Sunday, December 30, 2012

on 2012 Year End Blog and a Simple AVP

A few weeks ago people were bickering about photography; I was included in the melee. There was the side that defended photography as being an art and those who just didn't care as long as they can shoot and call themselves photographers. For me personally, photography is an art and I will not stand by and watch others bring it down to a level that is demeaning for those who worked hard and tried to make it better.

But I had a realization just before Xmas. During the debut celebration of my student, I realized something while covering the event and while I presented the simple AVP I did for her. I realized my photography, especially doing portraits, is not only meant to express creativity; it is meant to bring smiles to people. It is the greatest feeling when strangers come up to you and say how much they admire your work and enjoy looking at your photos. Its good when a friend or a peer acknowledges you, but when a stranger takes time to leave a comment or tells you how much he/she likes your work; that will surely make your day.

The greatest realization I have had this year is that my photography is not only meant to make me happy but to make people who see my work smile.

And probably the greatest joy in my projects this year is when I finished and presented the AVP. It was too bad my PC could not handle the rendering requirements of a flashy AVP done in After Effects. I had to settle for a simple AVP that presented the photos in a straight-forward manner. The funny thing is, I think the simple presentation suit me best since I have this very basic minimalistic approach to shooting portraits. Simplicity is beauty.

I'd like to that Lalai for trusting me with this shoot and avp. And to all those who supported me and gave critique to my work through out the year. To all the models and photographers who were involved in helping me improve my skills. To the Photobomber Crew for all the shoots and learnings I had this year. And also a very big thank you to every one who visited my blog.

Happy New Year to you all! May 2013 bring us all prosperity and happiness!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

on My Favorite Student and Portrait #35

Sometime ago, I decided to be a mentor to a young photographer. She had a knack for portraits, events and street photography like me so I decided to impart to her what little knowledge I have. But honestly, she’s grown by leaps and bounds on her own. I only give her advice on what to do based on my past experiences and she takes it from there.

She is soon turning 18 and as a gift, I told her that I would shoot her pre-debut pictorial. I honestly got a little bit pressured because I'm shooting someone I am mentoring. It's different from shooting models who know little about the craft as compared to shooting a fellow photographer. They'd know if you make a wrong move or take photos in the wrong angles.

save the date

And of course, I had to prove to myself and those who know that I am her mentor that I could deliver good output.


We ended the shoot after sunset as there was no more light to shoot with. On the commute home I felt like I could have done more during the shoot and I feared that I didn't have enough keepers for a slideshow. But after reviewing the shoot, I realized I did well during the shoot. I had enough keepers for my slideshow; perhaps even more.

close up

Overall, I was happy with what I got from the shoot. Not only did I satisfy my own set of goals but I got positive reactions from those who have seen the few photos I published. And I got another portrait to add to my project.

Mission Accomplished!

Portrait #35: Lalai

PS: I am not yet done with the slideshow... and I will post it after her 18th birthday...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

on Headshots and Niches

In my last blog I promised to feature the last model for our "not-so-recent" studio shoot. I saw a lot of keepers from the other model since I had a lot of shooting time. In this set though, I had to limit my shooting time to give the other guys a chance to shoot.

The set features Myla, who I had the pleasure of shooting before also in a similar studio setup. The only difference is that the last time we had strobes and now we have continuous lights. I am not really a fan of continuous lights and prefer working with strobes. But continuous lighting does have its benefits especially when shooting in a group. As a preference, I like using strobes or shooting outdoors in natural light.

pano portrait (1 of 1)

Anyways, I have been watching a lot of Peter Hurley videos in recent days, and I have come to that realization that I like doing headshots. This set in particular is a good example. I had a lot of whole or half body shots but I seem to gravitate towards headshots a lot more. I am starting to think I have found my niche in the field of portraiture. And with this direction, I think my next project will be setting up a garage studio or something of that sort.

Wish me luck...

Friday, October 12, 2012

on Work and Play

The problem with work is that it interferes with your hobby. I still have some photos from my September shoot that I need to post process but I do not have the luxury of time to do so. I had a hell of a week and now I realized I haven't even touched my camera since my last shoot.

Now that I have some breathing room, I am posting two more images from my last shoot.

The first is from the main model Kitty. I don't usually take this kind of upward angle shot that fills the frame. I like a bit of negative space but this one turned out nicely with the rembrant-ish lighting setup.

portrait top (1 of 1)

The second photo is from a light setup test that turned out quite nicely with Kate who was the stylist, makeup artist and talent manager for that shoot. Having the soft box so close to the model really does produce good results. This was done with a two light setup with the soft box to the right of the model and another strobe to light up the background a bit.

b&w studio (1 of 1)

There are quite a number of keepers from this shoot that I'd like to publish in the coming weeks granting that I have the time to edit them. I have yet to start on the set with the second model of this shoot. But this weekend, I promise to take my camera out for a walk first because it is that time of year again that photographer from all over the world would be out on the streets for the annual Scott Kelby World Wide Photowalk. I hope I get some keepers this weekend for the contest and for content in this blog as well.

Wish me luck.

Monday, October 1, 2012

on One Light and Portrait #34

When dealing with indoor portrait shoots, I usually only need one light source. And the safest place for me to set it up is at a 45-degree angle to the side of a model and at eye level. This technique is something I learned some time ago by watching tutorial videos from the master of One Light Photography, Zack Arias. I really like the setup because it is so simple and it almost always works for portraits.

Two weeks ago, I got to use it again because while setting up I found out that we didn't have a light stand for the big studio light or the small strobe that we had. We improvised by letting the model sit on the floor while we set the light on a chair. It was technically not a one light setup but only one light was used to illuminate the model while a small strobe (used as an optical trigger for the studio light) was bounced against the wall but I think it didn't have much effect on the portrait. I added a bit of motion to the photo to make it a little better.

motion (1 of 2)

The second was a split light setup which was more to the side of the model to illuminate just one half of the face. I placed the small strobe behind the model to serve as rim light. I like this setup too because it adds quite a bit of drama to an otherwise plain portrait.

portrait (1 of 1)

And of course there should always be one black and white photo.

b&w (1 of 1)

I prefer this simple light setup because when I look at my portraits there are fewer distractions from introducing too many lights to the photo. I don't have to balance the lights or use up an entire hour just to figure out what I want to do and where to place the strobes. And as with any type of photography I do: the simpler it is to setup, the more time I can spend shooting.

And after all, going back to basics is always a good thing.

Portrait #34: Kitty
motion (2 of 2)

PS: Special thanks to Kate who did the makeup and styling and Richard Amora of A Photographs for lending us the studio. And to the crew as always for being there for the shoot.

PPS: This is the the first set where I used only the Nikkor AF 50mm 1.8D.

Friday, September 28, 2012

on Opportunities and Portraits #32 & #33

Always shoot like it's your last day...

I was asked to do a class picture for the graduating accountancy class of a university here. I knew two girls from that class so I decided to go for it. And it has been a tradition of sorts for me to shoot a graduating class each year. Sadly, the shoot didn't go well. The location of choice was cramped so it ended with a not so nice group shot.

But it wasn't a total loss though. I made sure to take portraits of my friends. I've been asking them to model for me for a very long time and I final got the opportunity to do so. It was a quick shoot. I took just about ten frames each since I was seriously low on memory card space. Good thing I got keepers out of those few frames.

alfe portrait mono (1 of 2)

chesca portrait mono (2 of 3)

I'm sad that I didn't do well with the class photo but at the same time I am still glad that I took the gig so I could shoot the portraits. I learned that making the most out of every opportunity is very important. If you think about it, it's like I broke even on this shoot; failed group shoot but good portrait shoot. It's a learning experience and I hope to do better next time.

Here are the latest additions to my portrait project.

Portrait #32: Alfe
alfe portrait mono (2 of 2)

Portrait #33: Chesca
chesca portrait mono (3 of 3)

Friday, September 14, 2012

on Revisiting Claire

I should make it a habit to revisit my previous sets.

Last night, I found some unprocessed keepers from a shoot that happened about six months ago. I was bored and there was nothing good on TV so I decided to do some quick post processing. And since a lot of my previous posts were in black and white, I went with some colors for this one.

silhouette (1 of 1)

I really need to work on my post processing skills especially when doing color adjustments. I still haven't found the right mix for those vintage looking photographs. I have some scripts that I tweak to my liking but it isn't as consistent as my B&W photos. I guess there are just too many variables in color photography; or I am just too lazy to post process photos until I get the hang of it.

vintage (1 of 1)

Anyway, I have some more photos from this set that I would like to publish. I just need to find the time to work on them. For now, I'll be busy with some other stuff like taking a class picture for a graduating class and an upcoming portrait shoot.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

on Studio-ish Macro and Reflections

Happy accidents!

I've been having trouble with my new stacked macro lens setup. I stacked a Nikkor 50mm 1.8D on top of my Tamron 90mm 2.5 SP Macro lens with a cheap 52mm-52mm coupler ring. I like the resulting 2.5x magnification but the problem is that the spiders keep on jumping on to my lens. It must be the shiny chrome bayonet mount that attracts them to jump up to my lens.

While out shooting near our black Honda sedan, a spider jumped on my lens. I went to the back of the car so I could lean on the trunk and find where the spider was to remove it. I blew it from the lens to the top of the trunk. The Jumping spider just stood still and I took the opportunity to take some shots. The output was totally unexpected.

reflections (2 of 3)

reflections (1 of 3)

reflections (3 of 3)

I accidentally found a nice shooting location that provided something of a studio feel and at the same time added a reflection. And when lit up by my strobe, the dust added some bokeh to the shot as well. I have tried shooting with the other car which had white paint but the shots were prone to sensor flares.

After discovering the studio like effect of the black paint job, I have had a lot of success shooting on top of the trunk lid. I'll some more photos soon.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

on Lightning and Interval Shooting

I just love it when there is a lightning storm. It's like nature is putting on a light show. I can just sit and watch it for hours.

Better yet, I could shoot it.

There have been lightning storms over the weekend. Since I have been under the weather, I decided that I'd shoot the storm tonight just to keep myself busy. But I did it in the relative safety and comfort of our living room. So, I mounted my camera on a tripod, set the interval shooting mode to shoot one hundred ten second exposures at one second intervals. I had a total of three rounds with the same settings and got these three frames.

typhoon igme (3 of 3)

typhoon igme (2 of 3)

typhoon igme (1 of 3)

It was the first time I tried shooting lightning using the interval mode and it turned out better than I expected. Too bad I didn't have a better angle on the lightning cloud or a wider lens. I hope to do better next time.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

on A Jumper's Story

It's been my mantra that one photo will make my day. But I have always been asked how long it takes me to get that one photo. I don't really know how long it takes me. There are times I get it in the first few clicks or on the last out takes.

For macro photography, I usually spend an hour or more shooting. There are times I shoot over five hundred frames to get around ten keepers; and ten keepers is already a very good haul. Sometimes I shoot until it gets dark, my batteries run out or my memory cards are full.

And there are times when I just sit in the shade observing as insects go about there daily lives. Sometimes I forget that I have to shoot these insects. And there are times that I focus on one subject for hours that I get to construct stories with my shots; that is when I'm lucky that they'd cooperate and I'd get my shots in focus.

Here is one of those times when I got to see a Jumping Spider decide when it would jump to another leaf. This three shot sequence was taken from about 50 consecutive shots (with more than half out of focus because the leaf was swaying with the wind) where the Jumping Spider measures its jump and decides when to go for it. It jumped a distance of probably a foot with a another foot of drop.

You think I should go for it?
spider story (1 of 3)

It looks so high from here... but what the heck... I have a bungee cord.
spider story (2 of 3)

I'm ALIVE!!!
spider story (3 of 3)

Shooting macro stories like these make me appreciate this field a little more. Being there and observing how these little critters go about their business makes me think a lot about my life and how even briefest of moments can make an impact. I think I'll shoot more of this kind of photo stories in the coming months.

Friday, July 20, 2012

on Two-Striped Jumpers

What I like about Jumping Spiders is that I find them in the oddest places. I found a few in the window sills, the screen door and the carpet. They go exploring a lot since they have such good eye sight.

I found a pair of Two-Striped Jumpers (Telamonia Dimidiata) about a month ago and did some research. These jumpers are distinguished by the long legs and two bright stripes around the back. Most females have bright rings around the eyes and males are dark colored.

And apparently I unknowingly found a male and a female.

Female Two-Striped Jumper found in our garden.
orange faced jumper (1 of 1)

Male Two-Striped Jumper found clinging to the wall.
ground jumper (1 of 1)

These are very skittish jumpers, unlike the common ones I find in the garden. They react to movement and run away when possible. I find them difficult to photograph because of this behavior. They do apparently have short term memories and when I stay still for some time they seem to forget I'm there. I just wait around for them to forget me after I have my camera pointed at them; very minute movement is key to taking pictures of these spiders.

Hopefully in the coming days I find more of them so I can learn more on how to handle or take photos of these jumpers.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

on Lenses, Grain and Portrait #31

I got an AF Nikkor 50mm 1.8D recently because I wanted to have a portrait lens with auto focus. Although I still love the Tamron 90mm 2.5SP for portraits, I find the focal length too limiting for my taste. And I had a recent shoot with Dawn to test out how I'd do with the 50mm focal length.


Well, for me it turned out great. I had fun with the group and Dawn was so easy to work with. She knew her angles and didn't need much directing for her poses. I'm glad we had a successful shoot because we have been talking in Facebook for a long time about a shoot. It was also good timing that our schedules were free last Saturday because she will be away for three months. But we do have plans for another shoot once she returns from her vacation.

b&w portrait (1 of 1)

There is really not much difference when shooting portraits with the Tamron 90mm or the Nikkor 50mm for me. It probably has something to do with my style of shooting but I adjusted quite easily to the new focal length. The main difference in the two lens is in sharpness and bokeh. The Tamron is a better performer in both areas but I really wish that it had AF. I am still happy with my 50mm since it does what it's supposed to and it's cheap too.

And at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter what lens I use as long as I get the output that I want. Ordinary people won't really ask me what lens I use as long as they like my photos.

Before I forget, if you've noticed there is a theme for the photos aside from the B&W conversion. I purposely added grain since I really want to shoot a portrait in film in the near future. Grain is good in my book.

Portrait #31: Dawn
 dawn  (1 of 1)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

on Insect Portraits and Shooting Flowers

I've never been any good at shooting plants and flowers. Well, I'm really not good at anything that isn't moving.

The only time flowers interest me is when I see an insect land on it. And on a recent shoot while I was out looking for Lynx Spiders, I found this bee hovering on a white flower. I had to crouch down to get the bee to eye level and to my surprise it didn't even seem to mind me at all. It was just doing its own thing while I took a few shots before it flew to the next flower.

bee and pollen (1 of 2)

bee and pollen (2 of 2)

One thing to note is that lately I have been trying to make sure I at least get one front facing (portrait) shot of whatever insect. I credit is as the reason why I have been so interested in macro photography lately. I don't know why, but front facing shots make me happy. For me, it's just like taking a picture of a person; the only difference is that I can't ask an insect to look at the camera. Probably the challenge of taking that type of shot is what makes me want to take more.

Monday, June 18, 2012

on Luck and In Flight Macro

Luck plays a huge part in my photography.

I roam a really small area and get only a number of densely populated shrubs and bush. But during a recent macro shoot I had, I was lucky that as I was leaving the area I chanced upon a bee hovering on a flower. I took in flight shots but wasn't sure if I got a decent shot since I had a manual focus lens. I didn't get to review it since I only had a few seconds before the bee landed on a leaf.

In the short minute that the bee was in front of my lens I got one portrait and an in-flight shot. It was my first time to shoot something in flight with a manual focus macro lens and get it somewhat in focus.

bee portrait

bee in flight

Being lucky and having the skill is a must in macro photography. You can't just go killing bugs and sticking them to a plant with glue for a controlled macro scene. Moving around, watching for movement, anticipating the next actions and getting spot on focus are some of the things I have been trying to perfect when I shoot. And I want to shoot my subjects in their natural habitat too. But when I reflect on it, even if I was the best macro shooter (and I am not even that good), if I didn't have luck, I still wont be able to shoot insects even when I am in the area where the usually hang out.

Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

on Holiday Macro Adventures

Overcast days are perfect for photography especially when you go out hunting for macro subjects.

The country is celebrating it's independence day and it is a holiday. I took advantage of the holiday plus the overcast skies to shoot macro. I got about fifty keepers today; I will sort them out later. But as I have said before, one photo will make your day. And boy, did this one really make my day.

I was in my favorite macro spot where there is a pepper plant. It is home to huge and fierce looking ants and some predator flies. I was waiting for a bronze jumping spider to face me when I saw movement about three feet away. There was this fat jumping spider moving from leaf to leaf. It was one of the few times I saw a Jumping Spider really jump about a foot in distance. I quickly moved around the bush to where it was and found it already had something in its jaws. I would have been awesome to see it grab the wasp looking insect but I had to settle for a photo of it feeding. I only had three frames of this spider and this one is the best.

jumping spider and prey (1 of 1)

This is probably my current favorite spider photo. The details are awesome and I can clearly make out the prey too. It makes walking around in the bush for hours worth the effort.

Happy Independence Day to everyone!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

on Jumper Portraits

In photography, you really need to find what you want to shoot and how you like to shoot...

There are times that I find shooting portraits boring. I tell the model how to pose, to look at the camera, drop the smile and then take the shot. I memorized how to frame my shot and how to post process it after. The monotonous shoots shorten my attention span to that of a kid (not that it is that long in the first place).

But I have found a type of portrait I would never get tired of. I can't tell my subject to pose or look at the camera. I cannot dictate the angle in which I am to shoot or even tell my subject to stay still. I have to make do with that short window of opportunity to get that shot I want; but when I get it, the feeling of success is really uplifting.

I am talking about shooting insect portraits. And specifically Jumping Spider portraits. Those beady eyes really get my attention. It will never be boring to shoot such portraits because it is hard work even finding jumpers in that ideal setting where I can shoot such portraits. And when you find then, you get about a minute or two to shoot. And while shooting you just have to pray your camera settings are spot on. It is a matter of both skill and luck; and a whole lot of patience.

Here are the first of many shots...

jumper portrait light brown (1 of 1)

jumper portrait dark brown (1 of 1)

I like the darker spider better and was lucky that when I bent the branch it didn't move for a while. The light brown one clearly just finished feeding because of the big fat abdomen. It couldn't move as much so I got the shot. I am really happy with these two shots. I wish I'll get lucky again in the coming days...

Friday, May 25, 2012

on Summer's End

Summer is almost at an end and I still haven't found the time to shoot a lot of macro photos. Anyways, here is one of those that got buried in my flickr account by all the portraits I have been shooting lately. My favorite spider in the garden with its large eyes. This was taken about late afternoon when the jumping spiders are already starting to rest. I really like the summer months because of the long days and all the active creatures. It seems like summer is always the perfect time to shoot macro.

white jumper (1 of 1)

Since tomorrow is a Saturday, I think I will start shooting macro if the weather permits. I hope to make the most of the weekend since I have been seeing a lot of Lynx Spiders and Orb Weavers during the twilight hours.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

on Shooting Macro Wide Open

The only limit to your creativity is your imagination....

I have come to accept that in the world of photography there is no sacred rule. Mastering rules and concepts is a must; but that's just the tip of the iceberg. After attaining the basic skill comes breaking rules. The real skill set comes when you find your own way of breaking rules to show off your creativity.

I'd like to highlight landscape photography (which is admittedly one of my waterloo) a field where the basic rules are rigidly applied. You shoot at f8 to f16 on wide angle lenses, apply the rule of thirds, properly expose the foreground and background and all the other stuff. But no one ever said that you cannot shoot at wide apertures or with telephoto lenses. It's how you use what you have that makes things interesting.

And no one ever said you can't shoot macro photography wide open...

I know that in macro photography, depth of field is important. You really want as much of your subject in focus and shooting wide open will give you very little depth of field. But that shallow DOF can be used in many ways to highlight certain parts of your subject; that is where creativity comes in.

tamron wide open (4 of 4)
Here is an ant looking fierce with only its jaws in focus.

tamron wide open (3 of 4)
And a cool black true bug coming out of the hazy background.

tamron wide open (2 of 4)
This little green fly looks nice with only its eyes in focus.

tamron wide open (1 of 4)
You don't need that much DOF when you shoot parallel to your plane of focus as seen in this photo of the green fly. I still had enough details to make the photo look nice even when shooting wide open

I have to admit that shooting macro wide open is very hard. But when you get it right, you will surely be proud of it. This is what I always say to those who ask me about ideal setups, settings or whatever: maximize your gear and creativity. The most important part of photography is the thought process.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

on Summer Beach Getaways and Processing Portraits

Photography is like cooking, when you overcook something it wouldn't taste good. But leaving it raw can be a good thing.

We had our annual summer beach overnight with photographer, model and makeup artist friends in Talicud Island last weekend. It was yet another fun-filled stay in a beach where there is no electricity or running water and can only be accessed by boat. And of course we still had the usual sunset beach shoot. But this year we weren't so lucky because the sunset was shorter than what we normally expect during the summer months.

keyt (3 of 3)

I decided to go against the norm for summer beach shoots and aim for black and white. I knew most photos from my photographer friends would come out in color because it is in the beach and around sunset plus you have a lovely model with nice skin tone. Well, going against the grain is what I am known for anyways so I might as well stay that way. And simple is always better for me. I don't need for it to be razor sharp or for the contrast to pack a punch. I just want my photo to retain the character of my model.

keyt (2 of 3)

And I will never over process because I'd lose the essence of the portrait and get some sort of digital Frankenstein. It is a common mistake which photographers without their own personal styles make. They do all sorts of Dave Hill, Rarindra Prakarsa, Luko or Manny Librodo sharpening and stop only when they think its all there. For me HDR and portraits don't go well. And all those unnatural looking eyes and skin tone seem like they have been inspired by horror flicks. Funny thing is they spend hours and hours just to get THAT look. ** insert face palm here ** Experimenting is good but knowing how much post processing can be applied is what works best especially for portraits where you really have to retain the personality of the model.

keyt (1 of 3)

A little color efex and totally rad action scripts here and there plus a bit of preset editing from lightroom and I am done. A good photo is a good photo even when it is unprocessed and no amount of post processing will make a bad photo look good. Just like a steak is good when it is rare or medium rare and ruined when it is well done.

kate (1 of 1)

Once again, thank you to Kate for being a fabulous model. To Karina Asetre and Kaye Garino for the makeup and styling. And to the Photobombers for another successful summer getaway.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

on CS6, Tunnels and Portrait #30

One photo will make your day...

You can quote me on that statement above. I have said it before and always say it when shooting models or clients. I just need one photo to make my day. Everything else I shoot will just be for posterity sake. I mean, I am already there so might as well shoot some more right?

And last night I really thought I had a lot of time to edit an entire photoshoot set from a month ago. But then I selected my first photo, I didn't stop tinkering until I got what I really wanted out of it. I spent about an hour and a half doing stuff I normally don't do in photos like removing stray hair and all those portraiture stuff. Well, I guess there is a first for every thing.

Oh, and I did it in Adobe Photoshop CS6 Beta release. And I had so much fun because everything was faster and smoother. I learned how to use the color mode in the clone stamp tool and the new feature which is content aware move tool. But I didn't really move the subject around with the tool, I just extended the photo a bit to look more pleasing (in that rule of thirds kind of way). And the action scripts I use don't freeze my laptop anymore.

For those wondering how this shot was done. It was shot using my trusty Nikon D7000 and a Nikkor 85mm 1.8 AFD @ f1.8 and ISO 500 in ambient light. This was shot in a tunnel and I wanted to get the right light to expose my subject as well as the light from the other end of the tunnel for that starbust like effect. I am really liking the 85mm 1.8. I hope I can get one by the end of the year.

The model by the way is Mary Claire whom a co-shooter met while walking his dog. she does professional modeling here in the city. One this I really like about her is her confidence and easy going attitude. Well, come to think of it, those who get into my 100 Portraits project are all easy to work with.

 Portrait #30: Mary Claire

pano portrait (1 of 1)

PS: Special thanks to Karina Asetre for the makeup and styling and as usual the Photobomber Crew for the Shoot. Do like the Photobomber Crew Facebook page.