Day two in Manila and there is so much here, I would put it on a parallel with Bangkok in terms of photo opportunities.

Red Santos and I started out by exploring and shooting around the railroad tracks in Manila, about 40 minutes away from the Ermita area, where I am staying. Just getting to a destination in Manila, provides plenty of visual stimulation. Jeepnies are a favorite of mine, with their color and adornments!


Under a highway bridge, just 2 meters from the railroad tracks, about 20 families have set up living quarters, each family staking out a spot large enough to construct a makeshift bed from cardboard, wood, or discarded mattresses. This family with four children have been living here for 4 years. The man works as a motorcycle taxi driver earning about 100 pesos a day ($2.25 US). The children play along the tracks, keeping a sharp eye open for oncoming trains.


There are quite a few men who operate small human powered trains, that will transport people along the tracks from point to point for a small fee. The “train” consists of a bamboo platform with seating and an umbrella. Underneath small wheels and a braking system can be found. The whole rig is powered much like riding a skateboard, pushing with one leg. If a real train comes along, everyone just jumps off and the driver removes the rig from the tracks, the ride is resumed after the train passes. Red and I took a ride and it was quite amazing! It reminds me of the “bamboo train” in Battambang, Cambodia. I’ve tried to upload a Flash video that I made with the D3s. I converted the AVI file to Flash using Proshow Producer and uploaded it to YouTube, then embedded it in this post…amazingly, I think it worked! Be sure to turn down you volume first because it came out very loud….I don’t know why it’s so loud but I will try to work on adjusting that next time I do a video.


Next we got back on the “real train” to get across town to our next photo shoot at a large marketplace. En route, the train hit a pickup truck at a train crossing. No one was injured but it caused quite a commotion.


After a long, hot, productive day of scouting, I bid farewell to my new found friend Red Santos. Thanks for all the help Red!

10 Responses to “Manila: a Lot More Here Than Envelopes and File Folders… (bad pun)” Subscribe

  1. Adrian May 19, 2010 at 8:14 pm #


    You look like you're having a lot of fun down there. Keep those photos coming!

    Send me an email at and I'll get you Jay (Jed) Directo's contact info. He is aware that you may contact him and would be delighted to hear from you.

    Best Regards,


  2. Justine Armil Cardell So May 19, 2010 at 9:25 pm #

    Wonderful images Mr.Karl. I've been following your work for sometime now and I'm hooked. Especially now that you're in my motherland, I feel honoured somehow. I missed home seeing your spectacular images. Take care. Keep up the good work. How's D3s? I've been wanting one as well but the price is… uh oh. I'm thinking of selling one of my Kidneys. Hehehe. Again, keep up the good work.

  3. The Photophile May 19, 2010 at 11:45 pm #

    Cute pun! Great photos!

  4. Heber Vega May 20, 2010 at 2:03 am #

    Hi Karl,

    Everything looks great and fun over there. I have a couple questions for you. I noticed that you don't usually use very wide apertures in your shots. What are usually your prefer apertures? What's you vision and approach to this?

  5. Karl Grobl May 20, 2010 at 4:09 am #

    Hi Heber, thanks for the comment.
    I like to shoot wide open (2.8), that's why I chose the 17-35 Nikon over the cheaper, wider and lighter 16-35 f4. There's nothing like wide open!…sometimes I wish I had f1.4 primes!…well, not really 🙂

  6. Adrian May 20, 2010 at 6:14 am #

    I saw your short video clip of the human-powered train. I think it would be a neat new olympic sport! Question regarding your wide zoom: how come you picked the 17-35 over the 14-24? I'm guessing because the former has a more usable zoom range??

  7. Jim House May 20, 2010 at 8:18 am #

    Karl —

    Interestingly, several days ago, I told Jim Cline to put me on the wait list for the Phillipines tour you are leading in 2011. I remember your mentioning the idea of a Phillipines tour while we were in Vietnam. Now you have to come through.

    — JH

  8. Mike May 20, 2010 at 9:44 am #

    I love the 6th image down – you really captured a great expression.

  9. Altersparck May 20, 2010 at 11:07 am #


    Great pictures! They really remind me of home, being a Filipino-American myself. Keep up the good work and stay safe.


  1. D165: Standby « SimplyKuni - June 15, 2010

    […] Images from Manila on Karl Grobl’s blog. Karl is one of seven Focus For Humanity advisory council members. […]

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