the absence of any signs of life like an abandoned city in some post apocalyptic film. However, one can’t deny the beauty that this ancient Italian city exudes thereby making it one of the most visited cities in the world. Photo was taken using an iPhone 7Plus.

BABY MAKES THREE

Four years ago I photographed this lovely couple for their engagement photos. Melanie and Gary are really good friends of mine so it was quite difficult to say no when they asked me to do the shoot. My hesitation at that time was due to my inexperience with portraits although the photos turned out really great much to my surprise and to their satisfaction. Fast forward to February of this year, Melanie and Gary asked me again for another photography session, this time a maternity shoot for their first baby. This time I felt more confident knowing this will be the second time I will do a portrait photoshoot. 😬 Fortunately, Melanie did all the research (again) and found this nature park with a carousel close to where they live as well as a children’s park inside their development. I had so much fun doing this shoot as I was able to use the new techniques I learned online (ha!). Here are some of the photos I took and before I forget, congratulations to them for a healthy baby boy who was born this morning (May 13, 2019). Is a baby photoshoot coming up next? We’ll see….

VELVETY CASCADES

Two years ago I joined a hiking tour outside of Juneau, Alaska and found myself trekking inside a rainforest crossing rivers filled with bright red spawning salmons. The tour was guided by a photographer who took us to places for photography opportunities and one of the stops was a white water cascade running from far deep in the forest. I wanted to try a long exposure shot to create the cotton-water effect to achieve a flowy and velvety look but was initially hesitant as I didn’t bring a tripod. I decided to be resourceful and mounted my camera on a pile of rocks then used my remote control so as not to shake the camera while taking shots. Some shots, however, were taken handheld with me holding my breath for a few seconds to stay still. Here are some of the photos that turned out well and worthy for a feature on this page.