Melting away

I was back home in Manila just over a year ago around Christmas time. Now, I’m back here for more punishment. My memory of my previous stay was not the most pleasant. I was actually surprised at how much better it is to visit Manila outside of the Christmas season. Reasons? Less traffic, less crowding and less heat.

I couldn’t believe that it is less hotter here in September than it was the last time I was here in December two years past. I suppose it’s due to the rainy weather. It’s still rainy season, after all. Thankfully, it hasn’t actually rained much since we’ve arrived. I never had the need to bring out my umbrella from my bag.

Although it may be heaps cooler right now than previously, I still found myself sweating. A lot. Heaps! I couldn’t stop sweating the moment I step out into the open, beyond the range of cool air-conditioned air. Trying to keep myself dry with a help of a hand towel was like trying to bail out water from a sinking boat. I’m not sure where all that water is coming from, actually. It’s really a bit much.

When I’m finally back in the comfort of an air-conditioned area, it takes a while for me to stop perspiring. In the end, I still end up with a wet shirt, wet hair and sticky skin. Disgusting, I know. But that’s how it is since my arrival in Manila a few days ago.

Whenever I’m in shops, the security guards (for you non-Filipinos reading this, there are security personnel for mostly every shop) would look at me suspiciously. I don’t blame them. I look like I was guilty of something the way I was perspiring profusely.

Raquel found it funny that we came across some people who were wearing jumpers and jackets in this warm weather. It wasn’t even remotely cold outside! Even at night. I must have been away from Manila for far too long. I remember my previous American employers complaining about the same thing. And now we’re the ones doing the complaining.

I was hoping that these sweating episodes would last a maximum of four days. But it’s day six now and I’ve only started to adjust to the humidity and heat. That’s a bit of good news, I guess. I don’t feel the need to change my shirt yet.

In the meantime, I’ll probably continue to take refuge at air-conditioned malls and hotel lobbies until I finally stop melting in this humid place I call home. The only things that make this trip worthwhile was that I get to be with family, relatives and long-time friends again. And probably the chance to do some inexpensive book shopping. If not for these, I’d rather be back in good old Melbourne.

Published in: on September 19, 2008 at 7:01 pm  Comments (6)  

Workaholic? Me?

I’ve never been the workaholic type. Sure, I’m used to devoting endless hours to personal projects and gaming but not actual office work. At the office, I’m usually aching to get out of there when it’s the prescribed close of business time.

Lately, I’m finding myself staying later than usual to finish off some loose ends at the office. The thing is, I don’t actually mind in those instances. I feel like work is becoming a game I need to win. I also felt the least stress at work I’ve ever been for years.

I think I’ve become a workaholic when I wasn’t paying attention. I feel proud for what I’ve accomplished at work and what I’m continually accomplishing. I also take it seriously if I make mistakes. I want to be the best that I can be.

If my past me could see what I’m like now, he wouldn’t believe it.

I guess striving to achieve a sort of promotion at work is keeping me very motivated to work hard and smart. It’s like a game where I’m trying to get my character to the next level up.

Unlike games, I have no real gauge as to how close I am to going up a level. I’ll just have to keep working at it in the hope that I’m making a difference. The good part is that it doesn’t feel like work. I find myself having fun right now.

Okay, it may be fun but I still hope that there is an added benefit for me at the end of the day. Having more disposable income is, of course, always welcome, specially when having a family.

Published in: on September 11, 2008 at 6:28 pm  Comments (2)  

Photography course: Day 6

This is a delayed post for the sixth day of my photography class. I’ve had a lot of things on my plate lately that there just hasn’t been time enough to type this up and post it. However, I want to type this up before completely forgetting about the session so here it is. The topic for this particular night is people photography.

The lecturer started the session with a challenge for us to be photo heroes. By this he meant that we should capture an image that the subject would be proud to show off and would show the subject’s personality and zest for life. The question is how we could achieve this. He suggested that we look at books for inspiration to start off with and try to achieve something similar to what we like.

He then went into giving us tips on how to take photos indoors with soft natural light coming in from windows, shooting in the shade outdoors and how to meter when the subject’s face has light and shadows. He also mentioned using a large aperture to throw distracting elements in the background.

Next, he stressed that subjects should be at ease and that the photographer should gain the subject’s trust. He suggested talking to the subject and telling them what you as the photographer want to achieve. This might include deciding what goes in the photo, what the subject should wear and how they would pose. However, he also stressed that the photographer should be mindful not to invade the subject’s personal space. He also mentioned that we should get our act together technically because models would quickly lose interest if they see that the photographer isn’t ready for the shoot.

Next, the instructor delved into how to take group photos at a party. He said that the usual tendency of lining up people against a wall is a big no-no because the flash would bounce off the wall and you’d end up with a horrendous photo. Instead, he suggested that the photographer be the one standing against the wall to get rid of the big shadows around the subjects. Another tip is that a blend of existing light and flash work best and that apertures should be wide open to let as much light in. He also showed examples of bounced flash and how it could put dark shadows under subjects’ eyes.

As well, he showed the class some samples of his work. He also touched on framing the subject diagonally instead of the usual vertical format. Cropping could also make a huge difference and re-enforces his mantra of focusing on the subject and not wasting space.

Lastly, the lecturer suggested that sometimes a simple change in the photographer’s point of view could make a huge difference in a photo. He said that we should take as much photos as we could but stop when we feel that the models are becoming tired. Again, this emphasises the major role of communication and putting your model at ease. As he kept saying, if you’re model’s uncomfortable, it will show!

Published in: on September 8, 2008 at 12:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Photography course: Day 7

Click here to view photo album

We had our final photography workshop yesterday at Melbourne Uni. The first exercise called for architecture shots around the square and we were only given 45 minutes to complete the task. The course coordinator explained that learning to shoot on a limited time frame would also be good exercise in preparation for times when we need to join a tour group where stops are scheduled.

Aside from the architecture shots, we were also required to make a self-portrait, one that made me go, uh-oh, mainly because I wasn’t carrying a tripod with me. Even if the point of the exercise was for us to learn how to use the timers on our camera, I still had the problem of where to put my camera while taking the said self-portrait. To see what I dreamed up, please see the photo album above. Even though the focus was off, I was a quite happy with the first shot.

Since the previous lectures leading up to the workshop were about composition and people photography, we had our group portrait taken by the club member who’s known for his work in portraits. He took the photos from a balcony and had us in a rough circle below looking up at him. The course coordinator explained that this trick works because it’s easy to organise, relative heights of the subjects don’t matter as much and is flattering (mostly to avoid double chins).

After that, we practised taking solo portraits and were mentored by another club member who works in fashion photography. He had the model standing casually against a wall with plenty of light coming in through the arches along a hallway and he discussed how pointing the flash either to the left or right when taking the shot vertically affects the resulting photograph. He also mentioned that we need to talk to the model and make her/him feel at ease. We took turns taking the model’s photograph. When my turn came, it was then that it dawned on me that not only do I have to make the model comfortable, I would have to be comfortable with the situation as well, which I wasn’t. Anyway, the model was gracious enough to let me take her photo twice and I thought they turned out well. However, I don’t think I would like to do a lot of portrait photography after that, specially on total strangers. I’m just too awkward with it and art direction’s not my strongest suit either.

The session was fun overall and I learned a lot by taking the advice of several club members and being able to try the advice straight away.

Published in: on September 1, 2008 at 9:27 pm  Leave a Comment