Wishing for Isla

Posted by & filed under Photograpy, Places/Locales.

Well, it’s official: this winter is just not going away. So it’s no wonder that while expecting more snow on Tuesday, I am wishing for Isla… Isla Mujeres that is.

Isla Mujeres is an island off the coast of Mexico and its easternmost municipality. I spent 5 glorious sunny days there last October on an impromptu vacation. Only a 15-min ferry ride from Cancun, it felt like a world away from its overly touristy, well-known cousin. And if you are like me and don’t like the crowds, then southern part of Isla (away from the busy port) is just the place to visit, especially off-season.

My base for this vacation and probably, the main reason I came to the island was Casa de los Sueños, a small boutique hotel with a great infinity pool/bar, a private beach/dock and easily one of the best views on the Isla.

Also, a short golf cart (yes, the preferred method of transportation here!) ride from the Casa is Punta Sur, the easternmost part of the island and Mexico overall. If you walk all the way to the ruins, you will see a plaque that says – if you see a sunrise at this point, it means you are the first to see the sunrise in the whole country of Mexico – which of course I took as a dare.

In addition to beautiful sunrises, numerous iguana sightings and slightly entertaining statues exhibition, the Punta Sur footpath takes you around the tip of the island right by the water as far as National Reef Park Garrafon. After an amazing discovery of ginormous, ancient-looking sea shells along the shore, I even took a dip in rocky but clear turquoise waters. And an added bonus: I saw no one… one of those rare times when you can feel in the moment without being interrupted.

Another short ride away and also worth a visit is the turtle farm where you can see the local preservation efforts to maintain the turtle population and possibly get a chance to “handle” just-born turtles and other sea creatures.

For more pics, visit my Isla Mujeres set on Flickr.

Moments that make me happy (Part 1 of x): The snow

Posted by & filed under Photograpy, Places/Locales.

I think happiness comes in small… moments. Like tiny bursts of falling stars. It’s nothing tangible, but this light and fuzzy feeling that makes you float for just a few seconds (longer if you are lucky). It’s that instant when your face breaks into an uncontrollable smile. Or when you catch something truly mesmerizing and it feels like the world around you just stops moving.

I know most of you can name a few of these happy moments, right of the bat. Holding your first child, getting behind the wheel of that shiny new sports car, looking into the eyes of a man you love… Well, you get the idea. Ironically, my recent happy moment is so very basic, but in a way, it kind of defines my true self. Read Full Post »

Destination: San Diego

Posted by & filed under Photograpy, Places/Locales.

A few months ago, I had a chance to spend some time in San Diego, CA area. It came highly recommended from people who’ve been there before and who couldn’t wait to move back. I, myself, is a big fan of Pacific Coast Highway, but I never made it south of Los Angeles. Read Full Post »

Wheels, parachutes, cyclones and hot dogs, of course!

Posted by & filed under NYC & Boroughs, Photograpy, Places/Locales, Technique.

I am embarrassed to admit, but in my 21 years of living in Tri-state area, I’ve never been to Coney Island… until now!

The home to the famous Deno’s Amusement Park with its iconic Wonder Wheel, the Parachute Jump tower with its ever changing light display, the Cyclone, one of the oldest wooden roller coasters, and of course, Nathans hot dog stand. Read Full Post »

Rhubarb hooray!

Posted by & filed under Food, Recipe.

A friend of mine requested a strawberry-rhubarb pie for her dinner party. Since I haven’t yet perfected my homemade pie dough skills, I opted out for this crisp (aka crumb) recipe, which turned out to be oh-so-satisfactory. The crunchy topping, the gooey sweet and tart filling, but what really made it… was that exotic cardamom kick. Mmmmm! Read Full Post »

Farewell to winter…

Posted by & filed under NYC & Boroughs, Photograpy, Technique.

I’ve been meaning to post a few pics of the last snow storm we had in NYC for awhile now (since early February to be exact!). With the spring finally here (yeay!), it’s now or never.

Winter (around the holidays, especially) is always a nice time to be in NYC. I’d have even called it “magical”, but Disney made sure to kill that spirit in me on my recent trip to Orlando. It always feels quite festive with tons of activity around the city: people are out and rushing around, shopping is on full blast, streets and store windows are lit up and decorated, lines are longer everywhere, kids are ice skating, etc. Read Full Post »

Lulled in Prague

Posted by & filed under Photograpy, Places/Locales.

This entry is rather belated, but it would be a crime not to mention Prague, the last stop of my two-week trip to Europe last summer. After hassle and bustle of Russia, Prague was a perfect, “fairy tale” destination… visually-appealing, easy-going, and just overall relaxing.

Arriving late afternoon (Day 1) without much research/planning, I ventured out for a walk before dinner. Since I was staying in Mala Strana, I followed the human “traffic” to Charles Bridge which was easily recognizable by two towers on either side of the river and about 30 statues throughout its length. The view of the city from Mala Strana’s side was beyond compare. It was impossible to put down the camera even for a second. Read Full Post »

Falling leaves…

Posted by & filed under NYC & Boroughs, Photograpy, Places/Locales.

Fall is my favorite time of the year. And because it doesn’t seem to last as long anymore as I remember from my childhood (blame it on global warming, I guess?), I always try to get away on the weekends to enjoy that distinct, slightly damp crispiness in the air, the changing colors of the trees, and that shuffling sound you make with your feet (or at least, the sound I like to make with my feet!). Read Full Post »

White nights in Russian Venice

Posted by & filed under Photograpy, Places/Locales.

I spent only two days in St. Petersburg, but it was probably during the best time of the year known as the White Nights (the end of June)… when it never gets completely dark, when the whole city is alive at all hours of the night with crowds of people congregating along River Neva to watch the opening and closing of the city’s some 22 drawbridges (besides other organized and less organized cultural events). Read Full Post »

From Russia with love…

Posted by & filed under Photograpy, Places/Locales.

My recent visit to Moscow (my first stop on a two-week trip to Europe) was a lot different than usual (aka visiting family). Growing up in Moscow, I was only exposed to some of the city’s attractions, sort of like most native New Yorkers that have never been to Statue of Liberty. This time I decided to “attack” the city as any other tourist would. In fact, before I left I even went through Frommer’s Tour Guide of Moscow. Read Full Post »

For dinner tonight: Ginger shrimp in coconut sauce

Posted by & filed under Food, Recipe.

Posting recipes wasn’t in my original idea for this blog. But tonight I was thinking.. Why not?

I’ve made this one a few times (aka it’s fully tested). It’s very, very simple, and yet it never fails to satisfy. It combines four of my favorite ingredients: ginger, garlic, lime and cilantro with coconut milk and shrimp. How can anyone go wrong? Read Full Post »

As the night falls…

Posted by & filed under NYC & Boroughs, Photograpy, Places/Locales, Technique.

I was recently asked to do a photo shoot at a Williamsburg-based restaurant (possibly more on that later). Having been to the restaurant before, I knew that I definitely needed a tripod. Like so many places in Brooklyn, it really comes alive at night: dimmed soft lights inside, colorful street lights outside, open windows, cool tunes… in other words, cozy, trendy, inviting. But to capture that “feel” in a low light situation can be a challenge… which is why I find Live View function on my Canon Rebel XSi very handy. In situations when it is difficult to look through the viewfinder (i.e. when it’s dark), it allows me to change framing, exposure, focus, etc. and see how it affects the overall image before I take the shot. Read Full Post »

Lillies & dragonflies

Posted by & filed under Events, Macro, NYC & Boroughs, Photograpy.

As customary every year, the NYBG hosted their Water Lily Concert Series this summer. The night I attended, the main attraction was a live concert with Gypsy Jazz Caravan and Saxophonist Sedric Choukroun. Before the event, attendees enjoyed after-hours access to the grounds which is always nice (aka lack of crowds). Specifically worth mentioning was the Monet’s Garden and the Conservatory courtyard pools filled with blooming water lilies and lotuses with buzzing dragonflies in tow. Read Full Post »

Room service anyone?

Posted by & filed under Bar/Lounge/Wine Bar Review, NYC & Boroughs, Restaurant Review.

This past Monday night, I found myself in Hell’s Kitchen having dinner with a girlfriend at a Thai place called Breeze. It was mostly very forgettable except for the mango mousse dessert they had in the special Groupon pre-fix menu. Not a fan of desserts, I found this to be airy and smooth and sweet and tart and very chilled… in other words… a happy ending! Read Full Post »

Linden season

Posted by & filed under Macro, NYC & Boroughs, Photograpy, Places/Locales.

I am ashamed to admit it, but after working in the city for more than a decade and living in the vicinity of Central Park for over two years, I’ve never noticed the abundance of linden trees until this spring. I decided to walk home through Central Park after a long day at work. And it was just one of those perfect spring days when it’s warm, but not hot; when the sun is on its way down, but still warms your face with its rays; when people around you are still going somewhere, but their pace is much slower and more relaxed. It was almost like having an out-of-body experience… watching myself strolling and smiling for no reason at all, feeling happy. And the air was filled with unmistakably sweet and powerful fragrance of linden flowers. Read Full Post »

Orchid show 2012

Posted by & filed under Events, Macro, NYC & Boroughs, Photograpy, Places/Locales, Technique.

This year was my fourth year at the New York Botanical Garden‘s Orchid Show. I can’t say that I like orchids, but then who needs an excuse to visit the NYBG.

The crowds were thick as usual and unfortunately, it was cloudy, so the conditions weren’t great. It also seemed like there were less orchids on display this year. So I started getting disappointed, until I realized the main part of the show, aka Vertical Gardens, was towards the very end. The idea of having orchids in cascading “hanging” arrangements was pretty original; however, I was a lot more interested in capturing them at a much closer angle. Read Full Post »

Costa Rica: a Macro Paradise

Posted by & filed under Macro, Photograpy, Places/Locales, Technique.

My first vacation after acquiring a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro lens was a 5-day trip to Costa Rica. I stayed near La Fortuna, famous for its Arenal Volcano, in the north center of the country. It was December, the end of the wet season, but to my luck it only rained 1 out of 5 days. Read Full Post »