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The vista stretched endlessly. The blue calm waters of the Pacific wrapped around the tiny island I was atop, while in front, right below the setting sun, lay volcanic cones of various shapes and sizes. The landscape was barren, almost a moonscape, save a few pieces of vegetation: the volcanic soil with its poor nutrients and the harsh windy weather aren't kind to flora and fauna.

And yet, Galapagos is one of the best wildlife hotspots. Phytoplankton thrive at this unique confluence of warm and cold ocean currents, resulting in a region rich in biodiversity. Between the unique avian dwellers and visitors, including the blue and red-footed boobies, the magnificent frigatebirds, albatross, and even penguins, the lush and colorful aquatic life swimming everywhere, the giant iguanas and tortoises, and so many more, you can easily lose track of how amazing this destination is.

The Bartelome island, home to this amazing vista, wasn't originally in my itinerary, but due to scheduling issue, I ended up at the top, and enjoyed this expansive view during the afternoon, with the warm sunlight setting aglow the landscape around. And I was glad I made it

Galapagos
Ecuador

#panorama #galapagos #sunset #ecuador #nationalparks
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The aptly named Little Venice in Colmar, was full of surprising delights. Turning around one corner, I found a small garden replete with a period fountain adorned with a statue, crumbling walls covered in vine, and a timber-frame house standing gallantly. Around another street, and I found rows of beautiful historical houses and structures carefully nurtured, a testament to the city council. If those timber-frame houses could speak, they would narrate oodles of tales from its long storied history.

They might have been residences, shops and tanneries during their glory years, but now they have been converted to souvenir shops, cafes, and restaurants, serving the throngs of tourists exploring the heart of the Wine Route. As the sun sets and the light disappears, the tourist crowd dwindles, leaving behind fairly empty streets devoid of the energy and activity of the day. And while this may be forlorn, it is just perfect for photography, especially during the blue hour.

Colmar
Alsace, France

#europtrip #france #alsacewineroute #bluehour #cityscape
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Thin wispy clouds arced around the sky as though drawn with a talented paintbrush. And from high above the plains, these masterful strokes of white seemed to stretch forever, hovering over the beautiful golden rolling hills east of the Bay Area of California, highlighting one reason why I was in the Golden State. In the distance I could spy the prominence of Mt Diablo and the other hills of the Diablo Range rising above the buckled terrain formed by the multiple faults cris-crossing the terrain, including the famous Hayward fault that was running just below.

The slanted evening light highlighted the rolling hillscape, bringing into view hidden features in dramatic scales. And even though I stood there and admired the view for a long time, I never got tired of the vast open space stretching in front of me. I can't wait to once again explore the nooks and crannies of the rolling hillscape dotted with vineyards, ranches, and the occasional windmill.

Mission Peak Regional Preserve
CA USA

#blackandwhite #eastbay #bayarea #goldencalifornia #hiking
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The Hiroshima Peace Memorial was one of the saddest places I visited. It recollects the history of the events that transpired on Aug 6 1945 through powerful stories: stories of angst-ridden mothers and father searching for their children, some buried, some burnt, some barely clinging on to life. There were stories of children who, despite knowing they were going to die, were calmly telling their parents that it is going to be ok. All of these stories, and more, were preserved so that the horrors of war can forever be remembered.

Why did I bring it up now? I felt that it was apt given the apathy we seem to have developed towards the loss of human lives. The Peace Memorial showed truly what happened when humanity turned against each other, and yet, countless wars have been fought since. And similarly, the recent (in)actions by our own leaders made me realize that someday in the future, humanity would look back at this day and age, when we seem powerless to stop something as trifling as gun violence, and wonder why we never learnt from history.

The issue (of gun control) may be complex, and may have different meanings for different groups of people, but the consequence is the same: red and black. It is most certainly time to elevate the right to live over the right to bear arms.

During the Hiroshima bombing, a 2 year old girl was exposed to severe radiation, and developed leukemia at the age of 12. She started making these paper cranes hoping it'll help her recover. She made more than a 1000 paper cranes, but recover, she never did. But these cranes (some pictured here) became a symbol of peace

I sincerely hope through these events (the shootings) which have resulted in senseless loss of lives, we can create a symbol that can unite the citizens of this country against gun violence.

Hiroshima
Japan

#guncontrol #hiroshima #peacememorial #papercranes #worldwar2
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As soon as I entered the mausoleum, I was taken aback from the sheer beauty of this place: over a dozen exquisitely designed structures stood shoulder to shoulder along either side of the corridor, each uniquely designed to respect the remains of those buried inside. There were some with harmonious decorations and intricate terracotta tilework adorning the façade highlighting great attention to detail, while others had unique geometric patterns zig-zagging around the doorway, and a few more had their inside domes painted in the serene pastel blue hues.

This was the beautiful necropolis called Shah-i-Zinda in the heart of the Silk Route in Samarkhand, Uzbekistan. I had timed my visit late in the afternoon where the long shadows from the slanted light light made for some unique compositions through the arched doorways along the corridor; I was getting so addicted to the beauty of this place that I had to pry myself out of this very photogenic necropolis.

Here is one of those mausoleums with a series of beautifully decorated arched doorways.

Samarkhand
Uzbekistan
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I was wandering through the narrow alleyways crisscrossed by a multitude of canals. Colorful timber-frame row houses towered on either side, replete with age-signifying ivy, colorful flowers that adorned the balconies, residences that rubbed shoulders with museums, restaurants, and shops, and thronging crowds of tourists and locals along with cafes where one could grab a coffee and watch the day go by. It was very easy to get lost in the beautiful Petite France historic quarter of Strasbourg, but I much enjoyed the process of discovering hidden surprises in the nooks and crannies of this beautiful city.

France has stayed as the top tourist destination for many years for multiple reasons, Paris notwithstanding. Yet, I find that it is some of the other attractions outside of the capital city that are far more charming. Strasbourg, as the base camp for exploring the Alsace region, proved to be such a worthy city with the rich history it carried. And twilight is an especially great time to photograph this beautiful city.

Strasbourg
Alsace, France

#travelphotography #alsace #france #strasbourg #twilight #cityscape
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One of the bigger challenges in candid/street photography is the need to capture poignant moments and unique perspectives, especially when visiting crowded areas. Complex scenes can be constructed by allowing the eye to follow human activity in the scene, and hence capturing the right slice of time is crucial to showcase this drama. This is what separates a great street photographer from a moderate one.

While wandering through the hallowed hallways of the famous Kailasanatha temple, dating back to the 6th century AD, at Ellora caves in India, I came across a open courtyard (carved into sheer granite) where a visiting tourist was trying to capture the thick supporting columnwork. What made the scene more interesting was an onlooker standing by one of the columns gazing at this tourist. The immediate surroundings, with elephants carved into the rock and adornments festooned on the temple walls above, as well as the sheer overhang of the bedrock above, made the entire scene even more dramatic.

This scene existed but for a fleeting moment; the tourist in saree walked away while the onlooker disappered between the multitudes of supporting pillars. It highlighted the importance of capturing at the right time, and for keeping my eyes open for the right moment.

Ellora Caves
Maharashtra India

#travelphotography #incredibleindia #elloracaves #candid #temple #blackandwhite #cutout

Check out my 2018 Photography calendar here: https://goo.gl/Nd7p9G . All proceeds from the purchase of this calendar go to +NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) and +WildAid
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One of my fondest memories of Morocco was the hours I spent wandering through the narrow alleys of Chefchaouen, the "blue" village. I had envisioned a beautiful old medina swathed in blue, replete with old markets hawking tourist knick knacks, cramped hotels and airy riads lined along labyrinthine alleys rubbing shoulders with intricately decorated mosques, and a place devoid of locals. Yet, what I found there was much much more.

Instead of a touristed village, I instead found myself in a living medieval village. Narrow alleyways were bustling with small bakeries and grocery stores, with children being dragged by their parents to school, with kids enjoying an afternoon game of soccer, with parents off to the evening prayers or to the refreshing waters of a nearby waterfall. Despite the crowds, I found nooks and crannies of peace in the hidden alleys of the village.

Nevertheless, I returned in the morning, and wandered the empty streets devoid of people, with shuttered shops and no other color apart from the blue, the lifeline of the village.

Chefchaouen
Morocco

You can find one more spectacular image from Chefchaouen in my 2018 calendar here: https://goo.gl/Nd7p9G. All proceeds will get donated to +NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) and +WildAid

#morocco #blueline #chefchaouen #medina #africa
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As the days become shorter (at least in the northern hemisphere) and the mercury drops, it is time to sit back with a cup of hot coffee and reminisce the past and plan for the future. While perusing through my archives, I came across this image of a lovely village scene from the Alsace valley, in the beautiful town of Colmar in France.

Europeans have certainly figured out how to savor the festive spirit and relish the communal life. Between markets popping up in cities, towns and villages across the continent, selling anything from beautiful Christmas decorations to lovely handicrafts and delicious warm treats, and those towns decking up with colorful lighting, Europe, in the winter, is a delight to explore. And while urban dwellings across the pond do carry on the tradition, that joie de vivre seems absent, perhaps as a consequence of the long history and sense of community in the older continent.

I experienced part of this during my travels through the Alsace wine route, and especially in Colmar (despite the heavy visitation by tourists). It was a delight to walk along ancient cobblestone streets passing well-preserved colorful timbered houses, a relic of its Germanic rule, that have now been converted to hotels, restaurants and shops. I waited until twilight to capture this typical Colmar scene by the canal at blue hour in a single exposure at F14 for 6s at ISO 400

Colmar
Alsace France

#joiedevivre #europe #colmar #alsacewineroute #france
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The faint yet melodious serenade of a cello wafted through the centuries-old ruins. I continued along the old stone path, with wheel ruts still in place, passing by dilapidated yet artfully restored structures - houses, shops, markets, baths, and even an occasional amphitheater. Yet, as I turned around the corner and came to face the beautiful facade of the Library of Celsus, I was taken aback.

I stared at the grand entrance of the library for a long time, slowly savoring the beautiful marble columns, the ornate roofs, the festooned walls, and the realistic statues of ancient Greek gods and goddesses. And right below this entrance, on the steps, sat a cello player crafting tunes for the weary travelers who passed through the long Roman road in front of him.

It harkened me back 2000 years, to the time when this beautiful facade, and the library behind it, was constructed. I could imagine a busy street carrying traffic from one city entrance, past grand villas and crowded amphitheaters, passing in front of the library to reach the great Agora (marketplace) to peddle their wares. And behind those three doors would have been one of the best collection of scrolls and books, making it the third largest library of the 2nd century AD. While the rest of the library had been razed, the facade alone stands, having been painfully restored in the 1960s.

I tried to capture some of its ancient aura, but the camera could only do so much justice. This was shot at F22 (for the sun-star), ISO 800 at 1/50s

Ephesus
Turkey

#turkey #asiachronicles #ephesus #romanruins #libraryofcelsus
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