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FLIGHT OF THE ALBATROSS 

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

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SOUND OF SILENCE

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

GELID PEAKS

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

ALASKAN SPEED

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

BEAUTIFULLY RUGGED 

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

PLACID 

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

TALE OF TAILS

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

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

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.

SHOT ON THE 4TH OF JULY

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

LONDON’S EYE

img_6534When I was a young kid back in the Philippines, I always look forward to fiesta season when the carnival comes to town with various rides and shows. The centerpiece of the carnival was the ferris wheel and I never missed a ride despite the funny feeling on my stomach when the gondola comes down. So when I visited London last year, I made sure to ride their landmark ferris wheel called the London Eye. The ride was much slower taking 30 minutes for a full turn and was intentionally built as an observatory to provide visitors a bird’s eye view of the city. I took this photograph a day before I took the ride while exploring my hotel’s neighborhood. I also booked the champagne experience package to skip the lines and for a less crowded gondola and synchronized my ride with the time of the sunset. Unless one is scared of heights, every visitor to London should ride the London Eye where the view of the city is just breathtaking.

 CASTEL SANT’ANGELO

The Castle of the Holy Angel in Rome, Italy was originally built as the mausoleum for the Roman emperor Hadrian and his family as well as for the emperors who eventually succeeded him. The place has been looted centuries ago so the urns of the emperors have never been recovered.  Eventually, the castle became a fortress for the popes before being converted into the museum that it is today. I never got to step inside the museum as I was hurrying for my guided tour of the Vatican, which was about half a mile away from the castle. I took this photo hurriedly while crossing the bridge so this is my only photo of this ancient Roman landmark. Perhaps on my next trip to Rome I can finally step inside and take another photo of this historic building at a better angle.

CHANDELIER MANDALA

The opulence of the Château de Versailles in Paris, France can never be captured in a photograph. One has to be there to experience the luxury and lavishness of the place and understand the kind of lifestyle the French royals once lived. I found myself exploring one of the many rooms of the palace when my vision got diverted into a heavily decorated ceiling with a crystal chandelier suspended right above me. At first thought, the whole vision reminded me of a mandala, which is a geometric and religious symbol of the universe in Indian religions. In the case of my photograph, I decided to name it a chandelier mandala…a symbol of a lifestyle that most of us will never get to experience.

NEW YORK TWILIGHT

I’m in New York City for the weekend for some touristy stuff thus my missing a photo post or two for a few days now.  Yesterday, I revisited the top of the Rockefeller Center to photograph the NYC sunset. After lining up for ages, walking through a labyrinth of walls and riding the speedy elevator to the 67th floor…I finally made it to the first ledge of the observatory.  The observatory provided me with a 360-degree view of the city, however, I decided to focus my camera on the southern side of Manhattan to capture the Empire State Building and the new World Trade Tower just as the sun was setting. The view from the top was amazing and viewing it during twilight was such a breathtaking experience. It was also awesome to see the city lights slowly turn on one by one like Christmas lights on a tree just as the cloudy skies slowly turned darker each passing minute. I took a number of photos and this one turned out to be my personal favorite.  I hope you guys like it too…would appreciate your feedback. Thanks.

THE WALL

The thick walls of the Fort San Cristobal in San Juan, Puerto Rico protected this former Spanish settlement for centuries from foreign invaders.  This once military complex is now a museum under the United States National Park Services and is one of the most visited heritage sites in Old San Juan.  Last February, the Eastern Caribbean cruise I was on made a brief stop at this US territory giving me ample time to explore the neighborhood close to the port.   The fort was conveniently located a few minutes from the ship so I braved through the humidity and found myself standing in front of this behemoth of a wall. At the gate, I noticed the golden light of the setting sun casting geometric shadows while making the walls glow creating an interesting photo opportunity for me. The rich blue cloudless sky also made the golden yellow walls of the fort pop out in this photograph. Unfortunately, my cruise only stopped for a few hours so I never really got to explore much of Old San Juan. I hope to visit again someday and maybe include a visit of the El Morro for more photo opportunities.

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.

FIRST YEAR ANNIVERSARY/ FONTAINE DE TOURNY

Today, I decided to feature my cover photo on this post to celebrate my page’s first year anniversary. This photo of the Fontaine de Tourny was taken during my trip to Quebec City, Canada in 2013. I love how the statues glisten under the fountain while the water carelessly sprinkles all around them. This has been an amazing twelve months since I launched my photography page and so far the journey is still a long way to go. So far, my page has published 163 posts which attracted 6,840 visitors and 17,100 views as well as received 10,470 likes and 1,230 comments. Furthermore, 5 of my photographs have been featured in the Sun Sentinel travel page and 4 have been printed in the Lifestyle Section of their Sunday edition. One of my photos also won in Peter Lik’s “This Is Home” photo contest where I received an autographed copy of his photography book, Las Vegas. I have to admit that despite all of these mini achievements in a period of one year I am still not that confident with my photography skills. I still continue to explore the capabilities of my camera and experiment with new techniques that I learn online. Although, I remain determined to continue with my photographic journey and I am taking you all along on this adventure that we started a year ago. You all have been very generous expressing your appreciation for my work through your constructive and inspiring comments, which encourages me to continue snapping photos of wonderful places and share them all with you. Thank you all very much for your support and I hope you will continue to pay my page a visit!

FONTANA DEI QUATTRO FIUMI

The Fountain of the Four Rivers created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1651 is the centerpiece of Piazza Navona in Rome, Italy. This was the second major landmark I visited in Rome after the Pantheon, which was right behind my hotel. This impressive work of art represents the four major rivers of the four continents where the pope had supreme religious authority. These rivers are the Danube representing Europe, Nile representing Africa, Ganges representing Asia and Rio de la Plata representing the Americas. I was overwhelmed with emotions being in Rome for the first time and seeing all these monuments that I’ve only seen on pictures and films. Rome is such a beautiful city and photographs do not give justice to its real beauty. I may have taken at least 200 photos during my first five hours in Rome and I feel like I have not captured enough. I look forward to my next trip to Rome in a few months and I hope to capture a few hundred more photos to share with you all.

4th OF JULY

imageToday the United States of America is commemorating that fateful day in 1776 when thirteen American colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence and formed this great nation by declaring freedom from the British Empire. Being of Filipino descent, this date is also significant in my home country’s history as this commemorates the day the Philippines ceased to be a US territory and became an independent nation.  This year I celebrated the 4th of July at a friends condo where we had an amazing view of the fireworks from his building’s rooftop.  As I was taking this photo, I noticed lightning flashing inside this huge dark cloud in the distance creating an interesting backdrop to the fireworks. This photoshoot was a true test of my patience as I wanted to capture the lightning together with the fireworks and it took me 165 shots to finally capture this. While everybody was busy lighting fireworks, nature also joined in and flashed her spectacular version of fireworks display. Happy 4th of July to everyone!!!

HALL OF MIRRORS

The Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles was constructed in 1678 during the reign of King Louis XIV of France. It is the central gallery of the palace and features 17 mirror-clad arches reflecting the palace gardens from the 17 windows across the hall. When I took this photograph, I wished the entire hall was empty although the chances of achieving that in the most visited place in France was beyond impossible. I visited Versailles during the last few weeks of summer right about the end of tourist season and yet the place was packed with tourists from all corners of the globe. I guess I’ll just have to be content with capturing this famous hall with a good number of faces expressing fascination and awe over the opulence of the French nobility. The last royal residents of this palace was the family and court of King Louis XVI and his infamous wife…Marie Antoinette.

MOON FOR NISHKA

Early this year, I found myself in Leesburg, Florida to become the godfather of my friend’s daughter during her baptism into the Catholic faith. My goddaughter’s nickname is Nishka and I consider it an honor to be asked as her godfather. The baptism party gathered friends from different parts of the state and it also served as our mini-reunion. After the baptismal party at a hotel ballroom, we moved to my friends home for more food, drinks and karaoke (it’s a Filipino thing. LOL!). While everybody was busy singing and partying, I stepped out into the backyard and was greeted by this bright and beautiful full moon. I took a few shots and all I got of the moon was a solid ball of light. I decided to take a separate photo of the moon to capture more details and superimposed it on the foreground photo for a better effect. I was never a fan of manipulating photos so I was quiet hesitant to post this. However, I saw a photo of my goddaughter earlier today and decided to go ahead and dedicate this photo to her…thus the title of this post. May she grow up to be as lovely as the moon on the night of her baptism.

SURFIN’ SEA BIRD

  
It’s day three of the cruise and we are still in the middle of the ocean, although, the captain promised we will be docking in San Juan, Puerto Rico in three hours.  I woke up this morning noticing dozens of sea birds flying alongside the cruise ship but did not see any island from my balcony. I immediately grabbed my camera and started taking photos of the birds in front of me  when I noticed this lone sea bird (I did some research and found out this is a Masked Booby and not a seagull) flying so low right alongside the ship. I decided to focus my camera on it and tried to capture a shot like it was surfin’ the waves created by the ship. I realized this bird must be hunting for its next meal and it is pretty awesome to see the determination in its eyes…almost hawklike…very fierce!

PLANET CHORA

  With the Star Wars film hitting theaters just a few days ago, I thought this photo would be a nice tribute to one of my favorite films as this interesting looking building reminds me of one of their sets.  This is actually a church in the island of Mykonos (town is also called Chora) in Greece. I love the contrast between the blue sky and the white-washed walls…very Greek flag indeed!  But going back to Star Wars,  I can picture the robot C-3PO walking out of that door and happily blurting out “May the force be with you”!

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