Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Snooker Table

TED Talks: The Paradox of Choice

This is currently my favorite TED talk because this is exactly how I feel every time I wanted to purchase any item that has tons of options. For example, if I wanted a new camera, I get paralyzed with all the choices there is the market, SLR, digicams, lenses, Nikon, Canon, Sony etc. By the time I made my decision, I always feel that buyers remorse because I make this stupid concoction in my head that there are other cameras better that what I bought. Choices doesn't usually liberate us, it actually paralyzes us and in some cases make us feel worse even in hindsight we made the right choice.

Image of the Day: The Snooker Table
Last weekend I attended the Japan Photofest 2011 in Yokohama. It was a 3-day event of pure photography and fun but it came at a hefty price of 45k yen. Unfortunately, I can only afford to go on a single day so I attended the last day which was all about post processing. At first I was hesitant of joining because I feel I wouldn't learn as much as those who just started photography but as the day progressed, even though I didn't learn quite that much, I enjoyed meeting very interesting people and learning about their philosophies in photography. 

One of the events that I was eager to attend was of the HDR workshop from Alfie Goodrich. I've always wanted to know where I stand against the professionals in terms of high dynamic range photography and I'm proud to say I feel like I'm quite there already. Below is the shot I got from the workshop. People who were with me also was able to produce the same quality or for some even better. So my conclusion for this is, people learn faster when somebody teaches it rather than learning it by yourself. But for me, I think it is more gratifying to know that I almost have the same knowledge as the pros despite being self-taught. 

Friday, October 21, 2011


Today I've reached 20,000 followers. I've never been this popular ever in a social network in my entire life. I'm thankful to those who have followed me and those who have regularly commented and viewed  my photos. Nothing is more satisfying for a wanna-photographer than getting his work validated by a lot of people. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you everyone. I'll do my best to continue to post more amazing pictures and interact with everyone.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Taste of Akita

It has been a while since I've posted here in blogspot. I'm really confused on how to build a blog. I bought a wordpress bundle but I'm not sure how to use it. Do I still need to install the wordpress platform in my PC? Or is it just OK to modify the site online? The hell, do I need pay for hosting? What about the 8GB space given to me when I bought the bundle? Is that considered hosting?

I'm more f****** confused than ever. And I need help with all this mumbo jumbo blogging thingy. I think I don't have time to sort everything out so maybe I'll lean towards refund so I can rethink and do more proper research before venturing again to this costly business.

Anyways, here is a shot I took in Hachimantai in Akita Prefecture. It is the area near the Goshogake Onsen where the colors are unbelievable. I've never experienced anything like this in my enter life (partly because I came from the Philippines).

Colorful Akita

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Morning Glow

There were tons of moments during the climb that I said to myself I can't continue anymore. But somehow, someway, I kept on walking and following the flow of the climbers. I regularly stopped whenever I heard my heart beating too fast and sometimes even closed my eyes if the trail was flat. I was so tired and all I could think of was my bed. Everything changed when I saw the sunrise. 

The Morning Glow

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Kurobe Dam

Spent so much time down at the base that I had a few minutes left for the observatory deck.The tour group was about to move to the next location so had I run about 300 steps up to the deck. Upon reaching the top, I literally had no time to catch my breath so I began shooting my usual series of brackets without using a tripod. After about a minute, some of my friends were already calling us because the tour group is about to proceed to the next location. I'm happy I was able to get this shot in time. Although I feel I could have composed it better

The Kurobe Dam

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Blue Mountains Red Sky

Dawn was about to break and we had to decide to continue to climb or stop and setup for the sunrise. We were already at the 9th station and seems like the final station is stone's throw away. However, I was so afraid that we might get caught in the middle and not get a good vantage point. I can't risk it so we decided to stop.

This was actually my first time to shoot at dawn because I never had the strength to wake up so early in the morning.  A sunrise for me seems more peaceful and zen like while a sunset is more fierce and aggressive. Now it makes me wonder which I like more...

Blue Mountains Red Sky

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Climb

Whew! I'm back from a rigorous overnight climb of Mt. Fuji last weekend. My limbs were so sore it took a great effort for me to move this morning. Slowly I'm starting to regain the functions of my limbs so hopefully I can go to work tom :D

I was hoping to do more long exposures during this hike but it was so tiresome to stop and setup a shot like this every time there is an awesome view. Although I did try to shoot whenever we rest, it just came to a point that I couldn't because I was so tired.

The Climb.CR2

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Japanese Alps and Creating Order with Circles

Musings: Creating Order with Circles
I've been using Google+ for a while now and so far I'm enjoying it. I really don't mind if all of my friends wouldn't join this service because I'm more interested in interacting with other fellow photographers who share the same passions as I do. Recently however, as the invitations are now accessible 24/7, I've been having a hard time managing all the Photographer contacts that I follow and those who have added me. So I've been developing system that is still in its evolutionary stage. It is no way final and I'm still thinking of ways to improve it.

So here is the system
0. Setup
I've segregated all the photographers and enthusiasts into 4 circles.

The Best - obviously contains all the best photographers out there like Trey Ratcliff and Thomas Hawk. I don't visit this circle much often because I'm already an avid fan of their blogs and most of the stuff they post here I have already scene from other social media sites.

Awesome - These guys are of great skill, maybe equal, and sometimes even more than the guys and gals at The Best circle. However, these Photographers here are not as famous as the circle above them. This is my main inspirational corner whenever I go online on G+.

Notable - These people are regular Joes of photography. They post nice pictures but not as great as the other two circles above. I put people here if they post regular pictures and have commented or +1'ed any of my photos.

Friendly - These people are not photographers but they are friendly enough to +1 or comment on any of my photos.

1. Post an Image
My system starts whenever I share an image to the public.

2. Circle Active Users
I add all the people who +1'ed or commented on my posts to my Friendly circle. For now, this is my way of tracking active users in Google+.

3. Reciprocate with the Friendly People
I then proceed to my Friendly circle stream and start the reciprocating process. If I find a fellow photographer who just blows my mind away with his photography, I promote him/her to my Awesome circle. If I find someone who is a photographer but I don't find his/her work as compelling as those in the Awesome circle, I just promote them to the Notable circle. The rest, I just comment and +1 if I find their post interesting enough.

4. Engage with the Notables
I check the Notable circle stream and again start commenting and +1'ing images and posts that I like. I sometimes promote people to the Awesome circle if I suddenly find their images are amazing. Conversely, if they post more bitch slapping GIFs than their actual work then I demote them back to the Friendly circle.

5. Find Inspiration from the Awesome
Finally, I visit the Awesome circle where again I comment and +1 on the images and posts I like. I also promote or demote some of the photographers depending on the quality of their posts. This is the stream where I engage the most because the quality of images here are pretty high and remarkable.

I repeat this process whenever I'm online. For now, the task is a little tedious and it needs some refinement so I could reciprocate faster and easier. 

Bonus step:
6. Search for Talent in the Vault
The Vault is the my collection of people I've added from Trey's list and the people who added me. After I finish steps 1-5, and I'm still hooked with G+, I try to search some talent from The Vault and promote them to their appropriate circles. This way, when I go back G+ and start my system again, I could see their stuff and show my appreciation for their work.

So, how do you manage your Photographer contacts in G+?  Do share and we might find a better way to organize!

Photos: The Japanese Alps
Whew! That was a long post. I usually don't write that long. I just hope your eyes made it to this section before it was swept away by boredom.

Kurobe Alpine Route is a good place for landscape photographers. The view of the mountains are breathtaking. I wish I had more time to stay and to keep on shooting but I was in a tour group so my time was limited. The weather was also pretty bad. A minute after taking the shots below the mountains suddenly disappeared behind the thick clouds and would not reappear for quite some time. By the time it clears, the tour group had to move to a different location so I already lucky enough to catch it.

The Japanese Alps

Vanishing Mountains

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Toyama Castle and Google+ Feature Wishlist

Musings: Google+ Feature Wishlist
So Google+ has been making waves in the Internet. With all the awesome features of this new Google project, there are still some features I'd love to see implemented.
  1. Allow passive users in Hangout - I understand that due to bandwidth concerns and the difficulty to converse with an enormous number of people, 10 is a reasonable limit of users that can join and actively participate in a Hangout. However, for those who were slow in clicking the join button (like me), I'd love to be able to passively participate by just listening and or viewing the conversations as they take place. Sort of like an online streaming of the conversation. Of the Hangouts I've been, there were only about 2-4 persons leading the conversations and the others just listening or chatting away in the chat room. If Google+ can't implement a passive viewer/listener system, maybe they could at least allow more people to join the chat room so people could chime in to the conversation.
  2. Allow stream filter for pictures - I think the Photographers circle is one of the largest community in Google+. They post so many pictures and comment on each other's shots that my friends' pictures get buried immediately. I wish they would have the same filter in the stream of the Photo section as well so I could just click and find my friends' pictures.
  3. Add share and +1 buttons in lightbox - Whenever I'm browsing for amazing pictures via the lightbox and don't feel like commenting, I wish there was a little +1 button I could just click to show my appreciation for the beautiful image. And there are times when I am just blown away by a picture that I can't help but share it. Unfortunately, while I'm writing this, there is no share button available in the lightbox.
As we all know, Google+ is still in Beta. I'm sure in time they will roll out more awesome features.

Is there any feature you want Google to implement?

Photos: Toyama Castle Reflections
I've began my obsession with castles and reflections. Toyama city is well known as the base station where people rest before or after enjoying the sights of Shirakawa-go and the Kurobe Alpine Route. It was strange that www.japan-guide.com failed to mention there is a pretty castle in the center of the city. So when I was walking around the area, I was really surprised when I saw this castle with a perfect reflection on its moat.

Toyama Castle

Castle Reflections

Thursday, June 30, 2011

HDR Photo Pro Review

For a while now, I have been using HDR Photo Pro and have been comparing it against my entire HDR Workflow where I use Lightroom Photomatix and Photoshop. To cut things short, I am generally impressed by the software as it gives me more "realistic" results than its famous rival.

Here are some of the images I processed using the software.
Not bad right? Let me assure you that I didn't use any other software besides it. So, now, let me tell you the pros and cons:

What I like about it
  • Adjustment sliders are fast (but only for Preview Size Processing)
  • Names of sliders are much easier to understand. (As compared to smoothing sliders of Photomatix)
  • Produces more "realistic" images
What I don't like about it
  • No Lightroom plugin for easier integration into my HDR workflow.
  • The strength slider has a stronger effect on Full Size processing than in Preview Size Processing.
  • Noise reduction is freakishly slow. I use Lightroom instead.
So, will I use this software? Yes.... but only for those images where I am sure I won't be needing the help of Lightroom and Photoshop for clean up - which is pretty rare. I recommend this software if you don't want to use other products for your HDR photography. All in all, HDR Photo Pro as a standalone software is very impressive.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Miyajima Island's Floating Torii Gate

Miyajima is an island near Hiroshima City and is home of the most scenic view in Japan. Hiroshima has become my 2nd favorite place after Kyoto mostly because of this place. There was a spiritual feeling as I stood in awe beside this giant gate that I can't quite explain. This place is just an awesome place... period

I had to wait more than 4 hours until the tide came up. As you can see, it was very hard to get a clean shot of the gate without tourists ruining the shot. I waited for the golden hour and then the blue hour and I really liked how they turned out. A friend suggested that I should do a time-lapse video as the tide comes up. I shall try it when I have the money and time.

Waiting for the Tide

The Boat Approaches

Big Torii Blue Hour

Monday, June 27, 2011

Shirakawa.... GO!

Ogimachi Village, a UNESCO world heritage site, is the largest village in Shirakawa-go. It is famous for their gassho-zukuri farmhouses. (Gassho-zukuri meaning "constructed like hands in prayer"). Their steep roofs are necessary during the winter because of the heavy snow that falls on the village.

The there was a funny photographer at the view point of Ogimachi Village who emphatically pronounced "Go" of Shirakawa-go whenever he took pictures. After we took our shots, his personality kinda brushed in to ours and we started enunciating the "Go" in Shirakawa-go whenever we took pictures.

Constructed Like Hands in Prayer

The Beautiful Village of Ogimachi

The Farmhouses

Friday, June 24, 2011

The A-Bomb Dome

Located at the Peace Park in Hiroshima City, the A-Bomb Dome is the reminder of the horror experienced by the Japanese when an atomic bomb was dropped one fine morning in Japan. This structure, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was the only structure than remained standing near the hypocenter of the explosion.

A-Bomb Dome

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hiroshima Castle

Musings: What motivates us?
I've been listening to a lot of talks this week and I stumbled upon this really interesting talk on motivation. Because I've been a software engineer for almost 4 years now, I like the idea of paying us enough money so we could forget about our financial problems and concentrate on thinking of innovative ideas.

Here is the video:

Hiroshima Castle
After watching Band of Brothers and WW2 in Colour, I was extremely hooked to WW2 flicks. So, during Japan's Golden Week (7 awesome concurrent holidays), I had the urge to visit any historical place related to WW2. Hiroshima was the first thing on my mind since it was the first city in history to be hit by an atomic bomb. More than half a century later, I am amazed that the city is this beautiful and lively and I can't imagine it was flattened a few decades ago.

Posing for Hiroshima Castle

The Moat

Hiroshima Blue

Friday, June 17, 2011

Cayangan Lake

Coron is well known for their pristine beaches and untouched landscapes. My favorite place is the view on top of the cliff when going towards the Cayangan Lake. This is the poster shot for Coron. People don't leave the place without having the same shot and the same composition. I just love the natural framing of the body of water and for me it never gets old.

I had a nice talk with the Tokyo Extreme Weekender organizers last weekend and they are very interested in this place. I hope they could arrange a tour in my country someday :p

Cliche Coron

Cayangan Lake


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Edo Wonderland: Ninjas, Samurais and Oirans

Have you ever pretended and dressed up as a ninja when you were a kid (or even as an adult)? Edo Wonderland is the ultimate place to relive these childhood fantasies. Edo Wonderland is theme park village that resembles the olden years of Tokyo during the age of Ninjas and Samurais. What makes theme park cool and unique is that the guests can dress up like the townspeople of the village. Meaning they could pretend to be geishas, peasants, samurai, ninja, etc..

Here is the video from their website so you can understand what I'm talking about.

Here are some of my pictures taken there.

「Edo Wonderland」The Alluring Oiran

「Edo Wonderland」Oiran Parade

「Edo Wonderland」The Lady on the Street

「Edo Wonderland」Ninja

If you want to see some cool ninja fights, checkout my post here: Grand Ninja Theater

「Edo Wonderland」Meditate

「Edo Wonderland」Roof Top Ninja

「Edo Wonderland」 Bad Ass Samurai

「Edo Wonderland」Pwned!

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Otaru is a harbor city northwest of Sapporo. It is famous for its beautiful Otaru Snow Light Path Festival during the winter season. Unfortunately, we didn't have the time to visit the place at night so we opt for a short day trip instead.

The city was all white. Everything was covered in ice. Walking was a tedious task as we had to make sure every step was solid and stable. We went around the canals, ate sushi and went back to Sapporo to enjoy the Snow Festival.

Otaru Canal

Ice Canal

Boats and Ice

Slippery When Wet

More Boats Covered in Snow

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Yasukuni Shrine

Yasukuni Shrine is a famous Shinto Shrine dedicated to the soldiers who fought in honor of the Emperor. More than 2 million men and women who fought and died during WW2 were enshrined here.

Being at a perfect place at the perfect time couldn't be more true with this shot. The sun was at right spot and there were no tourists ruining the scene as I was talking multiple exposures. This image perfectly represents the Kanji 間 which means "in between".

Kanji in Pictures
The Great Gate - Daiichi Torii

I moved forward towards the shrine and kept on shooting while the sun sits perfectly still on the vantage point.

Father of the Modern Japanese Army
Father of Modern Japanese Army  - Omura Masujima

The mean guard on the left side of the image kept on harassing me to not use my tripod. So I retracted its leg, put it down, and tried to shoot handheld in front and center of the shrine. The guard approached me again to get out of the middle of the walkway. So I was forced to shoot from the side as seen on this image.

Yasukuni Shrine
Haiden - "Hall of Worship"


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