SA-FAUX-RI

I have always dreamed of going on a safari tour in Africa and photograph as many animals as I can possibly see. Unfortunately, that opportunity hasn’t come yet although that didn’t stop me from trying something close, or maybe not, to an African safari experience. A few years ago while visiting my sister and her family in Dallas, Texas, they took me to a wildlife center called Fossil Rim near Glen Rose, Texas. The facility is a conservation and research center focused on species in peril in an environment almost similar to an African safari. Visitors drive around in their own vehicles and some animals are even friendly enough to come up to your car. They sell feeds at the ticket center and visitors can feed the animals…something you probably will never be able to do in an actual safari experience. These are some of the photographs I took during our visit. Below is a link to the park’s website in case you’re interested in visiting it in the future: https://fossilrim.org

BLUE RIDGE IN THE DUSK

I first came to know about the Blue Ridge Mountains from the lyrics of the John Denver song “Take Me Home, Country Roads”. Growing up in the Philippines, this was totally an entire world away from me, an insignificant part to the lyrics of a famous song. But life is indeed full of surprises and I found myself immigrating to the United States and suddenly all these places I once heard in songs are now just a drive away.

Two years ago, my better half and I went on a road trip to Pittsburgh, a drive which actually took us through the very heart of this legendary mountain range. Since it was my first time in the area, we decided to stay for a few days in Asheville, North Carolina to explore the city and the surrounding mountains. We booked a stay at the luxurious OMNI Grove Park Inn, which sits on the western slopes of Sunset Mountain within the Blue Ridge Mountain range. One of best things about this resort is the breathtaking and unobstructed views of the Blue Ridge Mountains across the valley where the city of Asheville sits. We then splurged a little bit and got a room with endless views of the mountains.

On our last day at the resort, we decided to watch the sunset from one of the many viewing decks while enjoying a few cocktails to celebrate this leg of our trip. Unfortunately, it was a bit cloudy so we failed to see the sun go down behind the mountains. Although, the clouds filtering the last of the sunlight created this pinkish sky which perfectly complemented the hazy blues of the mountains. I also love how the shadows came in varying shades of blue further emphasizing the multiple peaks that make up the mountain range. The photographer in me immediately saw the need to capture the beauty before me so I rushed back to our hotel room to grab my camera.

I took dozens of shots of the mountain range before me zooming my lens in and out to capture multiple perspectives. I do love how dreamy the photographs turned out to be. Finally, the Blue Ridge mountains are no longer just a line from a song. They now evoke beautiful memories of our brief stay in Asheville as well as of our lovely drive through it on our way to our next adventure.

DAYBREAK IN HONG KONG

Hong Kong is one of my all-time favorite cities and if I can only afford it I will move there in a heartbeat. I just love looking at all the giant skyscrapers sitting on top of the most rugged terrain all reaching up for the skies symbolic of the city’s reputation as a center for global economics. When in Hong Kong, it’s always best to stay where one can enjoy the sweeping views of the city so on my most recent visit I stayed at two hotels so I can bask on the iconic views of Hong Kong from both sides of the harbor. The photos in this post were taken from the window of my suite at the fifty-third (53rd) floor of the Island Shangri-La Hotel. I just woke up and was getting ready for breakfast when I noticed the sun slowly rising from behind the mountains as if trying to quietly sneak into the still sleepy city. I used my GoPro Hero 7 Black and iPhone 7Plus to take these photos as there was too much reflection on the glass windows when I tried using my Canon DSLR. By laying the camera flat on the window it eliminates almost every reflection from inside the room. The colors of daybreak are always beautiful and I’m glad to have captured Hong Kong at a time when this dynamic city was at it’s most serene. Once this pandemic is over, I am definitely coming back.

SLICE OF HEAVEN ON EARTH

One of the highlights of my Alaskan cruise was sailing on Glacier Bay all the way up to the Tarr Inlet where the Margerie Glacier slopes majestically. It was a day of cruising only but I thought what a relaxing way to enjoy the breathtaking views at the comfort of my stateroom’s balcony. We arrived at the mouth of the bay around 7 in the morning and to everyone’s dismay we were greeted by this thick curtain of fog and couldn’t see anything beyond 30 feet with just total whiteness as far as the eyes could see. My first thoughts were…there goes my photography. However, Mother Nature sure has many ways of surprising us as after half an hour of cruising, in the middle of total whiteness, the fog slowly started lifting itself up allowing for us to take a peek at the beautiful scenery along the narrow bay. I started playing with my camera capturing slivers of beauty sandwiched between the water and the rising fog. I thought the whole scenery was ethereal and mystical transporting me to a magical place and time. After another hour of sailing the fog eventually disappeared allowing us to enjoy the many magnificent fjords, inlets, cliffs, forests, waterfalls, islets and glaciers, which makes Alaska’s Glacier National Park truly a slice of heaven on earth.

SOARIN’ OVER LANTAU

Lantau Island is one of the largest islands in Hong Kong and is home to the 32-meter tall Tian Tan Buddha, which I featured on a previous post. The shrine is accessible in two ways, by car or via a scenic alternative using the Ngong Ping 360 cable car. During my visit, I took the cable car and even paid extra for one with a glass bottom for an added thrill. I’m not a big fan of heights but surprisingly I enjoyed the ride very much. I believe I also got so engrossed with my photography that the lofty heights didn’t bother me at all. The cable car took me across the bay, over lush mountains and into the Ngong Ping Village where a Starbucks, a monastery and the statue of Buddha are located. The ride took about 25 minutes and you get to see the Hong Kong International Airport at the start of the ride then the giant Buddha sitting on top of the mountain at the end part of the ride. I took a good number of photographs while inside the cable car and here are some of my favorites. The top photo was taken using my iPhone 7Plus while the rest below were taken using a Canon Rebel T6s.

THE LIONS OF THE BEAGLE

During our cruise to South America in December of 2018, our ship docked at the southernmost city in the world…Ushuaia, Argentina. The city is located in the banks of the Beagle Channel and we were told that Charles Darwin sailed on this very channel with Captain Robert FitzRoy on the HMS Beagle and saw a glacier for the very first time. Along the channel are hundreds of islands teeming with life, which can give any wildlife photographer plenty of photogasms. LOL!

We took an excursion that sailed around these islands and one of the stops was at a sea lion colony.  The water was rough that day and our small tour boat was rocking like crazy I had to cling on the rails for dear life. Despite nature tossing me around I was able to capture a good number of photos although there were also a lot of blurry shots.  It was amazing to see all these sea lions in their natural habitat as I’ve only seen them before in zoos. Here are some of the photographs I took and I hope you all enjoy looking at these lovely creatures in such a wild yet magnificent environment. If by any chance you decide to go somewhere wild and exciting, I highly recommend going down to the southern tip of Argentina.

COLORFUL BERMUDA

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

THE HOUSE ON A ROCK

I went on a cruise of the New England area last June of 2019 aboard the Celebrity Summit cruise ship and one of our stops was Newport, Rhode Island. The town is famous for its Gilded Age mansions and so I booked a tour of the Doris Duke mansion, which I will feature at a later post. What actually caught my eye during the trip was this house perched on top of a rocky island in the middle of the Narragansett Bay. The house, built in 1905, was named the Clingstone although locals call it the House on a Rock. The original owner was the nephew of Joseph Wharton, founder of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, until it was sold in 1961 to an architect relative for only $3,600, which was the amount owed in back taxes. The house caught my eye as we were sailing out of Newport just as the sun was setting. I thought it was beautiful with the silhouette of the Newport Bridge rising majestically in the distance.

STUNNING ACADIA

The Acadia National Park is located near Bar Harbor, Maine and is the only national park in the northeast. It’s magnificent coastline featuring granite cliffs, sandy and cobblestone beaches as well as crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean is every photographer’s paradise. These photos were at a rocky cliff with amazing views of the water and the rugged shoreline. In retrospect I wish I gathered enough courage to climb these rocks for more panoramic shots. But since I’m not much of a risk taker I just stood on even grounds and allowed my zoom lens to take these photos without me falling off a cliff.

BRIDAL VEIL FALLS

I have recently bombarded you all with photos I took during my recent trip to Asia so I’m giving everyone a break and will post those I took within continental America. No these photos are not from scenes in the Twilight movie nor were they taken in the middle of a rain forest. You’d be surprised to know that these were actually taken at the side of the highway on a foggy and rainy day in Skagway, Alaska. Our tour guide called it the Bridal Veil Falls, which if you look at it it does look like a bride’s veil. I took these photos using slow shutter speed and did it with my camera handheld, which one shouldn’t do when trying to create a cotton effect. I did have my tripod with me that day but it was just a quick stop so I decided not to go through the hassle of setting it up. I do remember holding my breath for so long so as not to shake my camera. Here are those that didn’t turn out blurry.

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.

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.

TWILIGHT AT THE END OF THE WORLD

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

ICY ESCAPE

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

PARC GÜELL

Going through my old travel photos I found these pictures I took around Parc Güell in Barcelona, Spain. I thought I posted them ages ago but after reviewing previous blog posts I realized I have not. Parc Güell is a complex of gardens and architectural elements designed by famed architect Antoni Gaudi and was constructed from 1900 to 1914. It was officially opened as a park in 1926 and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. This major Barcelona attraction was originally built as a housing development but unfortunately the project did not take off prompting the developer, Eusebi Güell, to convert it into a park. This sprawling complex is also an architect’s dreamland as it is filled with symbols inspired by politics, religion and mythology. As for photography enthusiasts, this complex requires a lot of stamina and patience….stamina for all the walking and climbing involved and patience for the throngs of tourists posing at every nook and corner of this complex. My biggest regret was not bringing my DSLR camera as I used my iPhone 7Plus to take all these photos because the idea of walking and climbing with a 3-lb camera hanging around my neck was just petrifying. I also focused my shots on the various angles, colors, curves, lines, materials and symbols around the park in order to minimize capturing the tourists scattered all over. Of all the photographs I took my favorite is the one above with the multicolored tiles and the city of Barcelona sprawled all the way towards the ocean. I only wished the weather was better that day as the gray clouds created a gloomy mood despite the colorful tiles and eccentric architecture. Barcelona is such a beautiful city with a rich history and culture so if this amazing city is in your future travel itinerary don’t forget to include Parc Güell in your must visit list.

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.

UNDER THE TUSCAN RAIN

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

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.

ISLAND SPEED

Don’t you wish you were on that boat speeding across the brilliant sapphire water and heading to a remote tropical island with your special someone? That sure is possible if you were in the Caribbean and have lots of dough but for humble commoners like a majority of us, a cruise ship is a cheaper alternative to enjoy the high seas and to explore these exotic islands. I have been cruising regularly for the past 5 years and I enjoy visiting multiple places minus the inconvenience of dragging around my luggages. The only thing I like to drag around is my camera, which then allows me to capture so many interesting places. The photograph above was taken from my stateroom balcony a few hours after we docked in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands. Unfortunately, the island and the boats didn’t really provide much for my composition until the speedboat came slicing across the water. I like how the speeding boat added a sense of excitement and adventure to my composition. It makes me want to book and hop on another cruise.

CROWN OF CLOUDS

During my last trip to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, my parents and I joined a bus tour out of convenience. I didn’t like the idea of getting lost in the middle of nowhere as it has been years since my last visit by car. The only downside with taking bus tours is you don’t get to stop anytime for photos. You follow a specific schedule, which oftentimes get delayed by inconsiderate fellow passengers…but I will not dwell on that. Anyway, I ended up taking my photos from inside the bus, which at most times end up blurry. This photo was taken when we were about half an hour away from the west rim of the Grand Canyon. I noticed how these jet-stream clouds were filling up the sky and jetting out of the mountain top like a crown. I took multiple shots but the roadside portion of the photos were a bit blurry due to the speeding bus. I decided to angle my iphone 7plus towards the mountain top so as not to capture the roadside in a blur. This one turned out sharper although I would have loved this more had there been a man on a horse on the mountain top. LOL!

FLIGHT TO MARS

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Thankfully, airline companies now permit passengers to turn on their phones (airplane mode) the entire flight.  This allows you to go online through their wifi service and in my case, take photos from up in the air.  The photo above was taken around 7am just a few minutes after takeoff from the Las Vegas airport. The early morning sun was casting shadows on the rough terrain and enhanced the redness of the soil turning the entire landscape into something out of this world. I used my iPhone 6 to take this photograph.

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