Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Photography: Experimenting with Bokeh

It's been awhile since I've blogged on my photography hobby or to be specific on the Project 365 that I began a couple of months ago, in an attempt to improve my photography skills.  To be honest I'm not sure where I am in the 365 days (or one year) count and to be even more honest I have missed too many days that it may not be worth continuing.  I was in a slump for awhile, but there have been spurts of photographic creativity, with some ideas I've picked up on the internet.  I tried the bokeh method and am proud of some of the photos that came out of my experiments.  Here are just some samples:
I read an article on the internet on creating this effect by using crunched-up aluminum foil in the background and lighting it with an external source like a flashlight.  Then focusing on a subject with the largest aperture as possible.  I love how the bokeh or the blurred effect gives off such a beautiful background.
I've done a similar picture before, actually when I was just beginning with the SLR camera.  I didn't even know about bokeh at the time but the sunlight behind the leaves in the background gave the blurred effect, giving more emphasis to the flower in the foreground.

The beautiful colors created from putting the chandelier out of focus.  The chandeliers when in focus can be viewed above.  Taken at the buffet table of Yakimix.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

National Bookstore Mid-Year Warehouse Sale

It's August still I know but there are people who as early as January already started their Christmas shopping!  The start of September usually brings on the jitters when we realize that it's just under 4 months 'til Christmas day and the shopping begins.  This early on though you can start with big bargains with the National Bookstore Warehouse Sale.  I've been to the past couple of warehouse sales and came out with great bargains especially on gifts, not only for Christmas but for upcoming birthdays.  They have on sale not just books (and expect loads of books on sale), but on office and school supplies, decorations, gift wraps and even Christmas trees.

Expect lines too as you checkout your items.  But the employees are pretty efficient with several cashiers available.  It does help though to have a friend (or in my case, my hubby) along to stand in line while you do more shopping.

The sale starts tomorrow, August 13, and runs 'til August 18 at their warehouse on the 4th floor of their branch at the corner of Quezon Avenue and Sct. Borromeo.  Have fun, don't push or shove, and enjoy the great bargains!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Conradio de Quiros and Raul Roco

There is one writer/columnist that I tried to consistently read in the Inquirer.  I started reading Conrado De Quiros' column during the controversies that cropped up during ex-President Gloria Macapagal's term.  He hit the president with words that were sharp, overly-honest and to some, crude and harsh (my mother was one who disdained his language commenting often "sobra naman!").  And yet there was truth behind his words (well for those who believe his opinions) and many times I find myself laughing and sometimes pursing my lips in shame thinking of the other readers who may be loyal to the subjects of his torment.

He is a brave writer, unmindful of who he hurts along the way, but only mindful of getting the truth out on ink and paper.  When he stopped writing his regular opinions column some time last year, I started to wonder what happened to him.  I did read in a small caption where his column would usually be that he was on medical leave.  I even did a search on the internet to find out some news on him, but couldn't find any, just links to his previous columns.

It was only yesterday that I was enlightened by an article that mentioned him and the launching of his book.

Conrado suffered a stroke last year.  I read the above article, having a greater appreciation of Conrado De Quiros and of the subject of his book, ex-Senator and Presidential candidate in 2004, Raul Roco.  I am proud to say that I voted for Raul Roco in 2004, whom I felt was the best candidate at that time.  I believe many others would've voted for him too if it was not for his declining health.  Why vote for someone who you believe will not survive his term?  I understood that argument, but I was not swayed.  I look forward to reading more of Raul Roco's life in Conrado De Quiros book.  Conrado De Quiros and Raul Roco, two men who I have never met and honestly know little about, but what I do know makes me a fan of both.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Movietime: Minions

A little break from my Photography 365 project blogs. To be honest I'm in a photography/creativity rut, like writer's block, I've found that I haven't taken any shots in the past 3 days.  I've brought the camera with me but haven't bother to take any shots.  I'm hoping to get out of this rut with some creative ideas I've found on the internet.

Part of a collection of Minion-themed artwork outside the cinemas at SM Taytay

Today I'll blog on the movie "Minions".  We watched it about 3 weeks ago when Jojo's niece, Tambo (thanks again :) invited us to watch the movie since she had passes.  Actually the passes were good for any movie in any SM cinema.  We were hoping to get to watch a 3D movie to make the most use of the passes, but unfortunately the schedules for the movies the kids wanted to watch were not in 3D.  We opted to watch Minions which all the kids were looking forward to even if it was in 2D.  The bonding between the kids was more important, it being the first time that Benjo and Joselyn would watch a movie with the Barretto kids.  Jojo, Elsie and I accompanied the 7 kids.

I never got to watch Despicable Me 1 and 2, though I kind of had an idea on the background of these movies, which was good to have in preparing to watch the Minions.  Many sequences of the movie gave us laughs.  Surprisingly, it was Jojo who laughed the loudest, causing Elsie and I to look at each other and grin.  I laughed to myself thinking that Jojo could relate with these bald-headed creatures :)

The kids had many laughs too and were engrossed in the movie (and in the popcorn - "Tita Eileen, may popcorn pa ba?" was a question that I got asked several times during the movie, obviously not being satisfied with what they ate.  I didn't want to buy more knowing that we'll be having dinner afterwards.

Anyway, I would personally rate the movie with a 3 out of 5 stars, for its entertainment value and its educational value.  Thinking of a lesson from this movie is a little difficult, especially with the Minions' goal of searching for an evil leader.  One lesson could be that there is evil and there is evil, some more selfish than others, some more crude than others, but at the end what counts is that you stood by each other.  I enjoyed the flashback into the 60s era that the major segments in the movie were set it.

Though we hardly understood any of the jumble of words that came from the Minions (though some say there are some parts in Filipino), it is funny that we laugh anyway and "understand".  Isn't this the same with the Mr. Bean series and movies?  Mr. Bean just rumbles and mutters a handful of words, and yet we find his antics funny.  A newer version is the Crazy Rabbits on cartoon that the kids sometimes watch on TV.  They are ridiculously crazy and stupid and yet we find ourselves watching the whole show to find out what happens.

So another lesson from the Minions and the past similar popular non-audible characters, is that we don't always need words to understand.  There is a universal language that can be seen in actions.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Food trip: Jordan's in Kamuning

We had an unplanned foodtrip the other day.  It was one of those days where I had plans to do one thing and then I let myself be swayed and ended up being out for most of the day, but in a good way - spending the day with our school friends.  It started off with some of us meeting at our regular spot, in front of Sto Domingo church.  Having a chat and a quick update and continuing on to Kimpo’s restaurant where we’ve had several breakfast gatherings in the past – we’ve parted ways with Lam Tin, our past go-to place.  I’ll blog on why another time, since the story in itself will take more than a sentence or two.

I’m not going to blog on Kimpo’s, but on another restaurant where we ended up for lunch, Jordan’s in Kamuning.  This was by accident since we had wanted to try out the restaurant featured on Kris TV and when we asked the waiter if it was their restaurant, they said ‘no’ it was Snackaroo on the next street. But he convinced us that their food was better, so we decided to stay.  

Having had a full breakfast, I only wanted to share a meal. We decided to order 3 dishes to share between the 4 of us – their American burger, their specialty java ribs and sinigang sa miso na salmon.  I have to say that nothing really stood out.  At first bite, I loved the juicy burger, but after awhile or was it not evenly seasoned, it tasted too salty.  Their side of crisp potatoes, which were shaped like small balls were crispy on the outside and mashed on the inside.  Different, but I’m not sure if it’s in a good way.  The ribs, well, of the share I got, didn’t have a lot of meat – it was mostly that – ribs. The miso soup was neither sour nor had that miso flavor I expected and was also too salty.  I had one sip of the soup and I commented to my friends that my husband makes better sinigang na miso soup, which is so true.  Jojo commented that it also lacked ginger making the soup ‘malansa’ or too fishy.

Well, it’s a nice place to snack when you’re in the area.  The next time we’re back though we’re going to try that other place down the street.  (Pictures to follow)

Project 365 - Day 39

Day 39 (July 17, 2015): We went to Binangonan on this day to see Jojo’s niece who was here on a short vacation.  She treated us to a movie and dinner – many thanks Tambo. I took pictures of the kids in front of the Minion-themed backdrops outside the theatre.  I had to leave the camera with the security personnel, since video-taking is prohibited.  Taking videos of the movie was far from my mind, but for security’s sake I complied.  A little warning, label your camera and bag.  I have not done so, and the security woman who handed me back my camera and bag reminded me.  She was about to give me a number for claiming the bag but I had already left.  She looked at me long and hard to make sure that I was the owner.

Anyway, no Minion pictures here, but a couple of action shots taken at a practice session some kids were having at the court in the morning.  (A little break from my Macro shots)

Project 365 - Days 36 to 38 (Macro shots)

Day 36 (July 14, 2015):  The past 35 days of this 1 year project has been of random shots, taken at my fancy at whatever subject becomes available.  For the next 35 days or so, I plan on putting more discipline and order in my shots, concentrating on a certain feature of photography.  For the next week or so I decided to concentrate on the macro feature, or in the large aperture shots, looking at objects/subjects up close – and personal.  Some object do look different up close, some more beautiful than others, some just different and not easily recognizable.  This day I took pictures of things I found in the kitchen - the leftover rice and the box of altoids.  The rice with aperture f/5.3 and shutter speed of 1/50 sec. the Altoids with a similar setting – aperture f/5.0 and shutter speed of 1/60 sec.

Day 37 (July 15, 2015): Another day of getting up close with these impersonal items - the newspaper and the front of the Toyota revo.  I especially like how the picture of the front of the Toyota turned out, this was the first of two shots – I have noticed that some of my first shots are better than succeeding shots, not sure about the logic of this, though I’ve learned that with live subjects succeeding shots turn out better.  The Toyota shot; aperture 1/5.6 and shutter speed 1/160 sec. the newspaper, aperture 1/5.6 and shutter speed 1/100 sec, focal length 55mm on both.

Day 38 (July 16, 2015):  It rained this afternoon and I tried to take some macro shots of the after effects of the rain.  Taking a shot of Crafty up close was a little accident, I was trying to take a shot of her fur, but ahe got up and looked at me and I took a shot before getting up at a safer distance.  I did get a shot of her fur but this one was a better shot.

I wondered why at times when trying to increase the aperture, I could get the number down to around 4, but at times would be limited to 5.6.  I figured out that lowering the focal length allows the aperture to increase.  The shot of the raindrops on the leaves gave me an aperture of f/4.2 with a focal length of 26mm.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Project 365 - Days 34 and 35

Day 34 (July 12, 2015):  I was planning a trip to Divisoria, but it being a Sunday we made it a family affair. So after Benjo’s 8am service at church, we went to 999.  I would’ve wanted to take pictures of the goods and many items for sale in the many, many stalls in the mall, but for some reason unknown to me, many stores have signs that prohibit taking pictures.  So I left my camera in the car while we went shopping and eating.  I took pictures on the way to Divisoria and on our way home.  The first picture is one I took near the Sto Nino church in Binondo and the one near our street where there are always lines of lechon for sale.

Day 35 (July 13, 2015): I thought many times of picking up the camera this day, but I was so engrossed with other things that when I remembered about my project 365, I was already in bed for the night.  No excuse I know and I hope that I don’t repeat this.  So sorry, no pictures for this day.

Project 365 - Days 31 to 33

Day 31 (July 9, 2015): My kids are fast growing… the baby, toddler and early childhood years have passed and we’re entering into the pre-teens and puberty years.  I hope that we as parents are supportive enough of them but at the same time try to give them the freedom and privacy that they sometimes ask for.  Joselyn is becoming a “dalaga”, conscious of how she looks, always combing her hair (wanting to make it straight, but I keep assuring her that her curls and waves are beautiful the way they are). Benjo when he isn’t at school or church (for his Knights of the Altar service and meetings) is constantly on the computer, though I want him to get into other hobbies.  He’s more camera-shy than Joselyn, who is always willing to pose for her practicing photographer-mom.

Day 32 (July 10, 2015): I played around with the shutter speed and tried to find out what speed would capture the image on the television.  The first picture had a shutter speed that was too slow (1 sec f/11) while the second picture’s shutter speed was too fast (1/250 sec), catching the changing of the original screen shots. I think I got the right speed with the third picture with 1/13 seconds.

Day 33 (July 11, 2015):  As I mentioned previously, the kids tend to spend a lot of time on the computer and TV.  I wanted them to try other games (the traditional games that my generation used to play before the coming of computer and hand-held games).  So I brought out 3 games including Boggle, Connect 4 (which my brother and I spent many hours playing, trying to outdo one another in our younger years) and another game that Ate Connie sent called Guess Who?.  We played all 3 the previous day, and the two got some laughs while playing Connect 4 and Guess Who? today, which I pictured here.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Project 365 - Day 30 - Flooding in the Metro

Day 30 (July 8, 2015):  egay is leaving but bagyo falcon is on its way.  The habagat rains have caused flooding in many areas around Luzon and the metro.  On our way to sm, there were streets flooded but fortunately not too deep that we were able to pass without any problems.  can't say the same for some motorists and pedestrians.  keep safe out there kababayans.

Project 365 - Days 26 to 29

Day 26 (July 4, 2015):  A cool and rainy day calls for hot noodle soup.  Jojo made some beef mami soup which we had for most of the day - breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Nothing spectacular with this picture, I could’ve done better but it was one of those times when I wanted to use my hands to eat instead :)

Day 27 (July 5, 2015):  Who doesn’t love legos? And this generation has brought it up several levels with the addition of some of these characters.  Joselyn loves playing with these and I thought I’d take a chance to take a shot of a few of the many, many, many pieces of legos that has been created over the ages.

Day 28 (July 6, 2015):  I’ve taken pictures of Joselyn and her dog Crafty in the past. Here’s one of benjo and his dog Mine. With bagyo Egay bringing in rains, they were dismissed from school before lunch thus giving them more time to play.

Day 29 (July 7, 2015):  Merienda time after school.  Joselyn loves these muffins from S & R, on sale when we went there last Sunday.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Project 365 : Day 25 - Only in the Philippines

Day 25 (July 3, 2015):  We were off to the DFA and I took several shots from my passenger seat as the car moved or sometimes stopped or slowed to traffic.  This first shot gave us all a laugh, it was the kids’ first time to see a horse pee and this one did it right before our eyes and it let out a whole gallon or two of it.  I only caught the middle part of it doin’ it and missed the spraying action, but enough said, this was one shot that I couldn’t miss.

The second one was of some street boys playing basketball on a make-shift court alongside manila bay.  this part of the window isn't clear - some melted plastic I think which I first thought was a smudge on the camera lens. Anyway I didn't crop this pic to show that it was taken from the car window.

Project 365 - Days 20 to 23

Day 20 (June 28, 2015): Shower time for the pups. This is Mine – the other one is Crafty, named after our Minecraft addicts.  Not sure if he’s enjoying his bathtime or not but he doesn’t have much of a choice.  Shutter speed is 1/160 sec and aperture is f/5.6.  I wanted to catch a picture of him shaking the water off his fur, but he doesn’t do that and I wasn’t about to wait around for him to go after me.

Day 21 (June 29, 2015): I wanted to take a picture of a butterfly, which I’ve seen roaming in our garden. But unfortunately, the only thing flying around when I was out was this fly.  Not as beautiful as a butterfly, actually not beautiful at all, but it behaved itself long enough for me to take some decent shots.  Shutter speed 1/80 sec and aperture f/5.6.

Day 22 (June 30, 2015): The swaying curtains caught my eye as I searched for a subject to capture.  I love how the light shone through the sheer fabric.

Day 23 (July 1, 2015):  The butterfly that I’ve seen in our garden made a visit again.  I quickly got my camera and tried to spot it, but it only gave me a quick glimpse before it flew off.  Obviously by this shot I wasn’t ready, didn’t have the right settings or composition.  Well there will be other times and I hope then I’ll be able to take a better shot.

Project 365 - Days 18 and 19

Day 18 (June 26, 2015): early rains did not get me down. It was what I was looking for, strong rains to capture on camera. This first picture shows the rains as it poured on our garage pavement.  I took several of these shots at different shutter speeds, this one I thought was the better one at speed 1/320 sec and aperture f/7.1.  

the second of the effects of the rains on the leaves hanging from near the garage – since I didn’t want to get wet – you can see slightly the rains in the background. Same settings as with the first picture.

Day 19 (June 27, 2015): I took different pictures of different subjects this day, some outdoor shots and some indoors. Thought I’d post this one of my daughter’s dollhouse which she’s been busy with in the past few days.  She loves this dollhouse which her tita connie bought and shipped for her as a Christmas gift.  Some of the miniature toys are really cute, she’s added some toys from her other sets like the pets in the first picture. I’m happy that she’s still not yet old enough to stop playing with these toys.

Project 365 : Day 24

Day 24 (July 2, 2015):  it was angelicum college’s foundation day and the kids had half the day off.  We met with our co-parent friends after dropping the kids off to catch up on things, mostly about our kids but also about our own lives as parents.  I took a picture of our lady of naval after the morning mass.  I think this is the first I’ve taken of our lady with her new backdrop.  I took a couple of shots and this was my first one.  with the second one I changed the lighting source but it came out a little fuzzy. I wish I could’ve taken a clearer shot but I hate to make a lot of noise especially with devotees praying, though it was between masses.  

The second picture is of the drum and lyre band inside the campus giving the foundation day event an atmosphere of festivity.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Utang, Maaalala mo rin...

My past blogs have concentrated on my photography project.  I've wanted to blog for some time now on other issues, because there are many other issues more important that photography.  Last Friday I got an unexpected visitor, a family friend who lives a couple of roads from us, on the street where we used to live.  She hardly visits and the one last time she did was to ask for money to loan, "mangutang" in our vocabulary.  This time wasn't any different.  She told me her predicament over paying her bills and not having the sources she needed.  The last time (was it 2 or 3 years ago?) it was the same story and the same promise of being paid in a couple of months.  I wrote about this in one blog which I entitled "Utang Kalimutan".  (After searching for this link I now realize it's been 4 years since I wrote that blog and that loan was made).

Anyway, though the circumstances were the same: she needed money, she was asking to borrow the same amount and the same promise of payment within 2 months (mind you, it was a promise of payment of her first utang and not this present one), one thing was not the same.  I wasn't the same, naive girl that would fall again for her story and her false promises.  You fool me once, but not again.  I don't mean to be crude and I did feel her need, but I had to be practical and truthful.  I have my own bills to pay and I told her outright that I only had enough for our own budget, giving her the evidence of my two kids (who were in front of her at the time of our conversation) who need money for school besides other costs.

It was with a heavy heart that she left, though it was nice to chat with her about other things, like family.  I hope that she understood my decision.  "Sinubukan ko lang naman, baka sakali" ("I only tried, maybe hoping.") were her words.  Well, I did give her a chance the last time, but her words were not trustworthy.  4 years it has been since her last unpaid debt and she was asking for another loan. You fool me once, but not again.  I know she hasn't forgotten her debt or utang, but she said at least she has made some progress in her other loans (she has been loaning from the bombays, but has paid that off), which makes me happy for her.  She may never pay her debt to me, but I hope that she does find a way out of her financial crisis.

And as I think of a title for this blog, I don't want to repeat "Utang Kalimutan", because I know that it is never forgotten.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Project 365 - Days 16 and 17

Day 16 (June 24, 2015): Here’s something that I’ve learned and it may be obvious to others, but it’s difficult to take good shots with one hand, especially clear, focused shots.  I tried it yesterday when Jojo bought sampaguita for our images on the altar.  The strands of sampaguitas look more striking together rather than separated.  So I took the shot holding the strands, trying first to focus and also balancing myself on top of the sofa before taking the actual shot.  It turned out okay although a little dark.  It had the effect I wanted with the images in the background blurred a little. Aperture f/4 and shutter speed 1/100 sec.

Day 17 (June 25, 2015): The day is just beginning (it’s only 8:22am as I write this) but mine started about 4 ½ hours ago.  Woke up at 1am to the strong rains that lasted awhile, slept again and woke before my alarm before 4am to get ready for Benjo’s mass altar service at 5:30am.  It rained again around 4:30am and gratefully subsided before we went out.  I wanted to capture the evidence of the rain and the promise of another sunny day in these pictures.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Project 365 - Days 14 and 15

Day 14 (June 22, 2015): A busy Monday. I almost forget to pick up the camera this day.  After our daily rosary, I asked that the candle be not blown so I could take some pictures.  I wanted to catch the dancing flame, decreasing the speed but realizing that this blurs the light coming from the wick.  Increasing the speed decreased the lighting and increased the sharpness of the flame.  Here I used aperture f/14 and exposure speed of 1.6 sec, capturing enough sharpness and the shadow of the Sto Nino, which was my main focus.

Day 15 (June 23, 2015): A lot of my past shots have been indoors with low lighting. Today I picked up my camera at midday out in our garden to capture something in the natural light of the sun.  I took shots of the camias plant with its leaves making a beautiful pattern.  Here are two angles of the same plant.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Project 365 - Days 12 and 13

Day 12 (June 20, 2015): A busy Saturday, I got to pick up the camera in the evening a few minutes before bed time.  The kids in their relax-mode were my subjects, Joselyn in front of the PC and Benjo showing his flex.

Day 13 (June 21, 2015): Happy Father’s day to all dads, grand-dads and even titos (uncles) and ninongs (godfathers) and let me not forget our spiritual fathers, our priests and all members of the clergy.  We had an early lunch at Aristocrat in Banawe.  It wasn’t our first choice of restaurants as Tramway was fully-booked with those who made early reservations.  Anyway, we had a satisfying meal just the same.  Later in the evening we will be going to Joselyn’s classmate’s birthday celebration at Jollibee and I’ll be bringing my camera along and hopefully take some noteworthy shots…

Jojo and Joselyn with the Iced Tea backdrop, waiting for our meal

So we went to the birthday party and I didn’t realize from the invitation that there were two celebrants, Joselyn’s classmate and her 1 year-old brother.  The choice of having a party at Jollibee was made clearer, her brother was so excited when the mascots, the big bee himself Jollibee with his pal Hetty made their presence.  I wanted to capture the toddler’s excitement and tried to take some pictures of him as he watched the two mascots dance.  This is the best that I got.  

Wish I could’ve captured more of his expression, but being a little shy to get in a closer and better position (I am by the way just the mother of one of the celebrant’s classmate and not the official photographer), I did the best I could.  He was such a good and photogenic kid, and not scared at all with the mascots, unlike some children his age.  Anyway, here is a picture of baby Fahad as he tries to reach for his idol, Jollibee, dancing in front of him.  Aperture f/5.6; shutter speed 1/80 sec. ISO 200.

The hosts of the party also had a photobooth which used what looked like the same camera and lens as mine.  I looked at his setup which seemed simple enough and I thought (again) that maybe this is something that I can do.  So this is another project that I hope will come to fruition.  We’ll see…