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PEGGY’S WINDOW

During my trip to Venice a few months ago, I visited the Peggy Guggenheim Collection to view her vast treasury of artwork ranging from Picasso and Metzinger to Dali and Brâncusi. The museum is a famous destination in Venice with its main entrance accessible through the Grand Canal. Peggy bought the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, which is an 18th-century castle, in 1949 and started showing her art collection in 1951. While exploring the museum, I happened on this window with a great view of the canal but interestingly curtained by a patterned metal grill. I pulled out my iPhone 7 Plus to photograph the outside view incorporating the patterned grill to create a layered effect on my photo. I thought it would be nice to capture Venice and the Grand Canal through Peggy’s window.

EAGLE POINT

This photograph will be the last feature of my Grand Canyon photo series unless I find something in my photo bank worth featuring later. The Eagle Point in the west rim of the Grand Canyon is aptly named after a natural rock formation that looks like an eagle.  This majestic geological wonder is one of the highlights when visiting the west rim of the Grand Canyon. If you focus your attention to the top of the left wing on the photo, you will notice a line of red rocks that looks like a sleeping dog. The natives call it the “Sleeping Dog” rock formation for obvious reasons. When visiting the west rim of the Grand Canyon for photography, I think it is best to see it in the late afternoon when the sunlight is at its most golden further enhancing the redness of these natural wonders.

MAN IN THE WINDOW

The hallway to the restrooms at the Guano Cafe in Guano Point, Grand Canyon West have these huge windows that frame the amazing views in the distance. I was stepping out of the restroom when I saw this man looking out of the window obviously mesmerized by the spectacular view in front of him. I immediately pulled out my phone and quietly took multiple shots. I also took photos of just the window but I prefer this one as it shows how the Grand Canyon captivates its visitors. The man is actually my father waiting for me and my mother to step out of the restrooms. This was his first trip to the Grand Canyon and I’m glad to have brought him and my mother for an experience of a lifetime.

GONDOLA SURPRISE

When in Venice, a gondola ride is quite inevitable…so during my trip to this floating city last October, I found myself sailing in one along this ancient city’s narrow canals. The sailing was smooth despite it being a tiny boat and was filled with pleasant surprises at every turn.  Imagine my shock when in the middle of the tour the gondola glided out into the wide Venetian lagoon. I am not scared of sailing into open waters just as long as I’m in a huge boat…but when you’re in a tiny gondola rocking in a large body of water it wasn’t difficult to start panicking. Apparently, this was part of the route and the gondolier wanted to show me the Doge’s Palace from out in the lagoon when he found out I was into photography. It was a spectacular view indeed but I couldn’t help myself from clinging on the boat for life’s mercy. Despite being partially frozen in fear, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to take a photograph so I slowly pulled out my iPhone 7 Plus and took a number of shots. I was also too chicken to move to the opposite side of the boat so I ended up capturing a portion of the gondola, which surprisingly added an interesting perspective to my photographs…This one turned out to be my best and favorite shot.

ALHAMBRA PALACE

I visited the ALHAMBRA palace and fortress complex in Granada, Andalusia, Spain during my recent trip to Europe. This palatial complex was constructed in AD 889 and then renovated and rebuilt by the Moorish emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada during the mid 13th century. Poets often refer to this palace as “a pearl set in emeralds” and UNESCO declared this a World Heritage Site. The Alhambra reminds me of the great contributions by Muslims to education, healthcare, philosophy and science. In fact, between 8th and 15th century Andalusia was the world’s center for education and knowledge. The photo above was taken in one of the courtyards inside the palace.

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.

PONTE VECCHIO

The Ponte Vecchio is probably one of the most photographed bridges in Italy and I made sure I got my photo when I visited Florence about two weeks ago. This medieval bridge crosses the Arno River and was the only bridge in Florence that was not destroyed by the Germans when they retreated from the British liberators during the Second World War. The bridge is lined with jewelry and souvenir shops although centuries ago butchers were the main feature of the bridge. Most photos of this famous landmark are usually taken from the bridges on opposite sides or along the river banks and I did a number of shots at those angles. However, during my visit to the Uffizi Gallery I noticed that one of the upper floor windows looked down into the bridge although the reflection on the glass window became a challenge. I decided to use my iPhone to take this photo by laying it flat on the glass window to avoid any reflections. I finally got my photo of the Ponte Vecchio at an angle different from your typical tourist photo.

FONTANA DI TREVI

When I visited Rome two years ago, the Trevi Fountain was closed for renovation and the pool was totally drained of water.  Visitors were able to walk on a ledge above the pool for a photograph and some were even throwing coins into the empty pool. I took a number of photos but none were worthy of a feature on my page. Two weeks ago I found myself again in Rome and this time I made sure the Trevi fountain was a major stop during my walk around the city. Unfortunately, my back was killing me after I pulled it while clearing my backyard for Hurricane Matthew that carrying a DSLR around my neck was intolerable. I had to use my iPhone 7 this entire trip so as not to aggravate my back. Surprisingly, using my iphone allowed me to capture wider panoramas like the photo above. I wouldn’t have been able to photograph the fountain in a wide span like this using an ordinary lens. I also wanted to capture the fountain devoid of tourists but my parents are not filthy rich enough to lock down the area so bear with the humanity bordering my photo. LOL!

CASTELL DE BELLVER

This Gothic style castle on top of a hill in Palma de Mallorca, Spain is one of the few circular castles in the world and was built for King James II of Majorca during the 14th century. From the 18th to mid-20th century, the castle was turned into a political prison before it was eventually turned into a museum in 1932.  The castle was my first stop on a tour of Palma de Mallorca a few days ago and I was having a hard time photographing the place as it was filled up with tourists. While on the roofdeck of the castle, I noticed that the last tour group was heading for the second floor so I immediately ran down to the ground floor to take advantage of the empty halls. I only had a 10-second window to capture this part of the castle as the first tour group came down just as I finished my panoramic shot using my iPhone 7 Plus. This was just a single attempt done hurriedly and I could not be any happier with the outcome.

VENICE…LIKE NO OTHER

A week ago I arrived in Venice with very high expectations having known so much about this Italian city from movies, books and magazines. This was my first trip to this romantic city and true to my expectations, I was bowled over by what I saw. I may have to mention my wonderful stay at the Baglioni Luna Hotel, which made the entire experience more memorable, from the amazing service to my fabulous suite with a panoramic view of the Venetian lagoon (I will post a photographic review of the hotel later). A trip to Venice won’t be complete without a gondola ride and the tourist in me insisted that I had to give it a try. I found myself gliding through narrow canals between centuries-old buildings seeing a side of Venice one won’t get to see from the streets. Venice is such a beautiful city that I can’t find the right words to best describe it. This is one of those places that is better experienced than described.

FIRENZE

I am currently in the enchanting city of Florence and I’ve never said wow so many times in my life. This city in the heart of Italy’s Tuscany region was once a powerful kingdom and a major trading point in Europe. The city is rich in culture and traditions as well as impressive architecture such as the Basilica of Saint Mary the Flower with its behemoth of a dome towering above the city as seen in the middle of my photo. The city’s other famous landmarks include the Ponte Vecchio (bridge on middle left of the photo) and  the Church of Santa Croce (middle right), which serves as home to the remains of famous Italians like Galileo, Michelangelo and Dante. This photo was taken on top of a hill at the Piazza Michelangelo and the view from the top was worth every step of the climb.

ROMAN HOLIDAY

It’s great to be back in Rome…the weather is beautiful and the air crisp and comfortably chilly. I arrived here yesterday and immediately made the rounds of every tourist landmark featured in a travel book. A number of them were under clean up renovation the last time I was here so it’s good to finally see them minus the scaffoldings. Fortunately, my hotel is just 15 minutes walk to all of these landmarks so I conveniently strolled my way around while enjoying a cone of my favorite gelato flavors from the landmark shop, Giolitti! I culminated my walkathon at the Colosseum and immediately played with my camera just like the thousands of tourists there that day. In order not to bore you with the same touristy photo of this ancient architectural wonder, I decided to capture its reflection on a puddle using my new iPhone 7. I’ve seen a number of photos using this technique so I decided to try it on the Colosseum…not bad for a first try…and the 12-megapixel iPhone camera did not disappoint.

BEAUTY AFTER THE FURY

I was driving out of a shopping mall parking lot when I saw this magnificent display of colors in the darkening sky. I had to step on my brakes, pull out my phone and roll down my window in order to capture the beauty before me. Mother nature sure has her ways of making us shudder in fear as well as exclaim in wonder. Just a day before, she was unleashing all her fury on us then a day later here she was flaunting off her breathtaking beauty. This photo was taken a day after the hurricane Matthew threat to my home city thus the title of this post. By the way, thank you all for your kind messages on my previous post…it was comforting to read them while waiting for the arrival of the hurricane. I’m also happy to announce that we luckily dodged the storm with no significant damages.  This won’t be the last so I will need to always be prepared.  I guess it’s also the price we pay for living in this tropical paradise state of Florida.

TROUBLE IN PARADISE

Living in sunny Florida is like a dream come true, however, not all dreams can be pleasant experiences. Sometimes, nightmares happen and sad to say, I am experiencing one right now. In a few hours, the eastern coastline of Florida will be hit by one of the strongest hurricane in about a decade. Hurricane Matthew is on its way to unleash his fury on the sunshine state and we are expecting for the worst and hoping for the best. Matthew is now a category 4 hurricane and will be closest to my home city of Fort Lauderdale around 7-8 pm today (about 4 hours from now). I just hope we don’t get hit that bad later tonight…wish me luck, guys!

SAFAUXRI

I have always wanted to experience a safari adventure but when friends told me about camping out in the wild I immediately crossed it out of my bucket list. Camping for me includes hot showers, plush towels, soft beds and 24-hour wifi access. Thankfully, Disney had me in their thoughts when they built an African safari at their Animal Kingdom park in Orlando, Florida. The 15-minute tour takes you through forests and grasslands filled with “free roaming” animals for an Out of Africa experience.  The photo above was taken at the grasslands sections with these rhinos crossing behind our tram. Luckily, I was sitting on the last row thus providing me an unobstructed view of a great photo opportunity behind me.

VIEW FROM MY TABLE

My Friday nights are usually spent at a favorite restaurant to celebrate the end of another work week for some munching and sipping. About four Fridays ago, I had dinner with neighbors at this Fort Lauderdale landmark restaurant called Seawatch. This restaurant has balcony tables offering a spectacular view of the ocean and the beach. Initially, I was annoyed about the palm leaves partially blocking my view but decided to include them to add an interesting touch to my composition. I always sit at this section of the restaurant as the view de-stresses me from the crazy week that just passed. The salty ocean breeze and the amazing view transports me to a lalaland until my favorite plate of crunchy calamari gets served…then I float back down to reality.

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.

VILLAGE LAKE BY DOWNTOWN DISNEY

imageEvery time I visit Orlando, I always allocate one night of my trip for an evening of strolling and dining in Downtown Disney. This huge collection of shops, restaurants, bars, cinemas and arcades wrapping around a lake (named Village Lake) is the pitstop for visitors after a day in the park.  The place has been recently renamed to Disney Springs but I prefer the old name because just like every city downtown, it is the very heart of the entire Disney complex. I took this photo on my way to dinner after noticing the beautiful colors in the sky just as the sun was about to set. The rich and bright colors reflecting on the water transformed the whole lake into a spectacular canvas of red, purple and gold. The amusing part of this photo, which I took in 2012, is that this was taken using an iPhone 4s.

WHERE DREAMS COME TRUE

During my interview with the company who hired me for work in the United States, the interviewer asked me where in the USA I would want to relocate and I replied “anywhere near Disneyland”.  It may have sounded funny for the interviewer but I was dead on serious about living close to a Disney park. When I was 10 years old, a neighbor gave me a pictorial souvenir of Walt Disney World and I grew up staring at the photos dreaming of visiting it someday. Disney World was a childhood dream that always lingered deep inside my heart and mind so imagine my joy when the interview ended with a job offer to sunny Florida where Walt Disney World is located. My work assignment was in Miami but it was good enough for me as Orlando was just a few hours drive. Since my move to Florida, a visit to Walt Disney World has become part of my annual tradition and each time I step into the park and come face to face with Cinderella’s Castle, I pinch my arm to remind myself that everything is for real. I know I have come a long way from being that kid who once dreamed of coming to Disney and I am very proud to say that through perseverance and hard work I eventually made that childhood dream come.

TORII 

 The torii is a traditional Japanese gate usually found at the entrance of a Shinto shrine to mark the entrance to a sacred place. Contrary to tradition, this torii is found at the entrance to the Japanese Pavilion of EPCOT Center at the Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. I took this photo using my iPhone 6, while in the middle of a thunderstorm, and the park was gray and misty with rain falling down like crazy.  Surprisingly, the dull and hazy background brought out the deep red paint of the torii creating a beautiful contrast in the photograph.

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