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SCARY HEAVENS

When people think of Miami, Florida the first thing that comes to mind is sunshine…and lots of it. Unfortunately during my cruise last month, Miami was covered with dark clouds and rain was pouring like crazy all over the place. The sail away was probably disappointing for a lot of out-of-towners who were all looking forward to a breathtaking sunset as we sail out to sea. I stood by my stateroom balcony ready with my camera but didn’t know where to point its lens. As we sailed farther out to sea I suddenly noticed these really ominous and black clouds with streaks of sunshine filtering through them. It looked both scary and beautiful and I thought it might come out nicely in a photograph. I started working on my framing and captured more of the clouds to emphasize its ominosity and to create a looming effect. I very much liked how the photographs turned out with the one above being my personal favorite as it effectively exudes a sense of dread in a beautiful way.

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MONOCHROMATIC PARIS

Paris is one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world and to capture in a photograph the very essence of this city is quite a challenge. I have an extensive collection of photographs from my last trip to the City of Lights but I’ve been struggling how to present them in a cohesive manner. I did notice a lot of street scene photos in my collection so I decided to group together a few of my favorites and present them all in black and white. The monochromatic effect creates a timeless and romantic feel to the photographs as if they were all taken in a different era. From the magazine kiosks and roadside cafes to the charming neighborhood shops and magnificent tree lined boulevards, it is definitely very difficult not to fall in love with this city.

RED FIRE ENGINE

Yesterday was the culmination day of the photography workshop I’ve been attending for the past four Saturdays followed by an exhibit to showcase our work. A lot of my classmates used photos they took prior to attending the workshop but in my case, I decided to use a photo I took during one of the photo sessions. This photograph of the front of an old fire truck was taken inside the Fort Lauderdale Fire and Safety Museum, which was one of the stops during our photo walks. Our teacher instructed us to explore around the museum and take photos of specific details such as lines, angles, curves and various shapes. I am not a big fan of this photo but my instructor liked this a lot that he suggested I submit this for the exhibit. He even shared this photo on his Facebook page which was truly very flattering. If you guys noticed, I also changed the watermark logo on my photos using my signature to give it a more personal touch. I felt the old logo was too boxy and looked too heavy aside from it taking up a lot of space. I am also including below a few more photos I took while inside the museum as well as photos taken during the exhibit yesterday.

Photos taken during the exhibit

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.

SUPER BLUE MOON

Earlier today, the whole world looked up to the heavens to witness a celestial phenomenon that only happens once in a blue moon…a Super Blue Blood Moon Eclipse. It is called a Blue Moon when the full moon happens twice in a calendar month, a Super Moon when the full moon is closest to Earth on its orbit and a Blood Moon when its color turns blood red after it crosses into the shadow of the Earth. What made today most exciting was a rare lunar trifecta wherein the Super Moon and Blue Moon combined with an eclipse. Since I live in the east coast of the United States I witnessed the phenomenon just as the moon was about to sink into the horizon. A lot of those who didn’t live in buildings missed the event and only saw the Super Blue Moon when it was high up in the sky. Luckily, I live in a building and my balcony faces west so I got to witness the event and even took photos of the early stages of the eclipse. Unfortunately, my part of the United States didn’t get to see the full eclipse as the moon sank into the horizon before it fully occured. I woke up really early this morning to set up my camera and took photos of the moon while it was still up in the sky. Above is one of the photos I took while waiting for the eclipse to occur and below is the photo I took while the Super Blue Moon was turning red at the early stages of the eclipse.

TEMPLE OF KUKULKÁN

I just got back from a cruise to Cozumel, Mexico and during this trip I visited Chichén Itzá, an archeological site in the Yucatan State of Mexico, which was once one of the largest and most powerful cities of the Maya civilization. This ancient city is now one of the most visited sites in Mexico and is famous for its 79-foot pyramid called the Temple of Kukulkán. Kukulkán is the name of a Maya deity, which is a feathered serpent whose head is carved at the base of the pyramid in the bottom right of my photo. During this trip, I also learned that a smaller pyramid is actually standing right inside this very pyramid because the Mayas just like other Mesoamerican cultures tend to superimpose larger structures over their older ones. While I was there, the place was packed with tourists that I immediately settled on the thought that my photos will have to include the throngs of tourists scattered all over the complex. I even stopped worrying about people blocking my view or walking in front of me while taking photos. Imagine my surprise when one of my photos turned out with barely a single soul on it…except for one holding an umbrella at the left side of the photo. I know having people in a photo adds perspective to the composition but a beautiful architectural wonder such as the Temple of Kukulkán deserves to be featured on its own. By the way, the Spanish colonizers renamed the temple to El Castillo (the castle) because of its size and intricate design. Chichén Itzá is now a UNESCO Heritage Site and was recently voted as one of the New7Wonders of the World.

CAMERA SHY

Yesterday I attended a photography workshop to learn basic photography techniques from setting the camera correctly in manual mode to photo editing using Photoshop. The class will run for four (4) Saturdays and started yesterday with a discussion on the appropriate f-stop, aperture and shutter speed settings to use in various light conditions. The session included walks around the historic and picturesque Sailboat Bend neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where we got to play with our cameras in both sunny and shady environments. The activity allowed us to switch on both settings while working on our individual photography styles. Our instructor took us to this wooded area beside the river and instructed us to photograph whatever caught our attention. As my classmates went about with their photography business, I noticed a squirrel quietly nibbling on a tree trunk just a few feet in front of me. None of my classmates noticed the squirrel and I didn’t want to call everyone’s attention then scare it away so I quietly adjusted my camera settings and started clicking on my cute litle subject. The squirrel eventually noticed my presence and it went leaping from one branch to another fleeing farther away from me. Before it eventually made its final dash, it hid behind a branch before looking straight back at me with just one eye and only half of it’s face exposed. I didn’t know if it was telling me to go away or it was just posing peek-a-boo for me one last time. Overall it was a productive day spent with fellow photography enthusiasts and a very knowledgeable instructor. However, the best part of the entire exercise was the opportunity I got to make a camera shy squirrel to pose for me and my camera.

Below are the other photos I took during the class:

FROZEN

Alaska was never on top of my bucket list as I, to this day, am not a big fan of freezing temperatures. Last summer I found myself booking a cruise to America’s last frontier not because of my desire to visit the place but because of the amazing deal I was getting for a junior suite stateroom. Hey! Isn’t it all about the journey and not the destination? 😜 Anyway, my trip to Alaska was quite an eye opening experience that can only be understood by someone who has also visited this mystical place. During the ships’ port calls, I made sure to find time to reconnect with nature and the experience was mind blowing like a spiritual homecoming. I would also most definitely consider the stop at Glacier Bay where nature showcased it’s beauty, strength as well as its fury as the highlight of my cruise. The photo above was taken at Lampugh Glacier where every line of the glacier has a story to tell…and we are talking millions of years worth of frozen stories to tell. Unfortunately, the ship didn’t dock so we only got to view the glacier from a distance. It would have been awesome to be able touch and walk on the glacier although by the look of it, I’d be frozen into history the moment I step on it. I guess it was more than enough appreciating it from a distance.

By the way, below is the photo of my junior suite stateroom…enough reason to bear the freezing Alaskan temperatures.

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…

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.

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.

THE SIREN

This photograph reminded me of sirens in Greek mythology known to lure poor sailors to their doom using their enchanting voices. In the case of this siren, she was too busy taking selfies for her Facebook profile thereby saving the souls of a few lonely sailors. I took this photograph in Mykonos, Greece at the section of the town referred to as Little Venice. The rich blue waters of the sea was a beautiful contrast to the white washed walls of the buildings, which were mostly restaurants with great views of the sea.  I don’t know how this woman got to this rock but I’m glad she did coz she added an interesting and fun story to my photograph.

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!

SAX AND THE CITY

imageIt was my first trip to New York City and a visit to Central Park was obviously inevitable. It was quite an adventure walking through the maze of busy streets and skyscrapers and then finding myself standing at the edge of this oasis right at the heart of a concrete jungle called Manhattan. I immediately dashed for the park and found myself walking through landmarks I was familiar with from watching movies and tv shows since I was a kid. While exploring the park, I found myself at this underpass with a man and his saxophone right by the entrance of the tunnel. I paid him little attention until I was at the other end of the tunnel when I looked back and saw this beautiful silhouette-like image of him romancing his saxophone. Too bad I missed to capture the moment when he arched his back and pointed his sax up in the air.

WORLD WAR II MEMORIAL

The National World War II Memorial in Washington DC was built to honor and remember ALL Americans who served during the Second World War.  It consists of 56 pillars representing each US state, territory and protectorate involved in the war as well as a pair of  arches surrounding a plaza and fountain. As a Filipino, it was heartwarming to see a pillar for the Philippines as my home country played a significant role in winning this war in the Pacific being an unincorporated territory of the United States until our independence in 1946.  This photo was taken during a trip to Washington DC to conduct personal business with the Philippine Embassy. It was my first time in DC and gladly a friend based in this city was kind enough to tour me around giving me the opportunity to play with my camera.  I do hope to return again in the future to explore more places to photograph in this beautiful and historic city.

ROCKS OF AGES

The Stonehenge was created by a culture that did not leave any written record so every assumption about this ancient structure is debatable. During my visit to this famous site, our tour guide mentioned that this was once the site of musical concerts…made me wonder how many seasons of Stonehenge Idol ran on this site.  People also say that a visit to Stonehenge is like taking a spiritual trip…however in my case, it was more of a photo opportunity trip. The site is surrounded by a cordoned pathway to prevent visitors from touching the rocks and this photo was taken at the section closest to the ruins. Seriously though, I did feel a strong force of energy and an unexplained sense of joy while walking around this site. This has been on my bucket list for a long time and I am certainly very glad to finally write it off.

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.

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.

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