Manila Street Photography w/ RX100 - The Beauty & The Chaos

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Street Photography in Manila - Sony RX100iii  © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Street Photography in Manila
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Candid street photography in the Philippines is not so easy...one, because I'm a foreigner, and I stick out like a sore thumb. Two, because so many Filipinos love to be photographed. As soon as they see the camera, their faces light up and they get posed and ready!


Well that's a good thing, and of course I have plenty of those shots. However, I want this post to be different. My goal was to create a snapshot "time-capsule"...a window into the daily life of historic Manila, in 2017.


To accomplish this, I decided to take my tiny Sony RX100III on a photo walk. I went during the week, to experience less tourists and more locals. After lunch, I boarded a packed MRT train in Mandaluyong, and started the long journey to Divisoria.


The Bustling Outdoor Market of Divisoria.

Goods, Vendors and Shoppers  @ Divisoria © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Divisoria Market - Vendors and Shoppers

The crowds in the market were thick, even during the week. This place is famous for the best deals–on almost everything. I have been warned many times about pickpockets in Divisoria, so I was very careful and alert. Knock on wood, I've never had a bad experience in 4 years exploring the Philippines.



I also popped into a few camera stores while here. Hidalgo Street is also famous for great deals on camera equipment. In fact, this is where my little RX100 came from! I think my baby was happy to be home.


Afternoon light on side of a Divisoria building - Manila Street Photography © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Afternoon light hitting the side of a building @ Divisoria

The shot below is a good example of what I'm talking about...this street food vendor didn't notice me until after the photo was taken. Then he let out a big smile and posed for a picture. Super nice guy.


Divisoria Street food vendor and crowds - Manila Street Photography © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Divisoria Street food vendor and shoppers


I studied the afternoon light, and tried to use the sun / shade drama to my advantage.


Divisoria crowds and dramatic lighting  © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Dramatic lighting dividing the street @ Divisoria

I am a landscape photographer at heart, so I actually prefer the wider lens of the Sony RX100III. It's 24mm, and I guess this makes me somewhat of a unique street-shooter. Even 28mm is too wide for most "street 'togs".


Quiapo Church - Now Almost 600 Years Old.


This iconic church is one of Manila's oldest landmarks. As you can see, there are many vendors selling candles to the devotees who attend services there. The original church was built of bamboo and nipa, way back in 1586!


Quiapo church with crowds of vendors, shoppers, and a police car - Manila Street Photography © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Quiapo Church - Crowds of vendors and shoppers surroundng police car


Again, I enjoyed how the afternoon light perfectly illuminated the church, while leaving the crowds blanketed in shadows.


Quiapo church and framed by shadowy structure  © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Found this vantage point to frame the church in the shadows

Escolta Street, One of Manila's Oldest.


After Quiapo, I started making my way to Escolta Street, another historic part of the city. There were no sidewalks in this section, so I actually had to walk with the street traffic to pass by. Of course, anybody who knows Manila is used to doing this now and then.


Motorbikes and an overloaded pedicab stuck in traffic  @idreamedofthis
Pedicab driver in traffic with heavy load

I love to walk. I have explored countless regions of Manila on foot, and at all hours of the day and night. People are quite surprised to see me in areas that are believed to be unsafe, but as mentioned before, I have never had a problem. A friendly smile and bit of Tagalog (the local language) goes a long way.


(continued below)


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Jeepney and afternoon shadows on Jones Bridge  © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Jeepney and afternoon shadows on the Jones Bridge

This is a "Jeepney", an old military vehicle repurposed for transporting the public. I spotted this one on the walk across Jones Bridge, which was bombed by the Japanese during WWII. One of the busiest bridges in the country, it was repaired in 1945 with the help of the U.S.


Intramuros, The Historic Walled City.


This old Spanish fort across the Jones Bridge is a photographer's dream come true. It's known as Intramuros, and by now it was very late in the afternoon, and the sun was just about to dip below the fort walls. Below, I was lucky to capture 2 horse drawn carriages, called "kalesas", beautifully lit by the sun.


Intramuros Kalesas (horse drawn carriages) - Manila Street Photography © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Intramuros Kalesas coming out of the shadows - Sony RX100III

I believe this is called an ancestral house. I love the cobblestone used to paved the streets here. It's one of my favorite part of Intramuros, and even though I don't have any pictures from this trip, check out beautiful San Agustin church nearby! It's by far my favorite in all the Philippines.


Ancestral house, tourists and cobblestone streets - Manila Street Photography © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Intramuros' cobblestone streets, and historic ancestral house

This is a less touristy street on the outskirts of Intramuros, and I was lucky to catch this moment. The late afternoon sun created a lot of dramatic shadows on the streets.  I think this is my favorite street shot I've taken so far.


Girl walking through Intramuros - Manila Street Photography  © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Girl walking by old stone building in Intramuros - Sony RX100III

I ended up touring Fort Santiago while here (again, no pictures), and by the time the light had all but faded completely, I was starving. I found an eatery and had a great time sharing a table with some locals. Afterward, I was lucky to stumble upon a fiesta there in Intramuros! People were kind to invite me to join their groups celebrating the event.


We had a lot of fun (perhaps a bit too much)...late into the night, I even got on the microphone and sang Frank Sinatra's "My Way" right there on the crowded streets! I don't know if I did OK, or if the locals were just 3 sheets to the wind, but they clapped and cheered as I reached the chorus and belted out the ending.


Parked pedicabs and cobblestone streets illuminated in the dark © Nathan Allen via @idreamedofthis
Manila Street Photography- Dramatic lighting in a cobblestone alley - Intramuros

I'll never forget those guys, Diego, Juneer, Wendel, Jun, Ian...I don't know if they'll ever see this, but thanks for taking good care of me. I told you I'll return to Intramuros...and I promise you, someday I will.


For those who are curious, all shots were taken with my Sony RX100III pocket camera. That link above is for Amazon, but in the Philippines or Singapore you can find it HERE. I am not connected to (or sponsored by) Sony in any way, but if you use the links above, it will help me continue providing stories like this.


Hope you enjoyed.



- Nathan Allen



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