2015 marks the year of my return to music photography after a 6 year absence. The photos below are just some of the songs and moments that I’ve captured on my still not fully paid for Canon EOS 60D. lol
It’s been an uphill climb since January. Learned a ton from the local photographers that I admire. Got immersed in the scene once again. Made lots of new friends. Got to shoot behind the scenes photos from today’s most talented musicians. Two of my photos have made it to an actual album inlay. Some photos have been published on websites. And a couple of my photos might get printed on a local newspaper AND a local music magazine.
As for my style, I think I’ve got it down to a T. I refer to my style as “neo-noir black and white music photography.” I’ve been told that my style is a cross between music photography and portrait photography. I may have been subconsciously using music photography to release my portrait photography frustrations. Almost all my photos are in monochrome.
My gear, if it matters, are:
Canon EOS 60D (crop sensor)
Canon EF 50mm 1.8 STM (it was previously the 50mm 1.8 II)
Canon 24mm 2.8 (about 35mm on a crop. Perfect for full band shots and street/everyday photography)
Sandisk Ultra SD Card 32GB
Gouache Harvey Bag
I recently bought a Benro A28T monopod and a Black Rapid Curve camera strap that I have yet to use in the field. The monopod should be a boon in my photography as I have shaky hands. I can maybe lower the ISO in dark bar gigs, as well.
I’ll be selling my 1979 Guild D35 next month. With the money from that, I’ll be buying a flash and remote triggers. Then perhaps a used Phottix battery grip. I’m super excited for the flash for both my black and white portrait work and music photography!
Anyway, enough talking. Here are some of my favorite photos of the year:
Dissonance – Saguijo // I accidentally discovered this young and talented band when I watched Gabe Piolo live at Saguijo earlier this year. I was immediately hooked by their music and their aura. My teenage goth self was extremely happy.
Bob & Juice – Luna Coffee // This was during the first Paperback Project event at Luna Coffee. I loved the energy that the spoken word duo had that night.
After the first Paperback Project // Pictured smiling is my co-partner in The Paperback Project Fiona Commendador
Caloi Suzara – Luna Coffee // This was taken during the third Paperback Project. That’s my best friend right there!
Fiona Commendador – Luna Coffee // I love the feel of this photo. It perfects the whole “coffee shop music” vibe.
The Benjamins – Luna Coffee // The Guico twins. Two of the most talented artists in today’s independent music scene. The pair were doing “soundcheck” outside Luna Coffee.
TheSunManager – Aracama // April Hernandez AKA TheSunManager. One of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard. One of the most beautiful souls I’ve ever met. One of my favorite artists to photograph because she’s got such a calming presence.
Clara Benin – Saguijo // This wasn’t shot via the viewfinder. I raised my camera above my head (I was seated on the floor) and relied on the LCD live screen. Had I shot this while my eyes were on the viewfinder, I’d have fainted at what I was seeing. Clara Benin’s one of those subjects who doesn’t have a bad angle. And that smile can melt even the most jaded of photographers.
Wawi Navarozza of The Late Isabel – B-Side // This was the first time I saw The Late Isabel. I wasn’t a huge fan, but I loved what I heard from them in years past. Wawi Navarozza is a natural in front of the camera and on the stage. This was also the first time I shot at B-Side. The LED spotlights made things difficult at times, but I loved the way it lighted the musicians.
Wawi Navarozza of The Late Isabel – B-Side // This was a lucky shot. I was shooting Wawi Navarozza’s movements with the tambourine when the projector suddenly projected the one you see above her.
Josh Alipe of Sirens – X278 // Intense. That’s how I would describe Josh Alipe on stage.
Saab Magalona of Cheats – Satchmi Vinyl Day // This is actually a re-processed photo. The first one looked good to me, but as time went by and I learned different techniques, I had to use them on this. This is one of my favorites. It was always a dream of mine to photograph a singer with smoke around him/her. I got to do it that night with Cheats’ Saab Magalona.
Oh, Flamingo! – Satchmi Vinyl Day // I believe this was the first time they played a “big stage?” I could be wrong, though. But anyway, I love this moment. I was in the right place at the right time.
Raimund Marasigan of Pedicab – Satchmi Vinyl Day // Only Raimund Marasigan can make a keytar look fucking rad.
Jensen & The Flips – Satchmi Vinyl Day // This is one of the two photos of mine that made in the inlay of their their debut album this year. One of the highlights of my year, nay, life. I still don’t have copy of the album, though.
Ralph Gonzalez – Checkpoint Rock Bar // Ralph Gonzalez of Fools & Foes have made it to my favorite faces to photograph list. His passion really shows when he sings background vocals on the F&F songs. This was taken when he sang solo at an acoustic night at Checkpoint Rock Bar.
Chrissie Belosillo & Rizza Cabrera – Nest // Two of the awesomest people I’ve met. As talented as they’re awesome. I always shoot Raw, but I was accidentally shooting that night in Medium sized JPEGs on black and white. Not much leeway on post processing, but I like the outcome.
Reese Lansangan – Nest // Same as above. This was before Reese Lansangan was to hit the stage. She was rehearsing and I thought it was the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen. She was doing her own thing without a care in the world. I grabbed my camera (thank God the 24mm wasn’t on there) and shot a couple of frames. This was the one I liked best. Had to rely on AF. It focused on the guitar. Didn’t care. Still love the shot. Felt like a thief afterwards. I stole a moment that was meant for only her.
Sud Ballecer – A-Space // One of my few favorite shots from this year’s Fete dela Musique Acoustic Stage. It was extremely difficult to shoot that day because the place was packed. This was at the “backstage” where the artists were to prep. I saw Sud Ballecer rehearsing just before his band’s set and I did my best ninja moves on the shot in case he notices me. Had to use the LCD screen.
Johnoy Danao – Saguijo // One of my all time faves. This was the first time he used his Guild D25 in a while. As a Guild fan myself, I was ecstatic when I captured this beautiful moment between a man and his guitar. On a side note, Johnoy Danao is the one buying my vintage Guild! Can’t wait to hear the magic he does with it!
TheSunManager – Checkpoint Rock Bar // I’m so in love with this photo. One of my favorite scenes to photograph in live music are when the musicians plug in their guitars and tune them up and fiddle with their effects. You can really see and feel the intricacies they have on their sound. I feel peace whenever I look at this photo. April Hernandez has that effect on me.
Up dharma Down – Garage 88 // I’ve waited a long time to photograph Up dharma Down, one of my favorite bands of all time. They’ve become my white whale since i took up music photography again. The venue would always be packed when they play. That would be extremely hard for a photographer. Then I found out about this gig of theirs. It was at a venue near my place. The entrance was 800 bucks. I messaged Los, the guitarist, if he could get me in. I did get in. It was filled, but I could still take a few decent shots. My Those Who Dared portraits photo project also started that night with UDD.
Clara Benin – Saguijo // Have you ever viewed a photo you shot and you can’t seem to explain why you can’t look away? That’s this photo for me.
Clara Benin – Saguijo // This photo was originally processed in black and white. I went back to my old photos when I practiced processing in color more and this jumped right out of the ones I reprocessed to color. It features Clara Benin playing to a packed Saguijo, my favorite music venue in the Metro.
Bullet Dumas – Saguijo // I believe this was my first “drive-by” shot. I’d walk by a musician on stage and randomly shoot at them without looking at the viewfinder or LCD. This also opened my eyes up on different framing techniques.
Gabe Piolo & Justin dela Cruz – Cherry Studios // I was invited by Gabe Piolo to document his band’s rehearsal at Cherry Studios in Paranaque. This was on a cigarette break.
Hans Dimayuga // The first photoshoot I’ve ever done. The shoot was for his promotional material. We pretty much winged it that day. “Guerrilla Photoshoot,” as Hans described it. Got a few usable shots. This is my favorite
Johnoy Danao – Checkpoint Rock Bar // My camera has a love/hate relationship with Johnoy Danao. He moves a lot when he plays. And he’s almost always sitting down. In venues with shitty lights, expect really blurry shots of him (unless you’ve got a full frame DSLR, i suppose.) But in venues with stellar lighting, it’s gonna be magic.
Johnoy Danao – Checkpoint Rock Bar // Checkpoint is my favorite place to shoot at for a number of reasons (i.e proximity to my home, I get in for free if I’m shooting, etc.) But my number one reason is that I could do this. I can isolate my subject from the darkness with the default “solo singer-songwriter” preset lights.
Ebe Dancel – Checkpoint Rock Bar // I don’t know why I’m not a a huge fan of Ebe Dancel. But every single time I see him live, my God…his voice and his words tug at the right heartstrings.
Bullet Dumas – Checkpoint Rock Bar // Like Johnoy Danao, Bullet Dumas moves a lot when he’s on stage. Righteously so as his songs demand movement. He is a sight to behold when he’s singing live.
Bullet Dumas – Checkpoint Rock Bar // *see above
Reese Lansangan – Pointbee Multimedia // The story on this photo is in here
April Hernandez, Reese Lansangan, Kai Honasan, Josh Villena – After recording munchies // This was after the second time I documented Reese Lansangan’s recording session. It was already midnight and everyone was so hungry so we went to McDonald’s after the recording.
Museo Orlina – Tagaytay // Tagaytay Art Beat definitely left a mark. I had one of the worst anxiety attacks ever. But I survived and that’s all that matters.
Reese Lansangan – Tagaytay Art Beat // This was one of Reese Lansangan’s best gigs ever. I still remember a fleeting moment that night when she suddenly stopped singing and everyone in the crowd sang her words. The look on her face was priceless. Those memories are better saved to memory. Something that’s just mine.
Isa Romualdez of Fools & Foes – Tagaytay Art Beat // I stopped shooting that night after Fools & Foes’ set. Couldn’t carry on anymore due to the anxiety. This is my favorite photo from the night. Features a portrait like shot of a “pa-demure” Isa. The photo was actually in landscape orientation. Had to crop it to make it portrait because it looked better. I took two frames, the other one is with her smiling ear to ear.
Clara Benin – Route 196 // One of my “trademark” shots. This was my first time in Route 196. Didn’t know what to expect with the venue’s lighting. This was one of the few decent shots I have of Clara that night. I ran into some lighting issues of sorts. Clara has deep set eyes and the way the light fell on her face made her eyes dark. It was hard to work on the shadows. Glad this shot was just perfect.
Howard Luistro of Oh, Flamingo! – Route 196 // Howard’s “signature” move during one of their songs. He’d rock out on the floor and the fuzz.
Kai Honasan & Dee Cruz – Checkpoint Rock Bar // Kai Honasan and Dee Cruz takes these “prenup” shots of themselves whenever they see each other. I forgot about that fact that night. I asked them if I could take a photo of them because they were twinning with the stripes.
Raimund Marasigan – Saguijo // Man, this shot! I’m just glad I had the 50mm on. I went back to my old black and white preset for this photoset. Wanted to go back to a “gritty” feel. I have this stupid designation for most of my black and white shots: Neo-noir black and white music photography. Gritty. Raw. Almost fever dream-like.
Rapi & Algiro of Support Local Indie Scene – Saguijo // I’ve admired these two for their contribution to the local scene. Wanted to meet them and thank them and take a photo of them. I’m glad I had the opportunity to do those. Rapi, the huge dude on the left, is now rocking up there with the 27 Club. Thank you, Rapi.
Hans Dimayuga – Checkpoint Rock Bar // I was excited for this night to happen. Hans Dimayuga’s EP launch. 4 songs that took years to perfect. I’ve been a fan of Hans since my best friend Caloi let me hear his song “Agos” on Spotify late last year. I wound up being friends with the man. I got really trigger happy that night. Wanted to shoot everything. This was moments before he spoke on the mic for what was to be his best set ever.
Clara Benin – Riverchild EP Launch // I’ve been a fan of Clara’s for a about a year and a half now. Sad to say, I missed her Human Eyes album launch. I wasn’t gonna miss this one. The event was my first scheduled gig back from my month long hiatus. This is one of the continuous frames of her taking cues from her dad Joey’s basslines.
Clara Benin & Reese Lansangan – Riverchild EP Launch // Full disclosure: I have a crush on Clara Benin and Reese Lansangan. But that’s not why I’m a fan of them, and certainly not why I take photographs of them. Anyway, Reese Lansangan was one of the performers on Clara’s EP launch. Couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a portrait of the two.
Riverchild EP Launch // Ah, this photo. Clara Benin was performing during this shot. I was looking around the people in the venue and spotted these two lovebirds. I knew I had to take a shot.
Jodi & Gabe – Flow House Manila // Singer-songwriter Gabe Piolo and his girlfriend Jodi had just arrived at the Docdef In D Flow event at Flow House Manila. The couple got shy when I approached with my camera on my face. They were laughing at the absurdity of the paparazzi like shots I did in front of them. The pair loved the photo, anyway. As do I.
In D Flow – Flow House Manila // What’s equally interesting during a Tom’s Story set is the crowd. Their reactions are golden. Including this one of Run Dorothy’s Basi and Dee.
Gabe Piolo – Flow House Manila // I have become Gabe Piolo and his band’s unofficial photographer. With that role, I took more photos of them than anyone that night. I took behind the scenes, and before and after performance shots. I took a photos of Gabe walking up the stage. This was after the band’s best performance yet.
Ysabel of Banna Harbera – In D Flow, Flow House Manila // I first saw Banna Harbera live at Saguijo earlier this year. They were on the same lineup as Gabe Piolo and Dissonance. Aside from Dissonance, they really stood out with their neo-soul vibe. And Ysabel has since become one of my camera’s favorite subject to shoot due to her expressiveness on stage.
X278’s last night // This was a bittersweet night. It was X278’s final night. I wasn’t planning on going. I was doing some writing at a nearby Starbucks (my usual haunt.) As I was heading home, I passed by X278. I made a u-turn. I knew I had to pay my respects. Stayed for a bit and enjoyed the music. Took a couple of shots. Had a beer. Took this shot. And left.
Armi Millare of Up dharma Down – 12 Monkeys // This night was very memorable to me. This was the unscheduled gig that ended my hiatus. It was my birthday. Found out that UDD was playing in a venue that’s in the same city as where my birthday dinner was. Contacted Los that afternoon and asked if he could put me on the guestlist. Mentioned that it was my birthday also. Anyway, mid-set, Los grabbed the mic and greeted those who were celebrating their birthdays that night a happy birthday. He then mentioned my name. Armi followed suit and greeted me, mentioning my name. As a huge fan of the band going a decade now, that was one of the sweetest things ever.
Reese Lansangan – Creeper Club at A-Space // Reese Lansangan’s good angle. I shoot Reese from her right whenever I can. She’s more beautiful when looked at from there. Had fun that night.
Indie Manila 1st Anniv – Route 196 // My second time at Route 196. Had to make the trek and brave the C5 traffic for this one. Indie Manila’s first anniversary gig. One of my best nights this year. I wasn’t on photographer mode that night. I was coming in since Loop was playing, but ended up being a music fan as opposed to being a music photographer. I had fun, regardless.
Ed Cruz, John Mari A. Marcelo, Bel Certeza – Route 196 // It was sort of a Dharmalites reunion. Ed, Bel, and I were among the first fans of Up dharma Down. The two are among the very few that I’ve kept in touch over the years.
Perfect Sound Forever – Route 196 // This band…wow. Stellar band lineup composed of the most talented in the Metro. Guitarist Mariah Reodica definitely caught my eye that night.
Mic Mic of Loop – Route 196 // One of the few decent shots of one of my fave local bands Loop. As I mentioned about that night, I ended up as music fan instead of music photographer.
Bel Certeza/Indie Manila – Route 196 // Indie Manila herself. One of my favorite people in the world.
Fools & Foes – Saguijo // Like the Indie Manila Anniversary gig, I wasn’t in music photographer mode. I was, supposedly. But the packed Saguijo had other plans for me. I was supposed to leave my camera in my car and just enjoy the night, but I was asked by Bandwagon Ph’s Ginny Palma for a full band shot for her writeup on the band’s EP launch. I’m super glad I did. The decent photos I had that night might end up on a national newspaper and Pulp Magazine.
Isa Romualdez of Fools & Foes & photographer Kiko Nunez – Saguijo // I’ve only met Kiko online on a music photographers Facebook page I created. This was the first time I officially met him. Super talented film photographer. Awesome hair. He took a portrait of Isa that night with his medium frame format camera.
Fools & Foes Underneath The Roots EP // This is pretty self explanatory. I dunno how it happened, but I ended up being the merch guy after the event. I helped sell CDs. It was fun. Made a new friend.
Reese Lansangan – Arigato, Internet! Album Launch at Green Sun // I was shooting all afternoon and all night, but this was the one photograph that I wanted to take. So much so that I had to wait until all her fans and all her friends were done having her sign their copies of her album and taking photos with her. I had to wait for the right moment.
Reese Lansangan – Arigato, Internet! Album Launch at Green Sun // Not including the portrait of Reese above, this is my shot of the night. I’ll be honest, before I sought treatment for my depression and anxiety, I wouldn’t have been able to take this shot. I dread being in front of crowds. All those eyes (potentially) looking at me frightens me. This shot wasn’t just monumental for me as a photographer. It’s also monumental for me as someone who suffers from mental health disorders. (I may have ruined a lot of shots from other people that night lol)
Reese Lansangan – Arigato, Internet! Album Launch at Green Sun // I originally wanted to take a photo of Reese WITH the crowd that night. This was the best I could do.
Clara Benin – Checkpoint Rock Bar // To say that I was excited that Clara Benin to play Checkpoint is a major understatement. It’s only in Checkpoint that I can do shots like these. This was originally in black and white. Both shot and post processed. Tried one of my colored presets and it just clicked. It’s not to say that I don’t love the b&w version, but this just speaks to me more.
Clara Benin – Checkpoint Rock Bar // As I’ve mentioned, Clara’s one of my favorite faces to photograph. That smile is unbelievable.
Ling’s Babes – LA Balls Studio // I was invited by Ling Lava to sing on one of his songs on his EP. He pretty much took a risk since he hasn’t heard me sing before. It was the first time my voice has ever been properly recorded in a studio. I was nervous as hell. Fucked up at the beginning. Did lots of retakes til Nick, the sound engineer, got the right ones. Personally, I was unsatisfied with my voice during the first half. Got more comfortable on the last half.
Johnny Alegre – Saguijo // THE Johnny Alegre. Jazz guitar God. He’s one of those “why am I not a big fan of him?!” musicians. So fucking good. And I got to be on the same lineup as him. That night was one of the highlights of my year. I got to do a proper goodbye to my singer-songwriter self. At my dream venue, no less.
I don’t know what’s gonna happen in 2016, but I’m excited for what it has in store for me!