Trip to Galapagos (Arrival at Quito)

Finally, we decided to do a trip to Galapagos. Always in bucket list, but never materialized before. It proved to be one of the most fun trips, not only for the beauty of the place and abundance of wildlife, but for the dingy rides and sea activities.UIO Ecudor000000

UIO 000000

American Airlines flies direct to Quito (UIO), four hours from MIA, which was great. The airport there, although not too big, is one go the most efficient we have visited. Immigration, customs, and baggage claim were fast and smooth. Our reservation was in a hotel a couple of minutes from airport, since out flight to GPS was very early in the morning. We had decided to go one extra day earlier, just in case of any delays because if the boat left, we would be grounded. It was nice to take a tor of the city, see downtown and most important, the “Mitad del Mundo” and the Solar Museum, which proved to be much more interesting than we had anticipated.

UIO solarclock

UIO Llama

UIO souvenirs

We loved everything about our short stay in Quito and los forward to go back and spend more time. Food is delicious, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, great corn dishes and the typical “canelazo”, warm drink to enjoy and fight the altitude. Fortunately, we didn’t feel any effects, even at the Virgen del Panecillo, at 10,000 ft. Our doctor had suggested a “high altitude prophylactic treatment” but decided against once he realized we would be in highlands only a couple of days and then flying to sea level.

UIO virgen

UIO panecillo

People in Quito are very hospitable and really know how to make you feel welcome.

UIO guard

UIO Matthew

UIO vendor

I will be posting more stuff and pictures about our Galapagos adventure, one we would love the repeat.

Pictures on this post were all made with the Sony a7rii and Sony 24-70 f/4.


Sled dogs in Longyearbyen, Svalbard

Meet Lumi, a four months old female in training.

Beautiful 4 month old female, in training.

Do not despair, my animal lover friends. She is a happy puppy. Her enclosure is huge, there are other dogs in training and she is very much loved. I was proudly invited by the caretaker to meet her.

The day we went for the sled dog ride, my heart sank when I saw each one chained to their little houses. I really wanted the whole thing to be over and get out of there. DO NOT JUDGE.
These dogs, the majority of them mixed, are working dogs. Nothing wrong with that, I worked all my life and nobody frowned upon that. They are athletes in a way, very strong, (each one can roughly pull 60kg ) and are a very important part of the Arctic life.
A dog that would jump to kiss you and gives you belly IS NOT and abused dog. They are very well fed, their health very much taken care of (if one is sick or in any trouble, the get to be in the main shack and walked around for their bodily needs as any other loved pet).
The care takers know every dog by name, and they are all animal lovers. You couldn’t do the job otherwise.
They get go ride at least once a day and I’m a witness they love it! Their joy is intoxicating.
I visited three kennels and got enough dog love for the rest of the year

Husky love
This beautiful girl was taking a Sunday morning stroll with her family. A bit more relaxed than the one at the kennel, she didn’t jump at me, but accepted and corresponded to my affection.

On our ride with Svalbard Huskies, one of the guides was a beautiful girl from Seattle. She can tell each of the hundred dogs apart and by name.

After they were harnessed, with the riders help, who get to learn, we went on our way. Six dogs to each sled (with wheels for the summer), two guides and four general workers make each team. Guides concentrate in the route which they know by heart and the rest just pull merrily.
We carry empty dishes (I was trying to figure that out) and stop by the clean streams for give them water. We stopped twice for water and a third time by a mine just so we could see it. They did not care for that stop and were hauling to get going LOL

When they got overheated, the whole team went to the side stream of water, took a quick and fun dip and came up to the road. Smart puppies.
We also saw many locals walking their dogs and “parking” them outside the business they were visiting. Got to “talk” yo many of them. I particularly remember “Monster”, with beautiful blue eyes and the female we saw the last day, who shed half her fur into my clothes.

Dogs are the only pet allowed in Svalbard, although the Russians have managed to illegally import some felines into Barensburg, the mining community across from Longyeabyen. Since they are isolated, they are contained there.

Dog parking
Sign outside the Radisson Blue Polar Hotel. It was common to see dogs “parked” outside businesses. All patient and well behaved.

Dogs are happy in Longyearbyen, both as home pets and as working dogs.

Husky close up
This beauty was, as most of them were, very friendly and loving. Difficult to get a good pic since they are so active. Wet kisses galore!
Svalbard Husky
One of the dogs at the kennel.

A few more from the magical city

I have since processed a lot more images from the trip. Didn’t really get to the Cezky Krumlov lot, but at least from from Prague. Captured with Leica M9-P and mostly 24 Elmarit ASPH and Voigtlander Nokton 35 f/1.2
Hope you like them.

Prague, the beautiful city, part II

As promised, some more of the pictures that have been processed for web. As most of the rest, they were captured with the Leica M9-P, and mostly wide angle lenses, the ones at night, obviously tripod mounted. We use the Sirui, carbon fiber with the added Sirui bullhead. Not the 12 inch light one, but one a little sturdier where we don’t necessarily need a cable release for long exposures, since Leicas don’t have a mirror.
Hope you enjoy them and more to come!

Prague, the beautiful city

We just returned from a visit to this amazing city. I had visited many years back, and fell in love with it. So it was our choice and I hear that right now it is the most visited capital in Europe. Judging by the amount of people we saw, yes, it is 🙂
This city had very little destruction during the war and most of its monuments are intact, and to add the beauty of the old city, the river and the iconic Charles Bridge certainly grants the attention.
The prices of lodging and (excellent) food are pretty reasonable, on the “affordable” side, the city is kept very clean and safe. You can find about any kind of service a visitor could want, friendly waiters and people you ask for directions, and if there are any pickpockets or thieves (as in any big city), we really didn’t see any. We felt safe at all times, even begin at the Bridfge with Leicas around our neck at 4AM (only time you can get a relatively empty bridge. We got up early twice, and at 5AM it is daylight already in May, so I can only guess what it will be later on.
We had mixed weather. When we arrived, it was chilly and had isolated showers, to a tremendous downpour one night, fortunately caught us at the hotel. Then it turned very hot, which made it a little difficult to spend as much time outdoors as we would have wanted. Nights were fine, not chilly at all, by the tail end of the trip.
We had a hotel room with skylights that provided excellent views if a little acrobatic abilities and a love for risk to take advantage of the “perches”. I only used the Leica on this ventures one time, afraid to drop the camera down to the group, 4 stories down. This is that one, taken the a 90mm lens and cropped to a pano.
ALl the images here were taken with the Leica M9P, and a few lenses, mainly the 24 Elmarit, the Voigtlander Nokton 35 f/1.2, which I am replacing with the smaller and lighter Leica 35mm and the 50 Lux f/1.4 ASPH.
I will be posting many more images in the next few days, and so will be Alfred. We took a lot of pictures, that it is overwhelming to go through them, let alone prepare for web.
Leica files require very little processing, but I like playing in the computer and add mood to some images, so you will see a mix of straight or enhanced images. Such is my way.
It was a very enjoyable trip and the memories will last forever, especially that we were able to enjoy the company of my son and his wife for a few days.