Manila Photography Workshop Recce

Details of our November 2012 workshop in Manila can be seen here:

I have been to Manila 3 times in the last 2 months and am starting to get familiar with a few of the locales for shooting street life and have hung out with Kurt Kamka a few times, hes an American photographer based in Manila, so its great to have good communication with someone who already has 'boots on the street' (ironically the name of his blog also, which can be seen here).

All images below are shot on the Olympus OMD with 12mm, 25mm, 45mm lenses and processed in Adobe Lightroom 4 with VSCO film presets or Niksoft Silver Efex 2 for black and white images.

(Welcome to Guadalupe, OMD, 25mm)

This last trip we explored the Guadalupe area of Makati which yet again proved to be a fruitful location full of life and great friendly people.  Every single person we met was more than happy to be photographed - if anything the only problem was that once you stopped to talk to people and take an image or two, a crowd sometimes gathered which made it more difficult to get good compositions due to the scene becoming far too 'busy' with willing subjects.

(Kurt shows the kids their portraits, you can't help but smile when you see their reactions)

Kurt was shooting with his Leica S2 camera, a beast of a machine capable of producing some amazing image quality, its a bit out of my price range unfortunately and since I am recently divorced from Leica, luckily I am avoiding their gear, although I do agree with him that the quality is second to none.  I was using my trusty OMD for this trip again, as it constantly delivers the goods for me, is lighting fast and the lenses are unsurpassed for these 4/3 sensors.

(My tribute image to James Nachtwey style composition, OMD, 12mm)

(Mini-gangsta, OMD, 12mm)

We met all sorts along the way, small kids, elderly people, mini-gangstas...all totally friendly.  It's easy to see how some people get worried walking around Manila, as of course there are some dangerous areas, much like any other city, however, just knowing which areas to avoid is all that is needed to ensure a pleasureable experience shooting in the streets, I found the place each trip to be more enchanting and you can't help but appreciate the people.

(Friendly lady, OMD, 25mm)

(Need a shave?, OMD, 25mm)

When you look at these images, bear in mind that all of them were taken in the space of 2 hours, that should give an idea of the versatility and range of interesting people that we found in just a short walk down a few streets.  Its not easy in some countries to find so much diversity of characters, especially ones so willing to be photographed.  I think Kurt is a lucky man to live in such a cool city.

(View across to Makati, OMD, 25mm - HDR effect - combined 3 images in Photomatix Pro)

When looking over at Makati from a bridge the mix of poverty with the new world is evident, with slum housing blending into skyscraper towers only a few metres apart, there is a lot of contrast in Manila, I noticed that, with high end shopping malls and designer brands all around certain areas, but I am not shocked or surprised by this anymore as Hong Kong is exactly the same in my view with these kind of contrasts.

(Manila in colour, OMD, 25mm)

(More colour in Guadalupe, OMD, 12mm)

(Every little shop window greets you with a big friendly smile, OMD, 25mm)

If I could describe Manila in colour tones I would say its 'Kodachrome'....the pastel colours that I see everywhere remind me of this, and it really is a place that lends itself to colour photography....the last few trips as its still monsoon season, there have been lots of muted grey skies which helps give the colours a nice soft look, perfect for long as you take your umbrella in case of a downpour.

(Jeepneys in monsoon season, OMD, 25mm)

(Big Mommas house - OMD, 12mm)

(Street scene, OMD, 25mm)

(Need a room? OMD, 25mm)

(The daily news, OMD, 25mm)

(More street scenes, OMD, 25mm)

Just shooting street scenes on every corner interest me in Manila, the characters all seem to be just 'hanging out' in interesting poses or compositions, it makes photography easier in this sense, and of course I still love black and white photography in these streets even though I just said earlier that it lends itself very well to colour imagery.

On the way back at the end of the shoot we were strolling along the Pasig River banks and came across a bunch of crazy kids jumping off a road bridge into the river, which looks pretty polluted and has a very very strong current.....these kids must have amazing immune systems, and can swim like olympic athletes to resist that current....not to mention the dangers of jumping off a 50ft high road kid had climbed right to the top of the girders as can be seen in the image below...i didn't see him jump from there, maybe he has second thoughts once up there, but Im quite sure some of them have done that before...have to admire their fearless attitude and passion for having fun, no matter the risks.

(The jumpers, Pasig River, OMD, 75mm)

(Underpass, OMD, 25mm)

We will be returning to Manila to run a workshop with Kurt Kamka in November, its really a great place to shoot, its perfectly safe, my only advice there is don't go street shooting at night, keep to areas that are safe and be wary of taxi drivers, almost every taxi driver I met always trys to tell me 'the meter doesnt work' or the fee is an extra few hundred pesos....its just one of those things...confirm the price before you set off with a cab or ensure they use the meter, then you'll be fine and still have a few hundred pesos left over to buy the kids a coke for being so friendly in their village :-)

Details of our November 2012 workshop in Manila can be seen here:

Links to Kurt's work can be again seen here at the links below:

If you want to see other posts we have written about Manila, please click this link below which will search out all the Manila posts for you on our blog for your convenience:

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F8 Photography provides commercial photography and photography and video training workshops, more details can be found via the ‘courses and workshops’ link and upcoming events via the front page of our website.