Still life, take 2

Click here to view photo album

My work mate liked my photos of the worker statues yesterday that she asked me to bring my camera with me today. We went out together at lunch time and took another go at shooting the statues with our own cameras then swapped cameras. Here are my own shots using my Nikon D40x.

Published in: on August 19, 2008 at 1:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Still life


A work mate brought her Canon 400D today and I had a bit of a play with it. Most of the photos I took were fuzzy, dark and had the focus on the wrong thing. It was a bit frustrating because I wanted to test the lens, a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens, which is supposed to be tack-sharp and allows heaps of light. I guess it goes to show that a good understanding of how your camera works is the foundation of taking good photos.

Anyway, these are the best of the batch and I loved the depth of field on these. It’s a bit of a cliche but I just couldn’t resist taking photos of these businessmen statues!


Published in: on August 18, 2008 at 11:55 am  Comments (2)  

Estoy aprendiendo español

I’ve been studying Spanish for the past few weeks now. It’s something I had wanted to pick up since I was very young. I had wanted to be able to read the old history books, documents and literature from the Philippine Spanish era.

I only picked it up because I was itching to master another language apart from Tagalog and English. I thought that maybe I could continue learning Chinese or Japanese but changed my mind about the two.

After watching Spanish films like El Espinazo del Diablo (The Devil’s Backbone), Labirinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth) and El Orfanato (The Orphanage), my interest in Spanish was rekindled. I watched the films with the English subtitles but I realised that I could pick up a lot of what the characters in the film were saying even without looking at the subtitles. I knew some of the words because these words are part of the Tagalog language, Tagalog words loaned from the Spanish tongue.

That got me thinking. Instead of Chinese or Japanese, maybe I could learn Spanish first instead. I might be able to master Spanish faster than Chinese or Japanese. I’m very keen on learning Spanish to begin with anyway.

After a few weeks of studying, I did find that Spanish was a lot easier to learn than Chinese or Japanese thanks to all the Spanish words I already know. I also found the pronunciation easy too because of its similarity with Tagalog. In the end, I’m enjoying myself and feeling really motivated.

I want to be able to watch more Spanish films without the assistance of any subtitles. I want to be able to read Jose Rizal’s letters and works in the original Spanish. I want to gain a better understanding of the culture we Filipinos share with the rest of the Hispanic world.

Speaking of the Hispanic world, as an aside, I found this funny film clip of an advertisement from Spain about their Metro trains:

I really liked the commercial but apparently there were Filipinos who found the ad offensive, for some reason. I can’t see why. The Philippines in the ad looked tranquil and charming. The townsfolk all seem very pleasant and in the end, they were able to make their own Metro!

Anyway, I got to get back to my studies. ¡Hasta luego!

Published in: on August 16, 2008 at 10:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tale of the tinned tuna

It all started when Gabriel opened a tin of tuna to prepare our breakfast sandwiches for the next day. He was in the kitchen and I was in the rumpus when he exclaimed that something’s not right with the tin he just opened. Imagining the worse, I thought there was something dead and rotting inside the tin, or something that shouldn’t be there, like maybe a dead insect or something. There was something inside the tin that shouldn’t be there alright, but it was not a disgusting insect or anything rotten.

You see, the tin he opened was labelled Caramelised Onion and Tomato and yet the contents of the tin had a white sauce instead of the expected red. We were so dumb-founded that we both stared at the tin on the counter for several seconds, maybe even a minute or two, trying to reconcile the label with the contents and wondering what the hell has gone wrong?

We ran a fork into the center of the tin to see if maybe half of the contents are right but all we saw was tuna, mustard seeds and white sauce. I was still staring stupidly at this suspect tin while hubby got another tin marked Caramelised Onion and Tomato from the cupboard. He opened that and breathed a sigh of relief as he saw the expected red sauce. Looks like the first tin of tuna was an aberration after all and didn’t affect the whole batch.

Curious as to what the first tin contained, I proposed that we eat it. Horrified, hubby said that maybe I shouldn’t and maybe it’s not safe. Well, if curiosity killed the cat, this cat could have been killed by a tin of tuna because I ate it anyway. I poked around the can some more, smelled the contents, tasted it and proceeded to spread it onto a slice of bread. It tasted like tuna with mayonnaise and mustard and a later search in the manufacturer’s site made us conclud that the tin actually contained the Seeded Mustard Mayonnaise flavour. It was nice and hubby actually liked it but we were still disappointed that we now have one less Caramelised Onion and Tomato and we were already looking forward to that for our breakfast the next day.

The next day, I showed the tuna of the photo to a work mate and she said that I should write the manufacturer expressing my concern. I was planning to send the company a proper snail mail complete with a print of the photo I took of the two tins side by side. Having to compose the letter, print the photo and then mailing the letter just seemed to be too much work though and I finally settled on filling out the online form on the manufacturer’s site.

It took a couple of days for them to reply. The contents of the email basically had a reference number on it, inviting me to call their customer service lined on weekdays from 9am-5pm. At this point, I just couldn’t be bothered anymore and replied to the email that I have given them all the information they needed to rectify the problem (I sent them the barcode number and the numbers stamped on top of the tin, but not the photo as there isn’t a facility to attach photos in their online form). That was a couple of days ago and I thought that was the end of it.

However, I got an envelope bearing the manufacturer’s name yesterday containing a letter, a page of recipes flogging their corned beef and a mail order cheque for $3. Here’s part of the body of the letter.

Incorrect labelling is very unusual because of the strict precautions taken to ensure that each container has the right label. What may have happened in this case is that an error has occurred either in sorting or in feeding labels into the machine, and this has been missed during final inspection before packing.

As a result of your report, our Quality and Production staff have been advised so that corrective action can be taken.

We are concerned that you have been inconvenienced as a result of this incident and, as a gesture of goodwill, we have enclosed reimbursement for your purchase. We value your custom and trust you will continue to enjoy our products in the future.

Should you require further information do not hesitate to call us on our Consumer Services Helpline (number given).

And with that, I suppose that is the end of the whole tale. I’m still a bit wary of their product though and haven’t bought anything else from them since the tuna incident. I buy things from manufacturers expecting that I get what I paid for and that it has passed stringent quality checks. Although package mislabelling doesn’t seem to be such a big deal in this instance, it somehow casts a shadow of doubt on what else could go wrong or has gone wrong in their production process.

Would I buy from their brand again? Not if I can help it.

Published in: on August 15, 2008 at 12:23 pm  Comments (5)  

Madeira cake out of a box

I’m not a fan of anything pre-mixed but figured I should probably try some before I knock them so when the local supermarket had a promotion of 2 cake mixes for cheap, I bought two. This is the first of the two I’ve baked. I followed the instructions on the box exactly, going as far as timing the mixing on the stop watch function of my mobile phone. It’s pretty much fool-proof I guess, just add two eggs and milk.

The finished product came out looking just like the photo on the box and the cake was moist and had a very nice texture to it. We weren’t too keen on the lemony taste of the cake though and I bought most of the batch to work. A work mate rated it “very nice”.

Hmmm… maybe this pre-mix thing isn’t too bad after all? Don’t know about that though as I scanned the ingredients list on the box and saw several ingredients with numbers in them (477 or some such thing). I guess they’re okay for when you’re in a pinch or just can’t be bothered making things from scratch but I won’t make a habit of it.

Published in: on August 14, 2008 at 7:59 am  Comments (3)  

Photography course: Day 3

The word photography came from the combination of the Greek word phos (meaning light) and graphis (meaning stylus or paintbrush) to form a word that means drawing with light. This highlights the importance of light in this kind of art, because without light, we could not see anything nor the camera be able to capture a photograph.

Last night’s lecture about light and lighting was the one I’ve anticipated the most because I want to be able to use available light properly, introduce artificial ones if necessary and use it to create mood, texture and drama. The class started with the theory of light, how light has different colour casts and how it affects the photographs we take. The instructor also mentioned the importance of paying attention to the quality of the light (hard versus soft light), size of the light and the direction from which it is coming from.

The lecturer specialises in portrait photography and it’s obvious from his body of work that he’s a skilled photographer. Unfortunately, the lecture started on a lot of concepts about light which didn’t seem to be connected to photography. After about the fourth or fifth slide about light theory, one of the class participants asked exactly what the theories had to do with photography. The instructor replied that he just wanted to emphasise how light works and not jump into light in photography without an explanation of how light might affect a photograph. However, his first few slides were quite wordy and practical examples didn’t come until later into the session. By then, I think some of the attendees were too confused or disinterested. I think his lecture would have been better served with more examples at the beginning of the session, a little less theory and perhaps a more practical live demonstration.

That is not to say though that the lecture wasn’t useful because it was. I loved the bit when he showed examples of his work and had the class guess the quality, size and direction of the light and I thought there should have been more of that. He also showed some photographs where the lighting wasn’t the best and how he worked around it or used reflectors and a flash pointed at an angle to remedy the problem.

One photograph he showed as an example was of a lady wearing a white top and black skirt standing against a black background. The light source was to the lady’s right and it wasn’t a particularly big light (if I remember correctly). The photograph came out flat and because her skirt blended with the black background, it looked like her top and therefore her torso was floating in space. In the comparison photo, a reflector was used and placed on the other side of the light source. The light gave the figure a third dimension and picked up some detail in her skirt and showed texture and the end photo came out heaps better than the first.

The lecture ended a bit over time but I stayed back a bit to flick through the lecturer’s album of photographic works. If there’s one thing I learned from the session, it’s that paying attention to the light and how it hits the subject makes or breaks a photo. Whoever coined the term photography really had hit the nail on the head, it literally is all about painting with light.

Published in: on August 13, 2008 at 8:21 am  Leave a Comment  

What’s wrong with this picture?

Bought these two tins of tuna from the supermarket on special. Aside from blurring out the brand name, the subjects and the photo were not changed in any way.

Published in: on August 12, 2008 at 7:55 am  Comments (5)  

Dinner is served

Hubby had to work late tonight and I had to eat dinner alone. Here’s what I had, chicken and zucchini soup. The original recipe called for pork but I used chicken instead although I followed the recipe exactly (although the proportions were a bit different as I rarely measure ingredients). As the recipe had no photo, I submitted mine and it got accepted. Anyway, the soup was yummy and hearty, perfect for a cold night alone.

Published in: on August 11, 2008 at 11:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Photography course: Day 2

The weather yesterday was freezing and it took all my willpower to get out of bed earlier than usual. All I wanted was to curl up in bed and stay warm under the quilt. However, it was the second day of my photography course and the first workshop session. I certainly cannot miss that despite the rain and the winter chill outside.

I expected the workshop to be a full hands-on, practical session but it turned out to be a lecture with a 15-minute break for an opportunity to take a few photos outside to support what has been discussed. The lecture revolved around the auto-focusing system of most cameras, how it gets it right most of the time and what to do when it fails on difficult situations like contrasty scenes and smooth toned backgrounds. Then there was also a discussion of the three triangles of photography – ISO, aperture and shutter speed – what they are, how they affect a photograph and how they can be used creatively.

At one point during the lecture, the instructor asked how many people in the class enrolled because they want to be able to take photos in manual mode. Since my instructors from previous photography classes frowned upon not using manual mode, I was among the participants to raise their hands. Imagine my surprise then when the instructor said that that kind of thinking probably stemmed from the belief that a good photo would have to be taken from manual mode but that he recommend we use program, aperture or shutter priority. In fact, he said that we shouldn’t attempt to use the manual mode until we’ve taken at least 10,000 photos (film) or 100,000 (digital)! His reasoning is that the camera would be able to take good photographs with these settings most of the time anyway and it’s certainly better to get the photo than missing out on the opportunity because we’re worried about having to remember what the correct settings are.

It’s a departure from what I’ve been previously taught that using these modes were just crutches that should be avoided. I definitely could understand his reasoning though and I guess as long as I learn from using aperture and shutter priority for now with a view of using manual mode once I’m comfortable doing so then it’s okay. Experience in shooting and learning which settings suits particular situations are important factors for a beginner and I suppose aperture and shutter priority would suffice for now. Perhaps he believed that we might just be discouraged if we use manual mode then get terrible photos and stop photography altogether?

Click here to view photo album

After the lecture, we had a bit of a break when we had to go out of the building and take 3 shots – one with almost no sky, one with a bit of the sky and the ground, and one with a lot of sky. It was drizzling when we went out and most participants were hesitant to expose their cameras to the rain. I quickly took a few photos and went back inside the building.

After everyone had gone back into the lecture hall, the instructor uploaded his own photos. He used aperture priority and made us take note of the camera settings and how the photos turned out. Two out of three (the ground shot and the one with sky and ground) had pretty accurate exposure but the third one, the one with the biggest portion of the sky, was under-exposed. This supported what he said about the camera getting the settings right most of the time and how it could get it wrong. He explained that the under-exposed photo was the result of the camera metering off the sky and thinking that the scene was brighter than it was. He also mentioned that the solution to the problem would be discussed in the next lecture, which would be tomorrow!

The class would also be having another workshop on Sunday in one of the CBD gardens, hopefully with more shooting involved. I’m also hoping for better weather than we got yesterday but the forecasts aren’t very good. I know there’s still a drought on but could the sky please hold it in for a few hours on Sunday?!?

Published in: on August 11, 2008 at 8:18 am  Comments (2)  

Purgatory Station

It looked like a fairly modern and large train station. There were TV monitors hanging from the ceiling showing time tables and, sometimes, some random ads. The other thing I noticed was that there were a lot of people. Some looking nervous, some looking happy, some looking really sick.

It took me a bit to realise that I didn’t know where I was and why I was there at that mysterious train station. I can’t remember how, but I found out that I was there because I was dead.

Yep. As in the train station was a sort of midway point between life and the after life. Apparently, I needed to board a train to move on to the next stage. The only problem was that nobody knows what the next stage was.

Well, actually, most of us there had a pretty good idea. The final destination was only one of two places: Heaven or Hell. The tricky part was that you’ll never know which place the train will take you until you get there.

The idea of finally going to Heaven to be one with God and leave my sinful life behind made me really excited to get on board the train. Ah, but how much of a sinful life did I lead, I wondered. Having realised that I was a little less than saintly made me dread the possibility of being sent to Hell and be tortured forever. And forever is such a long time when each minute of it will be spent in agonising pain.

Although I wasn’t the perfect boy scout I always wish I was, I had then hoped that God might judge me favourably in the end anyway so I made a ran for the train platform where there was a train waiting to leave. The train doors were closing when I got to the platform.

I was too late. The train had started to move by the time I reached one of its sealed doors. I looked around and saw that there was another train, a monorail actually, readying to go at a platform above from where I was. Even though I was out of breath, I started running up the stairs to catch the monorail.

I was too late yet again. The monorail had already moved away when I finally got to the platform. I later discovered that that was the last train trip for the day. The last train always leaves just before the sun sets. It probably wasn’t an actual sunset as there wasn’t an actual sun in that dimension but the sky was definitely growing darker.

With the darkness coming, the station was closing up shop. The stations workers started to disappear. The only people left at the station were people like me who missed the last train ride out of there or people who intentionally didn’t want to go on a train or new comers (as in, freshly dead people).

Some people chose to stay behind because they were fairly certain they will be sent to Hell. Being stuck at the station was a much better alternative for these folk. But staying at the station wasn’t all fun and games. I’ve learned through the announcements through the station monitors that when the darkness sets in, the monsters and demons usually run amok near and around the station. The announcements were vague as to what these monsters can do to us who were stuck at the station so I was a bit worried about that.

I stepped outside the station and I saw more people approaching the station. These are the newly dead. I thought, at least there’ll be many of us tonight to fend the monsters off. Safety in numbers, as it were. I looked at the new people and was glad to see a familiar face. It was my boss from work!

I suppose I shouldn’t have been gleeful to see him as that meant he was as dead as I was but I was just happy to meet someone I knew at the station. I told him we were basically dead. He already knew. He also knew how we died. Apparently, the makers of the competitor to our product placed a curse on the development team. And now we were dead.

The entire team? I looked behind him and saw my co-workers walking towards the station. I didn’t see any of the girls in our team though. Lucky them.

One of the remaining workers at the station started to herd us back in the station where it was supposedly safer. I so didn’t look forward to the monsters coming in but there wasn’t anything we can do now. It was completely dark outside then.

Then, I was awake. Raquel woke me up just in time. I was so happy and relieved to be awake! Raquel later told me that all she did was tapped me and I was suddenly wide awake. Usually, it takes a lot more than that to wake me up, she claims.

That dream definitely made me rethink the way I’m living my life at this time. Have I been following all the commandments faithfully? Have I been a good enough person? What awaits me when I die? Only God knows.

Published in: on August 7, 2008 at 11:48 pm  Comments (4)