Travel Photography – Photo Tips from a Trip to the Philippines

In June of 2013, I traveled to the Philippines with my girlfriend and her family. Isabel’s (my girlfriend) parents grew up in the Philippines, and most of their family still lives there. One of her grandma’s was celebrating her 80th birthday with a big party. It was the first time all of her kids and grandkids would be together. There were many special moments on this trip. I got to meet many family members whom I had only heard of. I ate a lot of great food, even giving up my pescetarian-ism to try some local favorites. How could I not?! We traveled to some exotic islands with exotic animals and plants.

The whole time I was taking pictures, capturing moments and sights from the trip. In this post and the follow two, coming out later this week, I go through some of my favorite photos from the trip. With each photo I’ll tell you why I took the photo, how I took it including setup/settings, and what the difficulties were if any. I’ll even throw in some travel tips and geography facts to keep you entertained.

My Gear

Canon 7D – This camera isn’t the top of the line photographer’s camera. But it still takes some pretty great shots. I’ve been using it for the past few years and it has never failed me.
Canon 24-70 L Series – I debated on bringing multiple lenses but chose to stick with one. The 24-70 is a versatile and beautiful lens. There were only a couple times when I wished I had more of a zoom or something wider.
While I brought a tripod on the trip, most of these shots were handheld, leaning on a chair, on top of a wall or backpack, or otherwise using whatever was available to me.

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  • Our flight stopped in Taipei, Taiwan (Republic of China). Officially Taiwan is ruled by a democratically elected government and is separate from China (People’s Republic of China).
  • While waiting the airport for 3 hours, I walked up and down our terminal looking for some cool photographs. This shot was interesting to me because of the colors and just the way all the soda cans looked lined up next to each other. While taking a picture of the American versions of these sodas might not have been that interesting to me, this arrangement was.
  • In the Taipei airport there were many places to eat, an orchid garden, multiple Hello Kitty outlets, and free wi-fi!


  • I shot this right outside of our gate before boarding the second leg of our Eva Air flight to Manila, Philippines. Eva Air partnered with Hello Kitty and even had some characters painted on the airplanes. The kids in the airport loved it. This kid was especially fun to watch as he held his teddy bear and watched the airplanes land and take off.
  • The difficulty with this photograph was the contrast in brightness outside and inside the terminal. I was lucky to be shooting in RAW settings so detail from the more exposed outside and under exposed inside could be pulled out in editing. I thought about dropping the exposure so the boy and teddy bear were complete silhouettes, but decided against leaving enough detail to see the bear’s face and the colorful outfit.


  • Here is Isabel, her brother, father, and grandmother (dad’s mom).
  • This was the first time meeting ‘Mama’ in person. I had seen her on Skype before but meeting her in person was a delight.
  • Family photos are always an important part of any travel. I took a lot of family pictures because you can really never have too many and you’ll never know when a funny moment might happen.
  • This photo was shot with natural light coming from the window behind and the doorway behind me.
  • Try not to use flash! This is a great tip when wanting a more ‘natural’ look. Sometimes it is impossible to get a good shot without using the flash mode, but I always try to stick to manual settings without a flash when shooting.


  • Isabel took this photo of me and her grandma. It was a very sweet moment – see how she’s holding my hand! The lighting in this room was tough, meaning there wasn’t much to work with.
  • Most lights had a warm tone that I tried to correct in post. Honestly I think I over-corrected and now the photo has a blueish tint. Trying to get a correct white balance can be hard but using a program such as Adobe Lightroom makes it easy!


  • The traffic in metro Manila was crazy! Think of the worst traffic you’ve experienced and double it, subtract the rules of the road, and you’ll have the kind of traffic jams that Manila sees on a daily basis. Coming from Los Angeles – the land of the traffic jam – I couldn’t believe how bad the traffic was. 
  • Mixed into the sea of cars were Jeepneys and Tricycles. Jeepneys are extended jeeps that act as the public transportation in the Philippines. Run independently, this jeepneys had specific routes like buses and were very cheap to take. Tricycles (motorcycles with an attached ‘cage’ seating from 1 to 8 others+) were like taxis. You could pay them to take you just about anywhere. These are very similar to rickshaws in India.
  • I took a lot of these ‘street’ photos, but this one is one of my favorites. This is the back of a jeepney with a passenger riding on the back. It wasn’t uncommon to see them overflowing with three or four people on the back!
  • The difficulty with these shots was that I was taking them from a moving car myself. Most images came out slightly blurry or the framing wasn’t great.


  • This is just a fun photo at the Mind Museum in the center of Manila. Isabel had just taken an online Psychology class and was very interested in this giant brain.
  • The difficulty with this photo was the lighting. Not only was the museum dimly lit, but this brain had a bright light coming from within. Isabel is hard to make out due to these circumstances.


  • Halo Halo is one of the Philippines favorite desserts. The ingredients include shaved ice, ice cream, condensed milk, an assortment of fruits, and boiled sweet beans. ‘Halo’ is the tagalog word for mix, so the dessert really means mix-mix. This is because the indulger must mix up all the ingredients to get the full flavor and awesomeness of this dessert. 
  • I actually first had halo halo in the United States at a Filipino fast food place. The halo halo in the Philippines was ten times better and huge!
  • Every picture tells a story and I love this picture because of the story it tells. Why did I choose this photo and not one of the perfectly set up dessert after it was brought to our table? While you can’t see the detailed ingredients in this photo, you can truly see the essence of halo halo. You can also see the second spoon dipped into the mixture. I couldn’t finish it by myself so Isabel had to help. In the background is a blurred out can of San Miguel Pale Pilsen, the staple Filipino beer. You can even see two hats on the table. Was this after a hike? Were we tired and taking a rest? Yes to both of those questions!
  • I love the depth of field of this picture. I shot this with the f-stop 2.8, the lowest my 24-70 mm lens goes down to. What this means is a shorter depth of field (i.e. more blurriness).


  •  Isabel’s youngest cousin thought he was quite the cool kid on the block. Wearing aviators in his barong, the customary fancy shirt men wear on special occasions, little Kiko posed for the camera.
  • I like how this photo looks in black and white because it gives it more grunge. The toughness of this photo is out of this world!
  • Sometimes making a photo helps with white balance and exposure. Obviously it takes out all of the saturation so you don’t have to worry about the color tones. Even the shadows and highlights look better in black and white in this photo.


  • What did I tell you about family photos? Take a lot! This special moment came during Isabel’s grandma’s 80th birthday. Mama Naty was taking photos with all of her kids and their families. Two professional photographers were taking photos and I snuck next to them to snap some shots as well. While setting up for a great family pic, I caught this moment between cousin Papo and Mama Naty. I love how the family is getting ready to take the picture, Kiko is holding grandma’s hand, Uncle Leo is about to put his hand on Papo’s back. Truly this photo tells the story of a loving family.
  • The difficulty with this photo was how dark it was in the room. I ratcheted up the ISO to 1600 to make sure everything was bright enough. What this means though is that the photos don’t come out as clear. A higher ISO will give you more grain, leaving your picture not as sharp as it could be with more lighting.
  • I heavily edited the white balance in this picture. The yellow lights bouncing off the cream walls and wood floors gave everything a warm tint. I added some blue to make the skin tones more natural.


  • I forget who took this photo, but isn’t it a great one?! Here’s Isabel and I enjoying the night. Isabel is beautiful in her blue gown. I’m wearing a barong, trying to fit in.
  • This photo is taken with a flash and actually came out quite nicely. I didn’t have the camera on auto though. I still had it on manual, but opened the flash to provide some extra light.


  • This is another great photo, one to print out and frame! Isabel and her two grandmothers. I love how Mama Aida holds the arm of Mama Naty. Mama Naty looks dazzling in her bejeweled gown. All three look so happy. Isabel was so happy to be with her family, and her grandmothers were so happy to have her there.
  • Again like the previous photo, this one was taken with a flash. Both of these photos were taken within 10-15 feet, which was good for using the flash. If you are trying to use the flash for taking a picture of someone or something further away, you’ll have trouble getting good lighting.


  • Here’s a sweet moment between Isabel and her grandmother. Nothing but love fills her eyes.
  • Sometimes black and white images just seem to have more emotion in them. I made this one in black and white because I had similar photos in color and wanted to see how it would look. I liked it so much I kept in black and white.
  • When I’m editing photos, there’s not usually a plan. I tend to play with the saturation, the color temperature, and the exposure until it works for me. I’m not a big fan of rules, so when editing I don’t strictly follow any rules. Sometimes this turns into a beautiful image like the one above.


  • Isabel took this photo at her grandma’s house. She spent fifteen minutes walking around the compound taking some great shots while I played basketball (see below). 
  • My favorite parts about this photo are the colors and the composition.
  • I love the teal wall behind the plants. It really makes the plants stand out by clearly separating them. The green leaves of the plants and the brown pots mix well together.
  • A grid is created by the lines of the wall, the wires of the plants, the window sill, and window grate. The rows of plants are plotted along this grid creating a nice image.
  • The sky was cloudy at this moment, which created an even light. If it was really sunny, there would be more shadows and it may be harder to see the details of the plants. I often like a cloudy sky when taking photographs because of these reasons.


  • This is another ‘moment’ shot combined with great composition. I just shot a basketball (I’m pretty certain it was going in), but I’m not the main focus of the photo. The focus is the house, Isabel’s grandma’s house. 
  • I really cranked up the contrast in this image. This means that I made the dark darker and the bright brighter. Some detail is lost when doing this. See how our t-shirts are mostly just blackness, you can’t see the details of them? Sometimes this isn’t a good thing. But in this image, I like how contrast-y it looks.


  • This is another great photo taken by Isabel. The composition is really nice with a lot of negative space created by the pink wall of this house. Isabel’s cousin smiles from the window making this otherwise architecture photo a photo with a nice moment.
  • Most of Isabel’s family lived close together in adjoining houses. There were always cousins and aunts and uncles coming into the main house. This was nice for Isabel and her family who live so far from them in Orange County, CA.


  • I took this photo at the church of Antipolo. Even between masses, people filled the pews waiting for the next mass, chatting, praying, and spending time with each other. 
  • A statue of Mary sits high on the wall of the front of the church. Some years ago a fire destroyed the church. One of the only things remaining was this statue. Now many Catholics make a pilgrimage to this church to visit the enshrined statue.
  • I like this photo because how it captures a detail of the church without being a typical wide shot of the front of the church. Of course I have that photo as well. But I like this one more.
  • I also love the colors and typography of the sign with the gold decoration behind.


  • The street life of Antipolo was quite a sight. Tricycles constantly streamed by dodging fearless pedestrians. Vendors lines most streets selling fruits, vegetables, sandals, and any other necessary item. It reminded me of India, a place I traveled to in the summer of 2010 with all of the colors, smells, and sounds.
  • Antipolo is a city located 16 miles east of Manila.
  • In this photo, I tried to capture the essence of a typical Antipolo street. The tricycles lined the side waiting for customers. The overhead wires created a tangled mess of detail. People crossed the street with their latest purchases. One can see the coloration on the street and the multi-colored buildings.
  • The only difficulty with this picture was finding a moment of relative quiet where I could stop, make sure my settings were right, and snap without getting run over by a speeding bike.


  • Here’s another photo of the fruit vendors right outside of Isabel’s grandma’s home. It amazed me the conditions of these vendors. They sat outside in humid heat in the upper 90 degrees. Unlike in the United States where our vegetables are typically perfectly laid out in a cool grocery store, the fruits and vegetables had to deal with the same heat as the vendors. 
  • Across the street sat a growing pile of trash. I wanted to include this in the photograph’s foreground to give an honest sense of the marketplace.
  • I love the colors of this picture. I love the lady and her son (?) walking with bags full of produce. I love the vendor on the right wiping his face of sweat.


  • Here is a fruit vendor selling mangos, bananas, apples, oranges, and more. 
  • As a photographer, I still struggle to get great portraits of street life. I’m not the type of photographer who sticks his camera in a random person’s face. I wish I was a little more aggressive so I could get those types of shots.
  • This shot came from a lot wider shot, but because I was using the RAW camera settings on my Canon 7d I was able to zoom and crop to get this nice portrait of a lady and her fruit.


  • This is one of my favorite photographs that I took. I love the reflection of the line of tricycles in yet another Manila traffic jam.
  • The story behind this shot was quite stressful. We were staying in Antipolo and had to get to the airport to fly to Palawan for a four day excursion. While Antipolo is only 15-20 miles from the airport, traffic could take hours. We left at 6 am for our 9:45 flight. At some point we turned down a road that was completely stopped. Cars, motorbikes, tricycles, jeepneys – all were trying to get into Manila. Rain from the night before made the road conditions less than ideal. We were literally stopped for upwards of 30 minutes, crawling half a block in that time. This is when I brought out my camera to try to reduce my anxiety, to keep my mind off of the road. I got this shot during that time. We eventually turned around and had to backtrack quite a ways. We rushed into the airport as our flight was doing it’s last call. Luckily we made it, and I got this shot!
  • The difficulty with this shot was that I was in a car that was slowly crawling forward. I had to wait until the perfect moment when all of the reflections lined up with the reality. Luckily this puddle was big enough to fit all of those reflections and the picture turned into one of my favorites!


  • Here I am about to board a small propeller plane to Palawan. 
  • Did you know that the Philippines are made up of 7,107 islands? And did you know that only about 2000 of them are inhabited by humans? Cool!

Here is part two of my journey


  • If you read Part 1 of this series of travel photography posts, you learned about tricycles in the Philippines. They are the basic taxi service across the country. I took a lot of photographs of tricycles. This one is my favorite. This is the first picture from our trip to Palawan, specifically to Busuanga Island. Here we are in Coron Town, one of the largest towns on the island.
  • I love this photograph for a few reasons. I love the different colors of the trikes. I also love the style of trike. These one’s are a lot fancier than the ones we saw in Manila, the luxury end model. I also love the moment that this photograph was taken. This was right before a climb up to the top of a mountain to see a cross and the view from above. You can see the steps in the background.
  • Luckily there were some clouds at this moment. Clouds help create even lighting by acting as a giant piece of diffusion.
  • Let’s head on up the mountain!!!


  • Isabel points out step number 100 out of 743 to the top of the mountain. We were already getting a little tired at this point!
  • I love the way Isabel and her dress pop out from the background of the steps.
  • The discoloration of the steps and railing show the history of these steps. The whole time up the steps, Isabel and I were joking about how something like this wouldn’t be allowed in the United States. There would have to be more safety precautions, security guards, a fee to go up to the top, etc. I love how it was free and available to the public to climb at their own risk in the Philippines.
  • This photograph is a great memory for me, a great reason to take a photograph.


  • Wow! Here are a few of the over 7000 islands in the Philippines. At the top of the climb we could see for miles and miles. The sun shone brightly through the clouds on this perfect day.
  • I love the way the light plays on the ocean in the distance.
  • I really dropped the exposure on this photograph. I did it for two reasons. One, I wanted to catch as much detail of the islands in the distance as possible. Two, I like how it creates a silhouette of the hills in the foreground.


  • We made it to the top! Here is Isabel’s dad celebrating his climb to the top of the mountain called Mt. Tapyas.
  • This is one of the moments that I wish I had a wider lens. The 24-70 mm on my crop sensor 7d just didn’t cut it. I had to back up as much as possible without falling over the hill to try to get the entire cross in the shot. It turned out to be an interesting photo, one in which you can see how big the cross actually is. Isabel’s dad is so small compared to the giant cross.


  • I was about to head back down the giant staircase but before doing so I snapped this shot of the steps going down. 
  • The perspective of this picture is what stands out to me. It’s all downhill from here! You can see Coron Town below with the fishing boats in the water.
  • I made this photograph black and white because it was quite hazy while taking this picture. The colors of the plants and buildings below were already desaturated due to the lighting. Making it black and white just made it a little more dramatic. If I ever go back and edit this photograph again, I would add a little bit of contrast, at least to the town in the distance. This would increase the details and make everything pop more.


  • Here’s a funny picture of Isabel’s cousins and me in the Maquinit Hot Springs. I’m pretending it was really cold like a goof! Really the water was 102 degrees fahrenheit! That’s about as hot as your typical hot tub/jacuzzi! It was the perfect way to soothe our muscles after the climb up the mountain.
  • These large pools are warmed by the geothermal water spring. The water is heated in Earth’s crust and is still hot when it comes out. According to our guide, these are one of only 6 salt water hot springs in the world. The water was constantly coming from inside the mountain and flowed out into the ocean outside of this man-made pool built to hold the water.
  • I just love this photograph that Isabel took. It is a great memory and you can see how big the springs really were!


  • At the location of the hot springs was this giant mask hanging from a tree. We often saw similar tribal masks around the island, but this one was the largest and perfect for a funny photo!


  • Here is another of my all time favorite photographs from the trip to the Philippines. The beauty of this photograph was also the manner in which it was taken. We were driving back from the hot springs and I was trying to take photos through the windows of the bumpy van. Most of the photos didn’t come out, but this one did. And look how magical it is!
  • The sun coming through the trees perfectly illuminate the road. A magical halo surrounds the man walking down the street. The kids play basketball in the background. You can see the architecture of the reed/bamboo/tin huts on the left. A giant tree splits the photograph into two moments. On one side a bustling town square (aka basketball court) whirls with motion. On the other side a sole man walks down a deserted street.
  • This photo is one of those ‘lucky’ ones. In no way was I trying to get this exact photo. It was just perfect timing with the bumpy ride home.


  • Driving back to the airport, we were stopped by a herd of cattle. I snapped this shot of a field full of them. 
  • I wasn’t bothered by the cows blocking our way. The driver had to slow down and it gave me a chance to take this nice photo.
  • I love the layers of this photo. The blue sky and clouds above. The thickly forested hills. The pasture with cows below.


  • I’m not going to explain what these statues are. If you’re in the Philippines or some other countries, you’ll find similar toys. Silly!
  • I loved the composition of them though, so I snapped this picture. It’s almost like a school photo with the tallest in the back, smallest in the front.
  • I also love how the light plays against the carvings. The dramatic lighting was perfect for making it black and white.


  • This is what I call a ‘sweet moment’ shot. Isabel’s hand upon her 88 year old grandmother’s head is a sign of pure love. The look in her eyes is of pure happiness.
  • This photo was taken at a family dinner on an outside patio with minimal lighting. I raised the ISO to 800 to make sure I had enough light.
  • These ‘moments’ shots are not easy to get. You have to be ready with your camera at all times. Undoubtedly I missed a lot of these moments. Luckily for this shot I was ready with camera in hand.


  • Karaoke! You can’t go to the Philippines without trying out karaoke, a staple form of entertainment for this country of song-filled citizens. Here is Isabel and her mom singing a favorite tune. I even tried out the karaoke machine. We have a photograph to prove it!
  • The lighting for this photo was tough because it was at night. The light was directly above creating shadows on their faces. I believe my ISO was set to 1600 on this photograph and you can tell. There is slight graining, especially in the dark spots.
  • Overall, this is another moment shot of daughter and mother signing hand in hand.


  • Family picture! If you’re on vacation with family or friends, you’ll be taking a lot of group shots. These aren’t the easiest of photos to take and it helps to know all of the manual settings to get a great family shot.
  • I used the flash in this photograph because otherwise it would be too dark. I didn’t have any diffusion on this flash so it was fairly harsh, but through editing I was able to tone it down enough to get all the details of the highlighted areas.
  • Flash Tip: When I was taking photographs with the auto setting at this party, all of the flash pictures seemed really dark with whatever object in front overexposed by the flash. The auto settings dropped the ISO and increased the shutter speed to balance out the flash. Instead, I used the manual settings. I still had a higher ISO and a lower shutter speed (never going below 1/60 to reduce camera shake). I increased the F-stop if necessary. What this does is allow more light from the background and surrounding area to add to the flash so more of the photo is lit up (rather than just whatever the flash/camera is focused on).


  • Colorful baby chicks?! Why not? I truly hope none of these chicks were hurt by this process (I’m slightly doubting that hope though). It did lend itself for a great picture though!
  • These chicks were at one of the street vendors. I’m assuming they colored them to be able to tell them apart. So if you wanted to by a baby chick, you could say ‘I want that green one!’ instead of ‘Can I have that yellow one? No not that one, the one next to it.’ Who knows!
  • This photograph was simple enough though – try to get as close as possible to the cute chicks. The subject will do the rest.


  • This is a photograph on our trip to Boracay. After a short flight to Panay Island, we took a shuttle to this boat ferry. The boat took us across to the island of Boracay for a couple days of relaxing beach massages and sunsets.
  • I like this photograph because you can see the boat we are about to take along with Isabel and our fellow travelers. I could’ve tried to take this picture of just the boats without any humans. But I like photographs that have people, that have movement, that tell more of a story than just a still life.
  • Photo Tip: Take pictures with people in them. Sometimes it is nice to have photographs of just still life but it is also nice to have people.


  • Here is one the boat’s crew members sitting on a small ledge of the boat. It was amazing to see these guys climb across the bamboo beams. Their balance was amazing.
  • I like this photograph for many reasons. First, it is a great shot of this guy looking out across the water. You can see details of the boat including the bamboo beams and rope holding it together. You can see the left behind town in the distance.
  • Everything in the foreground is in crystal clear sharpness except the water. The water zooms past. We weren’t going too slowly and you can tell that by this picture.
  • When editing this photo I dropped the saturation and increased the sharpness giving it an almost HDR look. HDR (high dynamic range) photography  captures more details. While I didn’t actually use the HDR technique for this image, it has that sort of look.


  • Here is a photo taken a moment after the above photograph. The details are the same but the picture tells a completely different story.
  • We can see more details on the man’s face. Wind and sun from being out on the water have darkened his skin. I don’t know how old he is, but the white in his hair give a clue. Unlike the photograph above which told the story of a boat ride, this is solely about this man with a beautiful background.


  • Here is the first view of Boracay when coming in on the boat ferry. I mean look at this place! It’s a tropical paradise! The palm trees lined the shore as small boats hauled cargo to the inhabitants and tourists. 
  • I love the movement of this picture. Men are carrying boxes, walking up the beach. Boats are anchored at the water’s edge.
  • The colors are also amazing. It is hard to see but the water is crystal clear, and warm! The trees splash a nice boarder of greens and yellows above.


  • haha I like this one too! Isabel got a hair wrap on the first night in Boracay. She got to choose the colors she wanted.
  • I wish this picture was more in focus. You still get the idea of what I was going for. I love Isabel’s accessories other than the hair wrap. I love her earrings and her backpack. She is a true island traveler!
  • Sometimes I like to take what I call ‘flipped perspective’ photos. The typical picture might be of Isabel looking directly into the camera and smiling. Here, I flipped the perspective to her walking away. When taking photographs, it is good to try to capture difference perspectives. You might just get a picture no one has ever thought of!


  • I actually don’t know if there was a lifeguard on duty. It was off-season while we were in Boracay. It rained while we were there and the beaches weren’t congested with tourists. But the water was still warm and amazing. The rain cooled us off and was welcomed. And we enjoyed more space at the beach than during peak season.
  • This is a typical beach detail shot. You can see the beach, the people, and something interesting as the subject. In this case, the subject is this lifeguard pole and safety device.
  • I desaturated the colors and warmed them up a bit to get this nice coloring.


  • I told you earlier that we got to see some amazing sunsets. Here is one of them.
  • The boats on the right were outriggers that you could hire to take you out on the water. You can see one out in the distance.
  • While it would have been nicer with fewer clouds in the sky, they do create this dramatic effect.
  • I really decreased exposure in this picture. The three figures on the left are people playing in the water at the end of the day. The contrast created by decreasing exposure heightens the dramatic sky. I also added a little warmth to the photo to give the sun’s reflection on the water a nice gold-ish glow.
  • I also cropped this photo wide to give it that wide expansive feeling. I love panoramic shots. Look forward to next week’s post with solely panoramic photos from my trip.




Here is part three of my journey



  • The Taal Volcano is another sight to see if visiting the Philippines. It is only a two hour drive from Manila. And the weather is cooler because it is actually higher in the mountains. In fact his isn’t the ocean, it is a large lake at the top of the mountain. One of the cities around the lake is Tagaytay, a great place to eat at a restaurant overlooking the volcano.
  • The Taal Volcano is actually the one on the bottom right and is still active. Luckily or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, it wasn’t erupting when we were there.
  • I shot this photograph with the grass and plants in the foreground on purpose because it creates a nice bottom border.
  • I also cropped this photograph wide to give it a wide expansive feeling.


  • Right next to the fancy restaurant we ate at was a small hut and this man doing laundry. Not a bad view I thought! You can see the Taal Volcano up at the top.
  • This picture tells one of the themes of the Philippines – the juxtaposition of rich and poor.


  • Here’s a nice family photo with the volcano in the background.
  • I used the flash to add light to the subjects but I also left the settings on manual with a lower shutterspeed and f-stop to make sure the entire picture is exposed and not just the subjects in the foreground.


  • This street dog was also enjoying the view of the Taal Volcano. There were many dogs roaming the streets. This one gave me a few minutes to get a great shot of him/her.
  • I love the depth of field. The hills with the houses are so blurry n the background which focuses your eye on what’s sharp and in focus – the pup!


  • Here’s one of the last family pics we took. At first I didn’t like the composition because there was so much head room (space above our heads). But I cropped it so that the negative space makes an interesting photograph.
  • Creative Tip: Subjects don’t have to always be in the center of the frame. Put them on the right or the left, the top or bottom, and see what you get! I don’t stick to any ‘rules’ when it comes to composition.


  • Here I am at the Ilog Maria bee farm. Isabel took this great shot of me – weary from all the travels but excited to be experiencing it all.


  • Here I am getting a closer look at the bees!
  • We bought honey from here and brought it back to the States! So Yummy!


  • Here’s a close up of the bees. I love nature shots, shots of animals and insects. The bees were quite nice to allow me to get so close.
  • The 24-70 mm lens doesn’t have that much of a zoom, so I was 1-2 feet away from these bees.


  • Look how clear the water was! This isn’t the best picture but I just wanted to show you how clear the water was in Boracay.


  • This picture is crazy. It may seem like a normal picture, but as you can tell I was in the middle of the ocean with my Canon 7D and 24-70mm lens. I was holding on with my dear life. Luckily there aren’t really many waves and the sand is fairly flat. I took the risk and got a great picture because of it.
  • The composition of this photo is nearly perfect. I wish that the sailboat behind Isabel and her dad was a little more to the right so the two  subjects had a cleaner background. Otherwise I like how the trees and the sandy beach line the top right corner. You can see a lot of the clear blue ocean as well.
  • Of course I don’t recommend taking your $2k camera into the middle of the ocean. This is one of those risky situations that was worth the risk. Sometimes you  have to take risks to get great photos!


  • Here’s a great picture by Isabel. I’m enjoying the warm water with her dad.
  • I love the blue sailboats in the background and the clear skies. Most of the other times we were in the water had cloudy skies, so we were lucky at this moment.
  • Again, be careful taking pictures when in the middle of an ocean.


  • This photo really says it all. We have this outrigger sailboat with vacationers lazily drifting in the waves of a golden sunset. The clouds don’t damper the beauty of this moment, only enhancing the dramatic sight.
  • While editing this photo I increased the contrast and saturation to make it really pop!
  • If you ever have the chance to go to Boracay, you can rent a boat for about $30 for a half hour ride.


  • I really like the colors of this photo. I didn’t do much to enhance them, it really looked like this there. The sailor is putting on his head wrap getting ready for another ride.
  • There were a lot of boats near this one. The challenge was to isolate one of them to get a non-cluttered shot.


  • Here’s my favorite picture of Isabel and me, if not ever, definitely from our trip to the Philippines. 
  • Even though it was sunset, there was so much light being reflected from the water and the white sands and I didn’t have to raise the ISO to compensate at all. The sun is even behind us! That just goes to show how much light there was.
  • I did decrease the shutter speed to allow more light to get into the shot. This allowed us to be properly exposed and even with the background slightly overexposed, I like the dreamy quality it gives.


  • Here’s another favorite. It may be my favorite photo taken on the trip. Isabel walks out into the clear water chasing a sunset.
  • In this photo I added some warmth to it by increasing the yellows and oranges. You can tell this when looking at the picture above which doesn’t have the added colors.
  • I love how you can see the reflection of Isabel at the bottom of the frame.
  • All of these things came together (the sunset, the reflection, the perfect waves, the beautiful sky), so all I really had to do was hold the camera up and shoot. So I can’t take all the credit for this photograph. Most of it goes to Mother Nature herself.


  • This vertical photo has so many layers. The sky and water blend together to make a beautiful golden blue painting.
  • As you can tell, I mostly like taking horizontal photographs. This time I changed it up and took a vertical one because I noticed all of the layers created by the clouds and waves. The only way to capture them all was to turn the camera on its side.


  • Another beautiful sunset photograph. This rock formation with the trees was only a few feet from the sand. On the right side of this formation is a grotto with steps up to it.
  • Silhouettes: the black outline of the rocks and the trees are striking against the golden backdrop.
  • Reflections: I love the way the rocks play in the water and the sky shines between them.
  • I dropped exposure to make these rocks completely black, to create the silhouettes.


  • All of the boats in the Philippines were so different than the motorized modern speedboats I see in the States. The simplicity of the boat and the bamboo that helps balance it is great!
  • This still life tells the story of the boat after a long day on the water. At the end of the day, the boat just gets to relax and watch the view.

Below are a few panoramic shots and video showing how I create a panoramic using the stitch function in Photoshop. With each image is a description of the location, difficulties with the panorama, and anything else interesting about the shot. Enjoy!

Click on the panorama to see in full size!


  • LOCATION: On top of Mount Tapyas near Coron Town, on Busuanga Island in Palawan. The climb up to the top of Mt. Tapyas takes over 700 steps. There are a grand total of 743 to get to the highest point on the mountain top.
  • DIFFICULTIES: The way I take panoramic photographs is by taking multiple photos from left to right or vice versa. Then in Photoshop, I stitch them together. The process is usually automatic without much work, but sometimes you have make adjustments. The images I used for this pano had slight vignetting around the edges. When stitching them together you can still see some columns of dark.
  • INTERESTING FACT: The mountains on the left of the island in the distance look like a man sleeping.


  • LOCATION: View of the Taal Volcano from Taal Vista hotel.
  • DIFFICULTIES: This photograph came out quite nicely. There weren’t really any difficulties. When taking the photographs to be used in a panorama, make sure they overlap. (i.e. the first and second photograph overlap by 1/4 t o 1/3 of the frame)
  • INTERESTING FACT: The Taal Volcano is still active and the last recorded eruption was in 1977. A 1911 eruption took the lives over 1300 people living on the island and around it.


  • LOCATION: Boracay Island
  • DIFFICULTIES: The difficulties with this image and the following were matching the photographs together. Because the waves were coming in and each photograph (I used 2 photographs to make this panorama) was taken after 1-2 seconds, the waves had already moved by the time of the second photograph. When stitching together, it was impossible to perfectly match up the waves. I tried to use the clone tool in Photoshop to patch together realistic waves.
  • INTERESTING FACT: In 2012, Boracay was awarded the top island award from Travel + Leisure magazine.


  • LOCATION: Boracay Island
  • DIFFICULTIES: Unlike the above photo, this one was easier to stitch together because of the distance to the waves. The only real difficulty was waiting until people were out of the way to get an open view of the beach.
  • INTERESTING FACT: The origin of the word Boracay is disputed according to Wikipedia. Some say it comes from words meaning ‘white cotton’ while others believe it comes from the words ‘white bubbles.’


  • LOCATION: Boracay Island
  • DIFFICULTIES: The sky was like a painting for this photograph. I had a little bit of difficulty matching up the photographs because Photoshop was unable to do so automatically. I manually did so and blended them together.
  • INTERESTING FACT: Even though rain frequents this island during the Filipino wet season, the rain is warm and the sea water too.