MIKRI VENETIA (Little Venice)

In the Greek island of Mykonos, a row of houses line up the waterfront with their balconies extending out to sea. These houses used to be the homes of the rich inhabitants of the island before they were converted into the shops, bars and restaurants that they are today. This part of the island is also known as Mikri Venetia or Little Venice due to similarities with the Italian city like its proximity to water. This area is also regarded as the most romantic as well as the most photographed part of Mykonos…aside of course from the famous windmills scattered around the island. During my visit to Mykonos a few years ago, I strolled through this part of town on my way to see the windmills but failed to pay attention to the beauty of the place. Thankfully I took the time to explore this area on my way back and was able to take the photo above. I think it was also perfect timing that the sun was about to set and the sunlight was turning a richer shade of gold. It made my photo softer, dreamier and more romantic. Greece is one of the most beautiful countries I have visited and I hope to visit it again in the future. Maybe if fate allows I’ll stay a little longer on my next visit.

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THE WINDMILLS OF MYKONOS

Aside from being known as Greece’s party island, Mykonos is also famous for its windmills which has become the iconic symbol of the island. When I visited Mykonos a few years ago, I hiked my way across town just so I can photograph these quintessential features of the island. The walk was a delightful experience passing through narrow alleys between whitewashed cubic stone homes with the wooden parts painted in playful colors. The windmills, which were once used to make flour out of wheat and barley are no longer operational today. Fortunately, the town has managed to preserve them by turning some into museums. Somebody told me that some of these windmills are actually private homes but I’m not sure if there’s some truth to it.

THE AWAKENING OF HESPERIDES

If sunsets in Greece are always this beautiful, I am not surprised why Greeks wrote the most inspired, prolific and passionate pieces of literature ever written. Their curiosity and thirst for knowledge also resulted to contributions to science, mathematics, medicine, philosophy, law, art, mythology and theater to name a few. Greece is such a beautiful country with a rich heritage and a culture that dates thousands of years back. It is amazing that a country so small has contributed so much to humanity. Imagine my excitement when I visited Greece for the first time a few years ago. My trip took me to the capital city of Athens and the islands of Santorini and Mykonos…three of the most visited places in that country. The photo above was taken on a boat outside of Mykonos as we were sailing towards the sunset. The colors of the sky was made magnificent by the perfect combination of the golden lights from the setting sun and the thin clouds filtering it. This post pays tribute to Hesperides, the four nymphs of the evening in Greek mythology, who are also the daughters of Atlas and symbols of the golden light of the sunset.

ISLAND SPEED

Don’t you wish you were on that boat speeding across the brilliant sapphire water and heading to a remote tropical island with your special someone? That sure is possible if you were in the Caribbean and have lots of dough but for humble commoners like a majority of us, a cruise ship is a cheaper alternative to enjoy the high seas and to explore these exotic islands. I have been cruising regularly for the past 5 years and I enjoy visiting multiple places minus the inconvenience of dragging around my luggages. The only thing I like to drag around is my camera, which then allows me to capture so many interesting places. The photograph above was taken from my stateroom balcony a few hours after we docked in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. Unfortunately, the island and the boats didn’t really provide much for my composition until the speedboat came slicing across the water. I like how the speeding boat added a sense of excitement and adventure to my composition. It makes me want to book and hop on another cruise.

PASTEL PARADISE

I was on a cruise to the Western Caribbean last week and our first port of call was the southernmost point of continental USA…Key West, Florida. I’ve been to this island multiple times and for me the best part about visiting Key West is the scenic drive through multiple keys (islands) and seeing the beautiful blue waters on both sides of the highway. Since I only had a few hours to enjoy Key West before we set sail to our next destination, I decided to limit my walk around town to a few of my favorite stores. Unfortunately, my favorite soap store, Fantasea, along Duval Street closed business a few months ago. I also planned to eat lunch in Blue Heaven but the wait time for a table was more than an hour so I ended up eating somewhere else. The only itinerary that I actually got to experience was the Key West Butterfly Museum where I was able to take a lot of photos that were featured on this page a few posts ago. I decided to return to the ship earlier than planned and found myself on my stateroom balcony staring out at this resort island across from the ship. I also noticed a pinkish haze in the atmosphere, which contrasted well to the blue waters of the sea, reminding me of the pastel colored soaps I used to buy at Fantasea. Key West is magical when seen on land but I was amazed how magical this island looks as well from the air.

FEATHERED FLORIDIANS

I have this collection of random photographs of birds most of which I took in the past few years while living in South Florida. I’ve been struggling to feature them individually on this page so today I decided to feature them together as the Feathered Floridians so I wouldn’t have to take the time to identify and research on each bird. I love to photograph birds in motion, however, my ability to press my camera button at a lightning speed is at amateur level so most of the photos below are of birds just standing still. The photograph above was taken during one of my few lucky days having captured the American White Ibis while in the process of landing on a rock. There’s so much wildlife to photograph in South Florida so I’m gonna work on my speed to focus and shoot so I can come up with better quality photos in the future. For now, please bear with my bird photography attempts for the past few years.

UNDER THE PIER

One boring weekend a few years ago, I decided to go joy riding with a friend until we found ourselves at the Dania Beach Fishing Pier in Dania Beach, Florida. The pier was filled with fishing enthusiasts holding on to their precious fishing rods while competing with pelicans and seagulls for the good catch. Good thing I brought my DSLR with me that day so I was able to capture photos of the birds, the fishes, the people, the pier and the emerald waters of the Atlantic. I then went down to the sand to continue taking photos and found myself under the pier facing it’s entire length stretching out into the water. The ocean was a little rough that day so there were a lot of surf as the waters crashed on the sand as well as on the concrete beams of the pier. I took multiple shots from the same spot and this one captured the waves so well including the water sprays showing a lot of movement and fluidity in the photo. I’ve had this photo for a while now and I only came to appreciate this work of mine very recently…hope you guys like this too!

VENICE…CITY OF CANALS

When I visited Venice, Italy I prayed so hard for my trip not to end that I would wake up really early in the morning and stay up late at night just to stretch each day. The city was just magical…from the architecture, to the rich history and culture and of course the canals, which are uniquely Venice, making this city one of the most visited in the world. During my stay, I went to watch a Vivaldi concert at a theater right beside St. Mark’s Square, hopped on a gondola that cruised around the city and took long walks along narrow alleyways and across bridges connecting the multitude of islands that make up this remarkable city. I also joined a tour of the St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace and visited the former home of American socialite Peggy Guggenheim, which is now a museum showcasing her extensive art collection. Harry’s Bar, which was right beside my hotel, was also visited to try their signature Bellini and to check out the favorite hangout of Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Charlie Chaplin and Alfred Hitchcock to name a few. The icing on the cake to my vacation was my suite at the luxurious Baglioni Hotel Luna, Venezia where my room had a view of the lagoon and my bathroom a view of the St. Mark’s bell tower. The hotel lived up to it’s five star reputation providing me with the famous Baglioni luxury and first class service. The photo above was taken in the front of the Peggy Guggenheim Museum while below are photos taken at Harry’s Bar, Peggy Guggenheim Museum and the Baglioni Hotel Luna, Venezia.

Harry’s Bar

Peggy Guggenheim Museum

Dining Room at Baglioni Hotel Luna, Venezia

Baglioni Hotel Luna, Venezia

View from my hotel suite

Living area of my hotel suite

The luxurious bed in my hotel suite

SUPERMOON

Tonight was the first and last supermoon of the year so I made sure of my availability to photograph it. The supermoon is when a full or a new moon is at its closest distance to earth resulting to a larger than usual size. I originally planned to head to the beach early with my tripod and all but decided last minute to photograph handheld. Unfortunately, the beach across from my building is just plain sand and ocean so that placed me in a dilemna on which foreground subject to use. Fortunately, the sand dunes are covered in sea oats so I decided to duck behind them and used them to frame the moon rising from the horizon. I regretted not bringing my tripod as most of my photos turned out blurry. So far, this is the most decent one after undergoing a reasonable amount of processing in my iPad. Below are more photos I took of the moon all framed by fluffy clouds. Note that I had to superimpose the more detailed photo of the moon otherwise it would just be one solid ball of light. Hope everyone got the chance to view the Supermoon and captured a few photos as well.

SOUTH FLORIDA DREAMIN’

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

SEAWATCH ON THE OCEAN

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

GELID PEAKS

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

UNFRIENDLY SKIES

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

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

OF LIGHTHOUSE AND SEA OATS

I have always been fascinated by these rice looking grasses growing along the shorelines of South Florida beaches and love how they turn gold during the summer reminding me of rice fields back in the Philippines during the harvest season.  I recently learned that this grass is named sea oats and is mostly found in the southeastern United States from Virginia to Florida. I took this photograph in the island of Key Biscayne from across mainland Miami and in the background is the historic and 191-year-old Cape Florida Lighthouse. It was quite a struggle taking this photograph as my autofocus was going insane switching focus from the sea oats in the foreground to the lighthouse in the background.  I tried to be creative with this composition and I’d like to believe I did okay on my first try. What do you think?

VIEW FROM MY TABLE

My Friday nights are usually spent at a favorite restaurant to celebrate the end of another work week for some munching and sipping. About four Fridays ago, I had dinner with neighbors at this Fort Lauderdale landmark restaurant called Seawatch. This restaurant has balcony tables offering a spectacular view of the ocean and the beach. Initially, I was annoyed about the palm leaves partially blocking my view but decided to include them to add an interesting touch to my composition. I always sit at this section of the restaurant as the view de-stresses me from the crazy week that just passed. The salty ocean breeze and the amazing view transports me to a lalaland until my favorite plate of crunchy calamari gets served…then I float back down to reality.

THE LIGHTHOUSE

While cruising out of Nassau, Bahamas, our ship sailed past Paradise Island before heading out for the Atlantic Ocean towards our final destination. At the tip of the island before the open ocean was a lighthouse standing in solitude as if sadly bidding  us goodbye at the same time wishing us a safe sail home. Upon further research, I discovered its name as Paradise Island Lighthouse although it is more commonly known as the Nassau Harbor Lighthouse. This piece of architecture was built in 1817 making it the oldest lighthouse in the Bahamas and the oldest surviving lighthouse in the West Indies.  I took this photo 2 years ago using my iPhone 5 and is quite impressed by the color quality and sharpness. I can’t wait for the release of the iPhone 7 with hopefully a better camera as it comes very handy on days when I feel too lazy to carry my DSLR around.

MORADA BAY

Morada Bay Beach Cafe in Islamorada, Florida was a pitstop during my drive home from a weekend of fun and sun in the island of Key West. This restaurant, which was highly recommended by a coworker, does not only serve delicious meals…it also offers a breathtaking view of the bay from your table. The tables, chairs and umbrellas are painted with bright colors providing a festive atmosphere and complementing the spectacular scenery. I was truly lucky to arrive before the lunch crowd and got to photograph the place empty. This place will now be my official stop next time I drive down to Key West in the future.

KEY WEST

imageIf you are looking for white sandy beaches, colorful coral reefs, breathtaking sunsets, rich culture, top rate dining and laid-back island vibe…then Key West, Florida is a must visit for you. The adventure begins when you drive down from Miami through the Overseas Highway passing through hundreds of islands home to amazing nature reserves. The long and slow drive ends in the island of Key West also known as the Southernmost Point of Continental USA and just 90 miles away from Cuba.  A trip to Key West has become part of my annual tradition and each trip is just as wonderful as the previous ones with new places to explore and more photographs to capture. The photo above was taken at the pier of The Reach Resort by Waldorf Astoria where I captured the emerald waters, sapphire skies and lime-colored buildings of a nearby resort. I was also lucky to capture this seabird soaring in front of me adding a touch of nature in this photo of a tropical dream. So if you are planning to visit South Florida, don’t miss a chance to drive down to Key West and let this spectacular view greet you everyday during your stay.

PIER AT THE REACH

imageI am currently in Key West, Florida for the weekend for some sun, surf and munch. I was a little worried that the weather would be horrible as we just had a tropical storm a few days ago. Thankfully, the Sunshine State lived up to it’s name and blasted this island with lots of sunshine and some nasty humidity.  Key West is the southernmost point of continental USA and is one of the most visited places in Florida. It is a very picturesque island town with an old world feel to it inspiring the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams who onced called this place home. Today, I decided to enjoy some island sun and beautiful blue waters by taking photographs of the pier at the beachfront of  The Reach Resort – Waldorf Astoria. I am not a beach person so I happily stood by the shore and took a few panoramic photos of the pier using my iPhone 6. After a few sweaty attempts to capture this photo, I immediately headed back to my hotel room for some much needed airconditioning and lots of pillow time…this is how I spend my vacations. LOL!

SEA FOAMS

A few hours ago I made a last minute decision to drive to Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, a small town north of Fort Lauderdale, Florida and 10 minutes away from my house, to try to photograph the moon rising from the horizon. The town’s beach area features a pier, which I decided to use as subject for my photography. While waiting for the moonrise, I practiced photographing the waves trying to capture them in a foam-like effect. This one is my favorite as the spread of the waves were consistently the same from where I was standing all the way to the pier. As for the moon, I found out that moonrise was at 9:12PM and I already made dinner plans so I decided to pack up and head back home. I’ll just do my moon photography on the next full moon.

SUNSET IN BORACAY 

 This photo was one of my few earlier attempts on disciplined photography.  I took this in 2009 using my iPhone during a trip to the island of Boracay in central Philippines. Boracay is famous for its powdery white sands and is even recognized by established travel magazines like Conde Nast as one of the best beaches in the world. It’s amazing how good the iPhone camera was back then. Today, I continue to use my iPhone to take photos and so far it continues to amaze me with the quality of photos it produces.

FORT LAUDERDALE BEACH

image

Living in Fort Lauderdale, Florida is like being on vacation year round with the beach just a short drive away…in my case, 10 minutes. I am not a beach person so the ocean being so close didn’t really matter much to me when I first moved here from Miami (home of the world famous South Beach). However, every now and then I take the time to drive down to the beach to enjoy the salty breeze and the spectacular view. This morning was one of those days (happens about two to three times a year) when I felt the need to see the ocean.  Thankfully, the beach wasn’t crowded so I got to take a few decent shots minus the crazy crowds. Fort Lauderdale Beach was once popular amongst university students coming here for Spring Break. Today the city host visitors from all over the world who wants to enjoy some Florida sunshine minus the chaotic vibe of South Beach in Miami.

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park

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