Jeepneys

The cheapest and most common mode of transportation here in Manila. I use it almost daily to get around. Cheap! the main reason I like it.

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Just check where the jeep in going which is easily seen on the front. This one’s going to Kalaw, SM city hall and etc. Ride, pay then say “para” for it to stop. Easy.

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You can even ride for free at the cost of your safety.

The worst that can happen is when the driver wants the jeep to be full before leaving. Full is really full. When it’s a 9seater per side they’ll say it’s a 10 seater so they can have the most profit.

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That guy is only sitting on a sliver of the seat.

If you ever visit here. Ride one.

Thanks for reading!

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On Sale: TIME

We are screwed. Up against the geniuses who worked for Facebook and other social media whose job is to keep us hooked. We stand no chance against them. They eat our most valuable asset: TIME. Our time which we should spend on learning, creating or making memories with love ones, are now contested with a trickle of dopamine which our smartphone provides.

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But I am thankful for photography. With this hobby it’s a camera that’s always on my hand and not my phone. With photography it makes me look around and pay attention to the actual world we live in and made me realize how different the world is now. I’m working on my addiction with smartphone and the first step towards recovery is admitting that I’m an addict. SALE-1-4

Be aware. Resist. Live. Don’t be a zombie.

“It is not that we have so little time but that we lose so much. … The life we receive is not short but we make it so; we are not ill provided but use what we have wastefully.”

– Seneca, On Shortness of Life (Must read)

(All photos: Minolta CLE with M-Rokkor 40mm with Kodak Tri-X)

Thank you for reading til the end.

Beware of your phone!

 

On Contrast

Contrast– the state of being strikingly different from something else, typically something in juxtaposition or close association.

For the past 2 or 3 months I have been mainly shooting black and white as a challenge for myself to improve my photographic eye. Sadly my improvement is minimal and I still suck at it. One of my crutch is contrast. Black and white photos makes you see in tones which makes most of my shot plain and boring.
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So boring that even the subject fell asleep.
Being mindful and applying a little contrast improved some my shot.
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Bright colored shirt against dark background. Dark colored shirt against white background. It won’t make your photo great as you can see be it helps a lot with separation.
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Contrast also help with mood and horror.
Thinking of contrast made me realize a lot of other things. I live in the Philippines where you’ll find a lot of mini paradise, pristine beaches to mountain views to die for.
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On the other end of the spectrum is the filthy city of Manila. Most of the people doesn’t care about there surrounding, they throw most of their trash in the street, spittle and phlegm. Construction abounds everywhere cause most of the street is substandard due to corruption.
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But the contrast which breaks my heart is the living conditions of some of the children here. Street children which don’t have any place to call home, parents who shout, curse and hit them at the slightest slights. Food is variable, sometimes they eat but most of the times they feel a pang of hunger. Most of the education they’ll receive is mainly the rules of the dog eat dog world in the streets. Parental guidance of violence and impatience would be passed on to them and the cycle would begin again ad infinitum.
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Breakfast in bed. Yes that’s his bed.
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Good food and a loving family.
In contrast with us. With me. I got everything I wanted when I was a child. A room, food on our table, clothe, security and I even got a pet scorpion after making a scene in the pet shop, still i’m wanting more. We should take a breath and be thankful for the home, the food and every luxury we take for granted. In contrast to the ones who have it way worse my problems seems trivial.
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The other I realize most (around 80%) of the rich people I meet are miserable and the happiest are kids weather they are in a good or bad situation. I guess this is due to the power of play and being mindful, being in the now.
Wow. Talk about being of tangent but let’s see this through. I don’t have an answer to solve our poverty issue here but I want to share it with you. So we can be grateful and not take what we have for granted. Lastly I’ll leave you guys a quote which really freed me up from GAS.
“People value highest what they don’t have access to.”
 
Thank you for reading!

On fear and discomfort

I am struggling to improve my “photographic eye”.

I want to compose better and take more relevant photos but looking back, most of what I shot was shit. I decided on several things so I can improve it. First was to double down on my camera. No more GASing and wasting money and my most precious resource (TIME) on reviews and online auction and other sites. The extra time would be devoted to learning, reading and really studying the photos of the masters. The money was devoted to film and chemicals.

After spending weeks to months and several rolls of film I still feel that i’m still in the same place as I was before. Most of my shot looked “Lifeless” to me. Printing-21

Read all this about composition and rules. Ah the never ending rules: rule of thirds, rule of odds, the golden spiral, frames with the frames, much much more. Yes, this rule help with making a stable, balanced and even powerful photo. But if we all use them doesn’t that mean that most of all our shot would be same? Most likely not but in my case. Most of my shot looked the same cause I have really tried to change it. Until I challenge myself again. I took up with my friend (albeit it’s one sided) Robert Capa.

If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough. ”- Robert Capa
This is hard for me. Shooting in your face here in the Philippines got me shouted at and collar grab at before. But as fate would have it this would be the same day I was reading Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss (Great Book!), It was his interview with Brene Brown, She said ” Give vulnerability a shot. Give discomfort its due. Because I think he or she who is willing to be the most uncomfortable is not only the bravest, but rises the fastest.”
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I really like this one. For me it’s one of my few shots that’s got a soul. Corny as that sounds. So give discomfort a shot. Even if you won’t get a great photo you’ll still feel great knowing you can do something that scares you.

How to enjoy Film photography

This is my opinion base on my experience as a hobbyist.

Film photography is a great medium to learn and make photographs. It makes you “mindful” of what you take. The cost per shot is evident, you only have 36 shots. I see a cat licking his bum and I raise my camera to compose then think “is this shot gonna be worth my 10php?” usually the answer would be no. That would raise my keepers from 1 per roll to at least 6 per roll. Which is good by my standards (very low standards!). Shooting is a bliss. I have no expectation on myself. I just have to walk and observe. Observe the light, the shadows, patterns, frames, human faces, gestures, emotions and all the other factors. You’re in the “flow” you are mindful, all your worries are gone. You see how the world is beautiful even in the dirty streets of Manila you’ll be amazed of the depth of beauty.

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TIBI CORDI TUO IMMACULATO CONCREDIMUS NOS AC CONSECRAMUS”.

 Translated to. “To thy Immaculate Heart, entrust us and consecrate us”

Minolta CLE + M-Rokkor 40mm f2+ Kodak Tri-x @1600

Film cameras are cheap compared to the latest cameras today. This is a double edge sword for me. It’s great to try and shoot with a different camera but I usually fall to victim to HEDONIC ADAPTATION. I know deep down that I’ll only be using a single camera and I was content with it. I have been using my Nikon F3 for a year and never wanted more. But when I saw a bargain (Olympus XA2, Canonet QL17, Nikon L35AF and a Olympus trip 35 for a 100usd), I pulled the trigger on it. I have been reading extensively on film cameras to know that all of them are great cameras. They arrived the next day and all of them are in great condition. I quickly loaded the Oly XA2 shot a roll (still haven’t develop this) and sold it for a profit. I did the same with the other 3, I shot with them for awhile, get bored, complaint about this or that, and then sold it. I did make a little bit of money and I did enjoy shooting and tinkering with a new camera but this started an unhealthy habit. I would always check sites for various reviews be update for new reviews on sleeper cameras ( selling cheap now and prices would usually go up after the review), with the perfect excuse of I’m investing on them and could sell them easily. Various cameras would go thru my hands from Om-1, Om2n, to a Rollei 35 SE but would always return to the Minolta CLE, for me it’s a lighter Nikon F3 ( Black, aperture priority and dependable). I know that this is all I need and more but what the heck am I looking, reading a review and fantasizing about a Leica M? Which I can’t afford. GAS ( Gear Acquisition Syndrome) again, I thought I have dealt with it before. But making a little money gives you a leeway, an excuse to start GASing all over again. So why am I bitching about it, if I enjoy shooting different cameras and make a little money in the end. What’s wrong with that? Because it’s making me unhappy. I check ebay and other sites on a regular basis ( Every chance a get, might be every 5mins or every 30mins). I have this fear of missing out (FOMO), That I might miss out on a great deal/camera. I black canon 7 for 100 bucks? a black Contax G1 with a 45mm? I NEED THOSE! I was in constant state of fear and desire that I was checking the internet more often than shooting.

  1. Sell every camera I don’t use. ( They’re posted for sale right now)
  2. Never visit or read a review about a camera. Don’t add fuel to fire.
  3. Never visit the sales pages, ebay or where ever I get them.
  4. Make myself accountable. (Thus here I am bitching to you guys)

I am still wanting and lusting for that Leica M, Contax G1, G2 or T2 but when I catch myself wanting. I just tell myself that 1. You cannot afford them 2. You got all that you need to create a great photo and to enjoy taking pictures.

Thank you for hearing me rant.

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Minolta CLE + M-Rokkor 40mm f2+ Kodak Tri-x @1600.

Developing black and white

This is easier than expected, you just need a decent developing tank. I have tried developing my own black and white film last year which failed and it lead me to give it up entirely and have my local lab do all the work. The main problem with it was the the developing tank was the classic reel, I guess I just sucked in mounting the film properly which cause the film to stick together resulting in undeveloped film. This time round I got a AP developing tank (Generic patterson tank) which work like wonder.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BxSogFBOKeVOZGRfeFR0bzBKaEE

The Darkroom Cookbook is a must read. I haven’t read it cover to cover but it does help a lot to understand the process. My main take away was you need at least 250ml of developer for 1 roll of 135 film. Fixing time is twice the time you need to make the film clear.

  1. Put film on the developing tank on lightless room.
  2. Pour the developer. Agitate the full first minute then every last 10 sec afterwards. I used a stock Ilford ID-11 on a trix @ 400. My computed developing time was 7:30minutes
  3. Stop Bath: 30sec agitation with fresh water atleast repeat this for 3 times
  4. Fixing: Same with the developing but for 7mins (this was my computed time using my old fixer)
  5. Washing (Planning to buy a photoflo as I have visible watermarks on the film)

Let it dry. Then scanned with a Dlsr.

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Walking around the block I saw this kid devouring rice with fried fish. Heart-wrenching.

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In contrast. Almost the same age but on a totally different path. Heartwarming. Make you wonder where would they both be 10 years from now or 20. Life isn’t fair. We’re dealt with good hand and sometimes bad hand it’s up to us how we play it. I am ever thankful I have been a dealt a good hand as I haven’t starved.

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Zone focused at around 5m, composed (what’s in and around the frame), wait for someone to look at me (I was hoping for the one in helmet), press the shutter then walk away. It’s always dynamic in the street and you can’t 100% predict the outcome which makes it more rewarding when you get a good photo. Cle-1-2

I was taking a sneaky photo of the boy when the father saw what I was doing, got his daughter and told me to give him a print of the picture. Aye aye captain. Sadly I haven’t seen him again. I hope they’re okay.

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Boy cooling down in the fountain. He wanted me to take a picture of him so I obliged. Afterward he wanted to see the photo. I showed the back of my camera with nothing but the film description and I told him that it was a film camera. He looked at me with confusion. How do I explain to him the concept of film celluloid? Heck he won’t get it as I can’t explain it in simpler terms. So I just smiled, gave him 10 pesos and  waved goodbye.

Thank you for reading!

Scanning film at home: Portra 160

I have always been having my films developed and scanned at a local lab. The service they provide have always been impeccable but it takes awhile before I get my films and scans usually about 2weeks. Cost wise it’s also a bit expensive and more so if you like pushing your film. My cost for a Kodak tri-x @ 1600 with scans is around 16usd! These pushed me to develop and scan my own films. I’ll talk about the developing part on the next post. Scanning first as I have scanned this roll of portra before I started developing my black and white.

http://www.japancamerahunter.com/2016/02/scanning-film-digital-camera/

Ever since I read the article above from Japancamerahunter I have been toying with the idea of scanning my own negatives at home but never really have the impulse to push thru with it, until now. I just followed the template and work flow of Adrien Saint-Pierre (author of the article)

Equipment:

  1. Nikon D7000 (my old dslr before starting film photography)
  2. Micro-NIKKOR 55mm f/3.5 ai (20usd)
  3. Generic extension tube (12usd)
  4. Tripod (hand me down from my brother)
  5. Film holder? cut out from an archival sleeves.
  6. Asahi light panel 15watts (10usd) A decent light source is a must. I have tried using Ipad for it but the pixels shows.

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The light panel with the archival sleeves tightly bound by gaffer tape to the negative will lay flat (cheapo way) but is prone to dust. I did all the same with the article.

Minotla cle with 40mm M-rokkor, Developed at the local lab. Scanned with a DSLR.

You can already tell I am having problem with colors. First they aren’t consistent even with me using the same setting and post on them and second they don’t have the Portra 160 feel. If you have a solution for me don’t be shy to comment I would appreciate it deeply. CLE(PORTRA)-9

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Pros of scanning wtih a Dslr

  1. You control the output ( can sometimes be a con like the color problem of mine)
  2. Faster scanning than from the labs
  3. Cheaper long term
  4. High resolution? Most of the image are around 20mbp

Cons

  1. More work on your side
  2. Dusts if you don’t have the proper environment like me. Had to spot heal most of the photos alot.

It’s cheap if you already have a DSLR and a tripod you won’t lose anything by trying to scan at home using a Dslr. If you end up hating it at least you got a macro lens to play with! win-win.

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Minimalism: Agfa Vista 400

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Welcome back to the busy jungle of Manila. It’s a chaotic place. People are so busy surviving that cleanliness is the last thing in there minds. They spit, urinate and even defecate in the streets (Bums). Electric and telephone lines abound and is uncontrolled. Every street is filled with chaos and it reflects on my photo, It’s so busy that the subject gets drowned in the noise. I need to improve my composition so I challenge myself with a theme of minimalism for this roll of Agfa Vista. Enjoy!

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Chaos. Beating the red light.

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Learning: Roll#9 Tri-x @1600

When I started using film I had this idea/dream that every photos I would take would be the “SHIT”. Oh how right was I when the first roll got developed and printed. 35 shots of crap (under, overexposed and out of focused shots) and 1 decent photo. I blamed everything less but me. Maybe the camera is broken it’s old, maybe the meter is fried, maybe my film stock wasn’t handled well being developed yeah that’s it bad developing. But deep down I know it was my fault. So I did what any normal person would do before running a film thru a new camera: Read the manual. Ha! so it’s center weighted metering, that’s good to know.

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Next thing I did was browse through the works of Josef Koudelka and learn from him. Ofcourse I admired Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, Robert Frank and most of the greats but it’s with Josef Koudelka’s work I resonated with.

https://www.magnumphotos.com/photographer/josef-koudelka/

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Great work takes time. Koudelka took around 5000 photos of the Prague 1968 invasion but used only a fraction of it. Only later when “Invasion 68:Prague” that other photos would be used, it featured 250 awe inducing photos most of them published for the first time. That’s 250 out 5000 photos! He had a tight body of work spanning all the years he was taking picture but the quality of it was absurd. So be patient and enjoy the learning process.

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After shifting to film my compulsive behavior to shot 10 or more photo of the same thing completely disappeared and was replaced by extreme skimping. 1shot per 1 subject that’s all I gave myself. Only after looking at Koudelka’s contact sheet did I realized that if you feel there’s a “Shot”, you can work the scene out. Compose, recompose and shoot. Don’t skimp. Which made me think of this quote:

” In the end you only regret the the things you didn’t do”

Let’s rephrase this

” In the end you only regret the photos you didn’t take”

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My favorite photo. Took me a bit of experimentation but I got it. When life seem dark always look to the light. I always look to you my light. I am grateful having you. Thank you and thanks for reading!

Bangkok in Film: Kodak Ektar 100

Perfect weather for a roll of Ektar.

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Entrance to the Grand Palace. The security is tight! Look at all those guns.

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The Garuda and Naga. Garugas are like harpies, half man and half bird but of the opposite sex. He’s the steed of Lord Vishnu or something like that. The snake he’s ripping apart is the “Naga”.  I don’t know which of them started this family fued as they’re “cousins” but it’s always ends with  the Garuda winning. (kinda like the eagle eating the snake)

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We enjoyed this fountain at first because the pigeons have been “pavloved” not be scared of humans and see them as vending machine of corns. Then a man gave us small packets of corn.

“How much?” we ask.

“It’s okay. It’s okay.” He said. Woah. This place is really great, people are very friendly and giving you free stuff. If only Philippines can step up it’s game then maybe the tourism would increase. Blah blah..

So we continued to play and feed the pigeons. After depleting our corn supply we decided to leave.

“Thank you for the corn.” I said or something like that.

“300 bhat. 100 bhat each packet. YOU PAY.” Kinda lost my temper here. We conceded to pay 100 bhat and decided to leave him. So please learn from our mistake. Visit but be wary of this kind of trick.

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Elephant statue at the entrance of the Phra Thinang Chakri Maha Prasat.

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Thotsakhirithon (Yaksha) is a kind of nature spirit that protects and guard treasures. It’s no wonder they’re placed in the entrance of the Wat Phra Kaew. It’s amazing to see the parallel between Thailand and Japan due to their culture and religion . Yasha in Japanese.

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I think she’ll kill me if she sees this. Candid for her devouring a delicious local banana crepe.

This is the last of the Bangkok in Film. I really miss this place already. I miss the laid back atmosphere where most of the people don’t seem to be in a hurry. The people are very polite and would do everything to help you. Can’t wait to be back.

Thank you for reading!