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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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March 21, 2009

going "home" to osmeña/tambobong (dasol, pangasinan)

peaceful Tambobong Beach

Well it felt like that - like going home - when we went to back Brgy. Osmeña in Dasol, Pangasinan last weekend. It was my second trip there this year in a span of just a couple of weeks. I'm feeling like a local already :). I promised myself I would enjoy more of the sea and sun this time, and do less photography.

It was raining when we got there at 4AM. Weird summer weather. My hopes of doing some sunrise shots were dashed by the trickle of the rain. Oh well, minimal photography I reminded myself ... better catch up with your sleep.

20,133 views over the sea :D
into the blues

We headed to our favorite snorkeling spot in Balinmanok after breakfast. Our host's cousin has a perfect spot there with a shipwreck right in front of the beach (we don't know the name of the Chinese boat "resting" there so we just called the spot "Balinmanok Wreck", try googling it :) ). The sea was calm and the water was cool. The sun occasionally hide behind clouds. Not too sunny, but not too gloomy either. Not too perfect but its an OK beach weather. (Hey it rhymes!)

Some of my companions headed straight to the hammocks with their mp3s and PSPs. I went straight to snorkeling and toyed around with a friend's underwater (film instamatic) camera. We found a sea anemone with about 4 "Nemos" :). I saw two large clownfishes - must be the breeding pair. I took several shots ... OK may be a bit too many. I swore the clownfishes were already blinded by the flash by the time I was through.

Later found out after having the negatives scanned that all I got was 1 blurred photo with them in the center, and several very blurred ones with maybe a tail, or a head, not really sure. Its the the old film days all over again. Hmm, hit and miss (mostly miss) photography.

More sun and sea this time ...
two thumbs up!

Later that afternoon, I couldn't help myself going to my favorite spot in Cabacungan. I volunteered as "guide" for some of the first timers, but I was really hoping to get some sunset shots.

Rocks of Nalasin
Nalasin rocks (on the way to Cabacungan)

Light was perfect when we passed by the rock "towers" of Nalasin. I took some wonderful sunset shots from that spot only a month ago.


The waves were quite big in Cabacungan cove that afternoon. The emerald pool inside Cabacungan cave was murky and too dangerous to swim in. One could easily get slammed on the cave walls. We instead just waited for the sunset on the edge of the chasm I wrote about in this post.

Sunset on the Edge
waiting for the sunset

Sunset came but there was no spectacular colors this time. The horizon was shrouded with this grey flat clouds. Sigh, less of photography.

golden hour in Cabacungan

The weather the next day was perfect! We sent searching for other coves we have not visited before. We found a small beach just south of Balinmanok (still part of Brgy Osmeña). True enough, the folks there are either cousins or uncles of our hosts :).

unnamed beach in Osmeña

I took a couple of shots and went straight to the business of finding other "Nemos". Found none this time, but came across a lot of jellyfish - the none poisonous types. There was not much near the shore, the corals were dead and the sea bed covered with sea grass. They do sea weed farming there but apart from that there's not much to see.

perfect beach day

nice shady spot

I would be leading a group of photographers in Dasol next week on a photo safari. So the "enjoy the beach and do less of photography" promise goes right out of the window.

If you like the destinations I feature on my blog and want to visit them on a photo safari, send me an email at aebarredo[at]gmail.com. If you are the outdoor type, then these destinations maybe for you.

Photos around Osmeña( and Tambobong) and neighboring attractions here, here and here

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March 13, 2009

mt. pinatubo crater lake

view from the hikers' rest area

The massive eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991 has left this huge crater that is now filled with water. The guides suggest that the best time to go here is between the months of December and February. Its dry season so the hike is easy and its also when the waters of the lake is a beautiful turquoise in color. During the rainy season the water can turn muddy brown.

I'm not really sure what cause this blue-green color but I read somewhere that high concentrations of lime (calcium oxide or calcium hydroxide) can color the waters of rivers or lakes cyan. I don't know whether this is the case for Pinatubo's crater lake and I sure want to know exactly why the color is like that.

Jade Lake
enjoying the lake side

I was surprise to see a lot of sun bathers near the lake side that day. This place used to be a destination for hardy trekkers and mountaineers but the completion of the "Skyway" has been this lake an easy destination, as easy as a trip to your favorite beach resort.

Lake View
crater walls

They have boats/kayaks for rent (Php 300) if you want to explore the other sides of the lakes. You just have to be careful if you visit the other shores for I have noticed traces of rock slides in some of them. Its best to keep a safe distance from these shores.

Great Wall
a closer look at the walls (south-western)

There was a time, just after the eruption, when the water level is high. The water level used be almost 3/4 to the top the crater wall (see photo above). They have to drill a hole at the north western side to "relieve" the lake of some its water. Several towns of Zambales and Tarlac would be flooded if the crater walls break down with that water level.

Light and Dark Tug of War
one last look

I was one of the last to leave the lake shore. (I thought I was the last but then I discovered two of my friends are still swimming in the lake!). The rest of our group (rest of the crowd already trekked down) are already topside near the viewing stations.

As I gave the lake one last glance, I can help but think how this amazing beauty had wreak havoc in 1991: villages wiped out and buried under lahar, countless dead, thousands of folks displaced, and landscapes changed forever.

Photographer's note:

Clouds can be fast moving over the lake. The light changes by the second. It best to bring GND filters. If you have an ND400 filter(or an equivalent filter that can cut 10-13 f/stops), you can take nice long exposure shots with cloud movements. IR photography is also nice there.

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March 9, 2009

trekking to pinatubo's crater lake

With the "Skyway" in place, trekking to Mt. Pinatubo's famous crater lake has become relatively easy. The trek which used to take 4-5 hours (via the canyons carved by lahar flows) now takes 45 minutes (1 hour tops).

Trail Head (Dust alley)
Dust Alley

From the 4x4 parking area, we descended to the streams below via a man made passage. They should name this passage "Dust Alley", a small gust of wind is enough to create momentary dust devils and mini-sandstorms. I saw construction equipment at the end of Dust Alley. Its obvious they are trying to extend the road further to the crater.

Pinatubo Aetas
Pinatubo Aetas

From Dust Alley, we followed the small creek upstream. Its best to wear sandals as you have to cross the stream several times. You can still keep your feet dry by stepping on small rocks. But with the very cool water I did not mind getting my feet wet.

Going Upstream
trekking upstream

Our pace was slow during the trek. Some had children (4-5 year olds) in their group. With the addition of people trekking back, the narrow trails were packed. I stopped several times to take photos but still managed to catch up with my group.

Boulder on the Trail
an interesting boulder on the trail

As we neared the top, the foilage seemed thicker. Its a far cry from the time ( after the eruption) when the area was completely barren. Mt. Pinatubo was heavily forrested before its eruption in 1991, the 2nd largest volcanic eruption in the 20th century.

The only challenging part of the trek was the steep climb a hundred feet or so from the top. Challenging but not hard, they already made crude concrete stair steps.

There she was, the first time I saw her
Mt. Pinatubo's iconic crater lake

Seeing the crater lake was like opening a present. I just stood there, open jawed, the first time I laid eyes on the cyan waters of the crater lake of Mt. Pinatubo. I've seen photos of the lake numerous times before but its different if you are there. Takes a bit of time to take in such a grand scene.

From the observation posts, its a steep climb down to the lake shore. Good thing there are stair steps. The shore was crowded but we managed to find ourselves a spot. Cover from the sun is scant, an umbrella is worth the hassle of bringing one. With the heat, the cool cyan waters looked very inviting for a quick dip (they say the water is good for your skin).

Heading back
We were the last group to head back. The trek back just took a fraction of the time we spent on the way up.

Going Down
trekking down

Where lahar once flowed
carved by lahar

The sun was already low on the horizon as we crossed the Crow Valley on the way back to Pinatubo Spa Town in Sta. Juliana. As I stared back at the peak, I know I'm going to trek up there again, soon.

An hour till sunset
Crow Valley

Pinatubo Spa Town services (Sta. Jualiana)
After a tiring trek you may want to consider:
- spa (Php 500.00 - up)
- shower (Php 100.00)

More photos of the crater soon.

Check out other That's My World entries here
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March 2, 2009

pinatubo 4x4 experience (crow valley)

4x4 Experience
4x4s on the go

When my blogger friend Dom sent an invite to trek to Mt. Pinatubo, I didn't think twice to accept it. I had been planning for the longest to trek up there - to the iconic crater lake whose cyan colored water has enthralled so many.

Our trip started early. We took a bus bound for Dau (Pampanga) at 5AM. When we arrived several 4x4 trucks were already waiting for us in front of the bus terminal. There was a time when one would travel to Capas (Tarlac) to get to the 4x4 trucks, but nowadays they can fetch you at Dau bus terminal - an arrangement that is very convenient to trekkers who commute.

From Dau its about an hour more to Sta. Juliana in Capas. The Pinatubo Spa Town in Sta. Juliana is the official registration (and jump-off point) area for trekkers. I was amazed at the long line of trucks already there, seems like Mt. Pinatubo is a hot destination nowadays (pardon the pun).

4x4 Queue
Long line of 4x4 in front of Pinatubo Spa Town

The fun begins when you cross the check point gate and enter a huge valley filled with volcanic ash (technically its not lahar anymore). The huge nearby mountains towers like green walls. I could imagine how these mountains looked like just after the 1991 eruption - gray and lifeless.

4x4 Experience II
snaking through the green valley

We bounce our way through the now lush valley. These stripped down trucks are not the most comfortable of rides, but that's part of riding experience. Part of the riding experience also are the occasional gusts of volcanic dust - so its best to wear glasses and some scarf like Keffiyeh (Arab scarf).

4x4 Experience III
busy lane

We stopped in the middle of Crow Valley to take photos. The landscape was amazing.

Blue Sky Day
Perfect blue sky day

Grand Landscape
in the middle of the valley

Everyone didn't seem to mind the searing hot midday sun. The vastness of the landscape is enough to tantalize the senses.

Midday Pitstop
midday star

After the requisite group shot, we continued on to the edge of the valley.

Pinatubo Adventure Team
our Pinatubo adventure team

In the days before the "Skyway" (a road passing through the nearby mountains, Dom has more photos here), trekkers would hike from the edge to the valley to the crater through a dry river system. The 4-5 hour hike will take you through surreal landscape. The gray colored cliff walls look alien - lunar-like almost. (The Delta-5 trail via Porac is a completely different story). Now the hike takes only about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

4x4 Parking
parking area at the trail head

The parking area at the trail head was already packed with trucks when we got there. From the number of the trucks there, one can imagine how busy the narrow trails to the crater will be (story soon). As our 4x4 ride ended, another adventure unfolds.
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