From documenting candid emotions into capturing the beauty of the human form, Tonyjun Agustin's photography affliction has evolved through the years. Staying true to his obligation to their family's ice cream business and charting his own course as a creative demands a lot of time and effort but he strikes a balance by maximizing his potential in both fields. He has put up his own studio aside from being a freelancer who caters events and product shoots. Still, his photography roots remain : presenting stories of people that tug at the heartstrings or making viewers' eyes pop with amazement and appreciation of beauty.
TJ Agustin is our featured Focus photographer of the month.
What was your first camera experience like? Do you still remember?
TJ : It was a Sony videocam. I used it at my sister’s debut in 2001. It was heavy but during that time, ganoon ang uso. But because I was really excited to capture the fun moments during the party eh kahit buong gabi ang filming, okay lang. .
How did you start getting hooked to taking pictures?
TJ : At first, I only took pictures for school projects and academic requirements. Pero napapansin ko sa sarili ko na each time I take pictures especially documentation and social service-related, iba 'yung nafi-feel kong enjoyment. Especially sa mga candid shots. Natutuwa ako when I am able to capture the smiles on people's faces, especially children.
Tell us a story about your first camera.
TJ : My first camera was a Canon Rebel 2000. It's a film camera kaya naging challenge din sakin 'yun. Ang style ko pa noon, 'yung available of film or shots, I divided by number of activities of the program, kaya I needed to wait only for the best moments para kumuha because I only had limited film in my pocket.
Your forte is shooting people. Did it start that way? Were you really comfortable in taking photographs of people or asking them to pose?
TJ : Yes, I started taking pictures of people on the street. Stolen shots ng mga tambay, nagtatrabaho, nagtitinda sa tabi ng kalsada, mga batang lansangan, mga ordinaryong mamamayan sa pang-araw-araw na pamumuhay. Pero nagpapaalam naman ako. Mausok at mainit but the good thing about most Pinoys kasi talaga is we always wear our smile and we love the camera. And mostly, different reactions and expressions from my subjects relay different kinds of story. At 'di ko maiwasang maapektuhan sa bawat kwento, minsan masaya, minsan malungkot. Ganon naman sa photojournalism, you have to capture the emotion, a single shot should speak a thousand words. Tapos 'yun nga, lately, I got interested into taking pictures of women. For a simple reason, because I love women. I appreciate beauty.
What tips could you share about making people pose and look good for the camera?
TJ : First, you need to get their attention. Show them you respect them so you can gain theirs. Make them feel at ease. Have even a little bit of sense of humor so you can be both comfortable.
What’s the one glamour photo that’s your favorite?
TJ : A beach shoot where our model wore a red long gown. High fashion dramatic photoshoot. (Shown below)
Who’s your dream model? Male and female. And which concept or styling would you love to do with them?
TJ : My future wife and kids. I don't know them yet, but reckoning about it gives me chills. Capturing candid memories with my lady and appreciating her in every angle. As for my kids, figuring out how would they look like wearing costumes they prefer will surely be a lot of fun!
Who are the photographers who influenced you in your craft?
TJ : My Dad who is also photography-inclined. And mostly my loving Ate who was the first to be interested in photography. She introduced me to this industry and even gave me her own camera so I can start on my own.
What has been your proudest moment as a photographer?
TJ : There was a time when everyone was doubting my skills. So I opened myself to opportunities so I could continue learning. I went to Dubai to gain more experience. From my earnings, I bought a new camera and other gadgets. I built my own photo studio and proved my critics wrong.
So you’ve had the opportunity to have your own studio. It’s always a work in progress. What would your ideal studio be like?
TJ : I want to have my own crew, of course. 'Yung mga makakasama ko na kagaya ko ay masaya sa ganitong larangan. And as their leader, I want to share them my knowledge and together we can discover more of our talents. It is always my dream to work with people as passionate as I am in this craft. So, 'yung studio ko gusto ko hindi lang mapuno ng mga equipment. Mas masaya kung magiging equipped din siya ng mga kagaya ko and somehow, sana mabigyan ko sila ng opportunity, not only to earn but to grow.
Is there another photography genre that you’d like to explore or eventually master?
TJ : Lately I’ve been traveling to different places with different people. I have been to some places in the Philippines, at 'yung ganda ng mga napuntahan ko somehow is motivating me now to make travel videos showing how beautiful the Philippines is. 'Yung mga videos na kapag napanood ng mga Filipino ay mae-encourage na unahin munang i-explore itong sariling atin bago ang ibang bansa. And also to entice our fellowmen who already migrated abroad to keep coming back, even for vacations.
Photography milestones that you’d like to accomplish 5 to 10 years from now?
TJ : I wish to build my own photo and video production that is not only covering events but also creating indie films. Wala namang imposible sa panahon ngayon if you have the skills and the guts and if you put your faith in God.
More of TJ's favorite photos (Click thumbnails to view photos in full)
How has it been like to be a Focus member?
TJ : It's been a privilege to be a member of Focus Bulacan. It gives me the continuous desire to learn more and aspire more. Most especially, the friendship that we share in the group is the one that is priceless.
What's your advice for photographers who are just starting with their craft?
TJ : Always keep the fire in your passion burning. It is one of our duties as photographers to relay to our audience how we see the world, especially God's creations. And if you’ll make it a profession, love your work, build your attitude, know your client and deliver to them a great memorabilia of the moments of their lives that they have entrusted you to capture.
Your message to Focus followers and members?
TJ : Don’t ever give up. Maraming mga photo enthusiast ngayon ang mas equipped at stiff ang competition. But we have to remember that sometimes, although it's the equipment or the quality of the camera that can produce good results, it is still the heart that can create a masterpiece of artwork.
For TJ, the mantra seems to be : one accomplishment at a time then move on to the next challenge. Change is part of progress. Soul to body. Passion to profession. Freelance to studio. And now, photography to videography. Watch out, TJ Agustin is out to conquer his dreams! His belief in himself and his faith in the One up above tell us there's no reason he couldn't succeed.
It's been 3 years since he migrated with his family more than 5,400 miles away to the US island state of Hawaii. It was a fresh start with lush surroundings and an altogether new way of life. He has settled in as the maintenance supervisor of a high-rise condominium in downtown Honolulu. Incidentally and perhaps surprisingly, in his new spot he has also found his mark in photography.
Now specializing in conceptual and cosplay photography, he has finally realized the genre that fulfills his interest the most. But much like his move from Bulacan to Hawaii, it was a long journey getting there. But as they say, it doesn't matter how fast or how far you go, as long as you reach your destination.
Turning fantasies into images, Lheo Halili is the featured Focus photographer of the month.
How did your photography affliction get started?
L : Ever since nauso ang Nokia camera phones and point-and-shoot, nahilig na akong mag-litrato ng mga napupuntahan kong lugar. Dati basta pindot lang nang pindot, ang importante sakin ma-capture ko ang gusto kong kunan so that I can share it with my friends na never pang nakapag-travel para mayroon na silang idea in the future. Siguro since 2004 'yun, but 2012 noong nag-start akong mag-aral ng photography because my wife got her DSLR. Nanghihiram lang ako kasi Sony Cybershot digicam lang ang gamit ko noon, hehehe. Sumali ako sa photography club 2012 yata, I'm not sure. Since then lagi na akong uma-attend if there’s a shoot or event . Dito ako natuto gumamit ng DSLR, kay Sir Jeremy Sandel . Then naging Focus member din ako at lalo akong nahilig sa photography.
When you were just a newbie, what did you find as most challenging in this art form?
L : Pinaka-challenging sa akin ay mag-manual mode and madami palang genre ang photography and hindi ko alam kung ano ang gusto ko before.
Your photography has evolved over the years. Your specialty now is more of fantasy with photo manipulation being an integral part. Tell us how you shifted or became inclined to this genre.
L : To tell you frankly guys, I don’t know how I got to this type of genre. It just happened, but sometimes I imagine unusual things like it’s kind of surrealism or fairy tales and I started adding it up to my works.
How do you feel now that you could see your photos are much improved?
L : I can’t really feel anything at this moment… maybe because I’m at the point that I need to explore and learn more. And really right now I’m just enjoying my craft.
What’s your favorite shooting combo?
L : For shoots, I always stay with Nikon. I don’t have any favorite combo right now let's say I’m just lazy to bring a heavy DSLR so i always bring the D5300. It’s so light but it can do my work done in a normal shoots pero kapag event or malaki ang bayad full-frame ang dinadala ko, hahaha .
Can you tell us what’s your workflow like when producing fantasy-like images?
L : If fantasy mas prefer ko ang wide lens, I like doing the shoot in creepy areas like the forest . One of my favorites is the levitation shot using 2 or more image in the exact same position with identical framing. The first photo is the portrait and the second photo is an identically framed shot of the scene, just without the subject. It’s very helpful to use an identical focal point and identical exposure settings between the two photos. My post-processing is done in Adobe Photoshop with layer masks. This technique requires a bit of practice and patience but the results are almost always fun and interesting.
You’re now based in Hawaii and it looks like it has opened a lot of doors for you in terms of photography. How is it like to be a photographer in Hawaii compared to being in the Philippines?
L : Ah, medyo malayo compared diyan sa Philippines. May discrimination kasi. Bago ako makapag-shoot, na-discriminate na ako agad but it's okay, that’s a part of my experience kaya ako nagsumikap nang husto. Here in Hawaii mahirap sa una, why? Because I'm just a nobody and I don’t know how to market my photography but one day I was discovered by a Pinay model based here and she introduced me to another photographer and that’s how my career got started.
What’s your ultimate favorite photo and what’s the story behind it?
L : My ultimate favorite photos are photos of my loved ones because they are the ones who inspire me and make me happy. That’s why I always treasure them in my heart wherever I go.
What do you consider as your biggest photography achievement so far?
L : My biggest photography achievement so far is... ano nga ba? Siguro noong medyo nakikilala na ako dito sa island, kung mayroon mang nakakakilala, hahaha. Ah, medyo nakakapag-pundar na ako at nakaka-ipon para may pambili kami ng airplane ticket para makapagbakasayon diyan sa Pinas. Mahal din kasi tapos apat pa kami ng family ko.
There’s always room for improvement. What do you still want to learn or improve on?
L : Everything! I like coming up with a new technique that sets a new standard for the industry. Every year may nauuso, dapat laging kang updated. Sabi nga, “to continue to learn is to continue to thrive”.
Who or where would be your dream shoot?
L : Who? I don’t know yet… Maybe in the US mainland where the celebrities are mostly based. Hollywood! Hehe.
On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest, how would you rate your photography five years ago? And how would you rate your photography now?
L : I rate myself 1 out of 10 five years ago. Now I rate myself a 5.
Words of advice you’d like to share to photographers who are trying to find their niche or signature style?
L : Keep on shooting, try all kinds of genre. Kung may time, try to experiment din. Experience is the best teacher. Never give up kung wala kayong nakuhang magandang photo today, 'wag huminto. There’s always tomorrow. Also, we are the ones who make the photographs, not the gear.
Message to Focus followers and your fellow Focus members.
L : Guys, you are all wonderful friends, and I appreciate your love, kindness, support, and generosity to our group. More power, Focus Bulacan! Thank you! Mahalo! Salamat po!
The road to finding his niche was hazy but he pushed on till there was clarity. Now that he has found his direction, his attitude remains the same : that of perseverance and an insatiable quest for knowledge. Let's sit back and relax, as we're sure that in the years to come, Lheo will keep churning out works where dreams are turned into reality.
As we turn five years old, we welcome our newest batch of official members. Batch Eleven!
It's another group of passionate photographers with a variety of interests. Special mention to a pioneer Focus member when we launched the group back in 2013 who became inactive and is now making his way back to the group with a renewed focus. Welcome back, Hans Aliwalas!
Our other new members have also completed the participation requirements and we are excited to have them in our team. We are sure they bring their own photographic style and will add to the overall improvement of the club. Congratulations, Batch July 2018!
See you soon! Below is a visual introduction to our newest members :
When "Larawang Bulakenyo" was launched in 2016, the Provincial History, Arts, Culture, and Tourism Office (PHACTO) wanted shutterbugs to highlight the best of Bulacan - its landmarks, travel destinations, products, celebrations, and talent in photography. It was a competition that was open to all Bulakenyos and backed by the provincial government. Needless to say, the contest was significant and prestigious.
The first (and we sure hope not the last) grand winner is a proud and ardent shooter of Bulacan's colorful festivals who makes it a point to give his viewers a glimpse of Bulacan's pomp and pleasant smiles. A Baliuag native who scours neighboring towns to document their local celebrations.
Larawang Bulakenyo Grand Prize Winner Sherwin Tomas is the featured Focus photographer of the month.
Q : How and when did you get into photography?
S : When I bought my first camera five years ago, I wanted to put up a photobooth business, but it was awkward because I lacked materials, so cancel na ang photobooth. Then I was deciding where to take pictures until I met Mr. Gilbert Macapagal, a product of FPPF (Federation of Philippine Photographers Foundation) and now also a Focus Bulacan member like me. He taught me Basic Photography. After that I met different photography groups and that was a good start of my hobby.
Q : Before specializing in festivals, what did you like to shoot?
S : I liked to shoot still life, macro, and some pictorial or model shoots.
Q : What made you decide to focus on festivals?
S : Festivals are really beautiful. They have colorful clothing and beautiful participants. When I shoot festivals, I feel like I’m involved in the performances. I feel the intensity of the surroundings.
Q : What is your favorite festival in Bulacan and why?
S : All the festivals in Bulacan are magnificent, but if you ask what festival is easy to shoot, I think it's the Minasa Festival of Bustos. The event is not hot, the weather is pretty cold, they start in the morning at 5AM. It's easy to shoot and capture the beautiful participants.
Q : Tell us about your Larawang Bulakenyo experience. Did you feel that your entry had a good chance of winning?
S : Awesome! I did not know if my entry would be selected. I was surprised when they announced the winner and suddenly called my name as the grand prize winner.
Q : What was going through your mind when it was announced that you were the grand winner?
S : Shocked!!! Speechless.
Q : Care to disclose where you spent the cash prize?
S : I went to Manila and bought a mountain bike. I then rode it from Manila to Bulacan. Medyo excited mag-bike. Ang layo pala. Hahaha.
Q : Aside from your Larawang Bulakenyo-winning entry, what photo are you most proud of?
S : All my photos that my friends love, I’m proud of.
Q : What camera and lens do you usually use when shooting festivals?
S : I usually use two cameras, a prime lens, a 100mm macro for shooting portraits, and a wide angle lens for shooting group shots or wides. I think that’s a good combination for shooting festivals.
Q : What is the biggest challenge in shooting festivals and what tip could you give those who also want to shoot those kinds of events?
Q : Maybe the biggest challenge is it's too hot in the street because most of the festivals start at noon. It's very hot and you walk too far because of the length of the parade. For tips, I would say, be one or two hours early. Visit all the participants, find the most beautiful, colorful, and then watch and shoot at the start of the parade.
Q : What other genre or subject would you like to master?
S : I also like Landscape Photography because as you take pictures the scenery is very relaxing. Also Macro Photography because you do not need to go far, you can find subjects nearby.
Q : What remain your frustrations or areas that you need to improve on?
S : When you need the right lens to use but you can't do anything about it because you do not have it. Hahaha.
I need to improve my editing skills.
More of Sherwin's favorite festival snaps (Click thumbnails to view photos in full)
Q : What is your most unforgettable shoot?
S : One is yung 'big photowalk in Binondo in 2015 (Focus with DAAN and FSP). It was so much fun. Second is 'yung every nationwide photowalk ng Fujifilm. The last photowalk theme, "Five", my picture got included in the Top 100. Third is Scott Kelby Photowalk. Ang dami mong makikilala na magagaling na street photographers. Hmmm.. of course every gathering of festivals is really unforgettable. They have their own story.
Q : Your message to Focus Bulacan followers and your fellow Focus members?
S : To all Focus followers, thanks for the support you have given us. You can expect that we will continue to improve. To the Focus family, thank you for all and thanks for being part of my life. Let's keep shooting!
From still life to insects and now the colorful, dynamic spectacle of festivals. Sherwin has found a niche and, more importantly, something that he truly enjoys shooting. It's a path that he has pursued vigorously and one that is now reaping rewards.
One can conceivably describe his festival photography as colorful, lively, and immersive.
And, without a doubt with the Larawang Bulakenyo accolade under his name... award-winning.
His father Jun was an established lensman, being the official photographer of STI campuses in Bulacan and Pampanga for 20 years and also serving as photographer of former Bulacan governor Jonjon Mendoza. Now carrying the torch after the patriarch passed away, the son is forging a path of his own : sustaining the old man's studio while making a mark in contemporary wedding and events photography. Already an industry veteran at the young age of 22, he has also found a home at up-and-rising wedding coverage team ProudRad.
The son also rises. Josh Tamayo is the featured Focus photographer of the month.
Q : Your father was a professional photographer. When you were still a kid, did you already see yourself following in his footsteps?
J : Not really, because that time film photography was a very critical process. You needed to be precise, practice ISO, shutterspeed, and that time I was still young and enjoyed playing.
Q : Was there any pressure at all to also be a photographer or was it something that you naturally liked to do?
J : For me it was natural. It naturally became my passion.
Q : So how was your first experience with using a camera like?
J : My father taught me how to use a camera and I wasn't interested yet that time. Siguro bata pa kasi ako nun, but I started to shoot seriously last 2013, when I was already 17 years old. Bigla ko na-realize na sana pala mas maaga ko pa nasimulan.
Q : What was your first camera and what did you like to shoot with it?
J : My first camera was a Nikon D7000 when I was in 2nd year college. That was 2012, I enjoyed it because DSLR can do more. Mostly practice shots, trial and error.
Q : How was it like to be an assistant to your father? What advice from him do you always remember?
J : My father’s regular clients were schools. Graduation portraits, class pictures, ID pictures. My role was to carry his things, check the equipment and he always told me to memorize them all. How to use different equipment. Back then my father would always remind me about framing, good lighting, and of course, to be confident.
Q : So when did you finally go on your own as a photographer?
J : I think it was my classmate's debut a month after I got my first camera. She asked me to shoot her debut and it was quite crucial yet very exciting.
Q : How would you describe your style in shooting events?
J : My style of shooting is a blend of lifestyle and photojournalism. It’s candid with a bit of direction and styling and relaxed feeling, because I love to shoot their raw emotions. I’m very minimal when it comes to poses. I find the light in the dark, shadows, patterns, because they give more dramatic moments to the couple. Parang pinaghalong wedding and street photography documenting their memories.
Q : Any frustrations or challenges when you were just starting?
J : I experienced a lot of difficulties when I was starting. Some of the people I was shooting used to laugh, they thought I was too young and didn’t believe that I was already working. For me it helped me to be more motivated and dedicated to what I’m doing.
Q : What areas do you think you still need to improve on?
J : I think in composition, good shadows and lighting, and personal relation to make the client comfortable during the shoot.
Q : What was your most memorable event or shoot?
J : It was last December. It’s the season to get married and I was booked for 23 weddings. Traveled to Palawan, next day to Tagaytay, then a morning wedding in Pampanga. Everyday I had a wedding shoot, haha! Literally I just slept in the bus carrying my gear and clothes and I realized I will not do it again. I also need to rest.
Q : What would be your dream project or shoot?
J : My dream project would be to shoot in an international celebrity wedding and famous personalities' events.
Q : Who are photographers you look up to, and why?
J : Of course my father because I saw how passionate he worked. I admire him on how he interacted with the people that he worked with because of his natural and friendly personality. Also, the team ProudRad. Their amazing photos, you cannot imagine how they're taken, I found in them my preferred style of shoot. Before I was just one of their fans but now I'm proud to be part of their team.
Q : Five to ten years from now, what would you like to achieve as a photographer?
J : Five to ten years from now I would like to become the official media outfit in top universities.
Q : A special tip you'd like to share to those who'd like to try events coverage?
J : Bring extra battery and SD card! Haha. Siguro mahalin n'yo lang 'yung trabaho and work hard. I-enjoy n'yo lang.
Q : What's your message to Focus followers and fellow members?
J : Continue to be an inspiration to others, focus and never stop practicing. 'Wag maging kampante na magaling ka na, dapat mag-aral pa rin at mag-isip ng bago. Lastly, do not compare your work to others. As long as gusto mo 'yung ginagawa mo, i-enjoy lang.
A month after getting his own camera, he bravely covered his first event. Three years later, he had to take over his father's business and service their clients. It has now been five years since he started pursuing photography and Josh has identified his style and started to make a name for himself. Regrets of not starting earlier aside, his story is an example of knowing when the time is right and making the most of the moment.
Proud and Rad. From heaven, it's easy to see : Dad is proud.
She developed a bond with photography while coping with an emotional circumstance, giving her a new outlook toward people and life in general. Her new pursuit opened her eyes and drove her to explore more of her second home, the progressive city-state of Singapore. An interior designer by profession who hails from Marilao, Bulacan, nowadays she happily travels and documents her adventures with Jake, steadily building her portfolio as well as developing her own style. It's only a matter of time until her images rival her designs for mall and airport retail spaces.
Jennifer Arcadio Francisco is the featured Focus photographer of the month.
Q : How did you get sucked into this big, beautiful world of photography?
J : I bought my first camera way back 2013 in the Philippines, a Sony SLT-37. I just had it locked in my cabinet most of the time, random shoot when I have time after work. The interest and drive came in the summer of 2015 - I was already here in Singapore. I had a turnaround in my personal life and spent most of my time outside the house – observing and photographing people quietly. Tingin-tingin lang, roaming around with my bike and camera. I found new friends who are into photography. One of them is a Fujifilm user. I spent most of my free time with them, no surprise na I got hooked on the rendering capabilities of Fuji, may film feels and how easy it was to use, magaan pa so I decided to save and purchase an X-T1 camera. That was February of 2016. I named him “Jake”.
Q : You're an interior designer. Is photography a big part of your profession, or is it more of an additional
J : It is an artform on its own, it was an escape for me because it doesn’t oblige me to talk and it exposes me to things which I would not dive into if walang camera sa kamay. But of course my passion for architecture and interior design are key factors when I shoot urban and cityscapes. I remember when kuya Joel Domingo (fellow Focus Bulacan member who was also based in Singapore) told me that my day job is an edge in photography – madali na daw ang perspective at vanishing points kasi we are used to it na.
Q : What's your style and what do you love to shoot?
J : Siguro I cannot point out one specific style kasi I am still on the process na I want to try every style and technique that I encounter. Architecture, cityscape, landscape, portrait, events, and street photography are mostly my top choices.
Q : What would a shoot routine for you be like?
J : Random photowalk depends on my mood; sometimes I have Jake on my bag pero hindi makaka-shoot, minsan naman I don’t have it kaya camera phone na lang, sayang kasi kung hindi maka-capture 'yung moment. I am most productive when I shoot on my own or with a buddy. When I shoot alone, I ride public transits, madaming interesting stories to capture but siyempre we need to be very careful and try to respect privacy din ng mga tao. Also madaming free spots here in Singapore to shoot, no need to pay. For commissioned works like prenups, the night before the shoot, I will make sure na I have batteries and SD cards enough for the whole session and clean lens. I also look at the clients' social media accounts lalo na if 'di ko talaga kilala, just to observe 'yung details ng faces nila and how I can take good angles. To add up, I always have a tumbler for water, mainit and we have to be hydrated palagi at madalas may mints ako sa pocket.
Q : Which part of Singapore is your favorite?
J : CBD area like Marina Bay and Esplanade Avenue for architectural. For landscapes, no particular na favorite place kasi most of Singapore parks have their own beauty to share. For street photography it would be Chinatown and Little India, we call it “walang sayang na oras” areas. Anytime of the day sure na you have a take-away shot.
Q : And when you're back home, do you have a go-to place to shoot? How about locations in Singapore and the Philippines that you would want to explore that you haven't yet?
J : I had a chance to go on a hike sa Mountain Province last December 2016, it was an instant photowalk for me. Maybe that is one of my best photography experiences, I am still hoping na makabalik and to be connected to Mother Nature ulit. I want to explore Batanes, Puerto Prinsesa, Palawan, and maybe Rizal as we all know there are lots of hiking places na ready to be discovered, few hours from Metro Manila lang.
Q : What's your dream photography destination?
J : It would be Myanmar, sunrise and sunset riding on a hot air balloon. Next would be Turkey, to photograph people and architectural places like Hagia Sophia. It would also be a dream for me to travel to Russia and Greece.
Q : Who was your photography mentor when you were starting, and is there a specific advise or tip that you couldn't forget?
J : My first mentor was kuya Jase Ng, he taught me basics of photography and how I can maximize the capabilities of my camera. I was using SLT camera back then. Next would be the person who influenced me to buy a Fuji cam, Barry Millare. I am a big fan of his portraits and floral shots, and also of his colored street shots. My first long exposure was mentored by sir Jer Sandel of Focus Bulacan. Another helpful person to me is one of my closest friends and kuya here in Singapore - Francis Gaerlan. It was thru him that I understood why we do not have to be too hard on ourselves to make people like our photos. He made me value my art more, he said that photography will always be subjective. What is good for you will not always be good or great for other people, we all have our own preferences.
Q : Who are photographers you look up to or who influenced your craft?
J : Xyza Cruz Bacani, Win Magsino, Jaja Samaniego, Jayjay Lucas, and Eric Kim to name a few. I am also a big fan of MangoRed Studios and Everywhere We Shoot.
Q : Which photo are you most proud of?
J : One of my favorite shot is the one from Chinatown, Singapore – “Transient” (photo shown above). I love how everytime I saw it on my archive I am always drawn into a natural flow. At first you will be drawn to the little boy sitting on a luggage but then you will be intrigued with his look and be directed to the person he is looking at – the auntie with a handfan, to add up you will also notice the man behind is also looking at the same direction of the auntie. Lastly is the father of the child holding the luggage bag looking at his child. Ang daming stories to tell, you can also leave the story to the audience. Another one is the combination of sunset and my favorite band Coldplay’s concert scene (photo shown below). It was a great timing and good weather that the Cardiff Stadium opened the dome roof in the middle of a colorful performance. It was a feast in the eyes kind of experience.
Q : Ten years from now, how do you see yourself as a photographer?
J : I always pray to learn more and hope that someday I will be able to establish my own style. I want to develop techniques in documentary type of event photography. And be able to capture important and simple life events of my own family, especially my future kids.
Q : What's your dream photography project or series?
J : Photographing old photographer couples, it’s a wonderful feeling to see old couples with cameras, enjoying their time together with photography. Another series would be my future kids' faces, I want to photograph how they will grow and bloom. A section on this series are photographs of my future life partner’s face every year. And turn it to a book.
Q : Your most unforgettable photography experience?
J : Mountain Province hike and shoot, I have many memories in that place. It was like an immersion on the mountains, trees, and clouds. I also learned lots of life lessons in that place and also about our culture and ethnicity.
Q : What was your first Focus Bulacan experience like?
J : It was with a group with Sir Jer, Alih (Viaje), Mark (de Leon), Amen (Alcoriza), Sir Joel, Ate Nympha (Pagtalunan), and Ayie (Salva), who eventually became a good friend and housemate. It was a random message from Amen that led me to my first long exposure shot mentored by Sir Jer. First advice from him was “know your camera”. Always grateful for these individuals who inspired me to travel and take good photographs.
Q : What advice would you give those who have just bought their first camera?
J : We have to read first, understand what are your needs and not because of norm. Whether you are a natural reader or not, try to read the manual, but if in case na may Japanese characters ang manual, Google is always available. Youtube is a great friend too, and we can always ask our friends for help, 'wag mahihiya. In the long run you will be able to take good shots and happy shots. Always be patient and love your craft. Don’t be discouraged din with other photographers na magagaling na, they were beginners din before they became the kind of photographers they are now. Instead na compete with them, make them your friends and ask for their advice.
Q : What's your message to Focus followers and your fellow members?
J : To all Focus followers - thank you for supporting Focus Bulacan, and we hope we are inspiring you guys thru our photographs. To my fellow members, thank you for accepting me in the group and I hope to contribute more in our community. Thanks too for inspiring me to keep the passion in photography. Praying for our group’s vision and goals to continuously benefit each member. Hope to see you all soon! God bless.
Jen's other favorites (Click thumbnails to view photos in full)
Soft-spoken and self-effacing but don't let his boyish looks fool you. At such a young age, he's already a seasoned professional in the events coverage industry. He's also a sought-after drone pilot, a skill that complements his photography, videography, and editing expertise. The artist behind Oneday Project and countless amazing aerial images and footage, he's on a relentless rise toward mastering his craft, taking all of us higher and showing us awe-inspiring views.
Ronald Balan takes centerstage as the featured Focus photographer of the month.
Q : What was your first camera?
R : My brother worked in a photo studio in Ortigas. He had his camera, a Nikon D200. He often visited us and whenever he did, he would always teach me how to use his camera. Then the first time I used his camera was 2009, it was a concert of Rivermaya and Gloc 9 at Bulacan Sports Complex. I bought my first camera April 26, 2014. A Canon 60D and a 50mm f/1.8 It was urgent for a shoot. I only had 5,000 pesos savings, estudyante pa lang ako. Luckily, my mom and girlfriend lent me some money. Thanks to them. Nabayaran ko rin naman sila within that year.
Q : When you were just beginning, what did you usually shoot? And what were common frustrations in shooting?
R : Mga pini-picture-an ko lang noon mga mahilig mag-skate, tsaka mga banda. Frustration in shooting, sana may 70-200mm lens. Kasi ang hirap lumapit sa mga subjects ko.
Q : You're also exposed to different forms of media and art. Why do you think you connected most with photography?
R : I attached myself to photography because I can see behind through the lens the true happiness, love, and even 'yung sad part. Basta 'yung lahat ng pwedeng emotion or kahit candid makikita mo.
Q : How did you get started in having photography as a profession?
R : It was just a hobby lang naman talaga that turned into a career. Mahilig ako mag-picture ng mga band concerts and one time there was this friend of mine who referred me to her friend to shoot for a debut. Nagsimula na doon mag-aral, paano mag-portrait, at iba pa.
Q : And then of course you turned your focus into video. Tell us about that shift.
R : College days pa. Back then we used to have lots of activities and projects at school that needed video. Since 'di naman ako kagalingan magsalita in front of the camera, I insisted to be the one who took videos and also edit them. I ended up watching tutorials of how to edit videos. After a year, most of my masscom student friends were asking me to edit their videos, na raket na rin.
Q : What would you say is the distinct challenge of shooting video compared to shooting photos?
R : When it comes to shooting video kasi you have to direct the subject in a way that comes up with a story. Different angles, use of tripod and stabilizer. Kailangan ng madaming practice para maging smooth ang clips.
Q : With the dawn of drones, you were one of the first to specialize in aerial photos and videos. What made you decide to pursue that?
R : Because of my willingness to travel to different parts of the country, drone was a perfect gadget to capture beautiful sceneries we have. 2015, kaunti pa lang ang may drone and that time 10,000 to 15,000 pesos ang fee for drone footage. Mababawi mo agad ang pinangbili. At first, I was just watching other operators how they do it, then it turned into curiousity. It eventually led me to buy a drone to use in my wedding events and also for my travels.
Q : Have you had "muntikan na" moments in flying your drone? Or have you crashed one?
R : Nag-crash!!! But it was only 6 feet above the ground, buti buhangin ang binagsakan. It was still functioning and completely intact. There was also a "muntikan na" moment at a beach in Bagac, Bataan. I was in the hut near the shore, I was with my friend and we were talking when I needed to drop off the drone, then I unintentionally clicked the remote that made the drone hit the hut. Still, wala pa ring damage.
Q : What for you would be the most amazing place you've been to, in terms of aerial view?
R : Calaguas Island, kasi kaunti lang ang mga bahay doon and super linaw ng tubig. Pero sobrang lakas ng hangin kaya challenge ang pagbyahe. Risky rin gamitin ang drone kasi malakas talaga ang hangin.
Q : What are places in your bucket list that you'd like to shoot, and places you'd like to capture on drone?
R : Sea of clouds in Sagada. I want to capture the sea of clouds using the drone and how it looks like. Also, buildings in Ortigas, Makati, BGC but it's restricted.
Q : What has been the most memorable event you've covered?
R : An Indian wedding in Malaysia. It was my first time and I didn't know how the ceremony will go plus the language and culture were different. Luckily, there was another Pinoy who guided me what will happen in that ceremony and it was okay naman. After a week, I came back to Malaysia to shoot the reception part. Ibang araw pa 'yung sa kasal sa reception nila.
Q : What photo are you most proud of?
R : It was the photo that was part of the exhibit of Focus Bulacan back in 2014. The photo I took during Hillsong United's concert in Manila that same year. Joel Houston of Hillsong shared my photo on his Facebook account. (Photo shown below)
Q : What's next on your career plan?
R : Mag-a-artista naman ako. Haha. Joke lang. To be serious, I want to build a solid video team.
Q : 10 years from now, how would you like to envision yourself in terms of your career as a photo and video specialist?
R : In 10 years, I'm owning a studio or a big production house that handles talented photographers, videographers, editors, and drone pilots. Parang job interview pala 'to. Hahaha.
Q : Any photographer or videographer who you look up to, and why?
R : For local, it's Jason Magbanua. "Be passionate, look for the story." Also, mga idols like Bob Nicolas, Cinemaworks. For foreign naman, Fiore Films.
Q : What would you advise photography beginners?
R : Shoot lang nang shoot. Practice lang nang practice. Manood ng gawa ng mga hinahangaan at alamin paano nila ito ginagawa.
Q : What would you advise those who are planning to buy drones and get into aerial photography?
R : Sobrang dami ng drone ngayon. Ask and watch ng reviews. Drones have different features. Practice ng mga safety guidelines bago magpalipad. Know the rules and regulations bago magpalipad.
Q : If you knew then what you know now, you would..?
R : I would want to share my learnings and experiences to those who need it. I would also want to engage myself to study more regarding video editing, 'yung mas makakaganda pa ng videos.
Q : Any message to Focus followers and your fellow Focus members?
R: Thank you sa lahat ng nai-inspire ng Focus Bulacan. Alam ko madami kayong natutunan sa grupo na ito. Ganoon din kami,nai-inspire pa kami para mag-share pa sa inyo. Sa Focus members.. madami akong natutunan sa bawat member dito. Bawat miyembro talented. Lagi lang conflict sa sked ko ang mga photomeet pero love ko kayo. Hahaha.
Ronald's other favorite aerials (Click thumbnails to view in full)
Drones have given photographers and their audience a new medium to take and enjoy photos. It lets us see the world in a new perspective, one that overcomes the limitations of gravity. As technology advances, those who adapt quickly and passionately put themselves in the forefront of a new era. Ronald turned his curiosity into a well-calculated investment and is now reaping the rewards of his profession. What profession exactly?
Don't be surprised if he adds a few more specialization. When you want to succeed, you have to keep reaching for greater heights.
We find our passion in random fields of interests. But what if our interest randomly found us?
Gerson Domingo is like any other photography enthusiast - started getting curious about photos, dreamed of having a camera, then finally experienced taking snaps. What sparked his passion, however, was when - after attending a photo exhibit - he was picked as the winner of a photography book in a contest. He took it as a sign and challenge to pursue photography with more determination. From then on, he had been trying to absorb as much as he could about photography and putting it into practice by shooting regularly. From being an outsider, he has made his way into Focus Bulacan and quickly developed rapport with members due to his polite demeanor. A Psychology major who now works as a parole review officer, he now takes on the big responsibility of being a Focus logistics officer. He's come a long way. And here's his story.
Q : How did your love affair with photography develop? Tell us the story about your first camera.
G : I was young then when my curiosity with cameras started. I was thinking what kind of thing is it, that even my parents kept on reminding me not to touch it! Well, that time it was still a film camera so you know what the reason behind their restrictions is. To make the story short, I kept on requesting if someday I could take even one snap! My father did allow me to take a family snap during Christmas eve. Finally! That was the first time I felt I was starting to become a big boy. Unfortunately, it happened to be our last Christmas with my father as he passed away the following month. The thought of capturing special moments or the power to freeze time made me fall in love with photography. It makes me feel that I was blessed to be in that exact place and time to witness, capture and let that moment live till eternity. My first camera, a family camera, was a Kodak Pro-Star 333 with a focal length of 35mm. My mom gave me a Canon digicam, but I forgot the model, as a birthday gift which I even considered as my oversoul.. hi, Shaman King kids! I hid it at school just to take pictures.
Q : How did you get started with Focus?
G : I heard a lot about Focus since my college days. I became a fan, even a stalker, of their mesmerizing works. I and my beloved girlfriend were invited by my friend Charles to vote for kuya Chi’s (Lopez) entry at Focus Bulacan's 2nd anniversary exhibit. His entry had won as the People’s Choice and luckily I was picked as raffle winner. SJ (Sir Jer Sandel) reached me so he could give me the book titled The Ultimate Photography Guide for Generation Now. It was kind of a wake-up call to pick up my camera and try shooting again. Sana may kasamang talent din yung pagkakaabot ni SJ, hahaha! Michelle gave me the guts to persevere while the rest is history as I joined the prestige photography club of Bulacan.
Q : What did you enjoy the most in joining Focus?
G : I simply enjoy the treatment and camaraderie of the group. Perhaps I must call it as a family of photographers. It is something that you can treasure, where you share the same desire and passion with these different kinds of people. You have different stories to tell but have the same results. Superb feeling! Before I forget, I enjoy eating with them. Eat photomeet!
Q : What was the biggest misconception – if there’s any – about Focus that you realized once you started joining their activities and becoming a member?
G : I thought they were stars who were impossible to reach and be with. I was wrong then. They were all pleasant and sociable. Promise mukha lang talaga silang nakakatakot. I also thought that my works had no place with them... yet another misconception. They will guide and support you no matter what. Cheesy!
Q : What is your ultimate favorite photo?
G : The photo of a child flicking its finger to a number one and his mother was trying to take care of him despite of being busy selling at the market. I entitle it as “Number One.” I decided to go with my mom to the market so I could take some snaps. It was the first time I tried shooting while she was behind me and I felt how proud she was of me. I am proud of that shot! (Photo is shown below.)
Q : What remains as your photography frustration?
G : Something from Google : “Frustration, although quite painful at times, is a very positive and essential part of success”. Honestly, I have a lot of frustrations, for I always aspire to do better. I feel that I do not know anything in everything so I have a reason to keep on learning.
Q : What or where would be your dream shoot?
G : I guess to take a long exposure shot of my own house. I also dream to document how my future children would grow up. As in lahat kung kakayanin.
Q : Who are photographers you look up to and why?
G : Steve McCurry and Ansel Adams. Their works and words about photography were my inspiration. Sir Rommel Bundalian for his street works and unique and cool way to shoot it. Sir Jeremy, Kuya Jay Salvador and Kuya Chi. They were the first members of Focus whom I joined in a photomeet. I also tend to stalk their works, hehe.
Q : Which skill or aspect regarding photography do you think you need to improve or work on most?
G : Portraiture. I treat it as a staged shot and I don’t have any feelings for it. Kaya nagagalit si Michelle kasi hindi daw siya 'yung subject ko hahaha.
Q : What would you say is your forte or genre? And how would you describe your style?
G : Street and landscape photography? 'Yun na kasi 'yung sinabi ko sa application ko dito sa Focus, haha! However, I just shoot whatever entices my feeling, mood and attention. Nararamdaman ko kasi parang may spark kasi kapag dapat pitikan.
Q : 10 years from now... what would you like to have accomplished in photography?
G : I am hoping to have a photo series wherein I could blend Psychology into Photography. I still do not have any idea how to do it.
Q : You are a new Focus officer. How do you feel about the position and challenges ahead? And what would you like Focus to be years from now?
G : Pressured! I don’t have any clue why the club selected me to be one of its officers. I am glad and overwhelmed for the trust they showed me. I am also challenged to do the role and contribute to the success of the club. I hope that Focus could sustain its prowess and charm. I wish that I could see the club to have its own cafe so we could entertain a lot of aspirants and professionals at the same time.
Q : What has been the most unforgettable shoot or photography experience you’ve had?
G : 'Yung shoot para sa Eraserheads theme contest!!! Grabe kasi sinunod ko naman lahat ng tips para sa street. I took it at Cubao, doon sa kinakainan nila Popoy and barkada nila. Ayun pinitkan ko sila tsaka ako nagpaalam. Akala nila para sa mga nilalagay sa dyaryo. Hahaha!
Q : If you knew then what you know now, you would...?
G : I guess I would have taken a photography course or had a psychological thesis about it.
Q : What advice would you give those who just got their first cameras? And those who'd like to join Focus?
G : Simply love and be thankful for what you have. I like to share the attitude of Dory, the friend of Nemo, anyone know her? Well, she always keeps on blurting out to just keep swimming but for us we need to keep shooting. Para sa mga gusto sumali sa Focus, 'wag kayo mahiya just approach us kahit ano pa gamit ninyo. Basta mahal n'yo ang photography, welcome kayo.
Q : What's your message to Focus followers and fellow members?
G : To all our friends and followers, thank you for giving us inspiration to shoot better through the appreciation you are giving us. Just continue supporting our group to strive for Bulacan. To the Focus family, thank you for all the knowledge that you taught me. I do not have proper words to share how grateful am I to meet and be with you all. I hope we could still be together in the coming years. Thank you, my Focus family. Sana dumami pa lalo ang members para mas masaya! Keep shooting, everyone!
More of Gerson's favorite photos (Click thumbnails to view in full)
His interest became a passion after he won a photography book as prize. Imagine what more could people do if they considered blessings as challenges. Imagine if they had the support of their loved ones. Imagine if loved ones serve as their inspiration. Gerson Domingo knows too well : photography makes you imagine... and turn visions into reality.
The herculean task of planning Focus Bulacan's 2018 activities and making those plans reality falls on the shoulders of our 2018 officers. Being a Focus officer could be a stressful role at times due to the club's nonstop activities, and it takes a lot of commitment and sacrifice from our officers to lead and guide the group.
For 2018, our committees and officers are :
Officers : Erika Santos & Alih Viaje
The Membership Committee shall oversee the Club’s internal affairs regarding members and applicants. This shall include monitoring of members’ compliance with by-laws and membership requirements. Due to the steadily-increasing number of Focus members, starting this year there shall be two Membership Officers to better monitor and communicate with the members.
Officer : Kat Verzano
The Finance Committee shall safeguard and oversee the Club’s financial resources, with the power to collect membership dues and to execute purchases and payments deemed in accordance with the Club’s approved activities.
Officers : Amen Alcoriza / Awel Dionisio / Gerson Domingo / Chi Lopez / Elena Taeza / Pauline Villafuerte
The Logistics Committee shall oversee the Club’s programs and activities. This includes - but not limited to - planning, organizing, and supervising PhotoMeets, events, and other official activities.
Officer : Jer Sandel
PhotoWorld Cup Advisor : Joey Ramos
The Competition Committee shall oversee any and all contests or competition that the Club will undertake. This includes - but not limited to - establishing rules and guidelines for contests, organizing entries, recording results, and finding the best ways to determine winners.
Officer : Ejay Caluag
The Externals Committee shall be responsible for communication with other organizations and entities that the Club may have to work with for the Club’s interests.
Officers : Julius Calzo & Gilbert Fajardo
The Auxiliary Committee shall provide support for the Club's main events or projects, such as exhibits, annual parties, and other activities that are larger in scale compared to monthly PhotoMeets.
We have three new officers this year, all members of the Logistics Committee, namely : Awel Dionisio, Gerson Domingo, and Pauline Villafuerte. We thank them for accepting such big responsibilities in helping lead Focus Bulacan. Here's what they have to say about the task at hand :
I will do the best that I can as a new officer. Isang malaking karangalan po ang mapabilang at maglingkod bilang officer ng Focus Bulacan." - Awel Dionisio
It's my pleaure to serve this group of different individuals who have become my family. I will do my best to contribute to the success of our club. Together we eat, together we shoot!" - Gerson Domingo
I want to express my heartfelt gratitude as I accept the challenge as an officer for my family, Focus Bulacan. Being part of this family is more than a privilege, it is a responsibility that entails perseverance and hard work. This will always be one of the highlights of my life. Thank you, Focus Bulacan!" - Pauline Villafuerte
Thanks again to our new officers as well as our returning officers for taking on yet another year's challenge of steering Focus Bulacan to greater heights!
Welcome to the Focus fam, Batch January 2018...
Our 10th batch of official members show a lot of promise and variety in their style of photography. We are excited to have them in our growing family as we look forward to another year of projects and activities. May they all contribute positively - in their own ways - to Focus Bulacan and may Focus Bulacan provide them with opportunities to enhance their craft and further their profile.
Congratulations, Batch January 2018 :
We'll see you soon! Cheers! Here's a visual introduction to our new members :
Every month, we have a feature on our members, our photography idols, and other photography issues we feel deserve a heads-up.