Don’t shoot?

Sometimes, what is happening behind the camera can be as interesting as what happens while the camera is doing its work. A security guard approached me while I was making this shot. She told me photoshoots require prior clearance from mall management. I told her this was not a photoshoot (there’s no model), and I’m just a mere hobbyist enjoying the last few minutes of daylight.
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She then pulled out a piece of paper and showed me an actual permit that was issued for a photoshoot. There were names written that point to a team effort for a photoshoot. I asked her, I’m not with a team, and there is no model, and if I opt to use my cellphone camera instead, would it still require a permit? She said no.
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We talked a bit more about the merits of the ‘instructions’ she got from mall management. I shared to her my observation that the basis for the permit requirement is hazy at best, because cellphone cameras are not prohibited, and there really was no model posing or even prancing around the rather smelly waters. She told me she was just merely following orders from ‘above’. I agreed.
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I did not want to make things hard on someone just doing her job, and I was about to leave when I saw her agree to what I just told her. She then smiled and told me that it was alright, for as long as I don’t create a ‘scene’. I told her I did not want any attention.
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After she left, I reflected on what transpired and what has been discussed. I was certainly amused at the silliness of it all. Was it for reasons of security that mall management wanted the public to get prior clearance before taking pictures? That would be hardly feasible, or even logical. Why not allow people to take pictures to their heart’s content? As a business, they can even make photo contests, for starters.
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Later that night when I arrived home, I checked the details of the photos still on the SD card. I realized the exposure time of 4 minutes was approximately the length of time we were discussing that ‘rule’. It was really amusing, even the security guard found out herself.
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16mm • 243 seconds • f/14 • ISO 100

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Luck

PHOTOGRAPHER: ALBERT CUINO

I often don’t get a few choice elements all in one composition, especially when taking photographs out in the field. Suffice it is to say, that aside from the vagaries of light, there’s absolutely no way outdoor photographers can guarantee what they’ll be able to capture in advance.

Luck must have been on my side when, after looking at the sunset, two elements made the scene come even more alive: that fishing boat going to the left, and that aircraft going to the right.

The two were like the icing on the choco-filled cake, so to speak.

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!
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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.

Practice

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I forgot how detail-heavy it is 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Featured

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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.

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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!