Tuesday, November 5, 2013

on Overcoming the Creative Block, Patience and Portrait #38

It has been awhile...

I am back from almost three months away from blogging. My day job got a lion's share of my time and sapped all the enthusiasm away from me. There were times when I found myself lost and devoid of creativity. Even taking photos became a chore of sorts.

new (2 of 4)

Getting over the creative block meant taking time away and doing other things. I rescued my guitar from the back of the closet, bought a pen and a sketch pad, and did some experimenting in the kitchen. Focusing on other things helped me ease myself back into doing what I love to do. I am sure a lot of the people I know who share this hobby with me have their own stories to tell about how they fell out and back in love with photography.

new (3 of 4)

The first thing I did when I felt I got my mojo back was to finish editing a set done two months ago for my friend's makeup portfolio. Paulyn invited me to shoot Hanna, who was on vacation in the country, for her blog. It was such a blast working with the two of them. Paulyn did a splendid job with the makeup and Hanna was very easy to work with. I'm glad I took this shoot even on short notice since this will probably be my only chance to get to have Hanna as my model.

johanna (1 of 2)

I would probably avoid using my macro lens the next time I shoot portraits in a studio(ish) environment next time. Post processing is such a pain when using the macro lens; too many unwanted fine detail. It took me hours to finish cleaning things up.

b&w (1 of 1)

It took a while for me to publish the set but in the end it was worth it. One thing I learned during this shoot is that I should always be patient and not be in a hurry when I am shooting or retouching. Patience is not a part of my vocabulary but I learned that you cannot rush things when you seek aesthetic satisfaction. Creativity will come in waves. Sometimes it consumes you until you run out of energy and other times it dries up even when you desperately need it. What matters is that know when you have it and that you make the most out of it when it's there.

Portrait #38: Johanna
new (1 of 4)

Well, there you have it. Another set published and another portrait to add to my project. I will hopefully write another blog in the next couple of days. 

PS: A big thanks to Paulyn Dy for always trusting me to shoot her portfolio and to Hanna for being an awesome model!

PPS: Hanna's portrait just went popular in 500px.com an hour after I uploaded it. Oh happy day!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

on Finding Crab Spiders

I've been under the weather lately and work is killing me. Anyhow, I found some time to blog since tomorrow is a holiday. This post is long overdue.

It's been a long time since I started doing macro work and people often ask me this question: "how on earth do you find these spiders?"

crab (1 of 2)
 perfectly camouflaged in its surroundings and waiting for passing prey...

I've learned a lot about how to track spiders and where the most promising spots are in our little garden. Since I specialize in Jumping Spiders, I tend to go to spots where there are big leaves as they like to hang out there. But the most sure fire way to track them down is look for the food source. Where there are flying and crawling insects, you will surely find a spider nearby.

crab (2 of 2)
 front view of this Crab Spider...

This curious little critter is what we commonly call a Crab Spider since its stance is similar to that of a crab. They tend to be well camouflaged and according to my research can change color after a few days of being in the same spot. I've seen greens, yellows and brown colored ones in the past. This particular one is somewhat orange as I found it on dried up leaves and flowers. They are really hard to spot since they do not move and are well hidden. They are ambush predators and wait for days on end to catch prey.

green crab spider
 old photo of a Green Crab Spider...

I think I am lucky to have spotted and photographed this specie as it is very hard to find one in the confines of our small garden. I am hoping that by exploring other areas, I'd find some more of them in the future. And since tomorrow is a holiday, I'll make it a point to go shoot macro. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

on Fashion Photography, First Time, and Portrait #37

Photography... it is a never ending learning process.

I have never been someone who people would think of for a fashion photography shoot. I am not that comfortable shooting whole body portraits compared to shooting head shots. And I know next to nothing about fashion. You wouldn't really expect a guy who wears the simple t-shirt - jeans - sneakers combo to be much of a fashionista right off the bat. But then again, I went to a very hip and trendy college and do browse magazines from time to time so I do have some sort of idea what I am getting myself into; or at least that was what I thought. And believe me, I never expected it to be a workout.

first session (6 of 10)
 doing my usual head shots...

I took this fashion shoot as a challenge and told Paulyn, who invited me for this shoot, that I have very little experience shooting fashion stuff. Well, she had faith in me so I got the gig. I did my homework and got some inspiration from popular fashion bloggers in the country; and there is always 500px as reference material.

first session (4 of 10)
 testing out if the strobes would look nice...

My usual shooting order is find my models angle, place her in the right location, shoot my keepers and do my experiments later. This is how I shoot when doing headshots as I already have that basic formula from experience. I can get from finding angles to shooting keepers in about a few minutes time. The experimental part takes a lot longer. This is my usual workflow because shooting keepers first makes sure that the effort to do the shoot doesn't go to waste. Only after I know that I have some decent output do I even try to play around with what I have.

first session (6 of 11)
 I also tried if monochrome would work...

I went about the shoot in reverse of what I usually do. With this shoot, I first had a location in mind, did a few test shots and then worked for my keepers. I first had to experiment to see what worked and what didn't since I still don't have a formula for shooting fashion stuff. I spent more time experimenting than nailing down keepers since this is a first.

first session (3 of 10)

first session (8 of 10)
trying out composition I figured would look close to what I usually see in blogs...

I am happy I did this shoot. I learned a lot and gained valuable shooting experience which I could apply. There are things I need to learn like shooting details and knowing how to match my subject to my location. And I do have to overcome that mentality that I have to highlight the model's face; I need to learn how to balance my shots so I can show her beauty as well as her outfit. Overall, I did good considering it is a first time. I am still in the process of mastering the popular way of doing this fashion shoots for blogs. Sooner or later, I will find my own way of shooting fashion.

first session (1 of 10)

first session (7 of 10)
 I still have to learn how to shoot the whole outfit...

And before I forget, my model Paulyn is a fashion blogger, stylist, and makeup artist rolled into one. She is easy to work with and really comes prepared for a shoot. I can't wait to do the next shoot with her. We will start planning it soon.

Portrait #37: Paulyn

PS: Uber thanks to Paulyn for being very game model and for the confidence that I could deliver output, to Alfe for recommending me as a photographer and Francis for being the instant support crew for her sister. Until next time! :D

 PPS: do visit Paulyn's blog at http://dypaulyn.blogspot.com

Saturday, June 8, 2013

on Workshops, Backlogs and Grain

Having backlogs has always been a part of my photography and blogging life; come to think of it, it is a part of my daily life as well. There is no shortage of things to do and stuff to place in the back burner.

portraits (2 of 2)

Anyhow, I found some time to publish this long overdue set for my good friend Waqui. She's no stragner to this blog as she's has a number of photos here. One good thing I like about her is that every time I get a chance to shoot her, she gets prettier and prettier; and this shoot is no exception. She always finds ways to level up whether it be her fashion statement or her looks. And it is never boring when she's around.

workshop (1 of 2)

I took this photos during the Photobombers / FPS workshop with the Philippine Institute of Architects as sample photos for the participants to have some sort of idea how I shoot. I took only a few shots and mostly during times when they stop shooting either to change pose or location. I'm glad I had some good shots even though I only took a fraction of what I usually take during photoshoots.

workshop (2 of 2)

The post processing is again film inspired since it goes with the retro / boho / vintage theme. I like the old film look. Grain is always good in my book. I edit the matte film look using the S-curve slider in lightroom and I think I'll be doing more filmy looking photos in the near future.

portraits (1 of 2)

PS: Thank you to the Photobombers crew / FPS people and the PIA for making this workshop for a cause possible. To Waqui and LA for being great models. And also to Iris for the awesome styling and makeup.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

on Typhoons, Workshops and Portrait #36

Last December, Typhoon Pablo hit the western part of Mindanao and the damage was really significant. A lot of people died and a lot more are left homeless and trying to rebuild what was left of their lives. Some of the people from the Photobombers thought that it would be good to come up with an activity that would help the school kids of Compostella Valley. There was a school that had to be rebuilt from the ground up and they decided to help the kids by providing much needed school supplies. So a workshop was set to benefit of the Corazon S. Aquino High School in Compostella Valley Province.

I was fortunate enough to help during the basic portraits shoot by guiding the attendees on how to shoot portraits. I got off a few clicks while multitasking as I was often holding the reflector as this was an ambient light shoot. And it has also been a long while since I had a proper portrait shoot as I have been focusing on macro photography lately.

The set I am posting is from my takes of L.A. as I was helping out during the portrait shoot. Most of the shots were taken as examples for the attendees to follow and while I was holding the reflector. L.A. was really game in posing for the participants and it was great working with her. The theme was Boho inspired so I did the post processing to look a bit 70's as well. The entire set was done in ambient light with the Tamron 90 f2.5 and the Nikkor 50mm 1.8 AFD.

pano (1 of 1)

b&w (1 of 1)

And after a five month hiatus, I finally add another portrait to my 100 portraits project. And I must say, this one has inspired me to shoot portraits again.

Portrait #36: L.A.
portrait (1 of 1)

I am glad that I found the time to help out the crew in this project even a little bit. I say kudos to the Photobombers Crew and FPS people who made this event possible and to the attendees from the Philippine Institute of Architects (PIA - Davao Chapter). Although my time with the attendees was short, I realized that I miss sharing what I know with those starting out in photography. I hope this will be an annual event for the group.

credits to Bren Ang for the group hug

PS: I find the new flickr upgrade as cool but a bit confusing at first. It is nice that I can view all my photos and download the original resolution images from wherever. I have yet to check out the new android app.

Monday, April 29, 2013

on Finding the Ant Mimicking Spider Part 2

I found another Ant Mimicking Jumping Spider.

It did not resemble the long jawed ant mimic I posted a week ago. It looked like an ordinary ant with funny looking antennae poking through the side of its head. I normally would have just ignored it but What gave it away was that it jumped. I instantly knew this was another ant mimic.

I followed it as it went about its business and found out that the telling sign is not that it jumped; because it did it only twice.  It was the fact that it moved its thorax (rear end) up and down while it was walking which was not a normal thing for small black ants. It moved a bit faster than most ants and didn't seem to follow the straight lines that ants usually take.

I got only a few useable photos because the spider was really small. Here are my photos of this Ant Mimic Jumping Spider.

ant mimic (1 of 3)

ant mimic (3 of 3)

ant mimic (2 of 3)

I got lucky again last weekend and found a few more. I will post them when I have the time.

Friday, April 19, 2013

on Finding the Ant Mimicking Spider

I went through my archive and found the most curious Jumping Spider that I still have yet to blog about. This is the jumper that I have long searched for. In all my years of macro photography, I encountered it only twice and this was the first time I had a good shot of it.

The Salticidae I am talking about is the Ant Mimicking Spider (Myrmarachne). There are a lot of species found in the Philippines but so far, this is the only one found in our garden. I found it on top of the car because it looked weird for an ant. When I took a closer look, I found that it huge jaws and fangs. I took some shots of it before it fled when a bigger Salticidae arrived. If you compared it side by side to the more common jumpers, it will be relatively small and looks incapable of fighting off the larger ones like the Cosmophasis I posted in my last blog.

Here are two of the shots I got for the Ant Mimicking Spider on top of the car. Shot with the same 90mm macro and 50mm reverse stack and an on-cam mounted strobe with an omni-bound diffuser. The greenish tint is from the reflection of the leaves.

cars and spiders (2 of 4)

cars and spiders (3 of 4)

I will search for these spiders more this summer. I don't really know how to track them down since I only saw it twice. The next one I find, I will probably observe it more so I get an idea of how they behave and where they are commonly found. Wish me luck! 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

on Shooting Orb Weavers

I often shoot macro during the daytime in shaded places where I often find Jumping Spiders and winged insects. But there are times that I go out at dusk to find orb weavers. It is very interesting to shoot orb weavers at dusk while they build their webs. These are busy like critters who are masters at creating their masterpiece webs.

Most of the orb weavers I find near our house are found in the tall grass or shrubs. They usually build webs in between two branches or two plants. Finding them is easier that finding those fast moving or well camouflaged jumpers. Bringing a flashlight will help in locating webs. A fresh web is usually a good sign of spiders. If you do not see them in the center, they are lurking on the sides in leaves. Tapping the web lightly will also stir them from their hiding places.

Here are two photos of orb weavers I found during the Holy Week. I had some lucky shots as it was really dark when I found them and the wind did not help either. These were shot using a single strobe mounted on-cam with an omni-bounce diffuser.

orby (2 of 2)

orby (1 of 2)

I would like to shoot more of these spiders. If only the grounds keeper would leave the grass tall in front of our house, I'd be having a field day. But sadly, they trim it from time to time, which destroys the habitat. I hope to find more of these before summer ends.

Monday, April 8, 2013

on Cosmophasis Jumping Spider

I have a new favorite spider family which is the Cosmophasis. I have found quite a number of them in the garden and in front of our house. These are agile Jumping Spiders who are not so skittish. They are the type who prowl and move about often and they move really quickly. I chanced upon it several times and only got to shoot it when it was stalking its prey.

eyebrow spider (2 of 4)

Most male cosmophasis have really brightly colored streaks that are even brighter under UV light. The ones found in the garden have bright blue markings on their legs. According to google, they prey mostly on ants and smaller insects. This one also has distinctive eyebrow like hair on top of its eyes. I usually identify individuals by the eyebrows.

eyebrow spider (1 of 4)

I don't actively look for these Jumping Spiders since they move about so much it is hard to find them. I usually accidentally stumble upon them and they do pause long enough for me to take that one frontal shot then they move on again. This photo below is one of those times that I looked below a leaf and found a Cosmophasis underneath. It really did pose for one shot then left.

eyebrow spider (4 of 4)

And why is it my favorite Jumping Spider? It is because of that fleeting moment when it actually looks at the camera then jumps out of the frame. It is challenging to actually capture a sharp image of it as it pauses. I sometimes think that it has some intelligence when it pauses and looks directly into the lens.

eyebrow spider (3 of 4)

I hope to get more shots of this spider this summer.

PS: There is another cosmophasis specie in the garden... the orange one. I will try to take some photos of that too.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

on Sunrise and Landscapes

"Any idiot can complicate things, but you need a genius to simplify them..." -- Albert Einstein

I had a chance, over the weekend to visit the Panabo Mariculture park. It has been two years since I first went there. Back then, I knew very little about landscape photography. Well, not much has change apparently because I still don't know squat about shooting landscapes. And I have had very little practice over the time skip.

And since I had little practice and do not even own a wide angle lens (I had to borrow a kit lens for this shoot), I spent a lot of time figuring out how to properly frame my shot and get just the right amount of light into my shots. This is one thing I do not like about landscapes since I have only a short period of time in which I can shoot a scene during sunrise or sunset. And I forgot that I could extend my tripod to eye level so I was shooting really low and got a lot of mud in the foreground since the tide was coming in slowly. I got a few (subjectively) "good" frames from the sunrise shoot.

panabo (2 of 2)

panabo (1 of 2)

Shooting landscapes for me are a taxing endeavor. I have to wake up really early (or not sleep at all) and shoot only for a limited amount of time. And timing is everything since overcasts and rain can ruin a trip. Well, I am admittedly still learning; it’s a process. And after the shoot, I told my fellow shooters that I'd be tagging along more often to the landscape shoots so I can learn. I do hope that I will learn more the next time I shoot.

PS: Many thanks to the Ange Bersabal and the Photobombers for organizing this landscape shoot.

Friday, February 1, 2013

on Return to Macro

And so I came back to the genre that interests me the most.

On a gloomy sunday, I went about seeking jumping spiders. My usual shooting areas were either wet from the rain the previous night or flattened by my neighbors to make parking areas. It was a bummer but then again, the intrepid soul in me went seeking new grounds to shoot. And by doing so, I found new critters too. For this shoot, I used a stacked setup with my 90mm macro and a reversed 50mm. The reproduction ratio of my setup is about 2:1.Shot with one on-cam flash with an omnibounce diffuser.

I got about 10 keepers and here are the 3 best photos from that session.

Hover Fly (Baccha Clavata)
come back (1 of 3)

Weaver Ant (Oecophylla Smaragdina)
come back (3 of 3)

Jumping Spider (Salticidae)
come back (2 of 3)

I spent around two hours shooting near our house. I discovered some new sites that clearly have potential as my macro field. I'm happy that I found the time to go back to shooting macro photography. There is that certain satisfaction in shooting what you love best. And time flies when you are enjoying what you do.

Monday, January 14, 2013

on Babies and High Key Strobist

I try to make the most out of every shooting assignment I get. Photography is a never ending learning process for me. No two shoots are ever alike so you have to really think and adapt to whatever is thrown at you. 

So, I was asked to do a studio-ish high key setup and shoot a few frames with Mima Tan of Mimathology. She's a highschool batchmate and a mom who turned her passion for photography and love for kids into a professional service. She doesn't do a lot of strobe work so I was called in to set it up for her because the client wanted the white high key studio look. As for me, I have a lot of experience with setting up lights but no experience whatsoever with shooting babies.

chloe (1 of 3)

I used two huge rectangular softboxes for my key and fill lights up front and one bare flash to light up my background. And we used two silk sheets for the backdrop. Its not really white, more like cream colored.

chloe (2 of 3)

We had to shoot pretty low and had some problems with the baby crawling away from the strobes. I managed to get a few shots of before we had to call it a day since the baby was not in the mood anymore.

chloe (3 of 3)

It was a good first experience for me to shoot babies. I learned how patient one has to be when shooting and the creative ways to get the baby's attention. I don't think I'll start accepting baby pictorials any time soon but I would love to learn more about the craft. It is very challenging and I'd probably need a few more under my belt before I'd have the confidence to shoot on my own. Shooting portraits of adults is way easier than shooting babies. I also want to try shooting outdoors next time.

PS: Uber thanks to Mima for the opportunity to shoot and learn. And to Brian and Aimee.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

on Ballerinas and Baby Powder

There are times I wish I had my own studio or just some place where I could play around with strobes and different lighting setups.

The crew organized a shoot with ballerinas and power. The emphasis was on motion and we had the powder to accentuate the motion (and break the monotony). It was a good shoot but too bad I had barely sixty frames since we had limited time and around five photographers. There were three models and I didn't get to shoot the last one. But I am glad I had two keepers from the simple setup that we had. It was also a good test for the two large softboxes I bought during the Christmas season.


The main challenge while shooting was keeping the model in the short black backdrop and also in focus. What I did was prefocus on the final position where the model would jump, setup the strobes to point in that direction and then set my camera to manual focus. It would have been easier with a tripod but I forgot to bring one. It was also challenging to time the shutter press correctly with the jump or just after the powder was thrown. It took some attempts before I got the timing right with each model. Good thing the models were easy to work with. I just wish I had more time to shoot this concept.


I learned things from this shoot especially on how to setup motion shots with fixed strobes. And I really did enjoy this even with the limited time. I promise to reshoot this concept as soon as possible.

PS: Thanks to Sarah and the Crew for the shoot. And also a big thank you to LJ, Chrizza and Shannon for being really game models.