On Shortness of Life

Life is short. We just had a family member that passed away. It made me realize about our mortality. We will all pass away. Nobody is exempted, rich or poor we will all cease to exist in this plane of life. As I come to realize this I looked to my side. To my mom. I’m not ready for death. For change.

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“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.”- SENECA

This is what I fear most. That I have wasted my time here to binge watch that new series on Netflix while I neglect the people important to my life. I have spent time doing what I love (Photography and reading) and I have enjoyed every minute of it but I took for granted my parents thinking that they’ll always be there. Which they won’t, time will get us all. Now I try to go wherever they go when I’m free and make the most of the time with them. Ma

Thank you for reading!

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Pray to the muse

I have been reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and it was a revelation. All art is a pain to create (to start) when a blank canvass or a black page is only staring at you and you can’t seem to start anything. I have been like this for awhile now. The camera is always in my hand but I can’t seem to start taking photos of anything and the day goes by with out a single shutter fired.

Two things seems to stick with me after reading the book:

  1. Fight the Resistance- This just means to push thru the start. If you want to write start writing anything. For me I start my day taking a picture immediately when I hit the street. Good or bad subject I just start by taking that 1 picture! It always seems to put me in that flow state which lets me see more and capture more.CLE_Tri-X_00
  2. Praying to the Muse- I don’t always remember to do this but I try to. It’s pavlov’s me to think okay time to shoot. And somehow, the muse seems to always present something wonderful to me.                                                                                           “Muses, I praise thee.
    Grant me the vision to craft words of power that sear into the mind’s eye.
    Let my ears hear words that are true and pure.
    Let my inspiration be a mighty steed that carries me forward.
    I pledge to you that I shall fight Resistance and strive to bring glory to the tales you would have me tell.
    Let the work begin.” 
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If you want to fight thru the resistance in any creative process do read: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

Thank you for Reading!

 

Minolta CLE

I’m not gonna bore you with the technicality of this camera or it’s disputed parentage, being a bastard and all that. But a tale on how and why this little heathen became my everyday carry.

My first film camera is a battered Nikon F3, brassing all over but full of character. I fell in love with it all the little knobs, sleek design and that shutter cock action and sound. Then I saw a bargain for a F3/T champagne which I bought in a heart beat. A little lighter but still heavy that’s the only down side for me with the F3 is it’s size and weight. Aperture priority, meter is great (haven’t miss a shot with it) the only thing i’d change is the meter display. Then came another opportunity trade the F3/T to the Minolta CLE with the 40mm M-Rokkor. Still having my first F3 I went for it.

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BROTHER FROM ANOTHER MOTHER

When I got the CLE I was pleasantly surprise to feel very familiar with it. Aperture priority, electric shutter, battery dependency and being a no fuss camera it’s like the little brother of the F3, smaller and being rangefinder. The only thing that’s missing is an AE lock. They have a lot in common in this aspects even thought it’s a different brand and system.

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THE BAD

  • No AE – A function I have grown used to from the F3 but sorely missing on the CLE. The roundabout way on this is meter on what to expose ( highlight, shadow or the middle ground) then set the shutter speed manually.
  • No meter in manual mode- This is obvious, I don’t know why they didn’t put this option. I would love to have the meter reading in manual mode.
  • Weird precaution in the manual (Yes i’m that geek. I read every manual for every camera I use) that says not to leave the shutter cock overnight. Some people say that this is nonsense and they have left there’s always cock had never had a problem but other says the opposite. Well I like to be on the safe side and changed my way of shooting, from cocking the shutter after every shot to being a pre shutter cock before taking a photo (Believe me I feel like a freak because of this and miss some shots)

THE OTHERS DEEM BAD BUT DOESN’T AFFECT ME

  • Shorter rangefinder baselength– only becomes a problem with longer focal length. I mainly shoot 40mm and maybe 28mm in the future. So it’s meh.
  • Battery dependency- I just bring an extra set of battery with me all the time. Problem solved.
  • Weird framelines- Some people just doesn’t like the 28/40 framelines or focal length and prefers the 35/50. Luckily for me 40mm is my go to focal length.

THE GREAT

  • FORM (size, weight and color)- It’s form is perfect for street photography. It small and black which makes it discreet and ninja like. It weighs like a feather which is a boon when you walk around for hours on end believe me you’ll even forget that you have it around your neck.
  • FUNCTION- Just set it to aperture priority and shoot. It’s meter display is simple but very effective I’m amaze why other camera system didn’t copy this. With the F3 the meter display sucks let’s be honest. I liked the needle styled display but is difficult when it get’s dark. This one works wonders being an LED red dot that act like a needle.
  • METER- OTF meter like the OM-2 which is reliable.
  • MAGIC TOUCH- HA! I don’t know what they called it. But it’s the magic when you touch the shutter button it activates and gives you a meter reading. It’s battery friendly. It take some time to get used too but I have grown fond of it.
  • Bright viewfinder

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*All the control you’ll ever need (Aperture, Shutter speed, iso, shutter cock and shutter button)

I’m biased so take everything I said with a grain of salt. But if you’re looking for a perfect companion on the street try the Minolta CLE it’s great. Form and function wise it’s just a joy to shoot. Ergonomics is great. I love the feel of it in my hand. Shutter speed, iso, shutter lever, film back opening are well thought out. I can can the shutter speed with one hand. The CLE for me solves most of the problems that I have with other cameras, size and weight being one, it’s no nonsense camera and it packs a punch above it’s weight.

 

If you have any questions about the CLE just comment below.

Thank you for reading!

Minimize. Minimize.

I feel like I have improved in my photography. I know this is rather subjective but lately I have been please that they were decent. No more photos where there’s just no subject. Let me give you an example:

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Leading line to nowhere. Or leading line to the back of his head. This was taken a year ago. Mind you I’m not saying that I’m good it’s just that lately I’ve been more conscious of what I shoot. I now notice patterns and shadows compare to before where I just shot random things. Another example:

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Really down the drains! (forgive the pun)

GAS and the ever changing technology makes us change gear faster than Taylor Sw…… Okay I won’t finish that joke. This constant changing prevents us from mastering a specific gear. Koudelka roamed for months on end with a single camera, 2 lenses and rolls of film. Maybe we should to.

For four months I did an experiment. I sticked with 1 camera (Minolta CLE), 1 lens (M-rokkor 40mm) and 1 kind of film ( Kodak Tri-X) and brought it with me daily.

MINIMIZE SIZE

A light and compact camera is a big factor. With my Nikon F3 I tend to get shoulder, neck and various other pains due to it’s weight but with the CLE I got it strap with a peak design cuff and it’s in my hand every time I’m out no hassle at all. Being able to carry a camera at all time is a boon. As life happens all the time you should be prepared.

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MINIMIZE GEAR

By shooting one camera, lens and film combo you then start to learn it’s capabilities quick. Focusing gets faster. Zone focusing gets practiced. Exposure gets spot on ( My CLE tends to expose for the highlight. Knowing that I can now compensate). This seems rather small advantages but adding them all helps to nail a shot. Getting to know a camera deeply was hard for me, with the price of film cameras being down it was easy to sell it then buy another that would be the “one”. There’s no perfect camera I now know that you just have to master whatever camera you have. Remember older camera had made photos that are great. Koudelka used Exakta for his Prague Invasion book and holy hell the photos there was great.

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Thankfully with the CLE it’s easy to be acquainted with it. Just set your desired aperture mainly F8 and zone focus for normal street stuff. Rangefinder focus for portraits and other slow moving subject or inanimate subject. I can handheld at 1/30. 40mm is just right. That’s all set. Now that you don’t have to think about that anymore you can focus, be mindful, really see and watch your surroundings. Light, patterns, people, you are free to compose.

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

– Bruce Lee

If the philosophy is good with Bruce Lee it’s good with me. So do challenge yourself. Pick a camera, lens and film and shoot it for a few months straight. You’d be surprise how you’ll love that setup once you get used to it and the photo you’ll be taking by after a few months.

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Try it. What’s the worse that can happen? you’ll even be able to save a few buck!

I’m now dying to inject a little color to my photos. I’m planing to shoot a single roll of Portra and then get back to my Tri-X to continue this experiment. What? I’m just a human. I’m even drooling for the Zeiss 28mm ZM that’ll be perfect with the CLE!

Thank you for reading!

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

How to be happy in life?

Easy. Wake up every day and expect the worst.

“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own- not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands, and eyes, like two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are obstructions.”

– Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

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It’s easier to face the day knowing it’s not all candies and roses. It’s easier to expect that shit will happen. A client will get mad. Someone will shout at you. Be prepared. They don’t know you personally, so don’t take it personally. It’s just someone blowing steam at you because.. because they had a bad day? maybe a family member died. We don’t know but we know better than to get mad at them as it won’t solve the problem.

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If you read only one book this year make it Meditations by Marcus Aurelius you won’t regret it.

*All photos taken with Minolta CLE with 40mm M-rokkor. Kodak Tri-X @400

Thanks for reading!

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!

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 Anguish

Life is a spectrum of emotion based on our perception. Somedays we have a happy filter on and whatever shitty circumstance fate throws at us we just shrug it off and continue to be happy and positive. But on the other end of the spectrum is the anguish filter where everything just seems so bleak, so useless and so hopeless. I like the definition of anguish it’s so raw. Anguish- severe mental or physical pain or suffering. Severe.

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This also reflects in my photos. When i’m in anguish I see others which is in the same boat as I am. This woman might seem to be sleeping but the low sobs tells another story. If it’s physical suffering just remove yourself from that situation. But if it’s metal suffering now that’s a lot more complicated our mind is a powerful tool and a powerful enemy too if it’s negative loop it can spiral out of control. Our mind controls our perception and make it seem like there is no escape thus leading to suicide.

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This isn’t a suicide but due to neglect. I can do nothing more but bury you little one.

Marcus Aurelius’ remedy is simple:

  1. Disturbance comes only from within- from our own perceptions. (Control your perceptions)
  2. That everything you see will soon alter and cease to exist. (Only change is constant)

Number 2 is liberating. I will soon die then none of this will matter. Why spend time suffering? Everything will soon be gone. Nothing is infinite. Nothing will last forever. My problems will soon pass. My pain will soon pass. My poverty will soon pass (I hope!).

Everything is Transient and Ephemeral

Do good, be good.

Change is a constant friend.

That’s all for my rumblings today.

Thank you for reading if you reach the end.

 

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.