With fewer than 10 days until Christmas, holiday celebrations and decorations are on display around the world. Mother Nature has contributed with snowfall from North America to the Middle East, as Santa's helpers busy themselves everywhere from small markets to massive warehouses. Today's essay is a peek at some of the scenes of the season so far.
People attend a Christmas light illumination along the Medellin River in Medellin, Colombia, on December 9, 2013.
Christmas lights illuminate the banks of the Medellin River in Medellin, Colombia, on December 9, 2013.
Adam Lopez passes a giant pair of boots outside North Star mall, in San Antonio, Texas, on December 5, 2013. The 40-foot tall boots are decorated with holiday lights annually.
Children enjoy one of the many festive window displays in Selfridges department store in London, England, on December 14, 2013.
Volunteers construct bikes for TurningWheels for Kids' Big Bike Build at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, California, on December 7, 2013. Silicon Valley's Big Bike Build brings out 1,000 corporate volunteers to build over 2,500 bikes as holiday gifts for needy kids.
Sara Cervantes takes pictures of Christmas decorations at Pershing Square, on December 6, 2013, in Los Angeles.
Mark Hughes and son Emmet toboggan during a snow storm in Toronto, on December 14, 2013.
A woman swims in the pool at the David Citadel Hotel during a snow storm in Jerusalem, on December 13, 2013. The snowstorm of rare intensity blanketed the Jerusalem area, choking off the city and stranding hundreds in vehicles on impassable roads.
Saudi men walk as their footprints are seen after a rare snowstorm in Alkan village, west of Saudi Arabia, on December 13, 2013.
A Palestinian youth makes a snowman in the West Bank town of Nablus, on December 13, 2013. Early snow has surprised many Israelis and Palestinians as a blustery storm, dubbed Alexa, brought gusty winds, torrential rains and heavy snowfall to parts of the Middle East.
Hordes of Christmas shoppers walk beneath festive lights on Regent Street on December 14, 2013 in London, England. As Christmas Day approaches, London's central shopping districts attempt to lure shoppers into stores with last minute deals in an effort to pull sales away from online outlets. (Dan Dennison/Getty Images) #
Revelers in Santa costumes set of through the streets as they takes part in the annual "Santacon" in central London, on December 14, 2013. (Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images) #
Looking up, from inside a giant Christmas tree illuminated in the Puerta del Sol in the center of Madrid, on December 9, 2013. (Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images) #
In Sydney, Australia, the 2013 Lights Of Christmas are launched at St Mary's Cathedral on December 12, 2013.(Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images) #
People carry the Peace Light of Bethlehem at the Cathedral of St Peter and Paul in Brno, Czech Republic, on December 15, 2013. Each year, a young boy from Austria gathers a flame from the grotto in Bethlehem, returning home with it, where the flame is passed onto other European countries and North America with a message of Peace.(Radek Mica/AFP/Getty Images) #
Miles of aisles at an Amazon.com Fulfillment Center on "Cyber Monday", in Phoenix, Arizona, on December 2, 2013.(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) #
The first family, from left, President Barack Obama, Malia Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, and Sasha Obama greet children dressed like elves at the National Building Museum in Washington, on December 15, 2013. The first family was attending the taping of the annual 2013 Christmas in Washington, celebrating its 32nd year anniversary.(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) #
People gather to watch Illuminations during a seasonal event ahead of Christmas in Tokyo, Japan, on December 7, 2013.(AP Photo/Koji Sasahara) #
A couple skates on the frozen waters of Lake St. Moritz during a sunny winter day in the Swiss mountain resort of St. Moritz, on December 14, 2013. (Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann) #
Young Matias Arango walks in front of a figure representing the Devil to be burned during the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception celebrations in Antigua, Guatemala, on December 7, 2013. These celebrations mark the beginning of the Christmas Season in Guatemala. (AP Photo/Luis Soto) #
A figure representing the Devil is burned during the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception celebrations in Antigua, Guatemala, on December 7, 2013. The celebration marks the beginning of the Christmas Season in Guatemala.(AP Photo/Luis Soto) #
Jesse Sodergren, 2, of San Clemente, California, is held by her father James as she looks at an underwater Santa Claus at the Silverton Casino Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, on December 8, 2013. The underwater Santa and his helpers greet visitors and take present requests from inside the casino's 117,000-gallon aquarium on weekends in December until Christmas.(Reuters/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus) #
Boys from the central Romanian region of Transylvania make noise using whips at the Village Museum in Bucharest, Romania, on December 15, 2013. Children's groups from across Romania performed Christmas and New Year's traditional songs and dances during a two-day festival in the Romanian capital. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) #
A little girl meets Santa Claus at the German Christmas Market being held on the South Bank in London, England, on December 13, 2013. Running from November 15th to December 24th the Southbank Center German Christmas Market sells food, drinks and a range of gifts to Christmas shoppers. (Dan Dennison/Getty Images)
Welcome 'o weary traveler... from where do you cometh?
The sun'll come out
Colored boats, grass huts, a deep blue sky, and a golden landscape... they're the usual suspects found in scenes typical of our rural outback at sunset.
We were in barrangay Caroan in Gonzaga Cagayan, anticipating a landscape bathed by the setting sun's orange glow. Fishermen were mending their nets just moments earlier... but have all retired to their homes... leaving only their boats to witness creation's finale. Nature does save the best for last, which unfortunately, is still one of landscape photography's best kept secrets. But now you know. Enjoy.
(Pixel-peepers: Most folks think sunset is all about the setting sun, but the golden hours just preceding it can surprise.)
Twilight photographers need only one reason to be up at dawn: to capture its colors for posterity.
On the northern tip of Cagayan, where the Pacific Ocean reveals its true nature, we found fishermen already up before us. But they probably have many more reasons to be up at dawn, probably as many as they have mouths to feed. And while we focus on capturing twilight's beauty, we don't forget even for a moment that many others don't have our luxury. So today's postcard is for all of them, for everyone up at dawn because they need to.
Soon, the end of a year will be upon us. Again.
In Silay, Negros Occidental, we found a section of the city that transported us back in time. In spite of a light drizzle that turned into a downpour, we enjoyed walking the streets and picking-off compositions no longer found in our modern cities. The presence of old structures like these are normally a sign of decay, of being left behind by progress. But not here. The unique architecture had been preserved for future generations, even if they had to turn what was once a rich man's home into a roadside cafe. Enjoy.
Can anything be forgotten completely? Certainly. But it's not going to be a pair of abandoned train tracks in Silay city, Negros Occidental.
Strands of grass and a setting sun, what can be more fleeting than life itself? This postcard is dedicated to those that have gone ahead of us. And I quote:
What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now forever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind;
In the primal sympathy
Which having been must ever be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering;
In the faith that looks through death,
In the years that bring the philosopic mind.
The advantage of driving the countryside is that you not only get to see all sorts of things along the way, you get to see life, specially the simple version.
We were driving home through the town of Bugallon in Pangasinan, minding our own business, when we saw a farmer with his beasts in tow. We slammed on the brakes. Huh? It's a man with three cows. But hey, we're city-slickers, we've never patted a real cow before. Besides, we want to know what he's up to.
With a smile from ear-to-ear and looking like he'd just had a great nap... "I'm from that small baranggay back there", pointing to a stand of trees on the horizon behind him. "And I'm going to take my cows to drink from that pond over there." he said, "I do it several times a day specially when it's hot like today." And "No, I don't know who owns that pond. I think it's public." With that statement, and after posing for some more pictures, he walked his cows right onto the water's edge where they slurped-away with abandon...
Our world runs on oil, but his' runs on the sweat of his brows. One day we all hope to retire to such a simpler and slower life... of living on a farm... taking long lazy naps... and then walking our beasts to water... er.. but wait... isn't he already doing that today? And we thought we had it all planned out... Enjoy.
In the rural backroads of the Philippines, rice is still planted and harvested by hand. We expected to see rice stalks threshed by whipping the stalks against boards, metal screens, or wooden racks. Glistening sinews covered in sweat, as they manually beat the grain from their stalks, now that would have made a great photograph.... But not any more!
We woke up before the sun and headed towards Alaminos when sunrise found us in the town of Sta. Ignacia, Pangasinan. The morning sun had cast a warm golden color onto everything it touched, a perfect sweet light that makes photographs magical. To our delight, we chanced upon a group of men threshing their harvest by the roadside, amidst a scene painted in the colors reminiscent of Amorsolo.
But to our surprise, even the countryside has joined the 21st century! They had a gasoline-powered thresher that automatically blew off the stalks and deposited the grain neatly in sacks. No more half-naked men flexing their glistening muscles. Still, it was a lovely scene.
Were we disappointed not to have found the image in our minds? Not at all. Progress comes to all things and to all men. Had we come by 10 years ago, we might have found what we were looking for. But then we're glad we didn't wait to do this 10 years from now, who knows what else we would have missed? Enjoy.
This was our very first sunrise on the shores of Baler, a town on the coast of Aurora province facing the Pacific Ocean. We expected a ruggedly wild coastline and were not disappointed: outcrops rising from the shallows amidst relentlessly pounding waves.
We had been up since 4am and it was pitch dark when we got there. As the sky lightened up, there was too much cloud on the horizon to allow a dramatic entrance of the sun. I needed a way to multiply the light in the sky. And fast. Further down the beach I stumbled onto a shallow body of very still water, separated from the surf by a mound of sand. Still water reflects... now to find a spot to plant my tripod that would put this body of water between me and the rising sun...
The sun rose slowly, even teasingly, as the dawn wore on. The thick clouds held back the dawn's fury but allowed its "fingers of light" to paint the morning sky. Coupled with the mirror-like foreground of the pond, it made waking up early that morning worthwhile. Enjoy.
Friday, September 25, 2009
We were on the way to Baler Aurora and taking the more difficult route through the Sierra Madre Mountains. The view along the way was worth the arduous drive.
It was early morning still. Just as we headed east towards the mountains, a wall of fog descended from nowhere. Suddenly we were all alone, with nary a wind, in a landscape shrouded all in white, just as the morning sun had began to rise from somewhere behind it.
Looking out onto the fields, we spotted several trees, isolated from its background by the thick fog. The moment was magical, and if there was ever a golden moment, I thought this was it. Enjoy
How far away is that horizon? "As far as your eyes can see." But how far is that exactly?
What's for dinner? Much less than you'd expect...
Have you ever witnessed a vanishing profession?
A Joyous Greeting to Mothers Everywhere...
What did you expect to find inside a cave?
Can you make a living fishing on land? Wait till you hear this story.
Do you think there are sunrises in heaven?
Solitary trees growing in the middle of rice fields?
What do photographers have to do to get the shot they want? Very often, whatever it takes.
At the Hundred Islands Nature park in Pangasinan, there are 123 Islands at high tide and an extra rock-of-an-island at low tide. Not all the islands have white beaches but most of them can be explored on foot. Each island has a name and a unique feature, whether a cave, white beaches, or high vantage points to see the rest of the park. Enjoy.
How to photograph the fire-y colors of dawn? You need a good alarm clock!
When we travel for photography, we try to get there the same way the locals do, by local bus, pump boat, or on foot if that's their mode of transportion. It helps set the creative mood for our photographs.
Emerald green water around Boracay? How did you do that? Actually, the right question is when.
Should I get a Canon or Nikon? A friend wanted to know. I hope my answer was correct.
If you look inside a hot air balloon, do you see little green men?
First light, the precise moment when night turns into day, is a moment eagerly awaited by all twilight peepers. When you get lucky, the feeling is hard to describe. It can enthrall!
Monday, February 9, 2009
But wait, there is more to Kaangrian Falls than what last week's photograph suggests.
A hidden waterfall is always a treat, so when they told us there was one nearby, we didn't hesitate.
Just mention "Boracay in Summer"... and weary minds are set adrift... images of soft white sand, clear blue skies, and inviting emerald green waters... But wait, today's photograph is not quite like that.
Patience is a virtue. Really. Some events happen with regularity, like circadian bats coming out to feed at dusk. But you still have to be patient else you risk missing the show.
Do you have a fear of heights? Take heart. Outdoor photographers sometimes find themselves in some very high places, like on a sheer sea cliff maybe a hundred feet or more above the crashing waves below.
Last December 16th, I posted a picture of a rare moon rise and mentioned that a firey dusk was taking place simultaneously in the west. Well for those who asked to see it, today's photograph is what we saw.
To sequentially capture the last sunset of 2008 and the first sunrise of 2009, now isn't that an intriguing plan? Except that I was nursing a bad cold last week, completely incompatible with the cool outdoors. Rats. It's my 3rd year stalking this dream but when life gets in the way all bets are off.
At the Suba sand dunes in Ilocos Norte, the sunrise wasn't looking too promising so twilight photographers need to work harder to bring home images worth keeping. It could be as simple as looking in the other direction, and that's where this lone tree caught my eye. It has seen its share of sunrise and sunsets I'm sure, even when no one else was looking. And know what? I bet it saw the sequential dusks and dawns that I missed! Enjoy.
Where will you be in 2009?
Do you see the forest or the trees? That's a big question commonly used to discern one's perspective in life, but luckily we outdoor photographers have simpler things in mind today.
The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, but the moon can rise at any time of the day and the direction from where it rises depends on the time of the year. Strange but true. During the day, the sky is too bright for us to see the moon. But a full moon rising from the horizon just after the sun goes down, while the sky is still a light colored blue, is a sight rarer than a sunrise.
When shooting the twilight hours even the best intentions won't guarantee the best results.
Sunsets are among my favorite times of the day, and it's not because of the happy hour! You see, sunsets are much like sunrises, except that you don't have to wake up at 4am just to get to where you need to be. Otherwise they are similar: unpredictably vibrant colors splashed across a canvass of infinitely varied cloud patterns. I'm awestruck every single time.
Sunset today brought us to the small town of Bangui near the northern tip of Ilocos Norte. Some energy company had built 20 one-megawatt windmills along the shore, and in one sweep, created clean power plus a local tourist industry. Brilliant, but back to my story. We had arrived late for sunset, too late to catch the lon