Mount Pinatubo 2015

I always spend my spring break in the Philippines but I rarely spend it outside Manila. This year, I decided that I really want to explore the many natural assets that Philippines has to offer. A few friends and I decided that Mt. Pinatubo would be a good introduction to the wonders of the Philippines. For this blogpost, I will share how I tried to capture it's beauty and some preventive measures to protect your equipment.

My kit for the trip included my D800 with its battery pack, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VRII, and the 50mm f/1.4. For occasions like this, I tend to pack only the essentials to keep it as light as possible. I opted for the battery pack because I didn't want to worry about having to change the battery.  I was also able to use the new bag I received for Christmas from my relatives: the Thule Perspektiv Messenger Bag. I have had a lot of messenger bags in the past but I have to say that this one really makes carrying about 10 pounds of equipment a pleasure. 

Mt. Pinatubo was about a 3 hour drive from Manila. We left at around 3 in the morning and made it to the area at around 7 AM after picking people up and getting a little lost along the way. When we arrived to the location, they took us all on 4x4's for about an hour a half to where you start your trek.

The 4x4 was extremely bumpy so it was very difficult to take photographs while on it. It was very hard to look through the eye piece and the camera shake was very high. To accommodate for the shake, I opted for a high shutter speed and used Auto-ISO. I rarely use Auto-ISO because I don't usually use anything beyond 200 ISO but because of the constant lighting changes and the inability to constantly change the shutter speed, I found it necessary.

The view was overwhelmingly beautiful, especially when we finally arrived to the crater.

We spent half of our time commuting from Manila and back but it was worth it. I encourage everyone to make this trip at least once in their lives. It gives you a deep appreciation of nature and time.

Lastly, make sure to completely clean your camera after a trip like this because of all the dust that might have gotten in. 

The complete set of photographs from the trip:

I edited these photos mainly using Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom 4. I also used Portrait Professional Studio for retouching. If you have more questions on how I produced these images, feel free to comment here or post on my wall on facebook.

website | facebook | flickr | behance instagram

Defying Gravity

I want to start of this blog discussing my first ever planned photo shoot, entitled “Defying Gravity”. It was taken in the November of 2010. In a nutshell, this shoot inspired me to become a full blown photographer. I will always have a soft spot for this set and it will always remain my most prized works of art.

It started off as one of my IBHL Visual Art pieces. Having the background of traditional art helped me escalate my skills of story telling because I was exposed to the process of brainstorming and creating thumbnails. This aids me in visualizing the outcome before I even start the shoot. Do not underestimate these skills and practice them as much as possible.

For this shoot, I asked my crew mates from my breakdance crew, Riot Kings to model for me. The idea was simple, to create images that will make the audience question the reality of it. I have always had an infatuation with the power of photography and this was its embodiment. I thought that dancers would best portray this idea because dancers are able to defy gravity or at least to their audience’s perception of gravity.

This was our first shot of the series:

“Defying Gravity”

“Defying Gravity”

My lack of photoshop and photo-manipulation skills ended up as an advantage because I was forced to set the shots up without any composites, which made it much more real. For this shot, it took about 50 tries to get the one we wanted. Here is the raw file to prove that it is not a composite:

Nikon D90, Shutter Speed of 1/200, Aperture f/5.6

Nikon D90, Shutter Speed of 1/200, Aperture f/5.6

When you are just starting off as a photographer, your camera’s settings is usually the hardest to understand and master. However, knowing it and practicing it will be your most essential tool. For this shot, I used a shutter speed of 1/200. Even though it seems as if there was a lot of light for this shot, I was still shooting indoors and there was still not enough light for me to go faster than 1/200 without increasing ISO (which in return, would increase noise). Fortunately, 1/200 is already enough for me to freeze all the motion. It may sound basic but the faster your shutter speed, the more you can freeze action. Also, when you are holding your camera by hand, it makes your image sharper and clearer because you are also stopping the motion of your own body.

I did a lot of experimentation with this shoot, which left a lot of room for error. However, those experiments are what paid off the most. Do not be afraid to experiment, especially when you are just getting started. You learn so much from it. The biggest risk I took was shooting against the light. I was just starting out so I did not know much about lighting. However, I was able to save most of the detail on the faces using Lighroom 3. I increased “Fill Light” and decreased “Black”. I also increased “Clarity”. This created a lot of noise in the image, which I was able to decrease using “Luminance”. Same technique was used for this photo:

“Without Boundaries”



The most important lesson I took from this shoot is the importance of having a concept. Art has been, and is still currently going through a paradigm shift, in which the balance of concept and technique are being weighed. However, concept is much more important when it comes to my own personal opinion. Learn how to conceptualize first. Technique will follow. You need to create depth behind your art to keep your audience interested.

Its a relief being able to finally write all of that down. I hope you guys enjoyed my first blog post and I promise there will be a lot more coming up soon.

website | facebook | flickr | behance instagram