Christmas Lights

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At Ayala Triangle, before the colorful light show that never fails to draw people in. I think it would be better if they start while the sky is still visible. The colors would simply pop!

I’ve visited this well-maintained park before, and while the lights are not that sophisticated compared to previous year’s design and execution, the whole package is still a colorful and vibrant experience that would make one reach for the camera and snap photos.

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Christmas Party 2017

We just had our One World Christmas Party last December 8, and it was really a blast!

Every December, organizations hold their own Christmas party, and for more than 5 years already, I have been lucky to be part of the committee that has been handling preparations for the one annual event that all of us look forward to.


Filipino culture celebrates Christmas in very unique way—Christmas in the Philippines is arguably the longest, starting sometime in September and ending in January.

Common to these celebrations are food, party prizes, performers, and good fun. Our one Christmas party has all that, and we are very lucky everything is well provided, including a large performance area complete with lights and pristine audio systems for a concert-level performance.

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I have been taking photographs of our Christmas parties over the years, and what I have found is that there definitely are various opportunities to take a good photo. One can document performers, or the joy on the faces of raffle prize winners, the palpable rush of excitement as the program unfolds—there are many ways a photographer can focus on in documenting an event as big as the one we have been lucky to be part of.

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Of course, there are challenges.

Since Christmas parties usually happen in the evening, I have to take into account for low light. Small apertures—f/3.5 is already a handicap—are automatically out of the question. This is the main reason why prime lenses are the best option. (However, large apertures come with it the need for fine-grained control of focus. A single misplaced focus can ruin the entire photo.)

Using prime lenses do not offer the flexibility of a zoom. There were many instances before when I longed for a 200mm, but can only make do with 50mm. But just like any hurdle, this one can be readily remedied by going nearer than most. Talking to concert organizers and security before the event has started can really help you get a spot that would let you take better pictures.

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Another challenge, although this is a personal one, is white balance. With stage lights of various colors rapidly shifting and illuminating performers and party goers, trying to get pleasing color cannot just be left to the camera, even if it offers a second Auto WB option. I usually remedy this by going to 5000K, give and take 500K, depending on how fast the stage lights change. Going RAW is an option, but I don’t want to, since I don’t have much time trying to nail the ‘perfect’ white balance.


It might sound difficult, but I’ve realized the challenges common in taking photographs at big events can be easily overcome by restraining that inevitable feeling and rush to take it all at once. Of course, even a cursory plan can help and provide a guide, but a balanced take between documenting the event and getting into the groove of the party can help one in getting more keepers.

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At the end of the day, the stream of memorable images you get from an event you enjoyed and had the opportunity to document is a very pleasant combination.

All in all, the happy moments surely overcome these challenges—especially when you learn your name has been chosen by the randomizer as the winner of the raffle grand prize!


Heil? Hello! You shall return.
The view outside. It must have been a sight when the Japanese appeared on the horizon, knowing they are going to die at the hands of Filipinos.
The Filipino Soldier.
Malinta Tunnel survived the war. But Yamashita’s fabled gold bars are still nowhere to be found.
Artillery at Battery Way. These guns can hurl 11,000 lbs shells over 20 miles away.
I stared at it. No ghosts. Bummer.
Hey, take a photo of me too!
She came running and appeared into the frame at the right moment.
The Pacific War Memorial at Corregidor Island.



Three frames from my photo session with Kyrah Abad, at Pioneer Studios. The location was big enough even for a vehicle/car shoot, yet there was this separate area that had big windows, and where tools and other photography equipment were stored. We liked the aura there more than what we had using the strobes in the main studio, so we spent at least half of the session in it.

Sometimes, it turns out quite the opposite of how you planned it. And it’s perfectly alright.

A Russian Sailor


After looking at Russian naval weaponry aboard the Udaloy-class anti-submarine destroyer Admiral Vinogradov, I approached one the sailors. Aleksei, he says his name is. Looks Chinese than Russian.

Later on, I learned that he was from Yakutsk, Sakha Republic, Russia—one of the coldest cities on Earth.



Two things changed in how I approach and do photography. Normally, I seldom take notice of changes, much less write about it, such as when I contented myself in using just one AF point each time I take a picture.

First, I have reached a point wherein I have confidence in the output of the rear camera of my smartphone. Before, I was really not liking it because:

• the resolution is paltry
• noise reduction algorithm sucks
• colors SOOC are utterly bland

Having a capable smartphone camera frees me up from the limiting physical factors that comes each time I use my DSLR. Of course, nothing beats the image quality, especially if paired with that sharp prime lens. Yet from a certain point of view, using a smartphone for photography is like that time when cameras like the D100 ruled the market—capable but not that much compared to film cameras.

Second—and this really surprised me—is all about post-processing an image to a style that I am not really familiar and comfortable with. Gone are details that would vie for attention. Instead, the color palette is simplified even further.

I’m spending more creative time on Snapseed than in Lightroom or Photoshop now, however I’m still fine tuning the post-processing workflow. There’s a bit of a learning curve here, and consistency of colors is something of an issue depending on how much you want to manage different screens.

Something minimal in front at Mall of Asia's seafront. The afternoon rain passed by, cleaning the area from dust.

Nevertheless, I am enjoying just how much freedom from weight a capable smartphone camera can give. Now if only it can produce 300 dpi images rather than 72 or 96.


Just a few more weeks and we’ll find ourselves blessed with another year. I think it could sound premature to talk about the 2018 when there are still plenty of left on the plate, however, the thought of given a new batch of 365 is an altogether a pair of change and constraint.

Today saw us have a meeting at the cafeteria wherein we were informed of what the news has been reporting these past few days about how our Company is bundling together its three traditional, consumer businesses into one super group. I believe it made perfect sense to do so—the public agrees too. Already, the stock price of one of the three companies has surged more than 20% in just a span of 3 days.

Well the more things change, the more they stay the same. Hours before the news services published the announcement, analysts I followed on Twitter already talked about how this move would allow the Company to unlock value. However, questions of organization and employment drowned out the upside of the move. Of course, it was just human nature to seek clarification on milestones such as this; and this afternoon’s meeting was simply what us employees wanted to hear.

As I am writing this, Salome is dumping rains outside. The tropical depression arrived a day after the 4th anniversary of that extremely devastating Haiyan, and is expected to strengthen once it reaches the South China Sea. This year has been relatively quiet so far as far as tropical cyclones in the Philippines are concerned—but that could change anytime since November has been historically the month where the worst typhoons come to pay a visit.

I’ve been told many times over that death is not the end, but only a transition. I want to believe them, however, to the best of my knowledge, no one has really transitioned and went back to this life to tell people how it was—well except for those who experienced near death experiences.

For some unexplainable reason, I find my thoughts standing on the precipice of sadness and the acceptance of it, knowing full well that there really is an end to everything.

I first learned of NDEs when I read the works of Dr. Raymond Moody many, many years ago. It really fired up my curiosity and in a way made me appreciate how fragile we truly are. The transition may take on different meanings, and each has his or her own way of dealing with it.

As for me, I sometimes wander in the landscapes of my thoughts about passing away and how, as an eldest child, should I prepare for the inevitable. Neighbors have passed away, and just recently one of our neighbors in the province did. For some unexplainable reason, I find my thoughts standing on the precipice of sadness and the acceptance of it, knowing full well that there really is an end to everything.