Sunday, September 27, 2009

Manila Flooded

Dubbed the worst flood in the Philippine Capital for half a century, tropical storm "Ondoy (Ketsana)" devastated large portions of Manila and 25 other provinces yesterday. 12 hours of downpour dumped more than a month's worth of rain, leaving 80% of the city submerged and at least 106 people dead and missing.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Leica Prosumer Compacts (X1, D-Lux4, D-Lux3) Comparison

The Leica D-Lux 3 is a camera I swear by.  I take it with me everywhere in a leather holster attached to my belt.  Aside from a slight bulge, the camera is so light and compact it has become my favorite "everyday camera" -- it is inconspicuous and can easily fit in a pocket.  Although I have been shooting with my IPhone lately for non-work related photographs (some of which have actually ended as fineart prints), the D-Lux 3 is still my camera of choice when it comes to more serious photos, specially for pictures that will end up as larger art prints.  I bought my camera two years ago and I have never regretted my purchase.

I have included the D-lux 3 in this comparison, even if it has recently been discontinued, because it is still a good camera and it is the basis for my evaluation of the two newer models.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Inglourious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino’s newest film “Inglourious Basterds” pays homage to the Italian Spaghetti westerns and to the 1970s World War II Macaroni combat film “Inglorious Bastards” by Italian Director Enzo G. Castellari that Quentin absolutely adores. Like most of his films, the movie is an eccentric blend of influences from various genres, styles and cultures amusingly spliced together to create an original.
Like Quentin, I am a big fan of Director Sergio Leone. The opening sequence (or Chapter 1) of the movie is an obvious retake of the “family massacre scene” from Leone’s “Once Upon A Time in the West.” The camera angles, the editing, the pacing and the framing are all Leone. The film’s musical score and soundtrack actually contains several previously released tracks by Ennio Morricone, Sergio Leone’s musical composer and frequent collaborator (Tarantino actually wanted Morricone to compose the original soundtrack for the film, but he was unavailable). “Once Upon A Time in Nazi Occupied France” was even seriously considered as a subtitle for this film. I believe Quentin actually saw a similarity between his Nazi villain Hans Landa and Leone’s villain Frank (played by Henry Fonda) in “Once Upon A Time in the West.” Both look and act unassumingly -- they play against their stereo-type, but are actually cold-blooded ruthless killers.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Music Video Shot with the Canon 1D Mark III

I found this blogged on the "Strobist" Blog of David Hobby. I instantly fell in love with the technique -- shooting a video on a still camera's frame-rate (a Canon 1D Mark III at 10fps with Profoto Pro-8A airs, later inserts with a Canon 1Ds Mark II), absolutely brilliant! Not exactly "convergence," but effective none the less. It is a great example of creativity and technical prowess over plain technology.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Douglas Kirkland

One of the most prolific Motion Picture Stills Photographer in history, Douglas Kirkland is a legend in Hollywood. He has been photographing movies and celebrities for over 50 years.

Born in Toronto in 1934 and raised in Fort Erie, Canada, he took his first picture with a box Brownie at the age of 10. Two years later, he was shooting with a 4 x 5 Speed Graphic sheet film camera. He started his professional career when he was just 14 years old, working for a local studio after school and on Saturdays. At 22, Douglas managed to get a job with Irving Penn as an assistant before finally getting hired by Look Magazine as a staff photographer. He became famous in 1961, when he photographed Marilyn Monroe for the 25th anniversary issue of the magazine.

He began photographing celebrities on a chance assignment with Elizabeth Taylor who agreed to do an interview with the magazine, but with no pictures. Elizabeth Taylor has not been photographed formally for a year and a half because she had been very sick, but Douglas accompanied the journalist on assignment hoping to persuade her. After the interview, he went to say goodbye but looked her straight in the eye and said, "Goodbye, it was nice meeting you... can you imagine what an opportunity it would be for me--being new at this magazine--if you gave me a chance to photograph you." A moment of silence passed and then she said, "Come tomorrow night at 8:30." The photo session was a success and was published worldwide, and his career working for the movie industry was launched.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Charity Work for Children's Hospital Los Angeles

Last Sunday, my daughter was the Guest of Honor at the Portuguese Bend National Horse Show, held at the Rolling Hills Estates in the Palos Verdes Peninsula. She awarded the Gabriel C. Duque, Jr. memorial trophy with Childrens Hospital LA Head of Radiology, Dr. Marvin Nelson.

Seeing her award that trophy brought tears to my eyes...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Canon EOS 7D Camera

As a camera enthusiast and collector, a "new camera launch" always excites me. Being a Canon user since the old F-1 era, Canon camera announcements are an extra treat.

I don't upgrade my photo gear every time a new model is announced... I usually skip one generation before I trade-in my cameras for better ones. The introduction of the new Canon 7D last Tuesday is timely -- I am ready to upgrade from my 40D.

Although I use 1Ds bodies for professional (commercial) work, I find them too heavy to lug around for my own personal work. Combine them with a couple of Pro L lenses (not to mention the telephotos) and you would need to bring an assistant just to get around.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Influencial Cinema Advocates Murdered

Alexis Tioseco, a Filipino-Canadian Film Critic and Nika Bohinc, a Slovenian Film Critic and freelance writer, were murdered yesterday (tuesday night-Manila time) in their home in Quezon City, a suburb of Metro-Manila, Philippines. According to the Police report, the couple was gunned down as they were entering their home. Both died of bullet wounds, victims of a violent burglary. Three gunmen, with the help of their live-in Maid, got away with an undetermined amount of personal valuables, including jewelry and their laptop computers.

This is a tragic loss for the Cinema world!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

District 9

"District 9," a late-summer Sci-fi thriller produced by Peter Jackson and directed by South African first-timer Neill Blomkamp, is surprisingly good. It may well be the best Blockbuster movie of this summer.

Set in Johannesburg South Africa and shot/edited psuedo-documentary style (with lots of news clips and video interviews), the Apartheid undertones are immediately recognizable. The title itself is a play on District 6, a mixed-race area in Cape Town where black residents were forcibly evacuated when it was declared "a White-only" neighborhood. Refugees forced to live in a squalid slum segregated from the rest of the population, these Aliens commonly refer to as "Prawns," draws from Blomkamp's own childhood memories of racial segregation and descrimination in South Africa.

Although the theme is politically charged, the movie successfully entertains by delivering an action-packed human drama that is both engaging and some-what intelligent. The plot is simple and straight forward: Aliens land on earth - Aliens ran out of fuel, and is trapped on Earth - Aliens finally escape. But by concentrating the story mainly on one human character, Wikus Van De Merwe and on the agony and the desperation he experiences as he slowly becomes an Alien himself, the film cleverly forces the audience to witness his tragedy -- and in effect, orchestrating an unconscious shift in the audience's sympathy, from loathing the insect like creatures (at the beginning of the film), to mild-empathy for the Aliens' plight and support for their eventual escape (by the end of the movie).