Friday, June 14, 2019

21st Century Scandinavian

21st Century Scandinavian.  He traded his eye contacts for a retro bicycle spectacles.  He quit smoking tobacco on his Danish hand crafted pipe.  Nowadays he just indulge in some rolled up unknown leaves while enjoying a pint of diluted beer.  Memo to self:  Must go back to Denmark to purchase more adult beverages.  He is conscious of his beard.  Memo to self number 2:  Been at the barber two days ago so it’s time to return.  Is it also time to take a holiday to the south?  Memo to self number 3: Check weather in Nice, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur.  Life is good.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Garmo Stave Church

Have lost track of our days in Scandinavia.  I do know that at this time we are in Norway.  Lillehammer to be exact.

The image is the Garmo Stave Church situated at the Maihaugen museum at Lillehammer in OpplandNorway.  It is one of the buildings that Anders Sandvig brought to this place.  We were told that Sandvig must have bought over 20 houses at this place because he can.  Just kidding.  Actually, he did buy the properties in this area but I forgot the reasoning behind his purchase.

A word or two about church life in Scandinavia.  There are lots of churches - mostly State Lutheran churches.  More than 80% of the population chose to be members of the church and yet almost all do not attend worship service except for baptism and/or first communion.  Quite frankly, I find this very strange.

Nota Bene:  A stave church is a medieval wooden Christian church building once common in north-western Europe. The name derives from the building's structure of post and lintel construction, a type of timber framing where the load-bearing ore-pine posts are called stafr in Old Norse (stav in modern Norwegian). 

Hope your day is going well.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Bergen Harbor - the City of Umbrellas

Third day in Scandinavia:  Landed in  Bergen from Copenhagen via ferry.  They say Bergen is a City of Umbrellas.  The Bergians are proud of it.  Sure enough it rained the whole time we were there.

From rain to alcohol:

Norway is interesting when it comes to alcohol restriction.  It's hard to buy alcohol in Norway.  Unlike in the States, one can easily buy alcohol beverages in grocery stores.  Norwegian law is very strict.  Perhaps to a point that alcohol consumption is discouraged.  That's why Norwegians go to Denmark to buy wine and liquor.

We had light lunch at the harbor in Bergen, and the only beer one can have in any restaurant is 2.5% alcohol.  That's not even beer in my opinion.  I seem to remember in chemistry class that alcohol has to be at least 5% to be called beer.  I couldn't find wine except at the hotel.  Very expensive.  Like four times the price of a bottle one would pay here in the States.  I suppose that's typical across the board.

Still I think Norway is worth visiting.  The country offers scenic landscapes and fjords.  It's one of the most beautiful places I have seen.  More on this on the next post.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Sofie's Choice

Just give her sunshine so she can get a nice tan.  (Scandinavian women love a nice tan to a point of skying topless.)  She is happy with sipping a mixed cocktail outdoor at Nyhaven, which might just be the convenient place to get a tan.  Maybe a piece of Danish bun.  Or Hygge.  She has a tendency to shut the outside world and commune with her inner self.  A followup coffee from Costa Rica - but don't tell them where it came from.  She a girl from Randers, Denmark.  Maybe somebody could write a song about her.  Much like the Girl from Ipanema.  Life is good.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Quaint Norwegian Village

Charming little village in Geiranger, Norway.  Perhaps my favorite of all the places we stayed at while in Scandinavia.  Serene waterscape with the snow capped mountains behind it.  Fresh heavenly air, green hills and laid back countenance.  Away from it all.  Sooner or later, the solitude it offers will go away.  I try to enjoy it while it lasts.  Later on at night, the cruise ships will start docking.  Then in the morning I'll have to deal with the rude tourists who just arrived.  Suddenly it felt they invaded us with their oversized down jackets and pointy cheese cutter hats and their atrocious manner and ubiquitous selfies. Ugh.  Nothing lasts forever.

Hope your day is going well.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Dapper Danish Mystery Man

He's a mystery man.  He wears his yellow straw fedora slightly tilted so it's hard to see his eyes.   In fact, he has no eyes.  His face turns green just before he disappears from the public view.  He ties his scarf in twirls of eight - only he knows how to do it.  He strides to the rhythm of Mussorgsky.  He is a Dapper Dan.  And he is Danish.

Friday, June 07, 2019

Lovely Oslo

Historical.  The place where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded, natives are tall and blond and have blue eyes, herring is a must-eat, pickled herring, herring with mustard sauce, raw herring, a place where everything is expensive, bottled water costs $5, price of diluted beer is not too far from that of water, a glass of wine costs three times the price of the bottle in the States, almost everything is regulated, a farmer cannot just sell his farm to anybody but to the oldest child, the maximum alcohol content of beer is 3.5%, some are less than that, one cannot name their children apart from the list that the government provides, almost everyone is registered Lutheran but never visited a church except a few times in a lifetime such as baptism and first communion, a happy place to be in - if you are a Norwegian.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Wild Sunflowers in our Neighborhood

Just arrived from our 19-day excursion in Scandinavia/California.  It was the first time I didn't bring my pro cameras.  Just my faithful iPhone 7 plus.  I'm actually happy with some of the images I captured but they would require some minor post processing.  I'll try to post some images on this blog as soon as they are processed.

During the entire trip, I felt liberated without a camera strapped on my neck.  As I mentioned in my previous post, photography is a young man's sport.  It requires waking up early to catch the golden hour, a lot of walking while hauling a couple of cameras, maybe an extra lens for backup, photo gears such as filters and cleaning kit, maybe a tripod, more walking -  all of these guaranteed to eventually break one's back as time goes on.  Thanks to advancement in technology, the handy smartphone can capture some decent photos when done appropriately.  But I'm not ready to get rid of my photography equipment.  Not just yet.

This sunflower arrangement was taken with the iPhone.  Found and took some home today while fetching our mails at our mail box, which was a bock away from our house here in Georgetown, Texas.  A lot of these are just wild and they're huge.  As they say: everything is big in Texas.   Hope you enjoy.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Children are the Future

Between December 16, 2012 and January 3, 2013, I traveled back to the Philippines with my family. My wife arranged this time so we can have reunion with relatives and old acquaintances, trace our roots, and see the sights in various places within the country. Having lost contact with relatives on my side of the family, I did not care much about tracing my roots or meeting relatives. However, I was definitely interested in touring the country, to see both its rural and urban landscapes. Was this interest driven mainly by nostalgia for what used to be familiar, some sort of a pilgrimage to one's native land, or was it simply my passion for street photography? I don't really know but for whatever reason, I was drawn to the idea of traveling to take pictures of places with people in various settings and lifestyles. This photo excursion covered half the length of the Philippine archipelago, starting from Panay island in the mid-section of the archipelago to as far north as the town of Sagada in the Mountain Province. Photos taken were varied, consisting of people in market places of local towns, in rice fields, beaches, mountains, urban malls, slums, city sidewalks, etc.; all showing common people in various walks of life.

Throughout this photo-op I was surprised by the reception from the local folks. Perhaps it was my graying hair or my Westernized bearing, but most local grown-ups looked at me with leery eyes, suspicious of what I was up to. Twenty-five years of absence from this place has made me an outsider. That must explain why the natives gave me those dirty looks, or turned their backs away from the camera, or maintained such phlegmatic faces. I shot their pictures just the same. But the children were different. They looked at me directly, with that candid curiosity wondering who this stranger could be that visited their village. Some were more daring and called me out as "Cano! Cano!", short for "Americano" even though my gray hairs were no closer to the typical blonde hair expected of a foreigner. Others interviewed me, asking my name and where I was staying. They seemed to be open to know and befriend me. They were drawn to me as I was to them, for they were eager to show what they do and where they live. More so, I was captivated by this quiet contentment that they exude. They all seem to be satisfied with what they have and confident with what they can take on whatever the circumstance may be.

I wanted to highlight my encounters with these children. Hence, although I did take pictures of people of all ages I decided to come up with a short series limited only to photos of children. For this series, I shot mostly at a close range. Most of the images here were shot with myVoigtlander 20mm lens on a full frame Canon 5d Mark ii. The 20mm I have can only be operated on manual focus so it was a bit of a challenge although I was not so much concerned about the sharpness of the image as I was focused more on the feelings associated with the moments of capture. Also with the wide angle lens, I was forced to shoot real close to the subject, which I really loved because the results usually provided more intimate views. Plus it allows for interesting dynamics with the subject. If I'm smiling and happy, usually the subject will reciprocate the same sentiment.

The series documents their stories. Although the images were captured in different places, there is a commonality to all. There is intrinsic beauty in the simplistic lives of these children. In the end, it's about them -- in a time when God placed them. I chose the title "Bukas Na Kami," which is a play on words in the Pilipino language. It could either mean "We are open" or "Tomorrow it's us." I'll let the viewers decide which translation they like.

© 2016 Rob Castro

Original essay appeared at January 25, 2013

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Sunflower on a Gloomy Afternoon in Georgetown, Texas

The builder of our house gave us a Post Office Box.  Never had one before so I feel special.  Like an English business man with his own PO Box.  But mine is rather small.  And I'm not an Englishman.

I have to empty the mail box everyday otherwise the succeeding mails may not get inside.  It's a block away from our house.  I go there with my cowboy straw hat and my pair of Doc Martens.  A rather odd combination.  I like odd.  I like weird.

So I after grabbed my mail and headed back, I saw this Sunflower by the way side.  It was wild.  A lot of wild flowers growing in Texas this time of the year.  I had to take a picture of it.

As anyone could see, it looked like it was shot on a vintage Polaroid camera.  Always have loved that look.  I still have one.  The photos come out low-fi, rather faded color, and not very sharp.  Except this  one was actually captured on a very handy iPhone 7 plus and processed using the Instant Mobile App.  The lesson here is that the best camera is the one you have at the moment.  Learn to utilize it to its maximum potential.

Hope your day is going well.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Peter Gabriel Stole My Face While I was Surfing the Milky Way

Hey Lady, can I get your number?

Absolutely not, I'm so much in a hurry.

Where are you going?

I'm going to Woodstock 2120.  The band KISS seventh generation is playing.  And the ghost of Moby will be there.  But first I need to get a decent wig. 

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

On the Road Again

Willie Nelson approved Pinot Noir.  This was captured when we drove our cars to Texas.  We were at a hotel somewhere in Fort Stockton, a rather sleepy little town a few miles past El Paso.  There were no restaurants close by.  The only thing to eat would be delivered pizza, which we weren't too thrilled to have for dinner.  Good thing we brought some wines from California.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Red Poppies in Georgetown

While getting lost trying to find the office to get my Texan Driver's License.  Turned out that the office moved. Found out that the office was a block away from where we now live.  Oh well. At least we got to see the wild red poppies along the streets of Old Town Georgetown.

Seeds from poppies in Europe were sent to Georgetown right after World War 1.  An American serving in the Military sent them to his mother.  She planted them at her home which is now 507 E 7th Street.

From there, the birds, bees and people spread them down over the Old Town.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

One of these things don't belong

We are now in Texas.  Trying to get a quick break from unpacking our goods.  Just some old images from my Instagram Gallery.  Hope you are having a good day.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Breakfast in California

We drove our two cars to Texas.  Took us three days.  Two nights. 1400 miles.  Left our cars at our new house and flew back to California for the final move.

We are moving to Georgetown, Texas in a few days so this is one of those final breakfasts we are having in Chino Hills, California.  We gave away our breakfast nook and our dining table so we have been eating on our coffee table while still in California.  The meal you see above was prepared differently.  The cut tomatoes were fresh and the egg was cooked in the oven.  Salsa was added for some fixing.  Bon appetit.

Hope your day is going well.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Austin City by Night

Austin has progressed since the last time we were there - about three years ago.  Back then, these high rise buildings were still under construction.  Austin expects more than 30,000 people to reside here and its neighboring cities in two years as Apple intends to make it their headquarter.  This is going to be good for the economy as there will be more demand for construction activities, food supplies, real estate and so on.  This too means that majority of the transplant will be from California.  Austin is probably a good fit for them as it also shares some of California's liberal values.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Mimi, RIP

August 5, 2005 - February 10, 2019.  And we were excited to bring her to Texas with us.  I suppose she was always a California Girl.

Rest in Peace,  Mimi.  Rose and I miss you.  Our hearts cry out.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

But We Won the War

This used to be barracks of the U.S. Army in the island of Corregidor, Philippines during World War II.
On May 1942, the invading Japanese forces captured Corregidor, which was the remaining obstacle to the 14th Japanese Imperial Army of Lieutenant General Masaharu Homma.  Three years later, the U.S. Army would recapture the island, and the war would be over.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Still Life with Existential Clock

Does anybody really know what time it is
Does anybody really care
If so I can't imagine why
We've all got time enough to cry

Robert Lamm/Chicago

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Still Life with Red Hot Chili Peppers

I was having an inkling to shoot again.  Something.  Whatever.  It doesn't matter.  So I took out my Fuji X100F  with the teleconverter lens and started to look for anything I could shoot.  This was the first thing I saw - so here it is.  Still life with Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Don't you love it?

Except for the auto focus, I shot this manually at f2.8 at 1/125 sec at 6400 iso.  I did not intend to render it to look like it was shot on vintage camera but after playing around with Nik's Analog Efex Pro 2, I really like this version.  It's warm, and it looked it was shot with the Fuji Asti 100F, which is one of my favorite film.  Don't think it's still in the market.  I would like to get my hands on it if it were.

Hope your day is going well.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Five Feet Waiting

Pictured here are the tour guides waiting for the rest of the tourists to climb up from the dance floor.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Waiting Inside the Cave

I believe this was at the Samaguing Cave in Sagada.  This was in 2012.  My memory is failing.  The cave is made up of limestones.  The bat dung is an additional feature.  My first time going to this place was in the early 80s.  I was more adventurous.  I realized in my second visit how dangerous the trek was inside the cave.  On the last stretch of our journey,  I nearly fell in a what seemed to be a bottomless pit.  My grip was slipping as the rocks were slippery from the mud and the bat dung.  Desperate, I used my forehead to prop myself up.  My forehead was barely healing from a previous accident.  I forgot about the pain as my natural instinct was to survive.  It was also an embarrassing sight.  But I'm alive.

Hope your day is going well.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Roasted Eggplants and Chickpeas with Tahini Dressing

So for this time, we're trying to be healthy.  Rose roasted some eggplants.  Also some chickpeas, which is a source of protein for Vegan diet.  Then made a Tahini sauce from the tahini dressing mixed with garlic, yogurt, lime juice and salt to taste.  The sauce is placed over the eggplants, followed by the chickpeas and the chopped raw parsley.  I added a dash of red hot chili pepper for color and some bite.  A glass of Pinot Grigio is paired with it.  Lovely.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Boy Sagada

Sagada is a town in the Cordillera Mountains, within the Philippines’ Mountain Province.  The forefathers of the local folks were head hunters.  Their culture was very tribal.  It was a culture of "an eye for an eye - tooth for tooth" amongst tribes.  Fortunately for visitors, headhunting has ceased a long time ago.

The first time I visited the place was in the early 80s.  Back then, it was dubbed as the "Shangri-la of the Philippines".  The place was still pristine.  Not many tourists knew about it.  Fast forward in 2012, I went back for a second visit.  It has become a hang out for European tourists, mostly backpackers.  Sadly, the place has become commercial.  One can buy beer, pizza and yogurt - hardly the staple for these Mountain People.  The local folks have been spoiled by the generosity of the tourists.  Maybe a good thing, I am not sure as I am not a sociologist.  I suspect it has its downside.  Not sure if I am ever going to return to this once lovely place.

Friday, February 01, 2019

The Boss

"I demand a recount!  And bring me a double double hamburger with everything on it.  And I want my fries warm and crispy.  Skip the dressing as I am on a diet."

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Italian Coffee

Sometimes a cup of coffee is just what it takes to start the day.  Wonderful.

Here are a few myths about coffee:
  1. Coffee is not addictive.
  2. Coffee will always keep one awake.
  3. Expresso has more caffeine than Americano coffee.
  4. Italians drink their coffee with their breakfast.
  5. Italians drink Cappuccino after a heavy meal.
  6. Dark roast coffee has more caffeine than light roast.
  7. Expresso is often drank while sitting down at the coffee bar.
  8. It doesn't matter if coffee is drank in paper cup or in ceramic cup.
  9. Freezing coffee will preserve its quality.
  10. This present writer knows what he is talking about.  

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Statue of David

I captured the Statue of David back in May of 2017 but hesitated to edit it because there are already millions of images of the iconic statue.  In the age of smart phones, almost everyone who visited the Accademia Gallery in Florence probably took a photo of David.  Originally, the statue was located at the piazza but in 1873, it was relocated to the gallery to protect it from damage.  I'm told that during World War II, the Italians feared that the statue would be stolen so a replica was created while the real statue was hidden in secret.

Following the other tourists, I captured David with the iPhone 7 plus.  Hope your day is going well.

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Continuing Ballad of Mildred and Alberto

Mildred: Dude, show some respect.

Alberto:  Si, señora.  Tu gusto beber?  Quieres una bebida?

Mildred: Do I look like I'm thirsty? Of course I am.

Alberto: What do you want to drink?

Mildred: Beer. Just pour it all on top of my head.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Interpreting the Unknown Statue

I am not sure exactly where I took this photo.  It may be somewhere in Northern Italy but I couldn't exactly pinpoint where.  Rose tells me that this was close to the leaning tower of Pisa.  

The image has been in my iPhone for almost two years now.  I do remember why I shot it though.  I thought the net that was partially covering the building created a nice soft background.  It made the statue pop out.  I also liked the pastel colors of the architecture.  

As for the statue itself, I have no idea who it is and what it represents.  What I always noticed are scallop shells in this kind of statues.  Now, the scallop shell I was informed symbolized purity.  In Catholicism, the clam or scallop shell is symbolically referred to Mary, who had Jesus Christ in her body when he was conceived.  I seriously doubt the artist was portraying Mary here but who knows.  In fact, I'm not even sure if the statue is a man or a woman.

There seems to be two dolphins next to the statue's feet.  I couldn't find its symbolism in Renaissance art based on my cursory review.  So maybe they are not dolphins.

There seems to be a bear or a dog trying to climb up a tree.  Dogs are often depicted to symbolize protection, loyaltyfidelityfaithfulnesswatchfulness, and love.  So maybe it is a dog.  I believe the tree might be his toilet.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Georgia on My Mind (ii)

"Nothing is real.  And there is nothing to get hung about. " - John Lennon

"Nostalgia doesn’t age, it only gets better. We tend to remember the past more fondly, conveniently forgetting the more troublesome aspects. The future, however, is a tough racket. Because the future always changes and it changes in unexpected ways. It’s nearly impossible to keep up with it."  - Atmtx Photo Blog

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Still Life with Spanish Wine

If you were to rank the items on the dining table in order of importance, which would it be?

a.  Red wine

b.  Cup cake

c.  Apricot

d.  Table Cloth

e.  Bowl with unknown items

Wednesday, January 23, 2019


How many hats can one have?  Just as how many sunglasses one have.

Hope your day is going well.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Columbus was Buried Here

Catedral de Santa María de la Sede aka Seville Cathedral houses the coffin of Christopher Columbus, who was Italian but was able to convinced the Spanish Queen that he found the fastest route to sail to India to pick up some spices.  History shows that he landed in the Americas instead.  Thinking he was in India, he called the natives Indios or Indians.  

The location of the remains of Christopher Columbus are controversial.  As many as five churches have claimed that they have his remains.  According to ThoughtCo:  "Columbus traveled more after death than many people do in life! In 1537, his bones and those of his son Diego were sent from Spain to Santo Domingo to lie in the cathedral there. As time went on, Santo Domingo became less important to the Spanish Empire and in 1795 Spain ceded all of Hispaniola, including Santo Domingo, to France as part of a peace treaty. Columbus' remains were judged too important to fall into French hands, so they were sent to Havana. But in 1898, Spain went to war with the United States, and the remains were sent back to Spain lest they fall to the Americans. Thus ended Columbus' fifth round-trip journey to the New World…or so it seemed."

Monday, January 21, 2019

Preparing for the Semana Santa

We call it the Holy Week but the Spaniards call it Semana Santa.  This was shot in Seville days before the Semana Santa.  Seville is one of the most popular places to celebrate this holiday.  The worker is making sure all the furnitures are shined before the tourists arrive.  We happened to be there early.

Another throwback - shot in 2014 with my then go-to camera the Fujifilm X-pro 1 with the 35 mm lens.  Catedral de Santa María de la Sede aka Seville Cathedral.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Last days of December 2018

Might have been the last photo I have taken in 2018.  Another find at the park during our morning walk.

Hope your day is going well.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Open Market in Marrakesh

This was in Marrakesh, Morocco.  Another oldie image shot in 2014.  I didn't edit this image back then because I hated Morocco.  I had imagined it as Graham Nash sung about it in the 1969 song "Marrakesh Express."  No, there was no smelling of garden in ones hair.  No animal carpet wall to wall.  No colored cottons hanging in the air.  Nash must have been high on acid when he went there.  The Moroccans were wild.  Especially the men.  At night, the men would be dancing in the street and touching people.  Live music droning everywhere you go.  I felt like I was having a bad acid trip.  Still I'm glad we went for the experience.  Though I'm not going back there.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Bust Stop in Lima

Just random.  I just like shooting whatever I fancy.  Paradero is Spanish for whereabouts.  But it could also mean bus stop.  The root word para means stop.  It's the same word we have in the Philippines, which have been colonized by the Spaniards for three hundred years.

Taken with the iPhone while on a bus in Lima, Peru.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

After the Rain

Southern Californians celebrate whenever it rains.  We live in the desert so any rain is good.  Captured during our morning walk.  I dig the geometry and the reflection so I decided to take a photo of the scene.

Hope your day is going well.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Tavern in Madrid

Another old image I've taken in 2014 but  never got around to edit it.  Mainly because at that time I thought it was boring.  This is in Huertas, one of the best places to find tapas bar in Madrid.  It's close to the Prado Museum.  The streets begin to get more active after nine o'clock in the evening.  I'm told that the Spaniards eat their supper around this time, and don't finish until two in the morning.  No wonder they have to take their siestas.  They always stay up late.

In major cities of Europe, most of the streets are not parallel unlike here in the States.  That is why they give direction as "turn right" or "turn left".  The convention here in the States is to "go north" or "heard south" and so on.  One thing I have noticed in Spain is that the street signs are located on the buildings.  This tavern was at the corner of the street.  Can you identify the streets based on the building?

Hope your day is going well.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Building Under Construction as Art

This is a modern architecture in Lima, Peru.  It was inspired by the Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi.  Just kidding.

One of the buildings under construction in urban Lima, Peru.  Maybe you think that the Peruvians have developed self-constructing architectures without any need for workers.  Not really.   It was a lazy Sunday so the workers are at church.  Well some of them.  Some are with their friends - drinking Pisco Sour.  It's similar to the Whiskey Sour.  Only that Pisco distilled from Peruvian grapes is used.  Yes, it's an alcoholic beverage.  Although the political police would like to call it adult beverage instead.  I tried the Pisco Sour and it was an acquired taste for me.  After three glasses, you acquire the taste and want some more.