Stalking the most beautiful places in the Philippines

Welcome, welcome 'o weary traveler... from where do you cometh? Are you seeking new lands to conquer, perhaps planning a visit to the Philippines? Or are you simply feeling home-sick and hungry for photographs of home? Whatever, feel free to look or share. An adventure awaits.

I try to post new images weekly from my travels across this beautiful land. If you like what you see, please leave a comment or two. Or write me a note, I'd love to hear from where you cometh. Enjoy. Bobby ( Join this group to receive new postcards weekly or become a fan of my Facebook page.

Monday, June 28, 2010

#73 The Color Salmon

Dusk is the easier twilight to shoot, but it is no less rewarding.

Still in Busuanga in Palawan, the sea port is a beehive of activity at sunset. As night falls, swarms of boats arrive from all directions, hustling to find their spot to dock. Out jump tourists and boatmen, but in their haste, few marvel the intensifying colors above. The dusk horizon is clear today with just enough clouds, enough canvass, for the sun to paint its farewell. In a few minutes it will be peak light, the most intensely colored moment of dusk. My equipment is ready, mind is prepared, but my heart still flutters at the thought.

In a scene as dynamic as a port at twilight, one needs to move quickly to find a worthy composition. With so many moving parts, I try to find myself a strong element or two to anchor my composition... and then wait patiently for some action to enter the frame... like boats simultaneously lining-up on the horizon... or a boatman climbing from boat to boat until he reaches shore. And suddenly the sky's reflection magically appear in the water in front of me. Quickly. Click. A sigh of relief, another twilight bagged for posterity. Enjoy.

(Pixel-peeper: Have you seen a salmon-colored sky at dusk? It was a first for me, and I've seen my share of dusks. They're usually a reddish orange, although purplish is frequent as well. But when it turned salmon... you understand my excitement. Keeper.)

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Monday, June 21, 2010

#72 Return of the King

Every sunrise is a gift: a promise of a brand new day. But don't lose heart if you don't catch it every single time.

It would be our last day on Busuanga Island in Palawan, the last chance to catch the sunrise. The weather had been iffy for the past 3 days. The skies were too overcast, the wind too strong, and the waves rougher than was comfortable. Even though it didn't rain as forecasted, the conditions weren't ideal when you have to be on a boat along the coast. But my first opportunity for a sunrise shoot wasn't due to a lack of trying. When you wake up at four in the morning and don't see any stars above, you know sunrise will be similarly muted. Counting sheep was immensely more appealing.

As a twilight photographer, you know this lack of control over both your light source and your subject is part of the game.  It's a crapshoot of sorts. You show up hoping things come together, but are just as prepared to be disappointed when they fall apart. It's an attitude helpful to the craft, as I hope you agree, it is too in life. After all, art and life, don't they tend to mirror each other? Enjoy.

(Pixel-peepers: When on vacation with the family, I try not to bring everything I own. My kit is spartan: a wide prime, a short macro, an ultra-light tripod, plus three filter systems every landscape photographer must own: a polarizer, a GND, and an ND8. And don't forget the uber-important gray balance card! Wait, there's more: a good hat to keep the gray matter warm, insect repellant to save on scratching time, and a bar of chocolate for the moments you'd rather shoot than stop for meals.) 

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Monday, June 14, 2010

#71 A Brackish Sea

Can a sea be brackish? Read on.

We were in Busuanga, Palawan, on a banca speeding towards Cayangan Lake on the island of Coron. Half an hour later found us in a lagoon at the foot of an imposing wall of limestone. Up a steep flight of steps, we eventually huffed-and-puffed our way to a look-out point with an expansive view of the islands. Then it's down a jagged trail until we descend onto the shores of an emerald-colored sea. Nice, very nice. And the brackish seawater? It's less than salty because of an an active underwater freshwater spring.

Cayangan is, after all, a sea lake completely enclosed by limestone cliffs. Along the water's edge, there's a faint echo that gently envelopes you, like whispering waves inside a seashell. And the water? The color is alive... my photographs fail... this place is enchanted... put it on your bucket list... Enjoy.

(Pixel-peepers: The air over Palawan is very clean so the light is clear and intense even on an overcast day. Inside a narrow lagoon where the light comes mainly from the top, high contrast zones can make exposure decisions difficult. Do I expose to hold back the bright sky? Or do I bring out the detail in the shadowed cliff faces? How about the water?

It usually depends on what you think is the most important subject of your photograph. I personally thought a successful photograph of Cayangan Lake must faithfully show the true emerald hue of its water... everything else is secondary. I took a reading off the most  intensely green part of the water... that would be my mid-tone. And the rest of the photograph? It's too easy to get overexposed skies and underexposed cliffs, until you realize the intensity and direction of the light is always changing under an overcast sky!  Patiently wait for better lighting conditions if you can, like when the sun is momentarily obscured by thick clouds or when a patch of low flying clouds reflect some light onto the cliffs. You will find those harsh lighting contrasts dramatically reduced, hopefully to a point where enough highlight and shadow detail is restored. Click. Enjoy.)

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Monday, June 7, 2010

#70 Chicken Baskets

Q: How many chickens live under this house? A: Does it matter?

We were driving past the town of Banaue in Ifugao province when something caught our fancy. A traditional Ifugao house is just off a side road, nestled between a cluster of modern day homes. It's called a "fale" and it's built without nails. It can also be disassembled and moved elsewhere, probably the reason why this one isn't in the middle of the rice fields anymore. An amusingly anachronistic sight, but what caught our eyes was the biggest collection of chicken baskets we've seen in a single place, parked under it.

In the terraces where flat land is scarce, they love their chickens. The chicks roam freely, feed in the wild, multiply without assistance, and grace the table when the need arises. What could be simpler?  So how many chickens lived there? Beats me. We didn't see any although the baskets sure smelled like something's been there recently. What we consider to be chicken homes, the chickens probably see them as jailhouses! No wonder they're all gone. Enjoy.

(Pixel-peepers: Shot on a tripod for maximum sharpness, probably f/11 or f/16 as I recall selecting a smaller aperture to increase the depth-of-field. I counted 13 baskets, two wooden cages, and a nest inside a cardboard box. How many do you see?)

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