Jeffrey Tinagan loves challenges.
He's a sports buff, having competed in swimming and basketball at school intramurals and then representing his high school and making it to the regional meet in badminton and table tennis.
He loves math and has always been fascinated with numbers, equations, and solving problems. So much so that he also competed in the annual Metrobank-MTAP-DepEd Math Challenge from elementary till high school. When it was time to enter college, he decided to major in Mathematics (what else) with his Secondary Education degree. He then overcame his initial apprehension of teaching math (in his own words : "madali ang mag-solve, ibang usapan ang pagtuturo paano mag-solve",) and turned it to a short yet fulfilling career at the biggest public high school in Central Luzon (Malolos City's Marcelo H. del Pilar National High School).
When Jeff got hooked on photography, it was a fusion of two elements that he's very much used to. In photography, he saw a practical application of math. He also viewed photography (at least in the beginning) as a sort of competition. He termed it a "race", something you'll read about later. Overcoming obstacles and learning curves, he has made photography not just a creative pastime but also a money-making endeavor.
Now trying his luck teaching junior high English in Japan, he wants to expand his portfolio and better equip his arsenal of camera skills while away from home. Who knows what challenge he decides to try next?
Jeff Tinagan is the featured Focus photographer of the month and this is his story.
When and how did your penchant for photography start?
J : I already had the desire to take photos and videos using my Nokia N70 phone. Before, I was more inclined to videos because I liked making highlights of our family trips and school activities in college. Then I began to see the limitations of mobile cameras and I had thoughts of trying a DSLR. In 2012, I started working as a teacher and thoughts of buying a DSLR kept coming back. However, my pocket disagreed with the price of a brandnew camera. I thought of asking a favor from a person that I was really close to, he's like my real brother. It was my cousin, Raffy, who was in Japan to participate in an exchange program on agriculture. Before their contract ended, I asked him to buy me a secondhand camera there because Japan was famous for its used camera shops. The word “selfie” was not yet coined that time but that was how my penchant for photography started. I wanted myself to be the highlight of every shot and clip of my Nikon D3100. I wanted to make music covers and I liked my games of basketball, table tennis, and badminton to be covered by my first DSLR. However, while I was into the basics of the DSLR learning curve, my goal changed. I had different subjects that I enjoyed. It wasn’t about my selfie music covers or sports games anymore but the joy I get when I take pictures of others. Seeing how they liked and appreciated my simple photos made me work hard to learn and get better.
You’re a teacher by profession, and you taught mathematics. Does math, in any way, benefit you in photography?
J : Yes, indeed. It was beneficial to me because I already had the ideas of symmetry, parallelism, triangles, diagonals, fractions, golden ratio, and the like. The process of halving and doubling the aperture’s f-number is also a geometric sequence. The fractional aspect of shutter speed and ISO element into one picture translates into real-life mathematics. Getting good exposure using manual mode , to me, is a problem-solving skill. The road from auto to manual mode was tough but mathematics made my early photography life easier. The concept of equations made me realize that manual exposure is about balance with direct and indirect variations. If you add or subtract a number on the left side of the equation, you must also add or subtract the same number at the right side of the equation. I could say photographers and videographers are actually calculating good math problems during a shoot without knowing that they're real and abstract concepts of math. Although mathematics in photography is more on junior high school math, I believe math enthusiasts have a slight advantage in learning photography.
Alright, that last question was quite heavy to digest. How about this : how would you compare and contrast math and photography?
J : Math and photography both need problem-solving skills that depend on different situations. Math may have many solutions with one correct answer while photography may also have many solutions with a number of answers. These are answers that depend on the eye of the photographer. A photographer may deliver darker or lighter, tilted or normal, portrait or landscape, fast or slow shutter answer or output. Mathematics is absolute on the final output while photography goes beyond a photographer’s creativity. Nevertheless, these two are friends. They go out in a harmonious manner. Both of them make the world meaningful and a lovable place to live. I believe, just like creativity, mathematics is embedded on the roots of photography.
Describe to us how was it like when you were starting out in photography, like your struggles, your joys, et cetera.
J : The common reaction of a person getting his first DSLR is to shoot everything. You read it right, everything. I find joys in it even when they were taken in full automatic mode. But, there were obstacles too. First, I had a time when I didn’t know what kind of photography I should focus on. Even though I identified the kind of photography I wanted to take, the lens lineup and equipment were too much to bear. Photography seemed to be a luxurious hobby. That time, I had to find ways to save, save, and save to get the types of glass that I needed. Second, I thought photography was a race. I knew friends and other people who picked up their new camera the same year I acquired mine. I could see how they progressed through Facebook and Instagram. I thought photography was not for me. It was like my turtle against their rabbits on the photography race. I seemed to progress very, very slowly. But I realized that comparing yourself to others could kill you. Nonetheless, I enjoyed my own race against myself because I had no pressure, just pure learning. Hurdling obstacles made me almost quit photography. However, it is where the excitement lies : when you turn struggles into joys and laughter. It was Focus Bulacan that was the game changer. Focus Bulacan was the turning point. I owe a lot to the group as this club addressed all my struggles as a beginner photographer. Meeting new friends, shooting and joining photo contests and be at photo gatherings make every member keep the fire burning from within.
Now you have an events coverage team. How did you get into professionally shooting events? How is it like as another source of income?
J : From the limitations of my kit lenses, an 18-55mm and a 55-200mm, I managed to buy my first fast aperture lens, a Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8. It was from my bonus on my first job which is my teaching career. However, I felt a little regret because of investing so much for my hobby. I thought I exceeded my hobby-spending limit. So, after persuasion from my friends, I accepted the challenge to shoot events. I started with debuts, then weddings and basketball games. Same concept as before, if I bought a lens or anything, I should shoot events for its Return of Investment. It being my second source of income is a lifesaver for emergency funding and additional allowances. At some point, I felt like leaving my teaching job for photography but the idea did not succeed because I still love teaching the youth. The part-time job also opens windows for quicker camera and lens upgrades but time element as the downside. I teach on weekdays and shoot on weekends. In between I edit or I sometimes end up sleepless at nights for editing and early calltime events.
Who are photographers you look up to? What inspired you about their works?
J : My pick would be the likes of Lito Sy and Sherwin Bonifacio for wedding, and Jer Sandel, Glenn Bernasol, and Cris Magsino for landscape. Sy and Bonifacio’s portfolios are magical as they bend light to their advantage during wedding and prenups. Sandel, Bernasol, and Magsino’s landscape photos are carefully planned and they could bring a dead scene into life. Go check out their folios.
What has been your proudest moment so far as a photographer?
J : Let me see. Hmmmmmmm…. perhaps when I was awarded as Focus Bulacan's Newcomer of the Year. I didn’t see it coming. What I did was just shoot and shoot, join photowalks and make friends. I didn’t know I was winning contest points for the Newcomer of the Year award.
What was the most unforgettable shoot you’ve experienced?
J : I suppose the sexy, "implied nude" shoot of my friends. We had two very gorgeous models. We were twelve to sixteen photographers divided into two groups. We took turns in shooting the model for a couple of minutes. My hands holding the cameras were a bit shaky because of the hot models. It was unforgettable because I didn’t know how to direct poses for them and I mostly observed how the senpai photographers did it. I know what you’re thinking. Hahahha. I asked permission from my girlfriend, Ren, to shoot that kind of concept. It was my first and last time to shoot that kind though.
Do you have a photography bucket list? Care to share what’s in it?
J : First, landscape photos shot abroad. Second, a Milky Way shot taken in Japan. Next, underwater photography. Also, self-portraits while traveling alone. Lastly, light painting on a wedding couple or pre-nuptial shoot.
What event would be your dream project to cover?
J : Hmmmmmm… A national event like the Bb. Pilipinas pageant or international events like the Tokyo Olympics or Miss Universe.
What’s the most important photography advice you have received so far?
J : Shoot and shoot. Practice and practice. Commit mistakes and learn from it. I think it doesn’t apply only to photography but to almost everything. You don’t excel at something without any practice.
Show us your most favorite photo, and tell us the story behind it.
J : It's a photo I took of my fellow Focus Bulacan member Julius Calzo. Not Photoshopped. Not a multiple exposure. 70% prayer with 30% luck. This was the most meticulous photo I ever shot. It was for the Focus Portrait Project where members work by pairs. A photo that was shot in a very dark outdoor place. I had my remote shutter and a flash. I created the idea but I regretted it after the shoot. Because it was really not easy. If my memory serves me right, it took 17 long exposures to get me to this. Insects especially mosquitos were not friendly that time. Not so perfect but that’s the closest we could get. I had three concerns to address : one, I should get the right light from my flash for every shot of the face. The front face is better lit than the faces on the sides. I must also direct the flash at the correct angle. Second, I must hold and release the shutter in a very timely manner. Last, I should direct Julius to the correct movement of the face after the flash is off even without light to see ourselves. Five bursts of flash, five facial poses and a lot of trials to get the closest photo that we needed. I suppose it paid off because this photo secured a Top 3 spot at Focus Portrait Project 2017. (Photo shown above.)
Jeff's other favorite photos (Click thumbnails to view photos in full)
If you could address a specific photographic skill that you want to improve on, what would it be?
J : Timeliness and timelessness. Timeliness.. I had issues of time management because of my main work versus my part-time work. Finishing everything on time, especially quick and efficient editing, is my waterloo. I hope I’d happen to acquire this skill on editing. Timelessness... I hope I’ll improve more on getting shots of landscapes that give photos a timeless appeal.
Five to ten years from now, how do you see yourself and your craft?
J : I pray and hope to meet clients or couples to shoot abroad especially in Japan. Bring my folio into a different realm of sakura and autumn colors. I could also see myself as a travel photographer of the most beautiful places in the Philippines.
If you knew then what you know now, you would……?
J : I would have started learning photography earlier. The earlier the better.
Message to Focus followers and fellow members.
J : Maraming salamat sa mainit na pagtanggap, Focus members, noong ako'y nag-uumpisa pa lamang. Salamat sa patnubay at gabay sa iba’t ibang klase ng photography na meron tayo sa photo theme contests. Hindi ko makakalimutan na naging parte ako nitong isang respetadong pangkat ng photographers ng Bulacan. Special mention kay kuya Mark Jayson Cruz or MJC na naging schoolmate ko sa LCUP or dating Regina Carmeli, salamat sa paghikayat sa akin na ipagpatuloy ang nasimulan sa larangang ito, at sa paggabay sa procedure ng aplikasyon sa Focus Bulacan. Kay master Alih Viaje na unang nagmulat sakin sa concert photography. Silent Sanctuary concert sa LCUP noon. Siya ang pangalawang Focus member na nakilala ko at nakasabay ko pa mag-shoot. May real-time tutorial kami noon sa harap ng stage. Dahil doon, nagustuhan ko na rin ang pag-shoot ng live bands. Kay Sir Jeremy, isa ka po sa mga hinahangaan ko sa Pilipinas. Alam ko ikaw ang utak ng Focus Bulacan at ang dedikasyon mo sa club na ito ay sobra pa sa pagiging hobby. Salamat po. Sana 'wag ka magsawang mag-train ng photographers sa henerasyon namin. Hahaha. At marami pang iba… 'Di ko na iisa-isahin ang pagpapasalamat sa inyo. Masaya ako sa grupo at mga kaibigan na nakilala ko sa Focus Bulacan. For Focus followers, if you have the passion for photography and you want to bring your talent to another level, then Focus Bulacan is for you. Hope to see you soon!
It might be a stretch to say but it seems like Jeff loves the difficult side of life.
Facts don't lie : Math, numbers, and problems. Sports, discipline, and pain. Challenges, competition, and pressure. Passion to profession turning into stress and sacrifices. These are things most people would rather skip than face head-on. But there lies the difference... because the way Jeff sees it, they're all beautiful complications. Simplifying them is always key to success, be it in photography, math, or life in general.
He admits he's the introvert kind. Reserved and soft-spoken, he does most of the loud work in his mind. Music is his first love but photography gave him a voice. To fully express himself and his interpretation of the world. The eye and creativity for compelling images may be in his genes : his father and grandfather were also lensmen back in the good old days. He entered the world of photography fairly recently and now he's making strides. Steadily, his voice is getting heard, his vision being seen. Surely, there are stories and ideas bursting within.
Chinn Joaquin is the featured Focus photographer of the month.
How did your photography story start?
C : Nag-start ako sa isang prayer, "God ano po bang gift ang meron ako na kailangan ko ma-discover at pwede kong mai-share sa lahat?". Then naalala ko may DSLR camera si tatay. Nikon D3100 na hindi nagagamit. My tatay is also a photographer kaso malabo na 'yung mata niya. Pinakialaman ko 'yung camera. Noong ginamit ko 'yung camera para akong sinaniban, haha. Nasiyahan ako mag-picture kasi detailed 'yung photos and ang linaw. Hinayaan ko na 'yung sarili kong gumawa ng photos.
When did you go full-time in photography?
C : Noong una ang mindset ko lang talaga kukuhanan ko kung ano 'yung gusto ko. Ayoko kasi mahirapan, pero one time nag-message sa akin ang pinsan ko. Gusto niyang ako 'yung kumuha sa wedding niya. Sabi ko wala pa akong alam sa wedding and takot pa akong kumuha ng ganun kasi precious moment 'yun. Well napilit niya ako. Nag-research ako ng mga idea, tumingin ako ng shots sa wedding albums. Ni-ready ko 'yung sarili ko pero nandoon pa rin 'yung kaba. Natapos 'yung wedding day, nabigay ko 'yung photos and nagustuhan naman. Iba 'yung feeling 'pag napangiti mo 'yung family. Ang saya sa pakiramdam and sa bawat experience nandun 'yung kwento na "noong araw ang Amang mo at Lolo Vito ang photographer dito sa atin, ang tatay mo din. Baka nakuha mo 'yan sa Amang mo." Why not? Ipagpatuloy ko 'yung nasimulan nila.
What were your usual frustrations when you were starting out?
C : As a beginner hindi maiiwasang may marinig kang "wow feeling photographer" o "nagpicture-picture ka lang napagod ka na?" Parang ang liit ng tingin nila sa'yo pero iintindihin mo na lang and give your best shot. When it comes to pictorials, naba-blangko ako, nagagandahan kasi ako sa girl kapag pre-debut, haha. Isa 'yun sa gusto kong ma-overcome. But thanks to kuya Mark Simon, nandiyan palagi 'yung advice niya para ma-handle ko.
What’s your mentality when taking photos?
C : Malaking tulong sa akin ang pakikinig ng music, mas nae-express ko 'yung feelings na gusto ko ipakita o iparamdam sa mga gawa ko at sa mga makakakita nito. Music is my fuel, photography is my story. Marami akong gustong ma-achieve na shots but for now gusto ko i-improve muna 'yung sarili ko.
What kind of music do you listen to? Who are your favorite artists?
C : Rock music. Paborito ko pakinggan ang Linkin Park at Greenday. Red Hot Chili Peppers din. Syempre Eraserheads, Francis M, and mga OPM bands.
How did you develop your style?
C : Watching photography videos in YouTube, music videos, naging curious din ako sa mga shots sa movies, download pictures basta maganda. Then pag-aaralan ko 'yung shot. Kapag nasa shoot ayun naa-apply ko 'yung mga ideas. Hindi ko pa alam anong style ko sa photography but for now tinutulungan ko 'yung sarili kong ma-discover 'yun.
What has been your most unforgettable shoot so far?
C : Monthly theme contest ng Focus, bonding kami ng kaibigan ko. Shoot kami for my entry. May nakita akong location na angkop sa theme, gitna ng bukid 'yun, may dalawang puno, 'yung isa madahon 'yung isa naman walang kadahon-dahon. Nagandahan ako, bihira kasi . Time 'yun na kakasabog lang ng palay sa bukid, so shoot kami. Gawa ako ng story, lumusong sa pitak so halos puro putik kami. Nalagyan din 'yung camera, low-angle kasi 'yung kailangan para makuha 'yung gusto kong shot. Pagbalik namin, pinapanood pala kami nung may-ari. Galit na galit sa amin. Sabi ko gumawa lang kami ng assignment, haha. Siya naman ang lalim, "ang laki ng daigdig doon pa kayo nag-kodakan". Wow, ang lalim. Daigdig. Panay ang sorry namin, pagtalikod namin tawanan kami. At least may pang-entry na. Gusto ko talaga kuhanan 'yung view na 'yun kaya go lang. 'Yung entry? Ayun, better luck next time, hahaha. Pero okay lang, enjoy 'yung experience.
What’s one lesson somebody taught you that you couldn’t forget?
C : Sa bawat shoot palagi ko pinapakita kay tatay 'yung gawa ko. Hindi siya vocal magsalita kung okay ba o hindi 'yung kuha but one time nag-advice siya sakin, "Maraming makakakita at makakapuna ng gawa mo kaya dapat gandahan mo. Kung kukuha ka gandahan mo na!"
Do you have a photography bucket list?
C : Noong simula sabi ko sa sarili ko lahat ng kaya kong puntahang festival sa Bulacan gusto ko makuhanan. May isa akong hindi napuntahan at gusto kong ma-cover. Angel Festival ng San Rafael. Gusto ko rin gumawa ng collection. Sunset story ng iba't ibang lugar. Tapos 50 portraits of old men at ia-album ko sila.
What photo are you most proud of? And why?
C : Siguro personally, 'yung kuha ko sa aking Inang Fely, lola namin. Isa 'yun sa una kong gawa. Wala siyang award o anuman pero 'yung magustuhan siya ng buong pamilya 'yun ang award para sa akin. The photo reminds me anong ugali meron si Inang bilang lola. (Photo shown below)
What can you say has been your biggest achievement so far in your craft?
C : So far 'yung Focus exhibit. Ang sarap sa pakiramdam 'pag naka-print 'yung gawa mo. Hmm why not someday magkaroon din ng award in this field.
Five to ten years from now, how do you see Chinn Joaquin the photographer?
C : Siguro masasabi ko na nag-improve na 'yung mga photos sa bawat shoot. Nandun na rin 'yung confidence mag-handle ng pictorial shoots. Na-achieve na 'yung dream shots and bucketlist. And why not, maging speaker, magbigay ng advice and lesson sa mga future photographer. Hmmm five to ten years hanggang sa pagtanda ko gusto ko may camera pa rin itong kanang kamay ko. Sarap isipin uugod-ugod ka na pumipitik ka pa.
Tell us about your favorite Focus Bulacan experience.
C : Last exhibit, Focus Bulacan's 6th anniversary. Simula sa preparation, my first ingress experience. Wow, ingress. Naalala na naman kita. Ingress? Coffee shop ba yun? Saan ba 'yun sa Malolos? Hahaha akala ko ako lang ang 'di nakakaalam, may iba din pala, hahaha. Hanggang sa mismong 2 days na event puro kulitan, kumustahan, laugh trip. Iba 'yung feelings kapag exhibit and marami ding naka-close na member tulad ni Sir Alih and more. Sa Focus naman every photomeet o photowalk palaging nandun 'yung saya. Pero ibang level kapag exhibit.
What's your advice for photography beginners?
C : Wala namang mawawala kung susubukan mo. Kapag ayan na 'yung moment, 'wag mo nang pakawalan, give your best shot! No excuses! Kaya mo 'yan! Effort. Enjoy. And please stay humble.
Your message to Focus Bulacan followers and fellow members.
C : Thank you, Focus Bulacan, for this opportunity. Thank you talaga sa lahat. My fellow members.. dahil sa inyo I can be more. Hindi ko maitatago na taga-hanga din ako ng mga gawa ninyo. Sadyang tahimik lang po talaga ako. To all Focus followers.. maraming salamat po sa pag-support, sa pag-puso sa mga photos at activities ng club. Para po sa inyo ang mga ginagawa namin. Tara, shoot tayo!
Chinn's other favorite shots (Click thumbnails to view photos in full)
While he seeks to strike a balance between passion and profession, Chinn is planning to secure a non-photography job overseas so he could help provide for his parents and family. While at it, he has no intentions of putting his photography journey on hold and looks at life in another country as a new opportunity to explore. And a new world to interpret using his camera... while being inspired by the rock songs he loves.
Congratulations and welcome to the family, Batch 13! You have been responsible applicants, now we ask you to also become responsible, active members. May you continue the good showing that convinced the Membership Committee that you are deserving to be Focus Bulacan official members.
A photo introduction to our new members :
We'll see you again soon, Batch 13!
A civil servant for more than two decades before venturing into a variety of businesses, he pursued photography back in 2014 to allow him a better work-life balance, not to mention the chance to unlock another field of creative excellence. Picture this : just a month after getting his first camera, he joined a top-level national photography competition and cracked the Top 10 of the contest. Months later he was adjudged as the Rookie of the Year in the said photo tilt, the PhotoWorld Cup, an annual competition among camera clubs organized by the Federation of Philippine Photographers Foundation (FPPF). The next year, he won the much-coveted Photographer Of The Year honor. Along the way and over the years, he has amassed plaques, prizes, and acclaim for his contest-winning photos, foremost of which is the "Ani ng Dangal" award from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) of the Philippines, a recognition given by the government to Filipinos who reaped top honors in international events. The awards keep piling up, but he's not stopping anytime soon. Photography has given him fame, friends, and even fortune. Yet his mantra is not just about winning, but also of giving back. He's very active in outreach projects of clubs and groups he's affiliated with. He also seeks out opportunities for other talented photographers to shine and make their marks. Fellow shooters often come to him for tips and he's always eager to share. All because of a positive mindset and a winning attitude.
Jose "Joey" Ramos II is the featured Focus photographer of the month.
You seem to be a man of many talents and pursuits. How and when exactly did photography enter your aspirations?
J : I have been in government service for almost two decades and it was so stressful in my field of work. So I decided to find something to neutralize the toxic world of politics so as to enjoy the other side of my life, and along came photography.
Before the camera, what was your creative outlet?
J : I loved to draw and paint, mostly charcoal and watercolor. I also did creative writing. I have two unpublished books of poetry, “Fragments of my Reflections” and “Untitled”. Many of my poems were published in national magazines before. Lost the steam and decided to stop composing by writing my final obra, “The Day My Pen Died”.
In what ways is photography similar to other passions you enjoy? On the other hand, what’s unique about it?
J : I would say the common denominator of my passions were the compositions. In creative writing, you grab the words floating in your imagination to finally create a moving sentence or stanza. The same is true with photography, you arrange the subjects and compose them in such a way that it would be pleasant to the eyes and at the same time tickle your viewer’s imagination. However, photography is more challenging because your playground is the world itself, life itself. Literally, in creative writing, you can easily create scenarios out of mere imagination without leaving the comfort of your home. Ironic to photography, because you are dealing with live subjects and outside environment. Passion is fulfilled mostly through adventurous travels and escapades.
Tell us about your first winning moment in photography.
J : I bought my first entry-level DSLR in January 2014. Entered the Photo World Cup 2014 contest the next month and my entry made it to the Top 10 beating out veteran photographers!
Who did you look up to for inspiration?
J : It was when I saw Chow Yun-Fat, the actor and director, holding his photography exhibit that inspired me that even at my age, it is possible for me to learn new crafts.
What do you think are traits that a successful photographer should possess?
J : You should have the 4 P’s. Passion. You should have the passion to shoot and create great photos, without it, you will shoot just because you want to be called a photographer. If you have passion, you will experience joy in every shot you make because you love what you are doing. Next is patience. There are no shortcuts in creating great photos. You must plan your every shot, compose it and “picture” it in your mind. You don’t shoot a sunset and just arrive at the scene 15 minutes before the sun sets. Third, playfulness. Creativity starts with a playful mind. You should be able to produce photos that would make viewers say, “Naisip niya 'yun?". Lastly, perfectionism. Do not settle for “pwede na”. If you want to capture amazing photos, you should check every single detail. The composition, the colors, sharpness, the use of light, distracting backgrounds, and other technical necessities. And don’t forget to shoot a “security shot”.
Okay, we will understand if you’ve lost count, but let’s try. How many trophies and plaques have you won?
J : In my six years in photography, I have won more than seventy awards here and abroad; thirty of which are plaques and trophies; others were certificates and small prizes and tokens.
Do you have a top favorite? And why that one?
J : Of course, my first award would be my top favorite considering I was just a month old in the world of photography. It was the Photo World Cup 2014, theme was "Emotion" which landed 10th Place overall. That shot started it all! (Photo shown above)
What has been your most memorable shoot so far?
J : My most memorable shoot was when I happened to pass by Tumana Bridge in Marikina where I saw a group of carabaos bathing in the river. I decided to shoot the scene so I came back the following day and waited till the farmer came with his carabaos. I did some top shots with kids playing and those shots made it to Top 1 in Photo World Cup 2015 "Rural Life" theme and First Place in 4383 Days of Childhood International Photo Contest in Russia where I received my dream NCCA Ani ng Dangal Award last February 2019. (Photo shown below)
What remains to be your dream photography destination?
J : Maybe Arya Stark has gotten into my nerves so my dream destination is to to go to Croatia and shoot those great structures of history and jaw-dropping sceneries!
One sure-fire tip to do better in photo contests?
J : Be different. Photography is like business, the greater the risk, the better the profit. Shoot like no one has ever dared to try. Think like no one dares to think. Risky, as others may consider it unorthodox, but sometimes being different is an edge. Why? Because in photo contests, there are always judges, and those judges choose the winners, and everyone, including those judges must see your pictures different making them utter, “Naisip niya 'yun?”. Remember, other photographers are great too in terms of technical excellence but the only difference the judge might look into is the concept being different!
Related to your success, how do you handle or deal with skeptics or haters?
J : Ignore. Haters often see you as a threat or they want to be like you but they couldn’t so they become jealous. Haters fuel me up to strive more and excel more so that they hate me more. Hating me more causes stress and may result to heart problems; which eventually may lead to death in the near future. Hehe.
Is there a photography genre you’d like to explore or shoot more?
J : I am not good in landscape photography, probably because I don’t have the proper equipment needed. But in order for me to shoot the Seven Kingdoms, learning this genre is definitely a must!
Ten years from now, how do you see Joey Ramos?
J : I would be in my late-fifties then. I am sure like other senior citizens, I would spend my time traveling with my family other than having my monthly laboratory check-up, maintenance and church services!
Advice for those starting out in photography.
J : Do not lose your passion to shoot. Always bring your camera with you. I never left home without my camera on the trunk or back seat. Make your camera a necessity, not just a want. Sooner than you think, it will be part of your system. You will know when to pull the trigger or not without even thinking about it!
Joey's other winners (Click thumbnails to view photos in full)
Message to Focus followers and fellow members.
J : To my Focus family, you have adopted me when I was just starting in photography way back 2015. Your enthusiasm and camaraderie brought me closer to the land full of history. Focus Bulacan is full of talented photographers; unsung talented photographers. So that was the main reason why I invited Focus to join the Federation of Philippine Photographers Foundation, Inc. Bulacan is full of history; so it is but proper that Bulacan’s premiere camera club also makes its own mark in history of Philippine photography. That is why I am happy that I became an instrument to achieve Focus Bulacan's status in the national level. That the best of Bulacan photographers can compete and also excel with the Philippines' best! Again, as I am always saying, do not lose your passion to shoot great photos. Always be an empty cup. Even if you already know something, do not argue, just listen, and nurture the ideas whether old or new. You will never learn new things if your cup is already full. You have conquered Bulacan with your great talents, now is the time to conquer the Philippines, then the world! That way, you will become an inspiration to new photographers, that if Bulacan has created many heroes in our national history, Focus Bulacan can also create heroes in the world of photography!
In photography, Joey found a new way of experiencing life. Of witnessing and appreciating the world. Of looking at the bright spots and the beautiful side. Of seeing the positives instead of the negatives, then highlighting them onto wonderful images for others to see. Maybe the gods and the powers that be favor those with good intentions... or maybe Joey is riding on an unbelievable lucky streak. Whatever the case, the awards don't lie : he is a winner. And there is wisdom in his words that we can surely use in our ways.
When Mark Simon returned to the Philippines after living for a few years in Canada, he had a goal in mind : become a professional photographer. After handling numerous jobs and earning the right to consider himself a Mark-of-all-trades, he set out to come home and enter the local wedding and events industry. Honing his skills and expanding his network, he has steadily worked his way into becoming one of the in-demand wedding shooters in Bulacan.
It started with a plan. Then came the action. And finally, a perfect name for his pursuit : Projekt Paraluman.
Mark Simon is the featured Focus photographer of the month.
How do you describe the work that you do?
M : As an event photographer, how can I describe it ba… Siguro sa lahat ng work na pinasok ko, ito 'yung pinaka na-enjoy ko even though there are times na makakatapat ka ng client na sobrang demanding pero sobra din naman kung makatawad sa presyo, rude in different aspects, et cetera. Just trying to give my best as much as possible . Wala namang trabahong madali, you just need to enjoy it like what I am doing as an event photographer.
Were you already into art and creatives growing up?
M : I loved sketching anime characters when I was growing up, doon nauubos ung oras ko lalo na dati noong 'di pa uso ang internet.
Tell us how you got started in photography.
M : If I remember it correctly, when I was in elementary, my uncle or si erpats, can’t really remember which, used to have a film camera. Lagi kong tinatakas 'yung camera kapag nakaipon na ako ng pambili ng film tapos pi-picture-an ko 'yung mga classmates kong babae lalo na 'yung pinaka-crush ko. I still have some copies of the photos. Then my first DSLR.. I bought around 2010 because that time mahilig na akong manood ng mga photography lessons at hangang-hanga ako sa blurred na background tapos ang sharp ng subject, 'yung bokeh shots. Doon na nag-start 'yung hilig ko na kumuha ng pictures especially portraits.
How did you end up in the wedding and events industry?
M : Before ako umuwi ng 'Pinas from Canada, nakaplano na talaga na papasukin ko ang event photography. Bumili na ako ng mga gamit doon, paunti-unti, always checking sales kasi madalas doon mag-sale. Then one time nagkita kami ni Pong Viaje, pabinyag ng schoolmate namin tapos siya ang photographer. Then na-meet ko ang kapatid niya, si Alih Viaje. To cut the story short, si Alih ang naging first mentor ko pagdating sa events photography and the funny thing is we always remember that when I started, the first ever coverage na kasama niya ako was a funeral.
What’s your mindset when shooting weddings? What’s most important for you to capture?
M : Make your clients comfortable with you, kung kailangan mong magpaka-corny at magpatawa, gawin mo kasi kapag naging comfortable na sa'yo ang clients mo, madali mo nang mapapagawa sa kanila 'yung gusto mong ma-achieve na output. At pinaka-importante is makuhanan mo sila in their natural way kung paano talaga sila ngumiti at 'yung mata nila is very alive sa photo. The most important for me to capture are candid photos. A candid photo can tell many stories just by looking at it. Kapag may extra time saka ko iniisip 'yung creative shots.
What was your camera and lens setup when you were starting in photography? And what’s your favorite setup now that you're shooting weddings?
M : The first camera I had was a Nikon D3100 then I bought a 50mm 1.8G lens. Sobrang fan kasi talaga ako ng mga photos na ma-bokeh. Now I've been using my 5-year-old Canon 5D Mark III, with a combination of 50mm 1.2L and 16-35mm 2.8L. 'Yung dalawang lens na 'yan ang hindi mawawala sa bag ko when I shoot weddings.
Do you treat yourself to a reward for all your hardwork in shooting events?
M : Yes I do, a lot of times. Sometimes as simple as buying myself 2 bottles of beer while watching a series and backing up my shots in the computer. The most recent that I bought from all my hardwork is a Mavic Pro drone and the funny thing is, a month after I bought it saka ko lang siya na-practice paliparin sa dami ng tinatapos kong backlogs from our recent shoots.
What part of shooting a wedding do you like best?
M : Kapag maganda ang bride. Joke lang! My favorite part is the first dance of the couple lalo na kung hindi mahiyain 'yung couple or nag-prepare talaga sila ng special dance for that special day.
And what’s the part that you don’t like, or struggle with?
M : Iba-iba eh hindi mo masasabi kung kailan kayo magkaka-problema. Pero pinaka-common is sa post-nuptial pictorial nagkakaroon ng hassle lalo na kung 'yung magulang ng client mo kung magmadali akala mo sila 'yung may pa-okasyon or sila 'yung kinasal kesyo nagugutom na daw ang mga tao. Minsan, este, madalas pala, talagang sumasagot na ako sa mga ganoon na magulang lalo na kapag napapansin kong nai-i-stress na rin ang couple. Lagi ko lang sinasabi sa couple na “araw n'yo ito hayaan n'yong maghintay sila kahit kaunting delay, wag n'yong sirain ang moment ninyo.”
Do you have a favorite shot of all-time? And what’s the story behind it?
M : Siguro 'yung prenup ko pa rin sa kumpare ko sa Zambales, 'yun pa rin 'yung masasabi kong favorite shot ko until now. Feeling ko kasi sobrang galing ko noong na-achieve ko 'yung shot, hahaha! With the help din ng mga nakasama ko na-achieve ko 'yung shot rushing to get the sunset as background. (Photo shown above)
If you’re not shooting weddings, what would you be doing now? Or do you have another field of photography that you want to pursue?
M : Macho dancer siguro ako ngayon, hahaha! Joke lang poooo! Maybe if I am not shooting events I would be in field marketing or sales, ma-boladas kasi akong tao. Well another field of photography that I really want to do is astro photography, this summer lang talaga akong hindi nakapag-try na mag-shoot ng star trail and milky way sa sobrang dami ng tinatapos na backlogs but I am hoping na makapag-shoot ako uli kapag nagkaroon ng sobrang habang free time.
Just curious. Why "Projekt Paraluman" as your studio name?
M : I was thinking of a name for my Facebook business page without using my own name. Ayaw ko talagang gamitin ang sarili kong name pero gusto ko rin na walang kaparehas para madaling ma-search. Then ang dami ko nang naiisip, siguro one month na akong nag-iisip ng name pero 'di ko talaga magustuhan. Nakikinig ako ng sounds, ang collection ng songs ko almost Eraserheads, Rivermaya, basta mga 90s na OPM bands. Noong tumugtog ang "Ang Huling El Bimbo", "kamukha mo si Paraluman, nung tayo ay bata pa...", so ayun naalala ko 'yung "paraluman" is a Filipino word and it means lakambini or muse. Aprub din kasama ko at lagi kong apprentice sa events na si Victoria. So ayun, naisip ko I could connect it because I'm targeting weddings as my market.
What tips can you give those who want to eventually enter the world of wedding photography?
M : Don’t show any attitude na makakainisan ka. Be humble. Learn to accept your mistakes and tips from others. 'Wag mahiyang magtanong sa mga matatagal na sa industriya, like paano n'ya na-achieve 'yung shot na 'yun, ano dapat gawin in case man na ganito mangyari. Hindi masamang manggaya ng shot pero 'wag mo naman lahatin ay gagayahin mo.
How about an advice for those starting out in photography?
M : Just keep on shooting! 'Wag kayong mag-focus sa gear upgrade, learn to maximize the gear that you have, kahit entry-level pa 'yang camera na gamit mo as long na kumukuha 'yan ng litrato, gamitin mo. Walang mali sa mundo ng photography, nasa sa'yo kung paano mo i-express ang art mo using your camera by the way you compose your shot.
Message to Focus Bulacan followers and your fellow Focus members.
M : I would like to thank Focus Bulacan for this opportunity na maging Photographer Of The Month, to my Focus family, thank you guys! I love you all! To followers of our club, maraming, maraming salamat po sa patuloy na pag-suporta at sana po patuloy pa rin po ninyong suportahan ang club namin at mga susunod na activities nito. Focus Bulacan nambawan!!!
Mark's top favorites (Click thumbnails to view photos in full)
"Paraluman" indeed means "muse" or beauty in Filipino. Curiously, its English equivalent is "paragon", which is defined as "perfection" or "model of beauty or excellence". Only Mark (or maybe another soul) will truly ever know the reason behind the name for his studio, but we can take his word that they seek to capture the beauty of weddings... simply because it shows in his photos.
Jerome Ramos had no idea that one day he would be working as the personal photographer of a municipal mayor. He was asked by the former mayor of Plaridel, Bulacan, if he could help out in the municipal hall's IT department, a job offer that he felt compelled to accept. Months later, he was tasked to document - using a digital camera - a big event that the town was hosting, and on the spot he was forced to learn how to take pictures. Little did he know that it would be the start of a new affliction and a new line of work.
At present, he carries the role of graphics designer aside from being the chief photo documentarist of current Plaridel mayor Jocell Vistan-Casaje. What started as a job invitation to work in an IT department quickly escalated into a career in photography.
Jerome "Jhay" Ramos is the featured Focus photographer of the month.
How did your photography story start?
J : Nagsimula ako noong August 8, 2009, unang taon ko sa serbisyo, nagkataong may malaking event sa bayan ng Plaridel. 'Yun kasi 'yung araw na idinaos ang signing ng Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program ni Pangulong Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Noong panahon na 'yon walang official photographer talaga ang Pamahalaang Bayan ng Plaridel, bumabayad pa sila sa labas. Sa sobrang halaga ng pagtitipon, naghanap ng magdo-document si (dating) Mayor Tessie (Vistan), sakto naman nandoon ako upang umasiste sa mga panauhin. Tinawag ako ni Mayor Tessie at pinahawak sa akin ang isang digicam, 'di naman din ako makatanggi dahil utos 'yun, kahit bagito at wala pa akong masyadong alam sa photography. Noong una 'di ko alam ang gagawin ko sa dami ng tao at media, sobrang mahiyain ako, kaso inisip ko kailangan kong makapagproduce ng mga photos for documentation kaya isinangtabi ko muna ang hiya ko. Pagkatapos ayun, nakita nila na maganda naman 'yung mga kuha ko hanggang sa kada programa ng munisipyo ako na ung pinagpi-picture hanggang sa gawing official photographer ako ng mayor and the rest is history, hehe.
When did you realize that you had what it takes to earn from photography?
J : Sa una kasi never kong naisip 'yan kasi nga wala pa akong experience sa photography. Late ko lang din na-realize noong medyo nakakagamayan ko nang kumuha, lagi akong nagtatanong kay Kuya Noel (former fellow Focus member) noon sa mga basics ng photography hanggang sa unti-unti madami nang nakakapuna, madami nang pumupuri tapos may nag-suggest sa akin na tumanggap kahit maliliit na event lang. Sa una medyo kabado kasi first time ko lang gagawin talaga 'yun tsaka isa pa bago lang ako. Unang naging event ko pa kasal ng pinsan ko syempre pressure 'yun kasi di na sila kumuha ng professional photographer. During the wedding ginawa ko lang 'yung mga itinuro ni Kuya Noel, in-apply ko lang 'yung mga basic, puro basic lang talaga tapos unlimited pa shots ko para if ever na may nakanganga or nakapikit, may pagpipilian. Noong huli nakahinga naman ako nang maluwag dahil sobrang saya ng pinsan ko at satisfied sa mga kuha ko. Ganun pala 'yung feeling kapag maraming nakaka-apppreciate ng gawa mo, masarap sa pakiramdam. Mula noon nagpractice ako nang nagpractice tsaka aral hanggang sa makabisado ko na at magamay ko na.
What were your usual frustrations when you were just starting?
J : Nalulungkot ako kapag nakikita ko na 'di sila satisfied, hindi sila masaya lalo na 'yung gusto nilang look 'di ko nagawa. Ang hirap kasi wala pa akong masyadong alam sa photography 'di tulad ng iba na nagtraining or pinag-aralan pa sa school. Minsan 'yung dapat na ako magshoot may magsa-suggest na magbayad na lang sa labas, sobrang na-disappoint ako.
How did you handle and overcome those frustrations?
J : Inisip ko nalang na isang malaking hamon sa akin para mag-push pa ako na mapagbuti. Araw-araw kapag mag-shoot ako lagi kong iniisip na kailangan ko pang mag-improve, 'yung hindi pwede ang pwede na 'yan, dapat mas higit pa. Lahat ng negative ginagamit ko bilang fuel para i-push pa 'yung limits ko nang higit pa hanggang di ako natututo, I'd never stop.
You work as the personal photographer of a mayor. How cool is that, eventually earning from something that you had to learn instantly?
J : Nakakatuwa kasi kapag sinabing "mayor", parang lagi na akong nakakabit, 'yung point ba na kapag dumating ako, automatic alam na ng tao na nandiyan si mayor, parating si mayor. Instant celebrity ako sa dami ng taong nakakakilala sa akin. Nagugulat na lang ako minsan na may bumabati sa akin kahit 'di ko kakilala. Malaki din ang naitulong sa akin ng pagiging official photographer ni Mayor. Dumami 'yung mga taong nagtitiwala at nakaka-appreciate, lalo pa akong nahasa sa photography, mas nahubog ako dahil sa kada araw na pagseserbisyo sa bayan, bagong araw, bagong kaalaman. 'Yung lugar na dati sa magazine at internet ko lang nakikita, napupuntahan ko na isa-isa. 'Yung mga matataas at mahahalagang taong nakikilala ko nang personal, 'yung mga ganung simpleng bagay lang. Kaya naman ganun na lang ang pagpupursigi ko sa pagpapahusay ko sa photography para naman masuklian ko 'yung tiwalang ibinigay nila sa akin. Sa ganoong paraan man lang makabawi ako sa kanila.
In working for your boss, what aspect is the biggest challenge in capturing her photos?
J : Malaking challenge sa akin na ginagawa ko araw-araw 'yung mai-share ko, 'di basta na makuhanan lang, challenge parati sa akin kung paano ko ma-capture 'yung emotion, 'yung sincerity niya lalo na kapag nakikipag-usap siya sa tao. 'Yung tipong picture lang nangungusap na, 'yung 'di na kailangan ng description. Pangarap ko talaga ma-achieve 'yun kasi bibihira kasi sa mga politiko 'yung makitaan mo ng sinseridad sa paglilingkod, at gusto kong mai-share sa lahat 'yung pakiramdam na 'yun sa pagkuha ko sa kanya ng mga photos.
You’re also a gifted singer. What are the similarities and differences of singing and photography?
J : Una syempre tulad sa photography kailangan mo rin mag-aral ng mga basic, ganun din sa pagsali sa choir, mag-aral ka ng piyesa, aral ka ng proper breathing at pagbuka ng bibig. Kailangan mo din paghusayan upang makapag-produce ka rin ng magandang output at magandang harmony. Kung sa photography club may mga kasama ka, ganoon din sa choir may mga choirmates ka na gagabay, aalalay, at magtuturo sayo. Ang pinagkaiba lang nila, sa choir kasi dapat tutok ka sa aral talaga lalo na 'pag competition, mas kailangang pag-aralan mo 'yung part mo dahil kapag pumalpak ka, damay ang buong grupo. Kung sa Focus may certain day lang for photomeets, photowalk, o iba pa, sa choir halos buong linggo magkakasama kayo. Mahirap pa doon, puyat ka pa dahil 'pag gabi lang available lahat ng members, 'di kasi kayo pwede mag-start kung kulang-kulang kayo.
What has been your proudest moment as a photographer?
J : Ay sobra, muntik na akong maiyak kasi 'di ko pinangarap at inasam 'yun. 'Yun photo ko po ng Salubong Festival. Hindi ko po talaga in-expect na malayo ang mararating ng picture ko po na 'yun. Nag-umpisa po 'yun sa Larawang Bulakenyo, nasama po siya sa exhibit, tapos napanood ko din po siya sa tourism ad ng Bulacan, tapos sa coffee table book po. Noong sumunod nun, noong na-invite po akong dumalo sa Monomania sa Manila, first photo exhibit ko po 'yun sa Manila. Amazed po talaga ako, 'di ko lang po pinahalata, dahil puro po mga batikang litratista ang nandoon at na-meet ko nang personal, mga idol talaga. Tsaka po 'yung nasama po ulit sa exhibit 'yung photo ko po ng Salubong Festival sa Photoworld Asia. Sobrang maraming salamat po sa pagtitiwala, talagang isang malaking karangalan po ang mapasama 'yung photo ko sa exhibit na 'yun at napakalaking achievement po 'yun para sa akin. (Salubong Festival photo shown below)
How do you see yourself and your craft ten years from now?
J : Siguro po sa ngayon wala pa, kasi sa sampung taon marami pang pwedeng mangyari, marami pang pwedeng magbago, pero pangarap ko rin po na makapagpatayo ng sariling negosyo. Isa na diyan 'yung photo studio. Pangarap ko rin po na makapag-share at maipasa ang kaalaman ko, lalo na sa mga kabataang kapos sa buhay na naghahangad din matuto ng photography. 'Di man sa gamit pero kahit sa mga kaalaman makapagbahagi ako sa kanila. Pangarap ko din na makasama, 'di man manalo sa mga exhibits, magtravel sa iba't ibang panig ng mundo through photography. Pangarap ko din na makasama ang crush ko habang buhay …. hahaha joke lang.
Please show us the photo that has been the most memorable for you.
J : Memorable po sa akin 'yung food shot na 'yan kasi 'yan 'yung time na una akong nakasama sa Focus Bulacan. Hindi pa ako member noon, sumama lang ako sa shoot na Ang Pinaka-Yummy sa Bulacan. Sobrang excited po ako kasi familiar na din ako sa Focus noon. Madami din kako akong matutunan. Masaya rin 'yung byahe, palipat-lipat ng resto tapos pagdating nagkakagulo, unahan sa pagpwesto para sa magandang angulo. Tapos nag-apply na ako para maging member. Doon nagsimula. (Photo shown below)
What’s your dream destination to photograph?
J : Wow. Sobrang dream ko 'tong mga 'to. First in the list talaga is Nami Island, Korea with the ginkgo trees. Big fan kasi ako ng Korean telenovela na "Endless Love". Nakaka-amaze ang ganda lalo na kung may kasama ka. Ganda magpropose doon, hehe. Second is Batanes. Kahit mahangin, kahit madalas umulan, favorite ko siya dahil sa Marlboro Hills, heritage houses, old pavements, mahilig po kasi ako sa mga vintage and classic. Last po siguro ay Singapore. I've always wanted to go to Singapore, pangarap ko kasing tumira doon. Malinis, tahimik, daming magandang puntahan tsaka disiplinado ang mga tao.
And what’s your dream project?
J : My dream wedding, bride na lang talaga ang kulang, hahaha.
If you can give a photo to the person you love, which photo would be it and why?
J : Picture para sa lola ko, at ako 'yung nasa picture, as a successful man. Laking lola po kasi ako. Simula noong natuto akong mag-photography, naisip ko na sana buhay pa si Ima, sana siya 'yung unang taong pi-picture-an ko sa camera ko. Sobrang special niya sa akin, sana nakikita din niya 'yung mga nararating ko. 'Yung dating katabi niya at tinatapik-tapik lang sa pagtulog, 'yung batang kitchen partner nya tuwing magluluto. Sana naipakita ko sa kanya 'yung mga larawan ko na lumalabas na sa magazine at dyaryo na dati itinitinda lang namin. Sobrang miss ko siya.
Your advise to those starting in photography?
J : Una sa lahat, huwag panghihinaan ng loob. 'Wag kayong magpatangay kung ano man ang sinasabi ng iba, just do your best at kapag kulang pa, mas pagbutihan mo sa susunod. Just do what makes you happy, i-enjoy mo lang. Learn first the basic, from the word itself, 'yan ang magiging pundasyon mo bilang photographer … 'yung mga camera sa huli na 'yan kasi aanhin mo ang isang mamahaling camera kung 'di ka naman marunong kumuha? Useless, 'di ba? Practice … practice … practice. Kahit nasaan ka man, shoot ka lang. Sa panahon ngayon ng mga millennials kahit magpicture ka sa daan okay lang. Dati kasi magpicture ka aakalain ka nilang adik, hehe. Sa kaka-practice mo pati 'yung self-confidence mo mabi-build din. Panghuli, don’t forget to share your knowledge to others. Big no-no 'yung magmamayabang ka, 'yung maangas ka. Ay 'wag po, dahil tandaan mo bago ka makarating sa kinaroroonan mo ngayon, dumaan ka rin sa nagsisimula. Kaya iwasan ang maging mayabang upang magkaroon ng maraming kaibigan, hehe.
Message to fellow Focus members.
J : Hi guys, una sa lahat gusto kong magpasalamat sa inyong lahat, Focus family, sa pagtanggap nyo sa akin. Dito kasi sa Focus 'di lang kami magkakagrupo or samahan eh, we are more like family talaga at ramdam ko talaga 'yun. Bukod sa mga kulitan, harutan, nandun 'yung bond ng bawat isa. Nandiyan sila parati sa tabi na laging nakasuporta, tuturuan ka, gagabayan ka para mapaghusay ka pa at mas mahubog ka, 'di lang sa photography kundi pati na rin sa pagkatao mo. Eto 'yung pwede mong maging pangalawang pamilya, pangalawa mong tahanan. Kaya naman nagpapasalamat ako sa inyong lahat. Love you all!
Jhay's other favorites (Click thumbnails to view photos in full)
Jhay's story reminds us of a quote from renowned entrepreneur Richard Branson : "If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you're not sure you can do it, say yes. Then figure out how to do it later." We never know what life would be sending our way and most of us would feel unprepared whenever a great opportunity comes along. But if we don't try, most certainly we will never know the consequences, and a big question mark would loom in our mind for the rest of our lives.
Jhay could have shied away from the challenge of documenting a big event (when he had no prior experience of doing such) but he chose to take it head-on and do his best. It turned out to be the first of numerous moments and events that he has captured with his camera. And there shall be countless more.
Denzel Sarmiento is one of the most traveled Focus photographers. Due to the simple reason that he is a professional travel guide, or lakbay-gabay in his preferred language. He accompanies foreign travelers to different parts of the Philippines and makes sure to document his experiences with his trusty camera. But he didn't pick up photography to complement his work. It's actually, curiously, the other way around : he became a tour guide because of photography. He entered a photography competition and by a stroke of fate, wound up as a licensed travel guide shortly after. How did that exactly happen? We'll let Denzel do the rest of the story-telling.
Tell us your unique story about how you became a tour guide.
D : Napunta ako sa industriya ng turismo sa hindi inaasahang pangyayari. Isang araw kasi, sinusumite ko 'yung mga litratong aking isasali sa patimpalak na Larawang Bulakenyo. Napansin ko na may grupo ng mga tao sa Provincial Library tapos tinanong ko kung ano ang mayroon doon. Napabatid sa akin na huling araw ng panayam para sa mga nais sumailalim sa isang seminar para sa mga gustong maging tour guide ng Bulacan. Sinubukan ko, tapos ayun pumasa naman. Matapos ang sampung araw ng training at pagkuha ng pagsusulit, ayun nakapasa at nagpa-accredit. Tada! Department of Tourism-licensed tour guide! Kung pakaiisipin ko, aba ayos ha kasi naisip ko rin na maging lakbay-gabay noong ako ay nasa elementarya at hilig ko rin naman ang magpunta sa iba't-ibang lugar at makasalamuha ang iba't-ibang uri ng mga tao.
How did you get started in photography?
D : Nasa ikatlong antas na ako sa kolehiyo noong nakahawak ako ng DSLR dahil 'yung nakababata kong kapatid ay nagkaroon ng asignaturang Basic Photography. Noong may mga espesyal na kaganapan at kung may pupuntahan akong malayo, hinihiram ko 'yung camera at doon nag-umpisa 'yung pagkahumaling ko sa photography. Tapos ayun, nasanay akong dala-dala parati 'yung camera. Sa tuwing hindi ako nakakapagdala ng camera kapag napupunta ako ng ibang lugar, nakakaramdam ako ng pagkahinayang sa tuwing hindi ko naikukulong sa apat na sulok ng litrato ang mga alaala at mga lugar na nararanasan at napupuntahan ko.
How does it affect your profession and also your travels?
D : Hilig ko na talagang tumuklas ng iba’t-ibang lugar dahil gusto ko malubos ang oras ko sa mundong ito at mas maging buo ang aking kamalayan sa maraming bagay. Sa pagkuha ng litrato sa mga lugar na napupuntahan ko, sa mga taong aking nakakasalamuha, may babalikan ako balang araw tapos 'yung tila ngingiti na lang ako at sasabihin ko sa aking sarili na sulit ang buhay ko. Ayun 'yung nais ko kapag nasa dapit-hapon na ako ng aking buhay. Lalo na kung sakaling maging malilimutin man ako balang araw, may patunay na sa lugar na ito nandito ako. Hindi ko man tanda, naparito ako... 'yung katawan at isip ko nagpalipas ng sandali sa lugar na ito. Ganunan ba. Ukol naman sa pagiging lakbay-gabay o tour guide, napakalaking tulong dahil mas nakakapagbigay ako ng kasiyahan sa mga bisita ko dahil nagugustuhan nila 'yung mga kuha kong larawan kasama ang view nung destinasyon nila. Kahit papaano, nakakadagdag 'yung munting abilidad ko sa potograpiya sa trabaho ko bilang lakbay-gabay.
What camera setup do you usually bring on your travels?
D : Ang palagi ko lang naman dala 'yung Nikon D3100. Halos siyam na taon na akong pinagsisilbihan nun. Kung hindi man, 'yung camera lang ng cellphone ko. Share ko lang. May pagkakataon na kinuhanan ko ng litrato 'yung isang lumang bahay sa Bulakan, tapos bumilib ako sa ganda ng rehistro, 'yun pala nakakadagdag sa disenyo yung fungi na pumaloob sa lente. Haha. Kapag may lakad talaga ako lalo na sa ibang probinsiya, talagang dinadala ko 'yung D3100 kahit mabigat. Mas hiyang kasi ako sa camera na 'yun… tapos basic lang naman ang lente, wala ring ibang accessories. Basta 'yung camera at 'yung liwanag na binibigay ng araw o ilaw...tapos.
What's the most interesting place you've been to?
D : Lahat naman ng lugar may sariling katangian kaya hindi ko napagkukumpara ang mga lugar na napupuntahan ko. Pero sige, isa sa mga tumatak sakin 'yung lalawigan ng Tawi-Tawi. Nagawi ako doon taong 2017, matapos kong iwan 'yung huli kong trabaho noong taon na yun, naglibot ako sa Sulu Archipelago.
What would be your dream destination?
D : Kung sa Pilipinas, Maconacon, Divilacan…'yung area na 'yun. Tapos Mapun Island. Kung international, Nepal at Bhutan. Maaari ring Sierra Leone at Uruguay. Kung imposible naman, 'yung alternate dimension ng universe.
In your own words, how would you define travel photography?
D : Travel Photography. Basta maipakita lang 'yung katangian ng lugar. Maaamoy mo 'yung samyo nung lugar, maririnig mo 'yung ingay o magandang huni nung lugar, magpapasabik sayo na puntahan din ang lugar na iyon. At 'yung magpapabatid sayo kung ano man ang damdamin o kaluluwa ng lugar na nakakulong sa apat na sulok ng larawan na iyon.
What's your most memorable experience in your profession?
D : Assitant tour guide ako nun, dalawa kaming tour guide. 'Yung main guide namin Mexicano. Ang mga bisita namin seventeen na katao galing Catalunia, Espanya. Age range ay sixty to eighty years old. Umakyat kami sa Banaue, nag-hike kami sa Batad, pumasok kami sa kuweba, narinig ko 'yung mga istorya nila noong kabataan nila habang ramdam ang malamig na hangin sa gabi ng Cordillera at amoy ang kape ng Sagada. Basta ayun nakakapukaw ng damdamin. Isa sa mga munting tagpo : umaandar 'yung sasakyan sa San Jose, Nueva Ecija…papunta kami sa Banaue. Biglang sinambit sa akin ng isa sa aming bisita: “Kapag may oras pa at gusto mo… dakmain mo na!” Sa wikang Kastila. Habang 'yung kamay ng madam ay mabilis na parang may dinakma sa hangin at sinarado agad ang kanyang kamao. Basta marami akong natutunan.
How do you usually capture the essence of a place that you visit?
D : Kapag sabay na nakita ng mata ko at nagpasabik sa kalamnan ko…pindot agad.
Please tell us about the photo you're most proud of.
D : Ang hirap pumili. 'Yung picture ng Meycauayan Old Train Station ako pinaka-proud kasi napasama siya as finalist sa Larawang Bulakenyo. Tapos noon nila nalaman istasyon pala ng tren yun. At nagkaroon ng maliit na diskurso ukol sa pangangalaga ng istasyon bilang isa sa mga natatanging pamanang kasaysayan ng Meycauayan. (Photo shown in gallery below.)
Tips for travel photography?
D : Matututunan naman 'yun kahit walang magturo sayo…basta 'yung lakas lang ng loob para tumuklas at lumabas at matuto sa karanasan.
Denzel's other favorite photos (Click thumbnails to view photos in full)
If you knew then what you know now, you would...?
D : Ganun pa rin. Nakadisenyo naman ang linya ng ating kamalayan na bigkis sa mga naging karanasan ng ating buhay. Kung alam ko na 'yung ilang bagay noon baka hindi ako ang maging produkto na ako ngayon. Kaya ganun pa rin.
What's your message to Focus Bulacan followers?
D : Sa mga sumusubaybay sa Focus Bulacan, ikinalulugod namin ang inyong suporta! Sa mga nagnanais na mapabilang sa samahan namin, masaya dito! Minumungkahi ko na sumama kayo kung mayroon kaming photomeet na bukas para sa lahat.
Our passion leads us to unexpected places and even parts unknown. When opportunity knocks, sometimes the difference in making it or having regrets is having the courage to try and explore. But if you really want it and you've got time in your hands, the best thing to do - like what Denzel learned first hand - is to go for it and grab the chance.
Dakmain mo na!
As Focus Bulacan starts its sixth year of existence and its membership roll reaches a hundred, the club also embarks on a transition of sorts. A new era has dawned with founding officers slowly but surely passing the torch to a fresh batch of leaders. Last year's Competition Officer and Focus Bulacan co-founder Jer Sandel has relinquished his leadership duties altogether starting 2019, preferring to focus on content creation for the club's social media accounts. Erstwhile Logistics Officer Amen Alcoriza also has taken a break for personal reasons.
In their place are the very capable tandem of Jing Calonge and Francesca Bengco who will handle Competition and Membership, respectively. Both are immersed in their careers (Jing is an environmental scientist while Francesca is a multimedia artist and a professional photographer on her own) but have courageously accepted the challenge of helping lead Focus Bulacan. Their willingness and perspective are very welcome boosts to the team of officers. Of course, there to guide them are the returning officers who have pledged to stay on to steer the ship, so to speak.
The success of Focus Bulacan is contingent on the efforts of the whole club - the initiatives and progressive planning of the officers, plus the active reaction of members. The officers need the members' participation while the members need the officers' direction. It's a synergy that Focus Bulacan has fortunately achieved in its start-up years, and one that the new era of officers are determined to sustain... and even surpass.
Every month, we have a feature on our members, our photography idols, and other photography issues we feel deserve a heads-up.