Saturday, February 21, 2015

My 2015 Oscar Predictions

 
Over the past several years, I have sporadically posted my pre-Oscar picks particularly when I believe that the year had a good selection of films in competition.
 
This year was an exceptional year for the movies, maybe because only the best non-blockbuster scripts gets funding beyond the slew of franchised animation, remakes, sequels, prequels, bestseller and comic book adaptations that come out from Hollywood these days.
 
Anyway, here are my picks for each of the major categories for the Academy Awards. I usually get 50% of them right. Let's see how I do tomorrow night:)
 
Postscript: The winners are out (my guess in red, actual winner in yellow). I got 8 out of the 14 categories I included here in this blog-- a 57% hit! I am getting better every year...
 
For some reason, I seem to be always in the money for Best Director and Best Cinematographer. I guess it just shows that I am really familiar with my chosen crafts ;)
 
BEST PICTURE
American Sniper
Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Boyhood - winner
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
Selma
The Theory of Everything
Whiplash
 
BEST DIRECTOR
Alejandro G. Inarritu - winner *
Richard Linklater
Bennett Miller
Wes Anderson
Morten Tyldum
 
BEST ACTOR
Steve Carell
Bradley Cooper
Benedict Cumberbatch
Micheal Keaton - winner
Eddie Redmayne
 
BEST ACTRESS
Marion Cotillard
Felicity Jones
Julianne Moore - winner *
Rosamund Pike
Reese Witherspoon
 
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Robert Duvall
Ethan Hawke
Edward Norton
Mark Ruffalo
J.K. Simmons - winner *
 
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Patricia Arquette
Laura Dern
Keira Knightley - winner
Emma Stone
Meryl Streep
 
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Emmanuel Lubezki - winner *
Robert Yeoman
Lukasz Zai/Ryszard Lenczewski
Dick Pope
Roger Deakins

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Photo Mural Commission - Part 3


"Trinity" an original photo-triptych by Atom Magadia


"To see a World in a grain of sand
and Heaven in a wild FLOWER
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
and Eternity in an hour..."
William Blake
 
"There is Nothing you can see
that is not a FLOWER..."
Matsuo Basho
 
"No more words
In the Name of this Place
we drink in with our breathing
Stay quiet like a FLOWER
so the Nightbirds will start singing..."
Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

 
Beside the actual artwork

Friday, February 6, 2015

Canon's New High Resolution 5DS & 5DS R


My long wait is finally over! Canon just came out with cameras I actually want... and need.

The new Canon EOS 5DS R and its twin 5DS

As a commercial studio and fine-art photographer, image resolution is critical to my work. The last time I was this excited about a camera was 13 years ago when the Canon EOS-1Ds first came out; arguably the 1st successful full-frame DSLR, after the pioneering Contax N Digital failed. Its successor, the 1Ds Mark II, has been giving me wonderful high quality images for my magazine and newspaper assignments ever since.  But I still have to rent digital backs for my Mamiya RZ67 Pro IID and my Sinar P2 whenever I have high-resolution (Billboard Advertising, Wall Mural) projects. Not any more... 
 
The Canon 5Ds and 5DS R are 50.6 Megapixel, full-frame DSLRs!
 
The two new high-resolution models are exactly alike, except for the absence of the Low-pass filter on the 5DS R model. Both are equipped with a newly designed 50.6 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor with dual Digic-6 processors; a 61 point High Density Reticular Auto Focus; full HD (1920 x 1080) 30p video with time-lapse function; continuous shooting up to 5 fps; dual card slots (1 CF + 1 SD); an intelligent viewfinder with 100% coverage; a 3.2 inch Clear View II LCD monitor (170 degree viewing angle, 1,040,000 dot VGA); and a magnesium-alloy body. Additional features include an EOS Scene Detection System with a 150,000 pixel RGB+IR Metering Sensor for more accurate exposures; an advanced mirror control mechanism and selectable shutter release time lag that helps suppress camera vibration for added image clarity; an Anti-flicker function to compensate for flickering light sources and assist in acquiring consistent exposure and color; and user selectable 1.3x and 1.6x crop capabilities for added flexibility. The normal ISO range for both cameras is 100-6400, with expanded speeds up to 12800-- pretty decent for studio applications.
 
The absence of the Low-pass filter on the 5DS R is an option reserved for specialized applications that need extra-crisp focus, like high-resolution advertising, landscape and fine art photos. There have been a lot of Canon users in the past couple of years who have experimented with removing the LPF from their stock 5D and have claimed an improvement on their camera's sharpness and overall resolution. Canon is now offering that option in the 5DS R.
 
To everyone familiar with my blog, you all know that I just recently acquired my fourth complete digital camera system (Fuji X) for my everyday "Street" and travel work so I do not have the budget this year for this camera. But I am dusting my Canon Lenses in anticipation... 
 
I am also anxiously awaiting the launch of the 5D Mark IV, the successors to the 1Dx and 1Dc models, as well as the "mystery Canon camera" that has been rumoured (3D?). But for my current needs, these two models are already sufficient. Thank you Canon!!!!

Here is a video by the Canon Digital Learning Center on the 5DS and the 5DS R:

 
--Images and video taken from Canon, USA    

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Weekly Street Photos #27


This week's theme: MANILA'S HOMELESS - 2

Photographs of the "homeless" (Manila's Homeless, Manila's Urban Aetas), can be offensive to some people. But ever since I started shooting on the actual streets of Metro-Manila, my camera refuses to turn away from a reality that readily greets me anywhere I look.
 
In the Philippines, a third-world country, you would have to be blind not to notice the reality of poverty everywhere you go-- particularly in the urban areas. There are a lot of people in this country who look negatively at photographers and filmmakers who highlight these scenes of desperation, citing that we propagate the negative image our country is getting internationally. But try as I might, I can never turn my eye away from this problem,  which constantly assaults not only my conscience but also my very humanity.
 
When the Pope visited the Philippines two weeks ago, I was appalled to learn that the government's Department of Social Welfare and Development deliberately evacuated homeless families from the city streets, in an effort to rid Manila of its unsightly vagrants. The DSWD spent P4.3 million to accommodate 490 homeless families in an expensive beach resort for 6 days (until the Pope left)-- using valuable funds to sweep the problem under the rug, instead of using it to actively help these people get more decent dwellings. It's scandalous!

So I am now posting more photos to make it clear to everyone out there, that thousands of these homeless souls live in our city streets. It is seldom shown or acknowledged, but no real "Manila-based Street Photographer" should ever deny this.   

(Click on Photos for better viewing)
"Central Living And Customized Lifestyle"

"Dumura Dito (Spit Here)"
 
"Light And Shadow In Yellow"

--All Photos are the exclusive property of Atom Magadia

Friday, January 23, 2015

Photo Mural Commission - Part 2

After shooting flowers in my studio last week, I tweaked and converted my RAW shots in Adobe Lightroom, then proceeded to edit the images in Adobe Photoshop to create the mural's abstract collage files.
 
Anne (my wife/business partner) and I spent the whole week gathering proposals and bids from a dozen of the Manila's premier digital printers. But we still ended up using our regular large format contractor Pixografx, because no one else was able to match their quality, reliability and professionalism (a rare virtue in these parts), specifically when it involves dimensions of this size-- 4 x 6.5 feet.
 
We met with them yesterday, to proof and finalize the print...      
 
Discussing the nuances of the art-piece with imaging expert Rain Lacson...

When I was asked to do this mural and was told to come up with the art, I originally proposed doing nudes (w/ one or two models) in a surreal composition. But it was flatly rejected. The clients countered that the commissioned artwork will be prominently displayed in their dining room, so they would prefer a less controversial piece-- preferably something less upsetting to their gastronomic sensibilities.

Test printing on different papers to get the right texture and ink clarity.
 
During one of our meetings, the clients mentioned admiring my "Butterfly" series, which features flowers and insects. Unfortunately, most of those images were shot ten years ago with a low-resolution camera and would not work with the size of the proposed mural. So I suggested shooting new high-resolution floral images for the project without the butterflies (w/c would require field work and more time), and they happily agreed.
 
Anne helping me  proof for printing...

Friday, January 16, 2015

Photo Mural Commission

I have been locked up in my studio doing flower photography, so I do not have much to show in terms of "Street" work this week.
 
Pope Francis arrived yesterday for an official visit and Metro-Manila is on holiday for several days (in anticipation of traffic), which gave me unexpected time-off to begin work on a mural project. The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic nation and the presence of  the Vicar of Christ in our country has been known to cause wide-spread hysteria, coupled with mass public congregations.
 
"Look Mom, It's Pope Francis!"
 
I recently received a commission to do a fine-art photo mural for a private residence (4 feet by 6.5 feet), so I am experimenting with some flower photography because the client expressed a fondness for floral art. I still have to figure out what to do in the final collage-- which I will eventually assemble in Photoshop (possibly with other elements), so there is nothing definite yet. But here is a sampling of some of the raw shots that came out from the shoot...

Friday, January 9, 2015

Weekly Street Photos #26


This week's theme: MANILA'S URBAN AETAS

I ended 2014 with street photos of "Manila's Homeless," so I thought to continue that theme at the start of this year to include a special group of vagabonds that sporadically populate Metro-Manila streets, Aetas (aboriginal Filipinos).
 
The Aetas (Negritos to Spaniards, Itas to Filipinos) are the original indigenous people of Luzon, the northern part of the Philippines. As a group, they have culturally resisted modernity by living in isolation in the mountainous regions of the island. But when Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1991, they were forced to move to resettlement areas. A large group of them have slowly migrated into Metro-Manila ending up in the streets, with nowhere to live and with no means of sustaining themselves-- except through alms. It is a tragic situation that I want people to notice.    

(Click on Photos for better viewing)
"Living On A Crossroad"
 
"Simple Joys"

"In Our Father's Footsteps"

--All Photos are the exclusive property of Atom Magadia

Friday, January 2, 2015

Weekly Street Photos #25

I am welcoming 2015 with a bang, by starting my "Weekly Street Photo" post early! I had a blast celebrating New Year's Eve partying with my family, but of course with a camera strapped to me the whole time. Manila is firecracker central during this festive time of the year and the whole city is ablaze. I was intoxicated, but I was able to capture a few shots (pun intended) :))


There was a live-band as well as a DJ in the New Year Countdown Party. Music flooded my senses that evening, that I decided to utilize some of the songs I heard to guide me in composing my shots. Here are three of my favorites...
 
HAPPY NEW YEAR!

"Some Enchanted Evening (...across a crowded room)"
 
"(Heaven, I'm in heaven...) Cheek to Cheek"
 
"Starry Starry Night (...paint your palette blue and grey)"
 
 --All Photos are the exclusive property of Atom Magadia

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Booklist for the Holidays

I love reading, and collecting books is a passion of mine. So this holiday season, I have selected 15 books on photography, cinema and the visual arts from my own library to share with you. Most of these books just came out this year (all are still in print) and should be available in your local bookstores.

Vacation time is a good opportunity to catch up on some reading-- in between family gatherings and binge feasting:)  I have read all these books from cover to cover, and have found them invaluable to my own work. I hope you find some of them helpful to you too...

Have a MERRY CHRISTMAS and a prosperous NEW YEAR!

Have you ever wondered how one work of art could be sold for millions, while another can be almost worthless? Michael Findlay examines this phenomenon in his book, "The Value of Art." He demystifies the process of how art is bought and sold, its commercial and social dimensions while constantly looking beyond the sales numbers to emphasize its essential cultural and spiritual dimensions. As a trained financial analyst, I have always been fascinated with "value" and how we give or assign "worth" to objects and experiences. This book is an enlightening guide to the perplexing and amusing business of Art, for the curious.

Although I also paint, I included this book on this list primarily because I believe that portrait photographers (and cinematographers) can learn a lot from studying formal Portraiture. I can trace a lot of my skills in capturing expression, gesture, personality, emotion and soul (to accurately capture character), through my personal experience of painting and sketching people. When you look very closely at each line and shade on a person's face, taking note of how each muscle contracts and relaxes, you become hyper aware of how our bodies openly express our inner state. "The Society Portrait - from David to Warhol" traces formal Portraiture's development from Napoleon's time to the present, highlighting its progress from one art period to the next-- delving into the changing outlook of society from generation to generation. The book is filled with examples from major of artists, we can all learn from.   
 
"The Passionate Photographer" by Steve Simon is a great book that fills the gap left-off by most "how to" photography books-- mastering the craft psychologically, translating ideas and thoughts to create great images,  dealing with your fears, gaining inspiration and passion for your art. It is filled with great insights, real world examples and practical tips on how to improve your photography and bring it to the next level. I am already passionate about my work, yet this book has helped me focus on the details of what can make my photography consistently exceptional, and at the same time help keep me inspired.  
 
Arnold Newman is one of my favorite master photographers. His photography has inspired me from the very beginning and has been one of the main influences for my own portrait work. The book, "Masterclass - Arnold Newman, contains more than 200 examples of his work including iconic portraits of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Brassai, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Marcel Duchamp, Mark Chagall, Max Ernst, Andrew Wyeth, Piet Mondrian, John F. Kennedy, David Ben-Gurion, Robert Oppenheimer, James Watson, I. M. Pei, Isaac Stern, Leonard Bernstein and Martha Graham among many other famous and notable sitters. It also contains a section on Newman's development as a photographer, from his apprenticeship in a portrait studio in the early 1940s to his gradual experimentation with the form, and finally to his own signature abstract, simplified, cropped style that I fell in love with. I highly recommend this book for all Arnold Newman devotees.
 
John Harrington is the president of the White House News Photographers Association and has worked for the Associated Press, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, the National Geographic Society, People and Life. His book "Photographs from the Edge of Reality" takes us inside his career as a photojournalist, from the spring of 1990 when he gained his press pass to shoot President George H.W. Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, to his work with current President Barack Obama. I love looking into other people's experiences, and this book gives me a window into the life of a photographer working in the White House, a rare treat.
 
I highly recommend the "The Street Photographer's Manual" for anyone starting out in "Street Photography." It is the most comprehensive "how to" book I have encountered regarding the genre-- a real manual that covers everything you will need to know to start shooting. But "Street Photography" is so broad and highly individualistic that knowledge beyond this guide, can only and will only be acquired once you shoot... and shoot... and shoot for years to come. David Gibson covers as much of the basics you will need to know, with great examples from his own work and portfolios from other well-known practitioners. I disagree with some of the parameters he suggests in the book, but "Street Photography" is a subjective field and there is no way anyone can definitively tackle every detail.
 
"The New Street Photographer's Manifesto" is a more condensed version of the previous book. Like "The Street Photographer's Manual" it gives great tips and technical information on how to start shooting "Street," but in a more compact and economical package. Tanya Nagar provides good examples from practicing street photographers as a guide. To me, this book is a good enough backgrounder on the genre to start from. I recommend it highly as a great "stocking stuffer" for any would be street photographer on your list.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Why I Shoot "Street"

My favorite "Street" film camera, a 1960s B&H Dial 35

To go forward, we sometimes have to step back...
 
That is exactly what I did when I decided to branch out formally into "Street Photography," six months ago. After being involved in the Photographic Arts for more than a third of a century, the practice of taking photographs was beginning to lose its magic. From an amateur hobbyist, I had successfully transitioned into a professional who specialized in commercial studio photography. But after years of doing that, photography became "work" and I lost the yearning to photograph anything outside of the "studio," without the "proper" camera set-up-- lenses, filters and lighting equipment. It became so bad, that I actually refused to bring a camera on vacation for several years (even during my Honeymoon, w/c my wife still refuses to forgive) thinking that it would be better to miss a shot than to execute one that was crappy-- of course, I was being seriously philosophical about all this. To me, it was a real choice between bringing tons of heavy equipment or bringing nothing at all, so I gave my wife the lame excuse that it was better for both of us if she just brought her own camera, because she would just lose her patience with me lugging a heavy bag on our vacations, then waiting around for the "right light" to present itself. In truth,  I actually did not want to be weighed down by anything whatsoever when I was on R&R, preferring to "live for the moment" than to be burdened by necessity.
 
"Levitation" Los Angeles, USA (shot on film)

I have been a student of "Zen" since I was a teenager-- reading books as well as practicing "Zazen" in private. I got into Zen Buddhist philosophy because I was practicing Martial Arts during that time and was attracted to the spontaneity it brought its practitioners, particularly to artists. For a while, I even regularly attended early morning "Zazen" sessions with the Monks in the Zenshuji Soto Mission Temple in Los Angeles, and contemplated monkhood. But my photography went the opposite direction. As I got more involved with photography and cinematography while formally studying these disciplines in film school, I slowly associated the process of making good pictures with deliberateness and precision-- with the methodical studio-based approach espoused by Hollywood. I became engrossed in the graphic simplicity and idealistic formality of studio photography, particularly in Fashion (Avedon, Penn, Newton) and Portraiture (Karsh, Newman, Halsman). To me this type of photography was beautifully "Zen" like in spirit; but learned, at the same time, that the techniques involved in their execution were consciously methodical. Their measured quality appealed to me deeply-- both aesthetically and emotionally. So I strove for this standard in my photographic work for years, after all isn't "art" rooted in "art"-ifice? But this rigid approach gradually boxed me in.

"Hound Dog" Los Angeles, USA (shot on film)

Of course I admired master photojournalists like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dorothea Lange and Sebastiao Salgado for years. But their type of photography belonged in an alternative universe to mine. I thought that there was a natural chasm that existed between "idealism" and "realism" in photography, that I came to believe that studio photographers and photojournalists were distinguished not only by their specialties and skillsets, but also by their personalities-- which I imagined to be polar opposites. For a long while, I firmly identified with the "photo-romanticists" (editorial and commercial photographers), who created images from their mind's eye, and not with the "photo-realists" (news and documentary photographers) that dealt with the more messier and unpredictable images from real life. I confused specialization as a choice between these two opposing camps.

Boy was I wrong! Because after much soul searching, I found out that like my photojournalistic brethren (and sisters of course), I do have a natural predilection for photographing/filming people more than any other subject. Like them, I am also curious about people-- I love stories and find nothing more compelling to capture on camera than human drama. I other words, I finally realized that I am a voyeur by impulse!

"A Brief Interlude" Hong-Kong, China

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Weekly Street Photos #24


This week's theme: MANILA'S HOMELESS

When you take photographs on the street, in any city in the world, you are bound to come across the "homeless." But in Metro-Manila squatters abound, that it is almost impossible to ignore them. As a photographer who chronicles people as they go about their daily lives, I believe that it is my duty to also highlight the plight and the existence of these poor souls living within the borders of our communities. Some people consider photos on this subject as an act of exploitation. On the contrary, I photograph these "street-dwellers" because they are worthy of my attention (and yours)-- extending them the dignity they deserve by treating them as "bona fide" Manileños . 
 
(Click on Photos for better viewing)
"Bridge Dwellers"
 
"Crucifixion"
 
"Give Us A Chance"
 
After two-dozen weeks of posting "Weekly Street Photos" continuously, I have decided to take a little break so I can concentrate on my cinematic projects. I promise to resume my "Street Photography" postings after the New Year. Thank you so much for your interest and your continuing support for my Photography:)
 
--All Photos are the exclusive property of Atom Magadia

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Weekly Street Photos #23


This week's theme: STREET MURALS

The Metro-Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has a project of beautifying Manila city streets with murals. I have been having a blast juxtaposing them in photographs. Here are three of my favorites.

(Click on Photos for better viewing)
"Sparrow Lane"

"Shadows"

"Mind Trip"

--All Photos are the exclusive property of Atom Magadia

Monday, October 27, 2014

Weekly Street Photos #22


This week's theme: FATHER & SON

I just saw the movie "The Judge" starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Robert Duvall, so I have been thinking about my own relationship with my dad and my son lately. It seems easier for guys to find differences and to just let kinships fall apart. It's specially harder to maintain a strong bond between males from two different generations. But fathers do love and care deeply for their children, they just express and manifest it in a special way.

(Click on Photos for better viewing)
"His First Driving Instructor"
 
"Basketball Dreams"

"No U-Turn"

--All Photos are the exclusive property of Atom Magadia

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Weekly Street Photos #21


This week's theme: RAIN
 
I'm sure everyone noticed the erratic weather patterns we have been having all over the world-- unseasonal thunder storms, long winters, super tornadoes, extreme summer heat with extended dry spells. In the Philippines, aside from super typhoons that wreak havoc to entire cities, we have had unseasonal monsoon rains that cause wide-spread flooding and odd daily weather that combines sunny-hot mornings with freak thunderstorms in the afternoons.

(Click on Photos for better viewing)
"Simulated Lightning"

"Splash"

"Stranded"

--All Photos are the exclusive property of Atom Magadia