Back from retirement

It has been years since I last took a picture with the camera on a tripod, I was already thinking of decommissioning it since aside from the rust that has started to creep inside its joints, sand from Coron and El Nido still cling to it like the wanderlust that won’t really leave after seeing beautiful escapes.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Whatever ‘retirement’ my tripod was enjoying was certainly cut short when I joined a workshop organized by Chasing Light. It was a three-day, four-session workshop that had us participants take photographs of the cityscapes of Metro Manila from four different vantage points either during sunset or sunrise.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
This image was taken during the first day, and is a blend of two unfiltered images that had different exposure priorities—one for the sky, and one for the buildings.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
The human eye can easily capture the entire range of tones of a landscape, but a camera can struggle at times, unless one has filters to help achieve it. I did not have one with me when this was taken. Fortunately, we were advised that we can auto-bracket our shots (how on Earth did I forget this!), and so yes, that’s what I did.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
When I got home later that evening, I processed the RAW files and blended 2 of the 3 shots. The exposure values were well defined that 2 was already enough. Then it was just a matter of restraining myself from going overboard with the myriad options available in software. Hahaha!
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
The entire workshop was fun, factual, and filled with information on techniques, tips, and suggestions that one can readily use. Aside from making me reach for again for my good old tripod, it also cut short what sabbatical I had in taking pictures.

Advertisements

#superbluebloodmoon

albertcuino.superbluebloodmoon.2018

I had fun tonight taking a shot at something we won’t fully see again in our lifetime. Right when the totality occurred, I bumped the ISO to 800 to include the stars, as I felt that a pure black background is stale and boring. If what I read about this trifecta is accurate, we won’t be seeing this again until 150 years later.

Practice

albertcuino.practice.moon.20180130

I forgot how it detail-heavy it was to photograph a full moon. This was my first thought when I started setting-up for a practice session a day before the super blue blood moon is slated to appear. From finding a stable ground to anchor the tripod on, to checking if the ball head won’t creep down due to the almost vertical position of the camera, to the usual, but nonetheless crucial items like white balance, focus, shutter speed and aperture—everything had to fall into place.

I went outside with just the barest of gears: a tripod that has seen better days, the camera, and a 70-200mm zoom lens. When I started to take a picture of it, the moon was already near the 11 o’clock position, and it was quite difficult to point this thing they call “a decent camera with a zoom lens attached” when the whole setup weighs more than a kilo. I must have stretched a few belly fats just to settle everything, including the tripod legs, to get a decently sharp shot at 200mm.

Tomorrow, around 8:51pm to 10:07pm (Manila time) according to PAGASA’s advisory, would be the best time to get a glimpse and photograph something that was last observed in 1982. And in addition to the checklist I prepared for another round of taking pictures of the moon, I think wearing something comfortably loose around the midriff would be nice. Hahaha!

 

Going North

After what seemed to be a long time, I finally had the first road trip of the year last Saturday when I joined a team that was tasked to visit selected resorts north of Manila for the summer outing of our company scheduled just a few months from now.

It is not often that I get to visit this part of Luzon. Previous outing activities has been in the south, where the beaches are also plenty, and perhaps, more popular. However, the places here have their own unique mark.

albertcuino.greenery.sinagtala.greencanyon (1)

We visited three resorts despite the gloomy morning weather, and checked their facilities in preparation for the outing. They all had their pros and cons, and all have areas and facilities we need for a day’s event.

The Greenery feels like a place transported from somewhere else. There are American-styled houses that can accommodate family-sized clients, as well as swimming pools. I’ve heard this venue is also popular for weddings and wedding photo shoots.

albertcuino.greenery.sinagtala.greencanyon (2)albertcuino.greenery.sinagtala.greencanyon (9)albertcuino.greenery.sinagtala.greencanyon (7)albertcuino.greenery.sinagtala.greencanyon (8)

After spending more than hour we went farther north, to Green Canyon Eco Art Resort, where the environment—to my pleasant surprise—was convincingly quiet and peaceful. The security was tighter than the previous venue, and it made me think of spending a few days just to detoxify and rejuvenate in hotel accommodations sans the hustle and buzz of one.

What struck me the most was the peace and quiet here. Of course the off-season helped, but if the comparison would be between the other selected venues for the same period, this would win hands down.

albertcuino.greencanyon (2)albertcuino.greencanyon (3)albertcuino.greenery.sinagtala.greencanyon (3)

The travel time between the first two venues took an inordinate amount of time due to the inescapable traffic leading to the expressways; and what was a reasonable schedule became stretched when we started our ocular at Green Canyon. By 1:30 PM, it was getting obvious our lunch must arrive on time—and arrive on time, it did—and eat because we were already hungry, we did.

albertcuino.greenery.sinagtala.greencanyon (6)albertcuino.greenery.sinagtala.greencanyon (4)albertcuino.greenery.sinagtala.greencanyon (5)

We finished our lunch, saw a few more areas, completed our visit, and then it was off again to the third and last leg of the ocular. By then I was already dizzy from the near constant travel, that I forced myself to sleep. I think I managed to get a few minutes, and then it was back to taking in all the scenery that was passing by nearly a hundred miles per hour.

albertcuino.greenery.sinagtala.greencanyon (1)

It felt like chasing the fading light again, literally, as it was past 4:00PM and we still have pending items to complete. The landscape we passed by was punctuated by hills, farm lands, and some curious-looking mountains all of which also reminded me of that not so distant past enjoying the golden hour on a beach devoid of people but awash in glorious sunlight.

My reveries were abruptly disturbed when our driver’s Waze reminded us that in 800 meters we turn right, and then we turn left. I was still feeling dizziness and I didn’t have any medicine with me. I theorized this was caused by flatulence (how ridiculous!) and I all I needed to do was release some hot gas (even more ridiculous!).

We arrived at Sinagtala, in Orani, Bataan, past 5:00 PM. Based on the distance alone, this one’s even farther from Manila than the first two venues. It took us at least an hour to get there from Green Canyon, via SCTEX. The security guard denied us entry at first, noting it was already after office hours, but he must have noticed our appeal sounded so tired he was convinced we indeed traveled far just to get here.
Sinagtala has swimming pools, function halls, as well as adventure rides. There are also houses where family-sized guests can stay. Compared to Green Canyon, this certainly was designed to cater to a wider range of requirements. Hell, there were even ponies (and I certainly won’t even suggest they were brought there from some urban imperial jungle) tied near trees at the middle of the venue.

IMG_20180128_153316_834-01

Dusk was fast approaching and the chirping creatures that make that unmistakable sound at night started their symphony. It reminded me right there and then of those early years spent in San Fernando, or even in Tubod, when the fading light, and the increasingly visible stars tell you it is time to go home, wash up, and have dinner.

albertcuino.sinagtala (5)

We went home past 6:00 in the evening and traced back our earlier route.

Featured

albertcuino.centerfold_kaunlaran_2017_december

I got lucky! woohoo

A photo I took during our recent Christmas party was chosen and featured—centerfold—in our Company’s latest issue of its newsletter, the Kaunlaran.

What you are looking at is a photo of the opening salvo of the party. They are my fellow employees, dressed in costumes of the country they are representing, and dancing to the beat of world music.

I was initially standing at the right side of the stage, and was enjoying their performance (it was really good) when I realized I haven’t been taking photos. I made my way to the front, past the video cameras and sat just a few meters away from the edge of the stage. I had with me my camera on manual and a prime lens set at the widest aperture, and then took a few photos, before returning to the holding area.

albertcuino.christmasparty2017 (9)
24mm • ƒ/1.4 • 1/100 • ISO 100

In situations like this, I find it helpful to get into the groove of the music and anticipate the performer’s moves based on the rhythm or the beat of the music they are dancing to. It helps to also have a good spot—in this case I was at the center, very near the edge of the stage—where you can photograph their performance in a way that would also allow you to include their expressions.

Settings-wise, I often go for the lowest possible ISO and widest aperture without sacrificing shutter speed. Unless the creative intent is to capture trails or blurred movements, I prefer shutter speeds that are at least twice the focal length (e.g., 1/100 seconds when using a 50mm lens). White balance is purely a personal preference, and photographers have a billion preferences, but recently I tend to use just two: auto or 5000K. camera

I am really thankful this photo passed the standards of the Editorial Board, and was printed on centerfold. It is something I haven’t even dreamed of, yet it already came true.

Thank you San Miguel! 

Old Albay, Legazpi

The pilot took more than 30 minutes before announcing that he will bring us on final approach for landing at Legazpi airport. Days before, a typhoon has swept through Eastern Visayas and while the eye of the weather disturbance is already far, a cold front is enveloping this small city best known for the majestic volcano near it. I comforted myself with the thought that I’ve seen it before, although I did feel that urge to try to find it piercing the cloud cover when I saw fellow passengers strain their necks trying in vain to have a glimpse of it. There was none to see except the clouds, until flight 5J something started its final approach.

I liked what I saw. The clouds may have covered much, but the ground below was sufficiently bathed in whatever sunlight reached it, that it made for a couple of images that I don’t often see, especially an aerial view of a river turned brown after days of rain.

albertcuino.legazpi17 (4)albertcuino.legazpi17 (5)albertcuino.legazpi17 (1)

Legazpi is in Albay, in the Bicol region, and is known for Mayon Volcano—an active volcano that has drawn so many tourists and travelers. We were going there to attend a wedding the following day. I was already having second thoughts taking the flight because storm signals has not yet been removed, and I know how hard it is to be stranded outside of Manila during a very short vacation leave.

Luckily, we were able to land, never mind the delay, and off we went to the hotel, which was located in a part of Legazpi that I have not been to before—Old Albay district.

Old. Old, it was not. Old it was.

I think there was a template in city construction or city plans when the Spaniards governed Las Islas Filipinas. Typically, the power center would be the Church. Then you would have the government building, and somewhere nearby would be the town plaza. There would also be a school. The four would form the core of the city, and it remained true for Legazpi, here at the Old Albay district.

There was, yes, indeed a very old church.

albertcuino.legazpi17 (13)albertcuino.legazpi17 (14)albertcuino.legazpi17 (16)albertcuino.legazpi17 (12)

The Cathedral of San Gregorio Magno is situated in the heart of the city of Legazpi, no less. Of course, the friars of old, especially those who see themselves as kingmakers, would not want to have their kingdom located outside of the beating heart of any city. And the gobernardorcillos and all those who aspire power, aim to please those who make them king.

The cathedral is easily accessible, and looks very much well-maintained, including the public rest rooms beside the parish office. Public jeepneys can bring one to and from the church, but I did not bother. I wanted to explore the place by walking.

albertcuino.legazpi17 (9)

Life here looks very much laid back and slow, especially if you’re accustomed to the pace in bigger cities like Cebu or Davao, yet for all its provincial city vibes, Legazpi has that increasingly felt modern vibe courtesy of businesses that has sprouted (no doubt helped by tourism). Yes, you can ride that icon of the road, the jeepney—which will soon be replaced by modern, fuel-efficient, passenger vehicles depending on which side you’re on—to any place for less than Php10.00.

There are also tricycles, which ironically will set you back more than a jeepney ride, and will even charge you additional if you’re not the street smart type.

albertcuino.legazpi17 (6)albertcuino.legazpi17 (11)albertcuino.legazpi17 (1)

The main attraction here is the volcano. No doubt about it. It is a commanding sight once you see it, but most of the time, it is covered by clouds which can totally ruin plans. Best to check it at various times of the day as the range of sunlight can play wonders to it. Once, we were travelling to Ligao (located a few kilometers north of Legazpi) when the afternoon sun side-lit the volcano and made it come alive in an orange glow. Unfortunately, I was not able to photograph it. It made me sad because I missed it. (Now that’s an understatement.)

PHOTOGRAPHER: ALBERT CUINOPHOTOGRAPHER: ALBERT CUINO

If you don’t see the volcano with your naked eyes the first time you set foot in Legazpi, it may mean something. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I’ve heard locals say one is no longer a virgin if a person finds Mayon hiding behind clouds the first time he or she looks at it. What if you first see it from the air while the plane you’re riding on is trying to land? Would that mean something too? I am totally amused at the silliness of it all.

There’s more to be experienced in Legazpi and in the towns nearby. And while the last visit I had was 90% of the time at the old parts of the city, I still enjoyed it. Everyday life here, though it can be boring at times, is simple and made me enjoy a few days without feeling like a slave to the clock.

albertcuino.legazpi-article (2).jpg

 

 

 

Page 1 of 365

The day started quietly. I checked my son and my wife and quietly went downstairs to prepare for the morning. I looked at the clock, it was 6:08 in the morning. Not even one sound of a car or a jeep passing by. Just the steady breeze of cold wind on the first morning of 2018.

After the days where the build-up of anticipation leading to the new year was continuous, the quiet morning after was perfect. These are rare moments, especially in urban Metro Manila, and most especially now that I have a son who is increasingly becoming energetic and expressive each passing day. I made myself a cup of black coffee and took stock of the year that was.

I have so much to be thankful for last year. Discoveries, lessons, challenges, moments that will never be repeated again—2017 was a very memorable year. It was a year of many firsts. It was a year of deftly balancing personal and professional commitments and responsibilities. It was a year of learning from the challenges that came our way.

As with 2016, my 2017 was centered on my family. Being a new Dad has definitely been no easy task, and the responsibilities that come with raising a family seem endless. Yet it has given me an immeasurable amount of joy and happiness, even in the most unexpected moments. My baby toddler had so many firsts in 2017, and so many memories that I have documented in photographs and videos. I believe I am fast approaching that stage wherein I have to buy another external drive to store JPGs and MP4s, as well as upload shortlisted ones to the cloud.

There were challenges too, and the take away from all of these are the lessons learned. Not a few instances where we showed good, respectful intentions but were only met with disdain, even blame, for the circumstances they have long been in, even before they came into our lives. Sometimes, it is better to let people go, despite having perfect basis not to, rather than be the object of their rancor.

I could have simply shrugged it all off and choose to focus on the positives, but it would be an unbalanced view of the past year.

The coffee I made was down to the last few sips. My belly was warm, and I could feel a fart developing for release. I opened my phone, and it was already 6:27 in the morning. I decided not to go online yet—it will surely eat a chunk of time—and placed it down. Already I have a list of activities lined-up for the day. But first I have to wake them up, and greet them with sunshine that the clouds have chosen to let through this surprisingly cloudy January 1.

It’ll be a long first day of the year.