The white Lutheran Cathedral takes on some golden colors during magic hour, at 10:00 pm! In Helsinki, where one can experience white nights in the summer, it was hard to distinguish the end of night and the coming of morning, but it definitely is a city where one can savor twilight.
On my research about Finland in general, I came across this Finnish word sisu and found out that it means strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity. It is also a word that is used to describe an understanding of the Finnish culture. The word sisu and its meaning is something that interested me the most in my reading. Apparently, the word is so popular that it has been used in many occasions, but what I liked the most is how Time magazine has described it: The Finns have something they call sisu. It is a compound of bravado and bravery, of ferocity and tenacity, of the ability to keep fighting after most people would have quit, and to fight with the will to win.
Lough Tay is also named Guinness Lake because they say it looks like a Guinness stout with its dense midnight-black color caused by a bed of peat bogs. The startingly-white sandy beach around it is supposed to look like its foam. So, cheers!
With only a little over 3 hours of sleep last night, I was up at 4 this morning to catch some blues. I left the drapes undrawn so I’ll have unobstructed view of the light, and there it was – a deep blue picture staring at me as I opened my eyes. My destination was just across the street so it did not take me long to get to the Sean Casey bridge, and then later to Ha’Penny after a brisk walk to chase the fading light. Early morning with a nice cool breeze blowing, hardly any cars nor people on the streets, it’s just me and my bridges – just the way I like it.
I was back at the hotel at 5:45 since I decided to take some post-sunrise shots as well over at the Samuel Beckett. The light was good today – not great, but good enough that I couldn’t have asked for anything more. When you live in gray England as a photographer, just good light is good enough. [...Read more about Wicklow...]
Sunset colors trying to break through the clouds over the Samuel Beckett bridge after a rain storm.
They gave me a room on the 4th floor overlooking the Liffey river. It’s one of those windows that does not open all the way in case some nutcase wanted to jump. Definitely no jumper here, just wanted to see if the barrel of my lens would squeeze in through the gap, and it wouldn’t. Too bad, because I have a nice view, and although it has some blind spots, it still gives me a decent visual sweep of the south bank which seems to contain most of the attractions. I have the three-masted Jeanie Johnston ship almost directly below me, the Sean O’Casey bridge to the right, and Calatrava’s Samuel Beckett bridge is not too far downstream.
I’ve been skeptical about the weather since I got here. It looks like two different stories written in the sky. It has been sunny for the most part, with passing rain showers at least once a day. On the third day though it was just unforgiving rain – a bitter reminder of how photographers are always at the mercy of the weather. It is also a true test of one’s faith; I seem to pray more often when it rains. [...Read more about Dublin...]
[...Monasterio de Piedra, Nuévalos - Zaragoza, Spain May 29, 2011...]
Cola de Caballo - "Horsetail" - the tallest of the waterfalls in the monastery's rainforest measures about 50 meters high.
Fans of literary genius Paulo Coelho will recognize the play on title as being inspired by his bestselling novel “By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept.” The river Piedra, as you might know, was one of the settings for this novel about love and spirituality. Being a Coelho fan myself, it was a pleasure to see the same river that his heroine Pilar came to, although unlike her, I did not come here for spiritual cleansing or deep meditation. I have seen photos of this place during my research on Zaragoza, and that triggered my desire to see it for myself.
I’ve read that it is believed that anything you give up to the river Piedra will disappear forever. Its geological location being high in calcium carbonate, makes it so that whatever the river touches turns to stone, thereby it is also known as the stone river, “piedra” meaning stone. I did not have any intentions of making wishes when I got there, but it turned out that I was forced to make one – and that is, for the rain to stop! [...Read more about Zaragoza...]
Basilica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar and the River Ebro, late afternoon
It’s not your most popular Spanish city, that’s for sure, but it’s not missing any of that Spanish flair and spunk. With 200 years of trying to keep up with the rest of the country, present-day Zaragoza gives the impression of a city eager to modernize itself while still keeping its nostalgic past of Roman and Islamic influence intact.
There are not many countries where I’ve been to that a vacation turns out to be really what it should be – non-stressful and just plain indulgent. Spain, to me, is one of those places I enjoy – yes, even during the hours in-between dawn and dusk. It has that certain atmosphere that encourages one to take it slow and allow time to take its course. The Spaniards are, after all, known for their relaxed pace and love for celebrations as is evident in their year-round fiestas. They enjoy their late leisurely-long lunches and dinners, greet each other with a kiss, touch when they talk, and are generally fun and company-loving people. While sitting in the airport bus on the way to the city late last night, the endless loud chatter around me could feel exhausting to some, but here, it’s a testimony of their tireless zest for life regardless of what time of day it is. [...Read more about Zaragoza...]
The spire of Riga Dom Cathedral, with Vansu Tilts spanning the Daugava river. Seen from the tower of St. Peter's.
When I first looked at Riga’s map, it seemed to me like a huge city, so at first I was concerned about having to get to one place to another in a short span of time. But arriving here, I quickly found out for myself that it’s compact, walkable, and as an added plus – has easy orientation with well-planned street layout. The landmarks are distinguishable, and when you’re walking around old town, all you need to to do in case you lose your bearing is to look up at the church spires – sort of like the North Star guiding your way.
The skyline of Riga is dominated by church spires. I lost count of how many churches there are but the famous ones are the Riga Dom, St. Peter’s and St. Jacob’s Church. Not only the churches have the pointy tops, even the town hall and the Latvian Academy of Sciences bear it. Of course, they look great across the river at sunset or twilight when their silhouettes stand out against the blue sky. [...Read more about Riga...]
Arriving in Riga very late last night under a drizzly and heavily-clouded sky, I could only hope for a better day today. It was hard to predict how today was going to fare weather-wise. Every few minutes, the skies would change its palette from fierce grays one minute to bright blues peeking through clouds the next. If there was anything constant and unpretentious today, it was this man’s – Zbirbulu Peteris – sunny smile and disposition. Although it was the least of things I had expected coming to Riga, a smile from a stranger was what made my trip memorable.
The city of Riga sure has taken a bad rap from travelers’ forum and reviews on the web, from being dubbed as the drunk capital of Europe to having the most rude and unfriendly people in the Baltics. Although I don’t want to arrive at my destination on a clean slate as far as impression goes, I also try take these bad reviews with a grain of salt and find things out myself. After all, this city had endured quite a beating from its turbulent history of occupations, and has not too long ago just broken free from a confused and oppressed rule. Difficult times, they say, build character and perhaps that’s what it’s just all about. [...Read more about Peter...]
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...]
A heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to vote, and to those who were not eligible to vote but helped spread the word, cheered me on and supported me in however way they can. Those votes were definitely hard-earned, and I can’t stress that enough. Most of it came from people I don’t even know and spurred on by genuine friends and family who believed that this was so important to me, enough for them not to ignore or consider trivial.
Personal joys do not always have to be private. Hope this flicker of good news from my little corner of the world bring some good cheer to you as well.
Grand Prize Winner – National Geographic Exceptional Experiences Photo Contest