Browsing my album of Calaguas, I finally found the a usable shot taken using the Samyang fisheye in infrared. Unfortunately, this was shot in JPEG (got the settings mix up in the camera – again!) so some details cannot be recovered properly.
Third time in Calaguas. Though the beauty of the island and the beach seemed to remain the same, I felt not inspired to shoot pictures. In fact, I shot only about 145 photos and a good number of those are bursts shots so that brings the total to about a hundred or so – very small number considering that on some location I could take about 500 (even more than a thousand frames in Batanes).
Strewn straw hat.
A straw beach hat strewn in the beach. To achieve this look (contrast between hat and the sand), I used a Lightroom B&W filter (blue high contrast filter) as the sand is really white (but slightly orangey) and doesn’t contrast much to the white hat in terms of plain luminance.
Mahabang Buhangin (Long Sand) Beach in Calaguas is a beach for camping. In fact, until less than a year ago, there wasn’t a resort or room located here. Today, despite the presence of a resort, most people who go to the island still camp (partly because the hotel is expensive).
One of the very few boat pictures I took in Calaguas. It’s not that the scene isn’t beautiful. It’s just that over the course of more than a year of travelling to different beaches, I’ve taken hundreds, if not thousands of pictures of boats on the sea that I don’t find it exciting anymore (the rough boat ride is another level of excitement/anxiety though).
These are the new resort cottages in the island. They are located on the left side of the beach (if approaching from the sea). They look nice but somehow spoils the whole pristine beach thing that Calaguas has. Also, they are expensive (someone told me the room costs Php6000 per night for a room for 6 people and Php4000 per night for a room for 4 people).
I’m sure other resorts will follow in Calaguas and I’m really glad that I was able to visit the island (twice!) before development started.
A sand sculpture I found while walking on the beach (with torn styrofoam cup for eyes, nose and mouth). While most people would think of Olaf (that lovable snowman from Frozen), the first thing that came to my mind was the Venus figurines from prehistoric times, particularly the Venus of Willendorf, with their more than ample bosoms and prominent hips.
One of those pictures that is full of negative space. This one was part of a much larger picture involving an out of focus sea, beach and sky. The horizon was much too tilted for correction (the leaf would have been cut) so I just removed everything from the picture except for the leaf and the sand. A good picture to be used for one of those inspiration quotes.
One of the few pictures of strangers I took in the beach, this picture was shot with a 28mm equivalent lens and I had to get closer to the kids (cropped most of the empty sand below the pic).
That’s most of my pics in Calaguas. As I said, I wasn’t much inspired to shoot. Perhaps it’s the ennui of having seen it before, the not so great light (either sun too strong or sky too monotonously gray during our first day). I brought my new fisheye lens but took less than 15 pics with it. Maybe next time I’ll just bring a phone (Samsung Note 3) so I’ll be more inspired to take pictures (limitations of the camera and lens is really something).
Last weekend, we went to Calaguas Island (known locally as Tinaga group of islands). It was the third time there for most of us, first time for some. It was also the first time that we’ve experienced huge waves so much so that on going to the island, we were already drenched barely 15 minutes from leaving shore from waves crashing to our small boat. Waves in Calaguas (in Mahabang Buhangin beach) aren’t any different and the boat cannot go very near the shore so we have to go down in waist deep water.
This picture was taken in late afternoon. The sun gloriously peeked from a group of clouds casting rays of sunshine on the sea. I took about five photos of the rays of sunlight but this is my absolute favorite.
As I was about to take a picture of the sun and its rays, I spotted a group of boys playing in the beach just when a huge wave crashed on them. I guess it was a split second moment and I’m so glad that I was able to catch it with my camera. The camera was set to expose for the sun and its rays hence the boys and the crashing waves were several stops underexposed. Good thing it was all set to ISO 200 and I was able to correct exposure in post (though noise is visible on the boys’ bodies).
This is one of Eman’s pictures of me in Calaguas (not uploaded to Facebook). Fortunately, I have copies of photos in Calaguas. 🙂
The sun was really strong and this was me hiding from the sun.
Shot with Nikon D5100 and Samyang 85mm at 2.8 (very very sharp lens).
Samyang 85mm f1.4 Aspherical is one of the affordable lenses from Korean lens maker Samyang. Like the Samyang 8mm fisheye this lens is manual focus only and is available in various mounts. I bought the Nikon AE (auto exposure) version since I want to future proof my lenses (in the event that I decide to switch to Nikon). The lens is being used by Eman most of the time and all the pictures here were shot by him (except for the test shot).
On a full frame camera, this will be a true 85mm but used on a Canon APS-C, it provides an equivalent field of view of 135mm and 127.5mm on a Nikon DX.
The lens is built nicely and has similar to the build quality of the 8mm fisheye. There is a manual aperture ring on lens mount side which is easy to move. Then the rubber focus ring which is nicely damped (very very stiff on first and now is moving smoothly). I think the lens is made mostly of metal and is heavy for its size. As a 1.4 lens, it also has a very large front lens and is nice to through and look at.
The lens also includes a hood made of hard plastic, a front cap and a rear cap. The Nikon AE version has electrical contacts so you can control the aperture from the camera (aperture ring must be set to smallest otherwise it will show an error on the camera). The Canon version has no contacts whatsoever. When I’m using these Samyang lenses, I use them through a Nikon lens to Canon EOS adapter which works quite well (for Samyang lenses at least – Nikon G lenses cannot be closed or opened with the adapter I have).
The only bad thing I can say about the lens build quality is the unfortunate design of the lens cap and the hood. With the hood on, you cannot put or remove the lens cap and this makes it annoying. Other than that, the lens is nicely built.
Sharpness and Optical Quality
This is an informal test of the lens wide open (f1.4). The reddish part is not chromatic aberration but a discoloration of the mat.
The pictures show that the lens is very sharp wide open from the center to the corner. The corner even seems sharper than the center (possibly this is due to my focusing as the mat is not parallel to the sensor plane and I might have focused a little to the front). It only gets sharper as the lens is stopped down (taking in mind the effect of diffraction). The lens also has a nice contrast and nice color rendition.
The real enemy against sharpness is that it’s manual focus and at f1.4 and at 16mp or 18mp, focus has to be very precise. Focusing through a viewfinder (particularly in the small pentamirror of the Nikon D5100) is hard and will need a very good eyesight. Focusing through a magnified live view is easier but this makes it slower and more unstable (plus framing will be affected). The focusing ring is nice but I wish the focus path is longer (I think around 90-120 degree from minimum focus to infinity).
The lens is very good for bokeh-licious portraits but its very bad for macros (closeups). The minimum focus distance allows for I think only 10% magnification so a kit lens will do a closeup picture much much better.
Well, here are the pictures (all taken by Eman, some edited by me). Very good sharpness and the thin DOF makes the subject pop (assuming you can get the correct focus). Almost all of these were taken at f1.4 with one or two taken at f1.6 or f2.0.
I guess the pictures say it all, this is a very sharp lens, even wide open. It’s also relatively cheap (as far as lenses go). The only drawback is that it is manual focus and at 85mm f1.4, this is not a very easy thing to do. Unlike the 8mm fisheye which basically has a relatively large apparent DOF (I basically shoot that lens at f8 and focus 2ft away), focusing is much more critical and much harder to achieve in this lens.
Is this a good value?
If you’re after pure image quality, then yes! Based on some reviews I read, it is sharper than the Canon 85mm 1.2L and probably as sharp (or sharper) than the Nikon 85mm 1.4G and those lenses cost 4 times as much.
If you’re after an overall easier lens to shoot, then probably no. The Canon 85mm 1.8 and Nikon 1.8G is not that much more expensive (a little less than Php4000 or US$100 more than this lens).
So, the decision is up to you.
These are the bells in the church of Paracale, all very old and are still being used. It was fortunate that when we arrived at the church, the stairs leading to the choir loft and belfry was open so we were able to take pictures of the bells.
This is one of the migratory bird in Calaguas. The bird is on top of a cow or a carabao and the blue foliage makes the picture very busy and the green foliage takes away focus from the bird. I converted the picture to black and white using a blue high contrast filter which basically blackened the green leaves and made the bird stand out.
Same bird but this time in flight. Not a very easy picture to take. My limited experience with shooting birds in flight makes me admire more those who take wonderful shot of bird photographers. Tracking a bird with a 300mm lens is not easy and most bird photographers shoot with 600mm or longer. Granted they’re using lens with better and faster focus but just getting the bird in the lens’ sight is hard, what’s more tracking it. Image stabilization (vibration compensation on my Tamron) really helps – a lot. Anyway, I need more practice and a more bird abundant location.
Calaguas is all about clear blue waters and fine white sand that I have not seen before. Clear blue waters I’ve seen in Tingloy, fine white sand in Tondol but not combined. I guess the islands remote location (2 hours from nearest mainland by boat) shields it from the pollution and its location in the Pacific Ocean which washes away impurities cause this.