THE BIRD MAN

Two days ago, I was walking along the beach for my morning walk when I noticed a flock of seagulls swirling around a specific section of the beach. They would fly to the water then soar back to the beach then over the street before swarming back to the beach again as if anticipating for something big to happen. Suddenly I noticed this man walking towards the beach with a plastic bag and realized he was there to feed the gulls. It also seemed like this wasn’t his first time feeding them as the gulls seem to recognize him and were very excited to see him again. It was fascinating to watch the interaction between the man and the seagulls, which expressed their utmost appreciation for the free meal by making loud squawks. Thankfully, I had my phone with me and was able to capture the moment, except for the feeding part as I was too mesmerized and forgot to take more photos. It is truly amazing how humans and the rest of the animal kingdom can actually bond together…via food.

THE RESIDENTS OF MAGDALENA ISLAND

The Magdalena Island near Punta Arenas, Chile has probably the cutest of residents in the entire planet. This tiny island located in the Strait of Magellan is home to almost 50,000 Magellanic penguins and a few other species of seabirds. I visited this island back in December of 2018 and was initially hesitant to go due to stories of unpredictable weather producing very rough seas…and I easily get seasick. In fact, 50% of the trips to this island are cancelled last minute due to inclement weather. I guess luck was on my side that day as we had the most ideal weather the entire duration of the trip. As soon as we stepped out of the boat we were immediately surrounded by hundreds of penguins like a huge welcome party. To protect the penguins, petting and feeding is prohibited but photography isn’t so I took as many shots as my memory card could accomodate. The island is small and treeless so you have unobstructed views of the rolling hills dotted with thousands of penguin nests. A cordoned pathway around a section of the island was also built so tourists can stroll around without interfering with the penguins. I took hundreds of photographs during my visit and these are just a few of my personal favorites.

SAILOR’S DELIGHT

Sunsets on partially cloudy skies are always the most glorious. The sun projects all the red and gold into these heavenly puffs creating the wildest visions in the sky. The richness of the colors are just breathtaking and it evokes a sense of wonder while the dark shadows where light fails to touch create a sense of mystery. Visions like these make one appreciate this beautiful planet we live in. It also provides the viewer an opportunity to reflect on the day that’s just about to end. I certainly enjoy photographing sunsets especially when it burns the sky just like the ones in this post. These were all taken onboard a cruise ship as we were sailing south of the Atlantic Ocean to the tip of South America. They say red skies at night are a sailor’s delight and true enough it was smooth sailing the rest of the cruise. I used my iPhone 7Plus to take all these photos.

ISTANBUL IN PINK

Many years ago, I visited the ancient and mystical city of Istanbul, Turkey and I would say it was one of the most exciting trips I’ve ever done. I was on a Mediterranean cruise and the city was a highlight stop so we docked for two days before sailing to our next destination. It also happened to be my first time to this part of the world so I made sure to visit every historical site from the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque to the Topkapi Palace and the Grand Bazaar as well as tasted every delicacy I could stomach. One of the best parts about cruising into Istanbul is that the pier is located right on the most historic part of city. The ship enters a waterway called the Golden Horn, which separates the Galata district (where our ship docked) from the Historic Peninsula district (where the mosques and palaces are located). When I booked my stateroom, I made sure my balcony would face the Golden Horn and the Historic Peninsula district so I can view all the magnificent minarets and domes rising above the city skyline. On the first night, I sat on my balcony to watch the sun set and prayed that its last rays would paint the sky with the brightest and richest of colors. Fate seemed to have favored me that day as the sky turned into this beautiful rosy pink, which transformed the scenery before me into some exotic and colorful work of art reminiscent of the Turkish rugs and lamps that are sold in the bazaars. Here are some of the photos I took of Istanbul’s Historical Peninsula district using my Canon Rebel XSi.

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.

ILLUMINATIONS

This lockdown had me looking at my old travel photos, which sadly gave me some untimely travel itch. Unfortunately, we Americans are currently banned in almost every country in the planet so we’re very much limited to just reliving international travel through our old photographs. I was in Hong Kong last year and really enjoyed that part of my Asian trip as I got to satisfy my intense cravings for authentic dimsum aside from the multiple photography opportunities. The hotel I first stayed at, Hotel InterContinental, was right by the harbour with spectacular views of the Hong Kong Island skyline, which provided me with many panoramic photography opportunities. The photo above was taken at the public square right beside the hotel on my way to the pier to catch a ferry that would take me across the harbour to the island side of the city. I love how I captured this iconic view of Hong Kong at night with the colorful building lights reflected on the water while framed by the architectural roof on top and the crowd of tourists below. The rest of the photos were taken while I was on the ferry and around the neighborhood by the pier on both sides of the harbour. Night photos can be quite a challenge to take especially when you don’t have a tripod or when on board a moving object like a ferry. Thankfully, I’ve learned to keep my hand really steady for a few seconds and also managed to be resourceful using rails, garbage cans and posts for the much needed steadying. When I took these photos, I intentionally framed it in a way that it captured the vibrant, bright, energetic, fast paced and exciting city that Hong Kong is. Hope you sense it too when you look at my photographs.

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.

MISTY SUNSET

It was a beautiful summer afternoon in New England and I was on board a cruise ship sailing out of Newport, Rhode Island when I noticed these breathtaking sceneries before me. The sun was close to setting and everything around was turning golden orange. It rained briefly that day so the warm summer air created the perfect recipe for some afternoon mists. From my stateroom balcony I could see the curtain of clouds shrouding the many magnificent beach mansions lining up the rocky shorelines just like the opening scene of a mystery film. I knew as soon as I saw it that I needed to photograph the beauty before me. I had to do some tweaking with my camera settings in order to perfectly capture the mists, the afternoon lights and the shadows. I also intentionally kept the photographs a bit darker to evoke a sense of mystery and suspense.

A DAY ON THE BEACH

These are photos I took during my morning walks on the beach. The one above was supposedly just about the lifeguard tower, however, as I was about to snap a shot this red truck came rolling in front of me so I waited for it to park beside the tower for a much better composition. All I needed to complete that photo was a lifeguard.  The second photo is again of a lifeguard tower framed by palm trees for a tropical paradise mood. The third one is a group of yoga enthusiasts doing sun salutations on the beach. Luckily I live close to the water so I get to enjoy these fantastic views during my morning walks. It also helps that the new iPhone features a great camera for instant photos like these.

MOONLIGHT CRUISES

Here are some photos I took of the full moon during a few of my cruises. The photo above was taken somewhere in the Atlantic on our way to Boston, Massachusetts from Bar Harbor, Maine. I used the balcony ledge of my stateroom to stabilize my camera although a ship swaying in the waves wasn’t in any way helpful.
The photo above was taken on a full moon night while cruising the Rio dela Plata from Montevideo, Uruguay to Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Rio dela Plata is the widest river in the world.
This one I took on a cruise to Bermuda. I took a long exposure shot to capture the stars so I had to stand still for like 25 seconds.

 

PUERTO DE PUNTA DEL ESTE

Punta del Este, Uruguay was one of the stops during my South American cruise last December of 2018. These photos were taken at the pier while waiting for the tender to take us back to the cruise ship. I’ve been meaning to post these photos years ago but keep forgetting. These were actually taken using my old iPhone 7 Plus as I didn’t bring ashore my DSLR. I love how the clouds made the sky look very dramatic in these photos. The old yet colorful boats tossed by the tide also added a rustic feel to the composition. iPhones really capture good photos although the lack of depth always makes me regret not taking my DSLR with me.

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.

SUNSET IN HONG KONG

I just returned from my three-week trip to Asia and happily I could say I had one of the best trips of my life. Asia is such a mystical and enchanting region and each country has so much to offer with one place amazingly much different from the other. First stop of my vacation was in Hong Kong, which had to be booked last minute due to the ongoing protests. Thankfully I have a friend who lives there so I got pointers on what days the protests are least likely to happen…weekdays. I booked a suite at the InterContinental Hong Kong and my room offered panoramic views of the city the kind we see on postcards and travel magazines. I took hundreds of photographs from my hotel room window capturing Hong Kong’s iconic views and here are some taken at sunset.

CRYSTAL CAVE

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

SUMMER IN GOLD

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

EARLY MORNING FLIGHT

During one of my morning walks on the beach I saw this flock of birds flying along the shoreline so I immediately pulled out my phone to photograph them as they flew in front of the rising sun. I thought it was awesome seeing them perfectly arranged in a V formation with each bird knowing their exact position during the flight. Thankfully my phone was able to capture each bird including those right in front of the sun. It is amazing how well a phone camera can capture moments like this.

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.

BREATHLESS IN CAPE ELIZABETH

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

I DREAM OF VENICE

Venice is a place like no other…walking around this ancient city is like being in a dream. The narrow alleys, the endless canals and the magnificent architecture evokes a magical atmosphere one will never experience anywhere else in the world. During my visit to this water world, I felt like I crossed to another dimension and found myself in photography heaven. Every nook and corner of this city is just worth photographing with the one above being one of my favorites. This was taken from the Ponte dell’Accademia at around 10 in the morning on my way to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. I love how the Grand Canal looked deserted despite it being taken in the middle of the morning. The photo also looks a bit eeriee with the ominous clouds and the absence of any signs of life like an abandoned city in some post apocalyptic film. However, one can’t deny the beauty that this ancient Italian city exudes thereby making it one of the most visited cities in the world. Photo was taken using an iPhone 7Plus.

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.

LA MANO (THE HAND)

La Mano or The Hand is a sculpture by Chilean artist Mario Irarrázabal located at Brava Beach in Punta Del Este, Uruguay. Punta del Este was one of the stops of my South American cruise and to my luck an Argentinian friend was in town for the summer and offered to show me the city. We made this our first stop in an attempt to avoid the bus loads of cruise ship passengers who will swarm around this sculpture in an instant like a colony of bees. I intentionally left my DSLR on the ship for this stop so I used my iphone to take these photos. I wished the sky was clear that day but somehow the clouds provide a unique perspective to the photographs.

TRAVEL SERIES: CELEBRITY ECLIPSE

I easily get seasick so I’m probably the last person you’d think would jump on a cruise ship in an instant. Surprisingly, I have been in more than a dozen cruises and am looking forward to my next one June of this year. I have sailed around Europe, Alaska, the Caribbean, South America and across the Atlantic Ocean and my goal is to have cruised around the world before I eventually leave this planet. A month ago I was on a two-week South American cruise on board the Celebrity Eclipse and had an amazing time even meeting new friends. The cruise started in Buenos Aires, Argentina sailing down to Cape Horn, Chile, which is the tip of South America, then up to Uruguay before docking back in Buenos Aires. The ship is almost 10 years old but is still in great shape thanks to regular maintenance. Celebrity Cruises is the premium brand of Royal Caribbean and has been awarded by several travel magazines as one of the best premium cruises in the world. Above is a photo I took of the main dining room while below are photos I took around the ship including a photo of my stateroom using my GoPro Hero7 camera. The ship’s interior is very tastefully decorated, which was made cheerful by the Christmas decorations during my cruise. The ship in itself is a destination complete with specialty restaurants, a theater, casino, game rooms, bars, swimming pools, gym, spa and more. My preference for Celebrity is primarily due to the quality of the service, food and the crowd it attracts…much older and relaxed, fewer children and lastly no bar fights. LOL!

Library (both photos above)

Theater

Casino

Entertainment Court (both photos above)

Grand Foyer (both photos above)

Shops on the Boulevard

Promenade Deck

Multi-Floor View

My Stateroom

WINTER WONDERLAND

I was planning to post more photos of my recent trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina but during my walk with my dog this morning I took a few photographs that were just too pretty not to be shared…especially at this time of the year when it’s freezing in many parts of the world. Allow me to send some of our warm sunshine to everyone up north and hope you all are bundled up and warm at home. Living in South Florida is such a blessing and living close to the beach is a wonderful privilege I’m most grateful for. Although when the hurricane season comes it also becomes a curse. Anyway, here are the photos I took this morning using my iPhone 7Plus and I hope they all encourage you to plan a visit to the sunshine state soon.

LADY AT SEA

I just finished a two-week cruise in South America sailing from Buenos Aires, Argentina to ports in Uruguay and Chile. This was the longest cruise I’ve ever sailed…so long that when I left it was summer, made it halfway by winter and got back around summer again. I know it sounds insane so allow myself to clarify…when my ship sailed off Buenos Aires summer has just begun and the city was sizzling. Then we headed to the tip of South America passing by glaciers and snow capped mountains even experiencing snowfall in Ushuaia, Argentina. The cruise finally ended back in Buenos Aires with our ship docking on a hot summer morning. I took hundreds of photographs during this trip and will be posting them in the next few weeks. For this post, I am featuring a photograph I took of this magnificent sunset with a woman pensively looking out to sea. It was one of those rare sunsets wherein the entire sky looks like it’s on fire. Other photos below feature more passengers enjoying as well the magnificent sunset.

DREAMY SEAS

My club membership at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort includes a free two-night stay each year and two weeks ago I used said benefit and booked a room for the weekend for a staycation. My room was facing the ocean and I thought it was a good opportunity to work on my night photography and hopefully capture a few stars. Unfortunately, the weather was not at its best during my stay with the skies covered with clouds most of the day. Still I decided to give it a try hoping to capture something decent for my photography page. On my first night at the resort I positioned myself on the balcony and stared out into the darkness which was dotted by lights from cargo ships anchored far out at sea. I switched my lens to manual focus, adjusted my shutter speed to 15 seconds, pointed my camera into the darkness and started shooting. I was able to capture a few decent photos but the one above is my favorite as it captured a few stars and exuded a dreamy feel to it. The clouds eventually rolled in and rain started pouring forcing me to rush back inside my hotel room ending my photo session.

ANOTHER KEY WEST SUNSET

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

MIKRI VENETIA (Little Venice)

In the Greek island of Mykonos, a row of houses line up the waterfront with their balconies extending out to sea. These houses used to be the homes of the rich inhabitants of the island before they were converted into the shops, bars and restaurants that they are today. This part of the island is also known as Mikri Venetia or Little Venice due to similarities with the Italian city like its proximity to water. This area is also regarded as the most romantic as well as the most photographed part of Mykonos…aside of course from the famous windmills scattered around the island. During my visit to Mykonos a few years ago, I strolled through this part of town on my way to see the windmills but failed to pay attention to the beauty of the place. Thankfully I took the time to explore this area on my way back and was able to take the photo above. I think it was also perfect timing that the sun was about to set and the sunlight was turning a richer shade of gold. It made my photo softer, dreamier and more romantic. Greece is one of the most beautiful countries I have visited and I hope to visit it again in the future. Maybe if fate allows I’ll stay a little longer on my next visit.

THE WINDMILLS OF MYKONOS

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

THE AWAKENING OF HESPERIDES

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

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.

PASTEL PARADISE

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

STARRY STARRY NIGHT

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

BORDERLINE

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

SCARY HEAVENS

When people think of Miami, Florida the first thing that comes to mind is sunshine…and lots of it. Unfortunately during my cruise last month, Miami was covered with dark clouds and rain was pouring like crazy all over the place. The sail away was probably disappointing for a lot of out-of-towners who were all looking forward to a breathtaking sunset as we sail out to sea. I stood by my stateroom balcony ready with my camera but didn’t know where to point its lens. As we sailed farther out to sea I suddenly noticed these really ominous and black clouds with streaks of sunshine filtering through them. It looked both scary and beautiful and I thought it might come out nicely in a photograph. I started working on my framing and captured more of the clouds to emphasize its ominosity and to create a looming effect. I very much liked how the photographs turned out with the one above being my personal favorite as it effectively exudes a sense of dread in a beautiful way.

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.

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!

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.

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.

SEAWATCH ON THE OCEAN

Imagine sitting on this balcony enjoying the view while sipping on refreshing cocktails and munching on fresh seafood…possible if you live in sunny Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I just did it earlier tonight to celebrate the end of work week and the start of an exciting weekend. Seawatch On The Ocean Restaurant has floor-to-ceiling glass windows designed to provide guests a view of the ocean from every seat in the restaurant.  This is one of my favorite restaurants in the city and my go to place when the weather is good. I usually sit on the balcony for happy hour before heading downstairs to the main dining area for dinner. This restaurant serves good seafood and was named one of the most scenic restaurants in the United States.

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.

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.

TALE OF TAILS

Last week I found myself in foggy, rainy and chilly Alaska for a 7-night cruise in America’s Last Frontier. When one thinks of Alaska, nature and adventure immediately comes to mind as well as its hostile environment, which can be frightening and exhilarating at the same time. One of the cruise’s excursions I signed up for was a photography tour in a rain forest, the Mendenhall Glacier and some whale watching. My post today will feature photos I took during the whale watching, which was quite an experience in itself with the rain and fog providing an additional challenge. We were herded into this small boat (big enough to sit 14 of us) and was brought to an inlet where other boats were already stationed waiting for the next sighting. Apparently, when one boat sights a whale, the other boats get radioed on the location so everyone gets to view the whales. Otherwise, we get a refund if no whale is sighted during the tour. Our guide/instructor taught us how to capture the flukes (whale’s tail) by observing how a whale dives down. He told us to focus on the dorsal fin stating that once a whale dives and exposes its dorsal fin, the tail will definitely come out for a wave. True to his words, we were able to witness and capture a good number of whale tails. I’m sharing below five more of the many tail photos I took that day.

Note the dorsal fin above as the whale attempts to dive…the tail came out after this.

MORNING HAS BROKEN

It was my first Transatlantic cruise and I was prepared for a rollercoaster ride in the Atlantic Ocean on board Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas. The trip took 13 nights from Barcelona, Spain to Fort Lauderdale, Florida with only two stops…Palma de Mallorca and Malaga. A friend cautioned me that during her crossing last year, she experienced 25-foot waves so I had my prayers ready. I was a little bit confident though knowing that I was on the largest cruise ship in the world…although, we all knew what happened the last time somebody bragged about being the largest ship in the world. To my amazement, we had the smoothest sailing with the ocean so calm it felt like we were crossing a lake. Being in the middle of the ocean, my only photo opportunities were sunrises and sunsets aside from taking photos of the ship. One morning, I decided to wake up earlier than usual to witness the sunrise from my balcony. I was astounded by the fiery glow of the cloudy skies that I thought we got transported to an enchanted sea and was waiting for a pirate ship to appear from out of nowhere. I grabbed my iPhone and snapped this photo before the lights could change as the sun rose higher and higher. This happened during the fifth day of our cruise and was never duplicated again. I tried waking up early to catch the sunrise but we never had one as beautiful as this. Thankfully, I woke up that day just in time to witness and capture that beautiful moment.

THE LIGHTHOUSE

While cruising out of Nassau, Bahamas, our ship sailed past Paradise Island before heading out for the Atlantic Ocean towards our final destination. At the tip of the island before the open ocean was a lighthouse standing in solitude as if sadly bidding  us goodbye at the same time wishing us a safe sail home. Upon further research, I discovered its name as Paradise Island Lighthouse although it is more commonly known as the Nassau Harbor Lighthouse. This piece of architecture was built in 1817 making it the oldest lighthouse in the Bahamas and the oldest surviving lighthouse in the West Indies.  I took this photo 2 years ago using my iPhone 5 and is quite impressed by the color quality and sharpness. I can’t wait for the release of the iPhone 7 with hopefully a better camera as it comes very handy on days when I feel too lazy to carry my DSLR around.

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