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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

HEAVEN ON EARTH

While planning my vacation to Barcelona, Spain, a friend recommended that I take a day trip to Montserrat, which is a mountain range about an hour drive from Barcelona. On top of the mountain is a Benedictine Abbey and a basilica (Santa Maria de Montserrat), which was founded in the 10th century and continue to operate to this day with less than a hundred monks. The place has become a major tourist attraction as well as a pilgimage site for young Barcelonians who hike overnight to watch the sunrise from the heights of Montserrat. On the day of my visit, it started raining in Barcelona and our tour guide warned us that it may get foggy in the mountains so visibility may not be good. I was feeling disappointed during the drive as I was looking forward to photographing the rock formations around the monastery and throughout the range. When we arrived at the abbey there was fog all over the place, however, I was still able to partially see the rock formations and realized that the fog made the whole place look like we were in heaven…it was a breathtakingly beautiful sight. As the day went by, the fog started lifting exposing more gorgeous rock formations driving me wild with my iPhone’s camera. My biggest regret that day was leaving behind my DSLR in the hotel and using my iPhone instead. Photos would have been more gorgeous had I used my DSLR. Anyway, here are a few photos I took during my trip to Montserrat, which in literal translation means “saw mountain” as it looks like a handsaw from a distance.

EMERALD FOREST

Green is supposedly the most relaxing and calming color as it is the color of nature and it evokes a sense of comfort and peace helping reduce stress and anxiety. During my cruise in Alaska last summer, the ship sailed through straits and inlets flanked by islands of lush forest of pines so it was a glorious feast of green for my eyes. It was truly relaxing and calming sitting on my stateroom balcony while watching an endless parade of nature across the water from where I was seated. The view also provided me a lot of photography opportunities and I specially liked how the trees were reflected on the water creating a beautiful mirror effect like the photo above.

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.

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.

UNDER THE PIER

One boring weekend a few years ago, I decided to go joy riding with a friend until we found ourselves at the Dania Beach Fishing Pier in Dania Beach, Florida. The pier was filled with fishing enthusiasts holding on to their precious fishing rods while competing with pelicans and seagulls for the good catch. Good thing I brought my DSLR with me that day so I was able to capture photos of the birds, the fishes, the people, the pier and the emerald waters of the Atlantic. I then went down to the sand to continue taking photos and found myself under the pier facing it’s entire length stretching out into the water. The ocean was a little rough that day so there were a lot of surf as the waters crashed on the sand as well as on the concrete beams of the pier. I took multiple shots from the same spot and this one captured the waves so well including the water sprays showing a lot of movement and fluidity in the photo. I’ve had this photo for a while now and I only came to appreciate this work of mine very recently…hope you guys like this too!

VENICE…CITY OF CANALS

When I visited Venice, Italy I prayed so hard for my trip not to end that I would wake up really early in the morning and stay up late at night just to stretch each day. The city was just magical…from the architecture, to the rich history and culture and of course the canals, which are uniquely Venice, making this city one of the most visited in the world. During my stay, I went to watch a Vivaldi concert at a theater right beside St. Mark’s Square, hopped on a gondola that cruised around the city and took long walks along narrow alleyways and across bridges connecting the multitude of islands that make up this remarkable city. I also joined a tour of the St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace and visited the former home of American socialite Peggy Guggenheim, which is now a museum showcasing her extensive art collection. Harry’s Bar, which was right beside my hotel, was also visited to try their signature Bellini and to check out the favorite hangout of Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Charlie Chaplin and Alfred Hitchcock to name a few. The icing on the cake to my vacation was my suite at the luxurious Baglioni Hotel Luna, Venezia where my room had a view of the lagoon and my bathroom a view of the St. Mark’s bell tower. The hotel lived up to it’s five star reputation providing me with the famous Baglioni luxury and first class service. The photo above was taken in the front of the Peggy Guggenheim Museum while below are photos taken at Harry’s Bar, Peggy Guggenheim Museum and the Baglioni Hotel Luna, Venezia.

Harry’s Bar

Peggy Guggenheim Museum

Dining Room at Baglioni Hotel Luna, Venezia

Baglioni Hotel Luna, Venezia

View from my hotel suite

Living area of my hotel suite

The luxurious bed in my hotel suite

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.

BEYOND THE MIST

As we traverse this journey we call life, let us all remember that nothing is definite and as always surprises awaits us in every turn. Just like this new year we are about to ring in, all we can hope for are wonderful things to come our way although road bumps are quite inevitable. These bumps are there to remind us to slow down but never to stop driving. The photo above, which was taken during my cruise in Alaska a few months ago, seems to remind me of what it’s like looking forward to the new year. It’s misty all around making everything less visible and uncertain, however, as we move closer to where we are headed the view becomes clearer allowing us to appreciate what lies ahead. We were headed to Glacier Bay that day and I thought I will never see anything due to the thick mist. To my amazement, a few hours into the cruise the mist lifted and we glided into Glacier Bay with an unobstructed view of the most magnificent sceneries one could ever imagine. Life is full of surprises so don’t fret too much because beautiful experiences await us beyond the mists of life. Happy New Year everyone!!!

SUPERMOON

Tonight was the first and last supermoon of the year so I made sure of my availability to photograph it. The supermoon is when a full or a new moon is at its closest distance to earth resulting to a larger than usual size. I originally planned to head to the beach early with my tripod and all but decided last minute to photograph handheld. Unfortunately, the beach across from my building is just plain sand and ocean so that placed me in a dilemna on which foreground subject to use. Fortunately, the sand dunes are covered in sea oats so I decided to duck behind them and used them to frame the moon rising from the horizon. I regretted not bringing my tripod as most of my photos turned out blurry. So far, this is the most decent one after undergoing a reasonable amount of processing in my iPad. Below are more photos I took of the moon all framed by fluffy clouds. Note that I had to superimpose the more detailed photo of the moon otherwise it would just be one solid ball of light. Hope everyone got the chance to view the Supermoon and captured a few photos as well.

PITCHFORK FALLS

I always wondered how cotton candy effect on moving water is captured so thanks to Google I learned how to program my camera settings correctly. It is highly recommended to use a tripod when attempting this style of photography but in this case, I broke the rule and captured this handheld. I was on a rush to capture the Pitchfork Falls in Skagway, Alaska as I was on a tour plus it was starting to rain so I had to rush back to the bus before me and my camera got soaked. One technique I read somewhere is to exhale while capturing a photo to further limit the shake. I have a few more photos taken using this technique and will post them soon.

SOUTH FLORIDA DREAMIN’

I consider myself very fortunate to live in this part of the country as other people have to save money and plan vacations just to experience this.  Meanwhile, I wake up to this every morning as part of my daily routine…I jump out of bed, put on my flipflops, leash my dog and walk 5 minutes to the beach to greet the sunrise. Each morning may not be as dreamy as this but watching the sun rise from the horizon is quite a liberating experience.  To live near the beach in Fort Lauderdale, Florida is like living in a dream…and moving here is probably one of the best decisions I ever made in my life.  My encounter with the sunrise every morning rejuvinates and at the same time excites me…and thankfully, my ever reliable iPhone is always in my pocket ready to capture the promise of another beautiful day.

RAYS OF LIGHT

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

FLIGHT OF THE ALBATROSS 

I always envy how birds can just soar freely into the horizon and visit exciting destinations without worrying about pricey plane tickets, uncomfortable seats, lost luggages or nasty flight attendants.  I on the other hand had to work around my limited vacation days at work and patiently await for dollar-saving deals before I can start packing my bags. How I wish I was a bird so I’d be able to explore distant places to as far as my wings can take me. Just like the Albatross in my photo above, it was instantly headed towards its next adventure by just a flap of its wings.  The most I could do was enviously photograph it as it soared towards me with its gaze focused on my camera as if reminding me how I was unfortunately stuck in my stateroom’s balcony. What a cocky bird (uhm!)!

GELID PEAKS

We were sailing slowly down Glacier Bay in Alaska towards the Johns Hopkins Glacier when I noticed these massive snowy peaks majestically reaching up for the cotton white clouds in the sky.  I also noticed a long white swath of cloud floating across the middle as if dissecting this monstrosity into an upper and lower half of a mountain.  All this time I was standing at my stateroom’s balcony freezing yet determined to brave the icy temperatures for the sake of my photography. The frosty wind was blowing into my face freezing my expression of awe over the wondrous beauty in front of me. I took multiple shots and this one is my personal favorite having captured so much detail…from the silvery waters of the bay and the lush green, red and browns of the island in the foreground to the steel blues, purples and whites of the snow-capped mountains in the distance. By the time I finished taking these photos, I could barely feel my skin that I thought I was suffering from frostbite.  Aaah! The things we do to capture the best shot.

ALASKAN SPEED

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In Skagway, Alaska, I joined a photography tour that brought me to a ghost town, a cemetery where everyone but four had the same date of death and an inlet teeming with Alaskan wildlife.  The fourth stop was the most exciting and supposedly a surprise…we sped up a mountain and parked on the side of a cliff overlooking a waterfall.  I immediately noticed a railroad track right above the cascading water and from a distance saw this train speeding up the mountain.  I finally realized the surprise and impressed that our tour guide timed it perfectly.  I hurriedly adjusted my camera settings and took a few test shots to ensure the perfect photograph. By the time the train rolled above the waterfalls, I was perfectly positioned to capture as many shots as I can. Here are four of the many photographs I took of the White Summit Pass Train speeding above the majestic Pitchfork Falls.

UNFRIENDLY SKIES

My home state of Florida is under major threat from massive Hurricane Irma, which is probably one of the strongest storms in the Caribbean basin.  I will be in my condo building by the beach hunkering the storm and should the winds get too strong, the stairwell will be my refuge for a few hours.  Having grown up in the Philippines, I’ve had my fill of hurricanes or typhoons as we call it on that side of the planet.  However, Hurricane Irma will be my first Category 5 so I’m bracing myself for some crazy and scary experience.

Since I am in the middle of a hurricane experience, I reckon the photo above is the most appropriate to post today.  This photo was taken a month ago at the beach area of the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort and Spa where I was lounging at the poolside to take advantage of my club membership.  I saw these ominous looking clouds rolling from the west and hurriedly pulled out my iPhone 7 Plus to capture as many photos as I can.  I actually submitted this photo to The Weather Channel’s It’s Amazing Out There Photo Contest and I hope it gets recognized.  Announcement of winners is on Monday, September 11, 2017 while I’m hunkering from the wrath of Irma.  I sure do hope that by the time the storm passes,  good news will be waiting for me from The Weather Channel.

BEAUTIFULLY RUGGED 

Having lived my entire life in a tropical climate, the Alaskan wilderness was quite a significant change of scenery for me, add to that a major change in temperature as well.  From tree lined rocky shores and rugged mountain ranges to snow capped peaks and majestic glaciers, it felt like I was in another planet…an enchanting and magical planet.  The Alaskan terrain also drew out a deep sense of adventure in me…I found myself trekking alone inside a rain forest just to see a glacier. I did realize much later what a stupid thing I did, I could have encountered a bear and that could have been the end of me. Anyway, I never saw any bear, moose or deer until the last day of my trip when my ride to the airport dropped by an animal conservation center. So yes, I was in Alaska for 8 days and only saw wildlife inside a mini-zoo.

PLACID 

It was a calm afternoon at sea and my cruise ship was sailing steadily towards our first port of call…Ketchikan, Alaska. The air was a bit chilly but that didn’t deter me from stepping out to my stateroom’s balcony to check the view.  It was foggy earlier in the day so I was excited to see the fog finally lifted and the islands visibly clear from where I was standing.  From a distance, I saw this tiny boat slowly glide towards us while staying close to the island obviously trying to maintain a safe distance from the behemoth of a ship it was encountering. As both vessels got closer, I noticed how still the waters were creating a mirror effect of the boat and the island so I immediately got my camera busy to capture as much as I can of the magical scene.  It was such a treat to photograph the boat as it carefully sliced through the silent waters and gently stirred up the serene reflection of the lush Alaskan forest in the distance.

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!

GRAND CANYON

The Grand Canyon is probably one of the most photographed natural wonders and possibly one of the most visited in the world.  It’s western rim is best accessible from Las Vegas, which is about 3 hours drive each way. This was my second trip and I promised myself to enjoy the view instead of spending time taking photos. I was with my parents who were visiting for the first time so of course I made sure they got their souvenir photos. After which, I took the time to inhale the fresh dry air and scan every inch of the wonder before me…as far as my eyes can see. The photo above was one of the few I took using the Pano mode of my iPhone 7 Plus. Lately I have been travelling less with my DSLR and have resorted to using my phone as my primary travel camera. Who would have thought that a phone could capture such detail and color?…Big thanks to Apple…photography has now become more comfortable (no heavy cameras around your neck) and more convenient.

CANYONS AND CROWS

During my recent trip to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, I took a good number of photos which I will share on this page in a series of posts. The photo above is one of my favorite having been lucky enough to capture one of the crows attempting to land on a branch. Since today is Earth Day, I decided to post this photo to celebrate the beauty of nature and the wonders of life in this planet. It was a cold and windy day during my visit and dozens of crows were eagerly waiting for food to be blown away from people’s trays. This leafless tree was just a few feet away from my table and I noticed the two crows quietly perched on the branches. I thought to myself how nice it would be to capture a third crow flying just above the tree. I decided to point my camera phone to the tree and patiently waited for my lucky moment. It didn’t take long before one started swirling above the tree. I immediately got busy snapping photos until the crow finally landed on the branch. Wildlife photography is a test of patience…it can never be staged or timed or reshot. You only get one chance and you better be ready for it. Thanks to my lousy lunch, I had more time focusing on my subject, which graciously gave me the opportunity to photograph it exactly how and where I wanted it. Photographing nature is such a thrilling and gratifying experience. And with many parts of our planet at risk of permanent destruction…photographs allow us to educate people how beautiful is this world we live in and that the responsibility of protecting this planet lies on our very shoulders. We owe it future generations…let us all contribute to help protect our only home. Happy Earth Day everyone!

OF LIGHTHOUSE AND SEA OATS

I have always been fascinated by these rice looking grasses growing along the shorelines of South Florida beaches and love how they turn gold during the summer reminding me of rice fields back in the Philippines during the harvest season.  I recently learned that this grass is named sea oats and is mostly found in the southeastern United States from Virginia to Florida. I took this photograph in the island of Key Biscayne from across mainland Miami and in the background is the historic and 191-year-old Cape Florida Lighthouse. It was quite a struggle taking this photograph as my autofocus was going insane switching focus from the sea oats in the foreground to the lighthouse in the background.  I tried to be creative with this composition and I’d like to believe I did okay on my first try. What do you think?

WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY

The United Nations General Assembly established in 1972 the World Environment Day to create global awareness about environmental problems around the world. The celebration is observed every 5th day of June with a specific theme and a host country.  This year, Angola is hosting the occasion and the theme is “fight against the illegal trade in wildlife”. I have already posted my very few photos of wildlife so I’m using instead a photo I took of this waterfall at the Morikami Japanese Garden and Museum. I also decided to add an old Native American saying,  which was supposedly spoken by Chief Seattle, although no one really knows its origins.  Anyway, regardless of who spoke this saying the message remains the same that we are all responsible for the preservation of our environment and the protection of every life on it. In my part of the world, there is a huge debate about climate change with a significant number of people denying it and insisting it’s just a hoax. I believe this is a cause that is not negotiable and shouldn’t even be debated upon and politicized. Regardless of our political views, nature in itself must be protected and preserved for the very survival of humanity and its future generations.

CHECKING OUT THE MENU



I was having a hard time composing my photo until this bird landed on this rock. I just don’t know what this bird is…Blue Heron? Anyway, it was interesting to see this bird checking out the fishes like it was selecting it’s next meal…I do think these Koi’s are way too big for it.

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