Monday, December 16, 2013






With fewer than 10 days until Christmas, holiday celebrations and decorations are on display around the world. Mother Nature has contributed with snowfall from North America to the Middle East, as Santa's helpers busy themselves everywhere from small markets to massive warehouses. Today's essay is a peek at some of the scenes of the season so far.

Grumpy Cat, acting as Friskies "spokescat", sits on Santa's lap at a promotional event at Capitol Records in Los Angeles, California, on December 10, 2013. (Bret Hartman/AP Images for Friskies)


The Christmas tree in the central square is lit during the traditional candle-evening in Gouda, Netherlands, on December 13, 2013. During the event, hundreds of candles are lit in the windows of the houses and the town hall.








A man carries a child on his shoulders as they search for a Christmas tree to cut at the Rum River Tree Farm in Anoka, Minnesota, on December 8, 2013.


People attend a Christmas light illumination along the Medellin River in Medellin, Colombia, on December 9, 2013.





People attend a Christmas light illumination along the Medellin River in Medellin, Colombia, on December 9, 2013.


Christmas lights illuminate the banks of the Medellin River in Medellin, Colombia, on December 9, 2013.

Runners gather at the start line for the annual "Santa Speedo Run," a charity race through the streets of the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, on December 14, 2013.



Adam Lopez passes a giant pair of boots outside North Star mall, in San Antonio, Texas, on December 5, 2013. The 40-foot tall boots are decorated with holiday lights annually.


Children enjoy one of the many festive window displays in Selfridges department store in London, England, on December 14, 2013.


Volunteers construct bikes for TurningWheels for Kids' Big Bike Build at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, California, on December 7, 2013. Silicon Valley's Big Bike Build brings out 1,000 corporate volunteers to build over 2,500 bikes as holiday gifts for needy kids.


Sara Cervantes takes pictures of Christmas decorations at Pershing Square, on December 6, 2013, in Los Angeles.


Mark Hughes and son Emmet toboggan during a snow storm in Toronto, on December 14, 2013.


A woman swims in the pool at the David Citadel Hotel during a snow storm in Jerusalem, on December 13, 2013. The snowstorm of rare intensity blanketed the Jerusalem area, choking off the city and stranding hundreds in vehicles on impassable roads.


Saudi men walk as their footprints are seen after a rare snowstorm in Alkan village, west of Saudi Arabia, on December 13, 2013.


A Palestinian youth makes a snowman in the West Bank town of Nablus, on December 13, 2013. Early snow has surprised many Israelis and Palestinians as a blustery storm, dubbed Alexa, brought gusty winds, torrential rains and heavy snowfall to parts of the Middle East.


Hordes of Christmas shoppers walk beneath festive lights on Regent Street on December 14, 2013 in London, England. As Christmas Day approaches, London's central shopping districts attempt to lure shoppers into stores with last minute deals in an effort to pull sales away from online outlets. (Dan Dennison/Getty Images) #


Revelers in Santa costumes set of through the streets as they takes part in the annual "Santacon" in central London, on December 14, 2013. (Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images) #


Looking up, from inside a giant Christmas tree illuminated in the Puerta del Sol in the center of Madrid, on December 9, 2013. (Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images) #


In Sydney, Australia, the 2013 Lights Of Christmas are launched at St Mary's Cathedral on December 12, 2013.(Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images) #


People carry the Peace Light of Bethlehem at the Cathedral of St Peter and Paul in Brno, Czech Republic, on December 15, 2013. Each year, a young boy from Austria gathers a flame from the grotto in Bethlehem, returning home with it, where the flame is passed onto other European countries and North America with a message of Peace.(Radek Mica/AFP/Getty Images) #


Miles of aisles at an Fulfillment Center on "Cyber Monday", in Phoenix, Arizona, on December 2, 2013.(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) #


The first family, from left, President Barack Obama, Malia Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, and Sasha Obama greet children dressed like elves at the National Building Museum in Washington, on December 15, 2013. The first family was attending the taping of the annual 2013 Christmas in Washington, celebrating its 32nd year anniversary.(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) #


People gather to watch Illuminations during a seasonal event ahead of Christmas in Tokyo, Japan, on December 7, 2013.(AP Photo/Koji Sasahara) #


A couple skates on the frozen waters of Lake St. Moritz during a sunny winter day in the Swiss mountain resort of St. Moritz, on December 14, 2013. (Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann) #


Young Matias Arango walks in front of a figure representing the Devil to be burned during the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception celebrations in Antigua, Guatemala, on December 7, 2013. These celebrations mark the beginning of the Christmas Season in Guatemala. (AP Photo/Luis Soto) #


A figure representing the Devil is burned during the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception celebrations in Antigua, Guatemala, on December 7, 2013. The celebration marks the beginning of the Christmas Season in Guatemala.(AP Photo/Luis Soto) #


Jesse Sodergren, 2, of San Clemente, California, is held by her father James as she looks at an underwater Santa Claus at the Silverton Casino Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, on December 8, 2013. The underwater Santa and his helpers greet visitors and take present requests from inside the casino's 117,000-gallon aquarium on weekends in December until Christmas.(Reuters/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus) #


Boys from the central Romanian region of Transylvania make noise using whips at the Village Museum in Bucharest, Romania, on December 15, 2013. Children's groups from across Romania performed Christmas and New Year's traditional songs and dances during a two-day festival in the Romanian capital. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) #


A little girl meets Santa Claus at the German Christmas Market being held on the South Bank in London, England, on December 13, 2013. Running from November 15th to December 24th the Southbank Center German Christmas Market sells food, drinks and a range of gifts to Christmas shoppers. (Dan Dennison/Getty Images)




Welcome 'o weary traveler... from where do you cometh?
Are you seeking new lands to conquer, perhaps planning a visit to the Philippines? Or are you simply home-sick and hungry for photographs of home?
Whatever, feel free to look and rip. I'm posting new images every week from my travels across this beautiful land.

Farewell to Another Year

The sun'll come out
Bet your bottom dollar
That tomorrow
There'll be sun!
Thank you for following my journey this year. I wish you all... inner peace and new hope... for the coming year.

The Golden Hours

Colored boats, grass huts, a deep blue sky, and a golden landscape... they're the usual suspects found in scenes typical of our rural outback at sunset.

We were in barrangay Caroan in Gonzaga Cagayan, anticipating a landscape bathed by the setting sun's orange glow. Fishermen were mending their nets just moments earlier... but have all retired to their homes... leaving only their boats to witness creation's finale. Nature does save the best for last, which unfortunately, is still one of landscape photography's best kept secrets. But now you know. Enjoy.


#250 Up at Dawn

Twilight photographers need only one reason to be up at dawn: to capture its colors for posterity.

On the northern tip of Cagayan, where the Pacific Ocean reveals its true nature, we found fishermen already up before us. But they probably have many more reasons to be up at dawn, probably as many as they have mouths to feed. And while we focus on capturing twilight's beauty, we don't forget even for a moment that many others don't have our luxury. So today's postcard is for all of them, for everyone up at dawn because they need to.

Soon, the end of a year will be upon us. Again.
Reminiscing the passing year, some may ask... what have I achieved this year? Have I done enough? Have I lived life to the fullest? But here's my question for you: have you seen your share of sunrises and sunsets this year?
You see, dawn and dusk can be experienced every day of the year, and from anywhere on earth. They are the most beautiful and certainly most incredible parts of the day. Look at today's postcard... they are truly spectacles that can renew the human spirit, refresh the weary soul.  All you need to do is to wake up a little earlier, or barring that, stay outdoors a little later. But hurry. There are just a few more left to see this year. Enjoy.
But wait, there's more. Tonight is Christmas eve. As family & friends come together to celebrate faith, life, & love, allow me to greet you a very Merry Christmas, from my home to yours. And thank you for following and sharing my posts this year.

In Silay, Negros Occidental, we found a section of the city that transported us back in time. In spite of a light drizzle that turned into a downpour, we enjoyed walking the streets and picking-off compositions no longer found in our modern cities. The presence of old structures like these are normally a sign of decay, of being left behind by progress. But not here. The unique architecture had been preserved for future generations, even if they had to turn what was once a rich man's home into a roadside cafe. Enjoy.
(Pixel-peepers: The muggy light from a moody sky wasn't conducive to taking colored photographs. Besides, I thought a historical place like this should be photographed with the medium of its day: in black & white pictures. Agree?)

#203 The Forgotten Tracks

Can anything be forgotten completely? Certainly. But it's not going to be a pair of abandoned train tracks in Silay city, Negros Occidental.
The tracks had previously been used to carry raw sugar to the coast. Today, enterprising locals run a fleet of human-powered pedi-cycle trains to provide inexpensive transportation along its 3.75 km length. One man's trash truly became another's treasure.
We thought the rural life would be worth a street photograph or two, so we hired our own trains and headed out for an adventure. The landscape along the way astonished us: vast sugar fields, endless swamps, abandoned fish pens, and a sprinkling of homes in the middle of nowhere. It was certainly a trip we would not soon forget. Enjoy.
(Pixel-peepers: The light was pretty harsh as we were outdoors at the wrong time of the day. But you take what you can and hope that you can be back again to do the place justice.)

Strands of grass and a setting sun, what can be more fleeting than life itself? This postcard is dedicated to those that have gone ahead of us. And I quote:

What though the radiance which was once so bright

Be now forever taken from my sight,

Though nothing can bring back the hour

Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;

We will grieve not, rather find

Strength in what remains behind;

In the primal sympathy

Which having been must ever be;

In the soothing thoughts that spring

Out of human suffering;

In the faith that looks through death,

In the years that bring the philosopic mind.



The advantage of driving the countryside is that you not only get to see all sorts of things along the way, you get to see life, specially the simple version.

We were driving home through the town of Bugallon in Pangasinan, minding our own business, when we saw a farmer with his beasts in tow. We slammed on the brakes. Huh? It's a man with three cows. But hey, we're city-slickers, we've never patted a real cow before. Besides, we want to know what he's up to. 

With a smile from ear-to-ear and looking like he'd just had a great nap... "I'm from that small baranggay back there", pointing to a stand of trees on the horizon behind him. "And I'm going to take my cows to drink from that pond over there." he said, "I do it several times a day specially when it's hot like today." And "No, I don't know who owns that pond. I think it's public." With that statement, and after posing for some more pictures, he walked his cows right onto the water's edge where they slurped-away with abandon...

Our world runs on oil, but his' runs on the sweat of his brows. One day we all hope to retire to such a simpler and slower life... of living on a farm... taking long lazy naps... and then walking our beasts to water... er.. but wait... isn't he already doing that today? And we thought we had it all planned out... Enjoy.

In the rural backroads of the Philippines, rice is still planted and harvested by hand. We expected to see rice stalks threshed by whipping the stalks against boards, metal screens, or wooden racks. Glistening sinews covered in sweat, as they manually beat the grain from their stalks, now that would have made a great photograph.... But not any more!

We woke up before the sun and headed towards Alaminos when sunrise found us in the town of Sta. Ignacia, Pangasinan. The morning sun had cast a warm golden color onto everything it touched, a perfect sweet light that makes photographs magical. To our delight, we chanced upon a group of men threshing their harvest by the roadside, amidst a scene painted in the colors reminiscent of Amorsolo.

But to our surprise, even the countryside has joined the 21st century! They had a gasoline-powered thresher that automatically blew off the stalks and deposited the grain neatly in sacks. No more half-naked men flexing their glistening muscles. Still, it was a lovely scene.

Were we disappointed not to have found the image in our minds? Not at all. Progress comes to all things and to all men. Had we come by 10 years ago, we might have found what we were looking for. But then we're glad we didn't wait to do this 10 years from now, who knows what else we would have missed? Enjoy.

Even the mid-day sun conspires with us when we're on safari. While driving to a nearby waterfall, we drove through a thick grove of trees that casted the most incredible shadows on the road ahead.

But on a country road even beautiful shadows isn't enough to interrupt us from our journey... until we chanced upon a family on foot. Their strikingly colorful clothes leapt out from the natural earthy colors around them. It was a sight too good to miss.


We all know what a strangler tree does. It starts out as a vine on a forest floor. Then it climbs high up a host tree and drops its roots down to the ground. As its roots thicken and multiply, the host tree is eventually strangled and rots away, leaving a hollow core around a convulated mass of roots.

But in Baler Aurora, we found a story that didn't end there.

We went to see the biggest living tree there, a strangler as well, but this one continued to drop new roots until it became a monster. They say at least 50 people holding hands are needed to circumnavigate its entire breadth.

We found a group of children innocently playing nearby. Coupled with a stray shaft of sunlight, we found a composition worthy of the largest living thing in Baler.


On Digisit beach in Aurora, shortly after sunrise, the color has all but disappeared from the sky. But with the sun's warm sweet rays side-lighting everything else around us, that's where we decided to point our cameras.

That's when I noticed this beautiful flower on the ground, having fallen from the tree above. The locals called them Butun (our Ivatan safari leader called it Vutun.) Thanks to Google, the scientific name is Butonica rumphina, or more commonly known as the poison tree.

Poison what? Yup, poison tree. The locals grind and mix the leaves and flowers to form a liquid that they use to temporarily stun river fish. Organic cyanide fishing of sorts, I guess.

Pretty yet poisonous, just like many other ironies in life. Enjoy.

(photograph has been cropped slightly to improve composition.)

This was our very first sunrise on the shores of Baler, a town on the coast of Aurora province facing the Pacific Ocean. We expected a ruggedly wild coastline and were not disappointed: outcrops rising from the shallows amidst relentlessly pounding waves.

We had been up since 4am and it was pitch dark when we got there. As the sky lightened up, there was too much cloud on the horizon to allow a dramatic entrance of the sun. I needed a way to multiply the light in the sky. And fast. Further down the beach I stumbled onto a shallow body of very still water, separated from the surf by a mound of sand. Still water reflects... now to find a spot to plant my tripod that would put this body of water between me and the rising sun...

The sun rose slowly, even teasingly, as the dawn wore on. The thick clouds held back the dawn's fury but allowed its "fingers of light" to paint the morning sky. Coupled with the mirror-like foreground of the pond, it made waking up early that morning worthwhile. Enjoy.


Friday, September 25, 2009

#34 The Golden Moment

We were on the way to Baler Aurora and taking the more difficult route through the Sierra Madre Mountains. The view along the way was worth the arduous drive.

It was early morning still. Just as we headed east towards the mountains, a wall of fog descended from nowhere. Suddenly we were all alone, with nary a wind, in a landscape shrouded all in white, just as the morning sun had began to rise from somewhere behind it.

Looking out onto the fields, we spotted several trees, isolated from its background by the thick fog. The moment was magical, and if there was ever a golden moment, I thought this was it. Enjoy

How far away is that horizon? "As far as your eyes can see." But how far is that exactly?
It was shortly before sunrise. We were on the coast of Alaminos in Pangasinan facing east. In front of us was the Hundred Islands Nature Park in the Lingayen Gulf, looking like a bunch of interconnected hills cloaked in the night. Further off and on the horizon is the Cordilleras Mountain range. Those pin lights atop the mountains, they are the city lights of Baguio City. Cool.
Using Google Earth I took a straight-line distance reading between where we stood and Baguio City. Surprise, it was only about 67 kilometers away (about 42 miles.) Of course this shot was taken with a telephoto lens which magnified it 3.5X. But with the unaided eye the lights were still visible, if only barely.
So the next time you look at the horizon and wonder how far it is, know that it's not that far away. Enjoy.

What's for dinner? Much less than you'd expect...
In a small baranggay nestled on the foothills of Mayoyao in Ifugao province, we stalked the sunset in a valley peppered with rice paddies. The fog rolled-in just as the sun started to set, covering most of the visible sky. Not even a timed exposure revealed the color of the fading light. It was getting dark. We looked around for something else to shoot and that's when we saw this grass hut lit from within.
A couple of young girls were preparing dinner the old-fashioned way: with a wood fire, a blackened pot, and a lung-full of air. Dinner will be simple, just vegetable soup. You can tell there isn't a shred of technology in their kitchen: no microwave oven, no piped-in cooking gas, no flat-top stove, not even a refrigerator. Sorry there's no electricity in this community, a life as simple as it gets.
There are still many places untouched by civilization, something to see and experience before they all disappear. I told you it was less than you'd expect. Enjoy.

Have you ever witnessed a vanishing profession?
By the roadside in the town of Iguig in Cagayan Valley, we chanced upon a plume of smoke rising from behind a pottery vendor's shed. It turned out to be an open air furnace where clay pots are roasted underneath a pile of bamboo scraps and hay.
The lady in the photograph is a pot cook. She darted around the fire, tossing and turning moist hay, a balancing act between feeding the flame and smothering it out. This keeps the temperature low and produces mostly smoke, conditions that magically seal the pots' pores, making them watertight and heat-resistant. Even in this day and age, we learn a lot just by watching country folk do their stuff.
It occurred to me that this craft, while still common in our day, may be in danger of being lost over time. Surely, the automated furnaces of the future have little use for pottery cooks to tend the heat and smoke. A dying profession if I ever saw one, so here's hoping this photograph makes it to the future. Enjoy.


A Joyous Greeting to Mothers Everywhere...

What did you expect to find inside a cave?
Beside the Pinacanauan river in the town of Penablanca Cagayan, the Callao Caves hid a most unexpected wonder. We walked through this grand cave entrance expecting total darkness ,but instead found a quaint little chapel inside completely bathed by natural light. The multi-chambered caverns have natural overhead crevices that allowed the brightness of day into its dark recesses. Our cameras are going to be useful after all.
It felt cold and damp inside, and was pretty dark in several places. The ground was often muddy and sticky, like walking on freshly-dropped poop. There was this stench that suggested large numbers of bats were hanging from above. (A good reason not to open your mouth in awe while admiring the crevices above!)
At the end of the visit, some of us sat down to say a prayer of thanks. There wasn't enough time to explore all the chambers, so I surmised they also prayed that fate bring them back one day. Enjoy.

#28 Daklis Fishing

Can you make a living fishing on land? Wait till you hear this story.
In the town of Currimao along the Ilocos coast, we found people lined-up along the shore, collectively pulling one end of a long net out from the sea. About half a kilometer away, but also on the same stretch of sand, is another group doing the same. Imagine them pulling in unison, until eventually the center of the net is pulled to shore. The net is called a Daklis, a long narrow floating net meant to sieve the shallows for fish.
Now this sounds like a cool way to fish, without getting wet and all, until you realize what they caught. After about 3 hours of collective heave-ho, the 50+ people gathered around the catch... which barely filled two 17-liter tin cans of sardine-sized fish! It was promptly sold to a fish vendor who arrived in a bike. We were told each person would make about P20 (US$0.40) that day!
In the photograph, a couple of boys crawled under the net to pick tiny fish whose heads got stuck in the weave. That would be their share for the afternoon's work. Rather sad really, so much work for so little pay, a reflection of the level of poverty in places like these. Yet they come back three times a week for more of the same. Sad.


#27 Sunrises in Heaven

Do you think there are sunrises in heaven?
Everyone hopes they will go to heaven, but none of us want to go right away. Is it because we'll miss our family and friends? Or is it because we'll miss sunrises like this one? Most likely it's because we're not yet ready.
I lost a friend last week. She loved life. Yet by the life that she had lived she was more than ready, at least more ready than the rest of us. This one's for you Beck, and just in case there are sunrises in heaven, do save us a photograph or two. Enjoy.

#26 Solitary Trees

Solitary trees growing in the middle of rice fields?
In barrio Sta. Ignacia in Pangasinan, the road is lined with rice fields on both sides. It was the tail-end of the harvest season when we came through and most of the fields were already brown and hallowed. So imagine our joy when we chanced upon this section of field still fully planted and green. And with painted hills on the horizon too! We're glad to pulled over. Enjoy.

What do photographers have to do to get the shot they want? Very often, whatever it takes.
On the Bolinao coast in the province of Pangasinan, we arrived at sunrise but found little to shoot. The usual foreground objects were not found, just an open sea with fishermen standing on the far edge of the reef. In knee-deep water and angling for the day's breakfast. they were too far from shore even for our longest lenses. They were fishing where the fish are, so as photographers we knew exactly what to do. Enjoy.

At the Hundred Islands Nature park in Pangasinan, there are 123 Islands at high tide and an extra rock-of-an-island at low tide. Not all the islands have white beaches but most of them can be explored on foot. Each island has a name and a unique feature, whether a cave, white beaches, or high vantage points to see the rest of the park. Enjoy.

#23 Sunrise Hundred Islands

How to photograph the fire-y colors of dawn? You need a good alarm clock!
On the Ligayen gulf, off the coast of Alaminos City in Pangasinan, is the Hundred Islands Nature Park, a group of 123 islands cloistered together in an area covering 1,500 hectares. To silhouette them during the most colorful part of dawn, you literally need to be up before the sun. You see, the colors of dawn is the effect of the sun lighting up the underside of clouds, and the most brilliant colors occur only very briefly while the sun is still below the horizon. So if you expect sunrise at 530am, you better be standing where you need to be by 430am. And that's why you need a good alarm clock! Enjoy.


When we travel for photography, we try to get there the same way the locals do, by local bus, pump boat, or on foot if that's their mode of transportion. It helps set the creative mood for our photographs.
We arrived in the town of Vigan in Ilocos Sur, looking to photograph the historic homes along the cobblestoned Calle Crisologo. We were there to photograph a part of Philippine history, a small well-preserved Spanish town built in the 1800's. So why not stay in a home-turned-hotel built in 1870?
Villa Angela was such a place. We slept and lived among the same antique furniture used by the original owners over a hundred years ago. High ceilings, paneled wooden walls, old pictures taken over a hundred years ago, and intricately carved four-poster beds... What better way to soak up all that history while pondering our photography? Enjoy.

#21 Puka Beach Sailboat

Emerald green water around Boracay? How did you do that? Actually, the right question is when.
On Boracay in the province of Aklan, the island is surrounded by fine white sand that extends well into the shallows. And at about noon, when the sun is directly overhead, the light reflecting off these shallows can turn normally blue water into a stunning emerald green. But oh so briefly. And then it's a light blue again for the rest of the day.
Photography books often teach us to avoid the harsh contrasty light at high noon. Well, you'd miss this opportunity if you did. So don't stop shooting! Enjoy.

#20 The Moment

Should I get a Canon or Nikon? A friend wanted to know. I hope my answer was correct.
At the 14th Hot Air Balloon Festival in Pampanga, a picture I took illustrates my answer. Taken with a better camera, it would have much better resolution, richer and more accurate colors, and likely much less noise. But would it have mattered?
The success of a photograph has more to do with its subject, its composition, and whether it has captured the moment. Well, the last time I checked neither Canons nor Nikons have automated this feature ! Until then my answer will always be "any brand will do." Was that the right answer? You tell me. Enjoy.

If you look inside a hot air balloon, do you see little green men?
At the 14th Hot Air Balloon Festival at the Clark Air field in Pampanga, everyone got a chance to peek inside a hot air balloon. This particular one needed a little help so the pilot scrambled inside and untangled its stubborn folds. That did the trick.
He inflated the balloon with a big electric fan and then fired just enough hot air into the void to raise the balloon from the ground. By controlling the amount of hot air hence, the balloon either lifts-off or returns to earth. Neat huh? And little green men? I sure saw one and now so do you. Enjoy.

#18 Reflecting First Light

First light, the precise moment when night turns into day, is a moment eagerly awaited by all twilight peepers. When you get lucky, the feeling is hard to describe. It can enthrall!
In Bangui Ilocos Norte, the site of a wind farm along the shore, first light started out as any other. First total darkness except for the moon and stars. And then pink, orange, and violet streaks magically appear as the returning sun light up the clouds from below. The most colorful part of twilight is why we're up at 4:30am! And if you can find a body of water to reflect and multiply the colors from above, it can truly enthrall! Enjoy.

Happy Valentine. Enjoy.


Monday, February 9, 2009

#16 Shimmering Pools

But wait, there is more to Kaangrian Falls than what last week's photograph suggests.
You'd think all that falling water has got to go somewhere, right? Well, further downstream is a series of shallow and interconnected pools where shimmering water overflows from one pool to the next, in a downward rush towards a second and even higher waterfall just off a narrow cliff. It was here that the shafts of sunlight caught my eye, peeping through the overhead canopy every now and then, and painting these shallow pools in warm undulating light. A most captivating sight!
The humid morning and the trek down had taken its toll. The glistening pools beckon, but time can sometimes be too short for those luxuries. Boy, what an excuse to return! Enjoy.

A hidden waterfall is always a treat, so when they told us there was one nearby, we didn't hesitate.
The Kaangrian Falls is a relatively recent discovery and a popular destination in the town of Burgos, Ilocos Norte. It was an easy 30 minute trek down a gorge, through two small streams shallow enough to keep your pants dry but your socks all soaked. The trail itself is well worn but the vegetation is still lush and thick. The waterfall is about 20 feet high, a gentle cascade of water cool and clear, just as my photograph suggests. Enjoy.

Just mention "Boracay in Summer"... and weary minds are set adrift... images of soft white sand, clear blue skies, and inviting emerald green waters... But wait, today's photograph is not quite like that.
Birang and I were on Boracay Island for a rendezvous with the sun, but it was only after the sun had set did we find the right conditions for this photograph. A sturdy tripod certainly helped, and so did a long enough exposure. And don't forget a pocket light for those times when the foregrounds are too dark. The result: an unreal rendition of a most familiar place. Enjoy.

Patience is a virtue. Really. Some events happen with regularity, like circadian bats coming out to feed at dusk. But you still have to be patient else you risk missing the show.
Our safari brought us to Penablanca, Cagayan, to a bat cave along the Pinacanauan river. We had taken a flat-bottomed boat downstream and got off on a mound of volcanic rock barely big enough for 8 photographers scrambling for picturesque vantage points. Since several of us ended up trading places while waiting for the show to begin, we were caught by surprise when it finally did. This photograph was taken a little earlier, while the sky was still bright and well before the bats appeared. The bat cave is the hole on the cliff-side. Those folks on the boat anchored below are tourists just like us. To see fruit bats streaming out of their cave, that will have to wait until my next post. Enjoy.

Do you have a fear of heights? Take heart. Outdoor photographers sometimes find themselves in some very high places, like on a sheer sea cliff maybe a hundred feet or more above the crashing waves below.
Along the coast in the town of Burgos, Ilocos Norte, the weather was lovely and the view in all directions was just great. (That's the Bangui windmills in the background.) The sky was clear for miles. Scared or not, you can't help it but to keep shooting. After all, there can't be too many other places where we'd rather be. Enjoy.

Last December 16th, I posted a picture of a rare moon rise and mentioned that a firey dusk was taking place simultaneously in the west. Well for those who asked to see it, today's photograph is what we saw.
It was in baranggay Bantay just outside the town of Vigan Ilocos Norte. We had spotted an unusual vantage point earlier in the day and were determined to make our way there. It was unusual because it was in the middle of the town's cemetery on the night of the full moon. I'm not the superstitious type, but when an opportunity like this presents itself I try not to ask too many questions. Enjoy.

To sequentially capture the last sunset of 2008 and the first sunrise of 2009, now isn't that an intriguing plan?  Except that I was nursing a bad cold last week, completely incompatible with the cool outdoors.  Rats. It's my 3rd year stalking this dream but when life gets in the way all bets are off.

At the Suba sand dunes in Ilocos Norte, the sunrise wasn't looking too promising so twilight photographers need to work harder to bring home images worth keeping. It could be as simple as looking in the other direction, and that's where this lone tree caught my eye. It has seen its share of sunrise and sunsets I'm sure, even when no one else was looking. And know what? I bet it saw the sequential dusks and dawns that I missed! Enjoy.

Where will you be in 2009?
Most of us don't plan until the new year arrives, except when it's arriving this week. Yikes. Will we all be back to the routine of life and work? For more of the same? Do we want more of the same? The world is an imperfect place, and the past year has shown us it can be a pretty scary one as well. But no matter the tribulations there is always room for hope. All twilight photographers know the darkest part of the night is shortly before the sun comes out. Such too is life.
In the small mountain town of Mayoyao about 40 kms from the Banaue Rice Terraces, the sunrise that morning had ended with a whimper and a sigh. Dark storm clouds spoiled the dawn, disappointing when you consider we'd spent 8 hours on a bus and then another 6 hours by jeep just to get there. But just as we thought it was all over, we were dazzled by crepuscular rays from high heavens. Hope because it's not over until it's over. Such too is life. Enjoy.

...A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices...
...For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn....
Merry Christmas. Happy New Year. Bobby & Birang 2008

Do you see the forest or the trees? That's a big question commonly used to discern one's perspective in life, but luckily we outdoor photographers have simpler things in mind today.
We were in the town of Kiangan, the Philippine's oldest rice terraces town and one of five World Heritage sites in the province of Ifugao. We were on our way to visit an upland lake when we chanced upon this roadside scene. Thick morning fog had descended on rice paddies in front of a wooded field. A single tree can go unnoticed in a forest, until a curtain of fog obscures the rest.
Quickly, we shuffled out of our jeep and selected our compositions to best convey what the moment presented. The simple answer to the big question: it depends on the moment. Enjoy.

#6 Blue Moon Rise

The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, but the moon can rise at any time of the day and the direction from where it rises depends on the time of the year. Strange but true. During the day, the sky is too bright for us to see the moon. But a full moon rising from the horizon just after the sun goes down, while the sky is still a light colored blue, is a sight rarer than a sunrise.
While shooting the sunset in Vigan, the full moon rose in the east from behind a row of mountains and clouds on the horizon. A firey sunset in the west and a cool blue moonrise in the east, it was a rare sight even for us. Enjoy.

#5 Silhouettes at Sunrise

When shooting the twilight hours even the best intentions won't guarantee the best results.
From Laoag City we drove to Suba to do some desert-like sand dune landscapes at sunrise. We brought our tripods and filters, check. We got there while the sky was still pitch-black, check. We waited patiently for first light to appear before selecting our compositions, check. But when it became bright enough to see what was around us, my heart sank to the ground. This was supposed to be a barren desert-like landscape but recent rains has grass growing all over the place. A little later it also became apparent heavy clouds on the horizon was going to obscure the most intense moments of the returning sun. Things were definitely not looking good.
But that's it with twilight photography: there's never a guarantee conditions are going to be just right. I was shooting along-side ace travel photographer Noli Gabilo that morning before I dragged my stuff down the dune to find something else to shoot. At the bottom I turned around just in time to see Noli silhouetted against the intensifying orange sky. The sporadic wild grass that had spoiled my shoot now provided all the composition I needed. Quick, the moment soon escapes!
When shooting the twilight hours a little luck and serendipity can go a long way. Enjoy.

#4 Colors of the Wind

Sunsets are among my favorite times of the day, and it's not because of the happy hour! You see, sunsets are much like sunrises, except that you don't have to wake up at 4am just to get to where you need to be. Otherwise they are similar: unpredictably vibrant colors splashed across a canvass of infinitely varied cloud patterns. I'm awestruck every single time.

Sunset today brought us to the small town of Bangui near the northern tip of Ilocos Norte. Some energy company had built 20 one-megawatt windmills along the shore, and in one sweep, created clean power plus a local tourist industry. Brilliant, but back to my story. We had arrived late for sunset, too late to catch the lon



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