diary of a budding design genius

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Fake Miniature Photography

I’ve been seeing this a lot online lately. You can make a real live scene look like a photo of a miniature by using special lenses. I don’t have these lenses, but I did research and found out how you can fake a fake miniature photo through Photoshop. I tried it out and had so much fun, I did it to several photos from my latest trip.

Miniature Maui Beach Scene

Miniature Hotels

Miniature House by the Sea

Miniature Lighthouse

Miniature Taro Fields

Miniature Waimea Canyon

Miniature Waterfall - doesn't seem as convincing when there's water



Being higher than the clouds

Another mountain to cross off my bucket list…

Finally, after planning for months, we got a chance to climb Mt. Pulag in Benguet, the highest peak in Luzon, the 2nd highest in the Philippines. Being a small group, we couldn’t afford to charter a jeepney on our own, so we risked it and boarded the 11:00pm Victory Liner to Baguio, hoping to find a group we could share a jeepney with when we got there. We were lucky enough encounter a group of “over 40” mountaineers who called themselves The Bandidos. They were already sharing a jeep with a couple, Eric and Rina, but there was enough room for us.

After a few hours on the road (including a brief ride on the roof among our packs), we finally reached the DENR station where we had to register and get briefed on the park’s rules and regulations. The camping grounds are part of a protected National Park and is the territory of several Benguet tribes. Respect for the environment as well as the native tribes were clearly emphasized. The Leave No Trace principles definitely had to be followed. Our group’s names were registered with a team leader, first aider and sweeper assigned per group. We ended up being the Chopsuey group along with Eric and Rina. Then off to the jeeps, where we rode for a couple more hours before finally reaching the ranger station — and that’s where the real adventure began.

Top ride on the Jeepney

From the ranger station, its a 3 hour hike to camp 2 where we spent the night. The hike starts in a pine forest, but as we climbed higher, it gradually changed into a mossy oak forest. Just hiking through the forest presented so many photo ops already. The plant life in that high altitude is already very different. The mossy trees were intriguing, as were the endemic dwarf bamboo and the wild berries along the trail. It was a steady climb, but my preparation for this climb consisted of just a couple of short runs and my weekend walking all over Singapore. My walking stick proved to be a worthwhile investment which helped me a lot during the climb. I got a little extra help as well with carrying my pack part of the way with the porter Alice and I hired to help us alternately.

Starting the trek

Oak Forest

Mossy Oak Forest

White flower growing between the rocks

Dwarf Bamboo

More strange plant life

When the mossy oaks finally gave way to rolling hills, we knew we were close to camp. We were among the early ones to arrive and the campsite still had plenty of choice spots left. We set up camp on a relatively flat patch of grass with a view of the peak and the great big blue skies. When the tents were up, and the packs stowed, we went into the tent and promptly fell asleep. It was early afternoon.

My gear beside a little clump of dwarf bamboo

resting before setting up camp

Erika Jumps

We woke up to find that our isolated campsite wasn’t so serene anymore. Other groups had come and tents had sprouted everywhere. The tent directly across from ours belonged to a family from Benguet who had brought their one year old baby up the mountain to celebrate her first birthday. The baby actually had an envious climb. She didn’t have to carry any pack, her mother carried her all of the way and diapers meant she didn’t need to worry about using the common latrines (read: a hut with a hole in the ground… a lot of people miss).

The view from inside the tent

The baby from the tent across ours

It was only 4pm, but we had nothing to left to do for the rest of the day, so we decided to work on dinner. It turned out to be a great idea, because after we tucked in our tuna aglio olio with olives and capers, it began to rain. That wasn’t completely unexpected, so we retired to the tent. After browsing through our photos and a couple of card games, we geared up for the cold night ahead. I was asleep by 7:30pm. In anticipation of the nighttime low temperatures, I wore almost all the clothes I brought. I wore two pairs of socks, a pair of tights under thick jogging pants, a thermal top, a t-shirt and a fleece jacket. All these under 2 blankets in my silk sleeping bag and I still woke up several times because of the cold. I was so tempted to wear a 2nd pair of tights, but it was too complicated to get out from under the covers and change in the cramped tent. Anyway, we were up for real by 3am to prepare for our ascent to the peak. We needed to be up in time for the sunrise.

Eric and Rina were life savers offering us warm Nescafe Brown ‘n Creamy (warm because nothing would stay hot for long in the cold). I added my extra pair of tights, waterproof jacket, gloves, scarf and bonnet to my already bulky outfit, put on my shoes, grabbed my camera, headlamp and walking stick and was ready. . . or so I thought.

Racing to the peak before dawn

The two hour climb to the peak was extra difficult for me, even if we weren’t carrying any packs. It could be the lack of sleep, the thin mountain air, or the fact that it we were going at a fast pace, racing against the sunrise. The sun started peeking out of the clouds when we were only halfway there. We went even faster (or at least I tried). The effort of the climb warmed me up and made me break a sweat, so I gradually shed my layers of clothing as we climbed. Slowly, but steadily, I pushed myself up the final assault to welcome the glorious view at the highest point in Luzon. The weather was perfect. The view, made the climb worth it. We were higher than the clouds. It was so cold I had all my clothes on again, down to the gloves. The tops of mountains all around peeked through the clouds. The morning sun cast warm yellow rays on the surrounding rolling, grassy hills. It painted a scene I will always remember.

A sea of clouds

You can see part of the trail we took from camp to the peak

Gorgeous view

Mountains as far as you can see. . .

See that cloud covered mountain?

Morning Sun

Conquering Mt. Pulag

Are we dressed for The Philippines?

Hundreds of photos later, happy and hungry, we headed back to the tent for breakfast, then to break camp and to head back to Baguio, back to Manila and on to new adventures.

Heading back

The Seven Leave No Trace Principles


  1. Plan ahead and prepare.
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  3. Dispose of waste properly.
  4. Leave what you find.
  5. Minimize use and impact of fire.
  6. Respect Wildlife.
  7. Be considerate of other visitors.

Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but time.


Singapore Photo Diary

A weekend in Singapore. A little bit hot. A little bit rainy. Painful feet. Shopping and eating to death. Still more to see next time.


I won!

OHMYGOD. I must have said that a hundred times tonight. Today I joined the Filipinas Heritage Library’s Alcove Perspective Photography Challenge. I joined it for fun — just for the experience. . . but guess what? I won 1st place!

The Photography Challenge is like Amazing Race for photographers. We were given a shoot list at the beginning of the competition, and 3 hours to take all the photos. That might seem easy for a list of 22 photos, but it’s not! We spent so much time crossing off the items on the list; trying to get the perfect angle, trying to take a photo that’s different from everyone else’, changing lenses, waiting for the sun to come out, etc. Plus, when we submitted our memory cards they could only contain 1 shot for every item on the list.

First on the shoot list is a shot of the Filipinas Heritage Library (formerly Nielsen Tower, the country’s 1st airport). We could either take a shot of books or the look of the building. Here’s the shot I chose.Ayala Triangle – We were supposed to take a photo of the following monuments.

Gabriela Silang with emphasis on the bolo:Ninoy Aquino against one of the buildings surrounding it: We didn’t have time to cross and get a better angle, so it’s a shot of his butt. . .Sultan Kudarat – We didn’t get to this at all. We were running out of time.

Acacia Tree – a shot of an acacia tree inside the Ayala triangle gardens with emphasis on texture

Buildings by L.V. Locsin

We were supposed to look for the common feature among these 3 buildings built by the same architect, LV Locsin. I think it’s the complicated corners and the strong lines.

Makati Stock Exchange (I took this from the island in the middle of Ayala Ave. with my fisheye lens and cool white balance)

The LV Locsin building. (Used vibrant color mode and fisheye)

And the PLDT building, same lens, same settings

Greenbelt Park

The paperclip sculpture by Arturo LuzThe cross sculpture at the chapel, also by Arturo LuzWe were supposed to take a photo of a family at or near the fashion walk. The mom didn’t want her photo taken, but these kids were game.

We were also supposed to take photos of flora and fauna in the park. That’s where my macro lens proved most useful. Here’s flora:Here’s my fauna. After taking numerous boring shots of maya birds and frustrated attempts to shoot fish and turtles in the muddy water, I had already given up and was looking for a flora shot when I came upon this spider. I’ve named him Lucky.While we were at it, we were supposed to take a photo of a smiling guard at the Ayala Museum. Thanks Manong Guard!

Glorietta- We were on the lookout for the following:

a child playingThere was a shortage of children playing at Glorietta today. Most submitted shots were probably of Boknoy, a cute chubby kid playing with a pull-toy. I stole this shot from upstairs though and decided to submit it instead. I wish the kid was more in focus.

– a directional signage

– something redFountain at Manila Pen

A challenge on the list was to take a photo of the fountain at the corner of The Manila Peninsula Hotel. Its moving so the challenge was — do we blur it or freeze it? This was a shot I took quickly from afar. We intended to cross the street to get a closer shot of the water, but we didn’t have time.Finally as we ran around Ayala Ave and Makati Ave, we were supposed to find a chance to shoot:

An e-jeepney –  No e-jeepneys in sight today. I don’t think anyone was able to take this.

A lady with an umbrella – For some weird reason, considering its a rainy day, all the people I saw with umbrellas were male. I think I would have had better luck looking for  a lady with an umbrella on a bright sunny day,

Street Food – I didn’t see any either! I think street food vendors don’t roam around as much on Saturdays.

Philippine Flag – The only one I was able to take!

Despite not winning anything in the raffle and re-twisting my bad ankle on my 1st shot, the sweat, the rain, the walking and the poor food, I’ve more than ROI-ed on my registration fee. Quite unexpectedly, my name was called last – 1st place! I really think it was because of Lucky the spider. Now that’s my favorite macro shot.

My loot. Yes, the Piolo journal and the Oreo are really part of it. We also went home with goodie bags with Tang, Oreos, Tiger cookies and a Digital Photographer magazine.

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My favorite macro shots

I got my Lumix GF1 just a couple of weeks before Christmas. Ordered from Amazon during the Black Friday Sale, delivered to my tita’s house and brought home by my mom. I found a $30 fisheye lens from Amazon as well. It attaches to the 20mm pancake lens. It comes with a macro lens. The fisheye won’t work without the macro lens. As much fun as it would be to play around with the fisheye lens, I have yet to travel and take landscapes with it. For now, I’m having more fun with the macro lens.

Here are some of my favorite macro shots: