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Black Ballet

Off The Beaten Path in Cuba


Cuba is probably the most photographed country in the world and at the same time the least known. Perhaps 99% of all photographs taken in Cuba are street photography, as visitors discover how easy it is to take photos there without any trouble. Locals are famously quick to smile and gladly pose for tourists.

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L. A. Road Trip


My wife, Linda, and I have traveled to California three times in the past. In 1999 we flew into Oakland and toured San Francisco and surrounding areas, including Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks. In 2013 we arrived in California after driving cross-country along U.S. 50 the entire way, starting in Ocean City, Maryland. On that trip we spent time around Lake Tahoe, and then we drove down through Owens Valley along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, making our way to Death Valley National Park. Last year we made another cross-country drive, that time visiting sites in northern California, including Lassen Volcanic National Park and Redwood National and State Parks. This year, on our third cross-country drive, we reached Los Angeles.

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The Northern Tier


The Norther Tier
The Norther Tier
Prior to taking this trip my wife, Linda, and I had been to 48 of our 50 states, missing only North Dakota and Idaho. My excuse for not visiting those states previously is that neither one of them is on the way to anywhere else that we wanted to visit. That being said, we had to come up with a plan to add those last two states to our checklist of places visited. I considered flying to Minneapolis, renting a car, and then driving through North Dakota and Montana to Idaho and back, but that did not sound very appealing. Then Linda suggested that we do another cross-country drive, similar to the U.S. 50 trip we took in 2013, which was perhaps her favorite of all the trips that we've taken. I considered the possibilities that such a trip would provide for visiting a few of the national parks that were on my bucket list and I bought into the idea. Another trip that I had on my wish list was to fly to Denver, rent a car, and do a circuit through Colorado. Linda suggested that since we were going to be out west anyway, we could just as easily do the Colorado loop on our way home. With that I was sold!

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Rhine Rhapsody


For several reasons, my wife Linda and I have never been interested in going on an ocean cruise. Our perception has always been that the cruise ship and its onboard activities are typically the main attractions of a cruise, whereas we've always been interested in the destination rather than the journey. Having no interest in casinos, lounge acts, shows, fancy dress dinners, and 24-hour-per-day feeding frenzies, we believe that we will be paying for amenities that we will never use. Then we heard some good things about river cruising, mainly the much smaller ships and the emphasis on land tours. After doing some research, we thought that a Viking River Cruise trip would be a good way to visit parts of Europe on our first trip to that continent.

Rhine Rhapsody
Rhine Rhapsody

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Sea Kayaking Thailand's West Coast



Sunset on Pha Nga Bay

Panoramic Pha Nga Bay: Sea Kayaking Thailand's West Coast

"Give me an hour," I said to my friend Det. We had just parked his pickup at Khlong Khian Pier, north of Phuket Island, the launch site for a sea kayak trip around Pha Nga Bay. He simply pulled his plastic kayak off the rack, but I needed to assemble my collapsible kayak.

Imagine a destination where cyan waters meet cerulean skies. Throw in a handful of fluffy white cumulus clouds scudding overhead. Picture dramatic karst limestone outcroppings soaring hundreds of feet vertically from the sea. Add iconic sea gypsies plying the waters in timeless traditional wooden dories and you have arrived in Pha Nga Bay, Thailand.

Pha Nga Bay National Park was created by Royal Decree in 1981. There are no resorts inside the park boundaries and although thousands of tourists flock here daily, they leave at the end of the day. Few witness this dramatic landscape from the cockpit of a sea kayak and it is the perfect backdrop for an expedition. Early mornings and late afternoons find paddlers enjoying scenic solitude

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Eastern State Penitentiary


Spending time in prison is not really all that bad if it is Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In fact, if you are a photographer, you will down-right love it, especially since you can walk out free at the end of the day. ESP was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world and was home to some of the countries most famous gangsters, like Al Capone and bank robber "Slick" Willie Sutton. Today it is a run down, crumbling collection of cells that are in what can be called an arrested state of decay. The prison is not fixed up, but it is also not allowed to decay any more than can be helped. For a photographer there is a host of subjects to shoot. It also has a fascinating history.

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Antique Automobile Club of America Museum


EDITOR'S NOTE: click any thumbnail to see a larger version with full caption provided the author.

Early 1900 Ford & Cadillac
Early 1900 Ford & Cadillac
If you love to see and photograph old cars and motor vehicles then the AACM – The Antique Automobile Club of America Museum at Hershey, Pennsylvania is a must-see place to visit. The museum typically has anywhere from 75 to 100 cars, trucks, and motorcycles on the floor at any one time, and these exhibits rotate over the year so what is there now will be completely different if you go back in a year. There is a good selection of permanent vehicles there also. A neat part of AACM is that it is built entirely on donations, and that includes all of the vehicles you will see there. They are donated outright, or placed on loan for a set amount of time. Past autos that have been on exhibit are some of the oldest autos ever made, and also ones owned by famous Hollywood stars, like the 1986 Rolls Royce Silver Spur once owned by Whitney Houston that is on exhibit right now.

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The Heart of Spain Photo Tour: Madrid, Segovia, Toledo & Barcelona


Travel with Ralph Velasco to The Heart of Spain:
Madrid, Segovia, Toledo, plus Barcelona!
 
September 21 to October 2, 2013
 
LIMITED TO JUST 10 PARTICIPANTS!
 
Food ~ Photography ~ Culture ~ Museums ~ History
 

Toledo at Sunrise - Toledo, Spain - Copyright 2012 Ralph Velasco
 
OVERVIEW
Please join travel photographer, author and international photo tour guide Ralph Velasco on a customized small group photo tour (12 max.) of Central Spain, plus Barcelona.  Trip consists of 4 nights in Madrid, 2 nights in Segovia, 2 nights in Toledo and 3 nights in Barcelona.
 
Open to photographers and non-photographers alike,
so feel free to bring a spouse or other travel mate.

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Exploring The Desert


Fourteen years, plenty of wildlife trips, lots of safaris, hundreds of birds, varied habitats- semi evergreen to deciduous forests, wetlands to deserts, snowfall to the scorching summer heat with temperatures soaring above 40 C, thousands of photographs........yet, not even one-tenth of the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries of India covered. Only 50% of the avian biodiversity of India seen and of the other forms of biodiversity, only a single digit percentage seen yet. How about an exploratory wildlife trip then? How about visiting a protected area about which not much is known, but promises to be rich in terms of biodiversity, a national park which does not see the kind of tourist frenzy that the more popular ones do?

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Chakrata - A symbol for the Theory of Change


Chakrata, A remote town in Himalayas of India. I revisited this town after eight years and found considerable influence of tourism on the place, both negative as well as positive. The kind of experience i had is one that makes a person thinks that are they really enjoying the natural beauty of a place or gradually destroying it. overall the inclination of the article is towards Responsible Tourism.

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