trip to maine (running away from irene) part 1

slow shutter

view from our 8th floor hotel window

Last 25th of August 2011 we drove to Boston, Massachusetts on our way to Maine. The drive to Boston was a bit boring because it was traffic in New York and it was just a nightmare, who ever wanted to drive through New York everyday? Was it because of the road design or was it because of the drivers? No matter, more than an hour to go through a bridge was not fun and definitely not an everyday task.

After we passed New York the drive was a bit better, back to normal speed. It was raining that day because of the impending hurricane Irene on the way to assault the east coast. Frankly, we took the trip not even minding the hurricane on how was it going to affect the area. My wife planned the visit to her friend and that was all there was to it. Packed the small Ford Focus SE 2011 for the trip and it was enough for the luggage and great with mileage, I believe it was about 35 miles to the gallon of the combined traffic and highway drive.

Upon our arrival to Boston, I noticed that structures were built on top of the highway literally. The traffic pass through under the hotel which was a bit odd. Checked in at Crowne Plaza Hotel that was going renovation. We rested a bit while my wife was going through some tourist attractions in the area. We set out and went to the Prudential Center and went up the skywalk. I need to tell you that I do not go well with heights and I do not know why. Up in the skywalk my knees were a bit shaky and feels like the floor was shaking underneath my feet. Not to mention that an earthquake shook the east coast just a few days ago.

I did not even go near the glass window to look down because I knew that it was just not possible for me. I was taking pictures about eight feet away the window ledge. As evident from the pictures I took seen on the gallery. The lens I took for my Sony Alpha 850 was a Sony 50 mm F/1.4 lens and probably regret because I did not get a closer picture of Fenway Park. I was with my daughter all the time where as my wife and son were doing the audio tour.

We spent most of our night at the skywalk and then just drove around the city and went to Fenway Park. The park was not that big and it was not attractive as compared to other baseball stadiums. Was it because it was just night time and there was no home game? That night the restaurants and bars were not packed, however, I noticed that they are open literally (no windows because you can just walk through it to get to your table or the bar. After, we grabbed dinner at Bertucci’s near our hotel. The pizza in the picture was pizza verde and it was incredible. Back at the hotel, I just realized that the drive in Boston was not as bad compared to New York. Traffic flow in the city was a breeze and I did not see any homeless people roaming the city streets. The smell was fresher as compared to New York. Not that I was biased or something but I was not never a fan of New York and I cannot explain why.

I used on camera flash when I took the shots in the skywalk and I used off camera flash (naked) in the hotel room shots. I could have used an umbrella or softbox for the hotel room shots, however, when the subjects were always in a hurry that will be impossible to do. I did not even use a light stand, well I used voice activated light stand. The blog photo was tough because I was shooting through a big window that cannot be opened, hence, it was imperative that all room lights are off to minimize light reflections. Also, during this shoot there was a thunder storm across the horizon and I was able to accidentally capture one as can be seen in the gallery.

hard rock cafe

hard rock cafe philadelphia

ISO 800 F/4 1/15 second (click picture for gallery)

I was asked by a friend, Eugene, if I wanted to shoot with him last Saturday (17 September 2011) at Hard Rock Cafe in Philadelphia. Since I had no plans whatsoever, it was a no brainer. We got there around 6 PM and the staff were busy doing their preparation and the cafe was closed to public. We parked our stuff in one of the offices and chose to use flashes. It was a good decision because in no time later the cafe was packed.

Prior to the guests pouring that time, we setup single strobe to take pictures of the buffet they set up for the guests. I should have used some diffuser to cut the harsh lights on the reflective surfaces on the buffet table, however, I did not have time to grab them from the basement and then back up since people were already in the cafe. I also decided to use on camera flash to take pictures of the guests, I should have brought Gary Fong’s light dome. However, my Sony HVL 58 AM was up for the tasks and did great. My gear for the shoot aside from the light stands that were used for the buffet tables were: Sony Alpha 850; Sony 50 mm F/1.4; Sony HVL 58 AM; a couple of Vivitar 285 and Pocket Wizards for wireless triggers.

My camera setting was mostly on F/4 and the shutter speed is 1/50 second (and changed it to 1/20 towards the later part of the shoot) and my ISO was 400. My sony flash came with a small bounce card which proved to be handy as well as the flash itself was so versatile that by keeping it vertical (like ceiling bounce) and bended it at an angle made the light fall better on the subject. I know F/4 will not give you sharp focus on other guests except the ones on the same focal plane as the focused subject but I can live with that as well as the aperture will save batteries on my flash. I focused on women’s eyes more because, heck, they need to be looking best than men.

I also practiced my social skills by asking the guests before I snapped their pictures. I would say 95% did not mind having their pictures taken whereas the remainder were asking a lot of questions like: where will the pictures be posted? what purpose? and all the crap. Well, the one thing that stood out in my head that time were a couple of things: they might be under witness protection program or the person they were with might not be their partner. However, that was a good training for me before I do street photography, in addition to getting skills on interacting with strangers. There was this incident in a shot I took of a group of guys who were glued on the television screen watching college football and I snapped away, as soon as I was walking away there was this guy who asked me if I asked his permission, I simply said no and I apologize. I think I asked him if he wanted me to delete the picture, I did not because he did not ask me to or probably he was just in some power trip of some sort or just busting my chaps.

To my amazement the battery on my camera was great, I did not even used up one battery compared to my other shoot. The secret was chimping, I did not chimp a lot. I took a shot and made my adjustment in camera (by the way I shot in manual mode, my preferred choice) and after I am satisfied with how the light fell on my subject as well as my aperture I was set and I did not have to look at the back of the camera every time I took a shot. Looking back at how I did the shots was kinda awesome (well for me at least) because after I asked their permission for the shot and took the shot, I said thank you and move to the next victim (so to speak) and all without chimping (very cool). It was like a professional photographer I saw in a wedding that took a shot and not looking at their camera (kinda like shooting in film).

What was more amazing was the post process, it did not take me a long time since there was little that I had to do. My keepers were now about 90% of all shots taken compared to less than 50% before. I hope this is telling me something. Also, I was so proud of my Sony Alpha 850 and the 50 mm lens because the pictures were so sharp.

Overall the Hard Rock Cafe experience was a delight and I would not have a chance if not for Eugene. I hope my shots are worth it to get another gig from them.

world youth day in madrid part 3

arrival at philly international airport

ISO 49 F/3.9 1/30 second (click picture for gallery)

This is the final installation for my son’s trip to Madrid, Spain for the World Youth Day. It was a very memorable experience for him because it was his very first time to travel without his family and to top it all, it was a foreign travel to three European countries: France, Portugal and Spain. He joined the contingent of the Alliance of the Holy Family International which comprised of several attendees from different countries. Their contingent travelled the countries on two buses that ended in Madrid for the culmination of World Youth Day.

The trip was not a vacation of some sort because they were busy visiting religious sites and when they retire to their hotels for the night, they did evening prayers as well as morning prayers. It was a sacrifice on their part and yet my son told me that it was a rewarding experience.

To view the gallery please click on the picture and click here for the videos.

world youth day in madrid part 2


ISO 400 F/3.9 1/90 second (click picture for gallery)

This is the second posting of my son’s pictures taken during his trip to World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid. This has more pictures and videos than the first one. Click here for the videos where all the pictures will be posted as part of this blog, click the picture and it will bring up a slideshow.

Having looked at the pictures gave me a sense of being there, however, it still does not compare to being actually there. On this post, the pictures here is a compilation of his trip to Madrid then to Lourdes and then back to Madrid. Looking at the videos and pictures I would have thought that he did not rest during the bus ride. It was really amazing on his part to be able to visit such religious sites, something like a pilgrimage that is priceless. The experience he gained meeting other people and learning from them as well they learning from him.

The culture, the food and people gave him an experience of a lifetime. However, I am hopeful that he will be able to go back but with the whole family next time.

the hangover

Labor day weekend, my kids went to Selbyville, NJ and left Friday night. My daughter went with Hazel and my son went with Ronald. My wife and I will follow the next day after her shift. This past week alone has been tiring because of driving, we just drove the other week to Maine and back and then this weekend driving to Delaware. I still am way delayed with the pictures I need to check and process starting with my son’s trip to Madrid for the World Youth Day 2011.

I thought I would be able to make a headway after the Delaware trip, however, it proved that it was not possible. Why, go on and real along? Well, upon arrival at Selbyville at Belinda’s timeshare house (which by the way was too big) we ate dinner and rested a while and grabbed a few beers. I then setup a tent outside because I like to try to sleep out since it was a nice weather. I also grabbed my camera gear and took a few pictures of my friends using one light. It was difficult to focus because of the lack of light, Sony Alpha 850 had a difficult time focusing, hence, I employed the aid of my friend, Eugene. It really was easy if you have somebody to assist you, thank you.

After the shooting, I then went back to drinking wine. I did not sit down for a long time since I have my own method of drinking. I don’t like to sit down because I would never know when to quit because it’s difficult to know that you are already drunk sitting down (based on my own experience). However, later on I was offered a seat and the mistake was taking it and sitting down. Then I noticed that my lips got looser and I was talking a little bit too much. I never intended to drink to much because I never wanted to get drunk and the same reason I don’t smoke because I don’t like the smell.

Well needless to say I roasted myself. I may have said things that I should not have said but Oh well, what can I do. Looking back, I did not regret things I said because they were no way embarrassing (well my point of view), however, may be misinterpreted. I believe I just blurted them out to prove a point, how I was and still am committed to my marriage. How you will be confronted with obstacles like temptation and still could hold on to your commitment, in which I am proud (but not in a boasting manner) to say that I passed with flying colors.

Having said all these, I ended sleeping in the tent and taking a couple of head popping events just outside the tent to relieve myself by throwing up. The only thing I remembered was the color of red because of the wine with lentils which are supposed to be green but were not. The next day, I had a terrible hangover and was not able to drive as well as eat or drink anything. That went on up to the night which I was only to manage to eat a few bites before going to bed early.

It was nice that Monday was a holiday and gave me time to recover. I was able to get back to my normal routine but still not a 100%. I was just lounging and watching Top Gear and Chopped. Hopefully, I could get back to my task and get caught up with my pictures (of course after all my household chores are done).


world youth day in madrid part 1


ISO 80 F/7.8 1/350 second (click picture for gallery)

On 9 August 2011 we dropped off our son, Sinjin, and Dariel at Philadelphia International Airport to attend to the World Youth Day in Madrid. They departed earlier to visit other countries and religious sites prior to attending the actual celebration on 16-21 August 2011.

We kept in contact with him almost everyday by text messages. When we received his text message we then called him at his hotel to ask him how his day was and if everything was okay. Text messages was by far effective and cheapest way to communicate. Well he and his colleague arrived back last 22 August 2011 with so many stories to tell and a boat load of pictures and videos which I am in the process of sorting out and doing a minor post edits whenever I can.

The camera he used was a Nikon CoolPix S1100 PJ, cannot complain about this point and shoot camera for it did the job of capturing moments quickly. It has less bells and whistles to control exposure as well as the white balance. The pictures with this blog was their trip to Fatima in Portugal which represented the first part of my post. Click here for the videos.