Panama in 20 Days (Part 3)

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Fujifilm X100 – f8.0 1/550 ISO200 – Ship crossing Miraflores Locks

This is part 3 of 5 part series of our travel to Panama. You can check part 1 here.

Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is considered one of the seven wonders of the industrial world by the American Society of Civil Engineers, it connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans through the Isthmus of Panama, creating an important shortcut for ships to cross between oceans and avoid the lengthy travel to the southern tip of South America.

Being an engineer myself, I was really eager to see this marvelous engineering accomplishment since we arrived in Panama City. The idea was to visit both sides of the Canal, Miraflores Locks on the Pacific side and Gatun Locks on the Caribbean Sea side. From there, we would stop by Amador Causeway, on our way back to Panama City, to contemplate the sunset and have a nice dinner in one of the many restaurants there.

Unfortunately, the plan didn’t work out as we thought. When traveling with four other adults and a 5-year-old child, we should expect last-minute changes in the plans and adapt ourselves to the will of the majority. No one else wanted to take the one-hour drive to Gatun Locks after visiting Miraflores Locks as planned, and I also had to give in the opportunity to extend the trip from Gatun to Portobelo to visit the ruins of the Spanish Colonial fortifications, considered a UNESCO World Heritage site. Our Amador Causeway stop was also ruined because we arrived there too early to wait for the sunset.

Our visit to the Panama Canal boiled down to just Miraflores Locks, the closest to Panama City and the only one that has a visitors center with a full view of its operation. So, if you have to pick just one of the locks to visit, this is the one to go. It also includes a museum, a movie theater and even a simulator that put you on board of a ship crossing the channel. We arrived there around noon, after a short visit to City of Knowledge just across the road, in time to watch a cargo ship cross the channel. The observation deck was a bit crowded but still manageable to watch the whole process.

Miraflor Locks

Fujifilm X100 – f8.0 1/550 ISO200 – Miraflores Locks main building, it’s possible to see the expansion of the third lane under construction in the background.

Panama Channel

Fujifilm X100 – f8.0 1/600 ISO200 – Left view of the Miraflores Locks from the observation deck.

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Fujifilm X100 – f8.0 1/750 ISO200 – Miraflores Visitors Center observation deck.

I’m glad I also brought my GX–10 and a tele lens, along with the X100, for a few close-up shots.

Gates at Panama Channel

Samsung GX–10 with Sigma 70–300mm F4–5.6 DG Macro – f8.0 1/1000 ISO400 @70mm – One set of the Miraflores gates.

Panama Canal

Samsung GX–10 with Sigma 70–300mm F4–5.6 DG Macro – f10 1/100 ISO100 @93mm – These little guys keep the ship from hitting on the walls.

Miraflores Locks - Panama City

Samsung GX–10 with Sigma 70–300mm F4–5.6 DG Macro – f8.0 1/2000 ISO400 @100mm – Ship leaving Miraflores Locks.

Amador Causeway

We decided to go to Amador Causeway on the following day for the reasons I already mentioned before. Although I visited Miraflores Locks and Amador Causeway in two different days, I still think it’s a good idea to go to both Locks in the same day, including a short visit to Portobelo and ending the day at Amador Causeway. It’s totally doable and a good plan for a day while you are in Panama City.

Amador Causeway is a breakwater that extends more than three kilometers into the Pacific Ocean connecting three islands: Naos, Perico and Flamenco. To understand what Amador Causeway really is, it’s better to see it from above.

 

There are beautiful sights of the Panama City skyline from different points of Amador Causeway. On the opposite side, there is the Bridge of the Americas, the entrance of the Panama Canal from the Pacific Ocean, where you can see the ships passing by.

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Samsung GX–10 with Schneider D-XENON 18–55mm F3.5–5.6 – f7.1 1/125 ISO200 @45mm – Nice view of the Panama City skyline from the marina.

Amador Causeway

Samsung GX–10 with Schneider D-XENON 18–55mm F3.5–5.6 – f7.1 1/60 ISO100 @50mm – Nice sight of ships transiting the channel and the Bridge Of Americas in the background.

The causeway is packed with restaurants and bars, you can also rent a bike or a motorcycle. My family rented one of these 4 seat bikes and went from one end of the causeway to another. I took the opportunity and decided to go walking to give myself some time to photograph.

This time, since I knew from the day before what to expect, I took just the GX–10 with kit and tele lenses to have the wide-to-telephoto range covered and put them in a small Lowepro bag.

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Samsung GX–10 with Schneider D-XENON 18–55mm F3.5–5.6 – f8 1/30 ISO100 @21mm – Bikes for rent.

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Samsung GX–10 with Schneider D-XENON 18–55mm F3.5–5.6 – f6.3 1/20 ISO400 @23mm – Amador Causeway sidewalk.

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Samsung GX–10 with 70–300mm F4–5.6 DG Macro – f10 1/320 ISO400 @190mm – There were handreds of pelicans flying and fishing.

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Samsung GX–10 with Schneider D-XENON 18–55mm F3.5–5.6 – f7.1 1/200 ISO400 @55mm – Ship heading out to Ocean Pacific accompanied by pelicans.

In part 4 I will be covering the turquoise water and white sand of San Blas in the Caribbean sea.

Panama in 20 Days (Part 2)

Casco Viejo

Fujifilm X100 – f4.0 1/1500 ISO200 – Casco Viejo is a great place for a walking tour.

This is part 2 of 5 part series about our Panama Vacation. You can check part 1 clicking here.

Casco Viejo

Casco Viejo,  also known as Casco Antiguo, is one of the coolest places to visit in Panama City. The narrow brick streets are filled with buildings of different architectural styles. Some of them have been restored and now house museums, restaurants, shops and elegant residences. Other buildings stand in disrepair with peeling walls giving a high contrast with the remodeled ones just next door.

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Fujifilm X100 – f8.0 1/200 ISO200 – Elegant restaurants and sidewalk caf├ęs.

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Fujifilm X100 – f5.6 1/680 ISO200 – Some buildings are in disrepair or complete ruin

We had the opportunity to visit Casco Viejo twice during our stay in Panama City. We spent Saturday morning and afternoon exploring the area when we were there for the first time. We decided to not visit any museums or churches and just wander the narrow streets appreciating the atmosphere of the place, the restaurants and cafes.

In both occasions, I took only the Fujifilm X100 with me, I really enjoy the freedom of walking very light with no bags. The only thing I missed was a tripod when I was there at night for a couple of shots.

In case you’re wondering how I geotagged my photos, since X100 doesn’t have a GPS module, I’ve used an app on my iPhone called geotgr. It tracks my location and saves a GPX file which I can import in Lightroom later to tag my photos automatically based on the capture time. It works very well and I use it from time to time when it will be hard to remember exactly where I was to tag them manually.

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Fujifilm X100 – f8.0 1/450 ISO200 – Catedral Metropolitana on Plaza de La Independencia

Casco Viejo

Fujifilm X100 – f8.0 1/250 ISO200 – Iglesia Santo Domingo and the Flat Arch. I took this picture from behind because the facade was always full of tourists.

Flowered Balconies in Casco Viejo

Fujifilm X100 f4.0 1/900 ISO200 – Flowered balconies are everywhere in Casco Viejo.

Casco Viejo

Fujifilm X100 – f8.0 1/420 ISO200 – Government buildings have restricted access.

Doors in Casco Viejo

Fujifilm X100 – f5.6 1/220 ISO200 – Doors in Casco Viejo

Casco Viejo is also a great place for street photography. There is such a variety of people, from tourists to fully characterized indians, that you will be overwhelmed by the photo opportunities. That’s said, I’m still struggling to approach strangers in the streets and ask for a photo. There was an occasion that I made eye contact with an indian, she smiled back but as soon as I raised the camera she tried to hide herself, I respected her and walked away. There is no easy way to do this and it’s something that needs practice to gain confidence.

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Fujifilm X100 – f8.0 1/60 ISO320 – I took this candid shot across the street and cropped to frame it better.

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Fujifilm X100 – f8.0 1/200 ISO200 – Wandering the narrow streets you will find some interesting people and places.

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Fujifilm X100 – f5.6 1/60 ISO320 – Highly cropped image of this beautiful woman fully characterized.

Casco Viejo

Fujifilm X100 – f2.8 1/320 ISO200 – Local indians selling handicraft products.

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Fujifilm X100 – f5.6 1/30 ISO200 – There are bicycle-taxis to get tourists around Casco Viejo.

Casco Viejo

Fujifilm X100 – f5.6 1/340 ISO200 – Nice view of the Panama City’s skyscrapers from Casco Viejo.

We had such a great time in Casco Viejo that we planned a second visit at night for dinner three days later. A little piece of advice here, for safety reasons don’t wander around at night beyond the places with more activity. Fortunately, nothing bad happened to us, not even close, but we didn’t have the same safeness feeling as we had during the day.

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Fujifilm X100 – f2.8 1/15 ISO2500 – Tables on sidewalks around Plaza Simon Bolivar give an extra charm to the place at night.

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Fujifilm X100 – f2.0 1/15 ISO2500 – Bar inside Mostaza Restaurant.

Casco Viejo

Fujifilm X100 – f2.0 1/15 ISO800 – Just outside Mostaza Restaurant.

In part 3 we are going to explore Panama Channel and Amador Causeway.

Thank you for reading and feel free to leave a feedback in the comment section below.