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INTO THE WOODS

I grew up in a small town in Southern Philippines where the main industry was paper and timber so trees were a predominant part of my daily life. I can still remember, like it was yesterday, the refreshing scent of leaves as well as the woodsy aroma of tree trunks especially after a rainy day, which was a frequent occurence in my sleepy hometown. During my senior year in high school, I was president of the InterAct Club (Rotary sponsored club) and on Sundays we would drive to the mountains and teach classes to the children of a native tribe. The village was situated in the middle of a rain forest and I always look forward to the long and rugged drive past giant trees along rough gravel roads. All these childhood memories were stirred up while on a trek in an Alaskan forest a few months ago. It was raining during the trek and the scent of the damp forest transported me back to my old hometown evoking wonderful memories of my childhood. I immediately pulled out my camera to take a shot of the forest before me. Unfortunately, I no longer have any of my childhood photos after my parent’s house got burned down a few years ago. This photo will be for now my new window to the past…

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RAYS OF LIGHT

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and we were sailing out of Vancouver, Canada towards Ketchikan, Alaska for a week of cruising in “America’s Last Frontier” when suddenly the skies transformed from bright blue to gloomy gray. We were aware of the weather forecast expecting rain throughout the cruise but didn’t expect the change to happen two hours after we left the port. So I headed for the Crow’s Nest of Holland America’s Noordam ship where I thought I would find the best remedy to a gloomy weather…alcohol! As I quietly enjoyed my White Russian while staring out at sea, I noticed the rays of light filtering through the clouds reminding me of those curtain lights they use in the theater.  It suddenly dawned on me that nature’s spectacle was occuring before me so I pulled out my ever reliable iPhone 7Plus and took multiple shots. Had it been a regular sunny day, the scene would have been a plain and simple view of the sky, islands and sea but thanks to bad weather, I captured a hauntingly beautiful photo of the ominous clouds filtering the sunlight and casting dark shadows on the water. On that day I learned how bad weather surprisingly turned out to be the best thing to happen with my photography.

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!)!

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.

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.

MORNING HAS BROKEN

It was my first Transatlantic cruise and I was prepared for a rollercoaster ride in the Atlantic Ocean on board Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas. The trip took 13 nights from Barcelona, Spain to Fort Lauderdale, Florida with only two stops…Palma de Mallorca and Malaga. A friend cautioned me that during her crossing last year, she experienced 25-foot waves so I had my prayers ready. I was a little bit confident though knowing that I was on the largest cruise ship in the world…although, we all knew what happened the last time somebody bragged about being the largest ship in the world. To my amazement, we had the smoothest sailing with the ocean so calm it felt like we were crossing a lake. Being in the middle of the ocean, my only photo opportunities were sunrises and sunsets aside from taking photos of the ship. One morning, I decided to wake up earlier than usual to witness the sunrise from my balcony. I was astounded by the fiery glow of the cloudy skies that I thought we got transported to an enchanted sea and was waiting for a pirate ship to appear from out of nowhere. I grabbed my iPhone and snapped this photo before the lights could change as the sun rose higher and higher. This happened during the fifth day of our cruise and was never duplicated again. I tried waking up early to catch the sunrise but we never had one as beautiful as this. Thankfully, I woke up that day just in time to witness and capture that beautiful moment.

SUNSETS ON CRUISES

I never anticipated I would enjoy cruising considering my first experience was quite an unpleasant one. However, despite my nauseating initiation into cruisedom three years ago, I eventually learned to love it and have been on five cruises so far and looking forward to my sixth in a few months. The photo above was taken on the top deck of the Celebrity Reflection during my cruise in the Mediterranean two years ago while we were tendered off the shores of Santorini, Greece. The sun was just setting behind this world renowned Greek island when the sky suddenly turned into a beautiful canvas of pink and gold splashes. I always enjoy walking around the top deck of a ship at sunset with the hopes of witnessing a beautiful celestial phenomenon for my eyes to enjoy and for my camera to capture.

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.

ISTANBUL

The great city of Istanbul has recently been a victim of unnecessary violence resulting to a wasteful loss of innocent lives. However, I do not wish to dwell on this negative incident but instead focus on what is positive about this mesmerizing city. I visited this mystical metropolis two years ago on a cruise and had the best trip of my life. The colorful culture, ancient architecture, rich heritage and friendly people makes Istanbul an amazing destination for those who want to see a perfect blend of  east and west as well as that of the past and present. This photo was taken at the top deck of the cruise ship while docked at the Istanbul Cruise Port, which is located right at the heart of the historic section of the city.  The tower on the left is the Galata Tower, which is a medieval stone tower built to spot fires and now home to a restaurant, cafe and a night club. Istanbul may have hit a road bump a few days ago but it will bounce back just as it did for centuries. Stay strong Istanbul…I will see you again, soon!

A BEAUTIFUL MOMENT

 
This photo was taken during the last night of my Mediterranean cruise while the ship was slowly sailing back to Civitavechia, the cruise ship port of Rome.  I stood in my stateroom balcony, camera hanging around my neck, while watching the sunset transform the sky into this vibrant canvas of rich colors creating dramatic silhouettes to this flock of birds soaring toward a group of islands in the far distance. I have never seen a sky this spectacular, made more beautiful by nature coming together as if staging a special portrait for me to capture.  Now I believe that it’s not just about being at the right place at the right time…it’s all about being chosen to capture that special moment. And during that one night somewhere in the Mediterranean, nature posed for me…and I didn’t hesitate to capture that beautiful moment for me to cherish and for all of you to eventually see.

THIRA

SantoriniThira, popularly known as Santorini, is a Greek island located in the southern Aegean Sea. It was the first stop of my Eastern Mediterranean cruise and I was looking forward to taking gazillions of photos of this famous island. Imagine my disappointment when we arrived on a cloudy day with rainshowers about every hour. Everything looked dull and gray with my photos coming out stark and somber. Later in the evening, after a sumptuous Greek dinner, I decided to go up the topmost deck of the ship and noticed that the sky has cleared. The city lights sparkled in the distance highlighting the rim of this volcanic island while this behemoth of a yacht created an interesting juxtaposition to the island. I took about a dozen photos and this came out to be my favorite. Gladly, I also captured a few stars tossed all over the thinly clouded evening sky.

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