Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sunsets on the Beach in La Union

Before I kick the proverbial bucket (well, not really) and head home to the land of sugarcane and marinated chicken, I decided to have one last spontaneous trip with my little cat of a girlfriend to San Juan, La Union in the hopes that we would be rewarded with surf and sunset. Of which, only the latter was made available to us. (Oh well, there's always next time)

Hopped on a bus in the dead of the night (1:15 AM to be exact. Via Victory Liner of course. Php 720) and made my way to Baguio to pick up my cat. The bus ride took around 5 hours since the trip was first class, had no stops and were driven by very competent drivers. (Victory Liner may not be paying me but I swear this is by far the best bus company out there. Sucks to be you Farinas and Partas)

My cat and I then took a 2 hour Partas bus down to La Union. (Bumpy ride, crapo seats, Php 108) Stopped at the terminal then took a Tricycle (Php 60) to Brgy. Urbiztondo where the surf resorts are. My cat would then stay with her uncle and aunt in their little piece of paradise beside the little surf resort where I would be staying since we're old school and galante like that and all that other jazz.

What ensued would be a restful 2 days of long walks by the beach, sipping on fruit shakes and munching on carbohydrates during the day and drinking a beer or two while listening to the waves kiss the dark shores at night.

We didn't get to surf because of the rain and strong waves, but the sunset that greeted us on our trip there was worth the entire trip. Most spectacular sunset I have ever seen with an unhindered view of the South China Sea and the sun painting the skyline a deep red and warm yellow to close the day.

My cat taking her first tricycle ride. I am so proud.

Went there on a Monday-Tuesday which meant that it was off season for the entire beach. Very few people meant a even more laid back vibe for the entire beach.

Stayed in a little surf resort called 'The Little Surf Maid' (Link Here). Nice and quiet resort owned by a old white guy. Since it was off season they had 50% off for their rooms. So I had a nice one bedroom studio all to myself for about Php 1,525.

Grabbed some munchies at the Kahuna Resort which was along the beach. Pricey food (around 250 per plate) but well worth it due to the serving size. Just a little bland in my opinion.

El Gatito glowing in the afternoon sun.

What was also very relaxing was playing with my girlfriend's uncles dogs named Brandy (above) and Mateo (below). Brandy is a house dog who is extremely quiet. He never barks at anyone he doesn't know. Instead, he'll make his way up to you and roll over on his belly. This means that he is inviting you to partake of stroking his belly elaborately. He twitches his left leg in kind recognition once you accomplish this most honorable deed.

This other fine dog is named Mateo. He's supposed to be the guard dog of the little slice of heaven Gia's uncle calls home but all he wants is a little love. As long as he knows you are the family's guests, he'll quietly sneak up on you and place his head between your legs with his ears drooping down. (This also means that you HAVE to pet him. Who can say no to those hazel brown eyes?)

Relaxing trip. More beaches to bum around on and more sunsets to come.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Architectural Photography

When I was a little kid, I didn't know what I really wanted. So when my dad asked me, 'Andreo, what do you want to be when you grow up?' I foolishly replied, 'I wanna be an architect dad!'.

Foolish child.

It was only until I discovered that in order to build a house, you needed 'above average' math skills. Above average was one step above too many for me. To say that I am average at math is probably even gunning it a bit too close to the edge.

Anyway, I took what frustrated dreams of being an architect  I had left and enrolled myself in PCCI's architectural photography class under Mr. Jojo Guingona. (Link here)

It was a pretty neat 2 day class that focused on the fundamentals of perceiving architecture and how to properly capture it on camera for publication in print materials. I'll probably get around to doing a comprehensive review about the class soon. (Well, let's hope so.)

As of the moment, the most important thing I took away from the class was to: 'Keep verticals, vertical and keep horizontals horizontal.'

This of course refers to keeping the fidelity of the lines in a picture. A good architectural photo has to look as close to how it is actually perceived by the person looking at it. In other words, distortions are a big no no. A wall cannot look like it's falling to one side, nor can a building look like it is about to topple over. We must be able to control the distortions caused by our lenses in order to produce an image with clean, straight and crisp lines. Anyway, more on that if finally get around to doing my review.

For this class, we headed to the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Taguig. [Link Here] (Open everyday from 9 A.M to 5 P.M. except Philippine and American holidays)  For photographers who plan on going there, they are pretty camera friendly. The only points that will cause the guards to flag you are if you take pictures of the names on tombstones and if you bring studio lights into the memorial.

(There was this story going around that a couple had a wedding shoot among the tomb stones, it cause quite a stir due to the sacrilegious act.)

Luckily, PCCI (my photo school) had a permit and they allowed a big group of us (around 15) to come in and take photos.)

The grounds were pristine and fastidiously well groomed. There were an abundance of gardeners and guards as this is one of the few memorials left in the Philippines that is under American management. I wish we could replicate something like this with one of our national monuments.

The names of the US fallen during WWII were inscribed on the marble walls of the memorial. The names are accompanied by the ranks and country of origin of the noble fallen. What struck me as a bit disappointing was that almost all Filipinos who fought with the Americans only had designations as Mess Hall Attendants, Cooks, Attendants and the like.

Although I do know that the Philippine's had fighting men in the First Philippine Scout Corps, it's a little saddening seeing this. I shouldn't feel that sad though since I'm sure they contributed the most of what they could to the war effort.

They had halls where there were intricate and well detailed murals made of lapiz that talked about the major battles that the United States fought in WWII. You could lose yourself for hours just sitting on one of the benches among the silent halls and reliving the war.

In the below picture is a bell tower from which emanated a instrumental hymn every hour. There was also a small chapel inside with a guestbook.

Stark contrast between the solemn tombs and the gaudy commercial buildings.

Photo below is most obviously edited. I kind of like how it looks though.

Lastly, we tried our hand at indoor architectural photography at the showroom of One Lorenzo Place Makati. I found it very challenging to shoot mixed lighting in the confines of a cramped space.

All in all, I learned a lot and I'll definitely be practicing more architectural photography soon.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Baguio In Bloom

Well to start off, Baguio wasn't technically in bloom when these pictures were taken. I took them during July so the real blooming season was still around 7 months away. (Blooming season starts in February with the Panagbenga Festival.)

One part I'm always keen to capture whenever I'm in Baguio is the thriving natural environment that this mountain city plays host to. Beautiful trees, flowers and plants literally sprout up at each turn and within every nook and cranny.

I was able to dive deeper into the more floral aspect of what Baguio has to offer when my girlfriend asked me if I could take some pictures of the 'trademark-ed' flowers of Baguio so that her family could use them as photographic decorations for their hotel.

With that, we set off for Baguio Botanical Gardens for the bulk of the flower photos. As a helpful tip for other photographers out there, Baguio Botanical Gardens is pretty photographer friendly. It's a free entrance site and the security doesn't mind if you lug around a tripod and large camera equipment. My girlfriend and I would constantly shoot with a large reflector propped up on the opposite side of a tiny flower and the management as well as the passers by didn't seem to mind. Although we did solicit a few curious stares now and then.

Most of these shots were taken at mid day with harsh overhead light. (I know, I know, this is the worst time to shoot but hey, we were running on a tight schedule.) That's the reason why we needed a reflector. It was either used as a go-between by holding it above the flower to diffuse the harsh light or as a standard reflector to direct light towards the harsh shadows created by the sun's overhead lighting.

The flowers above are called 'Everlasting'. They are a trademark to Baguio since most visitors would take them home as pasalubongs after every visit. They are mostly made by the Ifugaos and sold by the bunch at the numerous stalls surrounding Mine's View Park. They're called 'Everlasting' flowers since they have an unusually long shelf life. They're pretty useful when you need aromatic flowers to decorate/serve as an offering on your altar. One thing about them is that butterflies, bees and wasps go crazy over them. As they were hanging from stalls, you could still see the little insects buzzing around them trying to harvest nectar.

In case most of you were wondering, the majority of these pictures (except the butterfly ones) were shot with a Nikkor 40mm f/2.8 Micro. This lens is a Macro lens that enables a 1:1 reproduction ratio (in other words, it magnifies the image. A lot. [If you compare it to your standard kit lens of course]). What I like about it is that it also has a smaller minimum focus distance. What does this mean? If you notice, our normal DSLR cameras have a minimum focus distance of 0.25m (18-55mm kit lens). What a Macro lens does is that it enables you to get closer to your subject by giving you a minimum focusing distance of 0.163m. Perfect for getting those small details like a bud in growth or the antennae of a butterfly.

I'm particularly fond of this shot above. Found this little white flower spider crawling around on the tip of this blue beauty.

Wonder what that fruit is above? They call it the 'Mickey Mouse Fruit' or the 'Nipple Fruit' (Heh.) The fruits are actually very nutritional in nature but the leaves can be used as a narcotic. Check out more random facts about the 'utong' here:

These butterfly shots on the other hand were taken around the Baguio Butterfly Farm near Camp John Hay. This tiny but dilapidated 'butterfly sanctuary' is actually just a small green house with a really nice and spry caretaker. The caretaker explained that Baguio is actually not an ideal environment for butterflies since these insects are cold blooded. Hence, if the weather is cold, these little guys get their blood frozen in their veins. They thrive in warmer conditions. This butterfly farm will cost you 40 pesos to enter and is camera friendly too. The nice old caretaker will even place the butterflies on you and take your picture for you to 'post on Facebook' as he asks. (Even though what Facebook is is a complete mystery to this nice old man.)

Sadly, the farm only contained around 6-7 'active' butterflies at the time. Some were dying and others were frozen from the cold. The old caretaker was a gem though. Really nice and passionate about his charges. Although as to how passionate his charges were at him, I do not know. You could say they all had cold feet (Heh.) (I'm a dumb joke maker. Oh well, it's alright, no one's gonna read this little bit anyway) (Oh wait, maybe someone did. Good job to you, whoever you are.) Lawl.

Photographers Note: Butterfly shots were taken with a Nikkor 105mm f2.8 Micro. Some were shot with a SB700 flash triggered wireless-ly from the side.

The larva below is where all these colorful butterflies come from.