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.

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