MARCH OF THE WATER BUFFALOS

These photos were taken in Siem Reap, Cambodia from inside a moving van on my way to one of the many temples outside the city.  I was playing with super fast shutter speed and was amazed to have captured clear photos despite the speed of the van. I thought they looked cute marching down the street like they exactly know where they were headed. These animals are commonly used for farming around Asia and in the Philippines, we call them “carabao” and make white cheese out of their milk.

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.

GIRLS OF ANGKOR

Siem Reap, Cambodia was one of the cities I visited during my trip around Southeast Asia. Of course Angkor Wat was in the itinerary and it was quite an experience seeing the temple ruins in person but I will feature my photos of the temple at a later post. For now, here are photos I took of these local girls in their traditional dresses posing with the tourists around the temple. Their costumes are just beautiful especially the golden headdresses…very exotic…very mystical.

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.

CRYSTAL CAVE

The Crystal Caves in the island of Bermuda is a natural attraction formed during the Ice Age located about a hundred feet underground. During my cruise to this lovely island last June of this year, I made sure to pay this awe-inspiring natural wonder a visit. The cave is about 250 feet long and 40 feet wide with a clear water lake at the bottom and a roof covered with thousands of shining stalactites. The cave was discovered in the 1900’s when two kids playing cricket accidentally discovered the entrance while trying to recover their ball. Today, the Crystal Caves is one of Bermuda’s major attractions. And here’s a little trivia for everyone…the very first tourist to descend into the cave was the legendary author Mark Twain who visited it in 1908. Next time you find yourself heading to Bermuda, make sure to put Crystal Cave on top of your must visit list. Below are additinal photos I took during my visit.

SUMMER IN GOLD

It was rather confusing to see leaves of gold along the coastal areas of Maine right in the heart of summer. Coming from a state where fall is just as green as spring, I reckoned this was regular occurence in this part of the country. Maybe those of you who live up north can clarify me on this. I took these photos during my New England cruise last June while the ship was sailing out of Bar Harbor, Maine. I thought the leaves were gorgeous while the rocky shorelines looked fierce. I would love to visit this part of the country again during the peak of autumn…and will most likely do it by land, not by sea.

LES ECLAIREURS LIGHTHOUSE

Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse is a lighthouse located on a rocky island in The Beagle Channel, in the Tierra del Fuego Region of Patagonia, Argentina. The lighthouse is more famously known as The Lighthouse at the End of the World. I visited it on an excursion during my South American cruise last December of 2018. I was initially worried when I saw the small boat for our excursion knowing the seas were a little rough that day. With my personal history of motion sickness, I was readying myself for some projectile moments. I don’t know if it was the excitement of being in a faraway land or the thrill of taking photos on a boat that was swaying like crazy that I survived the whole experience taking hundreds of photographs. My only worry at that time was that the photos would turn out blurry due to the extreme motions. I’m glad they all turned out great. Resting on and flying around the tiny island is a colony of Antarctic Shags also known as Antarctic Cormorants, which are very common in that part of the world. Below are other photos I took of the lighthouse.

HEAVEN’S ON FIRE

I’ve been absent from this page for almost 3 months now and despite trying to post a blog multiple times I always end up not uploading them. Don’t get me wrong, I have hundreds of photographs waiting to be posted but I just can’t seem to finish a blog. I admit I am not much of a writer so my struggle have always been with the narrative that goes with the photographs. So let’s just say for the past 3 months I lost the ability to write something comprehensible. Yikes!

A few days ago I was sitting out on my balcony to catch the sunset when suddenly the sky transformed into a pandemonium of reds, oranges and gold. I dashed into my apartment to grab my camera and took a few panoramic shots before switching to close ups of the blazing sky. When I saw the results I thought these photos may be the right materials for my comeback. Just like the fiery sky captured in these photographs my desire to post a blog finally started burning.

Yay! It’s good to be back!!!

BREATHLESS IN CAPE ELIZABETH

The Portland Head Light is a historic lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, Maine and is famously known as the most photographed lighthouse in the United States. I am currently on a cruise around the New England area and one of the stops was Portland, Maine. I booked an excursion that included a visit to this famous landmark in order to join the very many who were mesmerized by its breathtaking views. Cape Elizabeth was the last stop of a whole day excursion and upon my first glimpse of the lighthouse my breath was immediately taken away. Here are some of the photos I took and am very delighted with the outcome, although my only regret was not having enough time to photograph it from the other side of the cliff due to the limited 30-minute stop. I also tried the cotton effect for the waves but my attempts didn’t turn out well as it was too bright. Perhaps another visit in the near future to try that effect (with the right lighting) as well as have all the time in the world to capture this beauty from all available angles.

BABY MAKES THREE

Four years ago I photographed this lovely couple for their engagement photos. Melanie and Gary are really good friends of mine so it was quite difficult to say no when they asked me to do the shoot. My hesitation at that time was due to my inexperience with portraits although the photos turned out really great much to my surprise and to their satisfaction. Fast forward to February of this year, Melanie and Gary asked me again for another photography session, this time a maternity shoot for their first baby. This time I felt more confident knowing this will be the second time I will do a portrait photoshoot. 😬 Fortunately, Melanie did all the research (again) and found this nature park with a carousel close to where they live as well as a children’s park inside their development. I had so much fun doing this shoot as I was able to use the new techniques I learned online (ha!). Here are some of the photos I took and before I forget, congratulations to them for a healthy baby boy who was born this morning (May 13, 2019). Is a baby photoshoot coming up next? We’ll see….

VELVETY CASCADES

Two years ago I joined a hiking tour outside of Juneau, Alaska and found myself trekking inside a rainforest crossing rivers filled with bright red spawning salmons. The tour was guided by a photographer who took us to places for photography opportunities and one of the stops was a white water cascade running from far deep in the forest. I wanted to try a long exposure shot to create the cotton-water effect to achieve a flowy and velvety look but was initially hesitant as I didn’t bring a tripod. I decided to be resourceful and mounted my camera on a pile of rocks then used my remote control so as not to shake the camera while taking shots. Some shots, however, were taken handheld with me holding my breath for a few seconds to stay still. Here are some of the photos that turned out well and worthy for a feature on this page.

A HAPPY FEET ENCOUNTER

I have never seen a penguin in person, not even in a zoo…so imagine my excitement when my cruise to South America took me to Puerto Madryn, Argentina where a colony of Magellanic penguins live. These cute and adorable animals have been the subject of many Hollywood movies and my personal favorite is Happy Feet. During my excursion I was hoping the penguins would perform a dance routine but all I got was a waddle. LOL! Anyway, I went wild taking photos of these lovely creatures imagining myself as some National Geographic photographer. Some playfully posed while the others were a bit shy and hid inside their burrows. My favorite photo is the one above of a parent and child sharing a tender moment of connection when their beaks touched. Penguins are supposedly great parents…they even starve for weeks just to protect their chicks while the other parent go hunting for food. It was such an exhilarating experience standing close to these beautiful creatures. By the way, I kept my distance and zoomed my lens in order to capture these photos. I visited two penguin colonies and will feature the other colony in another post.

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PENINSULA VALDES

In the northeast region of the Chubut Province in Argentina is a peninsula extending out to the Atlantic Ocean hosting diverse ecosystems unique to that part of the world. The Peninsula Valdes is home to the guanacos, rheas and maras while it’s shorelines are littered with sea lions, seals and the adorable Magellanic penguins. The land meanwhile varies from rocky cliffs and beaches to mudflats, sand dunes and expansive grasslands. This dynamic ecosystem was declared a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1999 and was one of the places to explore when my cruise docked at the nearby town of Puerto Madryn. I took hundreds of photographs of the interesting flora and fauna and will feature them in groups on succeeding posts. The photographs in this post were taken at one of the lookout points for elephant seals and whales and I thought the flat and arid terrain was really interesting especially for someone who lived around palm trees all his life. I love the colors of the grasses and shrubs, a beautiful combination of brown, yellow and green, carpeting the flat terrain as far as my eyes can see. Argentina is such a beautiful country that I wish I had more time to explore and photograph it. Maybe someday fate will allow me for another visit.

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.

RUSTY BEAUTY ON THE TIGRE

Cruising the Tigre River in Buenos Aires, Argentina is a fascinating experience and during my visit I had a great time with my camera capturing everything from humble homes with their rickety docks to huge mansions with manicured lawns and fancy boats. I learned during the cruise that the Tigre Delta is one of the largest in the world and it does not empty into the sea or ocean. Instead the water flows into the Río de la Plata, which is a humongous river that separates Argentina and Uruguay. The guide also mentioned that the islands and canals of the Tigre is what Venice would have looked liked before it got developed. I took hundreds of photographs during the cruise and one of my favorite subjects was that of a boat all rusty and dilapidated abandoned beside one of the islands. I love the contrast between the orange-red-brown color of the rust and the greenness of the lush vegetation in the background. The reeds growing out of the muddy water isolating the boat from the rest of the river also created a sense of finality on the fate of the boat. I’m glad we were sailing slowly as it allowed me to take a good number of photos of the boat from various angles. Below are more photos I took of the rusty beauty in the Tigre. Hope you guys like them.

FABULOUSLY DEAD

The Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires is recognized as one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world. It is where most of Argentina’s who’s who are laid to rest, probably so they won’t have to travel far to attend those high society parties in the afterlife. The cemetery is situated in the high end district of Recoleta and is open to the public seven days a week. The mausoleums are arranged like city blocks designed in Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Baroque and Neo Gothic architectural styles and decorated with elaborate statues. This cemetery is one of the must see places when visiting Buenos Aires. Below are a few of the many photos I took during my tour of the place.

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.

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.

ANOTHER KEY WEST SUNSET

The other weekend I drove down to Key West, Florida after my work shifted to a 4-days-a-week schedule. I thought it was a good opportunity to enjoy my long weekend so I packed my bags, hopped into my car and off to the southernmost point of continental USA I went. When in Key West I always stay at the Pier House Resort and Spa due to it’s proximity to Duval Street where all the action is. Although, the main highlight when visiting Key West is watching the sun set on the Gulf of Mexico. These photos of the sunset were all taken at the Pier House Resort.

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.

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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BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS

It was my first time to go on a long duration road trip (10 days) and everyone I know who knew where I was headed insisted that I drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway and check out the Blue Ridge Mountains. I decided to include Asheville, North Carolina in my itinerary and booked myself at the historic and luxurious Grove Park Inn for 4 days although I will talk about that fabulous hotel in another post. In Asheville one can see the mountain range in the distance but to enjoy the amazing views, one will need to drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway for a closer look. The Blue Ridge Parkway is known as one of the most scenic drives in the United States and with a speed limit of 35 mph, this allows you to take your time to indulge in nature’s magnificence. Thankfully, the drive is spotted with overlooks where one can stop to enjoy the view or in my case take photographs. You may also notice the bluish color of the mountains and according to my research the trees release isoprene into the atmosphere resulting to this distinctive bluish haze and thus the name…Blue Ridge Mountains.

WHALEBACK FALLS

The first thing our tour guide taught us was how to identify a poison ivy. Apparently, there was an abundance of them in the area we were visiting so imagine my horror when we trekked through a narrow trail surrounded by a dense and lush vegetation with every leaf and branch touching me. Suddenly everything around me looked like poison ivy as I went into a panic mode waiting for the itch and rashes to begin. Thankfully it was just a short trek so I had my sigh of relief when we stepped into the clearing by the waterfalls. Fortunately for us, it had been raining for days prior to our trip so all the rivers and falls in the area were in full force. True to our guide’s primer, the Whaleback Falls did not disappoint. It may not be as grand as the Looking Glass Falls but the layered rocks created multiple mini falls that were awesome subjects for photography. Again I used the long exposure technique to create the cotton effect on the water but not long enough to capture more details, which emphasized the movement and direction of the water over the rocks. This falls was named Whale Back due to the large rock in the middle of the pool that looked like a whale’s back. It was not visible the day I was there due to the high water levels. This was the last of the three waterfalls we visited during our hike around the Pisgah National Forest at the Appalachian Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina. Thankfully no poison ivy touched me that day so I made it back to the hotel itch free. Check below other photos I took of the waterfalls.

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.

FALLINGWATER

The Fallingwater House in Mill Run, Pennsylvania was designed by the legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright for the Kaufmann family who once owned the Kaufmann Department Store in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This weekend house was built on top of a waterfall and is considered one of Wright’s most notable works. I was visiting the area before heading to Pittsburgh so I booked a tour that allows photography inside the house although it meant waking up very early to make it to the 8:30 AM schedule. The great part of that tour is you get to enter the compound first and take photographs without the throngs of tourists filling up the house. The compound also has a viewing area where you can photograph the house from a distance. It was raining hard that day so I was a little worried how the weather will affect my photos or that I may not be able to hike to the viewing area without my camera getting soaked. Thankfully the rain finally stopped and the dark and gloomy weather allowed me to play with long exposures for that cotton effect on the waterfall that I love.

Photographs below were taken from the viewing area using a Canon Rebel T6s.

Photographs below were taken inside and around the house using an iPhone 7 Plus

LOOKING GLASS FALLS

Two days ago I joined a hiking tour of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina and imagine my joy when the guide mentioned he was taking us to three waterfalls that day. Before I could finish rejoicing disappointment landed on my lap upon realizing I didn’t bring my tripod. I always prefer to photograph a waterfall using a long exposure technique to create that cotton effect but without a tripod the photos are most likely to come out blurry. Anyway, resourcefulness is one of my few good traits add to that the right camera settings so I was able to capture these photos much to my desired results. The reason why I love the cotton candy effect is that it enhances the power of the falling water aside from it drawing the viewers immediate attention to the waterfall. By the way, the haze in the photos are mists created by the force of the falling water into the pool while the light curtains are actually sunlight filtering through the forest trees. The tour also took me to other breathtaking parts of the Blue Ridge Mountains where I took dozens of photographs which will be featured next on this page including those of the two other waterfalls. Meantime, please enjoy these photos I took of the Looking Glass Falls.

THE LONG WALK

Today the whole world watched a fairytale unfold as American girl Meghan Markle married her prince charming, Henry Charles Albert David fondly called by everyone as Prince Harry who is a member of the British Royal family. The wedding was held at the St. George’s Chapel inside the compound of the Windsor Castle and was broadcasted live for the whole world to see. Watching the festivities on tv this morning brought back memories of my visit to Windsor three years ago. I was in London for vacation and booked a day tour to the royal compound where I got to explore and photograph Queen Elizabeth’s weekend home. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside the buildings so most of my photographs were just of the facades. While walking on the grounds in front of the castle, I saw an arch with an opening to a view of a long road extending all the way to the horizon. I took multiple photos of the arch not knowing what the road was for. Today my question was finally answered…Prince Harry and Meghan was carried down this road on a horse drawn carriage to greet thousands of well wishers. The road is called The Long Walk and it connects Windsor Castle to a park called Snow Hill. According to legend, King Henry VIII sat at Snow Hill to wait for news about the execution of his wife Queen Anne Boleyn. But today a new legend about this road has been made…it will now be known as the road where someone’s fairytale became a reality.

THE WINDMILLS OF MYKONOS

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

THE AWAKENING OF HESPERIDES

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

MENDENHALL GLACIER

It was a rainy and foggy summer morning when our cruise ship docked in Juneau, Alaska and my first thoughts were my first trip to America’s last frontier was ruined. I was signed up for a photography tour to explore a rain forest, hike to a glacier and then sail out to sea to watch some whales but the rainy weather almost made me reconsider. Thankfully, I decided last minute to join the tour and eventually realized how breathtaking Alaska was even during bad weather. As we hiked through the forest we passed by rivers with hundreds of salmon swimming upstream, which according to our guide were at the last stages of their lives. Our guide and photo instructor also pointed out landmarks on where the glacier was at various periods in the past 100 years. The highlight of our trek was coming face to face with Mendenhall Glacier, a magnificent body of ice that has been slowly receding through time. The glacier has receded 2.5 miles since the 1500’s with 1.75 miles of that occuring during the last 100 years. The entire scenery was magnificent with the mist covering a huge part of the glacier helping create a dramatic effect to my photograph. I initially considered adjusting the brightness but realized the photo could lose a lot of details in the mist and clouds so I decided to keep the gloomy mood…which I hope is not an indication on the future of this majestic natural wonder.

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.

ORANGE BEAUTY

I found myself standing in front of an orange flamingo with a dilemna on how to photograph such a lofty animal. I didn’t want to photograph the entire bird from head to foot and look like the poor bird’s yearbook photo so I tried squeezing my creative juices to capture the beautiful bird in a different way. My first few shots failed to give justice to the majestic animal before me until the flamingo started twisting its neck to pluck on its feathers at times burying it’s head out of my view. I immediately focused my lens to the flamingo’s body capturing more details from the symmetrical and asymmetrical patterns of the feathers, the elegant curves of the neck to the fading colors from rich orange to ivory white. These close-ups allowed me to capture the flamingo’s private moment without intruding into it’s personal space.

TULIPANO ROSSO

I was at the grocery one day and saw this bouquet of tulip buds on sale at the flower section. I never bought tulips before as I was under the impression that they are too sensitive and easily wilt. I prefer flowers that can last for days as I definitely want my money’s worth. Anyways, I went ahead and bought the tulips and they ended up looking great on my dining room table. A few days later they finally bloomed and I thought they really looked pretty so I took multiple close up shots of the flowers. I wish I had a macro lens on my camera but I guess what I have right now isn’t too bad. Now that spring has come I look forward to buying more flowers to decorate my dining table so expect more flower close ups in my future posts. Happy Easter everyone!

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PASTEL PARADISE

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

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.

WINGS OF LOVE

I’ve always wanted to photograph butterflies while on mid flight but I didn’t anticipate how difficult it was to capture something that was constantly moving in different directions. I was at the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory this morning and was overwhelmed by the number of butterflies flying all around the confined space. After multiple failed attempts, I decided to focus my camera on those resting on the leaves, branches and rocks around the conservatory. Thankfully, a lot of them gamely posed and proudly spread their magnificent wings for my camera. During my search for bigger butterflies I stumbled upon a mating couple on top of a mossy rock. I’ve never seen two butterflies mate before and I thought it was amazing how their intertwined wings formed the shape of a heart. I took multiple photos adjusting my settings constantly but the photo above turned out to be my favorite. I also took a gazillion photos while at the conservatory and I’m featuring some of them below…I hope you guys like them all!

BORDERLINE

I was going through my old photographs when I came across this one I took during my very first cruise back in 2013. We just sailed out of Miami and the sun had just set creating a majestic glow in the horizon. Up in the sky was this expansive cloud creating a border above the horizon while sandwiching the fiery sky in the middle. As I focused my gaze out to sea, I got captivated by the poetic silhouette of a cruise ship created by the glowing sky. Thankfully I brought my DSLR with me so I was able to photograph the magnificent view before me. I can also still remember the slow rocking of the ship and the smell of the salty ocean breeze as we sailed steadily towards our destination. It was a totally new experience for me and I’m glad I did it because after that trip I became a cruise fanatic having been on 9 cruises since and looking forward to my 10th in the next few days. I have cruised the Caribbean a number of times, the Mediterranean, Alaska and across the Atlantic Ocean and I’m looking forward to more cruises in the future. My goal is to keep cruising until I can eventually claim to have cruised around the world.

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.

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.

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