Thursday, March 31, 2011

Barcelona Balconies

These beautiful balconies were seen in the La Rambla district of central Barcelona, Spain. The ornate ironwork, wall murals and painted shutters all add up to architectural  perfection.

The Barri Gòtic ("Gothic Quarter" in Catalan) is the centre of the old city of Barcelona. Many of the buildings date from medieval times, some from as far back as the Roman settlement of Barcelona. Catalan modernisme architecture (often known as Art Nouveau in the rest of Europe), developed between 1885 and 1950 and left an important legacy in Barcelona. A great number of these buildings are World Heritage Sites. Especially remarkable is the work of architect Antoni Gaudí, which can be seen throughout the city. His best known work is the immense but still unfinished church of the Sagrada Família, which has been under construction since 1882, and is still financed by private donations. As of 2007, completion is planned for 2026.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hotel Ibah

The prestigious Bali resort, steeped in Royal heritage, consists of 17 uniquely designed villas and suites in a spectacular location on the gently sloping valley of the Campuhan River. Situated on two hectares of crown land in the heart of Ubud, Warwick Ibah Luxury Villas & Spa is created from a dream of Balinese Royalty. A hotel built to share the rejuvenating qualities of this special place with visitors of other cultures. 
You will find Warwick Ibah at Campuhan, a place where two rivers meet, in the cultural and artistic center of the island.< This classic Bali resort is located 5-minutes walking distance to Ubud’s main shopping area, and about 45-minutes drive from the airport, offers a truly unique experience. Enjoy the rejuvenating qualities of ancient holy grounds and share in the spirit, the beauty and the culture of Ubud Bali.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Oude Griffie - Old Recorders House, Brugge

The Oude Griffie, or Old Recorder's House, is a beautiful medieval building dating from the 16th century in the centre of Brugge, Belgium which is currently the district court. The intricate and extravagant design is typical of Flemish Renaissance.

Monday, March 28, 2011

San Sebastian City Hall

This magnificent sandstone building used to be the casino in San Sebastian in the Basque region of North Spain. It is now the city hall where the city council govern after the casino closed in 1924 due to the prohibition of gambling. The building was built in 1887 in the Gardens of Alderdi-Eder of San Sebastián. On April 14 of 1928 an agreement was reached to open in this building the Center of Attraction and Tourism. On 20 January of 1945 the council was moved to this building. The architects Alday and Arizmendi amended the initial project in 1943 and transformed the former casino in council. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

"Giant Squid" Washed Up in Sri Lanka

Walking along the seafront in Colombo I spotted what looked exactly like a giant squid washed up on the beach. However as it turned out the "squid" was in fact a large tree with roots as you can see.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Stirling Falls, Milford Sound

Milford Sound in the South Island of New Zealand runs 15 kilometres inland from the Tasman Sea at Dale Point - the mouth of the fiord - and is surrounded by sheer rock faces that rise 1,200 metres (3,900 ft) or more on either side. Among the peaks are The Elephant at 1,517 metres (4,977 ft), said to resemble an elephant's head, and The Lion, 1,302 metres (4,272 ft), in the shape of a crouching lion. Lush rain forests cling precariously to these cliffs, while seals, penguins, and dolphins frequent the waters and whales can be seen sometimes.
Milford Sound sports two permanent waterfalls all year round, Lady Bowen Falls and Stirling Falls. After heavy rain however, many hundreds of temporary waterfalls can be seen running down the steep sided rock faces that line the fiord. They are fed by rain water drenched moss and will last a few days at most once the rain stops.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Malaysia Boleh

A colourful umbrella shades this artist spotted near the central mosque in Kuala Lumpur with a variety of sketches of various local scenes. The logo on the umbrella "Malaysia Boleh" translates as "Malaysia Can" and has become a bit of a local joke given that usually it is rather the opposite that is the norm in Malaysia!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Kirin in Kyoto

This is a small back lane in the centre of Kyoto with the ever present vending machine offering Kirin beer as well as a selection of other beverages. I love the way the Japanese can squeeze so much into small spaces and even a small back lane like this can have numerous restaurants and bars.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kinghorn in the Kingdom of Fife

A view of Kinghorn on the Firth of Forth taken from the Fife Coastal Path with rain falling in the distance over Edinburgh. Kinghorn  is a town in FifeScotland. A seaside resort with two beaches, Kinghorn Beach and Pettycur Bay, plus a fishing port, it stands on the north shore of the Firth of Forth opposite Edinburgh. According to the 2008 population estimate, the town has a population of 2,930.
Known as the place where King Alexander III of Scotland died, it lies on the A921 road and the Fife Coastal Path. Kinghorn railway station is on the Edinburgh to Aberdeen and Fife Circle railway lines. Kinghorn only has a primary school so high school pupils must travel by bus to Balwearie High School in Kirkcaldy.
The town's lifeboat station is one of Scotland's busiest - regularly getting called out to all sorts of emergencies in the Firth. The meaning of the name Kinghorn derives from the Gaelic ceann gronn, 'head of the bog'. 
The historic Royal Burgh of Kinghorn lies on the golden coastline of the Kingdom of Fife. The former castle in Kinghorn was frequently visited by the Scottish Court in the period of the House of Dunkeld. The King's castle, controlling the sea way, stood on the headland above Pettycur. A later structure, Glamis Tower, stood just behind the High Street. Both buildings have totally disappeared and the sites built over in modern times. It was because of King Alexander III wanting to return to Kinghorn to see his new wife that he fell on the horseride from Burntisland and was found dead on the beach of Pettycur bay.
The castle remained an important possession of the Scottish crown, and this was recognised by the creation of the Earldom of Kinghorne in 1606. A burn fed from the freshwater Kinghorn Loch above the town once provided the town with its water and subsequently provided the source of power to drive the machinery of flax mills. 
The old town was dramatically transformed in 1846 by the construction of the railway viaduct across the valley of the burn and the opening of Kinghorn Station by the Edinburgh and Northern Railway which had its terminus at Burntisland for ferries across the Forth to Granton. Much of the former horse ferry traffic from Pettycur bay was lost to Burntisland. 
Following the opening of the Forth Railway Bridge in 1890,the North British Railway started to promote Kinghorn's picturesque sheltered bay and beach as a resort which led to considerable development of the town.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Islamic Arts Museum, KL

The Islamic Arts Museum in Kuala Lumpur is situated in the Lake Gardens and close to the central mosque. The Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia houses more than seven thousand artefacts, as well has an exceptional library of Islamic-art books. The art objects on display range from the tiniest pieces of jewellery to one of the world’s largest scale models of the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca. The aim is to create a collection that is truly representative of the Islamic world. Instead of concentrating on works from the heartlands of Persia and the Middle East, IAMM also puts the emphasis on Asia. China and Southeast Asia are especially well represented. The third component of the Malaysian melting pot is India, which is also given special status. India, China and the Malay world are in an exceptional category. Other parts of the collection are displayed according to type rather than geographical origins in the museum’s 12 galleries.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Streets of La Guardia

La Guardia is a small walled village in northern Spain close to the Cantabrian mountains and River Ebro. The area is known for the famous Rioja red wines named after the town La Rioja. The small streets of the village within the walled exterior are very interesting to walk through and shows life which has probably not changed for many hundreds of years. Many walled towns like this in Spain have a long history some dating back to Roman times.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ryoan-ji Zen Rock Garden

Ryōan-ji  (The Temple of the Dragon at Peace) is a Zen temple located in northwest Kyoto, Japan. Belonging to the Myoshin-ji school of the Rinzai branch of Zen Buddhism, the temple and karesansui garden is one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The site of the temple was originally a Fujiwara family estate. It eventually came into the hands of the Hosokawa clan branch of the Fujiwaras. Hosokawa Katsumoto inherited the residence, and lived here before the Ōnin War. Katsumoto willed the war-ravaged property to be converted into a Zen sect temple complex after his death. Later Hosokawa emperors are grouped together in what are today known as the "Seven Imperial Tombs" at Ryoan-ji. The burial places of these emperors -- Uda, Kazan, Ichijō, Go-Suzaku, Go-Reizei, Go-Sanjō, and Horikawa -- would have been comparatively humble in the period after their deaths. These tombs reached their present state as a result of the 19th century restoration of imperial sepulchers (misasagi) which were ordered by Emperor Meiji.
An object of interest near the rear of the monks quarters is the carved stone receptacle into which water for ritual purification continuously flows. This is the Ryōan-ji tsukubai, which translates literally as "crouch;" and the lower elevation of the basin requires the user to bend a little bit to reach the water, which suggests supplication and reverence. The kanji written on the surface of the stone are without significance when read alone. If each is read in combination with 口 (kuchi), which the central bowl is meant to represent, then the characters become 吾, 唯, 足, 知. This is read as "ware tada taru (wo) shiru" and translates literally as "I only know plenty" (吾 = ware = I, 唯 = tada = only, 足 = taru = plenty, 知 = shiru = know). The meaning of the phrase carved into the top of the tsukubai is simply that "what one has is all one needs" and is meant to reinforce the basic anti-materialistic teachings of Buddhism.
To many, the temple's name is synonymous with the temple's famous 'Zen garden', the karesansui (dry landscape) rock garden, thought to have been built in the late 15th century. The garden consists of raked gravel and fifteen moss-covered boulders, which are placed so that, when looking at the garden from any angle (other than from above) only fourteen of the boulders are visible at one time. It is traditionally said that only through attaining enlightenment would one be able to view the fifteenth boulder.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Rain Tree

This magnificent rain tree is situated in central Kuala Lumpur in the small Christian Birch Road Cemetery. It is so nice to see some mature trees like this still standing and has probably only been spared from development due to the burial ground it sits in. These trees with their large spread of branches and foliage provide welcome shade from the tropical sun.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Morning Tai Chi

This man was doing his early morning tai chi at the side of this beautiful pavilion on the banks of the West Lake in Hangzhou, China.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lake Pukaki

The South Island of New Zealand must have the highest concentration of scenic landscapes and for a photographer trying to drive this is very distracting. I found myself stopping very frequently to run out the car with my camera gear to capture another wonderful vista. This beautiful lake here is Lake Pukaki which is the largest of three roughly parallel alpine lakes running north-south along the northern edge of the Mackenzie Basin on New Zealand's South Island. The others are Lakes Tekapo and Ohau. All three lakes were created when the terminal moraines of receding glaciers blocked their respective valleys, forming moraine-dammed lakesThe glacial feed to the lakes gives them a distinctive blue colour, created by glacial flour, the extremely finely ground rock particles from the glaciers. Lake Pukaki covers an area of 178.7 km², and the surface elevation of the lake normally ranges from 518.2 to 532 metres above sea level.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Street Mime

This has got to be one of the most ornate and bizarre street mimes I have ever seen as spotted in Barcelona, Spain. I'm still trying to figure out what the gun is for!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Heelan' Beestie

This highland cow was captured in South Island, New Zealand. I took the image and post-processed using Silver Efex Pro 2 and restored partially some colour on the cow's coat to add a little more impact.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Long Goodbye

My Dad sadly passed away just over a week ago on 6th March 2011 and we said our final goodbye to him today at the memorial service. In reality it's been a long goodbye to my Dad as he had been suffering over the last 2 years or more from vascular dementia. Dementia is a cruel and slow debilitating disease of the brain which slowly disrupts the mental capabilities of the victim, severely diminishing mental processes with inter-related effects on the motor ability to move limbs and body. 

Over the last few years our family have watched my Dad slowly disappear before our eyes into a forgetful, sometimes fidgety individual .... a mere shadow of his previous outgoing self.  There were encouraging moments however when that previous spark would suddenly appear out from the haze of the dementia and during family conversations my Dad would reply with his characteristic snappy and humorous one-liners that were so familiar.  

In UK alone statistics state that there are some 800,000 people with dementia, 2/3 of them women. There is no cure. There is no current viable early monitoring system to detect the onset of this disease. What these statistics do not reflect however is the strain and pressure that dementia patients can place on their close family and carers over many years. During this time as the disease courses through the victim not only do you lose that close connection you had with your loved one but you also have to care for their every physical need as well as coping with all the mental anguishes.  

My Dad was a simple family man. He provided a safe and happy home environment for my brother Alan and I as we grew up. He introduced us to many simple pleasures such as the joy of travel. In those early days this meant a two week holiday in Scotland. In those pre-internet days he spent a huge effort over the long winter months in planning the family holiday. Unknown to many people he was the master of MCP ... Meticulous Car Packing .... This process involved packing the entire contents of our house into a small car for the two week vacation in the hills of North West Scotland leaving just enough room for us to squeeze in - breathing was an optional extra.  

His love of motoring brought a variety of classic cars to our family from the early days of the nostalgic Ford Popular, through a memorable bright yellow Ford Anglia and not forgetting the classic Russian Lada which he was one the early adopters in UK.  

Later in life my Dad had the opportunity to travel more extensively and he revelled in the challenge of experiencing new cultures and particularly in sampling exotic foods and foreign beverages.  

My Dad was always known for his sense of humour, which was probably developed very quickly after my brother and I appeared on the scene. His quick witted and sometimes corny one-liners will be missed although it has already been noted that I'm quickly filling that void.  

One of my Dad's passions was photography which seems to have been passed to me whether genetically or otherwise. It was interesting to see some photographs my Dad took with a small compact camera only a few months ago and he still seemed to have the eye to capture a good image. Like a photograph that's all we are left with now ... images and memories we all have of my Dad. These memories of my Dad will remain with us in the coming days, the coming weeks and for years to come and it is these memories we must cherish for it is all these small memories that add up to an astonishing and full 78 and one half years of his life.  

We cannot talk about my Dad without talking about my Mum. Throughout the last few years as my Dad slowly failed my Mum ceaselessly took care of Dad and we must recognise and acknowledge her efforts in this respect.  

So it is time now to say the final goodbye to my Dad, husband to my Mum Doreen, Grandfather to Chris and Neil and Great Grandfather to Catriona and Emily. It is a sad loss and will leave a large void in all our lives but we must take this opportunity to celebrate his time with us and remember all those wonderful moments of his incredible life.  

There is an old saying "You're not a man till you have buried your father" .......... I stand here now as a man wishing I was still a boy.

Arty Cow

This bizarre looking statue was seem in the streets of Barcelona, Spain. I am still not sure if the statue is meant to be a cow, a zebra or some form of hybrid animal.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Alien Spaceship Interior

This is the inside of the Antoni Gaudi designed Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona. To me it looked like the inside of some strange alien spaceship with its organic design. Some more of Antoni Gaudi's work can be seen in this earlier post

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Early Morning Boat Ride

A boat heads out over West Lake in Hangzhou, China in the still early morning air. This is the best time to walk around the lake when the air is still and the morning light is very attractive for photography.

Friday, March 11, 2011

KKB Shophouse Black & White

This is a typical Chinese shophouse in Kuala Kubu Baru. Kuala Kubu Bharu (alternately known as Kuala Kubu Baru, Kuala Kubu Bahru or Kuala Kubu Baharu; commonly referred to as KKB), is a town in Hulu Selangor district, Selangor, Malaysia. It was built after the town of Kuala Kubu was destroyed in a flood in 1883. Kuala Kubu Bharu is located on top of a hill. It is the district capital of Hulu Selangor.
This Chinese shophouse belongs to Lim Guan Joo and going by the sign below the name deals with ginseng and most likely other herbal remedies.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Road To Mordor

You can see why Peter Jackson chose New Zealand to shoot the Lord of The Rings movie with views like this one taken in the Aoraki National Park, Mount Cook, New Zealand. This scene conjured up images of the road to Mordor and you can just imagine Frodo and Sam picking their way through this wild terrain on their quest to reach Mordor. 

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Dragon Roof

This is another example of Antoni Gaudi's architectural genius on the rooftop of Casa Batllo in Barcelona, Spain. The arched roof design and complex chimneys are very typical examples of his designs being colourful and full of irregular lines. The arched roof has been likened to the back of a dragon or dinosaur. The local name for the building is Casa dels ossos (House of Bones), and indeed it does have a visceral, skeletal organic quality. It was originally designed for amiddle-class family and situated in a prosperous district of Barcelona.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Black & White Batak House

This is another shot I took of a Batak house on the shores of Lake Toba in Sumatra, Indonesia. A previous shot of another house was shown in an earlier blog. For this image I post-processed to black and white using Silver Efex Pro 2 and this really brings out a lot of the details and tones of the old wooden building and adds a historical look to the finished image.

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Last Bridge

As I walked around the West Lake in Hangzhou, China in the early morning mist this beautiful arched bridge blended in with the mist over the lake giving it the appearance of being the very last bridge. Again timing in photography is key and I waited some time till I captured a figure on the bridge to give it a sense of scale.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Diamond Plaza

Diamond Plaza is a new office block complex and department store in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. The complex includes a shopping center, 6 cinema lounges, restaurants, café, and hospital. The complex was completed and open for business in 1999. There is a helicopter pad on the roof of the building.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Wash Day

This colourful arrangement of washing out to dry caught my eye in San Sebastian Spain. I was also amused to see the washing was under the watchful eye of Jesus, which probably ensured fair and warm weather for the drying process! It's funny how the most ordinary situation like this can turn into a photo opportunity.

Friday, March 04, 2011

The Dome

The Dome is in the Christchurch museum in New Zealand as part of an exhibition about Hallett Station in Antarctica. This geometric dome was taken to Antarctica in pieces and assembled on site by United States Navy Seabees at Hallett Station in 1957. The dome is made of fibreglass with a tongue-and-groove wooden floor. The wall sections were originally fastened together with brass bolts that can be seen around the windows and vent edges. Brass fittings were used because they are non-magnetic and therefore did not effect the scientific instruments used in the dome.
The dome was used for weather recording and observation and also contained a variograph which recorded changes in the Earth’s magnetic field. The dome was initially positioned on the roof of a laboratory, which had stabilised foundations to reduce weather or vehicle interference with the sensitive scientific equipment. The observatory dome was kept free of magnetic contamination by ensuring that it contained no metal furniture or other items.
In the 1984/85 season, the dome was repositioned at ground level on a foundation of beams and refurbished as an accommodation and supply hut. From 2000 until it was dismantled in 2004 it was used as a latrine for Hallett Station clean-up personnel.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Green Boats on West Lake

Early morning at West Lake, Hangzhou, China is a tranquil time and the walk around the lake offers up many beautiful views such as this. You can see the Leifeng Pagoda in the background.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Guilt Marketing

It seemed that at every church in the large cities in Spain you would find one or more people standing begging. I guess they are preying on the guilt of people who have just completed their visit to the church and hoping for a kind donation.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Rural Bali

This is  a very typical rural scene in the outskirts of Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. These stepped padi fields are very common and you can watch the locals tend the rice using traditional methods. 

Rice, to the Balinese, is more than just the staple food; it is an integral part of the Balinese culture. The rituals of the cycle of planting, maintaining, irrigating, and harvesting rice enrich the cultural life of Bali beyond a single staple can ever hope to do. At the beginning of planting time, after the water buffalloes walk the rice fields several times to prepare them, ceremonies are held to carry the young stems of rice that have been nurtured in a special nursery. On each section of the rice fields, the corner nearest to Gunung Agung will receive the honor to be the first place to receive the young stems of rice. 
The water level in each section is perfect; little streams of water effortlessly flow from the highest section up on top of the hill to the very bottom section. The planning and responsiblity of the irrigation and planting schedule are arranged through subak, a Balinese system that ties together rice cultivation with its water temple system. Historical evidence dates this system to around the 11th century, yet the yield per acre of a Balinese rice field is about the highest in the world!
Before planting, throughout growing time, at harvesting, ceremonies are held and offerings are presented to Dewi Sri, the goddess of rice. In the middle of rice fields far from the village, you often find little shrines with netaly presented flowers, fruit, and offerings for Dewi Sri.