Piran – The Tiny Jewel of the Adriatic Sea

[…Piran, Slovenia September 2011…]

What better way to spend your early morning than to climb up the hill over the red rooftops and watch the first sunlight touch the face of St. George's church, then gradually embrace the town in a nice, soft and warm light.


Boris picked me up at the airport in Trieste just before 4 pm. I had arranged for a car service knowing that I wouldn’t have made the 3:00 bus to Piran and needed the quickest way to get there before sunset.

It was only 24 miles (40 kms) away, driving along the coastal route, first passing the Gulf of Trieste in Italy then the Adriatic sea as we cross the border of Slovenia. As we pass different towns along the way – Koper, Izola, and smaller towns – I see the same campanile over and over again just like the famous one in San Marco of Venice. The landscape did not change much and had it not been for the border crossing sign, I wouldn’t have guessed where Italy had stopped.
[…Read more about Piran…]

Florence – Day 1 – Under the Tuscan Sun(set)

[…Florence , Italy April 17, 2011…]

Sunset over Tuscany


I arrived in Florence at 4:30 in the afternoon after a 70-minute bus ride from Pisa. Immediately the phrase “under the Tuscan sun” came to mind. Rolling hills dotted with slender cyprus trees, bright blue, cloudless skies topped off with 70-degree weather. The popularity of this Italian city was made clear to me by the amount of people I saw loitering around as we pulled up into Santa Maria Novella station. I feel safe in numbers so I can’t complain.

My travel agent – Google Earth, led me directly to the hotel without fail, although with the many narrow alleys in Florence, I can understand how one can easily get disoriented. Still, this is nothing compared to the maze in Venice. With my luggage safely ensconced in my hotel room, I stepped out and made my way towards the Duomo, passing through the busy outdoor market of San Lorenzo where the smell of distinct Italian leather filled the air, joining the aroma wafting off the windows of pizzerias and trattorias. At one point, I lost a glimpse of the cathedral’s dome I had been following through the roofline, when suddenly the late afternoon bells of Giotto’s campanile chimed. This was what it must’ve been like in the 14th century – it was a travel back in time! So I followed that sound instead, and sure enough, I found myself in Piazza del Duomo in no time.
[…Read more about Florence…]

Salford Blues

Sunset in Salford Quays, with the new footbridge and part of the new and developing MediaCity UK. I can't ask for a better light than this and the winds were good to me that night. It was definitely one of those fulfilling shoots where the conditions were all perfect, and you pack up for the night smiling.

I’ve shown you its softer side, but I still prefer the Salford Quays in blue. […See more photos here!…]

Sunrise to Sundown at the Guggenheim

I waited quite a while for the area to be empty but the chance never came. It was nearing sunset when I finally decided to use a 10-stop filter, and not only was I able to "eliminate" people, I also got some nice sunset hues. I could still make out a few people on the shot in the right but thank goodness, they couldn't stay still for the 2-minute exposure. (Left, late afternoon) 0.5 sec @ f/18, ISO 100 (Right, at sunset) 2 minutes @ f/5.6, ISO 100.

On Saturday afternoon in Bilbao when the temperature was in a comfortable 60’s, the area around its most famous attraction – the Guggenheim Museum – was filled with tourists and passersby. Everyone wanted to get underneath the famous giant spider and pose for a shot, which is what I would do to if I was merely there as a tourist. Also, every few minutes, the small pool in front of the museum would generate a mist, sort of part of the attraction, and that would make the tiles near the spider wet and create a good reflection. I wanted to take a shot of that reflection, but there were just too many people in that area. I quickly figured this was one of the days when you just had to work around what you have, photographically speaking. And in the late afternoon when it was still too early for at least a 30-second exposure, I tried the shot with an ND110, and that seemed to work like a charm. […Wait, more photos here!]

Butterfly Bridge under Pastel Skies

The Butterfly bridge won in a design competition in 1995. The winning design was by C. Wilkinson & Partners (Architects) and Jan Bobrowski & Partners (Engineers) and has won national and international acclaim in a number of architectural journals.

I just returned from a short-but-sweet trip to Bilbao, Spain and will be working on my photos from there soon. In the meantime, let me share these ones from my return to the town of Bedford not too long ago.

I have not had the chance to shoot this bridge – the Butterfly bridge – the last time I visited Bedford. I was able to scout it at night and saw that it was another un-illuminated bridge. There were some floodlights on the bottom of the bridge but for some reason it did not light up. Anyway, with a little help from the sky radiating great pastel colors at dusk, I was able to capture the bridge with still some interesting light. […Wait, more photos!]

Twilight Hailstorm at the Docklands

The weather was pretty crazy today. The day started with sunny and clear skies – really gorgeous day, and ended with an unexpected, although brief, hailstorm.

At sunset, as I stationed myself in East India pier looking across the Thames directly towards the O2 Dome, I noticed a reddish cloud moving from behind me and heading straight to the dome. I set up my tripod anticipating a colorful sunset. I took more than a dozen long-exposure shots of the dome using my ND Grads. Shortly right after sunset, while walking around scouting for a different location, hail poured from the skies out of nowhere. Luckily, there was a McDonald’s just down the street to take shelter from and at the same time, grab a bite to eat.

I must say, despite the untimely hail, the weather gods were still considerate because it cleared up for the remainder of blue hour.  Therefore, I was able to do the shots of East India station and part of Canary Wharf’s skyline from Blackwall Way. Perhaps not much of a thrilling view, but I’ll take a little of something over nothing at all.


QUICK TRIVIA on the 02 DOME : In the James Bond film “The World is Not Enough,” the O2 was the structure that aided James Bond in reaching his hot air balloon destination. It was also shown in the background of a sequence in the 2006  movie “The Da Vinci Code.”

Two ND Grads stacked on top of each other plus a small aperture gave me a long-ish exposure - in this case, 5 seconds. The grads gave me this nice, rich color in the sky and smoothness in the water. F/22, ISO 100, 5 seconds.

I love it when buses come just at the right time, almost at my beck and call. This one came towards the end of my exposure, and saved an otherwise mundane scene. Part of Canary Wharf's skyline can seen in the distance. F/13, ISO 100, 20 seconds.

The East India DLR station. A nice full moon appeared through the clouds right after I had already packed up for the night. 'Would've been nice if I was able to include it in the picture. It will match those pretty "stars" that I've created using a small aperture. F/16, ISO 100, 25 seconds.

View of the Thames, Vertical

Just wanted to post this vertical version of the same scene I had posted on Flickr. I’m still amazed how I was able to still take sharp photos considering how windy it was on the bridge that night. There’s some motion blur on the spinning wheel and the bobbing boat on the foreground, but the rest of the scene stayed sharp.

While shooting that night, I was talking to this other photographer who said he had vertigo and was having a tough time looking over the bridge and was paranoid about someone pushing him over anytime. It reminded me of the frightening experience I had  in Stockholm when some odd woman stood beside me while I was on the bridge in the dark by myself. I did not have such feelings while shooting from Waterloo Bridge because there were a lot of people around. I guess that’s one thing good about touristy London – there’s safety and comfort in numbers.

LONDON EYE TRIVIA: The London Eye is a 443-ft tall Ferris wheel on the banks of the River Thames. It is the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe, and the most popular paid tourist attraction in the United Kingdom, visited by over 3.5 million people annually. When erected in 1999, it was the tallest Ferris wheel in the world, until surpassed first by the 520-ft Star of Nanchang in 2006, and then the 541-ft Singapore Flyer in 2008. It is still described by its operators as "the world's tallest cantilevered observation wheel" as the wheel is supported by an A-frame on one side only, unlike the Nanchang and Singapore wheels.

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