Model Portfolio: Rima

I had the chance with work with Rima on a print-ad for a mall some time back, and thought she fit the bill for a Great Gatsby concept that was brewing in my head for quite some time already. I called her up and good thing she was game enough for these kinds of shoots.

Make-up: Ara Fernando
Styling: Yuki Tansengco / Hannah Kim
Model: Rima Ostwani

In case you're curious on where we got the backgrounds, they're actually upholstery fabric from places like Shell Canvas. I had them cut and stitched in a manner to make them horizontal rather than just following the original cut of the fabrics. Look for the "ritaso" / surplus sections at the back where they hold sale of fabrics that aren't enough to make an entire sofa set. 

This is the first formation for the Mola. This is a modified setup of a beauty shot, having a background spotlight and soft diffused highlight coming from camera-left of the image. 

As for the next shot, I adjusted the Mola on a higher angle, added one more strip box kicker light on the right.

The last layout was inspired from this image:

Of course I wouldn't exactly want to copy the same image, but get the vibe of it nonetheless.

More behind the scenes, courtesy of Ara:


2013 Year in Review

I know it sounds cliche like the rest of the people posting cheesy things about the year that has gone by, but we have to admit there are a lot of things we can be thankful for. 

On the home front, I'm just thankful for mom, dad, Raech and a supporting family who backed me up through thick and thin this past year. Lots of things gained and learned. There's this little boy in me that wish things never change. There's also my motley crew of a staff that kept the business running: Mang Romy, Ramil, Diane and Hannah whom I would never have built a (so-called) career without their contribution, and sanity-catching prowess. 

It has been an interesting journey between the places I got to visit and the people I got to meet and reconnect with. 2013 has been a year where we also chase dreams, get out of our routine and make it happen.

Last July, I got the chance to live the geek's dream and make the pilgrimage to San Diego last July for Comic Con. That weekend will forever be ingrained in this geeks's soul for the rest of my life. There's nobody else to thank here than Pat Loika, who made all this happen for me, and even extended it to some friends. This geek's life has been changed forever. 

I never thought of setting foot in SDCC, until I took that "what if" and gave it a shot. Since then I realized that taking a small step is way better than just sitting around and imagining what could've happened. 

I had the awesome chance to work with Linda, Jessie, Meredith, Megan, AJ, and reconnected with staple cosplay friends Yaya, Riki, Judy, Meagan Marie, Jan and Ashley. 

I also got the chance to return to Singapore for the International Cosplay Day celebrations. Hats off to Jason Koh for growing his brainchild into a much-awaited event every August. This has been my 2nd year of guesting, and I look forward in sharing our craft for years to come.

Alodia and our team for this year ICDS cosplay shoot.
And to top things off this December, it was Japan that sealed the deal for the next chapter of my life. I look forward to spending more new years with you Raech.

Happy New Year! Here's to more adventures in 2014. 


I'm Going Japanese (My somewhat 1st time experience in Tokyo)

Last time I've been to Japan was 11 years old. When you do the math, that's about 2 decades back. I can hardly remember shit (except for those bright lights of Akihabara) and my Rockman (Megaman for you guys in the US). I'm sure lots of things have changed since then. 

So early this December 2013, Raech and I took that crazy trip to Tokyo just for the heck of it. We stayed for five (5) days, and it wasn't enough.

This is by any no means a comprehensive guide on going around in Japan, but this humble attempt it should give you an idea on how easy it is despite the initial daunting impressions.

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Of course there are several airlines servicing Japan from Manila. A quick rundown of we checked out were:

  • Philippine Airlines
    Worst schedule if you're tourist, but best if you're a returning expat, since this maximizes your stay in the Philippines instead. Leaves in the afternoon and arrives as the last flight into Tokyo. Rates though are fairly constant even as you book later. 
  • Delta
    Leaves early morning, and you arrive around after lunch. This is best if you want maximize your trip. Not the cheapest, and rates go up quickly the later you book. A week before the trip would more or less damage you about $700 USD. 
  • ANA (All Nippon Airways)
    This is the best bang for buck option. Cheapest, but hardest to book. Make sure you buy your tickets through them months in advance. Leaves mid-morning, and arrives mid-afternoon. 
There are others, but it was already a bit out of our budget. 

There are several offers for tourists / foreigners traveling in Japan that aren't made available for locals. This is something you have to take advantage, and more often than not, most arrangements are done prior to your flight or at the airport the moment you land. 

If you plan to visit other cities asides from Tokyo, I would highly recommend taking the JR Rail Pass. This is only available for foreign travelers, and should be ordered online prior to your trip. They usually FedEx the claim stub to your house. You could then exchange this for the actual pass at the JR East Travel Centers.

Most Shinkansen trains leave from either the Ueno, Shibuya and Tokyo stations so you just have to double check where that particular train leaves. 

Most international flights arrive at Narita Airport, which is Tokyo's newer airport compared to Haneda Airport, handling mostly domestic flights. Narita is about an hour away or so from the city proper. Which means your transfers to and from the airport have to be secured the moment you arrive. Of course you could do this separately, but it would come out more expensive. Knowing the prices in Japan, any amount of savings in a trip is well worth the effort. 

Your options to and from Narita Airport:
  • Keisei Skyliner
    This is faster than the N'Ex, stops at the Ueno station, but doesn't have that Suica Card packaged, which is a better deal than their 1-2 day passes just for the Tokyo Metro lines. 
  • Narita Express (and Suica card package)
    One of the most economical and convenient options to take. When you finally get out of customs and at the basement area, you could get this combination ticket either at the JR East Travel) Centers or the JR Ticketing offices (if the travel center is already closed).

    When you get a round trip on the N'Ex, they immediately book you on the next available schedule unless you state otherwise. Then you're provided with a claim stub to get your return tickets on the day you're leaving Japan. You can exchange this on any major station (Shibuya or Tokyo) since their ticketing offices open early and close late. The N'Ex card has an expiry of 2 weeks, which is more or less the allowed stay per entry of a regular tourist visa.

    These trains leave precisely down to the minute. Hence they got strangely timed departure schedules like, 12:49. And true enough the train does leave at that. 
  • Airport Limousine (Bus)
    If you missed the schedules for the trains, this is the next best option. 
  • Taxi
    If all other options fail (which I doubt they would), this is the last, and I mean the very last option to take. On average, a cab ride from the airport would set you back about P 24,000.00. Yes. P 24,000.00. So don't take this unless you have no choice anymore.
If you need more help, Japan Guide has a more detailed system of getting into the city.

Tokyo Commute

The JR Yamanote line is the heart and soul of their train system. This is a circular line that goes around the major districts. All the rest of the lines stem out from this circle. Though there are several subway operators, most of the platform transfers are done without having to get out of the stations. This is where the Suica card comes in very handy. Instead of spending time buying single-journey tickets and trying to read the confusing map, you just swipe through and ride. Just take note of the balance at the end when you exit so you'd know when to top-up the card. 


I highly suggest finding a hotel near any of the stations for maximum convenience. We stayed at the Washington Akihabara Hotel, which is just right in front of the Akihabara station. Average business hotels prices would start from $150 USD / night above. Fancy places such as the Tokyo Daichi or the Tokyo Station Hotel, would fetch up as much as $350 USD / night. 

If you want to have a feel of classic Japanese B&Bs, try out the ryokans in the Ueno area. These are relatively cheaper (about $ 90 / night on average). On the bit of a downside, most are found further from the stations and have curfews since they're run by local families. 

Our Trip

Tokyo in five (5) days just isn't enough. You would need a solid week (and I mean seven days) to get a good grasp of what the city could offer. In our limited stay, we only got around several districts:
  • Asakusa
    This is the old district where you could still find antique shop-house style establishments. The main major attraction in this area would be Sensoji Temple. This is lined up with tourist trappy stalls ranging from souvenirs, cheap yukatas, caps and mung bean buns. 

    This also leads you to other nearby attractions like the
    Tokyo Skytree, which has an observation deck at 350M and 450M. Prior to this, Tokyo Tower was the highest point in Tokyo. 
  • Akihabara
    Also known Electric Town, this is the heart of all electronics, video games, and eventually anime. If you're looking for any gadget, this is the place to be -- Yodibashi Akiba. You could also find the Gundam Cafe beside the train station as well. 
  • Shibuya
    This is a major shopping district. This is also the place if you want to experience the insane X-crosswalk too. Best vantage point to take shots of all those people walking would be at the 2F Starbucks on one of the corners. This is also where you could find the famous Hachiko dog statue. 
  • Harajuku
    Best to check this place out during the weekends where you see cosplayers and girls in lolita outfits hang around the street up until the bridge crossing into the Meiji Jingu Shrine.

    On the other side is Yoyogi park, which hosts several events over the year. Our trip was lucky enough to have the Earth Garden, which is like a mashed up organics market, food and music festival. Few times I get to encounter hipster-looking Japanese. 
But on our last day, Raech and I decided on taking a bike tour around town. This is probably one of the best attractions we took during the trip. It's just a shame we had to take it the day before we left. 

Stay Connected

Roaming charges are a bitch in the bill. One good option is to rent out portable WiFi (you'd have to order for this days before your trip since they send it through the mail). This become as crucial companion since you'd need a data connection everywhere especially when accessing the maps. 

Returning it is no problem as well. The package comes with a paid-postage self-addressed envelope. You just have to drop it off at any Japan Post office box conveniently located right beside the escalator going down to the N'Ex platform. It's so convenient, it's scarily to too convenient. 

What Itinerary?

We never took any organized city tour and just went on gut feel. Asides Trip Advisor, we also used Japan Guide to know the local places. We just went there and discovered stuff on our own. That's where Raech accidentally saw the Evangelion Store and much to her regret if you know what I mean. Hehehe. 

Japan is such an awesome country to visit, and I can't wait for our next trip. 


Model Portfolio: Lani

This series contains more experiments with lighting using only a Mola Demi. The model's placement against the background is up to your personal taste, depending on how much shadow you want to appear in the background. I wanted Lani close, hence the visible shadows appearing from her lower back. 

The little secret here is how the Mola is tilted so you get that right amount of light on her face without making it flat at the same time preventing shadows that's caused by a Paramount overhead lighting placement. I used a boom on wheels for this one so I could move her and the lighting around as I saw fit while shooting. A paper background isn't necessary, and honestly, I would rather shoot this against a white wall with texture. 

Make-up: Noel Flores
Hair: Ara Fernando
Styling: Hannah Kim
Model: Lani Pillinger

Make-up: Noel Flores
Hair: Ara Fernando
Model: Lani Pillinger


Candy Beauty Shots

It was one of those concepts I never get tired of revisiting. I've done this concept years ago, and wanted to revisit it again and see something has changed in the way we would approach the idea. 

You can't find typical candy sprinkles in the supermarket, so I visited baking supplies such as Chocolate Lover (in Quezon City) or Gourdo's in various malls. They have a long shelf life, so it would be wise to keep them in an airtight container (e.g. Lock and Lock boxes) with a dessicant. Maybe use them again in a future idea. As for the swirl lollipop and Lifesavers, they're available in Candy Corner in most major malls. 

Lighting is very basic with one octobox flanked on the camera right, 45 degrees more or less to the model. The rest of the illumination is supported with styrofoam board reflectors on the left and under the model. There's a softbox suspended via boom in the background to provide an even lighting for the paper background. 


Make-up: Ara Fernando
Model: Sel Guevara

Of course behind the scenes images provided by our make-up artist, Ara.