Thursday, December 2, 2010

Drawing for Drawing's Sake

I have always been facinated with the 'interior lives' of Artists and the processes by which it contributes to their 'Art.'  Danny Gregory's book, "An Illustrated Life," gives us a unique glimpse into Creativity and the creative process through the personal sketchbooks and illustrated journals of Visual Artists, Illustrators and Designers.

This book is 'eye-candy' for the visual connoisseur. It includes more than three dozen hardcore sketchbook fanatics, including comicbook illustrator Robert Crumb.

According to Gregory, "the approach is a varied as the lives the pages record. Some journal keepers are methodical... Others are wildly improvisational... " "A sketchbook is a great, nonthreatening place to begin to draw.  It is also an ideal place to develop ideas, experiment and break away from restrictions imposed by our increasingly digital workspace."

Before I studied how to make Films, I first learned Photography... My love of photography was initially sparked by my childhood doodling and facination with creating images.  I believe that all visual artists can benefit from sketching and keeping visual journals, because it cultivates our 'ways of seeing.'  These personal diaries can become mirrors into our deepest creative wells... a treasure chest for our own brand of art. 

Bryce Wymer, Illustrator/Designer Broadcast/Motion Design - "Of all my many works, my visual journals have the strongest purpose and are the truest form of Art. They are the few places where my thoughts are expressed solely for my own expectations, a vehicle for self-exploration..."

Butch Belair, Freelance Photographer/3D Illustrator - "Representing the quality of the light in a scene is something I struggle with... I find myself drawing, just to be drawing, in and of itself. I have no expectations of it other than as a way to unwind and possibly learn."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Photography 250 Miles High

The Space Station hovering 200-250 miles above the Earth

The International Space Station has been in the news lately because of the spectacular photographs taken by its resident Astronauts.  The high resolution photographs by the first three resident space station crews, totaling 13,442 images of the Earth, were amazingly sharp and accurate to spatial resolutions up to less than six meters!

The Astronauts used a variety of digital still cameras, 35mm and 70mm cameras with high-magnification lenses.  They compensated for the relative motion of the Earth, while shooting through a specially designed window in the station's Destiniy Laboratory.

Aside from being valuable records of the state of the Earth (at a certain time), scientist can now map changes occuring in very small features of the Earth's surface.  The International Space Station continues the pioneering effort that began 150 years ago with French Photographer Felix Nadar (Gaspard-Félix Tournachon) in an Air Balloon.

Astronaut photography has always facinated me.  Aside from its technical challenges, it is a 'rarified field of work' reserved for a handful of individuals -- and consequently beyond my reach.  But its impact is priceless and invaluable to each one of us.  It is an uncommon ground where Science and Art truly meet.

I am sure you will agree that the results are truly spectacular!

A volcano erupting

A hurricane in action

See more International Space Station photographs at

-- All photographs property of NASA.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Pleasure of Collecting Old Cameras

I have a growing classic camera collection. Every since I turned professional in 2006 and was required to go digital (Advertising and Editorial Clients require digital files nowadays), I became nostalgic about film photography and all the equipment that came with it. So I started buying a few of the older cameras I have always wanted.  Before I realized what was happening, I had more than 50 cameras in my possession.

In the not so distant past, when film was still in general use, cameras were built to last. I can personally testify to the durability and mechanical reliability of these cameras, since I still use a number of them, mostly Canons, including the first 35mm my father gave me in 1978.

Century Graphic Press Camera with Heiland Flash

New digital cameras are built to have short product lives.  Technological breakthroughs now happen within months, not years.  Camera manufacturers have to keep pace with the competition and the latest upgrades in hardware and software generated by the computer industry.  As a result, manufacturers have made it a point to build less sturdy cameras, employing plastics instead of metal alloys (Pro cameras are the exception) to ensure constant replacements and upgrades.  How else can they generate sales for the their latest models.  Most Digital cameras are "throw-away" gadgets, products that are cheaper to replace than to repair, making these modern cameras unattractive to collectors in general who value, quality, durability and exclusivity.

Film cameras on the other hand, with the exception of the "instamatic" point and shoot variety that became popular from the 70's onwards (including the late Advantrix), were built solidly and were manufactured to last. Indeed, you can find a good number of cameras from the 1970s and 1980s still accurately firing despite years of heavy use-- and this goes for both the consumer oriented models, as well as the top of the line Professional models. As you go backwards in time, you will find lesser pristine examples but they do exist, but of course at a steeper price tag. This scarcity, brought about by time and the fact that there were fewer cameras manufactured in the past, makes these particular models highly collectible and attractive to collectors.

Argus C-44 with Cintagon lenses, L44 meter and viewfinder

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Paranormal Activity 2

Paranormal Activity 2 should be rightfully called, "Below Normal Activity." Because nothing happens in this film (even in the meager instances that they do).

When I came up with my own Movie Rating System, I actually never imagined using my lowest rating of "Sleep Aid" for any film-- Simply because I am a filmmaker myself and I respect the effort and determination it takes to get any Movie (no matter how lame) done.  But this se/prequel (or whatever it is) takes the prize! I actually had to struggle to remain awake.  If the film did not employ sudden loud sounds and bangs (cheap effects mostly used in bad horror/suspense movies), I would have surely slept my way through to the credits.

What amazes me about this film is its current Box Office success, which somehow redeems the Producers because they are the only ones benefiting from this film.  They were absolutely right on the money!  When a Movie becomes a hit, a sequel is a guaranteed cash cow (no matter how bad that Sequel turns out to be). The scariest aspect to this Movie might actually be its ability to earn despite being horribly bad-- a phenomenon that will certainly keep me awake at night.

It's ironic that I actually gave the original movie my highest rating "Absolutely Brilliant" (when I reviewed it last year), because it was able to deliver a high caliber horror film on a $15,000 budget.  This Sequel does exactly the opposite by using an infinitely larger $3 million budget to deliver an inferior Movie-- with exactly the same production value (shot on video) but with lesser grit and originality.  Where did all that money go?  There were no A list actors or special effects!!????  If they had Oren Peli at least direct maybe the film could have turned out better (what's the story on his Producer credit... was he booted out of this sequel? Akiva Goldsman was involved in making this film???? Seriously?).  Technique and execution will always be superior to mere Budget alone.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

"The Huntress" from my new series "Goddesses"


2010 has been a real eventful year for me... Thank God it's almost over.

Unlike previous Halloweens, when I actually went out with the kids to Trick or Treat, I had to stay home this year.  Although I have been dismissed from Occupational Therapy, I still have a long way to go in Physical Therapy before I can have my old endurance back... walking all over Corinthian Gardens was just too much for me (our neighborhood).

Aside from playing with my guitars ( I can now somewhat strum), I have been writing ever since I discovered that I can still type.  Besides scripts, I have been busy with my first novel -- which used to be in graphic form, but has now been converted into a Narrative, because of my inability to use my right hand to draw properly.

Here I am in my present state with a big scar and a depression/hole on my forehead.  I don't need to scare myself this year, all I have to do is to look into a mirror!

At the Optometrist getting my vision checked.

--Shot with a Canon 1Ds Mark II and 24-70mm f/2.8L Zoom. Author photo by Anne Prado-Magadia.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Portfolios Published with Blurb

I just finished publishing volume 1 of my advertising and portrait photography work using Blurb.  Ever since my son accidentally broke my main external hard drive (containing my original RAWs), I have been trying to puzzle back together a record of my older work.

After coming back to Manila, I was able to find some old CD ROMs, prints and miscellaneous copies of my old photographs, which I have somehow assembled to create these two portfolio books.  I am still working on my Editorial Portfolio (Volume 1), since I still need to gather actual copies of the Magazines and Newspapers I worked on.

When I started shooting professionally, I did not pay too much attention to achiving -- relying on one harddrive and CDs to record my RAW.  I lost my harddrive and I could not find my original CDs... I learned my lesson the hard way, I now use three harddrives and DVDs to file my originals.

*These books are meant for private use and should not be purchased without the consent of the author.

--Widget courtesy of

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Happy Blog Anniversary


It has been exactly one year since I started this blog.  After 90 entries (not all of them interesting to many), I am still having a lot of fun blogging about my life-long passions of Photography, Cinema and the Visual Arts.  I am quite certain, because I am now blogging just after suffering through 15 hours of  heat in a citywide blackout (the whole of Metro-Manila was out of electricity for 15 hours after last night's typhoon onslaught).

I have found blogging essential to my art, not only because it brings wider attention to my work, but it also keeps me abreast with the latest developments in the fields of photography and cinema as well as in contact with like minded individuals and fellow practitioners.

Although I love cameras (gadgets) and I do collect them, I have always underscored the primary importance of creativity and technique above technology.  I am as techie as they come, but I try my best to impart some "poetry" to my work.  I want to share a video I saw yesterday that emphasizes this point:

If you look throughout this blog, you will discover that I use both film and digital equipment, as well as the IPhone for my work.  Each camera offers me a different palette to work on.  In photography, lighting is number one -- as this video has demonstrated.  But Halogen worklights, a flashlight or even a candle can suffice, if you just take the time to master technique.

--Video from by FStoppers.  Visit .

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Harvey Pikar Dead at 70

Comicbook author Harvey Pekar, died yesterday morning in his Cleveland home.  The actual cause of death is still currently unclear, but it was known that Harvey suffered from high blood pressure, asthma, depression and prostate cancer.

According to his third wife, writer Joyce Brabner,  he went to bed around 4:30 pm Sunday in high spirits.  She found him dead, sprawled between the bed and the dresser just past midnight.

Harvey is famous for his American Splendor series of autobiographical comic books chronicling his life as a file clerk in the Veterans Administration Hospital in Cleveland.  In 1994, he wrote a graphic novel called "Our Cancer Year," with his wife Joyce focusing on his battle with lymphoma.

He will be remembered as a comic book innovator, who chose to write about the lives of ordinary people. 

Pekar's work has been illustrated by some of the most notable comic book artists of our time which includes Robert Crumb, Dean Haspiel, Jim Woodring, Alison Bechdel, Gilbert Hernandez, Eddie Campbell, Hunt Emerson, Bob Fingerman and Alan Moore among others.  Aside from writing comic books, Harvey was a prolific Jazz and book critic.

I became a fan of Harvey after seeing the film adaptation of American Splendor by Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman (which I highly recommend).  We will all miss you Harvey.

Here is a clip from one of Harvey's guest appearances on the Letterman Show (1987):

--Video clip from by jerkylfish.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Total Picture Seminar

Actor Martin Landau and me

Last November 14 and 15, I had the priviledge of attending "The Total Picture Seminar"-- A seminar I still regard as one of the best seminars in filmmaking I have ever attended.  Hosted by multi-awarded Hollywood veterans: Martin Landau, Mark Rydell and Lyle Kessler, the seminar delivered exactly what it advertises, "a total picture" or rather an in-depth look into the process of filmmaking.

I waited for a while to blog about it, because I was hoping to coincide my entry with a new seminar date.  But for one reason or another, this has not happened.  I am hoping that they will still be able produce this seminar once more, because I strongly believe that a lot of new filmmakers, actors and writers out there (specially the Independents) would greatly benefit from the extensive work and experience these three esteemed industry veterans are willing to share.

Up to this date, this seminar has truly been a "once in a life-time special event" for all the filmmakers, directors, actors and writers who were lucky enough to attend.  Martin, Mark and Lyle not only shared their techniques in acting, directing and writing respectively, but also rare insights into the collaborative process between these disciplines as well as entertaining stories and anecdotes about their major works.  The attendees were also given a chance to participate in several hands-on workshops doing actual "scene work" supervised by the three.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Congratulations President Aquino

Expectations are high as Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III took the oath of office as the 15th President of the Philippines at the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta Park this noon.  Promising a new era of good governance and a corruption free government, he has set a high bar for his term.  Winning the elections literally on the coattails of his famous parents, patriot and martyr Ninoy Aquino and former President Cory Aquino, Noynoy vows to continue the legacy and vision set by his father and mother.

On his way to the inauguration this morning, he commanded his entourage and security detail to stop at each stop light -- an unpresidented gesture, since most Philippine national and local officials (to the lowest rank) consider their motorcade above any rules of street traffic and would badger motorist to give way no matter how congested and narrow the streets are.  A small step, but a huge gesture to people like me who believes in fair play in all segments of society.

Congratulations Mr. President!  May you succeed where all others have miserably failed.

--Photo from the Associated Press.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Amazing Sand Artist from Ukraine

Kseniya Simonova, the 2009 winner of the TV show "Ukraine's Got Talent," is an amazing sand painter. She started drawing with sand after her business collapsed during the 2008 financial crisis.  With less than a year's experience with the medium, she entered the competition and emerged in first place, taking home 1,000,000 Hryvnia (approx. USD125,000).  Her talent is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.  Failures and defeats are just temporary, if we just keep on shooting for the stars!

The 25 year-old artist uses a gigantic light-box and employs dramatic music, sound effects and a large projection screen behind her to create live performances that are poetic and politically charged at the same time. I was amazed and riveted the first time I saw her video... I immediately knew that I was seeing a genuinely gifted artist/storyteller and I had to spread the word.  

Her videos on YouTube are very popular and have received millions of hits.  I can watch her for hours.  Here is an example of her work from on video on YouTube:

--Videos from

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mamiya RZ33 kit

Christmas in June ???? For Mamiya RZ photographers, it certainly is! Mamiya just announced a dedicated digital back for Mamiya RZs in a kit called "RZ33" (bundled with a RZ ProIID body).

The RZ33 kit includes a Mamiya RZ ProIID camera body with 33mp focusing screen, Mamiya cable-free Digital Integration Plate, Mamiya DM33 digital back & battery, battery charger, FW800 cable (for tethered shooting) and software.  The RZ ProIID body (which has been around for several years) of course features Mamiya's advance microprocessor technology through it's cableless MSC (Mamiya Serial Communication) system.  The Mamiya DM33 digital back (which I featured last October in this blog) manufactured by Leaf/Phase One/Mamiya features a 33 megapixel 48 x 36mm CCD 16 bits/channel sensor with a burst rate of 1.1 sec/frame and a 12 f-stop dynamic range.  It has a user selectable ISO range of 50-800 and a 6 x 7 cm touch screen LCD.  The ProIID body communicates with the digital back wirelessly through the special Mamiya RZ cable-free Digital Integration Plate which features RZ's unique revolving back, which provides horizontal or vertical composition without moving the camera body sideways.  

Monday, May 31, 2010

Wolfgang Live - Concert Photography

Work and play can definitely coincide side by side... that is what I learned after covering the recent "Wolfgang" concert last May 15 in Manila.

Anne interviewed the band for Sandbox Productions (Smart Cellular Phone Data) and I took concert photographs. It was my first official 'concert assignment' and I was hyped to the max. The concert was broadcasted online to 22 countries and since the band seldom performs live, ever since Basti Artadi (the singer) transferred to San Francisco, it was a concert no fan wanted to miss. I have been a Rock fan for a long time and I just recently took up the guitar (electric) as a hobby. Marrying my photography with my love of Rock Music was a treat I just could not pass up.

I have taken pictures with show/stage lights before, so I knew that I was well covered -- light wise. I used my 7D, mainly because of its higher light sensitivity (as opposed to my current 1Ds). Anticipating a rowdy crowd, I decided to leave my L primes and zooms at home and opted for my APS-C Sigmas (EX f/2.8 10-20mm and 18-50mm). Not wanting to leave without a telephoto, I also brought my Canon F/4 L 70-200mm.

Here are some shots from that concert:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Cannes 2010

Congratulations to all the winners of this year's Cannes Film Festival.

Thai Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Palme d'Or: "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives," directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Thailand).

Grand Prize: "Of Gods and Men," directed by Xavier Beauvois (France).

Jury Prize: "A Screaming Man," directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (Chad).

Best Director: Mathieu Amalric for "On Tour" (France).

Prize of Un Certain Regard: "Hahaha," directed by Hong Sang-soo (Korea).

Best Actor: Javier Bardem, "Biutiful" (Mexico) and Elio Germano, "La Nostra Vita" (Italy).

Best Actress: Juliette Binoche, "Certified Copy" (Iran).
Best Screenplay: Lee Chang-Dong, "Poetry" (Korea).

Camera d'Or (Best Debut Feature): "Ano Bisiesto" directed by Michael Rowe (Mexico).

Best short film: "Chienne d'Histoire," directed by Serge Avedikian (France).
Here is the official trailer of "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives," directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, winner of this year's Palme d'Or:

--Trailer from YouTube by houdinistudio.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Robbery at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris

In Paris, a few hours ago, a thief broke into the Museum of Modern Art and got away with five modern masterpieces nearly worth half a billion Euros. Among the stolen pieces are paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Leger, Modigliani and Braque.

A lone thief, disguised in a hood and face cover, was captured by the museum's security cameras leaping through a broken window.  The security system of the museum, one of the most secure in the city, was disabled during the time of the theft. According to authorities, the anti-theft system and most of the security cameras have been broken for the past few days prior to the crime.  Investigators are now considering the possibility of an "inside job." Paris museums have been regularly targeted by Art thieves working for private collectors, and are sometimes aided by low salaried museum insiders/workers.

One of the biggest Art thefts in history, initially estimated by the prosecutor's office to total 500 million Euros, has now been downgraded by museum experts to an estimate of just around 100 million Euros.  The experts say that the stolen paintings would be impossible to sell in the open market where they would easily be spotted and would instead be sold at a substancial discount to private individuals. Despite that, it is still priceless and would definitely fetch an enormous amount.

Among the paintings stolen are Picasso's "Dove with Green Peas" (1912):

Matisse's "Pastoral" (1906):

Braque's "Landscape with Olive Tree" (1906):

Modigliani's "Woman with Fan" (1919):

...and Leger's "Still Life with Chandelier" (1922):

It never seizes to amaze me what people are capable of.  I might still be able to understand the 'money motive' of the thief, but the end collectors who buy these things to keep them, are beyond my comprehension.  Since they cannot sell these art pieces for at least a hundred years (or even more), because they are recognizable, the only other motive left I can think of is "pure selfishness" -- they want to keep these treasures for themselves.  For these people, visiting a museum is not enough...  they want to deprive the public from experiencing these masterpieces too.

Here is a clip from Reuters on the Theft in Paris:

-- Photos from the Museum of Modern Art in Paris. Video by

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Manoel de Oliveira - Still Making Films at 101 (Years Old)

Acknowledged as the oldest living Director in the world, Manoel de Oliveira is still making movies at the ripe old age of one hundred and one. Born in Cedofeita, Porto - Portugal on December 11, 1908, he has been making films since 1931.

His most recent work, "The Strange Case of Angelica," was premiered last week at the Cannes Film Festival. According to the centenarian, the idea for the movie was conceived in 1946 and he wrote the first draft in 1952. He originally wanted to do the film just after the Holocaust of World War II, but has now resurrected the project, tweaking the story to include modern issues like global warming, economic crisis and environmental pollution, because he feels that we are suffering from a universal loss of value that is now wreaking havoc not only to our lives and our communities, but also to our planet as well.

As a teenager, Oliveira wanted to be an actor. He actually acted in the 2nd Portuguese sound film, " A Canção de Lisboa in 1933.  But after seeing the documentary, "Berlin: Symphony of a City" he directed his first documentary, " Douro, Faina Fluvial." He directed his first feature in 1942 and has made a total of 51 productions to date (feature and documentary). Manoel has been more prolific in the past twenty years, making a film or two a year since 1990 -- he only made 3 feature films in the first 40 years of his career, but has totalled 19 after that.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Affordable Waterproof Housing For Your Cameras

Dicapac WP-610

For a few dollars, anyone can waterproof, weatherproof or dustproof their cameras with a Dicapac waterproof case.  Made from high-quality PVC with Silicon and TPU Rubber, it is the perfect camera housing for swimming, snorkling, diving, boating, camping, skiing, rafting or simply as a proctective covering against rain and dust. It is currently available in twelve different configurations to fit consumer sized video cameras and still cameras (from SLRs to compacts).

I bought a Dicapac WP-610 case for my Leica D-Lux 3 and tested it last weekend in our pool.  I am glad to report that it is effective and well worth its price.  Here are underwater photos of my wife and daughter swimming:

Aside from the Leica D-Lux 3 and D-Lux 4, Model WP-610 also fits the Canon Powershot G Series and the Sigma DP Series. The case features a UV coated optical lens barrel with a front port diameter of 62mm and an additional 3.5 inch extension barrel for longer lenses.  A detachable neck-strap and foam insert (for better fit) are also provided.  The case is guaranteed to a depth of 33 ft. or 10 meters using a double seal system with a waterproof zipper, plus roll and velcro closures.

Another case I am interested in is the WP-S10, which can easily accomodate a Canon 7D or 5D Mark II.  It features the same materials as the WP-610 in a larger dimension and features a bellowing/extending barrel that stretches to 200mm (80mm diameter) to accomodate a variety of lenses. It also features a finger sleeve to access the shutter release and for reaching the top side camera control knob. It is guaranteed up to 16 ft. or 5 meters in depth.  This case will be perfect for most of my professional still and DSLR HD work, as a weather proof case and as an underwater housing for light diving needs.  It retails for a low $150!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mel Brooks Finally Gets A Star

Mel Brooks finally gets a star on the "Hollywood Walk of Fame" in Hollywood Blvd.

In a ceremony last Friday in front of the Egyptian Theatre, the 83 year old Actor/Comedian/Composer/Screenwriter/Producer and Director was in top form, entertaining the crowd with songs and jokes he is well known for.

A much anticipated addition, the famous boulevard would be incomplete without a "star" from this Emmy, Grammy, Tony and Oscar award winner. It is the 2,406th star awarded by the city of Hollywood to a media celebrity.

--Photo by Al Satterwhite. Video from by deadend4chris.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Zeiss Compact Primes CP.2

I have been high on HDSLR technology for the past year. But I did not expect it to catch on this fast.  Carl Zeiss has just endorsed this growing market segment with a professional line of lenses specifically geared to these lightweight hybrids.

The company just introduced a new line of lenses with interchangeable lens mounts called the CP.2.  It offers great flexibility, enabling the filmmaker to use just one set of lenses for both traditional film and professional digital cameras as well as for HDSLRs.  Currently, the lenses are only available in EF (Canon) and PL mounts, but will soon be adaptable to the F (Nikon) mount as well.

The current lens range are as follows: 18mm/T3.6, 21mm/T2.9, 25mm/T2.9, 28mm/T2.1, 35mm/T2.1, 50mm/T2.1 and 85mm/T2.1.  All the lenses cover the full-frame image format (24 x 36mm), ANSI Super 35 and normal 35 image formats except for the 18mm which only covers Super 35 and normal 35.  The line features standard housing dimensions, standard focus and iris gear positions, longer focus rotation, consistent front diameter and manual focus -- features found in high-end professional cinema lenses. It also features a nine-blade iris and a "sweet-spot effect" for APS-C sensors. Coupled with superb Zeiss optics, these lenses are the perfect lenses for any cinematic or commercial application.

The individual prices are currently unavailable, but would probably range from $3,800 for a single lens and up to $28,000 for the current set.

Here is an interview by Cinema5D in this year's NAB on the new Zeiss lenses:

--Photos from Carl Zeiss Cinematography. Video by Cinema5D from You.Tube.