Nicholai Go

Manifesto: A Nation Built on Wellness

It is clear that alternatives to our current state of capitalism has to be formulated due to major inefficiencies inherit within it. These inefficiencies manifest itself in inequality, inequity, and environmental unsustainability. We believe that we have progressed far from our ancestors and yet we still face the same issues that they have faced, if not worse. With all the technological and societal advancements we have achieved as a race, how have we not solved these issues? Is it part of our nature? I don't believe so. I believe that the root cause of these issues is how we perceive value and in parallel our commerce and economic system.

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Rhode Island Free Clinic Anniversary

I was invited by Rhode Island Free Clinic (RIFD) to photograph their 15th anniversary last October 22. The invite came through my behance account where they found my work. Their invite could not have come at a better time because I am currently taking an architectural studio called Future Health Systems. 

RIFD's mission is to provide free, comprehensive medical care and preventive health services to adults who have no health insurance and cannot afford those services, and to serve as an educational training site for health care professionals. They are a fully-licensed Outpatient Ambulatory Care Facility; the Clinic has eight modern exam rooms, ophthalmology unit, podiatry suite, four counseling rooms, and a Wellness Center. Their main focus of treatment is Primary Health Care. 

For the event, I brought my Nikon D800 with both the 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VRII and the 50mm f/1.4. I also brought my speedlight SB910 with a diffusser. This is usually my default equipment for events.

I started off the night using the speed light and the wide angle lens. I used a slow shutter speed of about 1/30 to capture the ambient light and get more mood lighting.

The camera, wide angle lens, and the flash combined soon became a bit too heavy. Lucky enough, there was enough ambient light in the event that I could use my 50mm at f/1.4 without the flash. However, I had to boost my ISO up to 800 which I never do. I was incredibly shocked to see that the quality was still great on the D800. 

At the end of the event, I couldn't decide which sets of photographs are better, with or without the flash. What do you think? I would love to get some feedback and you can leave them through the comments section below.

Feature in Providence Journal

Feature in Providence Journal

The event itself was very educational and I got to witness how organizations in America fund-raise their organizations. Lessons that I used for my architecture class to design a new health system that I am confident can work in the Philippines.

Tahanang Walang Hagdanan Workshop

Last summer, I was invited by a friend of mine in the same photography organization we set up back in Manila called Litrato. He asked if we can hold a workshop with an organization called Tahanang Walang Hagdanan. I jumped on the opportunity because it would be a great time to test out a condensed version of a curriculum we have been designing for high schoolers. I went with fellow Litrato photographers, Felix Quiogue, Mike Alegado, and Christian Matic. 

Tahanang Walang Hagdanan, Inc. is a non-stock, non-profit and non-government organization that aims to uplift the lives of  Orthopedically handicapped persons. It is a rehabilitation and skills training center with sheltered workshops where the people with disabilities are trained to be productive and self-reliant member of the society. The center is located in Cainta Rizal which is about 15 kms. East Manila.

When we arrived at the location, I was amazed in how self sufficient these individuals in the organization are. In spite of their physical limitations, they had and operated their own steel and wood factories. They even started their own agricultural farm hoping to be more sustainable. They asked us to hold the workshop to improve their photography for the post cards they make at the end of the year to raise funds for the organization.

Our workshop was attended by 30 students whose ages ranged from 18-50 and had all kinds of cameras from cellphones to DSLR's. We knew this coming in, so we tailored the workshop to suit the scenario. Instead of teaching them how to use their cameras, we decided to focus on teaching them how to see instead. 

Photographed by Mike Alegado

Photographed by Mike Alegado

We started the workshop with the history of Filipino photography in the hopes of basing their own practice in a timeline, which I personally feel is lacking in most workshops. We then began to cover basic composition guidelines such as rule of thirds, leading lines, point of view, framing, pattern, and lighting. After each topic, we spent about 20-30 minutes of free shooting time in where the students will go around and try the topic out. We would then guide and talk to them to help them gain a better understand of the topic at hand. After that, we would show them our own work utilizing said topic.

Overall, the workshop was a big success based on how much their photographs improved from start to finish. I never thought I could be a teacher but when it came to sharing photography, it came naturally. There's nothing more rewarding for me than to be able to empower others to take up the craft. As I saw the photographs of my students, I learned so much about them and got a glimpse of their lives. If you learn how to read a photograph, you learn how to read into the lives of the ones who took it.

Wide Awake

Photography for me was never about capturing moments but making them. I was instantly drawn to directorial photography because I can control every aspect of the photograph. Yet, I am equally attracted to things that I have no control over, like dreams. Dreams are a curious thing. They are ephemeral and seem to be without rules, where laws of physics don’t exist. However, I have noticed one constant: time. Dreams are still bound by time, which connects both realities. We have a finite amount of time no matter the reality. My series “Wide Awake”, explores the idea of dreams and its relation to time. 

For the image that won PPOTY Student of the Year 2013, I used compositing with different photographs I took over the years, which emphasizes the nature of dreams. Compositing is a technique in which you place different images into one image. For me, the most important mindset when making composites is realism. The image has to seem as if it was a moment captured by the camera. 

01 Collecting the Images

Most of the images used for the final image were photographed by me but not all with the intent of being used for this photograph. It is important to be organized and keep a stock of all the photographs you take at its highest quality so you have them when you need to make composites. 


02 Masking the Figures

To isolate the figures, I used the masking tool and created a layer mask for every figure. I always zoom in and out to make sure that I define the masks as precisely as I could. To speed up the process, I use a pen tablet. 

03 Assembling the Elements

I usually start with the background and work forward, as it makes it easier for me to place elements easier. When placing elements together, make sure that the light source is coming from the same location and consistent. Make sure that the colors of the elements are also similar and you can manipulate those with the curves tool. When placing elements together, I also employ the same rules of composition as I do when I take a photograph. For this image, I placed the main subject on the center to give it emphasis and impact. 

04 Placing a Light Source

One of my secrets to make composite images realistic is by adding a light source in photoshop. This unites the elements making it more convincing that it is a captured moment. I use the gradient tool set on radial and then play with the opacity until it looks believable. 

05 Adding Reflection

When you use reflective surfaces on composites such as glass and water, make sure that you add reflections as well. Reflections are an easy tool to make audiences “believe” in your image. I often add reflection by duplicating the image then transforming it with the “flip” tool. I then change the opacity and use gaussian blur depending on the situation. 

06 Dodge and Burn

To emphasize the shadows and highlights, I use dodge and burn. I create separate layers increasing and decreasing exposure using the curves tool and then use the mask tool to paint either shadow or highlight. 

07 Adding Blur

I then add blur using the gaussian blur tool to give the image a shallow depth of field. I wanted to further emphasize the main subject by isolation but also make the image more believable. Our eyes do not perceive the world in complete sharpness as they have a specific depth of field. I wanted to recreate that. 

08 Final Touches in Lightroom 

My last step for any image is usually transferring the new image into Lightroom and apply small adjustments. This may be a strange process for most photographers but I feel that applying filters and adjustments on Lightroom really unifies the composite. 

Here is the whole story for "Wide Awake"

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.

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Exercise in Futility

This conceptual photoshoot is loosely based on the Greek myth of Sisyphus. He was a king who was punished for chronic deceitfulness by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, then to repeat this action forever.

I often find myself highly empathetic to Sisyphus and his burden because of societal structures that are forced upon me. May it be school, nutrition, or information, I feel as if I go through daily motions in spite of knowing the outcome, just to see it repeat itself. 

"Exercise in Futility" is my expression of this continuous struggle. I wanted to explore the human experience of resilience in hopes of finding respite.

To express this, I created a character who is not satisfied with the world she's in and is then compelled to fly. She then builds wings of her own using the landscape around her. Creating the wings on photoshop was one of the most challenging tasks I have undertaken so far and so I really wanted to share how I did it.

Final Image

Final Image

RAW Image

RAW Image

As always, my first step is to isolate the subject by selecting it (with either the pen, wand, or brush tool) and isolating it using a mask. I then placed the subject higher above the ground to make it more believable that she is flying. Photographing the model in the location that I want to use for the image keeps the lighting consistent and therefore believable.

For the wings, I used several images of branches and leaves from my own collection and stock images from the internet. 

Composite of branches

Composite of branches

To create more realism that the wings are responsible for lifting the character, there has to be motion. I referred to birds and looked how they flapped their wings when they are taking off. To create that motion, I used the warp tool on Photoshop.

Using the Warp tool in Photoshop

Using the Warp tool in Photoshop

When placing all of the elements together, make sure that the lighting and shadows are consistent. Make sure you are aware of all the light sources in the image. Also keep in mind how your added composite images affect the overall photograph.

Final composite image

Final composite image

The last step for this image was taking it into Lightroom. As I have previously mentioned in my older posts, I always refer to Lightroom for the final stages of making a photograph. When I have finished placing all of the elements and creating the composite, Lightroom enables me to add filters and effects that affect the whole image which adds unity and therefore adds realism.

Final touches in Lightroom

Final touches in Lightroom

  Here is the whole story of Exercise in Futility:

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

Photowalk in Binondo 3/28/13

After weeks of architorture, I finally had the chance to fly back home for spring break. I’ve really been meaning to take my camera out because I felt I’ve been neglecting it for way too long. I went on a photowalk with Kay Yang in Binondo and it was an amazing experience altogether. Binondo is Manila’s very own version of Chinatown. I did not know this but it is also the oldest Chinatown in the world established in 1594.

For all the photographers out there, Binondo should be on your list of photowalks. The place is packed with everything that defines interesting including the culture and the people. The people there are also the nicest group of people I have ever photographed. Only in the Philippines do you get people that not only approach you to be photographed but also thank you afterwards.

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

Fifth Code: The Good Life

I was asked by the owner of Fifth Code, Lorenz Namalta to shoot for their second anniversary. Fifth Code is a clothing company that specializes on made to order blazers. The concept for this shoot was basically to portray a group of bros having a great time in their secret club. Lorenz and his friends provided the props, makeup and the clothing. This shoot was a little different that what I was used to because everything was basically prepared for me. I usually set everything up myself when it comes to creative shoots. It was a nice change of pace and I felt I could really just focus on the shoot.

Models: Patrick Soriano, George Schulze, Carlos Roberts, Erick Merioles, Mark Dimalanta

Styling & Art Direction: Lorenz Namalta

Styling Assistants: Esme Palaganas & Alexandra Reyes

Hair and Make-up: Isabelle Dee

It was quite challenging to pose the models as legitimate “bros” because they were not acquainted with each other in the beginning. I didn’t want to force interaction between them because it will end up looking forced and fake. Therefore, we spent some time prior to the shoot to let them gel and vibe off from each other. If you are having a group shoot that involved them interacting with each other, make time prior to the shoot for them to get to know each other first.

There are lots of steps to be a great fashion or editorial photographer. From this shoot, I realized that one of the hardest steps to overcome is learning how to pose models effectively and creatively. It is a very difficult skill to learn and you can only do it by practice and experience. Group photos are especially difficult to pose. You need to know if you are focusing on one model or all of the models. This will help you with lighting and your composition.

The lighting set up for the group shots was basic because I wanted the lighting to work for more than just one group shot. It had to be broad and versatile but still very dynamic and engaging. Our location had afternoon light pouring through with the window making our models back lit. As most of you know, it is very tough working with your light source behind the subject. Therefore, I faced a couple of studio lights against the light. This achieved a very dynamic look but you have to be careful in how you balance the power of your lighting because it may look flat and fake.

I used the stripbox to evenly spread light that will work against the sunlight. However, I thought that the pictures it produced was too flat and the models lacked volume. I then used a beauty dish with an umbrella on the side to diffuse the light and add that volume. I wanted as much ambient light to add more realism. To allow the ambient light and window light to be visible, I used a low shutter speed.

Here is the whole set of Fifth Code: The Good Life

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