Sunset, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico Friday, Oct 5 2012 

Friday is the day when we celebrate the end of the work week with simple posts.

While I was looking for photos of my sister for yesterday’s post, I saw some really nice colors from a series of photos taken during a few sunsets while we were vacationing in Puerto Vallarta in 2011.

Sunset, Puerto Vallarta

Sunset, Puerto Vallarta

This one is particularly lovely, as it captures the last ray of sun before it disappeared under the horizon. And look at that tiny little sailboat, going on its merry way!

I remember telling my sister while we watched this scene: “Not only is it January, it’s actually a single-digit date in January.” Our Northern hemisphere minds find it hard to comprehend being on the beach, watching the sunset, on January 9 of any year.

I hope we get to do it again in January 2013.

Have a great weekend, everybody.

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My Sister’s Birthday Thursday, Oct 4 2012 

As I write this, it is intended to be the October 4 post, but back in the homeland of Bosnia, it’s already Friday, October 5, and the birthday of one of my favorite people in the world, my sister Una.

She is also my favorite traveling companion. She likes to say that she doesn’t need to own a camera, because when she goes somewhere worth photographing, I’m usually there to do it for her.

I never get tired of taking her pictures.

Happy Birthday, Seki.

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, October 2007

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, October 2007

Dubrovnik, Croatia, June 2009

Dubrovnik, Croatia, June 2009

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 2010

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 2010

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, January 2011

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, January 2011

Rome, Italy, July 2012

Rome, Italy, July 2012

Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico Friday, Feb 4 2011 

As I mentioned before, this past January I went to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for some well-deserved rest and relaxation. Alas, I get antsy if I spend too much time sitting by a pool or on a beach, so I eventually have to do some exploring.

Puerto Vallarta is a fairly large town, built on tourism, where flashy condominium buildings, villas and hotels meet the traditional, humble dwellings of the local workforce. Dominating the downtown area is the unique Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, with its signature crowned tower.

Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe

The church was being built throughout the opening decades of the 20th century, and the main tower was not completed until 1952. The tower concludes with quite an interesting crown, which was said to resemble the crown worn by the mistress of emperor Maximilian in the 1860s. On top of the crown is a cross sitting on what seems to be a soccer ball.

Although the church is rather prominent in the city, it wasn’t easy getting a clean look at it. I climbed up and down some side streets, and failed to convince a hotel official to make a restaurant available to me where I would be directly above the church. From the street level, the view of the tower always included power lines going in several different directions. It was quite frustrating, until I decided that the network of cables could be its own subject and embraced my misfortune; the resulting photo is shown here.

Power Lines and Church

Power Lines and Church

My luck changed when I got to the street behind the church; a door was open and I saw two women sitting across from each other at a desk. One of them seemed to be some kind of an official and fortunately knew more English than I knew Spanish, and, even more fortunately, asked the other lady to accompany me into the inner courtyard to take some photos. It turned out that the church now also doubles as a school. As quickly and as respectfully as I was able, I fired off a total of four shots: two with my digital Canon 7D, then one with my Elan 7 camera with Ilford HP5 Plus black-and-white film in it, and, finally, one shot with my Mamiya 645 1000s and Kodak Ektachrome slide film. That shot turned out to be the winner, with a lot of nice details and pleasing colors that I tweaked just a little.

Humpback Whale, Banderas Bay, Mexico Wednesday, Jan 19 2011 

It’s been more than a year and a half since my last beach vacation (Dubrovnik, Croatia), so I was looking forward to doing absolutely nothing for a week in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, this January. Of all the activities that the tourist agencies bombarded me with, the only one of any interest to me was the Whale Photo Safari, as it was an opportunity to take photos of wild animals in their natural habitats.

Humpback whales spend most of the year in the cold waters of Alaska, but every winter, they migrate south for breeding; some end up around Hawaii, but most go to Mexico. Seeing all the photos on the brochures, I thought to myself, if I could get just one photo like this, it would be worth it. So, here it is.

Humpback Whale, Banderas Bay, Mexico

Humpback Whale, Banderas Bay, Mexico

Let it be said right away that your chances of getting a good photo at this excursion are minimal and greatly depend on a few key factors, with reaction speed as a common denominator. First, if all you have is an iPhone or a point-and-shoot that takes forever to snap a picture, you better just put it away. Catching a photo of the whales (or dolphins) as they breach the water is an exercise in futility, because you have a window of about a second and have absolutely no warning. Further, even if you have a fairly decent lens on your dSLR, it helps if you also have a fast continuous shooting mode; the photo here is the second in a series of 8 that my Canon 7D fired off in only one second. The others are almost unusable, despite sharp focus and a shutter speed of 1/400 sec. This is because, in addition to all the other challenges, the boat you’re on swings violently on the massive waves of the open ocean.

Whale, 100% crop

In other words, you have to have the camera ready at all times, and scan the waters around you constantly, fighting the motion sickness caused by looking through the mercilessly unsteady viewfinder. And if you’re lucky enough to grab the photo, you won’t care that your horizon isn’t level or that your boat was in a less-than-ideal spot and most of the whale is in shadow and you can’t see well the intricate details on its rugged skin, covered with barnacles and other growth. You’ll be happy that you didn’t puke your guts out and that you enjoyed a truly “Wow!” moment in your life.

As a bonus shot, here’s another whale breaching a little farther away; however, I cropped the photo to about a 100% so it only appears closer. Notice that the angle is a little more fortunate, so the grooves of the underbelly become more visible.

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