Sunday, March 30, 2008

Travel Photography: Subic Sweet Water Beach Resort

I've previously shared with you several instances of my travels around the Philippines. This is the latest in the series, I guess. Hahaha.

It's summer time, and what better place to go than the beach? Because of insistent public demand (well, more like glowing reviews from beach goers from certain forums), we decided to go to Subic Sweet Water Beach Resort. And I gotta say, this particular place is probably one of the best beaches I've been to lately, if not one of the best beaches I've been to period.

Don't let the name fool you though. It might be called a resort, but it's really not (well, technically it really is but...). I'd say, it's more of a haven actually. I home away from home, away from all the hustle and bustle and stress that the over-commercialized Subic Bay freeport area represents. It's fine and nearly white sand, it's breath-taking vistas, cool and surprisingly not so salty water (my personal estimation compared to some beaches I've been to, probably where it got its name), and gracious staff make the trip out of town well worth it.

view from room sweet water beach saturated sweet water beach with boat

I'm told that the resort was and pretty much is a private rest-house. Due to it's under-utilization, the owners have decided to share their bounty with the world at large, and what bounty they have! The sand, the surf, and that sunset...

sweet water sunset1 sweet water sunset2 sweet water sunset3

If you're looking for a vacation somewhere quiet, and aim for the relaxation and lazy days that a cool breeze, fine sand and wonderful location could possibly afford, I'd say that Subic Sweet Water Beach Resort is the place for you.

Panoramic View of Sweet Water Beach
Panoramic view of Sweet Water Beach (click for bigger version)


No, they haven't got a website yet, but they do have a friendster account. For reservations, best to call 09178507292. When you get to the resort, do take the time to get to know the staff. :) They'll be your best friends from there.

======

ETC...

Directions:
  1. Get your butts to Subic. Either you take the more scenic route, via San Fernando and along the National Highway (you'll pass through San Fernando, Bacolor, Guaga, Lubao and Dinalupihan), or via the SCTEX (which by the time of this writing, has yet to open) which pretty much gets you to Subic quicker.
  2. From Subic, follow the signs pointing to Ocean Adventure. This road will take you past the airport, FedEx, and lead you towards the Morong Gate. The drive towards the Morong Gate will see you passing a fire station to your right.
  3. Exit Morong gate and drive straight through, following signs for Anvaya Cove. You will encounter a fork in the road, with the main road going up the mountain, and the road to Subic Sweet Water (and other small resorts) will be going down to your right. The Tarp they have at this juncture is torn so keep your eyes peeled. You'll pass a small church to your right, and come upon a gate with the Subic Sweet Water resort tarp. Enter the gate, drive straight through. There you are! :)
Sidenotes and Factoids:
  • The cast and crew of Kamandag shot an episode at Subic Sweet Water.
  • Roxanne Guinoo's white-castle commercial was also shot here.
  • I heard that some Marimar episodes were also done at this beach. :P
  • At certain points in the year, Marine turtles come to lay their eggs on the beach. If you do find a nest, please leave it alone! :)
Don't:
  • Don't leave your trash on the beach. The cove's pretty clean and I'm sure the resort owners as well as other beach-goers would appreciate that it stays that way.
  • Don't park under a coconut tree heavily laden with fruits! :) Don't tempt fate. If you do, don't say I didn't warn you.
Do:
  • Book in advance. I heard the place was fully booked for the weekends of March, though I'm not quite sure what the April schedule is like.
  • Try to go during a weekday and not on a weekend. If isolation and relaxation's your aim, weekday overnights are preferable. Let them know when you'll be arriving though so they can prepare for you properly.
  • Take the SCTEX to Subic (we weren't able to). It's new, and faster than the usual route. It officially opens for business this April.
  • Enjoy! Relax! Have fun!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Personal Project: Doing Charles Traub's To Do List

Just thought about this right now. I blogged about advice Charles Traub gave to aspiring young photographers the other night. Now I'm thinking of going down that list and "doing" them tasks one by one.

:) A challenge to myself! I've to be able to do it all within... 3 months? Is 3 months fair? Hmmm. Well, maybe not all. At least 50% of them. Haha. Actually understanding or interpreting the list and putting it into motion will be the bigger challenge I think. We'll see. I'm particularly interested in the one that says "Do fifty of them—you definitely will get a show." Hahahah. Maybe I'll combine that with "Do it big, if you can't, do it in red." Hmmmmmmm.

I'm excited!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Hot Stuff: Hot Shoe

In a previous and unrelated post, I mentioned this handy little component of my current digital cameras. I actually considered this a requirement when I went shopping for both my digital cameras in the past. Why? Well, for a couple of reasons really, which really points to the main issue of the need for artificial light in everyday and almost every night photography.



olyc5000zhotshoe
Olympus c-5000z hot shoe

olyc8080hotshoe
Olympus c-8080wz hot shoe

So basically, a hot shoe on any camera allows the photographer to use additional artificial light sources because, hey, let's face it, the on-board flash can only do so much. :) Aside from being able to use an actual flash unit directly connected to the flash via the hot shoe, with the right accessories, you can also use other flash units (professional studio or otherwise) that are off the camera as well, giving you a wide range of possibilities lighting-wise.

While the presence or absence of the hot shoe does not necessarily measure a camera's worth or a camera's ability to produce the pictures that you'd want, the presence or absence basically tells you it's ability to access additional light options.

While I'm no expert at using a flash and the myriad of accessories you could possibly use with them (like a light dome, bounce cards, inflatable diffusers, etc., ~some of which are kinda worth bupkiss though), I've found that additional light is quite useful when covering events in dark places. It extends your camera's battery life too as you won't have to rely on it to power the on-board flash.

For a more thorough exploration of off-camera flash usage involving battery-powered individual low-cost flash units, try visiting strobist.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Visita Iglesia part 2

Here are a few more noteworthy photos from Maundy Thursday's trip around Manila. Other shots on my FlickR. :) tamad kasi i-post lahat. Hehehe

After visiting most of the churches on the list and saying our prayers, we ended up in the parking lot behind the CCP where we sought shade and relief, and ate lunch (and discovered that the CRV actually has a fold out table in back by default).

UST sa loob
UST church, probably the squarest church ever...

San Sebastian
Gothic, yes. Rusty too.

San Sebastian, from inside
view from the back, San Sebastian Church

a window to the past
Stained Glass Window

Gothic Ceiling
a Gothic ceiling

Mom, Nabe, Maia and her payong
The Payong in use

San Marcelino Church
I remember coming here... but I never realized that it shared the compound with Adamson.

Visita Iglesia on two wheels
Encountered these folks at two churches. UST and at Nstra Sra. de Guia

Nstra Sra. de Guia
The statue / image encased in glass is oooooooooooold (and miraculous too). Greenest indoor color cast not attributed to fluorescent lighting ever (I think).

Malate Church
I should've taken a picture of the doors to this place... last church we visited that day.

Answer to Somebody's prayers
A reminder to Parishioners at Malate Church

pamewang
Maia, pamewang behind CCP


Just thought I'd post those up before we go on to see what Good Friday looks like. I'll have to gear up for tonight's walk around the city (Naks! Meycauayan City), candle-wax stained streets and night shots in and of the crowd.

Advice for Young Photogs

Found the following on an egroup I'm part of, and made my way to the original post at this blog.

Basically, the following is an abridged version of Charles Traub’s advice for young photographers , a list of “Dos” and Don’ts” taken from a book he co-edited, The Education of a Photographer.

  • Do something old in a new way.
  • Do something new in an old way.
  • Do something new in a new way. Whatever works, works.
  • Do it sharp—if you can’t, call it art.
  • Do fifty of them—you definitely will get a show.
  • Do it big—if you can’t do it big, do it red.
  • If you don’t know what to do, look up, or down—but continue looking.
  • Do celebrities—if you do a lot of them you’ll get a book.
  • Edit it yourself.
  • Design it yourself.
  • Publish it yourself.
  • Read Darwin, Marx, Freud, Einstein, Benjamin, McLuhan, and Barthes.
  • Construct your images from the edges inward.
  • If it’s the “real world,” do it in color.
  • If it can be done digitally, do it.
  • Be self-centered, self-involved, and generally entitled and always pushing—and damned to hell for doing it.
  • Don’t do it about yourself, your friend, or your family.
  • Don’t dare photograph yourself nude.
  • Don’t look at old family albums.
  • Don’t hand color it.
  • Don’t write on it.
  • Don’t use alternative processes—if it ain’t straight, do it in the computer.
  • Don’t gild the lily—a.k.a, less is more.
  • Don’t photograph indigent people—especially in foreign lands.
  • Don’t whine, Just produce.
I think I ought to get this book.

Maundy Thursday: Visita Iglesia Photos

It's Holy Week 2008. Maundy Thursday. The day that we engage in our annual tradition, Visita Iglesia. We visited several churches, mostly in the Manila area. Wasn't able to take photos at the Morning Breeze church though as it was closed and we stayed outside for prayer. Here are some photos.


OLGA, 2nd church
2nd church: Our Lady of Grace


Olga2
a very wide church inside


Maia at Olga
Maia and her tatay


sleeping man at OLGA
a sleeping man.



Espiritu Santo1
Espiritu Santo, 3rd church



Espiritu Santo2
the church as viewed from inside...



a group of penitant visitors
a group of penitent visitors

More pictures to follow.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Hot and Heavy Techlust: Olympus E3

If money was no object, barring the option of buying multiple bodies, the Olympus loyalist in me would no doubt splurge on their 4-years-in-the-making, recently announced professional DSLR E-3 system.

Announced October of 2007, the E-3 shows just how much evolution Olympus' professional system can achieve. A marked improvement (heck, after 4 years, it had better be!) over their initial effort, the E-1, the Olympus E-3 possesses a new sensor. The E-3 carries a 4/3 high speed Live MOS sensor compared to the E-1's old 5MP CCD, making this pro kit the first to have Live-view function. This becomes particularly useful and handy when shooting via the fully articulated LCd display, which opens up and swivels around like those displays found in earlier Canon G point and shoot systems. With certain lenses, the E-3 is claimed to have the fastest autofocus available today, making full use of its all new 11 point auto focus system. It also sports a new and improved viewfinder, giving 100% coverage and 1.15x magnification. Another feature available to the E-3 is sensor shift stabilization, enabling it to use pretty much any 4/3 lens and not having to rely on lens-based stabilization solutions.

Aside from all of the above, what piqued my interest is it's magnesium alloy composition and weather proofing. Compared to its little brother, the E-510 which is encased in not-weather proof plastic, this makes the E-3 a truly rough and tumble unit. It can also remotely connect to up to 3 flashes at a time, without the need for any on-hotshoe hardware.

So yes, I want.

For a complete review of the E-3, do check out dpreview. Me, I'm just going to keep dreaming about it. Hehehe.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Applied Photography: Personal Projects

While most camera owners might busy themselves with their cameras only on certain occasions, like say at a party, or a gathering, or maybe an event, something that merit's documentation, others might use photography as a way to earn a living, often doing much of the same as previously mentioned but being paid to do so. Then there are others who make a living out of taking portraits that families might not ever be able to take on their own. Other people just use it to document their lives as it happens, as they travel or go somewhere new.

While all of these are quite valid, if you're the occasional shutterbug, you're likely not to explore other applications of your craft. :) So my proposal to others, as well as to myself, is to start some personal photography projects that explore other applications of photography you might currently feel, more or less, alienated from, or at least unfamiliar with. Some personal projects I've seen other people commit themselves to include taking a picture of the sky everyday for a year, or taking a self portrait daily for practically the rest of their lives. While I think the former has merit, I'm not crazy about the latter.

When I started this blog, I promised myself I'd take and post at least one photo a day. While I may be taking more photos than I'd normally be able to as it's part of my job description, I'm not at liberty to post them online (which means I'll be taking down some of the photos I did post in old entries). I think I'll be revisiting this project again soon.

However, I'm thinking of a new project for myself. I'm thinking of compiling / taking pictures of every local monument or significant landmark I've ever visited / seen. I'm thinking I could start in Metro Manila, and go around from there.

This project needs a little tweaking, to be sure. Any suggestions for this or any other project from anyone would be helpful.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Inventing a Better Light Bulb: The World's LATEST Smallest DSLR, the Olympus E-420

I recently wrote an entry about the Oly E-410 and mentioned that it was (and I actually think still is) the world's smallest DSLR. After one year (from the E-410's initial debut, not my entry) Olympus has seen fit to announce an upgrade. Say hello to the E-420.

photo from dpreview

Technically, as far as measurement specs go, all the cameras in the 400 line from Olympus fits the bill. They all measure the same, each measuring 130 x 91 x 53 mm (5.1 x 3.6 x 2.1 in) however the E-420 weighs in slightly heavier than its predecessor at 440grams, battery included compared to the 435grams that the E-410 weighs in at. While it might not exactly win the world's smallest title from it's older brother, it does have several points over the 410.

photo from dpreview

For starters, the E-420 possesses a bigger LCD which also incorporates hypercrystal II technology, allowing for a greater angle (176 degrees) of view in more lighting conditions than before. As far as early reviews / articles go, it would also seem that the 420 is capable of quicker autofocus while on live-view mode compared to all the Oly DSLRs that had the same function before now. Added to that their incorporation of new face-detection technology which will make this camera more idiot-proof than before (pardon my French). As a little highlight, another difference would be the "Fn" label to the four-way navigation button's left button.

In conjunction with with Olympus' announcement that the 420 is the world's smallest digital SLR, they're also announcing a new Zuiko digital lens,
the ultra compact Zuiko 25mm f2.8 digital specific lens. If you equip your E-420 (or the 410 for that matter) with this 0.9 inch thick wonder, you'd really be sporting the smallest DSLR.

While this recent announcement technically makes this the newest SLR from Olympus, it doesn't automatically make it a cheap camera. Without a lens, the E-420 will cost you a little under $500. However, with the recent announcement, it would seem that prices for the older models are dropping (as is with any advancement) so if you're looking to get a small DSLR and won't mind craning your neck just a little bit more, or the slower autofocus function in live-mode, and the lack of face detection technology (you've got eyes to detect faces on your own, don't you?), then the E-410 might still be a viable option. You might want to splurge on the 25mm Zuiko lens when it comes out at the corner store near you though. :)

I think I'll wait til they come out with an E-520. Hahaha.

Tiny Techlust: The Smallest DSLR, Olympus E-410

Ok. I'm in the market for a DSLR. I mean no offense to my point and shoots, but I'm starting to feel the desire to shoot a little faster, take more pictures with less delay as possible. That's one of the things I'm noticing with more intermediate point and shoot cameras. They may have nearly all the features of a true DSLR, the ability to use a hot shoe flash (hmmm... lets talk about that in a future entry...) but when it comes down to autofocusing and getting the shot, there's a little more lag than I'd like to have. So, within the budget I'm setting for myself (this doesn't mean I actually have said budget at the moment mind you), I've set my sights on a couple of choices, one of which was blogged in a previous entry, and the other in this one. So lets get to it.

I want an Olympus E-410.



Announced March 5, 2007, the Olympus E-410 was set to be one of the world's firsts. It was one of the world's first consumer DSLRs to carry the live-view function, allowing users to frame and take shots using their LCDs much like they would use a point and shoot camera. It was also one of the world's first smallest Digital Single Lens Reflex camera (the other one being the E-400, a 6 month old CCD-based iteration, and currently, well... later entries yes?). Measuring 130 x 91 x 53 mm ( or 5.1 x 3.6 x 2.1 in - body only), Olympus' 400-series cameras would be the most compact DSLRs on the market today, much smaller than any DSLR from either Canon or Nikon (or any other manufacturer for that matter).

P
ossessing an unorthodox and yet ergonomic grip, the E-410 weighs in at 435 grams including the battery, which makes for a comfortable afternoon / day snapping away. The only thing that will probably limit your shots would be the battery it uses, the BLS1, a battery designed for the 400 series. With a capacity of 1150 mAh, it won't give you the mileage that the BLM1 does (standard for all other E-series and some C-series cameras) but what it doesn't give you is added weight, which is basically the point.

Like all Olympus other E-series cameras, the E-410 uses a 4/3 type sensor, and therefor 4/3 type lenses. Kits come with either just the
ZUIKO Digital 14 - 42 mm F3.5 - F5.6 lens or can be purchased with the ZUIKO Digital 40 - 150 mm F4.0 - F5.6 as well. To get an idea what that means in 35mm terms, multiply them by 2. Both lenses give you significant coverage from 28 to 300mm.

For an indepth review, check out dpreview.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Tech-Lust: Olympus E510

While it might seem that I'm mouthing off like I'm a master of some high powered DSLR, I have yet to own one (emphasis on yet). Those of you who've read through past entries know that I have a compact digital (Olympus C-5000z) and large prosumer point-and-shoot (Olympus C-8080wz) as my tools. However, given half the chance, I'd gladly upgrade to almost any DSLR within my budget range.

One of those cameras I'm currently lusting after is (or was - by the time of this writing) one of Olympus' top of the line cameras: The Olympus E-510. Announced last year, March 5, 2007 to be exact, the Olympus E-510 came out as the 10 megapixel replacement for the Olympus E-500 Evolt (which sports an 8 MP sensor). It has all the functionalities of its predecessor, as well as some new functions also present in its little brother the E-410, which was announced on the same day.

One of the main features that the E-510 boasts of is its live-view functionality. In that respect, if you go through it chronologically, I think it's the third DSLR in the world to have the live-view function (2nd or third, seeing as the E-410 was announced at the same time, I think the line is blurred at best. The first camera to feature this function however was the Olympus E-330.). Equipped with a Live MOS sensor, the E-510 no longer confines you to composing your shots with the use of the viewfinder. You can now use the large LCD screen to compose your shots from angles that might otherwise not be accessible with your eyeball stuck to the rear of the camera.

Another feature the 510 has over its predecessor is built in image stabilization. This is good news for people (like myself) who may not always have a steady hand.

For a more in-depth review however, do check out the E-510 review at dpreview. Get to know the camera a little better.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Program Mode: Why it's your best friend and other settings you'll meet in its company

While most of what I think I might be blogging about in this series of entries will be about how to utilize your DSLR, a lot of what I plan to go on about can also be found in some more prosumer-level point and shoot cameras (like those I actually own).

Take Program mode for example (accessible on SLRs and Prosumers by turning your mode dial to the "P" mode, or by going into menu and changing shooting modes - for some point and shoot compact cameras).

While most point and shoot users undoubtedly have used the full auto mode at one point or another, they might not realize that they have options for a greater range of control over their photography experience.

When one uses full auto in shooting, the photographer gives up all control to the camera's on-board computer, and will just use their camera to basically chronicle what's happening around them without giving a second thought to exposure settings, whether or not to use flash, etc... using the Program mode however allows the user to tweak the camera's settings to their liking (whether or not to use flash, what film speed / ISO to shoot at, white balance etc) at the same time not be burdened to think for the camera themselves. I mean you won't always want to use the flash when taking some candid photos of friends / individuals who prefer not to be noticed (ala paparazzi), or when you're taking photos of light sensitive subjects.

DSLR / SLR users on the other hand don't have the option to go full Auto. By default, the closest thing they'll get to utilizing their camera as a point and shoot is by using the Program mode, which isn't exactly all that bad an option really. I personally don't want to think too much about what shutter speed and opening I should use and how I should change them depending on changing light conditions when taking photos of a baby taking his first steps, or covering any other event where every occurrence won't ever have a repeat performance.

Basically, as I've experienced it and as I've stated before, Program mode allows the user to tweak camera settings to fit the situation without having to bear the burden of thinking for the camera when shooting.
  • Shooting in a light deprived environment with light sensitive subjects? Turn off your flash. Try increasing your ISO sensitivity. Current cameras are able to go all the way up to ISO 1600 or even 3200 without sacrificing too much in terms of picture quality and grain, whereas older models and even film cameras could only go as far as ISO 400 without having to resort to more expensive specialty films.
  • Are you shooting in a brightly artificially lit area but find that your subjects skin tone is an unhealthy shade of green? Try fiddling with your white balance settings. Auto White Balance (AWB) can only get you so far. Sometimes it's better to set your white balance to the appropriate lighting conditions to get best results. In the example I just mentioned, you might consider setting it to any of the fluorescent settings available in your camera. When adjusting your white balance, keep the lighting conditions and light sources in mind. Not all fluorescent bulbs are created equal, so check if your camera has the appropriate predetermined settings for the situation. If your pictures turn out to be a bit too orange, you might want to try switching your white balance to halogen / incandescent.
Like all things, it will be best to play around with your own camera and see how things work. Master what you have and you'll be surprised just what you'll be able to do with it.