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PITCHFORK FALLS

I always wondered how cotton candy effect on moving water is captured so thanks to Google I learned how to program my camera settings correctly. It is highly recommended to use a tripod when attempting this style of photography but in this case, I broke the rule and captured this handheld. I was on a rush to capture the Pitchfork Falls in Skagway, Alaska as I was on a tour plus it was starting to rain so I had to rush back to the bus before me and my camera got soaked. One technique I read somewhere is to exhale while capturing a photo to further limit the shake. I have a few more photos taken using this technique and will post them soon.

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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…

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!)!

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.

SOARIN’ O’ER SUNRISE

Flying is for me one of the most exciting aspects of travelling. I love the thrill of the takeoff from the powerful vibration of the aircraft to the ferocious rumble of its engine. I always sit by the window to watch everything speed by until the aircraft touches the sky and everything below looks like a miniature toy set. During my vacation last month, my flight’s takeoff schedule coincided with the sunrise so that got me excited hoping to capture a few interesting shots. As soon as I got a glimpse of the sun I started snapping with my iPhone 7 Plus and framed the wing as an additional focal point to my composition.  I also included my home city of Fort Lauderdale below for a sense of height. The rich golden yellow light of the sun casting shadows all over also created a multidimensional effect on the clouds.  One technique I do when using my phone on a plane is to press the phone flat on the window to prevent reflections. Here are four photos I took as my plane soared over the Atlantic Ocean on it’s way to my vacation destination.


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.

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.

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.

SPRING AWAKENING

I was in New York City this week to accompany my parents for their first visit to the Big Apple. They are currently in the United States for vacation so I thought it would be great to take them to NYC while they’re still strong enough to handle all the walking. A trip to New York isn’t complete without visiting Central Park so we braved the cold and headed for this famous destination. Most of the trees were still bare while the grass were mostly yellow, although, signs of green were slowly sprouting all over the park. I’ve always visited Central Park during the summer so this visit kinda provided me a different look of the park. The bare branches allowed more sunlight to reach the ground creating a brighter look and exposing more details.  The photograph above was taken by my iPhone 7 Plus using the Pano mode.

ANCIENT REFLECTIONS

img_0663The highlight of my trip to Granada, Spain was a visit to an ancient palace called The Alhambra. This gigantic complex of walls, palaces, courtyards, gardens and pools was created in the mid-13th century around the end of the Muslim rule in Spain. Alhambra literally translates “The Red (Female)” in reference to the red clay used for the construction of the buildings.  The complex is also filled with jaw dropping Islamic art and architecture reminiscent of the Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace, both of which I visited in Istanbul, Turkey a few years ago. The photo above was taken at the Court of the Myrtles, named after the myrtle bushes surrounding the pool. At the center of the photo is the northern chamber, a portico with 6 beautifully decorated arches and a tower all magnificently reflected into the pool. The tower is actually part of the Comares Palace, which was the official residence of the king. I tried taking photos of the courtyard at various angles but I realized the best way to capture the courtyard was from the middle at the end of the pool. I used my iPhone 7 Plus to take this photo using the Pano Mode for a wider capture. A friend insisted that I visit the Alhambra while in Granada and I’m glad I listened to her.

SILENCE

img_0662I enjoy taking photographs of empty spaces because I love the stillness and silence it projects…It may also be a reflection of my pensive and introvert personality…I had such a moment when I visited this empty bullfight arena in Palma de Mallorca, Spain…I was on a photography high shooting different sections of the building minus the noisy crowds filling the hallways during fight days…I enjoyed capturing the arches, the chessboard-like floors, the shadows casted by the afternoon sun, the still palm trees outside and the empty hallways before me. I was very lucky to be there on the right day and the right time.

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!

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.

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.

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!

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.

PARIS IN PINK

The elegant and sophisticated city of Paris was my home for a week in the summer of 2015. It was my first trip to the French capital and I made sure to visit every major Parisian landmark during my stay.  On my first few hours in the city, I visited the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower as both monuments were just a few blocks away from my hotel along Avenue Kléber. The Arc de Triomphe was quite majestic in the middle of this roundabout providing a gateway to the world famous Avenue des Champs-Élysées. This monument, which is a museum with access to the rooftop, was built in honor of those who fought during the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars. When I took this photo, I forgot to remove a filter on my lens thus looking a little pink-orange…and so did every other photo I took that day. 😬😜

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!

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.

SUMMER SOLSTICE

imageSummer has finally arrived and what better way to present it than a beautiful sunset on a tropical island in South Florida.  This photograph was taken during the last few minutes of sunset just as the sun was about to take a bow before diving deep into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It was also great to capture the golden lights of the sun in the horizon at the same time capturing the deep blue expanse of the upper sky behind a bravura display of wispy clouds. Lastly, the silhouette of boats sailing across the ocean provided a sense of adventure as well as a romantic perspective to this composition.  What a beautiful world we live in and I find myself very lucky to witness breathtaking views like this as it also continues to fuel my passion for photography.

LIVIN’ ON THE EDGE

img_4850In the Greek island of Santorini, low-lying and colorful cubical buildings cling on the side of the remnant of a volcanic caldera hundreds of feet above sea level providing an unobstructed view of the Aegean Sea.  The island also boasts of  its beautiful sunsets and due to the layout of the buildings, you get a front seat view of the sunset anywhere you sit. Tourism is the island’s major industry and it has been ranked as the world’s top island by travel magazines and websites. When I visited this island more than a year ago, I exhaustingly maneuvered myself for hours through narrow alleys with sharp turns and steep climbs in order to truly experience the essence of this ancient municipality. Unfortunately, my feet started killing me way before sunset so I decided to head back to my cruise ship and skipped the chance to witness one of the world’s most beautiful sunsets. I guess I now have a good reason to revisit Santorini in the near future so I can finally photograph its famous sunset.

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.

TAJ 51

img_4847The Taj 51 Buckingham Gate Suites was my home away from home while I was in London on vacation for a week.  This was once the home of the Lords and Ladies of the Royal Court and just a few minutes walk to the Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and the London Eye. This 5 star heritage hotel boasts of providing its guests with one of the most spacious and luxurious accomodations as well as the finest personal service in London.  The hotel also features a Michelin-star Indian restaurant named Quilon, which I thought the food was just okay although the service was quite impressive.  The photo above was taken in the central courtyard of the complex where one can sit and enjoy the Edwardian Victorian architecture of the hotel complex, which I think has the most colorful walls I have ever seen. I included below some photos of my residence suite taken using my iPhone. My one bedroom residence suite featured a living room, dining area, kitchen, washer and dryer and a colossal bedroom suite with a view of the 175-year-old Westminster Chapel. Overall, I would say this hotel was one of the best I have ever stayed at and the service was truly at its finest. The highlight of my stay was seeing the Dalai Lama, who was also staying at the hotel, at the hotel lobby.

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.

DISTRICT OF FATIH

The Fatih district of Istanbul, Turkey is located on the European side of the city and is right on the historic Constantinople proper where most of my sightseeing was spent during my visit. This district is home to historic landmarks like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Çemberlitaş Column (Column of Constantine), Grand Bazaar and the Nuruosmaniye Mosque, which is one of the best mosques built using the Ottoman Baroque style prominently defining the Istanbul skyline with its dome and minarets as seen in my photo above. I took this photo just as the sun was setting with its rich golden light bathing the city with an aura of mysticism and enchantment. I decided not to include the more commonly known landmarks in order to create a sense of mystery. The city of Istanbul surprisingly gives you a different kind of high…it’s no wonder people who once visited it wants to come back again and again.

EL MORRO

 The Castillo San Felipe del Morro, commonly known as “El Morro”, is a fort in the city of San Juan, Puerto Rico built in the 1500s to protect Spain’s access to the wealth of the New World. It is a masterpiece of military engineering designed to overwhelm and exhaust the enemy.  I took this photo from the top deck of the cruise ship as we were sailing into the Bay of San Juan to dock for the day. It was truly breathtaking to see this massive fortress from our viewpoint at the ship. It must have been definitely overwhelming for the enemy ships during the crazy old days.

E P C O T 

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The EPCOT Center (Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow) is one of the four theme parts making up the Walt Disney World complex in Orlando, Florida. I was told that this was originally built by Disney with the intention of having people live here and serve as a model of a planned community with approximately twenty thousand residents. Today, the park celebrates human achievement in technological innovation and international culture. The sphere at the middle right of the photo is the centerpiece of the park and is called Spaceship Earth. It is my favorite attraction as it transports you through the history of man from the Stone Age to the computer era. My second favorite part of the park is the World Showcase featuring 11 pavilions themed to represent a specific country. My special favorites are the Mexico, China and Japan pavilions.

PLANET CHORA

  With the Star Wars film hitting theaters just a few days ago, I thought this photo would be a nice tribute to one of my favorite films as this interesting looking building reminds me of one of their sets.  This is actually a church in the island of Mykonos (town is also called Chora) in Greece. I love the contrast between the blue sky and the white-washed walls…very Greek flag indeed!  But going back to Star Wars,  I can picture the robot C-3PO walking out of that door and happily blurting out “May the force be with you”!

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.

TEMPLE OF ATHENA

  
The Temple of Athena (more commonly known as the Parthenon) in Athens, Greece is one of the most photographed structures in the world. It is a symbol of Greece’s impressive and rich heritage as well as proof of an advanced and highly organized society from centuries ago. It has been my ultimate dream to visit this place so imagine my heightened emotions when I finally got the chance to stand in front of its greatness. Fortunately for me, the multitude of tourists were at that time on the other side of the ruins thereby allowing me to photograph the structures empty of people. Now it looks like I got the place to myself…or maybe, I should just claim that I got a private tour of the Parthenon. LOL!

ST. PETER’S ALTAR

  
The altar at the St. Peter’s Basilica is adorned with works by Gian Lorenzo Bernini who is revered as the greatest architect and sculpture of the Baroque period. He created the baldacchino, which is the four poster pavilion-like structure in front of the altar and just right below the basilica’s famous dome. The altar also feature another one of his works called the “Cathedra Petri” or throne of St. Peter, which is the golden sculpture right in the middle of the photo. Gladly, they cordoned off the altar section of the basilica thus allowing me to photograph it minus the chaotic tourist crowds.

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