SA-FAUX-RI

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

BLUE RIDGE IN THE DUSK

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

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

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

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

THE GUANACOS OF PATAGONIA

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

SAILOR’S DELIGHT

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

DAYBREAK IN HONG KONG

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

PARK HYATT BANGKOK

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

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

WATERFALL IN THE CITY

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

LA BELLA LUNA

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

ISTANBUL IN PINK

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

SLICE OF HEAVEN ON EARTH

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

ILLUMINATIONS

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

THE HONG KONG PARK

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

SOARIN’ OVER LANTAU

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

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

ARCH OVER THE HOOVER

A trip to Las Vegas isn’t complete without a side trip to the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon, although, the dam is oftentimes just a brief stop on the way to the Grand Canyon. When I visited Las Vegas last February, I decided to book a tour of just the dam in order to explore the entire complex including the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, an arch bridge that spans the Colorado River and connects the states of Nevada and Arizona. Before the bridge was built, all traffic goes right on top of the dam with everyone slowing down to observe and take photos resulting to major traffic jams. The bridge now allows continuous driving for regular commuters while avoiding the tourists on the dam below. The bridge just like the dam is considered as a major fear of engineering being the highest concrete arch bridge in the world. The tour included a walk on the bridge providing us a bird’s eye view of the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead and the Colorado River. Here are some photos I took of the bridge during my visit to this architectural masterpiece.

LA MANO (THE HAND)

La Mano or The Hand is a sculpture by Chilean artist Mario Irarrázabal located at Brava Beach in Punta Del Este, Uruguay. Punta del Este was one of the stops of my South American cruise and to my luck an Argentinian friend was in town for the summer and offered to show me the city. We made this our first stop in an attempt to avoid the bus loads of cruise ship passengers who will swarm around this sculpture in an instant like a colony of bees. I intentionally left my DSLR on the ship for this stop so I used my iphone to take these photos. I wished the sky was clear that day but somehow the clouds provide a unique perspective to the photographs.

OBELISCO DE BUENOS AIRES

Last month I was in Buenos Aires, Argentina for the first time and explored the city for a few days before embarking on a 2-week cruise to the tip of South America. I fell in love with this elegant city referred to as The Paris of South America that I promised myself to visit again and perhaps stay a little longer. One of the most prominent landmarks in the city is the Obelisco or Obelisk located right in the heart of the 9 de Julio Avenue, which happens to be one of the widest avenues in the world. This architectural icon was built in the 1930’s to commemorate the quadricentennial of the foundation of the city of Buenos Aires.  Fortunately, the hotel I was staying, The Palacio Duhau at the Recoleta District, was just a few minutes walk to the Obelisco so I made sure a trip to this landmark was included in my itinerary. By the way, one can actually climb to the top of the obelisk but with elevator access nonexistent it is a test of endurance climbing 206 steps to the top. I would say I was happy enough to appreciate it from the ground so here are some photographs I took of the Obelisk and its surrounding area also known as the Punto Obelisco. Happy New Year everyone and here’s to more travels as well as great photo opportunities this year.

PLUIE À PARIS

The city of Paris is unquestionably one of the most romantic places in the world. Its tree lined boulevards and ornate facades, the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe as well as the River Seine and all of its bridges all add to the air of romanticism that constantly envelopes the city. Aside from these, one thing that also made me fall madly in love with Paris was when rain started falling on it. The city sparkles and gleam brightly when wet…so instead of escaping from the rain, I walked into it with my umbrella and camera embracing the sense of solitude that it provided me. The photographs in this post were taken on the days it rained while I was in Paris. The first two were taken at The Louvre, the third one was at my hotel’s neighborhood at Avenue Kléber while the last one was right outside of Musée D’Orsay. I also decided to present the photographs in black and white to create a timeless look in them. The title is simply a French translation of the words “Rain in Paris”, which I thought sounded more sexy in French.

PARC GÜELL

Going through my old travel photos I found these pictures I took around Parc Güell in Barcelona, Spain. I thought I posted them ages ago but after reviewing previous blog posts I realized I have not. Parc Güell is a complex of gardens and architectural elements designed by famed architect Antoni Gaudi and was constructed from 1900 to 1914. It was officially opened as a park in 1926 and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. This major Barcelona attraction was originally built as a housing development but unfortunately the project did not take off prompting the developer, Eusebi Güell, to convert it into a park. This sprawling complex is also an architect’s dreamland as it is filled with symbols inspired by politics, religion and mythology. As for photography enthusiasts, this complex requires a lot of stamina and patience….stamina for all the walking and climbing involved and patience for the throngs of tourists posing at every nook and corner of this complex. My biggest regret was not bringing my DSLR camera as I used my iPhone 7Plus to take all these photos because the idea of walking and climbing with a 3-lb camera hanging around my neck was just petrifying. I also focused my shots on the various angles, colors, curves, lines, materials and symbols around the park in order to minimize capturing the tourists scattered all over. Of all the photographs I took my favorite is the one above with the multicolored tiles and the city of Barcelona sprawled all the way towards the ocean. I only wished the weather was better that day as the gray clouds created a gloomy mood despite the colorful tiles and eccentric architecture. Barcelona is such a beautiful city with a rich history and culture so if this amazing city is in your future travel itinerary don’t forget to include Parc Güell in your must visit list.

AMERICA’S DOWNTON ABBEY

The Biltmore Mansion near Asheville, North Carolina is the largest privately owned house in the United States. Built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895, the estate remains under the ownership of his descendents to this day. A trip to Asheville won’t be complete without a visit to this expansive estate so as soon as my travel plans were confirmed I immediately booked my ticket for a visit. I took a self-guided tour of the house with an audio guide, which was a good soure of information about the Vanderbilt family as well as that of the construction and life inside the mansion. My exploration of the house took me not only to the family rooms, bedrooms, dining hall and offices but also to the kitchen, pantries and servants quarters. The entire place reminded me very much of the British series Downtown Abbey, which was about a noble family and their help during the Gilded Age. America may not be a monarchy but the Vanderbilts were the closest to royalty this country could ever have. Photography is allowed inside and outside the house but the photos I’m featuring on this post were all taken outside.

THE GOLDEN EMPIRE

New York City is truly the microcosm of the world as this diverse metropolis hosts almost every possible ethnicity and culture that our planet holds. At one point in history, this city was even referred to as the “Capital of the World” and the “Seat of the Empire”. Today NYC is more commonly known as the “City that Never Sleeps” or “The Big Apple”, although, one thing that remains true about this great big city is that it still is the center of world trade, culture and global politics. Even the line from the song New York, New York remains true to this day…”if I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere”. As a photography enthusiast, I always wanted to singly capture the vibrance, energy and grandeur of this city despite the fact that every city corner already offers a unique photo opportunity. I eventually came up with this bright idea (hold your laughter) that to capture the very essence of NYC I should photograph the city from the top…so up I went to the viewing deck of the Rockefeller Center to take my ultimate NYC photograph. The sun was about to set when I reached the viewing deck and the first thing I noticed was how the entire city was bathed in golden sunlight. As I scanned the city before me I couldn’t help but notice the Empire State Building, once the tallest building in the world and the emblem of greatness for old New York, standing majestically right in the middle of the city while in the far distance was the Freedom Tower, the symbol of the new New York, with its glass walls reflecting the rich colors of the setting sun. There on top of the Rockefeller Center I found my ultimate photograph of New York City capturing the old and the new with the rest of the world living harmoniously below.

SOUTHERN CHARM

Savannah, Georgia was never on my bucket list…In fact, I’ve watched a number of movies filmed in this town and listened to friends rave about it and still the place never stirred any desire for me to visit. Yesterday, I started this road trip to Pittsburgh (another place missing on my bucket list) and Savannah became an inevitable stop for the night en route to Asheville, North Carolina. I booked a hotel right on the river district and was totally dismayed by what I saw. That section of the town was uninspiring and didn’t look the way I expected it. Anyway, I decided to give Savannah a chance so I started walking farther into their historic district and glad I decided to do so. Block after block of historic homes surrounding beautiful neighborhood squares astounded me. Thankfully I brought my camera with me so I immediately got busy taking shot after shot. The photo above is of the Forsyth Fountain and is my favorite of the dozens I took. I am also including other photos I took around town and hope you guys enjoy looking at them.

THE CHICAGO HARBOR LIGHTHOUSE

A few years ago I found myself in Chicago, Illinois to attend a reunion with some of my former classmates from Physical Therapy school. It was my first time to the Windy City so I was keen on visiting and photographing every prominent landmark around the city. Fortunately, my former classmates organized tours that took us to almost every tourist spot in Chicago. One of them was a cruise on Lake Michigan, which took us far out into the lake to adore the magnificent Chicago skyline. During the sail away the cruise narrator pointed out this lighhouse at the end of the breakwaters, which was originally built to mark the mouth of the Chicago River until it was moved to it’s current location after the breakwaters were extended. I took multiple photos of the lighthouse but unfortunately immediately forgot about it after the trip. Four days ago I was going through my old travel photos and found this of the lighthouse. I also noticed how pretty this specific photo looked with the cirrostratus clouds in the background. What’s most interesting is that I discovered this photo exactly 6 years after it was taken in May 21, 2012…some would say it’s just pure coincidence but it could also mean fate just reminding me that my friends and I are up for another reunion.

ORANGE BEAUTY

I found myself standing in front of an orange flamingo with a dilemna on how to photograph such a lofty animal. I didn’t want to photograph the entire bird f