Some pictures of beautiful Nagsasa Cove. These were taken at sunset with the sky and hills reflecting on a small pool of water. Taken with Fuji XE1 and the 18-55 kit lens.
Batulao is one of my favorite mountains. It is readily accessible by public transpo, only a few hours away from Manila, and can be climbed within a day.
Here is Felix in one of the up and down trail of Batulao. To get this shot, I walked a little bit faster than the group while Felix walked normal pace and the rest of the group are behind the peak taking pictures, thus giving the impression of Felix’s solitude in the mountains.
Batanes, northernmost province of the Philippines, is a group of several islands that are immediately south of Taiwan. Batan (second largest island and home to four of the six towns of the province) is dominated by Mt. Iraya. The rest is full of hills and is perfect for raising cows.
In fact, the quintessential image in most Filipino’s mind when Batanes is uttered is of a land full of rolling green hills surrounded by sea full of dangerous waves.
Here are some images of the hills (and cows) in Batanes.
I’ve had my Pentax K-01 (with twin lenses 18-55 and 55-200) for quite sometime (months). However, I’ve never used it extensively before (only test shots). I bought it more as a curiosity than a serious camera that I’d use.
When we went to Morong, Bataan for a weekend with the pawikans (sea turtles), I brought it so I can finally use it.
Judging by the image quality, the camera has a wonderful sensor (much better than my Canon DSLRs). Noise is mostly luminance noise rather than color noise (which is harder to get rid of and looks more unpleasant). The noise are specially not a problem when shooting and converting to black and white.
In regard to dynamic range, the camera also performs admirably. Shadows can be pushed without much noise showing (and any noise visible are mostly luminance noise once again).
My main concern with the camera is one of focus speed, accuracy and ergonomics. Since the camera uses contrast detection while its lenses use phase detection, speed is really slow, especially in bad light. Accuracy is ok I guess but I’ve not yet learned to use it properly. Changing focus is also not the fastest. My main gripe is on the placement of the shutter release button and off-on lever. The shutter release is very shallow and since it sits on top of the off-on lever, there are many times when my fingers would turn the lever to the off position.
As I said, the camera produces nice images but another problem that I have are LENSES. I have the 18-55 and 55-200 kit lenses but they are far from ideal. Slow and noisy to focus and made of mostly plastic. Also, I think the resolution that the lenses are capable of are quite low (compared to my decidedly better and much more expensive Canon lenses). It would have been better if Pentax lenses are cheap but they’re rather expensive. A Pentax lens would be double the price of another manufacturer’s lens with the same specification. This would have been mitigated if there are third party lenses available for K mount here (in the Philippines). Alas, Sigma, Tamron and Tokina lenses here are only available in Nikon and Canon mounts.
This Pentax K-01 is an expensive curiosity for me (though I bought when its value dropped by more than half). A curiosity that I’ll be able to use like half a dozen times a year. Do I have regrets buying this camera? A little. But I can make good use of it. I just hope I can use it more to justify the price I paid for it.
Last Saturday, my parents celebrated their 43rd wedding anniversary and the family went on a trip to Batanes, the northernmost province of the Philippines.
Here they are posing in one of the many rolling hills of Basco, Batanes.
This photo was taken on our day 1 in Coron. After a tiring climb through the stairs of Tapyas Hill, we finally came to its top and there were these two Italians paragliding in the hill (they would would sail around and go down a few meters and climb up again).
What I like about this photo is the simplicity, only the paraglider, hill and sky (with some clouds) can be seen and for me evokes freedom – to do whatever you want to do. Tapyas Hill is not that high (we were tired from climbing as we’re probably out of shape and have not climbed a mountain for quite a long time) but these two guys seem to be having a blast.
This weekend, our wandering feet brought us to Mt. Pinatubo. Mt. Pinatubo is an active volcano (almost dormant now) that erupted sometime in 1990s and whose ashes circled the world. It spewed out mostly water and rocks (lahar) and devastated several surrounding towns. The eruption was enormous that its crater collapsed and formed a lake. Now, it is largely inactive (with periodic mild activity).
Our itinerary is supposed to start at 2am Saturday for us to be able to leave on a bus at 230am. Several things forced us to leave at a later hour of 330am, which is a blessing in disguise as I’ll tell why later.
Access to the crater lake of Mt. Pinatubo is through Capas, Tarlac. Capas is not very far from Manila (around 2 to 2.5 hours) and we arrived there at 530am. Buying packed lunch (at McDo) and a tricycle trip later (Php300 per tricycle), we arrived at the satellite tourism office where we’ll be riding a 4×4 jeep towards the crater.
The 4×4 trip takes about 45 minutes to an hour until the start of the trek. The road passes through a military camp (Camp O’Donell) that is being used by the military for Balikatan Exercises (a military exercise of the Philippine and US military). The Balikatan exercise forced us to delay this trip by about two weeks.
The path travelled by the 4×4 is very very wide, with most areas full of small rocks and sand, other areas by grasslands (where cows and goats graze) and there are small streams of water that becomes fast-current rivers when the heavy rains pour.
We arrived at a place where a marker indicates a 7km trek going to the crater. We alighted and started to trek, getting our shoes wet in some stream crossing. After a few minutes trekking, the 4×4 vehicles started coming on and told us that we could ride all the way to the foot of the summit-crater. Since we arrived later (than most other visitors), we were able to ride first and pass several trekkers already halfway or almost near the foot of the summit. (Had we arrived earlier, we would have trekked the full 7km. A benefit of arriving later than usual).
One tourist (who trekked all the way to the crater) was furious since they had to trek all the way and most of us rode the jeeps. He was telling one of the vehicle drivers to radio the other drivers and complain about this. The drivers said that they did not enter earlier as they thought that the vehicle would not be able to pass some of the streams.
The crater is beautiful but it did not show its full beauty to us. Clouds occupy the farther side of the crater and several drops of rain fell (good thing it did not rain while we were there). Swimming is not permitted as (the warnings say) the depth of the lake is not determined and there is already a foreign visitor who died (though people say this is because he swam towards the center of the lake then had a heart attack).
The crater itself is probably only half of the thrill or reason for this adventure. The bigger part is on the 4×4 ride and the trek. The area itself is mostly grey (rocks and sand) which lends itself well to black and white pictures but not so much for color pictures.
There were 9 of us for this trip: Tiny, Oyet, Eman, Dahlia, Jem, Badz, Ellidel, Felix and I. After the Pinatubo adventure (where we initially thought that we’d be burning calories through trekking), we went to Gerona, Tarlac to eat at Isdaan Floating Restaurant.
A few months ago, I bought an infrared filter (720nm) to try and take infrared pictures. I was using the Canon 7D and the 15-85mm lens. The combination is good but post-processing the pictures from Lightroom to Photoshop is a nightmare. I have the Photoshop installed but somehow it is not connected to the Lightroom and saving the file in Lightroom as TIFF then opening the file in Photoshop is too much of a bother. Furthermore, I can’t get the colors to come out pleasing (right color is not an issue since everything in infrared is false colors – right color only means red).
Last weekend when we visited Lake Mapanuepe, I have the OM-D with its kit lens and my infrared filter, plus a tripod. We also had excess time on the second day so I had time to experiment and take shots.
The Olympus 12-50mm is ok for infrared. There is a slight hotspot in the middle of the lens which may or may not be seen depending on the processing (the slightly brighter spot just above the hill in the second picture). The lens/filter combo creates FLARE when the sun is very near the edge of the frame (see third picture).
Getting white balance and colors is one of the hardest thing to do in infrared. I read somewhere to set the white balance by using grass or leaves as a basis, which I did for these set of pictures.
I like this picture as it is my first semi-successful IR picture. Everything is golden as I can’t switch the red and blue channels in Photoshop without causing unsightly colors. The resulting color is a compromise. I’m still not very satisfied with the contrast though (compared to many IR pictures found online).
This second picture is actually my first attempt this time. I like the colors of the leaves (almost white) and the contrast but the sky’s a mess. I thought that shooting raw will give me latitude when editing colors but I guess I’m too wrong. The upper right corner of the frame turned black.
Third picture is of the large tree under which we camped. For some reason, it is not as clear as the others. Possibly, because of the lots of shade in the picture, it required a longer exposure and the wind rustled the leaves creating a more blurry picture. The color of the leaves are ok but still with a pinkish tinge while the rest is yellowish.
So far those are the three semi-succesful IR pictures. I’ll work on it until I can get the pleasing colors of IR.
My first climb for the year is for Jason’s big 3-0 birthday. (Still can’t believe he’s 30, he looks like someone in his early 20s).
We met in StarMall Shaw. The attendees include Jason (the birthday boy), Kyt, Jekk, Jem and Badz, and two of Jason’s officemate – Bogs and Tiny.
From StarMall, we rode a jeep bound for Tanay, Rizal, then another jeepney to the town of Siniloan where we bought food and supplies and ate lunch in Jollibee (wasn’t really expecting Jollibee, the purpose of travelling other than to see places is to eat different).
From the town of Siniloan, we rode tricycle to the next town (Panguil, Laguna) to get to the jump off.
By all internet accounts and posts, Buntot Palos is an easy and minor climb. However, due to the rains of the continual rains, the trail is very muddy. This is compounded by the hoof tracks of the horses used by the locals to bring down firewood. It is indeed a very very muddy climb.
Due to delays in meetups, lunch, etc, we started climbing at around 1pm when the itinerary stated that we should be on the campsite at 1130am. It took us 4 hours going up due to the mud. We also met a group of guys who climbed to photograph the falls. They were obviously not mountaineers and came very ill-prepared, one was wearing flipflops. I think one had an injury so he was riding the horse of one of the locals. The guys said that the falls was very foggy and wet that they couldn’t take good pictures.
After four hours of climbing, we finally reached the campsite. It is not near the falls but we could hear the sound of water crashing down nearby. Well, the campsite should have been a welcome sight but it was not. The ground was really wet and that meant pitching tent in muddy ground.
After pitching tent, we decided to go to the falls. Jekk decided not to go to the falls to look after our things (the mountains around Rizal and Laguna have gained a reputation for having thieves).
Buntot Palos literally means “eel’s tail” and it’s probably named because of its shape (can’t see the resemblance though). The falls is located some 30 minutes away from the campsite and involves going down a steep slope. Since it has been raining hard for a few days, the volume of water coming down the falls is really high and current on the rocks and boulders is strong. We had to take extra care not to be swept by the current.
It was getting dark when we went back to the campsite and brought water from the falls for cooking.
Back at camp, dinner was cooked and eaten, hard drink and wine (I brought a cheap Bourdeaux) was consumed and there were lots of chatter. The talks was of a different kind, probably because there were two new persons with us – Bogs and Tiny. 🙂 After all this, we had a very wet night though we slept safe and sound inside our tents.
In the morning, another group of climbers whom Kyt knows arrived. They got lost during the night and camped in another area.
We had breakfast and it was time to break camp and descend. Our tents are wet and muddy that we had a hard time packing them.
On our way down, we stopped by a stream and washed our muddy tents, tarps, etc. They became more wet but at least got cleaned from all the mud.
If going up a muddy trail is difficult, going down is probably as difficult or more difficult. Instead of just letting gravity do most of the work on descent, we had to fight it in order not to slip. Kyt slipped several times, Tiny (with her sandals) slipped a couple while the rest of us also had our moments.
On reaching the jumpoff, we cooked spaghetti for lunch before going back to Manila. In arriving in Metro Manila, we didn’t go straight home but had some drinks in a bar near Shaw (except for Jem, Badz and Bogs). Then finally home for a well-deserved rest.
For this climb, I brought 3 lenses (1 lens was unused), a tripod (unused), a wired remote (unused), 24gb of storage (in 2 SD cards) but only came home with 116 pictures and very few decent ones. The lens got stuck on the camera and it got so foggy in the end that I couldn’t use it until the fog evaporated much much later. My phone (a Samsung SII) got wet inside the tent and broken.
Buntot Pulos is a nice waterfalls but our timing was so wrong (well, it is expected that it will rain since it was the celebration of someone’s birthday). There will be a return but not in the near future, and definitely not during the rainy season.