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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

ROMAN HOLIDAY

It’s great to be back in Rome…the weather is beautiful and the air crisp and comfortably chilly. I arrived here yesterday and immediately made the rounds of every tourist landmark featured in a travel book. A number of them were under clean up renovation the last time I was here so it’s good to finally see them minus the scaffoldings. Fortunately, my hotel is just 15 minutes walk to all of these landmarks so I conveniently strolled my way around while enjoying a cone of my favorite gelato flavors from the landmark shop, Giolitti! I culminated my walkathon at the Colosseum and immediately played with my camera just like the thousands of tourists there that day. In order not to bore you with the same touristy photo of this ancient architectural wonder, I decided to capture its reflection on a puddle using my new iPhone 7. I’ve seen a number of photos using this technique so I decided to try it on the Colosseum…not bad for a first try…and the 12-megapixel iPhone camera did not disappoint.

WORLD TRADE CENTER MALL

The World Trade Center Mall reopened Tuesday last week after more than a decade since its destruction during the 9/11 attacks. The mall is a part of the entire World Trade Center complex featuring an architectural masterpiece of a roof, which looks like the wings of a bird in flight. I visited the mall last Friday and the interiors were quite impressive although I think it looked too sterile for a shopping complex. The mall also serves as the transportation hub of downtown Manhattan connecting pedestrians to various train stations. The whole complex is still in construction mode, however, a good number of retail stores are now open to the public. The best feature of the complex is the glass spine of the roof, which provides visitors a view of the Freedom Tower just a few feet away from the  mall.

VENETIAN CAUSEWAY

I took this photo 5 years ago the day I bought a tripod camera stand and just a few weeks after I bought my first DSLR camera. A friend joined me for a photo walk of our neighborhood to play with our new cameras when we found ourselves on the Venetian Causeway, a bridgeway which connects mainland Miami through the Venetian Isles composed of 6 artificial islands all the way to Miami Beach.  During this shoot, I was still ignorant on how to set the manual mode of my camera so I used instead the night mode feature out of convenience (horror!).  I also made sure the bridge was empty of vehicles and pedestrians when I took the shot in order to create the deserted atmosphere of the photo.  This shot never really caught my eye until a few days ago while reviewing my photo bank that I realized it has an interesting look to it. I attempted to convert it to black and white, which turned out really nice, but decided last minute to post this colored version instead.

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