THE BIRD MAN

Two days ago, I was walking along the beach for my morning walk when I noticed a flock of seagulls swirling around a specific section of the beach. They would fly to the water then soar back to the beach then over the street before swarming back to the beach again as if anticipating for something big to happen. Suddenly I noticed this man walking towards the beach with a plastic bag and realized he was there to feed the gulls. It also seemed like this wasn’t his first time feeding them as the gulls seem to recognize him and were very excited to see him again. It was fascinating to watch the interaction between the man and the seagulls, which expressed their utmost appreciation for the free meal by making loud squawks. Thankfully, I had my phone with me and was able to capture the moment, except for the feeding part as I was too mesmerized and forgot to take more photos. It is truly amazing how humans and the rest of the animal kingdom can actually bond together…via food.

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.

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.

MISTY SUNSET

It was a beautiful summer afternoon in New England and I was on board a cruise ship sailing out of Newport, Rhode Island when I noticed these breathtaking sceneries before me. The sun was close to setting and everything around was turning golden orange. It rained briefly that day so the warm summer air created the perfect recipe for some afternoon mists. From my stateroom balcony I could see the curtain of clouds shrouding the many magnificent beach mansions lining up the rocky shorelines just like the opening scene of a mystery film. I knew as soon as I saw it that I needed to photograph the beauty before me. I had to do some tweaking with my camera settings in order to perfectly capture the mists, the afternoon lights and the shadows. I also intentionally kept the photographs a bit darker to evoke a sense of mystery and suspense.

THE GRAND PALACE OF SIAM

The Grand Palace in the heart of Bangkok, Thailand has been the official residence of the Thai monarch since the 1700s. The complex is an architectural masterpiece covered mostly in gold with accents of red, green, purple and blue. The intricate details found in the carvings, mosaics, embroideries and sculptures are equally as magnificent as the structures. This palace is probably the most visited and most photographed place in Thailand with millions of photographs of the halls, pavilions, courtyards and gardens available online. This was my second visit in fifteen years and instead of capturing the palace on eye level, I decided to point my camera upwards towards the beautiful and colorful geometric structures that decorated the roofs. There are actually as much beauty on the rooftops as there are on the ground. Another reason for doing this was also because of the large number of tourists inside the complex. The crowd was just enormous and I thought they took away the magical atmosphere of the place. So here are some of my shots of the palace above eye level and I hope you all enjoy looking at them.

THE 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.

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.

COLORFUL BERMUDA

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

STEEL CITY LIGHTS

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


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

LADIES OF THE MOAT

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

THE CHEDIS OF WAT PHO

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

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

PHRA BUDDHASAIYAS

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

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

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.

INTRAMUROS

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

DANCING LIGHTS

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

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.

THE PEAK

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

SUNSET IN HONG KONG

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

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.

TWILIGHT AT THE END OF THE WORLD

The city of Ushuaia in Argentina, famously known as the southernmost city in the world, is also referred to as the End of the World. Last December of 2018, I embarked on a cruise that took me to the very tip of South America with a stop at this remote yet thriving city. Ushuaia is a major tourist destination and also serves as the key access point to the Antartic islands. The photographs in this post were taken from the topmost deck of the ship capturing the port, the city as well as the snow capped Martial Mountains in the distance. The bluish tinge in the photos is primarily due to them being taken around the blue hour of twilight. I was also able to explore the Tierra del Fuego National Park right outside of the city but will feature my photos on that trip in another post.

ICY ESCAPE

I finally got to visit Salt Lake City, Utah…if a brief layover at their airport counts. I was flying back home to Florida following a weekend of rest and recreation in Las Vegas when I decided to hop on an earlier flight with a stop at the city also known as the “Crossroads of the West”. Imagine my excitement seeing the blanket of snow spread out as far as my eyes can see. Everything was white like a giant bag of flour exploded and settled all over the place. As the plane circled the city before landing into the airport I took multiple photos of the splendor in white below me. I love how the sun subtly hid behind a curtain of clouds illuminating the entire terrain in a pale golden haze like it was a set from Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings. The photo above is my favorite with a few more of those I like below. All photos were taken using my iPhone 7Plus.

THE WATERWORKS

Last weekend I flew to Vegas just because…the original plan was to drive to Orlando and hit the parks but unfortunately the weather forecast wasn’t ideal for outdoor activities so I decided to head somewhere else. My last trip to Vegas was in 2017 so I thought another visit was just right on time plus the fact that the weather forecast was ideal. In an hour I booked my flight and a room at the Bellagio Hotel with a view of their fabulous fountains. I specifically booked the fountain view room so I can take night shots of the strip and the dancing waterworks. To my dismay, the hotel windows were covered with dust that my DSLR captured every molecule of the desert sand that was stuck on the window. I tried adjusting the focus on my lens to no avail. I decided to try my iPhone 7Plus by pressing it flat on the glass window and lo and behold the dust was nowhere to be seen in my photos. Of course the quality would have been much better had I used my DSLR but somehow my iPhone did an awesome job as well.

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.

WINTER WONDERLAND

I was planning to post more photos of my recent trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina but during my walk with my dog this morning I took a few photographs that were just too pretty not to be shared…especially at this time of the year when it’s freezing in many parts of the world. Allow me to send some of our warm sunshine to everyone up north and hope you all are bundled up and warm at home. Living in South Florida is such a blessing and living close to the beach is a wonderful privilege I’m most grateful for. Although when the hurricane season comes it also becomes a curse. Anyway, here are the photos I took this morning using my iPhone 7Plus and I hope they all encourage you to plan a visit to the sunshine state soon.

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.

CAPTURING SAVANNAH

Savannah’s historic district is a photographer’s paradise, there is an abundance of subjects from the colonial architecture along cobblestone streets to the historical monuments and oak-shaded squares. One couldn’t also miss the multitude of silvery Spanish Mosses hanging from ancient trees scattered all over the city creating a romantic atmosphere. I was in Savannah five months ago for an overnight stop on my way to Asheville, North Carolina and I stayed in a hotel right in the historic district to be in close proximity to photography opportunities. Unfortunately, I arrived late in the afternoon so I had to rush my way around before losing some much needed light. Had I done some advance research I would have probably stayed another night, although I now have a good excuse to plan for another trip. I walked around the historic district for about 3 hours and worked my way through neighborhood squares, alleys and even a cemetery. Every corner brought in a new surprise as well as more cursing to myself for such a short stay in such a gorgeous place. Gladly I was able to take a few good photos of beautiful Savannah, Georgia to add to my collection of destination photographs.

PASSEIG DE GRACIA

Passeig de Gracia is the most expensive street in Barcelona and in Spain. This tree lined boulevard is home to the most luxurious retail brands, five-star hotels and Spain’s most iconic architectural landmarks. Anyone who visits Barcelona will at some point find themselves walking and shopping along this famous street. During my trip to Barcelona in 2016, I decided to book a hotel in this area as I wanted to be right in the heart of the action. American Express Platinum cardholders have access to Fine Hotels and Resorts with free room upgrades, breakfast, early check-in/late check-out and even hotel credits. The Majestic Hotel & Spa Barcelona had the best perks at that time so I booked a suite room with balcony, which provided me great views of the city. This 5-star hotel is right on Passeig de Gracia and is just a block away from Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Mila and Casa Batlló and a few minutes walk to the Gothic Quarter, La Sagrada Familia and another famous Barcelona street…the La Rambla. Below are some of the photos I took while walking around this famous street. Barcelona is such a gorgeous city rich in history, culture, arts and architecture, however, my visit was brief (4 days) as I was only there to catch my cruise across the Atlantic back to America after traveling around Italy for a few weeks. I fell in love with Barcelona and I plan to visit again in the future and see the places I missed during my previous trip. I will definitely still stay in a hotel around this neighborhood due to its proximity to everything great in Barcelona.

THE BRIDGE

I have visited New York City multiple times but I have never made it close to the Brooklyn Bridge. I have seen it from a distance at the observation decks of the Freedom Tower and the Rockefeller Center but never standing in close proximity. Two weeks ago I was again at the Big Apple for a theater weekend and decided to pay Chinatown a visit for some dimsum. Finally, I found myself in the vicinity of this architectural masterpiece but still not close enough to take a photograph. I thought I would again miss my chance to capture it, however, on my way back to the hotel the cab I was riding took the ramp beside the bridge to get into FDR Drive. I realized this was the closest to the bridge I will ever be so I immediatly pulled out my phone just as we were speeding through and started snapping photos. The photo above may not be the sharpest, understandably since it was taken inside a speeding cab, but I do love the angle, the cloud formations and the rays of the sun filtering through the cables of the bridge. I also thought that presenting the photograph in monotone created a timeless mood to this remarkable feat of engineering. Aaaaaah…Brooklyn Bridge! It’s good to have finally captured you.

DREAMY SEAS

My club membership at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort includes a free two-night stay each year and two weeks ago I used said benefit and booked a room for the weekend for a staycation. My room was facing the ocean and I thought it was a good opportunity to work on my night photography and hopefully capture a few stars. Unfortunately, the weather was not at its best during my stay with the skies covered with clouds most of the day. Still I decided to give it a try hoping to capture something decent for my photography page. On my first night at the resort I positioned myself on the balcony and stared out into the darkness which was dotted by lights from cargo ships anchored far out at sea. I switched my lens to manual focus, adjusted my shutter speed to 15 seconds, pointed my camera into the darkness and started shooting. I was able to capture a few decent photos but the one above is my favorite as it captured a few stars and exuded a dreamy feel to it. The clouds eventually rolled in and rain started pouring forcing me to rush back inside my hotel room ending my photo session.

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.

IN MEMORIAM

Today we commemorate that fateful day in 2001 when America was attacked by terrorists and the whole world turned a corner and was never the same again. I was still in the Philippines when 9/11 happened but I followed every moment of that day on television watching in horror as both towers crashed to the ground. Twelve years later I found myself in New York City standing at the very spot where it all happened fighting my emotions while remembering the events of that day. The memorial is such a somber place and is deeply sacred not only to every American but also to every citizen of this world who lost a loved one, a friend and a countryman. I’ve been to New York multiple times and everytime I visit I always drop by the memorial to pay my respects. The photograph above was taken last year when I brought my parents, who were visiting from the Philippines, to New York for the first time. Next month I will be in New York City and just like my previous trips will revisit the memorial to pay my respects…although this time not just as an immigrant but as a proud citizen of this great and beautiful country.

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.

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.

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.

MISTY GREENS

The OMNI Grove Park Inn is one of the best hotels in Asheville, North Carolina and it boasts of breathtaking views of the city and the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance. This historical resort hotel features an 18-hole mountain golf course designed by Donald Ross and during my stay my room had an amazing view of the golf course, the city and the mountains. One morning, I woke up to this thick blanket of fog rolling down from the mountains slowly enveloping the golf course with its whiteness. Also to my amazement, I noticed people going about with their early morning round of golf despite the poor visibility. While these early birds were busy playing I also got myself busy shooting the misty greens before me.

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CITY OF BRIDGES

Aside from being referred to as the Steel City due to its formerly colossal steel industry, Pittsburgh is also nicknamed as the City of Bridges for the 446 that connects the city to its surrounding suburbs. As a tourist, these bridges made my life very convenient as it made the areas of interest across the river from downtown easily accessible. I took these photographs on my way to the Warhol Museum using my iPhone 7 Plus as the extra weight of a DSLR would just have made the walk unbearable. On some occasions, I prefer the iphone over my DSLR for photography as its Pano mode allows me to take wide-sweeping views just like the photos on this post. Thankfully, the bridge I had to cross to get to the museum was one of the prettier ones with a lemon yellow paint making it stand out against the concrete skyscrapers and rich blue sky.

PITTSBURGH: NIGHT AND DAY

Two weeks ago I went on a road trip driving through eight US states starting from South Florida to Savannah, Georgia followed by a few days in Asheville, North Carolina then through the Blue Ridge Parkway to Harrisonburg, Virginia then Uniontown, Pennsylvania before culminating in the City of Steel: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My ten-day trip took me to various terrains from the beaches of Florida, the valleys and mountains of the Carolinas and the rivers and forests of Pennsylvania. This was my first time in Pittsburgh and the city truly impressed me from the quality of the museums, variety of restaurants and the convenience of their public transportation allowing me to explore the city extensively. One of the highlights of my stay was dinner at the Altius Restaurant in Mount Washington where I got to enjoy a spectacular view of downtown Pittsburgh at the point where the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers meet to form the Ohio River. I took two photographs of the city one before sunset prior to stepping inside the restaurant and another after dinner when bright lights illuminated the city. I was torn between the two photographs so I decided to play with both by using the Pixelmator App on my iPad Pro to create a night and day effect for my post above.

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 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.

UNDER THE TUSCAN RAIN

When I took these photographs, I was standing outside the ancient walls of San Gimignano in the Tuscany region of Italy with my shoes wet from the rain and my bones rattling from the cold. Deep inside I was wishing the sky was clear and the sun was at it’s late afternoon glow and bathing the rolling hills in golden light. Unfortunately it wasn’t the case so I set aside my disappointment and pulled out my iPhone 7 Plus then took multiple shots of the scenery before me with fingers crossed for some decent captures. The clouds somehow created a gloomy effect to the scenery something most people won’t picture Tuscany to be. Still I kept the photos but opted not to post them on this page for a long time until today. I realized I have lately been posting a number of my photographs taken during unpleasant weathers so I decided to revisit these photos and managed to convince myself to finally feature them on this page. After all, it isn’t always sunshine and blue skies in Tuscany…sometimes, the clouds need to roll in for some dramatic and special effects.

SWAN LAKE

When I think of swans the words that come to mind are elegance, grace and beauty. Swans are such beautiful and mystical creatures that they are oftentimes written as strong characters in poetry and literature. In Greek mythology, Helen of Troy was concieved by the union of Queen Leda of Sparta and the god Zeus who disguised himself as a swan. Today I had the chance to photograph these beautiful creatures although it was quite a challenge as this one wasn’t very friendly. I have read stories of people getting attacked by swans so I kept my distance as I had no plans of becoming the next character in that story. Fortunately there was a bridge on the narrowest part of the lake so I was able to keep my distance while photographing this graceful creature. The photo above is my favorite as I managed to capture the water dropping off the swan’s beak after it dunked its head underwater. Below are two more photos that I like as well as the dark and murky water created a nice contrast to the white swan.

STARRY STARRY NIGHT

One of these days I’d like to gather enough courage to drive somewhere far from the city and photograph the Milky Way in the darkness. In my case, the Florida Everglades would be the best place to escape the city lights. I am currently on a cruise somewhere in the Caribbean Sea and last night I attempted to capture some heavenly bodies from my stateroom balcony. My tripod was unavailable so I rested my camera on the balcony ledge and held it firmly to keep it from moving. Unfortunately, the ship was rocking so I wasn’t able to keep my lens open for longer than 15 seconds otherwise the stars would have looked like tiny lines instead of dots. I included the bridge of the cruise ship as my foreground subject and the sky as background to emphasize that the photo was taken out at sea. In the distance you can see the glow of the city lights of Cozumel, Mexico adding an interesting touch to my composition. I also opted not to adjust the brightness in order to prevent the photo from looking too grainy. Below are my attempts to photograph the Milky Way from the aft of the ship. It’s a little grainy but I think good enough for a first attempt.

CASA MILÀ

A trip to Barcelona, Spain isn’t complete without visiting Casa Mila, which was the last residential building designed by the legendary architect, Antoni Gaudí. This modernist architectural wonder was built between 1906 and 1912 and declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. The building is also known as La Pedrera, which means “The Stone Quarry” due to its unique rough-hewn appearance. Fortunately, this famous landmark is just a block away from The Majestic Hotel where I was staying making the visit very convenient. The building’s design is very unconventional due to it’s undulating facade and spectacular rooftop covered with skylights, chimneys and staircases that look like sculptures using materials such as glass, broken marble and lime. The photos above and below were taken at the roof terrace of the building featuring the unique sculpture-like structures that are truly out of this world. I decided to zoom into the structures to emphasize the curves, angles, shapes and surfaces in order to make it look less familiar. Just so you know, people still live in this building to this day.

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