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!
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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.

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!

Nostalgia: Roll#8 Lucky

It’s amazing how photos can bring you back to a moment in your life. This is one of the reason why I am into photography. I visual anchor to the past charged with emotions and memories. Ahhh, Nostalgia.

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Co-habitation towel. This one is meh at best but this is special to me. It reminds me of a happy, simplier and relatively stress free time. I can even remember the sound of the jack hammer pounding outside and making sleep impossible. So I decided to take some photo of the room as we we’re moving out soon.  Looking back now I can tell you how glad I am wasting film and money on them. Reminiscing is priceless.

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“Meditation by Marcus Aurelius” And “Letters from a Stoic by Seneca” two of my favorite books. Basically saying to me to stop my bitching and whining. Stop being a victim and to actively help myself because I’m the only one who can change my situation. The external forces you can’t control but you can control everything within you. You control your own narrative.Lucky-6

So let’s take more meaningful pictures. It doesn’t have to be world changing or a technical marvel. All it needs to do is please you. You’re the one with the emotional attachment to it. Take this white rose for an example. I should have lessen the clutter to make it a bit more bearable but this one signifies my girlfriends passing of her licensure exam. I’ll always remember buying it cause it’s all I can afford, a single measly piece. Well it’s the thought that counts.

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The face of success.

I’m proud of you for passing the board exam. I’m sure you know that. CongratuFU*KINGlations!

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!

Pet Portrait# 3

Meet Hershey Zafra, a cute and playful puppy. But he lost half of his left ear due to an infected wound on the left pinna which was left untreated for weeks because the owner didn’t notice it due to Hershey long coat. So please check your pets daily while petting and caressing them, it could prevent some serious problem. ( Or atleast half an ear)

Bangkok in Film: Kodak Portra 400

Day 2 of our Bangkok trip takes us to Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Pho temples. Both are mesmerizing and vibrantly colorful.

TIPS:

  1. Bring a wide angle lens! I only had my 50mm lens on this trip and I was sorely missing my 24mm as there was a lot of instances that would be better using a wide angle lens.
  2. Be aware about the dress codes in this temples. Act and dress respectfully.
  3. Stay clear of people giving you “free” corn for the pigeons as they will ask for 150 bhat per handful.

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Chinese Warrior.

Grand temples, giant Buddha, mythical creatures and huge statues everywhere. Thailand is very rich in culture and symbolism.

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Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”- Buddha

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The Reclining Buddha.

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I’m not sure if this is a lotus. Lotus represents purity of thought. It grows in muddy water rising and blooming above the murk, symbolizing enlightenment.

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This is my favorite of the roll.

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Thanks for viewing!

Up next is Ektar. 🙂