Another photo from Batanes. This one in Ivana Port (I think the only place where I used the Canon 10-22mm).
December 8, 2012
The Manila American Memorial and Cemetery is, as the name implies, a cemetery and memorial for American (and some Filipino) soldiers who died during World War II. It is located in the general vicinity of Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, Metro Manila. It is administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC). The cemetery is open to the general public but there are of course restrictions to avoid disrespect to those who were buried here.
Last time I went there (sometime in 2011), the guards asked me what I was there for and I unfortunately told them that I’m taking photos for my facebook account. Because of this, I was asked to talk to the lady administrator who told me that publishing photos of pictures taken inside the memorial is not allowed for some reason which I forgot (something about respecting the dead). This was around the time when there was a controversy surrounding a prenuptial photoshoot in Libingan ng mga Bayani (cemetery for Filipino heroes) wherein the couple was seen disrespecting the graves. The couple was shown drinking liquor (with bottles strewn around the graves) and the girl caressing one of the grave crosses.
I was able to take pictures that day after talking to the lady. When I got home, I researched about the memorial (when I found out that the ABMC administers it) and sent an email to ABMC for clarification on this photo restriction. Since I did not get a reply email, I posted the photos in my facebook anyway >:) I guess the restriction was a reaction to the prenup shoot controversy and since my photos are in no way, disrespectful, I was not (and still am not) breaking any rules.
Last Saturday, I went back there with some friends for a photowalk and this time, there were no problems with the guard. We just had to register and one of us had to give an ID.
The cemetery and memorial is located on a big expanse of land. It is divided into several plots of land on which the soldiers were laid out and the graves marked by crosses (or star of David for Jewish soldiers) made of white marble (imported from Italy). The grave markers are wonderful to behold as they are laid out very neatly, in straight rows and columns or in curves following the general shape of the plots of land.
On each of the grave markers is inscribed the name, rank and position of the solder and his state of origin. For those whose identity are not known, a phrase is inscribed which reads “Here rests in Honored Glory a Comrade in Arms Known but to God.”
In the center of the cemetery are structures known as the hemicycles. As the name implies, the two main structures are half-circles and are completely made of walls serving as pillars on which are inscribed the names of the soldiers whose body are not recovered and buried with identity. Those who receive Medal of Honor have their name colored gold with a star beside it while those whose body were later recovered and buried have a small floret beside their names.
On the four ends of the two hemicycles are small rooms (with circular openings on the roof) and on the side of the walls are battle maps of WWII (some here in the Philippines, others for the war in the Pacific).
There is also a small (but very tall) chapel with blue walls and the figure of a lady holding flowers. I guess the chapel is supposed to be non-denominational as there is a small stone tablet on the side depicting the ten commandments but with the Star of David on the top but there is a crucifix on the main altar.
The memorial is very peaceful and very well-maintained and there are visitors – both local and foreign (there were several Korean tourists visiting when we went there.
Occasionally, there would be Americans visiting their relatives’ graves and offering flowers. They can get help from the Information Office and they should. The cemetery is big and finding a particular grave is difficult (the administration office has a database of those interred and their location).
It would have been a very secluded spot but the development of Fort Bonifacio (now called Bonifacio Global City) resulted in several tall buildings around the cemetery which spoils the view and if you want to shoot a picture depicting peace and serenity, you have to choose your spot carefully.
For those living in Metro Manila, you can go visit the memorial anyday (I think up to 5 or 6pm). It will be worth it. For foreign tourists, you may or may add this to your itinerary depending on your schedule.
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.
It’s been a week since I bought my Samyang 8mm Fisheye. Reasons why I bought the lens in Nikon mount is to be able to use it both in Canon and Nikon AND because it will offer a wider field of view in a Nikon DX.
Here are some shots to show how the field of view of the lens looks in Canon and Nikon APS-C cameras.
Though the framing are not exactly the same, it is noticeable that the field of view is much wider on the Nikon camera than it is on a Canon camera. (Canon has a crop factor of 1.6 while Nikon has 1.5). There is also flare as the sun is in the picture.
The barrel distortion of fisheyes may not always work and the picture can be turned to rectilinear using the Lightroom profile for Nikon 10.5mm fisheye lens.
Here is how the “corrected” pictures appear:
For comparison, here is a shot of an ultrawide rectilinear lens (Canon 10-22mm):
The straightened image for Nikon is still wider than the Canon’s and both are wider than the Canon 10-22 at 10mm. However, the left and right sides of the pictures are much much softer due to the stretching of the picture.
Compared to Samyang, there is a less noticeable flare (reddish hexagon on the third tricycle). I’m not sure if this is due to better flare control or because the sun is not directly in the picture (compared to Samyang).
To get better average resolution in the straightened picture, the Samyang straightened image can be cropped (to remove soft corners). Here is the same picture as the one above (Canon mount) cropped with same FOV as Canon 10-22mm at 10mm.
However, corners are not the same as those shot with the rectilinear lens:
The corners of the Canon 10-22mm are much sharper. However, the ones from Samyang are also good considering that picture was de-fished (stretching the pixels at the corners) and cropped heavily (will have far fewer pixels from the 18MP of 7D than the crop of the rectilinear lens).
*All images shot without Lightroom correction (except for defishing).
Pretty Obvious Conclusions:
1. Samyang 8mm Fisheye provides wider field of view on Nikon DX than on Canon APS-C (due to Canon’s slightly smaller sensor size) . Hmmmm, might get a Nikon DX body.
2. Defished fisheye image from Samyang is still very wide, wider than the widest rectilinear lens from Canon (10-22) and probably even wider than the widest rectilinear APS-C lens (Sigma 8-16mm). However, left and right corners will be much softer due to stretching of pixels necessary in defishing but center will be sharper.
3. If rectilinear images are needed, a rectilinear lens is still better. The defished image can be a substitute, esp. if the output will be small and corner sharpness are not primary concern but it will not be better.
Now, where to get the money for a Nikon DX body…
In my previous posts, I talked about how I went from cellphone camera to bridge camera then to DSLR/high end compact/underwater compact. I read a lot of websites devoted to camera gear (DPReview, Canon/Nikon/Photo Rumors, etc.). It’s no surprise that right now I have gear acquisition syndrome or GAS.
It started reasonably enough. The cellphone camera (before) doesn’t produce good enough pictures. My Samsung point-and-shoot seemed to have had a problem focusing (after a year or so of use). The bridge camera doesn’t focus quickly enough.
With my Fuji S4000 in Tarak Ridge (shot by Felix).
Then came the DSLR. It’s good (very good actually). But the 18-135mm doesn’t do macro (hence, the 100mm macro). It wasn’t very wide (hence, the 10-22mm). It’s not good for low-light and wasn’t sharp enough (hence, the 50mm f1.4). After a while, my first DSLR (60D) got wet so I had to buy a new camera (a Fuji X10). I had four lenses and nothing to use it on so I had to buy a replacement DSLR (my 7D). When I saw an underwater camera, I just had to buy one (my Panasonic TS3).
And now after all these cameras and spending a lot (and I mean a lot), I want more. First of all, I want something smaller but with interchangeable lens and with good image quality. I think this is justified since whenever I climb mountains, the camera takes a lot of space in my bag (about 1/4 to 1/3). Along with my tent, cookset, stove, clothes, etc. it makes for a very big and heavy bag.
Me with a very big bag in Mt. Pulag Akiki Trail (never used the 85 liter bag again after that – forgot who shot this picture).
Of course I can just use my Fuji X10 for climbs but the image quality would not be the same, it wouldn’t do for wide or long shots (rationalizations). I’ve been looking at Fuji X-Pro1 but it is still (and will probably remain) very expensive. There’s also the Olympus OM-D EM5 (seriously considering) but I’m not a big fan of the 4/3 format (well, I guess I can live with it since it’s the format of my TS3 and X10). I’m not a big fan of the faux-pentaprism hump (why? of why?). There’s also the NEX7 but the lenses are very limited. I’ll probably just wait for the Canon mirrorless.
Of course I want a full-frame camera. Who wouldn’t? It makes for better image quality. Finding a normal lens is easier and 16-40 is wide angle (though telephoto lenses will have shorter reach). There’s the good 5D Mark III (very expensive) and the excellent Nikon D800/E (still more expensive considering that I’ll have to buy new lenses for the Nikon mount). I’ll just probably wait for the “entry-level” Canon full-frame camera.
For some reason, I also want to have a smaller DSLR (7D is large). There’s the Canon 1100D (with a sensor of 2 generations ago), 600D (hmmm) and Nikon D3200 (new generation DX sensor but again, there’s the issue with changing system and lenses).
I want to shoot Nikon. Based on what I read, Nikon produces cleaner shadows when pushed (my Canon pictures have noisy shadows), a result of higher dynamic range.
I want to trim my DSLR kit whenever I travel. Right now, for major trips, I carry my 18-135mm for general shooting, 100mm macro for closeups and 10-22 for wide landscapes. Sometimes I also bring my 50mm f1.4 for portraits. I want to have the Canon 15-85mm (wide enough for landscapes, covers general zoom focal range) and a 60mm Tamron macro (with an f2.0 aperture, it can substitute for the 100mm macro and 50mm).
- 65mm 1x-5x macro – wanted this eversince I got a DSLR
- 17-55mm f2.8 IS USM – a fast general zoom
- 70-200mm f2.8 IS II USM – legendary lens, want to see what the fuss is all about
- TS-E 17mm – for better depth of field control on landscape pictures (of course I’d have to have to full-frame camera first).
- a fisheye lens – a different perspective.
I also want a macro focusing rail (will probably be getting one).
There’s the RX100 which seems a very good high-end compact. There’s also the Olympus TG1 underwater cam with a fast lens.
So many things I want, not enough money. Until then, I’ll have to be content with what I have and make the most of it.
* * * * *
UPDATE: I recently read that Canon’s cheaper full frame will be priced around $2,000. Much more affordable than the 5d Mk III. It will also have 19 AF points (sounds like the 7D AF). Fujifilm will also announce new cameras for their X-series interchangeable cameras. A lower level camera (good!) and a higher end camera (as if the X-Pro1 isn’t expensive enough).
…I resolved to get a DSLR (making my officemate’s prediction come true – this was July 2011, a mere 3 months since getting the S4000). I began researching online on what good DSLR to get. As with most would-be DSLR owners, there’s that point where I have to decide whether to get Canon or Nikon. I’ve read many forums, articles, reviews, etc. and got the conclusion that they’re both good.
Eventually, I chose Canon. Today, I remembered why I chose Canon over Nikon:
1. Canon has a better service support here in the Philippines. Nikon is serviced by a distributor, CDSC, who is notorious for bad service, especially for units purchased in the grey market. Canon has a Philippine subsidiary and has several service centers.
2. Canon has better and cheaper lenses. Better in the sense that it has some lenses that Nikon doesn’t have (MP-E 65mm, TS-E 17mm, 800mm). I’ve also read that Canon has more expensive bodies but generally cheaper lenses (compared to Nikon equivalents).
My first project, water drops, shot with 60D and 100mm macro.
I bought a 60D (the fully-articulating display swayed me) with 18-135mm lens and a 100mm macro lens. I initially intended on buying the 18-200mm (for a beginner coming from a bridge camera, zoom counts) but I read that the 18-200 is as good as the 18-135 but is much more expensive so I chose the cheaper option and use the savings on a macro lens (a very good decision).
That was in July 2011, in August 2011, I’ve added a 50mm f1.4 to my lenses. Wonderful lens. Great contrast, great bokeh, good resolution (like the 100mm macro). Very good for low-light situations.
In October 2011, we went to a place where I really wished I had an ultra-wide angle lens. The rocks on the beach demands to be seen and take over the picture. My widest angle (18mm on APS-C or 28 equivalent) was not wide enough.
I finally got a Canon 10-22mm ultrawide lens in November. The first time I used it (in Mt. Batulao) I was so not used to the very wide view on the viewfinder that I almost fell on the side on the mountain since I thought that the edge was still far.
Somewhere in between getting the DSLR and the lenses, I got and learned Lightroom (makes a big difference, much more than getting a new or higher end camera or a lens). I also bought a wired remote for night shots (which I rarely do).
In December 2011, a splash of wave (on a boat on our way to Polilio Island) caused my 60D’s lens mount and flash to rust. I had to use my nails to pick up the flash and the lens would sometimes fail to dismount regardless of the amount of force I used. It was still taking pictures anyway.
In January 2012, the days of my Canon 60D came to an end. I climbed a rock f,ormation and had a friend take my picture. A big wave came and drenched my camera (and of course my friend). That was the end of 60D.
One of the last pictures of my 60D, me on a rock formation in Baler, Aurora.
I brought it to the Canon Service Center (great service) but the seawater and the rust it caused has corroded the LCD, the mirror and sensor assembly, the lens mount. It was repairable but at a price where it is more practical to just get a new one. Thankfully the lens (18-135mm) was ok and the battery was still working.
For awhile I had four lenses and no camera. Since the photographer in me has been awakened, I cannot do without a camera. While my 60D was in the service center, I bought a Fuji X10 (have always wanted one since it was announced). Wonderful little camera!
Boats in early morning (Tondol Beach). Shot with Fuji X10 in EXR mode.
Fuji’s innovative sensor and excellent lens are simple a wonderful combination. The good thing about the X10 is that I can just leave the exposure mode dial to EXR and let it make all the decision while I worry about composition. It also does good macros. It’s not perfect of course – EXR mode produces only JPEGs, there’s the white orb issue and other small quirks.
After learning the price of repair for my 60D, I just decided to get a new unit. I thought of getting a 60D again but I guess the lack of weather-sealing has scared me in getting the same model so I upgraded to 7D and happy days began again. I was able to use all my lenses again. And since the 60D and 7D uses the same battery, I now have a spare battery (not that I ever needed one). Unfortunately, the 7D has a different remote port than the 60D so I needed to buy a new one.
Since obtaining a DSLR and Fuji X10, I knew that there’s no place for a point-and-shoot for me, except for one – an underwater rugged camera. For my birthday, I decided to get one (along with the 7D).
Sunset in Morong, Bataan (right) and an underwater shot of myself in Puerto Galera, both shot with Panasonic TS3.
Before buying one, I did several research before settling on the Panasonic Lumix TS3 – the best reviewed rugged compact at the time (up to now since the new generation of rugged cameras are not properly reviewed yet).
The TS3 is ok, for a compact it takes good pictures in good light. It has nice macro capabilities and is the only one I can use for underwater or on the water or near the water shots. I was able to get pictures that is impossible with my other cameras (like a low angle shot of the sea like the sunset above).
And so here I am, in less than 2 years, I bought 5 cameras (the 7D, X10 and TS3 I’m still using, the S4000 I sold to a friend and the 60D still broken), 4 lenses, 2 wired remotes, filters, tripods and other accessories. Photography is indeed an expensive hobby but whenever a picture I took makes me smile, I think to myself that it’s all worth it.
Calle Crisologo is perhaps the most famous landmark of Vigan. It is a street of old houses and cobblestone road.
When people visit Vigan, this street is the primary reason.
The street and its surrounding area has been declared a UNESCO Heritage Site and is also actively protected by the local and national government. In fact, one of the houses in the street is subject to expropriation (the houses are privately owned) by the local government since the owner has not maintained the house (a big beautiful house in ruins!). There is a big sign announcing the court proceedings for this expropriation.
Before, I’m not very keen on visiting this place. I’ve seen it on many pictures (mostly rendered sepia or in other antique-like effects). It’s a street – period. However, on setting foot on this place, I was happy. It’s like stepping back in time, though of course many things reminded me that this is already a modern time.
Probably, this is the most photographed part of Vigan, and there lies the problem (for me and others). There are already so many pictures of Calle Crisologo that presenting it in a different way gets harder. I guess an easy way is to photograph details…
…things they’re selling on the street…
…or the people.
Another way of course is to find a different perspective.
Sadly, the place has become a flea market for souvenir items. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. A bad thing because it is no longer authentic (the street is supposed to be residential but I don’t know if people will really live on this street), a good thing since through this, the houses are being kept by the rentals (of vendors) or profit from the stores.
As tourists, snapshots are mandatory.
Will I go back to Vigan and revisit this place? YES! However, there are other places to visit and returning here is still quite low on my priorities.
Clay plant holders (?) drying.
June 16, 2012
One of the stops of any of the tours of Vigan is the pottery barn (not the store but a real place where workers are creating pottery). It is located in the city of Vigan and they say you can try creating your own pot. We did not try doing this as we are in a bit of a hurry (the kalesa we were riding costs Php150 per hour).
Entrance is free and there are stalls selling some of the products of the pottery as well as other types of souvenirs.
I don’t know where they actually sell most of the products they create as most tourists don’t have their own vehicles (including us) or will not have brought a big vehicle to transport these big pots.
It’s a nice place to visit, especially if you can stay longer and try creating your own pot.
I’ve been planning on getting a fisheye lens for quite sometime but due to the fact that it’s not going to be used much, I’m getting one after I get a better general zoom (Canon 15-85 or Tamron 17-50 f2.8 as a replacement for my Canon 18-135mm), a telephoto zoom (Canon 100-400 or Sigma 150-500), combined macro and portrait lens (Tamron 60mm f2.0 macro) and super macro (Canon MP-E).
I fiddled with Lightroom’s distortion correction and experimented with creating faux-fisheye pics and here are some of the results. I found out that it will not work for all photos. It’s best for ultrawide photos (taken at 10mm with my Canon 10-22mm) and some few selected shots at other focal lengths (like the one on the left). Also, a bad photo (esp. badly composed one) will not look better just because it is turned into a fisheye pic.
Creating faux-fisheye photos, I can do with diagonal fisheyes but I kinda like the uncropped photos bulging outwards (the shape reminds me of old TVs). I think I’m gonna like the circular fisheye but they’re expensive and mostly worthless on APS-C cameras.
April 22, 2012
Last Sunday, we went on a Manila daytrip. The original plan only includes Paco Park (a place I’ve wanted to visit for quite sometime) then lunch at Binondo. We met in Jollibee Times Plaza in UN Ave. cor. Taft [though one doesn’t know how to follow directions 🙂 ].
Tiny behind the circular chapel (left).
Tiny, Jason and Oyet in front of the gate to the inner circle (right).
Tiny, pretty woman walking down the cemetery (left).
Friends who attended the Sunday mass inside the small chapel (right).
Paco Park is an old municipal cemetery during the Spanish colonial period. It consists of two circular walls and two or three adjoining smaller circles/half-circles. The dead were buried inside the walls (niches) one on top of another. However, all remains were removed from their tombs and placed somewhere. Jose Rizal, Philippines national hero, was briefly and secretly buried here before being moved to another location. Padre Burgos, Gomez and Zamora (three Filipino priests martyred during the Spanish times) were also buried here. There is also a small circular fountain in the middle (probably a later addition to the place).
Right now, the cemetery is now a park that is popular venue for weddings. (When we went there, there were preparations for a wedding that afternoon).
White leaves on a tree with a caterpillar (right).
In terms of photographic subject, there aren’t many except for the place, some plants and white doves (probably from weddings). I guess the place will be an ideal place for a prenuptial photoshoot (if the couple wouldn’t mind the slightly morbid theme).
This is the first time I tried to capture several shots of bird in motion and upclose. Though my camera body can keep up with autofocus (I think 7D will do), the lens attached (18-135mm kit lens) cannot keep with birds in flight, hence, most of flight shots were blurry.
After we got tired of Paco Park, we then rode a taxi to Binondo to eat lunch.
(to be continued in part 2).