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About Me

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This blog is an amateur photographer's attempt to show how beautiful the world really is. He is drawn to the colors of nature like a moth to a candle light. What are showcased here are nature's grand display of colors at sunrise and sunset, beautiful beaches and off-the-beaten track locations in his beloved Philippines, waterfalls and some of nature's great sculptures, architectural gems, and other views from around SE Asia that he was fortunate to see at one point.

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January 29, 2009

bad weather photography

Rust Colored Rocks
Pacific mood (Tingnoan, Real)

Is there such a thing as "bad weather photography"? Not too many photos out there of such because lets face it, who would want to go out there in the rain, or fog, or snow (luckily we don't have that here) and risk their gears. Its much easier to shot landscapes during perfect weather, or take tropical sunrise/sunset shots from a nice comfortable vantages points (read: resorts).

Its quite a challenge, but the rewards are worth it (I think). You get to see a surreal view - something you'll miss if you just stay indoors.

Outdoor Photographer #9
Real's raw beauty in Outdoor Photographer

If you like to try it, here are a few tips:
  • Dress the part. You'll need wind breakers or light waterproof jackets, bush hats, rain coats, etc. Avoid cotton like a plague, dry fit shorts/pants or shirts are best. Expect to get wet, because you will.
  • Umbrellas are quite useful, they can protect your gears (not you!) from sprays if you are shooting waterfalls or seascapes. Based on experience, it would also help a lot if you bring along somebody to hold the umbrella for you.
  • If your camera/lenses are not weather sealed, use clear plastic rain covers. You can buy some from camera supply stores. I find garbage bags cheaper, and just as effective. Remove cover ONLY when you are really ready to shoot. Cover as soon as you take the shots.
  • Your glasses/filters are going to get wet, no matter what you do. Bring lots of lens wipes.
  • 90% percent (or more) of your shots will look like crap and that's a fact. You will need a bit of tenacity (hmm more like stubbornness) on your part to keep shooting, or return to the same spot the next day to get more thrashing from Mother Nature.
  • You may have the best gears, but Mother Nature always have tricks up her sleeves. I have a friend who had the traumatic experience of watching his beloved D200 (+ultra wide lens) smashed on the rocks, tripod and all. All it took was a rouge gust of wind.
  • Set everything before heading out. Mount your camera on the tripod, set your camera options (i.e. aperture, ISO, etc), mount your filters and bring only what you really need. You won't have much time to switch filters once you are there.
  • Be prepared to look like a fool. You'll be the only one on top of a rock, barefoot, and challenging the waves in the middle of a storm while the rest of the gang are enjoying hot coco. If you join me then there'll be two of us, we can take turns holding the umbrella.
  • Don't get swept out to the sea. Its bad for your health.
Good luck and happy shooting! More moody photos here.
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January 21, 2009

return to candaba wetlands bird sanctuary

Egrets of Candaba
egrets of Candaba

The wetlands of Candaba in Pampanga is (2nd) home to a variety of migratory birds during the months of November to February (late autumn - winter in the northern hemisphere). The birds are plentiful during those months.

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January 13, 2009

real moods

A real moody Real

It's one of those unplanned "let's go somewhere this weekend" trips with my housemates. Our destination: Real in Quezon on the eastern side of Luzon, facing the Pacific Ocean. Several points had been raised just hours before the trip like: its constantly raining in Real nowadays, wasn't there a typhoid outbreak in Real several weeks back. These were met with a nonchallant "So?". The final decision: strap two bikes at the back of the car, pack lightly, and head to Real at 10PM.

By midnight we were sipping hot "goto-Batangas" (a thick stew of ox skin and innards) in Siniloan and by 2AM we were navigating the endlessly snaking roads on the Sierra Madre, with a fog so thick visibility was reduced to a couple of meters.

Tingnoan Shores

We arrived in Brgy Tingnoan at around 3AM amidst heavy downpour. Even with the heavy rains I can still hear waves thundering as they pound the shore. I woke up in a different Real, far from the sunny shores I remembered the last time I was here. Different but still beautiful.

So what does one do in a weather like this?

No stoppin'

Go wave bashing! Its accurately more like the waves bashing us around like rag dolls. Some waves were more than 5 feet tall!

I biked around trying to find some rocks to shoot. I found a nice formation just a kilometer or so from where we were staying. I started taking shots while the the waves got bigger. The locals must have thought I'm crazy. It was raining and I was on these sharp rocks, too close to the edge for comfort.

The "channel"

Crazy or not, I went back there the next day. This time the sea was friendlier and calmer (by Real's standards). Here are some of the shots that day:

Real's rough coastal beauty

Ethereal Real

Taking photos in conditions like this can be very tricky. I was soaking wet the whole time. I had to hold an umbrella with one hand and hand hold my GND filters with the other. Triggering the shutter was an acrobatic feat, believe me. My filters are full of water droplets within a few seconds and I have to constantly clean them. I would hold them in my mouth as I change camera settings (yucky I know, and I bet nobody's going to borrow my filters any time soon hehe).
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January 12, 2009

outdoor photographer no. 8

outdoor photographer no. 8

Another Lantaw photo made it to Outdoor Photographer's web gallery. A huge part of the credit goes to my wife, who was my assistant and "wave spotter" when I took the photo :).

Read more of our Gumasa trip here.
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January 9, 2009

glan | gumasa: a bountiful morning

fish landing
Part of the reason why we stayed at the fishing village rather than the resorts in Gumasa was to be near the small-scale fish landings in the area. Thats where you can get the freshest of catches at a bargain, before they bring the bounty to the city (General Santos City) where the price doubles.

The boats started coming in at 2AM in the morning. These outrigger boats went out to sea the previous day and they fish close to shore using spear guns and small nets (and hopefully not with dynamites!).

The waves were still lulling me to sleep and my wife practically had to peel me off the bed (a straw mat on a hard bamboo floor - still very inviting given the cool breeze).

We arrive at the one of the fish landing just as they were offloading the catch. Then the transactions began - a few kilos of these, a few kilos of those. They were trying to sell me a good sized ray but I turned it down, don't know how to cook it :). We bought several kilos of indangan (surgeonfish) and a couple groupers (they only caught a few, mostly small ones). My wife wanted more groupers so we had to walk to another landing site and we see what they got there.

2AM at the fish landing

The prices went up a bit, probably because its New Year. It would be steeper if they figured you for a tourist. With my DSLR, I really looked like one. But I can haggle since I can speak their dialects, besides I'm practically a "local" :). In the end we still got a good price, knowing how much the groupers cost if we buy them at the local fish market.

some groupers and surgeonfish

I still had a few hours before sunrise so its back to bed. Sunset the previous day was far from spectacular and I was hoping for some colors on sunrise. I actually overslept and woke up at about 6:00AM! I had to hurry to the beach to find some rocks :D. Luckily its still overcast and I thought I can still get some long exposure shots given the lighting condition. Overcast sunrise may not be that bad sometimes :).

smoky waters and rocks
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January 6, 2009

glan | gumasa weekend getaway (sarangani)

Overcast mood in Gumasa

The sky was overcast for several days already but my wife and I decided to push through with our Gumasa getaway (last Dec 30-31, last travel for 2008, sans the kids). Its been 13 years since we last visited that nice stretch of fine white (or light cream ) colored sand and word has it that the place is now "developed" (something that I feared and not too enthusiastic about).

Gumasa's fine sand

Gumasa is a small fishing village in the municipality of Glan, a coastal town on the southern end of the Sarangani bay near the tip of mainland Mindanao. Its popular for its fine white sand beach that stretches for almost a kilometer. While popular for its beach, the remote area gained notoriety in the 1990s because of the kidnappings. Tourists avoid the place, they instead prefer the gray sand beaches on the northwestern side of Sarangani bay because of their proximity the city of General Santos.

One of the resorts in Gumasa

Things have changed a bit in Gumasa. The (very) rough and dusty road that I remembered is now replaced with a paved rolling highway.

An overcast day in Gumasa

The simple huts near the beach are now replaced with resorts, some with grand accommodations and swimming pools. The resorts are concentrated on the southern end of the beach, where the beach area is flatter and the water shallower. The villagers who used to live where the resorts now stand were given relocations on the nearby hills and on the north-western part of the beach.

We decided to skip the resorts and instead stayed with one of the families we befriended (an interesting fact: many of the "locals" are actually Indonesians who came to make Gumasa their second home. Indonesia is just 16 hours away by outrigger boat ). I wanted to be closer to the end of the beach where the rocks are for "picture taking" reasons (luckily my wife understands my photographic needs :), she was my assistant the whole day, handing me filters when I need them).

We had our tent with us and we were ready to rough it out but they offered us the use of one of their open cottages, and their kitchen, and their utensils.

View of an overcast sunset, overlooking Celebes sea

The dinner we shared with our hosts that night was a simple dish of fried balo (needlefish), freshly caught just off the beach. This is the Gumasa I remembered.

Fried "balo"

As I watched a moody sunset over Celebes Sea, I can't help wonder how tourism will transform the place another 5 years from now, now that the place is very accessible and (relatively) peaceful. A lot of folks say that Gumasa is going to be Mindanao's Boracay. I hope not, for Gumasa's sake.

A hint of sunset in Celebes Sea

  • From Gumasa, there is a rough and bumpy road (accessible only to habal-habals or motorcycles) going to Batolaki Point at the very tip of the Mindanao mainland. I heard the waters of Batolaki Point are very pristine and teeming with underwater life.
  • Sarangani and Balut Islands are just a 1-hour boat ride (outrigger boats) from Gumasa. You can make a sidetrip to Batolaki Point on the way to Balut Island.
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