Humans Wearing Hats: The First Year

This day last year, I made the maiden post for a street portrait project about strangers I met in the streets who are wearing hats. While admittedly it wasn’t a project that would change the world, it was still something that I just had to do. If I found a person with his or her hat interesting, I’d approach the person and ask to take their portrait. That’s it. No deep meaning or social commentary. It’s just the person, the hat and the photograph.

Before we proceed, if you haven’t seen the inaugural post on this project, it would be best to get acquainted with it: Humans Wearing Hats: An Introduction

I wasn’t expecting much for the first year of the project. After all, the abundance of hat wearers in Manila exists only in the imagination. I would spot a few here and there at times but I was always at the most tragic place I could be: In a public utility vehicle during a commute!

But things would change in December when the company I was working for sent me to Sydney, Australia. I was excited to discover new lands and thought I would only have a field day taking landscape and travel photos, but in the context of this project I would later discover that:

Sydney is a goldmine!

I have never seen so many people wearing hats before. Not that everyone is wearing one, but I was able to see someone wearing a hat in most of my stay in that lovely city. Compared to the dearth of subject in Manila, it was a luxury to pick my subjects in Sydney. There were a lot of diverse hats and even more diverse personalities!

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Sweet Disposition: Uninspired Photo of a Beautiful Thing

Sunday afternoon at Angono lakeside, I was ruminating between that Wall Street Journal article that tackles photographer Diane Arbus’ struggle with depression and the despondence of Tom Hanson’s character in the 2009 film 500 Days of Summer.

It’s been quite rainy the past few days, so when I saw that the sky was quite fair that Sunday afternoon I went to my usual shooting place. From where I live, I don’t have a clear view of the horizon where the sun sets, so going to the lakeside is a hit-or-miss during the rainy season. For that Sunday as I arrived at the lakeside, the upper atmosphere looked nice and adequately clear but the horizon was obstructed by a thick wall of clouds threatening a drab afterglow from the sunset.

While I was almost too sure that I won’t get anything special from the sunset, my consolation was the peculiar rainbow glow in one of the wispy clouds above the “wall” on the horizon.

Rainbow Cloud

After taking a shot, I just sat in one of the concrete barriers lining the edges of the lake. A lot of people were having fun by the lakeside (riding bikes, eating snacks or plainly having a conversation) then there’s also a couple of photographers on the other side who seem to be taking long exposure photos of a boat even if the sun is still high, too harsh for a decent shot.

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The K-30’s Final Bow

I frankly do not know where to begin. Starting a piece about an end of something? It sounds like a paradox.

But yes my favorite camera, the Pentax K-30 is making a curtain call. And the irony of it all is I do not know whether the camera gave up on me or if I was the one who gave up on the camera…

It was a prolific 3 and a half years

I bought the camera in July 2012 when I was still working in Singapore. Before that I was using a Pentax K-x. I remember the day the Pentax K-30 was officially announced, every Pentaxian at the pentaxforums website was brimming with excitement! And I was one of them of course. After all, this was THE camera a lot of us had been waiting for.

It was a big step up from my K-x. The K-30 had weather-sealing, 2 control wheels, a big bright pentaprism, a low-noise high-ISO 16 MP sensor, great grip, better LCD, advanced AF and the camera simply looks bad ass! It was way more advanced than my K-x and I was thinking I could use the camera for years to come and not be envious of any new camera that will arrive in the market. So, I finally pulled the trigger and ordered online… I was an early adopter!

30/52: K-30 and a Pancake
K-30 and a Pancake

It looked so cool with the 40mm pancake lens, I had to take an official portrait of my beloved K-30! 🙂

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Humans Wearing Hats: An Introduction

As early as 2009, I’ve always planned to do a street portrait project inspired by 100 Strangers and later on by Humans of New York but nothing materialized in those plans. I was too shy, too afraid to approach strangers on the streets. Being an introvert doesn’t help. Though a lot of times, I would visualize in my head how smoothly I would approach a person on the street and try to convince him/her to be a part of the project. Alas! Fantasy is futile! Fast forward to 2015, I finally was able to start a project in the same vein. I thought to myself…

I will take photos of humans wearing hats! =)

About two or three weeks ago, it occurred to me that people wearing hats are quite interesting. Since then I’ve been toying with that idea to use in a street portrait project but not really sure if it’s just another plan that would never see the light of day.

Here in the Philippines, at least at the present time, we are a nation not known to be wearing hats as part of our outfit. The glorious years of wearing hats I think would be during the Spanish and American colonial times. It would have been cool to travel back in time and burn the shutter of my camera as I walk the old streets of Manila and see just about everyone wearing a hat. But that is in the past, no use dreaming of a bygone era. Also, a DSLR in those days would not be a good fit,  lest I be accused of sorcery if someone finds out. :p

Today, the nearest thing to those hat wearers would be people wearing baseball caps. Though baseball cap wearers are abundant here, I think they are simply boring. They do not photograph as interestingly as a hat wearer that we don’t normally see in our merry way. Admittedly though, I am not discounting the fact that in the future I am prone to take a photo of a stranger wearing a a cap, but it would take something special for the cap wearer for me to really take a photo of them.

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Back in the Photo Challenge Route… Again!

Way back in 2009 when I bought my first camera (a Fujifilm F200EXR), I started participating in online photo challenges. I initially got the camera for my travel to Caramoan island in Camarines Sur province, but after that trip instead of dumping my camera in the cabinet to accumulate dust, I tried to find ways on how I can get to use my camera more. After all it cost me an arm and a leg from my paltry income, so I naturally wanted a return from my investment. That’s when I stumbled on a website called Fujimugs.

Fujimugs is mainly a photo challenge site for Fujifilm camera owners where a theme is set and the members (photography enthusiasts) take a photo about the theme within a prescribed period of time (usually 2 or 3 weeks) then members get to vote/comment/critique which is the best among the (anonymous) entries. The owner of the photos are then revealed after the voting. I had my fair share of ups and downs joining the challenges and in turn it has been a great help for improving my photography skill and it has also been a great source of frustration. Hahaha! I’ve made a few good photos and the inevitable horrendous ones that still makes me shudder until this very day: “What was I thinking!?!” Smh.

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Changing of the Winds

Changing of the Winds

O the changing of the winds, O the onset of defeat;
Solstice slowly passed her by, muddy waters on her feet!
Subdued and bowed, her downcast soul, she kissed the final light;
Then dimming hope of loneliness will choke her through the night!

Author’s Note:
I initially wanted to shoot on the summer solstice dates of June 21/22 but it was raining a little every afternoon. And unlike the summer solstice of northern hemisphere countries, the solstice date here in the Philippines signals the end of the summer. The hot winds from the Pacific ocean in the east would be overpowered by the southwestern monsoon (habagat) which ushers in the rainy season until the month of November.

Technical Details:
Pentax K-30 + Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6 at 10mm, f/11, 20s, ISO 400

Rumer & Elieza: Engagement & Commitment

It was inevitable. I knew that sooner or later I will be doing this kind of shoot. The dreaded engagement session!

I have always evaded assignments/shoots like these where I have to interact with people and ask them to pose in front of a camera. I have even shunned invitations from photographer friends to join them in model/fashion shoots. As from the very start my natural inclinations with photography have always been in landscape and travel. While I have perpetually been the designated photographer during family reunions and I have shot an odd number of street portraits, anything in the branch of photography that has to do with humans in the frame practically scares me! Yes, the silly things that introverts have to go through!

So, when the idea to take the engagement photos of our Canada-based friends Rumer & Elieza cropped up last year, I naturally tried to sidestep it, reasoning that the resulting photographs would simply suck because engagement/prenup shoot is not my “area of expertise”. The request died down eventually or so I thought. Earlier this year, Irene told me that her best friend EY (Elieza’s nickname) insists on us taking their photos. Prior to this, Irene had already wrapped up a fun shoot with the couple in Dubai way back 2012 when they used to work in that ridiculously grandiose city. As Irene and I could not turn down the earnest request of the couple, we came up with a disclaimer that if we are going to accept the gig that they don’t expect too much with the quality of the photos. Obviously, we are not as talented as famous wedding photographers Pat Dy, Lito Sy or Dino Lara, far from it! :p

With that they finally got us to say YES! Or were we the one who got them to say yes? 😉

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A Tale of Two Pups

It breaks my heart to write this piece.

I’ve been holding off writing about this story since December last year. And since then, a lot of things has transpired. Fate… if there really is such a thing… conspired to add drama to an otherwise simple story of hope after a tragedy.

During the last days of June 2014, Gersan, the younger brother of my fiancee Irene, brought home a puppy. It was what I would term as an “unwanted pup”. They already have two grown dogs at that time. And the new pup that came was weak and in our estimate would not last very long. We were telling him to take the puppy back as it seems it hasn’t been weaned yet so it might need to suckle on it’s mother’s breast a few more weeks for milk. But it turned out that another dog from it’s former owner attacked and bit the poor fellow, evidenced by the wound on it’s nose. The former owner gave the pup away so as to cause no further harm. We naturally took pity on the puppy. Having no other choice, Irene and her family tried nursing the puppy back to health hoping for the best but almost too sure to expect the worst.

photo (17)-1
The puppy on it’s first day
Photo taken with an iPhone 5

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The Reason

When presented with the question: “Why do you take photographs?” How would you respond?

Perhaps a George Mallory response when asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest?

Because it’s there!

This question would have taken me aback and leave me groping for answers. No, not about climbing Everest but the reason why I take photographs! :p

So it led me pondering; a nice exercise for the end of the year actually…

Why?

And there was a long pause… contemplating… and an even longer pause… staring blankly at the laptop screen…

Why?

I had to let the computer cool-off and eat lunch, still the question kept lingering…

Why?

It was a question that came to mind a couple of days ago that I am trying to come up with answers before the year 2014 ends. This most likely is a partial list:

 

Because it’s interesting. I saw this exquisite blue bell with the bicycle handle bars rusting and I found the contrasting elements interesting.

Blue Bicycle Bell
Blue Bicycle Bell
Pentax K-30 + DFA 100mm f/2.8 Macro WR at f/4, 1/200s, ISO 200

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October and the Premise of a Sublime Sunset

A master photographer once said that sunsets in the Philippines during the month of October are (or tend to be) the most gorgeous.

This was the subject of my conversation with (my fiancee) Irene after she sent me a message on facebook to quickly look at the sunset… the day was the 13th on the 10th month. I vaguely remember the master saying the statement above but he does seem to have mentioned it in a photography forum for Pentax users or on a brief discussion when I met him. But the memory was so hazy that it must have been on one of his visits in my dream or even daydream for that matter. One thing for sure is, that Irene and I both agreed that the pronouncement seem to have happened some time in the not so distant past.

The sunset that day was vividly red with a hint of airy atmosphere and the sun itself was a perfect circle as nary a cloud was blocking its glory. That was my partially obstructed view from the foothills of Angono, Rizal. I could have easily made the 15-minute hike to the top of the hills for a better view but the swift sundown could just as easily offset my effort.

After this I made a mental note on my fuzzy memory to take a sunset photo for October to prove the theory. As the days passed, thick clouds and occasional rains blurred the hope of me substantiating the claim of the master photographer. There are times when a clear sky afternoon deludes you into thinking that it would turn out to be a gorgeous sunset but a deluge of clouds would come spoiling the party before the day ends. There was a particular day though where I saw another beauty from the terrace of our apartment. Oh the tragedy of it all that I was not prepared to go out and shoot as I nearly forgot about the pursuit! And to make it clear, I am referring to a celestial body when I wrote about “a beauty seen from the terrace”. :-p

Upon approaching the final week of October, the pursuit seems to be a lost cause. But on the last Saturday of the month, the afternoon was brewing to be a favorable day for shooting sunset. Wispy cirrus clouds were sprinkled on the blue sky and the weather forecast seems to be in agreement. So, off I went to the lakeside. I have been there a lot of times this year but only shot at the central and right side where most of the wooden boats are tied. So for that day I made a conscious effort to shoot at the areas I haven’t covered yet. There were mostly water hyacinths at those parts, save for the two flotation device used by fishermen for air-gun fishing.

Twofold Stronghold
Twofold Stronghold
Pentax K-30 + Sigma 10-20 f/4-5.6 at 10mm, f/8, 1/25s, ISO 640

As I was taking a photo of the flotation device, I was focused on the base part of these “strongholds” and my lens was at its widest setting already. Yet I didn’t noticed that the poles had been cut off. But never mind the cut-off elements! These were one of those rare moments that I just had to pause, stop looking through the viewfinder and simply absorb the beauty that was happening before me. I could get lost in the moment…

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