Good portraits are not just pictures of people. They are interpretations of personality.



A small boat returns, one Saturday afternoon. The port area in the background is pier one of Manila’s south harbour, which at that time was empty of ships that ferry cargo and or passengers. I did not expect to see the boat come in. We were inside Manila Ocean Park when the boat passed.

I had this early childhood fascination of ships and ocean going cruisers, including battleships and destroyers. There were times when my grandfather’s 3-inch thick book on major ships would occupy my attention for hours on end. Now, three decades later, I can still feel that fascination inside, perhaps just waiting to be opened. That afternoon, it dawned on me that perhaps I was subconsciously taking photos in and out of the south harbour area because of that fascination.

It is a very simple shot—and I wouldn’t be surprised if the inner, and perhaps the worst critic in me—would readily say that it is for deletion. Yet again, this resonated on a more personal level. It allowed me to experience that fascination again which all along there, waiting to be tapped.


Time soothes the roughest, or even the calmest, of waters. Whether by long exposure using neutral density filters or by simply stopping down your aperture and slowing your shutter speed, the resulting cream-like smooth texture is something one does not see everyday.


While waiting for the green light, the next best thing to do would be to take a picture.
Reminds me of a very popular Philippine snack, shakoy.
At the Ninoy Aquino International Airport; I wore slippers while travelling to and from Manila. Tsinelas. Wapakels. Keribels.

It was liberating to take pictures using just the barest of photography gears—the smartphone camera. No heavy equipment coupled with the sound of the shutter click. No lens that would instantly label one as ‘tourist’ or for better or for worse ‘photographer’. Just that unobtrusive yet common-looking black slab that almost everyone has.

It is not that I resent or don’t want to carry a full fledged camera paired with a constant aperture lens in everyday life, but it is just too obvious for invisibility that to the rest of the world, you would instantly be someone carrying a camera—and that alone can subtly influence people on how to deal with your presence.

I believe that the more unobtrusive a person is while taking pictures in the everyday, everywhere setting, the better, because sometimes, the camera—and also the one wielding it—can be an unpleasant distraction. I tried carrying my first DLSR, a 6 megapixel veteran named D40 to streets, malls, and everywhere, and still the black boxy camera almost always invite looks that range from fleeting curiosity to feigned worry that it might record their faces in unpleasing angles and hence violate their right to a beautiful photo.

The smartphone camera I’m using right now can take fine photos without that bulk. Yes, it is severely limited especially when I compare it to a full-frame beast, but then there’s a special challenge inherent to the taking of pictures using one. And it is quite pleasing every time you get a shot you like.


This one was taken at Harbor Square, Manila, Philippines. It was one of those Saturday afternoons wherein I brought my camera and tripod with me with the self-imposed goal of creating a photograph.

I got lucky during the long exposure—there were no boats, and no migratory birds, to ruin that body of water which was transformed into something akin to a polished, mirror surface. Ordinarily, 30 seconds is already too long for an uninvited element to appear and change the feel of the photo you want achieve.

I had fun creating this, even if I forgot to bring my camera’s remote control. The tripod worked, the exposure was easily factored in, and most of all, the light took on an orange tint that contrasted well with the blue sky.

16mm | f/11 | 30 seconds