Josh's Photo Blog

August 23, 2008

En Route to LA – Airport Delay Blues

Filed under: travel — joshuaps @ 9:24 am

I’m writing this post at the Taipei airport, mooching off of free Wi-Fi (why isn’t this standard in every other airport??) while waiting for my connecting flight to LA to… um… arrive. When shuttling back-and-forth between LA and Manila, as I’ve done twice a year for the past 2 years, I prefer to take EVA Air, the Taiwanese airline. They’re actually a lot cheaper for comparable-class tickets to Manila on Philippine Airlines, and they provide decent enough service. The real clincher for me, though, is the cool on-demand movie system they have in ALL their seats – on a long-haul flight like the one I’ll (hopefully) be boarding in an hour, I can watch any of the several dozen movies and TV shows they have anytime I want. They even have relatively recent summer releases like Iron Man and Kung Fu Panda – definitely going to watch those before I fall asleep.

My back’s a bit sore from carrying around ~40lbs of camera gear, hard drives, random electronics and my laptop in a hiking backpack as carry-on luggage – more on this in another post. Basically, I can’t trust the airlines to take care of my gear, especially when it costs so much, and especially at a time when they’re trying to find every possible way to cut back on expenses and charge for things. Fortunately, the ground staff in Manila felt the same way – they weighed the bag (that’s how I know how heavy it is, heh) and motioned to check it in, but then they took one look at all the gear inside and waved me through, saying that they really, REALLY didn’t want to be responsible for all that stuff.

Hopefully my flight’s got a good pilot that can make good on the lost time. I really don’t have a lot of time to play around with once I get into LA – my classes start on Monday and I still have to move in, unpack and buy furniture. I also still have to get cable Internet – I may be online only intermittently from this point on.

I’d post a photo of where I’m at now, but I packed my card reader in check-in luggage, silly me. Oh well.

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August 10, 2008

Hong Kong, Summer 2008

Filed under: travel — joshuaps @ 3:52 pm
The legendary Hong Kong skyline on July 14, 2008

I spent quite a bit of time this summer in Hong Kong – I was there on two separate occasions with family, hanging out, shopping and visiting friends (well, a friend).

I’ve always been amazed by this glittering techno-hub, a world city barely 2 hours away from Manila by plane. Every time I go, I’m reminded of just how far the Philippines has fallen behind in the global race to prosperity.

Hong Kong residents walk by a lighted billboard outside the Harbour City mall and ferry terminal at Tsim Sha Tsui

Lee Kam Yuk, the first (official) owner of a 3G iPhone in Hong Kong. You can see that this is kind of a big deal.

The Tian Tan Buddha at Po Lin, Lantau Island on August 12, 2008
3 things to know about it:
1. Despite its appearance, it’s not terribly old – it was built in 1989
2. It’s on the same (big) island as HKIA, the huge international airport
3. It’s really, really, REALLY touristy.

A statue at the Tin Hau Temple at Repulse Bay on July 12, 2008. Probably one of my favorite shots from the summer, even though it’s a really cheap (as in easy) one.

August 7, 2008

Quest for the Ultimate Compact – The Nikon P6000 and Panasonic LX3

Filed under: gadgets — joshuaps @ 3:06 pm


For those of you who don’t check photo gear blogs as often as I do (not sure that I know anyone that does, and that’s definitely a good thing… for them. Horrible habit.), Nikon announced their new lineup of compact cameras today, including their new top-end compact, the P6000. As I shoot pretty much everything with SLR’s (read: big cameras), and as Nikon isn’t nearly as competitive in the compact camera arena as it is with the pro-looking SLR’s, this isn’t something I’d ordinarily care about. But I’m in the market for a compact camera with pro-grade features to complement my SLR (precisely why is a topic for another post), and the P6000 might be one of several models that fits the bill for me.

Until about a month ago, if you wanted a pro-grade compact camera, you bought a Canon G9, which was the only camera on the market to combine (relatively) small size with easily adjustable manual controls, a hotshoe (for taking external flashes and, more usefully, radio triggers to remotely trigger them) and the ability to shoot RAW (an image format that gives superior results to those willing to play around a bit in Photoshop) at a reasonable pace. However, the G9 had major flaws for my purposes, the most notable being a relatively narrow (not wide-angle) lens; while you could buy accessories to rectify this, doing so would add enough to the camera’s already significant size and cost to put you in the ballpark of a compact SLR like the Nikon D60, which would deliver superior image quality and speed for little extra weight and size.

The field of play started to get a little interesting when Panasonic announced their new LX3 digicam, which brought an amazing 24-60mm f/2.0-2.8 lens and (allegedly) greater image quality to the table. To put this in perspective, you can’t buy a comparable lens for a Nikon or Canon SLR, and the closest approximation to it, the Nikon 24-70 f/2.8, costs about $1700, or over three times the camera’s list price. It also happens to be a lot smaller than the G9, even with the amazing lens, and sacrifices almost nothing in features compared to the established rival (you can’t zoom in as much, but the wide-angle coverage is much more useful in practical photography)

Now Nikon’s throwing their own gauntlet into the ring, with the recent announcement of their P6000. It, like the Panasonic, promises much greater image quality and a wide-angle lens in a smaller package. While the Internet buzz seems to indicate that its RAW’s can’t be read by Macs (another item on my upgrade list, and another post topic), this isn’t an immediate concern for me, and I’m willing to bet good money that this will become a non-issue through a software update either before the camera’s release, or soon thereafter.

The camera’s one standout feature is the built-in GPS receiver, which I suppose is the tradeoff for a run-of-the-mill (though, thankfully, wide-angle) 28-110 f/2.8-5.9 lens. No, it’s not for navigating you from your house to the nearest photo opportunity, it’s meant to “geotag” your photos by recording the location where each was taken. The general idea is that, combined with Google Maps and/or Nikon’s Picturetown website, you can, over time, come up with a map of where you’ve been, with your photos annotating each destination. You can use this to scout out locations for photo shoots while walking about – take a photo of that interesting alleyway or mountaintop where the light hits just right at this hour of the day, then come back to it with your big guns when you’ve got the time and resources to make a great photo out of it. Or you could just use it to show people where you’ve gone, and where you are now. I will admit that this could end up being more than a little gimmicky, and that I’m more than a little partial to Nikon, just because their SLR’s have been very reliable. A similar menu system and full compatibility with my Nikon flashes is also quite helpful, though neither of these are deal-makers or breakers on their own.

There’s still almost 2 months to go before Photokina, the big camera show in late September where everyone brings out the latest-and-greatest. I’m probably going to wait till at least then before picking up one of those cameras, though a windfall of cash or an urgent need for something compact might swing me one way or the other

Olympic Mania!

Filed under: rants — joshuaps @ 4:46 am

Something I ask myself quite often these days, and something that is often asked of me is, why the hell aren’t you in Beijing hanging around the Olympics? I mean, the Philippines isn’t too far away, and it’s not amazingly difficult for a Filipino to get a Chinese tourist visa (I’m a dual citizen), and you’ve been to the city before, so you know what’s up, right? I mean, dude, this could be your big break, man! Yeah, I know you don’t shoot sports, Josh, but even just hanging out on the street, you’ll be rubbing elbows with the best photographers in the world, shooting the jubiliation, anguish, rallies and riots of the people of the capital of the most populous country in the world, during what is pretty much the most significant single event of the year, if not the decade.

Short answer: I didn’t prepare to go.

The long answer is, of course, quite a bit more complicated. A lot of the reason I’m not physically in Beijing right now is, of course, due to poor planning – I didn’t really think to do things like get visas or accommodation until about a month ago when it struck me that this thing might, maybe, just be a big thing. I guess that means I don’t deserve to be out there anyway, but I have resources (thanks, mom and dad!) that could have put me out there if I really wanted to.

This is where I want to spout something deep and sublime about the Western media sensationalizing the whole event, attaching deep meaning to what is essentially a really, really huge track meet hosted by a country that has been written, photographed and videoed to death, just because it, like South Korea and Japan before it, happens to have amassed enough economic clout to put some real shivers down American spines. It’d make me look like one of those cool guys that bucks the trend, the guy that appears to have missed the scoop, but surprises everyone by coming home with something that nobody else thought to do. But I won’t, and can’t, because deep down, I really do feel like the Olympics are that significant. It doesn’t take a genius, after all, to realize that anything that can unite the world’s largest country like the Olympics seem to have is kind of a really big freakin’ deal!

I think, in the end, my not going came down to family reasons. Not just the idea of leaving them early to start my coverage (though this was a big factor) but also because it would have been a big financial gamble (on the order of $3000+) with their money if I’d gone. It’s one thing to want to be there, and quite another to consider the resources that would be spent just to hover around with thousands of other photographers, hoping for some calamity to strike right in front of you, and only you, so you could sell the photos to make the money back. In the final analysis, I just couldn’t justify that kind of gross expenditure.

That said, I do want to be out covering a huge, world-changing event like that someday. I have a sinking feeling that London 2012 won’t be quite as big a deal, but who knows?

August 5, 2008

San Pedro, Laguna

Filed under: Stories — joshuaps @ 2:12 pm



I returned from San Pedro on Friday night, but I haven’t had a chance to post about it till now.

Long story short, I got nothing. At least, I didn’t get what I’d come for – a decent photo story, or a lead into one. I’d like to say it wasn’t for lack of trying, and I’m sure my companions feel the same way, but I know myself better than that.

I decided to focus on Elma (second photo), a 13-year old scavenger with a third-grade education who came from a family of six that lives on something like $2 a day. This sounds almost stereotypically tragic (it is) and like something that would be easy to make a story out of, but somehow things ended up not working out. A photo story is essentially a collection of interesting moments, but between logistical and time issues (I ended up being able to only spend a half-day following her around), weather (overexposed skies, woohoo!) and my sticking out like a sore thumb (Chinese people like me don’t often – or ever – hang around garbage dumps in this country), I wasn’t able to get enough of those interesting moments for a story.

I was, however, able to make my cameras and pretty much every article of clothing I was wearing stink to high heavens, to see more flies in one place than I’d ever imagined possible, and to see where Manila’s fast-food refuse ends up (Quick answer: in their bellies.) It was, as the saying goes, a learning experience. Photo story photos don’t come easy, by any means.

This is something I might come back to when I’m more patient and more talented, but for now I’m going to cut my losses and move on to my other story with my remaining time in the country. And I’ll keep the time commitment needed for something like this in mind when I return to LA, where I spend most of my time these days.

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