Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM: Seven Years Later

WARNING: Photo heavy at the end

Right off the bat, this is not a review of the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM lens for Nikon F-Mount, since this is an older lens and that it is no longer being manufactured as the EX lenses have been usurped with the Art lenses of Sigma. You may still find this in eBay, or anything of the like, as pre-loved or even new old stock. So with that, you can just check other reviews from yesteryear elsewhere. This is just my experience with this lens since I first got it and how it is still part of my gear to this day – seven years later.

Around October 2010 is when I first gotten my Nikon D5000 with the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens. I shot a lot with this setup along with a Yong Nuo YN465 that I got around a few months after. Like in my previous blog post, I said to improve your skills with the gear you have at that time before even thinking of improving you gear. And at September 10, 2011, I then added the Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM to partner my standard zoom kit lens to further improve my skills.

I never bought another lens, heck even flash, and that of a camera body until 2017. So from 2011-2017, I have the Nikon D5000, the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, the Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM, and Yong Nuo YN465, as my primary gear. Of course, I have tripods, flash triggers, sling straps, etc., but those were my primary gear whenever there was an even or if I traveled.

I decided to get a prime lens as one of my first ever upgrades since the fix focal length will help me think about my shot; it forces me to frame better and actually use my legs and not just rely on zooming in on the subject. On top of that, I force myself not to crop my shots as much as possible (with exceptions of course), so this really forces me to think about my composition with a prime lens.

I was looking at a AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G prime lens, but I always like looking at the long game, in spite of not wanting to upgrade or buy more gear immediately without first improving myself, since it is nice to dream and have a goal to shoot for, I wanted to have my own version of a trinity of lenses (plus a prime) from the same manufacturer, because my obsessive compulsive personality disorder will its ugly head. However, the AF-S Nikkor 14–24mm f/2.8G ED, the AF-S Nikkor 24–70mm f/2.8G ED, and the AF-S Nikkor 70–200mm f/2.8G ED VR II are way to expensive to even think of having them as goal for me back then, and well, they are still too expensive especially for a hobbyist like myself that does photography for fun and not as a profession. Thus, I needed to look at third party lenses.

I stumbled into the Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM from the guys at DigitalRev TV back in 2011 (I believe this is one of the very 1st videos I watch of Kai, Lok, and Alamby, and immediately became a fan of DRTV to the point that when they all eventually left, I still follow them in their social sites and in their own YouTube channels). Performance wise, may not be the best of the primes at that year, but something about it that I fell in love with, and of course, the price may be more than that of the AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G, though if I look at the long game and collect my other lenses from the same make, then Sigma will, in the long run, be cheaper than the Nikkor lenses. And thus, I took the chance and my mother bought me the Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM to learn from and eventually be the centerpiece of my version of trinity lenses from Sigma (that I was able to complete in 2017, but as a prime lens, standard zoom lens, and a telephoto lens… still looking out for the Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM wideangle to really be a part of the trinity and the prime now being the extra lens).

The moment I got it in my hands and placed it on my Nikon D5000, I knew I will have an amazing time with this lens, learning from it, and eventually improving with it. Like I said earlier, I got a prime since it will force me to think about my shots, make use of my legs; having it with a f/1.4 aperture, I can get those amazing bokeh (yes, I was all about the bokeh when I first got it, but “grew up” and learned when to shoot at a larger apeture and when not to for the sake of the composition), and with it being wide open, I can have better low light shots. Still quite sharp at wide open and focuses fast as you can imagine with a prime lens. So I was really enamored with Sigma and will definitely use this prime lens as the center piece of my trinity of Sigma lenses when the time comes (and that would be 6 years later).

As time went on, life took over for the most part, so I was at a point where I wasn’t really shooting photos regularly or at all. I even forgot my usual Lightroom workflow. Neglect did set in and it come be seen by the wear it got through the years. Not so much as dents, but more of faded logos and such, and the finish lost a bit of its luster. Performance wise, it mostly back focuses at wide open and can be quite soft nowadays at wide open (though since getting the D7200 with AF fine tune, it is sharp at wide open, but even back then with the D5000, I rarely shoot wide open due to the narrow depth of field that still introduces more soft shots or miss-focus; I mostly shoot with f/2.8 with this lens and go as high as f/2 since getting it at 2011, with rare times shooting at f/1.4 even when it was really sharp then), but shooting at f/2 or f/2.8 still is quite sharp with lovely bokeh. I might have it calibrated sometime in the future, but with my current D7200, the AF fine tune did help with its sharpness at wide open.

Around 2017, I finally got a new lens in the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM (for future Formula 1 races, since the earlier that year, I was saddened I didn’t have a fast telephoto lens to photograph the cars during the Singapore Grand Prix; as with my other posts where I mentioned Formula 1, I like to remind people I am a F1 fanatic since 1996), which along with Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM, were part of my dream lenses to complete my version of the trinity of lenses with my Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM (again, I’d like to point out “my own version of trinity”, since the trinity is usually a wide angle lens, a standard zoom lens, and a telephoto zoom lens. Basically to cover most focal lengths. But my version is the 30mm prime, the 17-50mm standard zoom, and the 50-150mm telephoto zoom… hoping to finally get a wide angle in the Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM). Even though I got new lens, I wasn’t really enthralled with photography like I used to. I was happy, and it looks great beside my 30mm, but I was still not back to where I used to be as an hobbyist in photography… I wasn’t as passionate.

It wasn’t until I went to Hong Kong with my sister in 2017 that I also met up with one of my closest friends. She showed me around Hong Kong at night, and street photography being my favorite genre of photography when I was really passionate, I took one photo of her that made me fall in love with photography all over again. And it was shot with my trusty Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM.

Note that the shot is not sharp at all even if I did shoot at f/3.3, but my other settings could have been better, but remember, I was really not into photography at a certain phase (around 2015-early 2017), I wasn’t as passionate, and didn’t care to remember any of my techniques. With that said, even if this shot could have better, there was something about this shot that made me want to return to photography; learn my techniques again and improve on them; get new gear, since at this time, I know that I have outgrown my D5000, albeit not remembering my old techniques; remember my Lightroom workflow and such.

It was a simple photo, could have been better technique wise, but it made me fall in love with photography again, and it was shot with Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM, showing that it can still get me excited.

Seven years later, nearing eight years, the Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM is still my go-to lens for anything even if I already have the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM as my standard zoom lens. On travels or whatnot, I bring both the Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM and Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM, with the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM when I know I will use it like last October 2018 for Japan and the Formula 1 race. But the Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM will always be part of my gear. And at times, my only lens I take with me.

Is it because it out performs my other lenses? No (except the kit lens of course). Apart from the sentimental value because my mother bought it for me and it is my first lens upgrade, not to mention the MANY memories I’ve taken with it, but the fact that I am so familiar with its performance (and its deteriorating sharpness/rear focusing problem), I’m so familiar with its focal length (45mm equivalent since I use crop sensor bodies…), and I feel at home with it.

In time, I will have it calibrated so it can be sharp again at f/1.4 and and have less rear focusing (both partly fixed with D7200’s AF fine tune), but either way, this will still be my favorite lens, even if it never out performed out primes back in its day, and especially today.

Do I recommend this for you? No. There are better primes out there now for F-mount, either for crop sensor or full frame, and with the advent of Z-mount, in time, other F-mount lenses will also lower down in price.

Will I ever let this go? NO. Like above, no matter how other primes in the market can outperform this, it is the sentimental value and memories that makes me hold on to this hard. And that is not to say that this is an awful lens for photos. I can still take amazing shots with this! As I will demonstrate with my favorite shots through the years of using this lens.

Seven years later… still my go-to… still making memories… and technically, the one that started it all.

Now let’s look back seven years ago to my earlier shots to my more recent shots with the Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM; how I improved (if I really did improve; also the evolution of my watermarks lol), and why this lens is still my favorite that I own. Just my favorite shots I’ve taken with the lens (not absolutely all! That would be a nightmare to share… but I will still like my Flickr photostream so you can see all my other shots with this lens and my other lenses, on the D5000 or D7200, etc).

Note most shots were taken with the D5000, but by 2018 I have switched to a D7200 (I will make a future post as to why I opted for the D7200 over the D7500).

With that… I still love my Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM for seven years and counting. And here’s to more years and memories!

‘Til next time! PEACE!!

 


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We All Started From Somewhere…

Simply, no, you do not need to get a “better” camera, you need a better technique first.

I’ve been into digital photography since 2010, but prior to that, I have been the designated family photographer when my dad got tired of doing it himself. We got Kodak, Olympus, and such, film cameras that auto-focuses and the like, since he can’t lend me his Canon AE-1 Program SLR for I was much too young to really understand how to manually shoot and that in film. However, that taught me the basics of photography, and what I feel is important, that is recognizing the moments and compositing/framing it.

When I finally got my own DSLR, and that is the Nikon D5000, I made sure to understand the features that it has, and of course, take advantage of those said features; learn to shoot in M-A-S-P modes; learn how and when to shoot in full manual focus when time permits or stick to auto focus as to not miss the moment; learn how to make use of lighting (since at that time I only had a pop up flash); experimented with different genres; learn how to post process RAW files; of course, still trying to learn how to frame and compose; and one thing that others take for granted, that is how to properly hold the camera – an important simple technique that can help increase the shot’s sharpness especially if the shutter speed is a tad slower.

I then outgrew the pop up flash, then got a Yong Nuo YN465 flash, so I can learn how to use a speedlight on shoe; directly pointing at the subject, bouncing it off the ceiling, etc. After some time, I then got me the Yong Nuo RF-602 flash trigger to learn how to control an off shoe flash.

And to this point, it was just my Nikon D5000, the kit lens, and the Yong Nuo YN465. I had dreams of getting “better” camera bodies, but definitely better glass. However I knew, the most important way to improve my shots is to continue to practice and improve my technique first.

In fact, I keep blaming myself if a shot isn’t as good as I’d hoped for, thinking it must be my settings, my technique, my lack of vigilance, to make the shot better. It was never my gear… And I still do blame myself to this day if I have shots that isn’t as good as I’d hoped for, and I’ve since upgraded my DSLR body.

But yes…

We all started somewhere, and this is where I started.

I thought of making this post, because since I started digital photography in 2010, through the years, I have gained a notoriety among my friends, family, colleagues, etc., that I am the go-to-guy for photography related things.

They knew I was passionate about photography as I am with my other hobbies like computers, other tech, gaming, anime/manga, Formula 1etc. And much like anyone else, once you are passionate about something, you learn the craft either by enrolling in university or you can easily be self taught by reading/watching a lot of references, and I am the latter… more self taught than anything. It gets easier to be self taught, too, if you are really passionate about it… (plus not being graded helps as well… wink wink)

But being the go-to-guy, I get loads of questions as to what gear they should get. Of course, it depends on their uses, their budget, and finally, their level of skill at that moment. If they are the type that just like taking quick photos for travel, dining, or other such things, not worrying about post processing or such; not a lot of extra cash to really spend a lot on interchangeable lens cameras; and just really starting out, I will advise them of a gear that is appropriate for them.

However, there are those that really want to get into the hobby and art of photography that feel that they immediately need to get an EXPENSIVE camera, because, of course, they think it will help them get great photos. Surely, a great camera will help you get great shots to an extent, but I still feel that you have to start somewhere and learn the proper technique first.

I also do not recommend the most expensive gear right away to beginners, because what if this was just a spurt of the moment or a fad of a hobby for them? They get the most expensive gear, then somewhere down the line, they realize they aren’t into it after all.

Whenever I get into a new hobby, I always know that I need to get a good enough item in respect to my new hobby; not too expensive, but at the same time not too cheap; not too feature filled, yet not so featureless… Goldilocks is what I was after.

And of course, that is what I usually tell anyone that asks me what camera to get, start with a mid-level camera, be it a DSLR, MILC, MFT, whatever… be it Nikon, Canon, Sony, Fujifilm, Olympus, etc…

Then after getting the camera body, with most likely a kit lens, I will say, get out of your comfort zone, read the frickin’ manual, get to know the features, learn compositing/framing, proper hand holding of camera, post processing, and of course, don’t be afraid of using AUTO FOCUS; they are still under the impression that if they use auto focus, they aren’t “pros”… I mean… photography isn’t our profession… we really aren’t pros in the first place. Another thing is, most pros do use AUTO FOCUS. Think of a wedding, if one person shoots in completely manual, at wide open, thus having shallower depth of field, most likely you will have out of focus shots. Same thing for me, if I  shot Formula 1 cars, which F1 is my favorite sport, in Singapore 2017 and Japan 2018, at full manual focus, I will not get any keeper at all (I can stop the aperture down, etc, to get most of them in focus, but yeah, you get the idea).

I will also tell them to learn to use the Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Program modes. Along with the manual focusing, they feel that shooting completely manual mode them “pro”. Truth be told, I see friends posting photos in their social pages that are really not the sharpest of shots, awful framing, overly done post processing (too much clarity and texture; too much vignetting; too much saturation; and my pet peeve since I love black and white, a very BLAND black and white photo).

Granted I do shoot manual mode and manual focus if the situation calls for it. But I make damn sure my technique and skill that I have honed thru the years help me get a sharp shot and proper exposure.

Then they all go blaming their gear if their shot isn’t good or as they imagined.

So, in short, get a camera that isn’t going to hurt your wallet, but just enough features to help you learn and progress in the art of digital photography. Stick with your gear and don’t go thinking you need the most expensive gear to help you get better shots if your technique isn’t there to begin with. Hone you skills; hone you technique; have a feel for the moments and compose them; learn how to use ambient light, the lack thereof, and how to use your popup flash; have instincts as to what settings your camera needs to have for a certain situation…

Then when you outgrow some of you gear, like the pop up flash, then that is the prime time to upgrade! If you have outgrown the kit lens, then buy a new lens! Then when you feel that lens is now limiting your range, get another lens to pair with it! Until you have gotten the lenses you dreamed of (and in my case, I collected flashes along with lenses), and you feel that your camera can no longer help you grow creatively and and your craft, that is when you start thinking about getting a new camera body (preferably the same system as your previous camera, so you can still use the previous lenses, flashes, etc).

Just remember, we all started somewhere… This way you can also appreciate where you started and how far you’ve come. This way you can appreciate your brand new camera when the time comes and appreciate the differences from your previous camera. This way you have the confidence and skill to go beyond where you are now and learn new techniques and make new memories with your new gear.

We all started somewhere.

2011: around 3-4 months after I got my Nikon D5000
2018: When I upgraded to the Nikon D7200 (I will make another post as to why I chose the D7200 and not the D7500)
2017: When I collected my dream lenses. L-R: Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM purchased Sept 2011; Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM purchased Dec 2017; and Sigma 50-150mm APO EX DC OS HSM purchased Nov 2017.
2019: Knolled shot of my complete gear sans my shoulder bag and back pack.
We All Start From Somewhere
And it started with these back in 2010.

 

And with that…

Til next time!! PEACE!


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Another Dream Come True: My Trip to Japan! Days 0-1!

WARNING:

VERY WORD HEAVY AND PHOTO HEAVY POST!

THIS WAS ORIGINALLY A SINGLE POST OF ALL THE DAYS OF MY TRIP, BUT I DECIDED TO DIVIDE IT TO THREE POSTS:

FIRST POST, THIS POST, WILL BE FOR THE INTRODUCTION AND DAYS 0-1 OF MY TRIP;

THE SECOND WILL BE DURING THE DAY 2 (FORMULA 1 QUALIFYING SESSION);

THE THIRD POST WILL BE FOR DAY 3 (FORMULA 1 RACEDAY), AND DAY 4, WHERE I AM GOING BACK HOME TO THE PHILIPPINES.

FINALLY, IF YOU STILL FIND EACH DAY A LONG READ, THEN TREAT EACH DAY AS A CHAPTER AND READ IN SPURTS.


Introduction

Talk about being late to a party… I traveled to Japan, specifically in Nagoya and Suzuka, for a short vacation and, of course, watch the FIA Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix – a race that I have always wanted to attend since I was a kid, in a country I have always wanted to visit since I was a kid, last October 4-8, 2018, and I only, finally, have time to write about. Here’s hoping I still remember what I have done in those days…

First off, a lot of my friends, both close and otherwise, would know me as a guy, in spite of my age, is still into anime/manga, gaming, collecting, and a passionately weird guy… With that said, it is obvious that someone like me love the country of Japan and anything Japanese. Thus, having to go to Japan is already a dream come true.

Second off, I am a Formula 1 (hereafter, F1) fan for 22 years now, and the Suzuka Circuit that hosts the Japanese Grand Prix ranks as one of the highest on my bucket list of F1 racetracks to attend. And again, having to visit the track and attend the race weekend, is another dream come true.

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That moment I got my Formula 1 tickets!
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Comparison with last year’s Formula 1 package; if you are up to date with F1, you’d know they changed their logo from this year onward.
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No hard plastic/ID card ticket on the package; one must pick it up at the venue, unlike last year in Singapore.

Adding those 2 dreams together, this is like the perfect trip for me! And it was!

Seeing that it has been way over two months since I traveled to Japan alone (yes, another solo adventure, which is better anyway lol), let us go down memory lane together… starting with…


DAY 0

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Solo trip!

The plane ride to Japan was pretty standard, plus no annoyance or drama since I am traveling ALONE, so I can just concentrate on my own things, upon arriving however, it was immediately fun and adventurous as I had to take a train from Chubu Centrair International Airport to the heart of Nagoya in order to check into my hotel.

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Meitetsu μTicket

It was already a trip to ride this just to get to my hotel since Japan is really known for the transport system, and having to ride the metro/subway for the duration of my trip in Japan first hand, I can say they are well maintained. Sure there was one time I did get into the subway at the afternoon rush hour, but it was still minor hassle.

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My hotel, VIA INN, specifically VIA INN Nagoya Ekimae Tsubakicho, since there are actually 2 VIA INNs in close proximity, happens to be relatively close to the station, thus why I chose it, and I am glad I did, as it was seriously in the heart of the city so I can pretty much go anywhere interesting nearby, and since the station was also close by, I can pretty much go anywhere a bit farther.

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Since it was already past 9PM upon check in, and was quite tired from the flight, I decided just to limit my exploration in this DAY 0 and just head out to a Curry House CoCo for dinner.

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Immediately, my love for Japan has increased, because unlike other countries where they use celebrities or athletes in their ads, in Japan they use they beloved gaming characters or anime characters to advertise absolutely anything and everything.

Of course, there are JPOP Idols like AKB48 and such that also advertise things, and I also don’t mind that! I happen to like JPOP, the only pop songs I care to listen to… So in short, I feel right at home in Japan.

I happen to know a few Japanese phrases, and these came in handy the following days; it is nice to note, that unlike in Tokyo (though I have never been there yet), other cities in Japan, most people may not know a lot of English, so knowing simple phrases can help. Not saying they CAN’T speak English, they do, but there can still be a barrier when you need directions or buying things.

When I run out of Japanese phrases and English is not the way to go in communicating, I did resort to the offline mode of Google Translate, type in what I want to say, show it anyone, and they either reply to me in English directly or type their reply.

So if anyone goes to Japan outside the majors cities like Tokyo, Nagoya, etc., you may encounter more language barriers, thus knowing a phrases and/or using the offline mode of Google Translate will help you and keep you confident going around. PLUS! This is Japan! MOST EVERYONE IS HELPFUL! One of the safest countries to travel alone, which I did…

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Anyways, I used a mixture of my known phrases along with Google Translate to order my curry rice from Curry House CoCo, and if you are familiar with the curry rice from Japan, it isn’t the usual Indian style curry you’d expect, but both are very delicious.

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Having satisfied my hunger, I had to be taken aback for a moment to realize what I just achieved; now this isn’t the first time I traveled alone, that would have been last year when I went to Singapore, also for a F1 race, but still, having to travel to Japan for the first time, alone for that matter; having to rely on my prior research from getting from Point A to Point B around Japan; being so at home immediately in Japan; knowing I will also watch my all time favorite sport, F1, in my all time favorite country to ever visit, Japan… I really can’t think of a more perfect vacation, a more perfect race weekend.


DAY 1

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Ready to explore!

I considered the day before, the arrival day, as Day 0, because pretty much nothing really happened apart from me nearly crying at the fact I am in Japan… the country I absolutely adore… So the very next day is Day 1, officially vacation mode!

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My plan for the trip! I am OC like this… In fact, most of my trips anywhere, I make plans, but not as detailed as this LOL
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Vital files that were also transferred to my tablet and phone; every time I have a trip outside the country, I do this, but the detailed general plan is a first.

As mentioned in Day 0, I did make some research prior to going to Japan; since this is in fact my first time in Japan, and me traveling alone, I needed to research on how to use the metro/subway, how to get to here or there, what to see and do, etc., and I will just give a bit of a spoiler, my research and subsequent plan that I made for the trip worked perfectly! This goes to show that being obsessive compulsive about any minute detail can aid you in traveling to other countries you never visited before. Now I may just ask the locals, but like I mentioned above, sometimes, though they may understand and speak English, there are still a number of people in Japan that may have a barrier, but with that said, they will still be more than willing to help, despite the barrier.

When I went to Singapore, I wasn’t all too worried from getting from Point A to Point B, because it is relatively easier to navigate since it is smaller than Japan, but it is not like I walked from end to end in Singapore, what I mean is that, it is easier to get to the airport, the hotel, the track, other tourist spots, etc, than in Japan, specifically when I have to go to my hotel from the airport, or from my hotel to the track in Suzuka… Also, I have friends that live in Singapore, so if the going gets rough, I will just give them a call. My trip to Japan, I really only had myself to rely on. Just the way I like it. It forces me to be… dare I say it… an adult.

BIC Camera
Preordered a Sigma APO 1.4x Teleconverter EX DG, since the Sigma 2x APO Teleconverter EX DG was sold out, but was surprised when I got to the shop and they had the 2x Teleconverter after all!

Also prior to the trip to Japan, I was researching for any camera shop nearby (there were lots of anime/manga, toy/hobby, tech/gaming shops nearby, so I need not research to much on them lol), since I was considering purchasing a Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter EX DG to couple it with my Sigma 50-150mm APO EX DC OS HSM and my Nikon D7200.

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Went to the wrong Bic Camera at first; there are two Bic Cameras close to my hotel.
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The correct Bic Camera!

Lo and behold! I found a shopping complex near my hotel that has a floor specifically for cameras! Bic Camera allowed me to preorder the item online and pick it up at their Nagoya shop (but there are two, and I knew about that, but I still accidentally went to their other shop which was also nearby lol) and have it tax free, and so, a few days before heading out to Japan, I preordered my Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter EX DG. Or at least that was the plan; they said that the 2x Teleconverter is sold out in the any of Nagoya Bic Camera outlets and the one near my hotel only has the 1.4x Teleconverter, thus I said, alright, let’s just get that and confirmed my preorder.

Thus the first order of business is to pick up my item and not get to excited along the way and buy every anime/gaming/tech thing I see. And to my surprise, when I showed the paper for my preorder, they came out with a 2x Teleconverter! So I was very happily surprised!

Broketober 2018

It was a bit surreal purchasing a DSLR accessory in another country for me; I mean, sure it is almost like buying any sort of souvenir, but I always had a rule never to buy any electronic/tech gear outside my home country of the Philippines because of the simple fact that if it does fail or have problems later on, I can’t use the shop’s warranty, and let’s face it, the manufacturer’s warranty here in the Philippines can cause so much more hassle than it is worth – trust me, I have dealt with numerous RMA’s and it never ended well… actually, most of the time, it doesn’t even start well.

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Having purchased it without hassle since it was reserved for me prior to my flight, and the staff are very friendly, then add in the numerous, almost overwhelming amount of camera gear from Nikon, Canon, Sony, etc., it was like I am a kid at a candy store.

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Blurry. I know.

Also of note, just a few floors below are the action figures/hobby floor, and another is the gaming floor, and yet another floor is the PC floor. I can live here!

Another simple reason why I love Japan is that they don’t shy away from their interests and hobbies, be it gaming, anime, tech, anything! No matter how old they get, no matter if real life gets in the way, they still go back to their hobbies and are not afraid or shy to show it.

I for one, being a Filipino-American, I guess I am a little more comfortable than most people here in the Philippines to show his weird side… his sometimes, well most of the time, unbearable weird side, to others. But I don’t mind and I am not embarrassed to show my passion for my manga/anime, gaming, tech, Formula, photography, music, and action figure collecting hobbies. And to show it PASSIONATELY.

That is not to say there are no passionate people here in the Philippines with their hobbies. THERE ARE! And quite a lot! Which makes collecting easier nowadays since there are many hobby shops popping up now. Also, with the advent of the internet, ordering overseas for those rarer items are so much easier, too! But in terms of my close personal friends, I don’t have that many that are as crazy or passionate as me. I do have some, but they few and far in between.

Wait, I digress… this is supposed to be about my Day 1 shenanigans at Nagoya!

Keep Walkin'...

In The Art of the City

I had to dash back to the hotel to drop of my Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM lens and newly bought Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter EX DG, then pack in my Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM and Sigma 30mm F/1.4 EX DC HSM lenses to explore more of Nagoya. And yes, I love my Sigma and Nikon combinations!

Next stop is at Nagoya Castle!

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I had to take the subway, and on the way, make one transfer until I reach the station just next to the castle. This is where my research and careful planning comes into play. And I felt triumphant, because my plan worked perfectly and not once did I feel that I got lost.

I made sure to go later than 8-9AM because of the rush hour, and being it my first time riding their subway, I need to make sure I get a seat to get used to it first.

Also, if in the rare event you do get lost or not sure where to go next, of course there are staff always ready to help you out. But it feels so much better doing things on your own, on your own (meaning, traveling alone and not relying so much on anyone but you yourself… like I did).

Another World

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With my friendly tour guides, Yasuyuki-san Mayumi-san!

I decided, upon reaching the castle, I will take up the free English Tour Guide, so at least I won’t blindly go around the castle complex without knowing anything. That way I can learn about the history and just have a fun time with the tour guides.

And talk about lucky!

I was told by Yasuyuki-san Mayumi-san, my wonderfully entertaining, knowledgeable, and friendly tour guides, that starting next year, they will start renovating the main keep and it won’t be as visible to the public. So, I visited on the right time. And as we continue with this post, you will see just how lucky I am this day visiting the castle premises.

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The golden kettle that was made from the original “shachi”

Looking at the scenery just around the castle, we also stopped by one of their tea houses and I was again lucky to see the golden kettle that is used for the tea ceremony; that golden kettle was made from the remains of the original golden “shachi” – A shachihoko or shachi is from Japanese folklore, where an animal has a head of a tiger and the body of a carp – and it usually hidden behind a glass casing, but during Fridays, the day I visited, they bring it out for the people to see, and they actually use it for customers that have tea.

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Moving on, I was learning a lot the history of the castle and that of my tour guides as persons as well. Of course, I will not give you a lesson on what I just learned from them in the history of the castle, you can always Google that, or preferably, if you ever visit Nagoya, grab a free tour guide (free English tour guides start at 1PM local time), so you can befriend and learn the history!

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Getting ever closer to the main castle keep, I was pointed towards the Hommaru Palace that was originally built in 1615 by the first Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, for his son, was actually under restoration for, if I remember correctly, for the past 10 years, and was just recently finished and opened for public viewing starting June 8 of this year. So I got lucky yet again!

I will not be posting any pictures from inside the palace, for it will add to the total picture count in the post, not to mention, more words, and it will ruin the magic… It is best to see it in person!

Nagoya Castle Main Keep

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Arigatou! Yasuyuki-san Mayumi-san!

After the palace, and after seeing the main keep a lot closer, a few more chit chat with my tour guides, it was time to part ways. It was a free tour guide, since they were volunteers, but I wanted to at least give them something for snacks or drinks, but as expected, especially from the Japanese, they wholeheartedly declined my offer. I promised the next time I ever visit again, I will surely do my best to see them, granted they will still be volunteering. Nice people like them is hard to come by nowadays.

Parting ways didn’t mean I left the castle grounds immediately, I still enjoyed myself with snacks and drinks and to get a breather, since carrying 2 lenses, my DSLR, though not so heavy, does take a toll on me, especially with a bad right knee.

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I am welcomed a ninja clan!

I was entertained by a ninja performance, so it bought more time to rest, and of course, photo opportunity with one of the ninja!

@Nagoya

Aki

I then took a few more minutes to rest up, drink up some more, then head onto the city vis subway once more, this time to just explore anything and end up in Maidreamin Cafe! Yes, a maid cafe… because OF COURSE!!

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The Lines That We Cross

Road Rules

I was also supposed to go to Osu Shopping District to find nice souvenirs for my friends, and maybe some stuff for myself as well, but after going around the city, I knew I will just end the day in Maidreamin then head back to my hotel to recuperate and prepare for the F1 qualifying session the next day.

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I then reached Maidreamin Cafe, and well, it is what you would expect if you know anything about these cafe either from reading manga, watching anime, or generally being a weeb (which a lot of people call me, but I think I’m more of an otaku than a weeb). The maids are very friendly, though there was a bit of language barrier at first, in the end, I got what I ordered, and had a nice chat with a couple of the staff at hand.

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Believe it or not, visiting a maid cafe is one of my goals in this trip, and also have a Instax photo with one of the maid which is part of the bundle I ordered. I will say this now, out of all the photos I have taken in Japan, it was this photo of me, that wasn’t even taken with my phone or DSLR, as my stand out photo of the trip!

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Also in the bundle I ordered was the cat ears (you get to choose what animal ears you like, but since I love cats, it was a no-brainer to get the cat ears), and a maid uniform keychain. Overall, a great experience, and I am glad to tick this off my bucket list. Like I said to my friends, you know you made it in life if you tick off visiting a maid cafe off your bucket list.

After the maid cafe, thankfully there was a subway station just next to the cafe, so I made my way back to my hotel; truth be told, this station wasn’t part of the plan I made previously, but I was already familiar with using the subway and where to go, so even if this wasn’t part of the initial plan, I still made it to my hotel in the end with no hiccups… also of note, I did catch the subway during the afternoon rush hour, but usually the afternoon rush hour is not as bad at the morning rush hours.

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Reaching the hotel, rested up a bit, then had a quick dinner, and decided to sleep early to take a train to Suzuka and eventually the race track.

It is gonna be special!


Stay tuned for Day 2 post!

-o-

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Then and Now: A story of my photography hobby

I always joked that I got into photography because of a girl, after all, all the best stories always start with an inspirational girl that drives the boy to be the best he can be for her. But alas, I can’t really tell what got me into photography in the first place.

All I know is that my dad was into photography when he was younger, and he has since then given me his SLR, the Canon AE-1 along with lenses, even before I thought of playing around in photography.

Then it was 2010, in the middle of my first year of medical school studies, I wanted yet another hobby on top of my PC gaming, action figure collecting, and guitar collecting, and that was photography.

Me and Nikki
A few months after owning the Nikon D5000, I had the mandotory “take a photo with your camera in a mirror” shot

Again, I can’t tell what really drove me to buy my first DSLR, the Nikon D5000, but I did anyways, and I got gnarled into the world of photography because I get to see the world in the way no other people usually do. It can be poetic; it can show the beauty of the world, hiding away the dread; or it can show what the world really is and raise attention.

It took to me just like when I first started playing the guitar; I learned all the basics, learned different techniques, made some of my own, read more advanced techniques, and all in all, just being vigilant and shooting as much as I can to hone my skills.

After learning as much as I can with my Nikon D5000 and its kit lens, the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, it was time to add to my growing repertoire, and that is simply adding a flash or a speedlight as most would say.

Now you might say, wait, isn’t there a pop up flash? While you are right that there is in fact a pop up flash in the Nikon D5000, and any other camera for that matter, but I needed to control my lighting more and that was what a speedlight will help me do. My first hot shoe flash was the Yong Nuo YN465, and not long after, I added a Yong Nuo RF602 flash trigger, so I can trigger the flash off shoe and do a lot of moody lighting effects in my shots. Of course, I can’t afford my own Nikon speedlights since I was just a student back then and I didn’t want to bother my parents each time I want something, thus I settled with the Yong Nuo products. They were great enough for practicing indeed.

Having learned enough of lighting control and such, I knew it was time to get a new flash. I have always loved the bokeh effect of photos so I knew I wanted a prime lens as my first lens upgrade. I was juggling with the thought of getting a Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 or a Sigma 30mm f/1.4; I knew early on of the so called “Trinity” of lenses which is usually a wide angle f/2.8 lens, a standard f/2.8 lens, and a telephoto f/2.8 lens. A common example for Nikkor lenses are the 14-24mm f/2.8, a 24-70mm, f/2.8, and the 70-200mm f/2.8 – as you can see, these 3 lenses cover a wide range of focal points, perfect for nearly every situation… thus, the Holy Trinity or the Hebrew Trinity of lenses. Unfortunately, the prices of these lenses are way of my reach even if I’m already a physician (I mean, as a general physician; who know, hopefully, once I am a specialized physician, I afford these… but as you can see later in this post, I am more than satisfied with Sigma lenses anyways), thus I then decided to go for the Sigma prime lens as I know I can complete my own version of the Holy Trinity by having a Sigma prime lens, a Sigma standard zoom lens, and Sigma telephoto lens. But once again, being a student back then, I can’t easily just buy lenses when I want them, and so,I placed it in the back burner and waited til I was finally a licensed physician so I can start earning.

Kupo!
First shot with Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM; my cat then, Kupo! Sadly she passed away a few years ago.

I loved and I still love my Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM lens as it was my primary lens from my purchase in 2011. I still use the kitlens every now and then, but of course, a prime lens and that from Sigma, will have better quality and the bokeh effect I always love is obviously easier to achieve with a f/1.4 lens vs a f/3.5-5.6 lens. I learned so much techniques and I found the genre I love the most, that is street photography for the most part. I love portraiture and off shoe flash photography, but something about street photography that I love the most, and having a fast prime lens like the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM helps me take quick, sharp images of people in the street, and if I have their permission, I can make moody bokeh photos. I still love this lens and still is my go-to-lens for most of my shooting up to this day. Of course, with the D5000, you can only do so much with this lens, and it started to back focus a lot. But I have since fixed the back focusing problem by, well, upgrading my DSLR, which we will talk about more later.

Fast forward to late 2017, I have gotten other strange photography gear, mostly bags, filters, tripods, etc, but nothing major like a new flash or lens and such. Having saved some cash in the bank since I started working after getting my license after all the struggles we all went thru in medical school, I then took a chance and started to look for one of the Sigma lenses I have always dreamt of since I was still starting out and was still a mere medical student, and that is the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM, and lo and behold, I found that lens, and without second thought, I bought it, and was extremely happy with how sharp it is; even on my D5000, there was no front or back focusing issues, and being a f/2.8 lens, the bokeh is beautiful and a fast telephoto. Apart from being my dream lens, this is also gonna be very helpful for me when I go to Formula 1 races and take better shots of cars, cos as you can see below, I had to use my kit lens when I went to Singapore for the Formula 1 race earlier in the year, and wasn’t all too happy with the results. Can’t wait to try this in Japan later this year.

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First shot with Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM; my beautiful mother!

Before 2017 ended, I was able to purchase another Sigma lens, the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM lens, and now I feel that I have completed MY VERSION of the Holy Trinity of Lenses:

  1. Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM
  2. Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM
  3. Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM
Doc Lee
First shot with Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM. Pictured is my best friend and co physician, Lee!

Of course, with the prime lens and the standard zoom lens having crossing over focal points, it doesn’t cover the same range as the Nikkor trinity, but this will do for now, while I wait or look for a good Sigma wide lens that is at least f/2.8 (for now, I just see a f/3.5 that I might get if I have no other choice… or a fisheye…  I’m not sure.).

Holy Trinity of Sigma Lenses!
My version of the Holy Trinity/Hebrew Trinity of Lenses

Also before the end of 2017, I was able to snag a couple of Nikon SB-600 flashes (SB-910 is STILL a bit to pricey for my tastes); I got a couple for simply I can trigger them off shoe and make awesome flash photography shots.

It is nice to know that I actually have a 3rd SB-600, but it was severely misfiring, that I had to return it and haven’t felt like getting another Nikon flash for the time being.

Umbra
Playing with one Nikon SB-600
Get Flashed!
Playing with three SB-600! I returned one of them due to misfiring issues.

Then inevitably, once again, before 2017 ended, I finally decided to upgrade to the Nikon D7200; one might say, “why not D7500?”, for one, I wanted the battery grip (that I got second hand for a steal!!) and thus far, heard nothing about any battery grip in the D7500, and apart from the better sensor and 4K video from the D7500, the D7200 isn’t all that different so to speak (well, maybe the D7500 also has better ISO, I haven’t really cared, because the price was too steep for me at this point), thus I stuck with the decision of buying the D7200. Plus with the introduction of the D7500, brand new D7200’s price dropped a bit.

Sadly, the D7200 just arrived in January of this year since the shop I ordered from had to restock and had to deal with a lot of other prior orders since it was Christmas season; don’t worry, they warned all of us that our orders may take a lot more time than usual days, but I was okay with it.

Thus my brand new primary gear is complete…

Major Upgrade
Updated Primary Gear! I only included 1 of my 2 SB-600s in the shot as to not overwhelm the shot. This was taken with my original gear: Nikon D5000, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, and Yong Nuo YN 465 flash with Yong Nuo YN 602 flash trigger. Quite fitting for my original gear to photograph my new gear!
01-11-2018 Me and My D7200-1
Of course, we need a new mandotary shot with a camera, but this time, my mother took the shot with my Nikon D5000; again, quite fitting that my old gear is taking photos of me and my new gear

The next gears I plan to get is a brand new tripod as my primary tripod after 7 years of service as finally bit the dust; I also plan to get a brand new bag, the Think Tank Signature 13, as it looks more of a regular bag than a camera bag, thus feeling more of security when walking about new cities with the camera tucked away inside until ready to photograph; I also am on the cusp of getting either a full sized monopod (then again I can always get those Benro tripods than also double as a monopod) or a gorilla pod that I can also tuck in my bag so if I want to make low angle or just place it on a table or hang it by a tree for long exposure shots of the scenery without having to put so much attention to myself; and lastly, a dry cabinet to keep my gear in great condition.

It goes without saying that my resurgence with my love for photography started with getting my telephoto lens, but another great point in my life in 2017 that made fall in love with photography again is when I helped my sis go to Hong Kong and I met my good friend and she toured me around one night and she was quite the model for me and took one of my all time favorite shots since I started this hobby.

When You Shine Brighter
My good friend, Amanda; this photo is one of my all time favorites that I have ever taken! And this made me fall in love with photography again

And of course, you gotta remember where we started, and that must be, subliminally, my dad’s SLR…

Where it all began…

Thus, my love and history of photography in less than 2200 words. I will not show all my shots here, just a select few. For the rest of my shots, you can just go to my Flickr photostream HERE.

And before I end it out, I will answer the possible questions: “Why 30mm? Why not 50mm? “, “Why 17-50mm? Why not 24-70mm?”, and “Why 50-150mm? Why not 70-200?”, well remember, I started out with D5000 and upgraded to a D7200, both are DX bodies and have a crop factor of 1.5x, thus a 30mm with a crop factor equals to 45mm, close enough to a 50mm; a 17-50mm with a crop factor equals to a 25.5-75mm, close to a 24-70mm; and finally, a 50-150mm with a crop factor equals to a 75-225mm, almost a 70-200mm, with a slight overshoot at the farthest focal point. I don’t ever intend on going FX or full frame, but when I do, I’m sure I can complete yet another Trinity by then.

With that! PEACE!!

-o-

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Twenty Seventeen Going On Twenty Eighteen

Time for my annual look back on how the year has gone by, this time for 2017.

As always, every year has their ups and downs, and it is all for the better, for learning, and for growth. Certainly, 2017 is no different from the years past, but it is extra special due to the events I will highlight in this post.

As the year is ending, the way 2017 has been, I am certainly looking forward to 2018.

So before then, let us highlight what I consider are the best moments of 2017 for me.


Decisions. Decisions.

Since 2016, I have been toying with the idea of taking USMLE and possibly training in Neurology back in the States, now in 2017, I have cemented that idea and now I am nearing my exam date which is in March or June 2018.

This is a big leap of faith for me as I am already licensed here in the Philippines, but I also long to go back home in the States and outside my comfort zone of home and family to fully grow as an individual and to become the physician I have always dreamed of and that can inspire others to be a physician as well. More importantly, heal as many people as I can as a physician.

This decision came at a price as I didn’t renew my contract from my Alma mater as their university physician; I also resigned from my various teaching jobs; finally, I also lessened my clinic hours so I can have more time to rest and study. It means of course, I won’t be earning as much as I used to, but that is alright, as I need more time to study and relax, as by the time I do pass the USMLE and I start training, and eventually become a consultant, money won’t be so much of a factor. Plus, money isn’t everything. It is reaching the dreams that really count for me.

And I will relentlessly chase after my dreams…

“Do You Remember Love?”

Macross/Robotech still ranks as my number 1 anime series; I still follow the new Macross series to this day. It taught me the beauty of music, love, and the fact that anime need not always have action (which this series does have, by the way), but also story and characters play a big role. I was just 6 years old when I first watched Macross/Robotech and was making the mechs out of Lego or paper…

Years gone by and the original Macross series/Robotech series action figures of the F-14 inspired planes turning into robots were fast becoming rarer and more expensive.

Then I found that Toynami were making 1/100 scale models, and since I wasn’t a kid anymore per se, I didn’t care if they were not die cast metal, since I just display my figures by then.

Sadly, being in the Philippines, they were tough to come by, and I was still in high school by that time, so I didn’t have a credit card to order in Amazon or Ebay to be shipped here.

I did get one locally, the VF-1J of Max Jenius/Max Sterling… but after that model, the local shop never ordered the rest in the series.

I gave up on the hope of collecting them all… maybe someday, I said to myself, when I return to the States or something.

Then another local shop this year had the VF-1A of Max Jenius/Max Sterling, VF-1J of Miriya, VF-1J of Hikaru Ichijo/Rick Hunter, and the VF-1S of Roy Fokker, as a complete 4 set, and I didn’t care for the price they were asking, I bought them all.

Shortly after, I had this renewed hope of getting more of the figures from Toynami especially the special edition of Hikaru’s VF-1S from the movie “Macross: Do You Remember Love?”… that particular edition I recall seeing back in 2004 or 2005 in Manila, but I never bought it and regretted it since then as I never got to find it, until I saw it in Ebay and by this time, I have my own credit card, and had that model shipped here.

I also ordered super weapon sets and another special edition model, the VF-1D which was the trainer mech that Hikaru/Rick used in the early episodes of the original series.

Now I am 3 models away from completing the original series mechs, and will move to Macross Frontier and of course Macross Delta.

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Travel Bug Bit Me

I went to Singapore around March with my sister, and 2 of our friends/mentors. I was the first time I air traveled in more than 10 years. I didn’t travel a lot as I never really liked to travel; each time my sisters or any of my family member would travel out side the country for vacation or even go back to the States just to see how things are back home, I’d skip as much as possible and just stay at home.

But last March was different.

And with that, I suddenly had an urge to see the world more. It also helps that I am into photography, so seeing more things outside the country I am in gives me the opportunity to be more creative and see the beauty of the world.

This is also the point that me being a Formula One fan decided to watch my first ever race here.

My sister said while we were in Singapore “Why not watch the race? You deserve it…”

Thus, I decided to come back here, alone, later in September, to watch my first ever race.

And with that… I started to want to travel more. Anywhere.

Dreams Do Come True

I finally decided to watch my first ever Formula One race in person after being a fan for 21 years. And what’s more, I got to air travel on my own for the first time.

#F1NightRace

It was a an adventure! It was magical! Out of all the highlights this year, this has to be the best.

The 7 year old me always dreamt of watching a race in person, hoping it will be in Suzuka in Japan (Which I plan on watching on October 2018 instead), and to have that dream come true, was, honestly, I still can’t believe it. Sure, my favorite team, Ferrari, both crashed meters away from the start line, the first time ever that not a single Ferrari finished 1 lap in Formula One, would immediately spell disaster of a race weekend, but I still felt happy by the whole experience. I felt blessed. Meeting new friends who love the sport, in spite of race/ethnicity, political or spiritual differences, and the fact we support different teams/drivers, we all became friends. In fact one of the I befriended is a guy named Roberto, whom I got to catch with in Hong Kong where he was from later in November.

Here is a long post in Facebook I made when I arrived and just realized I am living out my dream:

This is going to be a long post… LOL

Twenty-one years in the making; the very first race I ever watched on television was the 1996 Spanish Grand Prix, where I saw a red car seemingly flying through Circuit de Catalunya on wet weather conditions. I then found out that that red car was the Ferrari F310 driven by the legendary Michael Schumacher. I became a fan of the team, the driver, and the sport ever since.

Other people would say my love for Formula One is an obsession, but I say it is PASSION. Unlike other sports, it was serendipity how I found out about Formula One; I didn’t have any external influences, thus I felt this was a sport that was mine. It was personal. Coupled the fact that I love cars prior and what kid never loved the red cars… the Ferrari.

Wanting to know more of the history of the sport, I delve deep into the lore dating back to the days of Juan Manuel Fangio; wanting to know the technology of the cars each year, that I can tell the era of the Formula One car and what makes them unique in that generation; trying my best not to miss a race each season since 1996, that I can always reference a race in my discussions with my other Formula One friends or forums.

So huge is my passion for the sport that I was that kid that would build Formula One cars out of Lego; I’d draw them on my notebooks; each time before going to bed, I’d imagine I was driving a Formula One car.

I was that kid that didn’t want to play arcade racing games like Need for Speed or Ridge Racer, rather I wanted to play racing games that deals more of the discipline and realism of the sport and cars. I was the one that learned how each component of the car needs to be tweaked in order to have the best balance just to shave of one thousandths of a second in Gran Turismo, F1 Career Challenge, rFactor, and other simulators (I am currently into Assetto Corsa and F1 2017).

And I was that kid that always dreamt of attending a race weekend in person.

Now that I am actually going to watch a Formula One race in person this weekend, I am looking forward to the actual spectacle of the sport, the rivalries in the race track, the finesse of each driver lap in and lap out for 61 laps, the camaraderie shared with strangers, throwing away political, racial, and spiritual differences, just to enjoy the sport we all love. And most of all, I am looking forward to fulfilling the dream of the 7-year-old me of watching a race in person.

The best part was all the messages, comments, and such, from all my friends, my relatives, and from my sisters’ close friends, saying how happy they are that I got to watch Formula One in person as they remember me always talking about it to them even if they are not interested in the sport.

Singapore Grand Prix: The Calm Before the Storm
The Sim Racer
#F1NightRace

Thank You, Singapore Grand Prix 2017

The other dream was for me to travel alone, without the stress of taking care of anyone else’s paper works and stuff (yes, I may be the youngest in the family, but I am in charge of everyone else’s travel documents and the like… stressful). Having to travel alone for my first time, and without sounding too boastful, I got every done right perfectly… and the sense of growing up, being mature, was definitely there.

What I found surprising is that a lot of my friends were sending me messages asking me how it was traveling alone and if it was difficult. To me, I thought most people coming to a certain age will be comfortable traveling alone out of the country, I guess I was wrong, and I felt great doing something that most other people didn’t do yet. This also shows I am not that kind of person that will just do things or go anywhere as long as I have my family or friends with; I can do things on my own, too. And I can do them well.

With that, my love for travel has been cemented.

I thought my next stop will be in Japan in October 2018 for the race and exploration, but I will be traveling for the 3rd time in less than a year later in November… I will talk about that somewhere below.

Of course, it wasn’t only the race I came to Singapore for…

Since this was the first time I will travel out of the country alone, I made plans to visit certain places in Singapore, like Gardens by the Bay, Merlion Park, and Sentosa.

Thankfully I got to visit all; wasn’t able to see everything in Gardens by the Bay since I went their late as I fell asleep after the trip in the hotel room and woke up past 5PM.

Merlion park was a long walk as I didn’t know that they had a entrance/exit to the track next to Merlion park and I left my Formula One tickets in the hotel room. I could have just gone inside the track and gone out to Merlion with out having to go all the way around. But it was serendipity as I got to see more of the city.

Finally, I got to see Sentosa thanks to my good friend and mentor, Dr. Noe, who now lives and works as a physician in Singapore.

The Gardens by the Bay OCBC Skyway
Marin at Dusk

Merlion

Formula One. Gardens by the Bay. Merlion Park. Sentosa. And I got hangout with Dr Noe.

Perfect trip. Perfect first trip out of the country alone. Just perfect.

Magical.

“Get your motor runnin'”

I have been a racing fan since 1996 when I was first discovered Formula One and since then I love playing sim racing games; of course, as a gamer, my number one genre is still Role Playing Games followed by shooters a close second, but racing/drivings games is also a close third.

I played Gran Turismo a lot when I was still a console gamer, but after going PC full time, I played many more simulators.

This year, I returned to full time sim racing when I bought a racing wheel and pedal set.

This isn’t the very first racing wheel and pedal set I ever owned; I got my first set way back in 2007, but it was like a Chinese off brand that I can’t even remember. No forcefeedback, just buttons for the paddle shifts, plastic pedals… it just wasn’t good at all.

Earlier this year, I bought the Logitech G920 set, and shortly after, I got the H-Shifter for it. I started playing Assetto Corsa and got back into Formula One racing with Codemasters’ F1 2017; last time I played a Formula One game was also from Codemasters: F1 2009; I didn’t enjoy that iteration to say the least, and that was the oldest memory I have when I started to deviate away from racing/driving games.

But racing is still in my blood.

And seeing a lot of the tech YouTubers that have their own racing simulators and the fact I still follow Inside Sim Racing, The Sim Pit, etc, kept on reminding me to return to sim racing.

And I did.

I then stumbled into 3DRap.it from Italy, that makes 3D printed parts for modding either a Thrustmaster or a Logitech wheel and pedal set. I purchased a couple of mods for my H-Shifter but also noticed they were selling parts for a Formula inspired racing rim that can be attached to either the Thrustmaster or Logitech wheelbase.

I know the basics of soldering and such, but I just didn’t have the time to build the rim while I am trying to study and still going to my clinic duties. But I know I sill eventually get around to buying the parts and building it myself… I just needed time.

Thankfully, I discovered that they started selling a built version of the Formula inspired rim, named the SMRF1 from Speed Max Racing, also from Italy, thus, I ordered from them and I won’t lie, it was very pricey, but once it arrived, it was well worth the price!

I also ordered an extra 4.3″ display, and they thought of everything, as the bottom part of the display is concave and it contours on the wheelbase (I just had to purchase some Velcro and mounted it easily)

I always said that when one is gaming, one has to do everything he or she can in order to be immersed as much as possible. This is why I add mods to some of my games to enhance the experience; it may take time to do so instead of immediately playing, but once I do, the immersion adds to the overall pleasure of playing. With that said, I wanted to be immersed in sim racing, particularly, open-wheel racing like Formula One. And with the total price of my sim racing rig, it was all worth it for the immersion.

SimRig 2017

Wednesday Drive

Get Your Motor Runnin'

Chasing the (Virtual) Chequered Flag

Chasing the (Virtual) Chequered Flag

Meeting Tracer Tong

That was a Deus Ex reference in case you missed it.

So for the third time this year, I traveled out of the country, for the first time to Hong Kong, and for the second time this year, with my sister.

I’ll be honest, traveling alone was so much more fun and less stressful. I love my sister, don’t get me wrong, but traveling with others that rely on you more often than not can really leave a bad taste in your mouth.

The best part of the trip was me seeing Roberto again, whom I mentioned above that I first met during the Singapore Grand Prix. He showed us around a bit and took us to a great dinner. This cements the fact that Formula One for us fans is more than just a sport… it also brings fans together and they can be great friends in spite of all the differences.

11-24-2017 Hong Kong Trip Day 1-2

My highlight of that trip, apart from seeing my sister present for the conference (oh yeah, that was the main reason we went to Hong Kong… there was a Cardiology conference where she was invited to present one of her cases), was getting to see my close friend Amanda again.

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11-25-2017 Hong Kong Day 3-7

I first met Amanda back when she was still in high school and I was already in college, because her brother Pio is also one of my close friends.

We got to hang out like old times, this time outside of the Philippines; it was like nothing ever changed… and yet there was still the sense we are not the same people we were when we were younger. It is that strange balance and it was just great.

She is also quite the model as she was showing me around the city and that made me fall in love with photography all over again.

Here are some of my favorite shots of the trip and of Amanda:

Those Hong Kong Lights

When You Shine Brighter

Take Me Somewhere I Belong

Return to the Gym

This year, I also decided to head back to gym. Thankfully the owners and the trainer still remembers me, and strangely, after my years of absence from the gym, again, like with Amanda, as if nothing has changed. In fact, we seem to be talking normally just like I never disappeared from gym.

Two and half months in gym, I am starting to see a difference in my body and an obvious difference in strength. And what’s more? My right knee is feeling better than it ever did before! I am getting more and more confident to start running or even jumping. Hopefully in 2018, I can do all that.

I am joined by my best friend, my brother from another mother, my confidant, and fellow B.S. Biology graduate and fellow physician, Lee.

We both are pursuing USMLE, so we thought of just gym together as well.

Mind and Body.

Recently, we are joined by our other close friend from college, Von, and now we are a trio at gym… 2018 in gym will be awesome! Will still bulk up a bit more before I start cutting. Overall, I never felt better in my life physically in years.

The Holy Trinity of Lenses

I first got into photography in 2010. The weight of my first year in medicine was getting to me and I wanted a new hobby. Photography was my choice of a new hobby, thus I got my first DSLR, the Nikon D5000.

The very next year, I got my first flash, the Yong Nuo YN465, and more importantly, my first lens that is not the kit lens that came with the DSLR. I got the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC. Together, I made lots of great shots and memories with that lens.

First shot using my new prime lens was that of my cat back then.

Kupo!

I dreamt of having the so called “Holy Trinity of Lenses”/”Hebrew Trinity of Lenses” which usually consists of a wide angle lens, a standard zoom lens, and a telephoto lens. They call this the Holy Trinity as these are the 3 lenses that can be versatile enough to tackle any situation. Of course there are other lenses that are well suited for other tasks like sports and for bird watching and such, but the Holy Trinity is what most photographers and enthusiasts find enough for most situations. Thus I wanted to complete a Holy Trinity of Sigma lenses.

In 2012 Sigma then released the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS and the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS lenses, which are of course a standard zoom lens and telephoto lens respectively. These were perfect to complete my Holy Trinity in spite of my Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC being a prime lens and not a wide angle.

But being a medical student still and having my parents to rely on to give me money or get me the things I wanted, I didn’t really want to them bear the weight of spending for my hobbies again when they have done so too many times in the past and coupled the fact that medical school is very expensive, I just thought of getting the lenses, if they are still available, once I am a licensed physician.

Thus, one year after finally being licensed as a physician, I got to stumble upon the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS lens and with just little thought, I bought it in November.

First shot of the new telephoto lens is that of my mother; others have been posted above during my Hong Kong trip.

The

Around a month later, I found the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS lens, thus completing my Holy Trinity of Lenses and I can’t be more happier.

Holy Trinity of Sigma Lenses!

First shot using the new standard zoom is of my best friend, Lee.

Doc Lee

Nice to note that I then decided to order a Nikon D7200 (I know the D7500 just released, but I like the specs of the D7200 more) and hopefully it will arrive in the first week of the new year or so. I also bought the Nikon MB-D15 battery grip that will work perfectly with the Nikon D7200 as well as a Nikon SB-600 speedlite; both the Nikon MB-D15 and SB-600 were actually second hand products, but upon inspection by my obsessive compulsive-ness and my technical know-how, I was assured they are working well and are in fact original.

Can’t really fully test the battery grip without the new DSLR, but I was able to test the SB-600.

I am not a stranger to off shoe flash photography, so here is my first shot using the flash and showing my skills with off shoe flash photography.

Umbra

Looking forward in 2018 where I will explore more locally and of course, my trip to Japan and maybe in South Korea, where I can see the world with my DSLR and create more memories…

Summary

I actually spent so much in 2017 for my hobbies, trips, and whatnot; I always like saving more than spending, but I thought making this year an exception. I needed to reward myself for all those years I didn’t think of anything else but my studies. I needed to see some dreams come true for my dreams to be made and see then into fruition.

I look forward to 2018 with everything I learned and loved from 2017 and make even more dreams come true.

Thank you, 2017.


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When Dreams Come True: My First Formula One Race Weekend in Person!

WARNING! THIS BLOG POST IS VERY PICTURE HEAVY!!

So it seems I wasn’t able to blog while I was in Singapore, but can you blame me? I was having way too much fun! I got to see Formula 1 (F1) in person after being a fan for 21 years! I got to travel to Singapore and explore the beautiful country all by myself!

Instead, I will make a long blog post to summarize my entire trip!

But in a word, my whole trip, the experience, was “magical”…

DAY ONE:


“…Fly me to the moon”

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I was tensed to say the least; I couldn’t, for the life of me, sleep the night before my flight due to simply being excited, but of course, being tensed as this is my first ever trip outside the country alone; I usually travel with family or friends outside the country, so this marks a very important point in my life… something to tick off the bucket list – to travel alone and feel in control of your entire trip.

It sounds typical on paper, something taken for granted especially for long travelers who travels alone frequently, but for me, it is a big deal; will I know where to go? Will I know what to say? Did I pack everything I need? Those questions loom inside my head as we inch ever closer to the airport.

Funny to note, that my dad told me, my mom, and our driver, to leave the house for the airport a tad too early; you see, I live in Angeles City, Pampanga, the airport is in the heart of Manila… going to Manila from my home is long enough, but having to weave our way inside to get to the airport is another thing entirely. Thus, the need to leave for the airport at an early time, but my dad told us to leave too early, that I managed to arrive at the airport at 3am, and my flight is still 7:40am, making the check in counters closed for my flight as of that moment.

Needlessly to say, after patiently waiting for the check in counters to open for my flight, thankfully I did the online check in and such for my specific ticket, that I was able to cut through most of the line as we have designated counters for those passengers that decided to purchase their tickets online and check in online.

Immigration was the longest part of the entire airport procedure, at least here anyways, in Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA); they really need to sort that out to be more efficient, as later on this post, I will talk about how I love the Changi International Airport in Singapore.

Finally, after going through immigration unscathed, I found my gate, and had a very quick breakfast before heading towards the aforementioned gate and play the waiting game.

Not long after waiting in the designated gate, it was time to board. See yah later, Philippines, and see yah in a bit, Singapore!

Touch Down, Singapore!

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Upon arriving at Changi International Airport, even technically this is my 3rd time here (1st when I 1st visited here last March and subsequently the 2nd time is when I came back here), I am still amazed at the efficiency; as soon as I arrived, got off the plane, I found myself done with immigration and picked up my carry on luggage without any hassle whatsoever. I then proceeded to get my taxi, had a great conversation on the way to my hotel, even joked how I brought the rain from the Philippines, because it started raining pretty hard while we were making our way to my hotel.

After getting dropped off, I then checked in to my room, thankfully my 1st time using Agoda was successful, however, I actually checked in a tad too early and had a surcharge on my check in payment. But I really didn’t care anymore, I was in Singapore! I managed to get here by myself, and I am now in my hotel room, resting up a bit, then plan to get lunch and then explore!

The Gardens by the Bay

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After a hearty meal, a quick nap, a nice warm shower, it was time to explore; I wanted to visit Gardens by the Bay and simply have dinner there in a place called Satay by the Bay, which is technically still a hawker area filled with a variety of food not just satay, but we will get into that later. Take note that F1 had 2 Free Practice Sessions, for which I decided to skip on both so I can see more of the city.

I wanted to have live updates on my Twitter and Facebook, but to my dismay, my roaming, for which I was ASSURED of being activated by my service provider, well, let’s just say Murphy got his way and I didn’t have roaming.

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That still didn’t stop me from taking photos with my phone, and heaven forbid, take selfies; I normally don’t take selfies, but hey, this is my 1st trip alone and I want to chronicle it as much as possible, even if it means me taking tons of selfies.

I arrived at the Gardens a little past 6PM and a bit of lack of foresight by me; I wanted to see 3 areas, namely, the Skyway, the Flower Dome, and the Cloud Forest. I went for the Skyway first as a I heard the queue is quite long, but what I should’ve done first was buy tickets for the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest before heading to the Skyway, as when I am thru with the Skyway, I can still visit the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest as those observatories are still open to a certain hour. Sadly, when I was thru on the Skyway, I headed straight to the ticket booths, but they were closed. Sad panda…

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The Gardens by the Bay OCBC Skyway at

The Gardens by the Bay OCBC Skyway

In Love; The Sky's the Limit

The Gardens by the Bay OCBC Skyway
The Gardens by the Bay OCBC Skyway
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But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy my time in the Gardens; I still had an absolute blast even without visiting the other 2 observatories. Plus it gives me a reason to visit the Gardens again when I am in Singapore in the future. In fact, while I was in queue for the Skyway, I was in prime position to watch the light show they usually display at that certain hour. It was fantastic. Heck, even when I was on the actual Skyway, the light show was still ongoing, so it was perfect timing in a way.

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I then thought it is time to have dinner, thus I followed the signs to Satay by the Bay. However, I am not kidding when I said the signs led me in circles! I was going around in circles at least 3 times until I decided to just forego the signs and look at the site map. After many more steps, this time towards the right direction, I made it to Satay by the Bay.

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Now, unlike any other hawker around Singapore, the prices here are a bit high. Makes sense as it is inside the Gardens area. I must say, it was a great way to cap off my 1st day back in Singapore: I got to make it here in one piece, got to go up the Skyway, see the famed light show in the Gardens, took lots of photos, and had a lovely, simple dinner, in a gorgeous area with a breathtaking backdrop. What more can I ask for?

DAY TWO:


Merlion and Beyond!

Merlion

Day Two started a bit slow for me; I woke up around 11AM… It didn’t help that I slept past 2AM due to sheer excitement and happiness. I got a quick lunch and then started to plan out how to go to Merlion Park.

My lack of foresight reared it’s ugly head once again! I forgot that my F1 tickets can allow me to use the trackside as a shortcut to Merlion Park! I hold tickets that can let me go in near the hotel where my taxi dropped me off, which Gate 3A, and then go towards Gate 6 inside the trackside, and then emerge at Merlion Park. No sweat!

But instead, I did sweat, a lot, just to reach Merlion Park, and boy was my face red when I found out Gate 6 was just in front of Merlion… Ah well.

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PUP-arazzi

Needless to say, I think it was great that I didn’t bring my F1 tickets at this time so I can see the other side of the city while making my way to Merlion Park. I wouldn’t have seen the everyday life in the city otherwise. So always look on the bright side of things, and indeed, in the end, I was thankful I didn’t use the shortcut.

Reaching Merlion Park and taking photos of the Marina Bay Sands and the actual Merlion itself, was worth the entire walk to reach the area. I was able to mingle with other tourists and, more importantly, fellow F1 fans who were more than happy to wear the colors supporting their teams and drivers.

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I wasn’t wearing my colors at this point in time as I am saving them for the qualifying session later that night and the race the very next night. But I still felt like one of the F1 fans, spending time looking at the beautiful Singapore and what if has to offer while waiting for the F1 sessions to begin. Bliss.

Marin at Dusk
Marina at Dusk
Marin at Dusk

“Making my dream come true!”

The Chequered Flag Waves

Finally, the moment arrived: I will watch my VERY FIRST F1 Qualifying Session after being a fan of this wonderful sport for 21 years. I was teary eyed. I can’t believe that it was happening. And now that it happened, I still can’t believe I was able to watch the F1 race weekend in person.

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In fact, the day before the Qualifying session, I even made a long post in Facebook, emphasizing how this is a dream come true:

“This is going to be a long post… LOL

Twenty-one years in the making; the very first race I ever watched on television was the 1996 Spanish Grand Prix, where I saw a red car seemingly flying through Circuit de Catalunya on wet weather conditions. I then found out that that red car was the Ferrari F310 driven by the legendary Michael Schumacher. I became a fan of the team, the driver, and the sport ever since.

Other people would say my love for Formula One is an obsession, but I say it is PASSION. Unlike other sports, it was serendipity how I found out about Formula One; I didn’t have any external influences, thus I felt this was a sport that was mine. It was personal. Coupled the fact that I love cars prior and what kid never loved the red cars… the Ferrari.

Wanting to know more of the history of the sport, I delve deep into the lore dating back to the days of Juan Manuel Fangio; wanting to know the technology of the cars each year, that I can tell the era of the Formula One car and what makes them unique in that generation; trying my best not to miss a race each season since 1996, that I can always reference a race in my discussions with my other Formula One friends or forums.

So huge is my passion for the sport that I was that kid that would build Formula One cars out of Lego; I’d draw them on my notebooks; each time before going to bed, I’d imagine I was driving a Formula One car.

I was that kid that didn’t want to play arcade racing games like Need for Speed or Ridge Racer, rather I wanted to play racing games that deals more of the discipline and realism of the sport and cars. I was the one that learned how each component of the car needs to be tweaked in order to have the best balance just to shave of one thousandths of a second in Gran Turismo, F1 Career Challenge, rFactor, and other simulators (I am currently into Assetto Corsa and F1 2017).

And I was that kid that always dreamt of attending a race weekend in person.

Now that I am actually going to watch a Formula One race in person this weekend, I am looking forward to the actual spectacle of the sport, the rivalries in the race track, the finesse of each driver lap in and lap out for 61 laps, the camaraderie shared with strangers, throwing away political, racial, and spiritual differences, just to enjoy the sport we all love. And most of all, I am looking forward to fulfilling the dream of the 7-year-old me of watching a race in person.”

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Much like the day before for which I skipped the Free Practice Sessions, I decided to skip on Free Practice 3, but still arrived at the track early so I can see the attractions, take photos of the area, try some of the simulators and games and whatnot.

Upon arriving, it was… all I can ever have dreamed of and more! I tightly secured area, with very friendly and knowledgeable staff to usher us around, friendly fellow fans who are not afraid to where their colors in support of their teams and drivers and who are not shy to ask help to take photos of them and are more than happy to take photos of you…

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#F1NightRace

The attractions, both weird and F1 related, but is, what children nowadays say, “Instagram Worthy” – I don’t have Instagram, so I didn’t use that term in real life. Lots of merchandise booths for which I was able to buy an extra Kimi Raikkonen shirt to add along my 2 Scuderia Ferrari team shirts and a hat that I ordered prior to going to Singapore; F1 simulators, that to my chagrin, I wasn’t able to practice F1 2017 with my wheel and pedal set which were identical in the actual simulator on track – I was 10 seconds off the pace, I could have a better lap time if I practiced, were allowed to turn off both Traction Control and Anti Brake Lock System, and switched the Transmission to manual. But ah well.

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There are a lot of hawker style eateries all around the track in different zones, and I love the idea of very limited seats and tables which forces one to make new friends by asking if one can sit with them; I made many friends while getting a bite to eat that are fans of different teams and drivers, but we didn’t make it hard on ourselves and simply had a mature conversation about the sport we love.

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Unlike other F1 races, Singapore also has live concerts, but I was not there for that, I was there for the sport, thus I simply forego such concerts.

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Thus, the green light signals the start of the Qualifying Session; as the cars are now powered by a V6 hybrid engine, they don’t scream as much as the previous years when they still used V12, V10, or V8 engines, but get close enough to the track, they can pound on the ear drums. I didn’t use any ear plugs, as I was able to tolerate the sounds of the V6 hybrid engines.

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Singapore Grand Prix: The Calm Before the Storm

I was at awe, took some good shots, others not, but I wanted to concentrate on the session as much and lesser on taking photos. However, with that said, I did take enough to keep for memories. And my Day 3 below, you will notice that I have not taken a lot of shots during the race, except the end of the race, as I was really into the experience of watching my first ever race, plus an unfortunate event in the start of the race left a foul taste in my mouth that I just wanted to watch the rest of the race and not take too many pictures.

#Kimi7
Kimi Raikkonen, Scuderia Ferrari
Raikkonen #7
Kimi Raikkonen, Scuderia Ferrari
Raikkonen #7
Kimi Raikkonen, Scuderia Ferrari
#Seb5
Sebastian Vettel, Scuderia Ferrari
Vettel #5
Sebastian Vettel, Scuderia Ferrari
Vettel #5
Sebastian Vettel, Scuderia Ferrari
Hamilton #44
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
Hamilton #44
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
Ricciardo #33
Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing
Verstappen #3
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing
Alonso #14
Fernando Alonso, McLaren-Honda

As the session reached Qualifying 3 (Q3), I wasn’t really expecting Ferrari to do well since Red Bull seems so strong the entire weekend and the practice sessions. Raikkonen manged 4th position (P4), and that was actually a good thing after he was struggling to get into grips with his car during practice, but the best part was his team mate, Vettel, getting pole position (1st position/P1)! Now that is how we cap off our first ever F1 Qualifying Session in style! Seeing Ferrari and Vettel on top! I was in cloud nine!

Again, the maturity of the crowd made it easy to cheer for your favorite team, as no one will give you a hard time if you support their rivals. I can hear fellow Ferrari fans cheering and I can’t help but cheer with them as the Qualifying Session was ending, cheering (to no avail, since Vettel can’t hear us in the car) as he passes the grandstand we were all sitting in, and shouting in jubilation and in unison when Vettel was officially in pole position. Such bliss. Great feeling indeed. And a memory I will keep in my heart forever as this was my first Qualifying Session ever. There may be other races I will attend in the future, but this is my first. And will always be special.

The most difficult part was actually going back to the hotel; I was not to keen on using the metro in Singapore as I have never used it before, and I will not try something new in a different country, so I rather look for a taxi. My mistake was I decided to exit thru a different gate from where I entered and was far from the usual taxi stand. Needless to say, I walked a mile or so just to find a taxi, and thankfully, unlike the taxi drivers here in the Philippines, you feel very safe taking a taxi late at night in Singapore. And needless to say, I got home to my hotel safe.

I was too high on the experience that I had to calm down in order to sleep. I was to meet with my mentor and friend. Doc Noe, the next day before I head to the track for the race. But alas, I fell asleep 4AM, and as I will mention in the Day 3 section below, Doc Noe and I met in the afternoon, giving me time to sleep til 11AM. And then the race after my meeting with Doc Noe to cap off the day and my overall Singapore trip.

DAY THREE:


“One Good Day Comin’ Up!”

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Day started slow for me, waking up at 11AM; eventually had to take a warm bath, quick lunch, and meet up with my friend and mentor, Doc Noe.

We honestly had no idea what to do or where to go during our hangout, so Doc Noe decided to show me Sentosa, which in fact, is one of the 3 places I wanted to see so bad: 1. being Gardens by the Bay, 2. being Merlion Park, and 3. being Sentosa; having seen the 1st 2 places, without him knowing that it was my 3rd location I would want to visit, he took me there.

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I finally tried out the buses around Singapore, and technically, it isn’t difficult, but I always go by the rule: if I am unfamiliar with how one thing works or goes by, I won’t try it on my own just yet, especially if I am not from Singapore at all. Thus I didn’t try the bus or the metro around the city, only relying on taxis to get me to and from certain locations.

Upon arriving near Sentosa, we had a short stop at a local mall there to find some Ervin’s Salted Chips for my sister and some Old Town Coffee for my other friends. The former, according to Doc Noe, would usually be sold out, and lo and behold, it was! I am not interested in trying it, I was just buying it for my sister, but I was just wondering what in the world did they add in it to make it so addicting for other people? It will still be a mystery to me in the end.

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Having gotten what I needed, and looked around inside the mall, we then headed out to Sentosa by foot.

It was pouring at that time, and as a F1 fan, I was already thinking how will this affect the race. But until the race that night, I will just enjoy Sentosa as much as I can.

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Sadly, I didn’t get to see everything in Sentosa, because even if it is it’s own little island, it is still a large area to explore. I saw the interesting portions of Sentosa, thanks to Doc Noe, and was told that there are a lot more to see in Sentosa. This along with my failed attempt to see the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome in the Gardens by the Bay, may warrant another visit to this lovely country some time soon.

As we are making our way back to my hotel, we took the metro, which gives me another option after the race, since the night before, I had to go end to end to find a taxi stand. As mentioned above, I usually don’t try anything new without enough research or have someone guide me, such as the case of riding the bus in Singapore, and now in this case, riding the metro to my hotel.

After all that, had to say “see yah later” to my good friend and mentor, Doc Noe, as I needed to prepare for the race, hence we didn’t end the hangout with a meal or so. I had to rush, because I was one of the selected few to be interviewed by some F1 representatives on my current experience of the race weekend and what I think would be a welcome addition or change for future race weekends around the world. So the clock was definitely ticking on me.

“Rain on my Parade”

#F1NightRace

Upon arriving once again on the trackside, I can see what the earlier rain has done: the rubber on the track itself that was laid down by the cars, has been washed out; the hawker areas on the open grass fields have become muddy; and the chilly feeling that it would rain again later in the race, as opposed to clear skies the night before.

I mentioned that some F1 representatives wanted to interview us, the select few, but unfortunately, the rain made it hard for them to interview and record the interview. So, they informed us, instead, that they would send us questions vis email and we would still get our incentives. Yes, I was given a certain amount of Singapore Dollars thru PayPal. Talk about getting something in return for trying to improve the sport you love. All this, on my 1st ever race weekend. Wow.

Now that I had all that done, I was making my way to my seat in the Bay Area Grandstand, suddenly, the heavens opened up, and a downpour ensued. Is this a rain on my parade?

“Five Red Lights Off, Two Red Cars Off as Well”

Along the way to my seat, I was lucky enough as the downpour occurred, I was just near another merchandise shop, thus I ordered what they call “race weekend survival kits”, basically, it has a raincoat and some earplugs. I find it funny it being named survival kit when it only has those 2 items.

Wore it, and had a lot of strange looks, not because of a grown (figuratively) man wearing a clear raincoat, slightly oversized for him, but had a lot of strange looks, because they also needed it. Along the way, I was approached by males and females, all ages, from every walks of life, asking me where to get one, because apparently, they couldn’t find it, and like me, wouldn’t let the rain defeat them from enjoying the race. This is another example of the camaraderie within the race track amongst the fans. It wasn’t much, I just had to point out the proper booths, but to hear them sincerely saying thank you, was music to my ears and nearly in comparison to those times my patients say thank you.

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Thus! I finally reached my seat, waiting patiently for the race to start, hoping the rain wouldn’t get any worse that it was.

There it is… the screen in front of our grand stand seats showed the start/finish straight, and finally, 5 red lights illuminated one by one (well, there are 2 lights per column, so 10 red lights in total, but yeah, whatever, we usually say 5 red lights… deal with it.) and when of them lit up… and finally all of them turned off… signalling the start of the race!

As the 5 red lights turned off… I saw 2 red cars… crashing out.

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Copyright: Formula One

The worse case scenario for my 1st ever race weekend actually happened! A rare double DNF (Did not finish) for both Ferrari cars! And the first time in history, not a single Ferrari finished a lap. I was like. What. The. Hell.

But that is the nature of the sport I watch. You can’t always win them all, and in fact, both cars may not always be there when you actually go and watch a race in person. Just a fact of life. That didn’t stop me from enjoying the remainder of the race. I stayed behind to watch the whole thing, making friends again with strangers, and made a new buddy that I might meet up again in a future race! He was my seat mate, Robert is a Mercedes fan, but like every other F1 fan, we both respect each other’s support of opposing teams, and won’t say anything bad otherwise; again, this shows how it is easy to be in a F1 race, wearing your colors, and not be insulted for the team or driver you support.

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One of the main reasons why I chose the Bay Grandstand seats, even if it is technically slow part of the track (but hey, it makes it easy to take photos of the cars!), but the fact that it over looks the body of water and it is quite the show with fireworks as made evident by my photo I took.

Thank You, Singapore Grand Prix 2017

Finally… it was time to make my way back to the hotel and pack. For it was time for me to come back home to the Philippines in less than 12 hours from that point.

Arriving at the hotel, I had to lay down my F1 gear and just had to stand back and look at them. The result wasn’t what I wanted, but the experience… not just the race, but traveling alone, exploring Singapore alone… I didn’t think I would be able to do so.

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Then of course, the thought that I finally made the 7 year old me’s dream come true was and still is difficult to fathom. In fact, 2 weeks or more have passed, but I am still in pure shock and delight that I as finally able to watch the sport I love. Not that many people can really say that. Sure, there are season ticket holders for NBA, NFL, etc, but the majority still, just watch in the comfort of their own home. So this was really something for me.

Done packing up, making sure I didn’t leave anything important, double checked my booking and my passport, and finally took a good warm shower… It was time to sleep… Or so I thought…

Making the Most of my Trip

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I still went out, looking around the beautiful side of the city I was in, knowing that in a few hours, I will be leaving it again. I wanted to just make the most of this trip.

Went around and found a quaint little area for some dumplings with Coke of course, and then I was out on my feet again, looking at the rest of the city near my hotel.

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It was serene… calming… but at the same time, saddening knowing that this beautiful city and I will have to separate as I have to make my way home to the Philippines. But hey… I can always come back.

DAY FOUR:


“Thank You, Singapore…”

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Rough time trying to sleep after packing my stuff for the most part, double and triple checking my documents/passport for traveling back home, making sure I haven’t left anything,  I was, like the night or morning before, too high from the experience, albeit, seeing both Ferrari cars crashing out without even completing a lap.

Decided to head out of the hotel again just to get a quick snack and maybe just look around the area near my hotel as I am just hours away from going back home.

I fell asleep, back inside the hotel room of course, around 4AM and had to get up around 6AM so I can get breakfast and head to the airport really early. Again, like in NAIA, I rather be early and wait in Changi International Airport rather than rushing. Also, I needed to get my friends some souvenirs, thus I had to make a mad dash to get keychains.

Again, I am very impressed by the airport here, so efficient and I had no problems whatsoever checking in and getting through the immigration and security. As soon as I arrived in the airport, the sooner I was done with checking in and I found myself waiting beside my designated gate to open. And as soon as my gate was open, I found myself inside the plane as the waiting wasn’t all that long.

And as the plane was taking, I can only look at the nearest window (as I gotten older, I rather sit next to the aisle so I can easily go to the comfort room) and I can only say to myself… Thank you, Singapore. Thank you.

“10 HOME
20 SWEET
30 GO TO 10”

As I gotten home, or even on the way home, as my mother and our driver picked me up from the airport, I anticipated the traffic jams and everything else wrong here in the Philippines as opposed to the very regulated Singapore. The crazy bumper to bumper traffic jams, coupled with the heat that wasn’t helped by the little drizzle adding to the humidity, the ill maintained roads and buildings, the overall lack of cleanliness and pollution, and as I gotten home and switched on my PC only to find out the net is down… Everything is just the opposite of Singapore. But in spite of all those… you know what? It is still home. Philippines is still my home (Along with America, of course). And I’m happy to be back.


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I’m Going on an Adventure!

September 15, 2017: A day that I have been waiting since May of this year when I first ordered my Formula 1 (hereafter F1) tickets for the Singapore Grand Prix weekend. I always exclaimed that September 15 can never come sooner, and now it is just a few hours away and my flight to Singapore will take off.

Let’s recall up where this all began and up to this point where I am quite excited and tensed for my first ever trip outside the country alone (I have been out of the country, of course, but I was always with family or with friends).

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Original Photo: http://www.redbullracing.com/article/singapore-gp-track-essentials

“…you deserve it”

The words my sister and fellow physician, Debbie, told me when we first vacationed at Singapore last March 31, along with our other friends/colleagues from the medical world (Tidbit: they are her colleagues, I treat them as my mentors, because I’m still the youngest and I have yet to train for a specialization just yet. So they are far and away, more brilliant than I can ever aspire to be. But aspire I will), when I was contemplating whether I should visit the beautiful country of Singapore again, this time, for the race to add along the beauty of my visit. She uttered the words, “Why not, you deserve it”, referencing the fact I chose not to have a thanksgiving party after I passed my Physician Licensure Exam the year prior, nor did I ask for any real prize from my family. I didn’t even think of vacations as I was immediately hired, or asked to be hired (I was lucky to have a lot of sources and a lot of people endorsing me as a good physician and would be a perfect fit for their institution), by a number of Universities (both as their University Physician and Faculty in their School of Medicine), clinics as their general physician, teaching hospitals to hire me as their resident in various specialties; all that made me not think of vacations, prizes, etc., but immediately started to think about work and my future training.

So, when my sister said those words, I can’t help but seriously think of treating myself to a race, a plane to ticket too look around Singapore a second time around (trust me, Singapore should be visited many times… It is just beautiful), book a hotel room for my own, and just have the whole trip paid with my own hard earned cash, where no guilt is involved, and I can go to the places I want to go and that I missed in my first visit.

I was still at the cusp of deciding to go to Singapore again for the race, until it came to my attention that this year’s Singapore GP may be the last one held there for F1 in the foreseeable future. Thus, I decided to go back.

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                                         Original Photo: memecrunch.com                                           Copyright: Warner Brothers

“I’m going on an adventure!”

As metioned multiple times above, this isn’t my first time going to Singapore; I was there last March 31, because, apparently, my sister needed a chaperone, otherwise my parents won’t let her go (take note, she is older than me by 7 years – I am 28), so she can join her colleagues (my mentors) to watch Coldplay. I like Coldplay, I respect them as a band, and I love a lot of their songs, but I am not a fan enough of them to actually watch them in concert. Thus, while I became the chaperone, I told her, in exchange, I will explore the city while they all watch the concert; I don’t want to watch the concert. She agreed.

So, now I will be coming back for my version of their Coldplay concert: the Singapore GP!

I will also explore a lot more this time around, since I was only able to explore on my own last March 31, but the subsequent day, I was with the group and wasn’t able to decide on the places to visit. Now that I am alone on this trip, sure I might meet up with a couple of friends (1 of which is another fellow physician, whom I consider a mentor, Dr. Noe), but I will be checking places like Gardens by the Bay, Merlion Park, etc.; the places I failed to visit last time.

The main point of going here is the race, but like I said many times: Singapore is such a beautiful place, that it is a MUST to explore.

And this is my first time traveling out of the country all by myself. I am excited and tensed. But really looking forward to the overall experience.

Twenty-One Years in the Making

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Copyright: Formula 1

I first fell in love with F1 at 1996, where I saw Michael Schumacher in the Ferrari, seemingly flying through the Circuit de Catalunya in the Spanish GP in horrid wet weather condition.

I was enthralled by the overall discipline of the sport since then. The passion of speed and technology. And of course, I became a fan of Michael and Ferrari. Up to this day, I still support Ferrari, win or lose, I bleed red.

I have been a fan of this wonderful sport that literally changed my life for 21 years; I have religiously watched every season. Sure, later on in my life, especially during my medical school days, there are some races that I missed, but overall, each season, I am in the know.

Some people may call it obsession, but to me, it is just pure passion. I am that kid that didn’t understand the value of money, so my parents would trick me into thinking they can’t afford F1 toys and such, that I made one out of paper. Not the best as you can imagine, but I was satisfied as my imagination took care of the lack of details. I then started making F1 cars in Lego, and was proud of its accuracy (I use this word with caution as “accuracy” in basic Lego parts, is really not accurate, but I got close – I will provide a photo of that Lego build once I clean it) and still have it with me, never broken down since, proudly displayed with my actual die-cast F1 cars – why yes, as I finally gotten older, I was able to get my hands on F1 toys and merchandise.

My passion also sent into apparels, where each year from 2002-2007, I ordered Scuderia Ferrari hats to support the team (I have stopped ordering hats from 2008-2016 due to my supplier stopped selling F1 merchandise), and proudly wearing that hat while watching a race even if I was not in the actual stands.

Thanks to F1, I also got into cars in general, to the point where I am like most guys that love cars, that can tell the make, the model, the year, a particular car is.

Thanks to F1, I also became a fan of racing simulators, where my first taste of a “simulator” was Gran Turismo; this further fueled my love for F1 and now different types of racing disciplines. With Gran Turismo, and the other games I played in that series, I learned the parts of a car, and what different setups will cause the car to behave. And my passion for the sport shows as I have a racing simulator rig set up for games such as Assetto Corsa, Codemasters’ F1 series, etc.

As you can see, F1 opened a whole new world for me. It is more than a hobby; more than a sport I love; it is a PASSION.

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“…all my bags are packed…”

Yesterday, I started packing my things up, but not before my mom and I met each other at the local mall after my clinic duty to buy some more necessary travel accessories and maybe a new luggage for my own. Previously, I simply thought of borrowing my sister’s small luggage for the trip, but I thought of maybe buying my own, to call my own, for a relatively good price. The go-to luggage nowadays seem to be Samsonite, but I was always distraught with the price. Not to sound arrogant, but I can afford them, but the practical side of me thinks bags/clothes/shoes, should not be too expensive; for electronics, I don’t mind spending a premium, because I feel it is proper to have a more expensive prices for better quality electronics and such. But when I saw this one Samsonite luggage, it spoke to me. It is strange, but I treat my items as living objects, I take good care of them, and sometimes I talk to them; it is strange indeed, but this is how I get to keep most of my items in tip-top shape and last much longer than they are advertised to be. Thus, when this bag spoke to me, I didn’t care about the price and just bought it… well, with a little persistence from my mom to buy it. Otherwise, I would still be thinking about the purchase even if the luggage spoke to me.

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Impulse buy?

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Reppin’ the U.N. Spacy!

Since this bag is going to be checked-in, I decided to remove the Razer “Remove Before Fight” tag from my key chain and attached it to the bag. I also added some U.N. Spacy logos on the tag. Afterall, this Samsonite bag is not exclusive to me, someone out there, may be traveling to Singapore on the same flight with a similar bag, so I might as well place some stickers, tags, etc., to make it easily identifiable. I will not, however, copy what others are doing like printing a huge picture of themselves on the bag. Maybe next time…

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             Original Photo: http://www.carmag.co.za/singapore-f1-grand-prix-2017/               Copyright: Formula 1

“…and that is 5 red lights and away we go!”

Now, I am just waiting for tomorrow, September 15, 2017, for my flight. I will leave home around 2am, since Manila is unpredictable if there will be a traffic jam like last time we went to the airport. Plus, it is far better to wait in the airport, fully checked-in and such, rather than panicking trying to make the cut-off. This is afterall, my first trip overseas alone.

I am tensed, but excited. And I am sure this trip back to Singapore will be a wonderful experience that will supersede the previous visit as this is my first ever trip overseas alone, add the fact I will watch my first F1 race in person after being a fan for 21 years, this adventure will be a memorable one indeed.

Til my next post when I touch down in Singapore! PEACE!


 

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