• Wayne Manuel

Free Portraits at a Currimao Beach Resort

Me holding the Free Portraits signage at DCoral Beach Resort, Currimao, Ilocos Norte.

Shot with Canon M6 + 35mm f/1.2 7artisans lens. 1/2500 sec., ISO100.

1st day of April 2018. According to Daily Mail UK, it's been 73 years since the April Fools' Day and the Easter Sunday occurred together on the same day, until today. Frankly, it's weird and ratherly mean to pull practical jokes on people during a religious holiday. Here in Ilocos Norte, the holy week does not only mean spending the days with religious observances such as attending masses and Visita Iglesias, but many vacationists (even locals) would grab this perfect opportunity to cool off from the summer heat at the province's several beaches. That even means: long Batac Empanada queue lines and occupied legal parking lanes everywhere. Although the heavy traffic in Laoag City alone during peak seasons is stressing for all of us, it somehow serves as an evidence not only of overpopulation, but also of Ilocos Norte's booming tourism and economy.

A rare event during the Holy Week: Light traffic at the Laoag City 'stoplight', a traffic enforcer stares at the camera.

Shot with Canon M6 + 35mm f/1.2 7artisans lens. 1/2500 sec., ISO100.

I have always been fond of taking photos. Well, this website wouldn't be existing today without my love for photography. There are actually three fields I have always been clearly interested in, namely: Landscapes, Street and my first love - Portraiture. It took me 7 years to realize the blog I wanted to have ever since I started this hobby. Pretty sure I have taken thousands of bad shots then chose the best ones to post and print, until I learned to apply the principle "compose before you expose". This made me a better photographer by saving up camera click counts and preventing wastage of memory. Nevertheless, the mistakes of the past made me become what I am today, so no regrets.

A portrait of my brother during the Free Portraits Campaign.

Shot with Canon M6 + 35mm f/1.2 7artisans lens. 1/2500 sec., ISO100.

Portraiture has always been the one field I wanted to master, most especially candid ones because this is where you'll see the subject's true emotion. 7 years of experience does not even give me the credibility to call myself skilled in the field of photography. As something that I love doing aside from making dentures, I'm continuously honing my skills and learning from the masters to produce even better outputs. Together with this, I upgraded from a DSLR Canon 600D to a mirrorless Canon EOS M6. The latter has more megapixels and less weight, but with almost the same features as the DSLR (full comparison here). I have always put in mind that just secondary to skill and content is gear, and I've put it to a point (in my birthday vlog) that equipment doesn't matter in producing great photos and movies. There are even films that are made with iPhones and climbed their way to the Sundance Film Festival, take Sean Baker's Tangerine for example. This just proves that there are no limits in producing top-notch pictures, both still and motion. Have this idea or a photo opportunity? Shoot it with the best camera you have with you, as learned from NYC vlogger Casey Neistat. And as a big fan, I tend to believe in his rules. If you may ask me: "Why did you upgrade when you just said you don't need higher-end equipment?" I could have settled with a smartphone in hand, but I wanted more - like outputs that are, as much as possible, archival - meaning I could print the photo in a larger size and still maintain its quality just as when it was shot. You don't want that great smartphone photo enlarged with so many grains, right? (The sole reason for this is the small sensor size and high ISO). That's why I tend to upgrade to better gears over time.

A group of friends enjoying an afternoon booze while watching the sunset.

Shot with Canon M6 + 35mm f/1.2 7artisans lens. 1/1600 sec., ISO100.


Since Ilocos Norte was at its peak season with its beaches and I wanted to produce more than just a review for a great mirrorless camera lens, I took the chance to go to DCoral Beach Resort in Currimao (because it was less crowded than in Pagudpud). Out of my love of portraiture and the will to spread kindness during the Easter Sunday/April Fools' Day, I wanted to conduct a Free Portrait Campaign, well sort-of. This idea that I had the night before caught me in the state of sleeplessness until 5AM. I started by making a signage out of primer paints and an illustration board, then drove to the beach by around 4:30PM to aim exactly for the golden hour. Luckily, I arrived at the resort with some minutes of spare time before the sunset commences, got my gear set up, did timelapses for the vlog, shot a few drone shots and then the 30-minute photoshoot began as soon as the sun was shifting its hue from yellow to orange.

Currimao boatrides cost about 30PHP per person. You may find them hanging around the shorelines.

Shot with DJI Phantom 3 Standard. 1/250 sec., ISO100, f/2.8.


The first people I did portraits with are my brother's friends. After that, I briefed them for a moment about the plan and they didn't hesitate in helping me flash the signage to complete strangers and of course, in shooting the vlog.

The group that helped me during the process.

Shot with Canon M6 + 35mm f/1.2 7artisans lens. 1/3200 sec., ISO100.

People got curious at first. Some rejected our offer, but we didn't think of getting our morales down. I could've lost my confidence, but I was very enthusiastic and wanted to be kind on a special holiday. The first participants were an old couple who happens to be the parents of my mom's co-dentist, Dr. Winalyn Macusi-Tagabi. I asked for their consent to take their portraits, clicked, then got an e-mail address where I can send the edited pictures to. The same process was followed throughout the rest of the campaign.

All photos shot with Canon M6 + 35mm f/1.2 7artisans lens.

Individual photo specifications in their respective description boxes.


Personally, I don't like taking portraits under artificial light. That's why I always tend to go outdoors to catch the natural light of the sun. The best time to do outdoor photography is during the golden hour in the morning and afternoon. Most of my shoots are conducted at these times of the day because it's when the natural light diffuses softly to the subject, hence preventing unwanted exposure areas of your photos in some level. The light also produces an ambient effect that will let you easily manipulate the photo during post-processing, so always shoot in RAW. ISO should also be set as low as possible for minimal grains and electronic correction.

All photos shot with Canon M6 + 35mm f/1.2 7artisans lens.

Individual photo specifications in their respective description boxes.


We did the portrait-taking (as well as the vlog-making) for exactly an hour, which I originally planned to conduct for just 30 minutes. There were about 30-40 people that joined. For me, that was way more than enough! I really didn't expect so many people to be "game" and interested in this kind of pakulo. The Philippines, in general, is not quite open to public scenarios such as this. It's either you get looked down, frowned upon or criticized. This happens most especially in the province, Ilocos Norte in particular, where there are so many conservative people. This explains why it was hard for us to get people to join during the first 5 minutes. Numerous doubtful glances went to the guys that raised the signage and most especially to the guy holding a camera shouting "Free Portraits!". Confidence was the key to this campaign and we just followed the waves - literally. Maybe some thought the Free Portraits signage was an April Fools' Day parada, but as soon as my camera started to click on the old couple, it never stopped until it got its battery drained. Not only I got to spread kindness on a holiday and gained a lot of friends, I also had the opportunity to hone my Portrait Photography skills with enjoyment and fulfillment. 'Til the next Free Portraits Session! BTW, here's the VLOG!

See you on the next wave!

My portrait holding the sign, shot by my brother Marlo right after we ended the photoshoot.

Shot with Canon M6 + 35mm f/1.2 7artisans lens. 1/1250 sec., ISO100.

Special thanks to: 7artisans Philippines, Canon Philippines, Gizmo+, my brother's friends and to all that participated.