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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!)!

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SOUND OF SILENCE

The Slide Cemetery near the ghost town of Dyea was one of the stops of the photography tour I joined in Skagway, Alaska. When our tour guide announced where we were headed, I froze in fear at the thought of being in a cemetery in the middle of a forest with 4 complete strangers.  While hiking towards our destination, I immediately recalled the movie Blair Witch Project and started feeling goosebumps. I have to admit I was petrified that the sound of twigs snapping as we walked towards the cemetery made me jumpy.  The most peculiar thing about this cemetery is that everyone has the same date of death except for four. Apparently, the casualties of Palm Sunday Avalanche on April 3, 1898 were laid to rest here. In Alaska, they call avalanches as slides thus the name Slide Cemetery.  The place was totally eerie but I decided to focus on my photography and made sure I stayed close to everybody throughout our photoshoot. This was the only time I discarded my curiosity and didn’t attempt to wander around. Thankfully, my photos turned out well minus any weird reflections, orbs or unwanted photobombers. LOL!

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.

BEAUTIFULLY RUGGED 

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

PLACID 

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

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.

BC PLACE, VANCOUVER 

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

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.

HEART OF ROME

Friends of mine are currently touring Italy and browsing through their pictures brought back pleasant memories of my vacation to this exquisite country last year. I immediately revisited my photo bank of the trip and discovered a good number of photographs worth posting in this page. My trip brought me to Rome, Florence, Tuscany and Venice before flying to Spain for the second half of my vacation. These places are rich in history and culture and my hundreds of photographs will never be able to give justice to the spectacular beauty I saw in person.  So the next series of photos on this site will feature photographs from my Italian trip beginning with the Colosseum right in the heart of Rome, which was recently cleaned up for a fresher look. This architectural wonder has become the city’s symbol and I captured it using my iPhone7 Plus in Pano mode in order to photograph the entire subject in a single shot.

PEGGY’S WINDOW

During my trip to Venice a few months ago, I visited the Peggy Guggenheim Collection to view her vast treasury of artwork ranging from Picasso and Metzinger to Dali and Brâncusi. The museum is a famous destination in Venice with its main entrance accessible through the Grand Canal. Peggy bought the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, which is an 18th-century castle, in 1949 and started showing her art collection in 1951. While exploring the museum, I happened on this window with a great view of the canal but interestingly curtained by a patterned metal grill. I pulled out my iPhone 7 Plus to photograph the outside view incorporating the patterned grill to create a layered effect on my photo. I thought it would be nice to capture Venice and the Grand Canal through Peggy’s window.

TWO BY TWO

I was strolling along the High Line Park in New York City when I noticed these two couples walking in opposite direction. I thought it amusing to photograph them just as they were right beside each other. I hurriedly stood in the middle of the pathway and centered them in my camera screen. I reckon the couple walking towards me noticed I was taking their photo as they immediately flashed me their pearly whites. The lush greenery also framed them beautifully.

EAGLE POINT

This photograph will be the last feature of my Grand Canyon photo series unless I find something in my photo bank worth featuring later. The Eagle Point in the west rim of the Grand Canyon is aptly named after a natural rock formation that looks like an eagle.  This majestic geological wonder is one of the highlights when visiting the west rim of the Grand Canyon. If you focus your attention to the top of the left wing on the photo, you will notice a line of red rocks that looks like a sleeping dog. The natives call it the “Sleeping Dog” rock formation for obvious reasons. When visiting the west rim of the Grand Canyon for photography, I think it is best to see it in the late afternoon when the sunlight is at its most golden further enhancing the redness of these natural wonders.

CROWN OF CLOUDS

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

MAN IN THE WINDOW

The hallway to the restrooms at the Guano Cafe in Guano Point, Grand Canyon West have these huge windows that frame the amazing views in the distance. I was stepping out of the restroom when I saw this man looking out of the window obviously mesmerized by the spectacular view in front of him. I immediately pulled out my phone and quietly took multiple shots. I also took photos of just the window but I prefer this one as it shows how the Grand Canyon captivates its visitors. The man is actually my father waiting for me and my mother to step out of the restrooms. This was his first trip to the Grand Canyon and I’m glad to have brought him and my mother for an experience of a lifetime.

GONDOLA SURPRISE

When in Venice, a gondola ride is quite inevitable…so during my trip to this floating city last October, I found myself sailing in one along this ancient city’s narrow canals. The sailing was smooth despite it being a tiny boat and was filled with pleasant surprises at every turn.  Imagine my shock when in the middle of the tour the gondola glided out into the wide Venetian lagoon. I am not scared of sailing into open waters just as long as I’m in a huge boat…but when you’re in a tiny gondola rocking in a large body of water it wasn’t difficult to start panicking. Apparently, this was part of the route and the gondolier wanted to show me the Doge’s Palace from out in the lagoon when he found out I was into photography. It was a spectacular view indeed but I couldn’t help myself from clinging on the boat for life’s mercy. Despite being partially frozen in fear, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to take a photograph so I slowly pulled out my iPhone 7 Plus and took a number of shots. I was also too chicken to move to the opposite side of the boat so I ended up capturing a portion of the gondola, which surprisingly added an interesting perspective to my photographs…This one turned out to be my best and favorite shot.

A NEW BEGINNING

I have been on creative hibernation for more than a month now thus the absence of new posts on this page. Apparently, I’ve been struggling to find the right words to effectively describe my photos and it seems like the year ended and so did my writing skills. To my defense,  I did mention in my profile that I am not much of a writer so I hope you guys understand.  Anyway, I am giving myself, my photography and this page another chance, which is why I decided to use this photograph I took of the sunrise somewhere in the Atlantic as my feature photo for this post. Sunrises mean new beginnings so I thought the photo best represents my return to this page.  I’m back and looking forward to hearing from you all again!

BRIDGE OF SIGHS 

I always thought it was called the Bridge of Sighs because of the emotions it brought out of the viewers outside. However, I found out during my tour of the Doge’s Palace that it was called as such due to the emotions of the convicts crossing towards their prison cells seeing freedom for the last time…thus the sigh. The bridge is a key landmark in Venice as you can tell from the large crowd gathered on the bridge. I also stood on that bridge and took a number of photos but this one I took from the opposite side turned out better. The gondolas sailing towards the Venetian lagoon added a dramatic effect to the composition without taking away the focus from the bridge above. And just like everyone else who stood before this famous bridge, I took a sigh of appreciation for its beauty despite the tragic purpose of its very existence.

MUSEO DE BELLAS ARTES DE GRANADA

The Museum of Fine Arts in Granada, Spain is housed inside the Carlos V Palace right beside the Alhambra, which was the main destination of my tour. The museum houses famous artworks such as The Allegory of Death by P. Toma and a painting of St. Francis of Assisi, which were both created during the 17th century. The photograph above was taken at the round courtyard of this Renaissance building using the pano mode of my iPhone 7 plus. I was initially planning to capture the entire courtyard and its columns but at the last minute decided to capture only a section and included the hallways for a better perspective.

LA LUNA ROMANA

The full moon beautifully soared over the Altare della Patria or the National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II during my recent trip to the historic city of Rome. I took this photo just as I was turning on a corner while heading back to the hotel. I was hoping to photograph the moon above the Colosseum, however, the moon was way too high up in the sky by the time twilight made an entrance. Gladly, I looked back at the monument for a last gaze otherwise I would have missed the chance to photograph such a magical sight. The  monument was illuminated at the right spots while the sky was at its perfect brightness and blueness to allow for the bright moon to pop out. What a beautiful night that was!

GONDOLAS AND THE GRAND CANAL

The Grand Canal in Venice is rarely this deserted so when I noticed the absence of motorized boats with only two gondolas on the water, I immediately grabbed my phone and snapped this photo. This majestic waterway, seen here from the Rialto bridge, is usually busy with motorboats sailing in all directions while transporting locals and tourists to different sections of the city. On the other hand, majority of the gondolas sail along the narrower canals for tourists to explore the unwalkable sections of Venice. The gondola and the canal are both emblematic of Venice so I am very pleased to highlight them both in this photograph.

LA SAGRADA FAMILIA

A trip to Barcelona isn’t complete without visiting the world famous Sagrada Familia or Church of the Holy Family.  This architectural masterpiece by Antoni Gaudi began construction in 1882 and is expected to be completed by 2026. I have not been compelled to visit churches when travelling as they all usually look the same. However, the Sagrada Familia is not your typical church…from its ornate facade to its otherworldly interiors, visitors step out of the church with an overwhelming feeling of reverence for Gaudi. My photo above features the Nativity facade of the church, which serves as the main entrance for all visitors. I decided to take the photo at an angle to capture as much detail as possible as I was only using my iPhone.

ALHAMBRA PALACE

I visited the ALHAMBRA palace and fortress complex in Granada, Andalusia, Spain during my recent trip to Europe. This palatial complex was constructed in AD 889 and then renovated and rebuilt by the Moorish emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada during the mid 13th century. Poets often refer to this palace as “a pearl set in emeralds” and UNESCO declared this a World Heritage Site. The Alhambra reminds me of the great contributions by Muslims to education, healthcare, philosophy and science. In fact, between 8th and 15th century Andalusia was the world’s center for education and knowledge. The photo above was taken in one of the courtyards inside the palace.

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.

FONTANA DI TREVI

When I visited Rome two years ago, the Trevi Fountain was closed for renovation and the pool was totally drained of water.  Visitors were able to walk on a ledge above the pool for a photograph and some were even throwing coins into the empty pool. I took a number of photos but none were worthy of a feature on my page. Two weeks ago I found myself again in Rome and this time I made sure the Trevi fountain was a major stop during my walk around the city. Unfortunately, my back was killing me after I pulled it while clearing my backyard for Hurricane Matthew that carrying a DSLR around my neck was intolerable. I had to use my iPhone 7 this entire trip so as not to aggravate my back. Surprisingly, using my iphone allowed me to capture wider panoramas like the photo above. I wouldn’t have been able to photograph the fountain in a wide span like this using an ordinary lens. I also wanted to capture the fountain devoid of tourists but my parents are not filthy rich enough to lock down the area so bear with the humanity bordering my photo. LOL!

VENICE…LIKE NO OTHER

A week ago I arrived in Venice with very high expectations having known so much about this Italian city from movies, books and magazines. This was my first trip to this romantic city and true to my expectations, I was bowled over by what I saw. I may have to mention my wonderful stay at the Baglioni Luna Hotel, which made the entire experience more memorable, from the amazing service to my fabulous suite with a panoramic view of the Venetian lagoon (I will post a photographic review of the hotel later). A trip to Venice won’t be complete without a gondola ride and the tourist in me insisted that I had to give it a try. I found myself gliding through narrow canals between centuries-old buildings seeing a side of Venice one won’t get to see from the streets. Venice is such a beautiful city that I can’t find the right words to best describe it. This is one of those places that is better experienced than described.

 CASTEL SANT’ANGELO

The Castle of the Holy Angel in Rome, Italy was originally built as the mausoleum for the Roman emperor Hadrian and his family as well as for the emperors who eventually succeeded him. The place has been looted centuries ago so the urns of the emperors have never been recovered.  Eventually, the castle became a fortress for the popes before being converted into the museum that it is today. I never got to step inside the museum as I was hurrying for my guided tour of the Vatican, which was about half a mile away from the castle. I took this photo hurriedly while crossing the bridge so this is my only photo of this ancient Roman landmark. Perhaps on my next trip to Rome I can finally step inside and take another photo of this historic building at a better angle.

EYEing LONDON 

imageDuring my trip to London last year, I made sure a ride on the London Eye was part of the itinerary as I wanted to photograph the city from above. I booked their “Champagne Experience” assuming there would be fewer people as it costs more and probably no kids due to the alcohol thereby allowing me to move around freely and take photographs from all angles without elbowing my way to the front.  I also scheduled the ride to synchronize the time my capsule reaches the top and the sun setting in this historic and magnificent city. The best thing about the champagne experience is that you don’t have to line up outside like everybody else. Instead, they appointed a waiting room with a bar at the ticket center and a guide will walk you to the capsule who at the same time will serve as the bartender during the ride. The whole experience was fun seeing London and its famous landmarks from above and watching the lights around the city turning on one by one. The only downside was the glass casing of the capsule was a tad dusty so all my photographs turned out a little hazy. Anyway, this photo I’m posting came out as the most decent one capturing another capsule, the river Thames and the illuminated Big Ben on the right. The London Eye experience was worth every dollar spent and next time I visit London I will try it again but will no longer go crazy with the photography. I will instead spend all my time enjoying the breathtaking view and cheer the sunset with a glass of bubbly or two.

ISTANBUL

The great city of Istanbul has recently been a victim of unnecessary violence resulting to a wasteful loss of innocent lives. However, I do not wish to dwell on this negative incident but instead focus on what is positive about this mesmerizing city. I visited this mystical metropolis two years ago on a cruise and had the best trip of my life. The colorful culture, ancient architecture, rich heritage and friendly people makes Istanbul an amazing destination for those who want to see a perfect blend of  east and west as well as that of the past and present. This photo was taken at the top deck of the cruise ship while docked at the Istanbul Cruise Port, which is located right at the heart of the historic section of the city.  The tower on the left is the Galata Tower, which is a medieval stone tower built to spot fires and now home to a restaurant, cafe and a night club. Istanbul may have hit a road bump a few days ago but it will bounce back just as it did for centuries. Stay strong Istanbul…I will see you again, soon!

HOUSE OF VIRGIN MARY

img_4911Since it’s the season of Lent for Christians, I decided to use this photograph I took back in 2014 during my trip to the ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey.  This is supposedly the former house of the Virgin Mary located near Selçuk, Turkey on a hill overlooking the ruins of Ephesus. The place was discovered in the 19th century based on descriptions in the documented visions of a Roman Catholic nun and visionary named Anne Catherine Emmerich. This place is also a famous pilgrimage shrine amongst Christians and Muslims, although, the Catholic church has never acknowledged nor denied the authenticity of the house…despite celebrating masses there (one was ongoing during my visit). Close to the house is a spring where believers can collect “holy” water and I filled up two plastic bottles for my mother and also bought her souvenir containers in the shape of the Virgin Mary. Photography is not allowed inside the house and the visit is a walk through that lasts about a minute or two.

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