PASSEIG DE GRACIA

Passeig de Gracia is the most expensive street in Barcelona and in Spain. This tree lined boulevard is home to the most luxurious retail brands, five-star hotels and Spain’s most iconic architectural landmarks. Anyone who visits Barcelona will at some point find themselves walking and shopping along this famous street. During my trip to Barcelona in 2016, I decided to book a hotel in this area as I wanted to be right in the heart of the action. American Express Platinum cardholders have access to Fine Hotels and Resorts with free room upgrades, breakfast, early check-in/late check-out and even hotel credits. The Majestic Hotel & Spa Barcelona had the best perks at that time so I booked a suite room with balcony, which provided me great views of the city. This 5-star hotel is right on Passeig de Gracia and is just a block away from Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Mila and Casa Batlló and a few minutes walk to the Gothic Quarter, La Sagrada Familia and another famous Barcelona street…the La Rambla. Below are some of the photos I took while walking around this famous street. Barcelona is such a gorgeous city rich in history, culture, arts and architecture, however, my visit was brief (4 days) as I was only there to catch my cruise across the Atlantic back to America after traveling around Italy for a few weeks. I fell in love with Barcelona and I plan to visit again in the future and see the places I missed during my previous trip. I will definitely still stay in a hotel around this neighborhood due to its proximity to everything great in Barcelona.

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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.

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.

SOUTHERN CHARM

Savannah, Georgia was never on my bucket list…In fact, I’ve watched a number of movies filmed in this town and listened to friends rave about it and still the place never stirred any desire for me to visit. Yesterday, I started this road trip to Pittsburgh (another place missing on my bucket list) and Savannah became an inevitable stop for the night en route to Asheville, North Carolina. I booked a hotel right on the river district and was totally dismayed by what I saw. That section of the town was uninspiring and didn’t look the way I expected it. Anyway, I decided to give Savannah a chance so I started walking farther into their historic district and glad I decided to do so. Block after block of historic homes surrounding beautiful neighborhood squares astounded me. Thankfully I brought my camera with me so I immediately got busy taking shot after shot. The photo above is of the Forsyth Fountain and is my favorite of the dozens I took. I am also including other photos I took around town and hope you guys enjoy looking at them.

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.

STARRY STARRY NIGHT

One of these days I’d like to gather enough courage to drive somewhere far from the city and photograph the Milky Way in the darkness. In my case, the Florida Everglades would be the best place to escape the city lights. I am currently on a cruise somewhere in the Caribbean Sea and last night I attempted to capture some heavenly bodies from my stateroom balcony. My tripod was unavailable so I rested my camera on the balcony ledge and held it firmly to keep it from moving. Unfortunately, the ship was rocking so I wasn’t able to keep my lens open for longer than 15 seconds otherwise the stars would have looked like tiny lines instead of dots. I included the bridge of the cruise ship as my foreground subject and the sky as background to emphasize that the photo was taken out at sea. In the distance you can see the glow of the city lights of Cozumel, Mexico adding an interesting touch to my composition. I also opted not to adjust the brightness in order to prevent the photo from looking too grainy. Below are my attempts to photograph the Milky Way from the aft of the ship. It’s a little grainy but I think good enough for a first attempt.

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.

CITY Of BLUES

One of my favorite times to take a photograph is around twilight…that point where the last rays of the sun fade away and everything around turns a deeper shade of blue. For the photo above, I scheduled my climb to the top of the Rockefeller Center in New York City so I’d arrive at the viewing deck a few minutes before sunset. Luckily, I found a spot where I could extend the lens of my camera out of the glass partitions. I held on for dear life to my spot as other tourists were pushing their way to the front for a chance to take an unobstructed shot of Manhattan. I got pushed and shoved with my face flat on the glass but held on till I got the photos I wanted. I guess my patience paid off as I was able to capture multiple photos of the sunset with one of them featured on this page a few posts ago. This one I decided to save for this time of the year due to the chilly atmosphere the photo exudes. One would think this photo was taken on a cold snowless day in winter…however, this photo was actually taken on the last few weeks of summer just before autumn said hello. I personally like this photo as it captured three of New York’s most famous landmarks: the Empire State Building, the Freedom Tower and the Statue of Liberty in the far distance.

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.

BC PLACE, VANCOUVER 

Yesterday I found myself in the heart of Vancouver, Canada while trying to escape the insane humidity of the Florida summer. I’m here for a layover to catch my cruise to Alaska later today in a last minute attempt to freeze my sweaty ass for a week. It is my first time in Vancouver and true to its reputation, this city is one vibrant  kaleidoscope of cultures. This city reminds me very much of Hong Kong but with a more western flair to it. Being of Asian descent, I also feel very much at home in this bustling metropolis notorious for its huge Asian population. The architecture is very interesting, the culinary options endless while the people are the friendliest amongst mega cities I’ve ever visited (I do feel the need to point out that Canadians look pretty much happy and contented). Vancouver is probably one city I won’t have second thoughts to live in…on the contrary, I don’t know how it is during winter season so maybe I will stick to my old tropical Florida for now as I’m no fan of extremely cold weathers. Anyway, my hotel in downtown Vancouver is right across the BC Place, a multi-purpose stadium and currently home to the BC Lions, Vancouver Whitecaps FC and at one point by the 2010 Winter Olympics. The rooftop of my hotel offers panoramic views of the stadium as well as that of the city so I immediately got busy with my DSLR. Unfortunately, I do not have a wide angle lens so I never got to capture the entire stadium. The photograph above is for now the most that I can capture of the stadium and the vibrant city of Vancouver.

MOON OVER DUOMO

The moon was at its fullest during my last night in Florence, Italy and the sky was blanketed with a thin veil of clouds creating a magical atmosphere in this medieval city in the heart of Tuscany. I initially wished the sky was clearer but I realized the clouds provided a dramatic effect to the night sky for my photography. My hotel (Hotel Spadai) had a viewing deck on it’s rooftop so I climbed up around midnight and happily clicked the night away without distractions from other hotel guests. Fortunately, the moon was positioned close enough to the Duomo allowing me to capture both in a single shot.

NEW YORK TWILIGHT

I’m in New York City for the weekend for some touristy stuff thus my missing a photo post or two for a few days now.  Yesterday, I revisited the top of the Rockefeller Center to photograph the NYC sunset. After lining up for ages, walking through a labyrinth of walls and riding the speedy elevator to the 67th floor…I finally made it to the first ledge of the observatory.  The observatory provided me with a 360-degree view of the city, however, I decided to focus my camera on the southern side of Manhattan to capture the Empire State Building and the new World Trade Tower just as the sun was setting. The view from the top was amazing and viewing it during twilight was such a breathtaking experience. It was also awesome to see the city lights slowly turn on one by one like Christmas lights on a tree just as the cloudy skies slowly turned darker each passing minute. I took a number of photos and this one turned out to be my personal favorite.  I hope you guys like it too…would appreciate your feedback. Thanks.

MOON FOR NISHKA

Early this year, I found myself in Leesburg, Florida to become the godfather of my friend’s daughter during her baptism into the Catholic faith. My goddaughter’s nickname is Nishka and I consider it an honor to be asked as her godfather. The baptism party gathered friends from different parts of the state and it also served as our mini-reunion. After the baptismal party at a hotel ballroom, we moved to my friends home for more food, drinks and karaoke (it’s a Filipino thing. LOL!). While everybody was busy singing and partying, I stepped out into the backyard and was greeted by this bright and beautiful full moon. I took a few shots and all I got of the moon was a solid ball of light. I decided to take a separate photo of the moon to capture more details and superimposed it on the foreground photo for a better effect. I was never a fan of manipulating photos so I was quiet hesitant to post this. However, I saw a photo of my goddaughter earlier today and decided to go ahead and dedicate this photo to her…thus the title of this post. May she grow up to be as lovely as the moon on the night of her baptism.

IN THE STILL OF THE NIGHT

 This was my first attempt on night sky photography with the intention to capture as many stars as possible. I was staying at this resort in Key West and about close to midnight, I quietly positioned my camera along the beach hoping to capture something good. After reading a few night sky photography tips online, I pointed my camera into the darkness and kept the shutter open for 20 seconds…and this was the outcome! Not the best night sky photograph captured…but hey, there’s always a first time.

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