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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.

GRAND CANYON

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

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.

PONTE VECCHIO

The Ponte Vecchio is probably one of the most photographed bridges in Italy and I made sure I got my photo when I visited Florence about two weeks ago. This medieval bridge crosses the Arno River and was the only bridge in Florence that was not destroyed by the Germans when they retreated from the British liberators during the Second World War. The bridge is lined with jewelry and souvenir shops although centuries ago butchers were the main feature of the bridge. Most photos of this famous landmark are usually taken from the bridges on opposite sides or along the river banks and I did a number of shots at those angles. However, during my visit to the Uffizi Gallery I noticed that one of the upper floor windows looked down into the bridge although the reflection on the glass window became a challenge. I decided to use my iPhone to take this photo by laying it flat on the glass window to avoid any reflections. I finally got my photo of the Ponte Vecchio at an angle different from your typical tourist photo.

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!

CASTELL DE BELLVER

This Gothic style castle on top of a hill in Palma de Mallorca, Spain is one of the few circular castles in the world and was built for King James II of Majorca during the 14th century. From the 18th to mid-20th century, the castle was turned into a political prison before it was eventually turned into a museum in 1932.  The castle was my first stop on a tour of Palma de Mallorca a few days ago and I was having a hard time photographing the place as it was filled up with tourists. While on the roofdeck of the castle, I noticed that the last tour group was heading for the second floor so I immediately ran down to the ground floor to take advantage of the empty halls. I only had a 10-second window to capture this part of the castle as the first tour group came down just as I finished my panoramic shot using my iPhone 7 Plus. This was just a single attempt done hurriedly and I could not be any happier with the outcome.

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.

THE SIREN

This photograph reminded me of sirens in Greek mythology known to lure poor sailors to their doom using their enchanting voices. In the case of this siren, she was too busy taking selfies for her Facebook profile thereby saving the souls of a few lonely sailors. I took this photograph in Mykonos, Greece at the section of the town referred to as Little Venice. The rich blue waters of the sea was a beautiful contrast to the white washed walls of the buildings, which were mostly restaurants with great views of the sea.  I don’t know how this woman got to this rock but I’m glad she did coz she added an interesting and fun story to my photograph.

TEMPLE OF HEAVEN

imageThis replica of the majestic Temple of Heaven in Beijing, China is found in the heart of Walt Disney World’s EPCOT Center in Orlando, Florida. The park has a world showcase complex featuring pavilions representing individual countries. The China pavilion features a paifang at the entrance as well as shops and restaurants showcasing Chinese art, cuisine and culture. The Temple of Heaven is the entrance to a 360-degree cinematic tour of China, which is the entertainment highlight of the pavilion. The tour takes you around China visiting natural and man-made landmarks as well as provide a basic understanding of the Chinese people and their rich culture.  This pavilion is my favorite part of the park and I took this photo using my iPhone 6.

 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.

SUNSETS ON CRUISES

I never anticipated I would enjoy cruising considering my first experience was quite an unpleasant one. However, despite my nauseating initiation into cruisedom three years ago, I eventually learned to love it and have been on five cruises so far and looking forward to my sixth in a few months. The photo above was taken on the top deck of the Celebrity Reflection during my cruise in the Mediterranean two years ago while we were tendered off the shores of Santorini, Greece. The sun was just setting behind this world renowned Greek island when the sky suddenly turned into a beautiful canvas of pink and gold splashes. I always enjoy walking around the top deck of a ship at sunset with the hopes of witnessing a beautiful celestial phenomenon for my eyes to enjoy and for my camera to capture.

WORLD TRADE CENTER MALL

The World Trade Center Mall reopened Tuesday last week after more than a decade since its destruction during the 9/11 attacks. The mall is a part of the entire World Trade Center complex featuring an architectural masterpiece of a roof, which looks like the wings of a bird in flight. I visited the mall last Friday and the interiors were quite impressive although I think it looked too sterile for a shopping complex. The mall also serves as the transportation hub of downtown Manhattan connecting pedestrians to various train stations. The whole complex is still in construction mode, however, a good number of retail stores are now open to the public. The best feature of the complex is the glass spine of the roof, which provides visitors a view of the Freedom Tower just a few feet away from the  mall.

THE WALL

The thick walls of the Fort San Cristobal in San Juan, Puerto Rico protected this former Spanish settlement for centuries from foreign invaders.  This once military complex is now a museum under the United States National Park Services and is one of the most visited heritage sites in Old San Juan.  Last February, the Eastern Caribbean cruise I was on made a brief stop at this US territory giving me ample time to explore the neighborhood close to the port.   The fort was conveniently located a few minutes from the ship so I braved through the humidity and found myself standing in front of this behemoth of a wall. At the gate, I noticed the golden light of the setting sun casting geometric shadows while making the walls glow creating an interesting photo opportunity for me. The rich blue cloudless sky also made the golden yellow walls of the fort pop out in this photograph. Unfortunately, my cruise only stopped for a few hours so I never really got to explore much of Old San Juan. I hope to visit again someday and maybe include a visit of the El Morro for more photo opportunities.

ROMA DI NOTTE

My first night in Rome was spent leisurely exploring the city and visiting famous landmarks close to my hotel. Fortunately, I was staying right behind the Pantheon so almost every landmark was just within walking distance. My steps took me to the Piazza Navona and the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and the Piazza del Popolo and all the way to the Victor Emmanuel Monument and the Capitoline Hill where this photograph was taken. It was also a good opportunity for me to burn my first Italian dinner of pizza, pasta and wine. I was never a fan of this photo, however, the sky looked amazing so I decided to feature it today. Rome is such a beautiful city and every street corner transports you to a different time in history. It is also impressive to see how this city have managed to save and protect its heritage sites effectively. Seeing Rome for the first time was a dream come true moment for me…and in a few weeks, I will relive that dream again.

FIRST YEAR ANNIVERSARY/ FONTAINE DE TOURNY

Today, I decided to feature my cover photo on this post to celebrate my page’s first year anniversary. This photo of the Fontaine de Tourny was taken during my trip to Quebec City, Canada in 2013. I love how the statues glisten under the fountain while the water carelessly sprinkles all around them. This has been an amazing twelve months since I launched my photography page and so far the journey is still a long way to go. So far, my page has published 163 posts which attracted 6,840 visitors and 17,100 views as well as received 10,470 likes and 1,230 comments. Furthermore, 5 of my photographs have been featured in the Sun Sentinel travel page and 4 have been printed in the Lifestyle Section of their Sunday edition. One of my photos also won in Peter Lik’s “This Is Home” photo contest where I received an autographed copy of his photography book, Las Vegas. I have to admit that despite all of these mini achievements in a period of one year I am still not that confident with my photography skills. I still continue to explore the capabilities of my camera and experiment with new techniques that I learn online. Although, I remain determined to continue with my photographic journey and I am taking you all along on this adventure that we started a year ago. You all have been very generous expressing your appreciation for my work through your constructive and inspiring comments, which encourages me to continue snapping photos of wonderful places and share them all with you. Thank you all very much for your support and I hope you will continue to pay my page a visit!

FONTANA DEI QUATTRO FIUMI

The Fountain of the Four Rivers created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1651 is the centerpiece of Piazza Navona in Rome, Italy. This was the second major landmark I visited in Rome after the Pantheon, which was right behind my hotel. This impressive work of art represents the four major rivers of the four continents where the pope had supreme religious authority. These rivers are the Danube representing Europe, Nile representing Africa, Ganges representing Asia and Rio de la Plata representing the Americas. I was overwhelmed with emotions being in Rome for the first time and seeing all these monuments that I’ve only seen on pictures and films. Rome is such a beautiful city and photographs do not give justice to its real beauty. I may have taken at least 200 photos during my first five hours in Rome and I feel like I have not captured enough. I look forward to my next trip to Rome in a few months and I hope to capture a few hundred more photos to share with you all.

WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK

imageWhile exploring the charming neighborhood of Greenwich Village in Manhattan, I found myself stepping into this park featuring a huge square marble arch and a central fountain attracting a good number of people obviously there to take advantage of the cool waters and escape the summer heat. The park is named Washington Square in honor of George Washington, the first president of the United States of America.  The park is also adjacent to the New York University  (NYU) campus and is surrounded by a number of NYU buildings. This square also draws a huge number of tourists being one of the many famous landmarks of New York City. I remember this park very well in the movie I Am Legend starring Will Smith with those zombies giving me quite a few good nightmares. Thankfully I did not photograph nor encounter any during my walk around that park.

AYASOFYA

The Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya in Turkish), which means Holy Wisdom, is a grand piece of architecture that beautifully defines the Istanbul skyline. According to our tour guide, it was originally an Orthodox church which was turned into a mosque and eventually converted into a museum. It was truly a humbling experience to stand before this ancient wonder and be able to walk along its endless halls and explore its grand chambers.  Inside was generally empty except for a few relics and lighting fixtures, however, the walls and ceilings are covered with a spectacular array of religious artwork. It was fascinating to see Christian and Muslim symbols beautifully complementing each other. I think the world can learn from the walls of Ayasofya on how to coexist harmoniously despite our differences.  Sadly though, recent developments in Turkish politics may eventually lead to reviving this museum back into a mosque. I just hope the people of Istanbul decide to retain this as a symbol of secularism where people from all faiths can enjoy the beauty and wonder of this great human achievement both in construction and architecture.

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!

WINDSOR CASTLE

The Windsor Castle is the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world and it’s where Queen Elizabeth spends most of her private weekends.  The castle has been the family home to British kings and queens for over 1,000 years.  During my visit to Windsor the queen was not around, which is signaled by the Royal Standard flag flying from the castle’s Round Tower.  My tour of the castle included viewing of the royal apartments, state rooms, galleries, changing of the guards and the magnificent St. George’s Chapel. I joined a guided tour of the castle, which I think is the best way to experience it as you hear a good number of royal trivias and learn a generous amount of information and history about this famous home. Furthermore, being part of a tour allows you to skip the long lines to the ticket booth which can take at least an hour of your time. The castle is a reflection of the massive wealth of the British Royal family and throughout the tour I kept imagining how fascinating it would be to be a royal…even just for a day.

ISLAND OF THE WINDS

The island of Mykonos in Greece is famously referred to as the island of the winds but in Greek mythology, it is also known as the location of the great battle between Zeus and the Titans as well as the site where Hercules killed the giants after luring them out of Mount Olympus. I visited Mykonos two years ago and fell in love with this beautiful and mystical island. This photograph was taken at the town’s main section facing the Aegean Sea where this little boy was running around driving a flock of sea birds out into these beautiful blue skies. Luckily, I was about to snap my camera to photograph the town in this angle so the birds in flight came as an added bonus.

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.

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