CITY OF BRIDGES

Aside from being referred to as the Steel City due to its formerly colossal steel industry, Pittsburgh is also nicknamed as the City of Bridges for the 446 that connects the city to its surrounding suburbs. As a tourist, these bridges made my life very convenient as it made the areas of interest across the river from downtown easily accessible. I took these photographs on my way to the Warhol Museum using my iPhone 7 Plus as the extra weight of a DSLR would just have made the walk unbearable. On some occasions, I prefer the iphone over my DSLR for photography as its Pano mode allows me to take wide-sweeping views just like the photos on this post. Thankfully, the bridge I had to cross to get to the museum was one of the prettier ones with a lemon yellow paint making it stand out against the concrete skyscrapers and rich blue sky.

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BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS

It was my first time to go on a long duration road trip (10 days) and everyone I know who knew where I was headed insisted that I drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway and check out the Blue Ridge Mountains. I decided to include Asheville, North Carolina in my itinerary and booked myself at the historic and luxurious Grove Park Inn for 4 days although I will talk about that fabulous hotel in another post. In Asheville one can see the mountain range in the distance but to enjoy the amazing views, one will need to drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway for a closer look. The Blue Ridge Parkway is known as one of the most scenic drives in the United States and with a speed limit of 35 mph, this allows you to take your time to indulge in nature’s magnificence. Thankfully, the drive is spotted with overlooks where one can stop to enjoy the view or in my case take photographs. You may also notice the bluish color of the mountains and according to my research the trees release isoprene into the atmosphere resulting to this distinctive bluish haze and thus the name…Blue Ridge Mountains.

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 CHICAGO HARBOR LIGHTHOUSE

A few years ago I found myself in Chicago, Illinois to attend a reunion with some of my former classmates from Physical Therapy school. It was my first time to the Windy City so I was keen on visiting and photographing every prominent landmark around the city. Fortunately, my former classmates organized tours that took us to almost every tourist spot in Chicago. One of them was a cruise on Lake Michigan, which took us far out into the lake to adore the magnificent Chicago skyline. During the sail away the cruise narrator pointed out this lighhouse at the end of the breakwaters, which was originally built to mark the mouth of the Chicago River until it was moved to it’s current location after the breakwaters were extended. I took multiple photos of the lighthouse but unfortunately immediately forgot about it after the trip. Four days ago I was going through my old travel photos and found this of the lighthouse. I also noticed how pretty this specific photo looked with the cirrostratus clouds in the background. What’s most interesting is that I discovered this photo exactly 6 years after it was taken in May 21, 2012…some would say it’s just pure coincidence but it could also mean fate just reminding me that my friends and I are up for another reunion.

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.

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.

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.

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.

RED FIRE ENGINE

Yesterday was the culmination day of the photography workshop I’ve been attending for the past four Saturdays followed by an exhibit to showcase our work. A lot of my classmates used photos they took prior to attending the workshop but in my case, I decided to use a photo I took during one of the photo sessions. This photograph of the front of an old fire truck was taken inside the Fort Lauderdale Fire and Safety Museum, which was one of the stops during our photo walks. Our teacher instructed us to explore around the museum and take photos of specific details such as lines, angles, curves and various shapes. I am not a big fan of this photo but my instructor liked this a lot that he suggested I submit this for the exhibit. He even shared this photo on his Facebook page which was truly very flattering. If you guys noticed, I also changed the watermark logo on my photos using my signature to give it a more personal touch. I felt the old logo was too boxy and looked too heavy aside from it taking up a lot of space. I am also including below a few more photos I took while inside the museum as well as photos taken during the exhibit yesterday.

Photos taken during the exhibit

THE VIEW

This is probably every billionaire’s dream view for an apartment in New York City, although unfortunately for them this view is already taken by the viewing deck of the 30 Rockefeller Center or more famously known as the Top of the Rock. The viewing deck provides visitors with stunning views of Manhattan covering every angle of the city and every major New York City landmark from the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building and the Freedom Tower to the Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty. The deck is always packed with tourists so this photo I took is a very rare moment as if I had the entire floor to myself. I also consider myself very fortunate to have been situated perfectly at the right spot as it allowed me to capture the Empire State Building right through the middle window. New York City is my ultimate favorite city and I try to visit it at least every year and whenever I’m in the Big Apple, the Top of the Rock is always part of the itinerary for my photography. I decided to process this photo in black and white in order to create a timeless and romantic mood to the photo. Happy Valentines Day, everyone!

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

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.

INTO THE WOODS

I grew up in a small town in Southern Philippines where the main industry was paper and timber so trees were a predominant part of my daily life. I can still remember, like it was yesterday, the refreshing scent of leaves as well as the woodsy aroma of tree trunks especially after a rainy day, which was a frequent occurence in my sleepy hometown. During my senior year in high school, I was president of the InterAct Club (Rotary sponsored club) and on Sundays we would drive to the mountains and teach classes to the children of a native tribe. The village was situated in the middle of a rain forest and I always look forward to the long and rugged drive past giant trees along rough gravel roads. All these childhood memories were stirred up while on a trek in an Alaskan forest a few months ago. It was raining during the trek and the scent of the damp forest transported me back to my old hometown evoking wonderful memories of my childhood. I immediately pulled out my camera to take a shot of the forest before me. Unfortunately, I no longer have any of my childhood photos after my parent’s house got burned down a few years ago. This photo will be for now my new window to the past…

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.

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.

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.

A NIGHT IN THE PIAZZA

The Piazza della Rotonda is a city square in the heart of Rome where the ancient Pantheon majestically stands. The square features a central fountain surrounded by shops and restaurants where one can leisurely sit, eat and people watch.  When in Rome, I always stay in this neighborhood at a hotel just right behind the Pantheon because every major landmark is just a few minutes away by foot. Walking around this neighborhood can be quite an experience…one gets magically transported to a different era while walking on cobblestone streets, through narrow alleyways and along historic buildings. I also personally enjoy walking around this plaza at night, which can be quite romantic with the golden lights illuminating the entire plaza just like in the photo above, which I took on my way back to the hotel after a hearty Italian dinner.  So when in Rome, I never pass up the chance to enjoy a night in this beautiful piazza.

MEMORIES OF CHILDHOOD

I grew up in a sleepy village called Mangagoy in the southeastern part of the Philippines where the sapphire ocean meets emerald forests.  Every 19th of July, the village celebrates its “fiesta” (founding day) highlighted by the presence of a carnival, visiting from another part of the country, and offering every child’s dream ride…except for a carousel.  I remember riding a ferris wheel, caterpillar, octopus and bump cars…but never a carousel. So when I visited Florence, Italy last month, my heart skipped a beat when I saw a carousel in one of the town’s square.  A part of me wanted to take a ride but my shyness overcame me when I saw kids lining up so I decided to just take photos instead. During my photoshoot, a woman with a cluster of balloons passed by and I luckily captured her in one of my photos. While reviewing my travel album a few days ago, I came across this photo and got transported back to my childhood with flashbacks of those happy fiesta days. I eventually rode a carousel on the cruise ship I went on a few days later but everytime I see one, my heart always aches for that missing memory of a young me happily riding a carousel.

WHERE DREAMS COME TRUE

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

PALAIS BOURBON

img_4300-1The Palais Bourbon is located in the beautiful city of Paris along the banks of the River Seine and is home of the French National Assembly. The palace was originally built for the daughter of Louis XIV and was designed by Italian architect Lorenzo Giardini. After spending a few good hours at the Musée D’Orsay, I decided to walk to the Invalides for more touristy sightseeing and found myself in a square facing this impressive piece of architecture. Fortunately, the square was devoid of human activity so I was able to position myself right in the center from across the building and captured this photo without a single soul to block the view.

LONESOME COWBOY

This was an old photograph taken at the Grand Canyon back in 2010 and also one of my personal favorites. This guy was a tourist like me standing in solitude at the edge of the cliff while enjoying the grandness of Mother Nature before him. With his cowboy hat on, he reminded me of the Marlboro man minus the cattle and the horse so I decided to include him as an additional element to my composition. It was a beautiful and clear afternoon that you can see the Colorado River snaking between the canyons and the eagle on flight just below us. This photo was taken around 3 pm just as the sun was transitioning to its golden glow phase. The silence of the place was deafening only to be interrupted by the flight calls of the eagle every now and then. I am glad that I decided to add a human element to this photograph…..after all, we are all a part of that circle of life…and we are no more than special than the land or the water, the animals and the plants, and every other element that also call this planet home.

ROMAN TWILIGHT

 

This photo was taken after spending an entire afternoon on a guided tour of the Roman Forum culminating at the Colosseum.  Unfortunately for me, the Colosseum was at that time undergoing major cleaning with more than half of the structure covered with scaffoldings making it impossible to capture this famous landmark in all its glory.  I took multiple photos inside and outside of the building, however, the cloudy skies made my photos look dull and flat. It was my last day in Rome so there was no chance for me to come back for a second attempt. I decided to wait around hoping for changes in lighting during the sunset anticipating for better and richer colors. Just as the sun touched the horizon, the sky turned into this explosion of pink, yellow and purple colors like some delicious Roman cocktail. I told myself perhaps someone in Vatican heard my prayers. I immediately positioned myself beside the Colosseum in the section where scaffoldings were absent and focused my camera on the structure and the colorful sky. I used a Canon Rebel XSi with an EF 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens to take this photo zooming into the facade of the Colosseum to exclude the throngs of tourists from my composition. I guess my patience paid off as my photoshoot turned out better than I expected. By the way, I recently became familiar with a small camera from a company called Light, the camera has an interactive touch screen built in allowing you to edit your shot seconds after it was taken.

SAIL AWAY

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In a few hours I will be boarding a ship that will take me to a few exotic islands in the warm waters of the Eastern Caribbean. I never anticipated that I will enjoy cruising as I was always scared of being in the middle of the ocean and that I easily get seasick. The first time I tried it was on a two-night cruise to the Bahamas. I got so excited that I finished a bottle of wine even before the ship has sailed. By the time the ship was rocking ten miles away from the shore, I was vomiting big time. I spent the first night of my cruise laying flat in bed. I took this photo during my second attempt to cruise on my way to Cozumel, Mexico. This time I learned my lessons and was ready with the motion sickness pills and no drinking at sail away. Today is my fifth time to go on a cruise in 3 years and I am looking forward to it. I also look forward to capturing a good number of photos to share with you all.

SANTA MARIA DI LORETO

  The Santa Maria di Loreto is a 16th century church in the heart of Rome just across the street from the grand Monument of Vittorio Emmanuel II.  Construction of this church began in 1507 and was completed after 75 years.  Further to the back is another church, the Santissimo Nome di Maria al Foro Traiano, which was built in the 18th century and creates the impression of twin churches.  The pillar on the right is the famous Trajan’s Column erected to commemorate emperor Trajan’s victory in the Dacian Wars.  I took this photo on my way back to the hotel after a guided tour of the Forum and the Colosseum. I personally consider Rome as the most beautiful city I have ever visited. The city’s impressive architecture with its rich earthy tones transports you to a different time of brave adventures, bloody conquests and passionate romances.

A BEAUTIFUL MOMENT

 
This photo was taken during the last night of my Mediterranean cruise while the ship was slowly sailing back to Civitavechia, the cruise ship port of Rome.  I stood in my stateroom balcony, camera hanging around my neck, while watching the sunset transform the sky into this vibrant canvas of rich colors creating dramatic silhouettes to this flock of birds soaring toward a group of islands in the far distance. I have never seen a sky this spectacular, made more beautiful by nature coming together as if staging a special portrait for me to capture.  Now I believe that it’s not just about being at the right place at the right time…it’s all about being chosen to capture that special moment. And during that one night somewhere in the Mediterranean, nature posed for me…and I didn’t hesitate to capture that beautiful moment for me to cherish and for all of you to eventually see.

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