Biking and running are in his blood but it was photography that showed him a spark and led him to a journey that has been through hills and valleys, victories and frustrations, and all the learning experiences in between. A long-time printing operator and current warehouse staff who also does freelance projects on the side, he got acquainted with the craft via a phone camera and gradually grasped his way to controlling the complicated DSLR. Barely three years since picking up the fundamentals, he is now a bona fide street shooter with a knack for nailing memorable and even contest-winning photos.
Alfie Grutas is our featured Focus photographer of the month and this is his story.
When did your photography affliction develop?
A : Sa mga magagandang photo na nakikita ko sa internet, gaya na lang nung isang sundalo na may hawak na rosary habang nakahalik, doon na ako nagkaroon ng interes sa photography. Nagsimula ako mag-asam magkaroon ng camera noong nakakita ako sa isang pelikula ng Leica yata 'yun o 'yung Fujifilm camera. Tumaas pa 'yung pananabik ko magkaroon ng camera nung lumabas pa noon 'yung DSLR at nauso nga. Kaso nalaman ko na may kamahalan kaya nagbaka-sakali na lang ako sa phone camera para masimulan ko na makapag-picture. Nakabili ako ng Android phone noong summer 2015, doon na nagstart ang photography ko. Ang saya lang kasi kahit sa phone camera kaya palang ibigay 'yung pakiramdam na may sarili kang camera.
What were the usual challenges or frustrations when you were just beginning?
A : Kawalan ng gana mag-shoot kasi distracted ako sa paligid, nauuna 'yung takot kaysa sa mga gusto kong kuhanan.
How did your Focus Bulacan story start?
A : Noong nalaman ko na may pa-workshop sa photography ang St. James Parish sa Plaridel, na nabanggit nga ang Focus Bulacan sa post sa Facebook. Doon ko nalaman na may photography club pala dito satin. Kaya binisita ko ang page nila at nalaman ko na active ang grupo. Interesting 'yung bawat post nila. Tanda ko pa noon nabasa ko 'yung story ni Shauang, siya ang featured noon. Ang gaganda ng mga photo niya at kakaiba 'yung style niya so lalo akong na-excite para mag-sign up at unahin na lang 'yung workshop kaysa sa ibang lakad. Chance ko na rin malaman kung paano magamit 'yung DSLR, sakto kasi nabuo na 'yung binigay na Nikon D50 sakin ng aking tiyahin. Buhat noong nasimulan ko ang workshop mas binigyan ko na ng oras ang photography. Nadalas gamitin ang DSLR, nagsign-up para maging applicant, um-attend sa ibang workshop, nakisali sa photowalks, photomeet, national contest, worldwide photo contest. Hanggang sa sumapit 'yung araw na pinakilala na ako bilang isa sa mga new Focus Bulacan members.
What's the biggest photography lesson you've learned so far?
A : Akala ko makukuha ko na 'yung gusto ko na magagandang shots nung may mga nalalaman na ako. Hindi pala, ang lawak pala ng photography. Dapat matutunan ang bawat genre at unawain ito ng mabuti. Kailangan pagtiyagaan pa ang pag-aaral, maging masipag sa pag-shoot, pasensya sa sarili, higit sa lahat i-enjoy lang ito gaya na lang kung gaano ka kasaya at kasabik noong ikaw ay nagsisimula.
What has been the most unforgettable experience you've had as a photographer?
A : Hindi ko makakalimutan 'yung naging shoot ko sa Traslacion 2019. Nakapwesto kami ni Humprey (Catajan, a fellow Focus photographer) at isa pang photographer, sa sementadong sumusuporta sa malaking poste habang papalapit ang andas ng Itim na Nazareno. Isang deboto ang bigla na lang nakitungtong at nagpumilit kumapit sa poste. Tinigil ko na 'yung pag-shoot ko, inuna ko 'yung kaligtasan at gamit ko. Pumwesto rin kami sa barrier ng tulay, sobrang hirap mag-shoot nakaramdam pa ng takot kasi nasa harap lang namin ang crowd. May tendency kasi na pupwede kaming mahulog dahil sa mga deboto na nakikisingit sa aming pwesto.
What do you aspire to be five to ten years from now?
A : Siguro makuha ko na 'yung style ko sa photography, magamit, mai-apply 'yung nalalaman ko sa magiging negosyo ko pagdating nung time na 'yun. Sa ngayon explore lang muna, aralin 'yung mga gusto kong genre at 'yung mga bagong dumagdag.
What's your mindset like when you go out to shoot or create photos?
A : Sinisiguro ko na dala ko palagi ang pananabik mag-shoot. Mga bagay na may interes sakin ang kinukuhanan ko. Tamang abang din misan kapag may nakita akong magandang spot.
Is there a photography-related experience that you wish you had done differently?
A : Siguro sana mas nagpursige at nagtyaga pa ako sa shoot ko na pang-entry sana sa contests.
What's the photo that you're most proud of?
A : 'Yung naging photo ko kay Mang Fred, isang magsasaka sa Pulilan. Nakasama kasi sa finalist sa photo contest ng Mandala Art Festival ng Pulilan at 'yun ang pangalawang beses nasama ang aking photo sa exhibit. (Photo shown below)
Do you have a photography bucket list? What have you checked so far, and what remains in the list?
A : Oo, marami eh. Nakapag-shoot na ako ng Milky Way kaso hindi maganda ang kinalabasan ng kuha. Pinilit ko lang kasi gamitin 'yung camera ko na di naman para sa ganoong shot. Masasayang kasi yung tinuro ni SJ (Sir Jer Sandel, fellow Focus photographer) kung hindi ko sinubukan. Kaya gusto ko ito ulit-ulitin. Pangarap ko makapag-photowalk sa Cuba at Morocco. Saka maka-attend din sa mga kakaibang festival dito sa Pinas pati na rin ang La Tomatina at bull run sa Spain. Syempre, makabili ng pinapangarap kong camera gaya nung napanuod ko dati sa pelikula.
What would be your advice if someone asks you what camera to buy?
A : Siguro aalamin ko muna kung para saan niya gagamitin at kung talagang hilig niya ang photography, saka ko siya balikan para mabigyan ng payo.
General tip to photography enthusiasts.
A : Tuloy lang tayo sa nadiskubre natin, shoot lang nang shoot. I-enjoy n'yo lang kung ano man ang gusto n'yong piktyuran. Mag-attend ng photography events. Lumapit at huwag matakot na magtanong, humingi ng tips at techniques sa mga photographer. Magpa-critique sa iyong mga kuha sa mga kaibigan mo, sa iyong mentor. Magbasa, manuod ng tutorials sa Youtube. Sa ganoong paraan mauunawaan mo at mag-i-improve ang iyong mga kuha. At isa pa mag-join na rin kayo sa Focus Bulacan.
What's your message to Focus followers and fellow members?
A : Sa mga followers ng Focus, maraming salamat sa patuloy na pagsuporta sa aming grupo. Ipagpapatuloy pa rin namin ang pagbigay ng inspirasyon at magagandang larawan sa inyo, pagbigay ng tulong, kaalaman sa mga gustong matuto at pasukin ito. Yo! Kumusta, Focus fam? Maraming, maraming salamat sa mainit na pagtanggap n'yo sa akin noong ako ay nagsisimula pa lamang. Kay Sir Jeremy na unang nagbigay kaalaman para matutunan ko ang basics ng photography, kila Kuya Awel, Ate Elena, Shauang na mga nilapitan ko at nag-guide sa akin nung bago pa lang ako. Kila Humprey, Kuya Joel, Kuya Randy at Mark Simon na kusang nagbigay ng tips at techniques mula sa mga nalalaman nila. Maraming salamat po! Sana makabalik na sa dating normal at makapagkita-kita na tayong muli.
Alfie's Favorite Photos (Click thumbnails to view photos in full)
Like everyone, Alfie longs for the day when we overcome the pandemic and we could start living our normal routine. As he awaits to get back to his full-time warehouse job, he temporarily works as a computer technician. He misses the streets. He misses the festivals and events. He sure misses exploring the outdoors with his camera. But when the right moment comes, we can be sure that he's going all-out in taking photos again. After all, he has learned too well that in order to sustain the passion, one has to enjoy photography like how it used to be in the beginning. For all of us who knows Alfie, that means we're going to see a fresh set of compelling photos, interesting slices of life that he has made a habit of capturing.
All we need is just a little more patience... and trust in the process.
We are happy to announce the newest group of approved applicants, hereby recognized as official Focus Bulacan members, Batch July 2020. They have satisfied membership requirements and displayed undeniable determination in improving their photography, particularly in this period of the pandemic.
Congratulations, Batch 15! May you continue to exhibit the passion and promise now that you have successfully navigated the application process. We look forward to many years of shooting and working with you. Welcome to the Focus fam!
We'll (hopefully) see you soon! Below is a visual introduction to our newest members :
We've all heard the life quote "If you really want something, you'll figure out a way to make it happen." That dose of motivation sums up Bryan Jacinto's creative journey that has culminated, so far, in photography. Fresh out of high school, he worked at a souvenir shirt printshop. There, he discovered and self-studied graphic design. His college years saw him dabble in music, poetry, and band life, while maximizing his student assistant role in their computer lab to learn Photoshop and multimedia. It was also that time when he first enjoyed shooting with a camera, as the designated shooter during school events. It was the spark of a passion that from then on became a goal. He now has his own shirt printing business and getting more seasoned as a lensman. It all started with a desire that turned into a plan which he keeps working hard to fulfill.
This is the story of Bryan "Ry" Jacinto, the featured Focus photographer of the month.
Photography is just one aspect of your life as a creative. How exactly did you start this path?
R : Actually, siguro mga ten years ago, alam ko na talaga sa sarili ko na gusto kong magkaroon ng camera. Pero siyempre 'di naman ganun kadali 'yun. Good thing, may mga kamag-anak akong may cam, so nakikihiram muna ako. Pero noon kasi click lang ako nang click, basta nag-blur 'yung background o sharp ang kuha, tuwang-tuwa na ako. Nakakatuwa at yung simpleng pagkagusto kong magkaroon ng sariling camera ang naging isang way para magsipag sa pagta-trabaho. 2016 noong nakabili ako ng sarili kong camera, three years kong inipon, mula noong nag-start akong mag-work. 'Di ko alam pero 'yun talaga 'yung unang gamit na pinundar ko. Haha.
What’s a memorable moment that first comes to mind regarding your “newbie” days?
R : Siguro 'yung akala ko na kapag nagkaroon na ako ng sariling camera, magagawa ko na din 'yung nagagawa ng iba. Isa rin kasi sa gusto ko agad magawang kuhanan ay ang Milky Way. Kaya pagkabili ko ng camera, nag-try agad akong mag-shoot. So ayun. Doon na ako nagsimulang mag-research ng mga bagay na tungkol sa photography. Dahil hindi basta naisip mo, makukuhanan mo kaagad. Hahaha! Akala ko magagawa ko na agad once na may sarili ka nang camera eh. Hindi pala basta pipindot lang ng daliri mo 'yung shutter button. Dapat pala padaanin muna sa mata, papunta sa utak, patungo sa daliring magki-click ng camera.
How did your Focus story start?
R : Isa ito sa pinakamalaking dahilan kung bakit nadagdagan ang kaalaman ko sa photography, pero bago 'yun, 'yung nagsabi at tumulong muna sa akin kung bakit ako nasa Focus Bulacan ngayon... si Sir Bobby Jo. Sa trabaho ko kasi dati, nataon na asawa niya 'yung supplier namin ng gamit, tapos member pala siya ng Focus. To make the story short, siya 'yung nagpakilala sakin sa Focus Bulacan. So after ma-approve 'yung application ko noon, siya din palagi 'yung nagsa-sign-up palagi sa akin tuwing may photomeet. Hindi ko malilimutan yun, maraming salamat sir! Pinasubok ako ni Sir Bob ng isang photowalk noon, bago ako mag-apply sa Focus, unang sali ko din ng photography contest. Ayun, nakatanggap agad ako ng "not for entry" comment. Haha. Ito 'yung nagpa-mulat sakin na hindi basta-basta ang photography. Kaya hindi ko muna pinasa 'yung membership application ko. Nagdagdag muna ako ng kaalaman tungkol sa photography, nagbasa-basa na ako at research noon. Haha. After ilang months, start ng 2018, may lakas ng loob na akong ipasa 'yung application ko. Sinabi ko sa sarili ko na mas matututo ako sa kanila (Focus members) kesa sa mga nababasa ko online. At masasabi ko naman na maganda 'yung naging panimula ko mula noong natanggap ako bilang applicant sa Focus. Sa mga nakakabasa nito, magi-improve ka talaga sa photography once na makasalamuha mo ang Focus Bulacan. Promise.
Right from the get-go, you established yourself as a winner and strong contender in Focus Bulacan’s competition. What do you think works for you in these contests, that others may learn from?
R : 'Wag kang mag-quit. Kung may bagay kang gustong gawin pero tingin mo hindi mo kaya o hindi mo magawa, 'wag mong susukuan. Sa halip ay pag-aralan mo habang nagpapahinga. Para pagbalik mo, may dala-dala ka nang bala, may panangga ka pa.
You’re an avid astrophotographer. Is there a specific photo in that field that you want to achieve?
R : Siguro 'yung Rigel na katabi 'yung With Head Nebula. Gusto kong ma-perfect at mapalabas 'yung cloud of dust and gas nung Witch Head Nebula. Isa kasi 'yung Rigel sa paborito kong star na tinitignan. Tapos 'yung Witch Head Nebula naman ay parang ako na naka-sideview. Haha. Ang dating kasi sa akin ay nakatingin 'yung head sa star. Tapos ireregalo ko sa magiging anak ko na may pangalan na Rigel, sasabihin ko sa kanya na ako 'yun na binabantayan sya. Ang basa nga pala dun sa star ay "Ry-Gel". Sa mga nakakakilala sakin, alam n'yo na kung bakit! Haha. (Ry's longtime girlfriend is named Angel.)
What’s your most favorite photo, or the one that you’re most proud of?
R : Pinaka-paborito kong photo ay 'yung shot ko para sa Focus Bulacan Exhibit last year. Sobrang daming meaning kasi nun para sakin. Isa na yung "don't let fear stop you." Base sa sariling karanasan. Hehe. Bukod pa doon sa exhibit, nakuha din pala 'yung photo na 'yun bilang Finalist sa Photo World Cup, "To Be Free" theme. Sobrang saya ko noon! (Photo is shown above.)
Are there still frustrations or areas you’d like to develop in your photography?
R : Yup, sobrang dami pa. Isa na 'yung pagiging mahiyain, lalo na sa paghawak ng camera sa madaming tao o sa kalsada kapag mag-isa lang ako. Haha. Kasi 'pag may gusto akong kuhanan pero may tao, natatakot akong lumapit. Hanggang sa hindi ko na makuhanan, kasi nahihiya ako. Narasanan ko na kasi 'yung photowalk na may nagalit sa akin habang kinukuhanan ko. Nakakahinayang kasi sayang yung pagkakataon.
What remains in your bucket list?
R : Pinakauna pero tingin ko hindi madali ay makabili at magkaroon ng pangarap kong William Optics na lens at maayos na star tracker para magamit sa hilig ko sa pagshoot ng deep-sky objects. Isa pa na hindi nawawala sa listahan ko, mag shoot ng live concert. Haha naalala ko, nanood kami ng girlfriend ko ng concert sa Malolos noong 2017, unang beses na makakapanood ako ng banda na live. Tapos natapat na ang nag-cover ay Focus Bulacan. Hindi pa ako member noon at hindi ko pa sila kilala noon, nakita ko lang sa suot nila 'yung Focus Bulacan. Sabi ko kay partner, balang araw makakasali ako sa kanila, tapos isasama kita sa harap para manood. Haha. May camera na kasi ako noon, tapos hindi ko magamit ng maayos, kasi siksikan. Siyempre ingat na ingat pa ako noon kasi bago pa lang yung cam ko. Hahaha!
Congratulations! You now have your own customized clothing line, Childish. Do you think there are distinct advantages of being a graphic artist when it translates to photography?
R : Sobrang laking tulong parehas! 'Pag may gusto akong shot, same lang sa pagle-layout ng design, nabubuo ko muna sa isip ko lahat, saka ko gagawin. Dagdag pa 'yung magkaroon ka ng taste sa kulay na maganda sa paningin. 'Yung photography sa graphic art business naman, 'yung advantage namin sa iba na ako na lang 'yung nag-shoot ng product namin. Pagkagawa ng product diretso shoot na agad, sabay post online. Nakakatulong din sa akin 'pag may gusto akong i-layout na bagong design. Since hindi naman ako gaanong magaling mag-drawing, ginagamit ko 'yung camera ko sa pag-shoot ng mga parts ng katawan ko haha! Example na ay 'yung sa kamay, kung 'yung dinesign ko ay gusto kong lagyan ng naka-OK na anggulo, kukunan ko 'yung kamay ko at 'yun ang gagawin kong basehan. Hahaha!
Could you share to us three photography quote or lessons that made a big impact on you?
R : Isa to sa palagi kong isinasa-isip : Na hindi ako magaling, sanay lang ako. Isa pa, be anonymous. Lalo na 'pag sa contest. Galing ito sa isang Greek philosopher at magaling na photographer na si Jeremiah Sandelous. 'Wag ma-excite sa pag-upload ng shots mo. Kung may tatlo kang magandang kuha, piliin mo 'yung pinakamaganda, at 'yun ang itabi mo. Tapos ang i-upload mo lang ay 'yung hindi mo napili. Doon mo ngayon ma-o-observe na kung nagustuhan nila 'yung in-upload mo na least na maganda sa tatlong kuha mo, paano pa kaya 'yung itinabi mong pinakamaganda. Laking tulong nito sa pag-improve, at baka magamit mo pa sa mga contest 'yung itinabi mong shot. Pero madalas di ko din nasusunod, sarap kayang magyabang ng magandang kuha, hahaha! Panghuli, "the best camera is the one you have with you." I-maximize mo kung ano 'yung meron ka ngayon, hindi porke mas maganda 'yung camera niya sa'yo ay mas maganda na rin 'yung kuha niya.
What’s the most unforgettable photography moment you’ve enjoyed thus far?
R : Sa ngayon ay 'yung daytrip to Aurora at overnight camping sa DRT. Haha. Bukod kasi sa mga photomeet ng Focus Bulacan, 'yang dalawa na 'yan ang pinakasulit sa akin. Dahil siguro wala kang iisiping contest na dapat ipanalo, haha! Enjoy-in lang 'yung lugar at kumuha ng magandang litrato. Lalo na 'yung sa camping sa DRT, pasok pa sa gusto kong genre na Astrophotography. Sana masabit ulit ako sa mga ganitong lakad.
Ry's Astrophotography Collection (Click thumbnails to view photos in full)
How has it been like to be a Focus Bulacan officer?
R : Masaya... na mahirap. Haha! Masaya kasi updated ako sa mga ganap na mangyayari o gagawin natin sa Focus Bulacan. Mahirap kasi siguro natapat tayo ngayon na may pandemic, medyo malilimit talaga 'yung oras, kasi naka-focus tayo kung pano makakabawi sa sitwasyon ngayon. Pero kinakaya naman. Haha.
What tip or advice would you give to someone who’s planning to buy a camera and learn photography?
R : Hindi pula at dilaw ang tunay na magkalaban, ang kulay at tatak ay di siyang dahilan. Haha! Just kidding. Advice? Hmm kung nababasa mo 'to ngayon, at nandito ka sa Focus Bulacan site, may camera ka o nagbabalak kang bumili, ang masasabi ko ay... nasa tama kang landas. Nandito kami para sa'yo, para matulungan kang matuto tulad ng tinulong sa akin ng mga kasamahan ko ngayon dito sa Focus Bulacan. Kaya tara na!
In your own words, how do you define photography?
R : Para sakin, ang photography ay isang malaking part na ng buhay ko. Kung ang tao ay may five basic senses, ang photography ang nagbigay sakin ng pang-anim. Ang sense of happiness.
Message to Focus followers and fellow members.
R: Para sa mga kasamahan ko sa Focus Bulacan, maraming salamat sa inyo! Maaaring hindi ko alam ngayon 'yung nalalaman ko tungkol sa photography kung hindi dahil sa inyo. Ipagpatuloy lang natin 'to, magsuportahan, magmahalan. Given na hindi naman tayo pare-pareho ng ugali, manatili sa atin ang pag-uunawaan, para sa ikatatatag ng ikalawang pamilyang ito, ang Focus Bulacan. Para sa mga taga-suporta naman ng Focus, maraming salamat din sa inyo, isa kayo sa dahilan kung bakit patuloy pa din kaming nandito at nagbibigay ng kaalaman sa photography. Kung nagbabalak kang sumali, at katulad kita noon na natatakot na baka mahirapan kang makisabay sa mga member ng Focus.. alisin mo na 'yan sa isip mo. Dahil nandito kami para tulungan kang madagdagan ang kaalaman mo sa larangan ng photography. Magtulungan tayo. Maraming salamat sainyong lahat. Keep safe and God bless.
Photography could mean many things for different people. For Ry, photography has given him the opportunity to go far and reach for the stars : making a living by doing what he's good at, and shooting the depths of the galaxies to capture celestial wonders. Specifically, in his case, the most important marvel of them all : Rigel.
Gentlemanly and always calculated in his moves, he may be considered a late bloomer in his long-held passion. His is a classic story : a curious aficionado of photography who goes all-in when he finally gets a camera of his own. From that point on, he has never looked back... except on one photo, taken at a time when he was still learning the intricacies of the craft. A Civil Engineer who hails from Malolos and works for the country's biggest expressway concessionaire, he quickly rose through the ranks in Focus Bulacan, exhibiting teamwork and leadership qualities, aside from a commitment to service. More than enough reasons for him to be designated as officer just a year into his membership.
A creative mind with a keen eye for details and a dedication to get better. Jovit Caballero is our featured Focus photographer of the month.
How did your affinity for photography start?
J : My photography journey started last December 2016 when I finally got to afford an entry level camera with a kit lens.. which is still the only camera I have now, with just an addition of a few lenses. Back then, as a new and young professional, taking photos had occupied most of my spare time outside work. And during those times that I remember my high school days when I used to dream of having my own phone with a camera. Yes, it was a big deal back in 2008. I would always borrow my classmates’ phones and take random photos around the school premises. This made me realize that my passion in photography did not just pop out of nowhere, it has always been within me.
You’re an engineer by profession. Does photography serve as an outlet for you? And do engineering and photography have something in common?
J : Civil Engineering can be physically and mentally draining, so yes, photography is one of my outlets during stressful times. I am currently assigned as a Contracts Engineer which focuses on even the smallest details of a project. This is the same with photography where details are important, different elements will tell you a different story.
What were your usual frustrations when you were starting out in photography?
J : Like most beginners, I would say that my limited resources are my usual frustrations. I always thought that to become a good photographer, one has to own the best equipment, have plenty of budget, and a lot of spare time. But I’ve proven myself wrong. The most expensive equipment may not necessarily be the best, and those who have less, will always know how to make the most out of it. I think we just need to have that drive to pursue what we want, and surround ourselves with creative and supportive people.
You took quicker than usual to be appointed an officer of Focus Bulacan. How did you handle the load and pressure at such an early stage in your membership?
J : First of all, I would like to thank the officers for trusting me that early. At first, I was quite worried because I am concurrently leading a photography club in my company, Expressions Photography Club. But because I’ve always wanted to do something for the people I share the same passion with, I accepted the challenge. It was really difficult to find time for the meetings and activities, but we always find a way. Photomeets and club events are very complicated, but they always end successfully. I think the officers have the same set of goals, that’s why the heavy weight of the load and pressure has become something that can be shared by each and every one of us. It has always been hard but definitely fulfilling.
What’s the most difficult aspect of being a Focus officer? What’s the most fulfilling?
J : The most difficult part of being an officer would be the consolidation or finalization of a group consensus. An organization this big is accompanied by a meticulous decision-making process. While the most fulfilling part will definitely be the end results, of course. Not only the good photos, but also the good memories.
To date, what has been your proudest moment as a photographer?
J : I would always be proud of the recognitions that Expressions, the Photoworld Cup, and Focus Bulacan have given me. In fact, I have them displayed in my room to remind me where I started. But nothing will beat the compliments and the support that I am receiving from my family and different circle of friends. Every day with those people who believe in me will be my proudest, they are my living trophies.
Care to share us the most unforgettable lesson you’ve learned in photography?
J : I think the most unforgettable and valuable lesson that I’ve learned in photography, which I think is also applicable with our daily lives, is that you cannot please everyone. Photography is an art and a way to express yourself. We can’t avoid comments that we don’t want and expect to hear, but always be wise enough to choose and filter those criticisms which can help you be better at your craft.
If you could pick just one photo among your favorites, which one is the most meaningful to you, and why?
J : I think the most memorable one is the "Flower Girl", taken at the St. James Church in Plaridel, because up to now I can still remember the comments that I received on my photo. In 2017, Focus photographers Jer Sandel and Gerson Domingo conducted a 3-day workshop in celebration of the municipality’s town fiesta. It was the first ever Focus Bulacan activity I’ve attended, and a segment wherein we can shoot around the vicinity is conducted and then the photos will be criticized by the speakers. It might not be the most technical, but it brings me back to that moment. And for that, I consider it meaningful. (Photo is included in image gallery below, the first in the group.)
How would you describe your style in shooting and presenting your photos?
J : Honestly, I can’t specifically describe my style but I would say it’s more of “clean and colourful” conceptual photos. I do try a bit of every genre, but I usually enjoy conceptual and portrait photography more than anything else.
What remains in your photography bucket list? What would be your dream destination or project to shoot?
J : I have always been fascinated by landscape photography. I want to learn a lot about this genre, and maybe own my complete set of landscape portfolio from around the Philippines. My dream photography destination is definitely Batanes. I’ve been there once, but my time was just occupied by my amazement of the majestic sceneries. I definitely enjoyed my stay there, and as promised, I will be back to capture what I’ve witnessed.
What photography advice would you give yourself five years ago?
J : So that was 2015, maybe “Buy a camera now and join Focus Bulacan as early as possible! You’ll learn and experience a lot, for sure!”
Jovit's Other Favorites (Click thumbnails to view photos in full)
In your own words, what is photography?
J : As I would always say, photography for me is a means of transporting myself to an imaginary and creative world where it seems that I’m not bothered and don’t care about anything at all.
Tip you’d like to give those who are starting out in photography, how they could become better faster.
J : We all know that every learning process takes time. In fact, I’ll still put myself on the beginner’s bracket, maybe just a few steps ahead. There are a lot to learn, so surround yourself with the best mentors that you can meet. Keep your fire burning, but be careful not to get burned. Put in extra time and effort from conceptualization up to execution, because that little extra can be the difference between failure and success.
Your message for fellow Focus members, then message for Focus followers.
J : To my fellow Focus members, thank you for the first 2 years full of learnings and experiences! Amidst these trying times I see a lot of great photos in your posts from different social media platforms. I am also happy that our first-ever virtual photomeet has been successful, and our group is as active as ever. Let us all participate and contribute to all other succeeding activities of the group so we can continue to bring honor not just to our club but to the province as well. Ingat mga ka-Focus! To our followers, thank you for the usual support that you guys are giving us! To those who plan to join the club, there is no more room for hesitations, I’ve been there before and I assure you that the only thing you’ll regret is that you didn’t join earlier. You are all most welcome! Keep safe everyone.
Let's not lose sight of the fact that Jovit also won the "Newcomer Of The Year" award in Focus Bulacan's 2018 competition, and the "Rookie Of The Year" distinction in the national PhotoWorld Cup competition of the same year. All these while navigating through professional and social life, and discovering a niche in his creative pursuit.
He has come a long way, indeed... yet he has only just begun.
In between the innumerable compelling images he has produced is a solid list of accolades : representing Fotomasino and finishing as runner-up in the Junior PhotoWorld Cup, endorser and reviewer of various photography brands, facilitator of Creative Vision Clinic workshops, content writer for Fstoppers, and current ambassador for Asus and Meco Filters. All these while successfully pursuing a medical career : he's a full-fledged doctor.
His credentials are extensive, but if you ask most of the people who have crossed paths with him, they'll likely tell the moments when he gave a helping hand. Whether it was about photography, health problems, personal matters, or social issues and advocacy, "Doc" has always been willing to listen and do his best to help. His impact is not just about the wonderful photos he captured or the expertise he has gained and shared through the years, but also about how the photography industry is more collaborative because of his support and initiatives.
Recently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has adversely affected everyone including the photography community, he organized a series of online photography-related tutorials for anyone who wants to learn amidst the community quarantine. A month and over 3,000 group members later, "Workshops From Home" has provided valuable lessons and invaluable inspiration and stress relief for viewers... exactly the reason why he started the campaign.
We're proud to feature Dr. Nicco Valenzuela as Focus photographer of the month.
How did you get started on your photography path?
N : As early as the age of six, I was encouraged to learn music. I joined a boys’ choir at that age and still hold the record for being the youngest to ever join. For over 15 years of my life, I sang with that choir, competed abroad, and also dove into other forms of music as an instrumentalist. Throughout that path, I always followed my brother. In my teen years, I yearned for my own identity and that’s where I found photography.
How would you describe your photographic style?
N : I wouldn’t call it my own personal style. I’ve made it a point to learn the works of many photographers I look up to and adapt to what a certain shot or a certain vision requires. If there’s anything consistent among all my photos, it’s that I put a bit of myself, my personality, my mood, my emotions into the photograph.
What do you think makes a good photo stand out from the average?
N : A good photo simply provokes. It provokes emotions may they be good or not. It conveys either a story or a mood. That is simply what makes a viewer stay a bit longer when they come across a good photograph.
What inspires you?
N : Self-expression. Most of my photos, especially those I put online, are chosen whenever there is something I want to say or express. Of course, not counting the commissioned work. As previously mentioned, photography has become my voice and I use it to say things that most people won’t normally listen to in a plain conversation or text.
Whose work has influenced you most?
N : For most of my life in photography, I haven’t really been looking at a lot of international photographers until recently but for landscape photography, Elia Locardi is probably one I often refer to. For architecture and urban abstracts, there is Dirk Bakker, and Daniel Cheong for Cityscapes. Though I particularly pay more homage to personal mentors Jay Jallorina for Landscape Photography, and John Chua for the use of photography for social change.
You've produced an amazing collection of work. Which photo is your ultimate favorite?
N : Not trying to be a buzzkill but I have none. My love for my photos come and go as inspiration strikes.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
N : At this current situation, I hope to see myself alive first and foremost. And hopefully I would have built a family. As for photography, I only really hope to make my voice louder.
What’s your most memorable photography experience?
N : It would definitely have to be a trip to Banaue I went on in 2015. We were there for an advocacy project with Photography With a Difference founder, the late advertising photography legend, John K. Chua. I had only started on my path in landscape photography then and though we had quite a load of work to do, John made sure that we had a few minutes to see the wonderful terraces of the Ifugao. None of those times were planned golden hour shoots but every single location gave me divine light. It was an affirmation that I should pursue this path.
Where is your dream photo destination? What’s your dream project?
N : I would always say that I want to go back to Banaue and the neighboring towns. I dream to create a series that totally captures the beauty of the region. The landscapes, the people, and the beautiful culture of the Ifugao.
If you knew then what you know now, you would…?
N : I would have definitely taken more time to learn before going on so many trips. Most of the regrets of my life are stored in a hard drive. They are all f**ked up shots that could have been so much better if only I didn’t rush my learning.
You could only choose one. Between being a doctor and a photographer, which motivates you more?
N : A photographer. Easily. Even when I shoot for clients, I never feel that it is work because I fully enjoy my creative process. Photography feeds my soul so much better. Especially considering the situation of COVID-19 and our faulty healthcare system, it’s really difficult to love our job as doctors. But I won’t give up this profession either. Because people need doctors and I still love people.
You’ve been involved in a lot of advocacy groups and made photography as an instrument to inspire and help others. How does it feel to make a difference through the craft that you love?
N : Hungry. It makes me hungry to do more. I believe that every social issue and every social conflict can be driven into resolution by a powerful photograph. There is definitely more we can do and so much more to be done.
People are pulling together and supporting others during this COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve seen it in the photography industry. You organized the Workshops From Home series and obviously it’s been a tremendous help for a lot of fellow creatives. Tell us how it got started.
N : It struck me hard when I found out how many photographers have lost so many projects due to this crisis. I knew for a fact that a lot of them are bound to be hit by anxiety and depression. The two mental health issues are no strangers to me and I felt that I needed to help prevent that by simply pulling people together.
What has been the biggest joy for you in seeing how Workshops From Home has worked out so far?
N : When people tell me how much relief the sessions give them. Them learning from all the speakers are an absolute given since the generous speakers are masters of thier craft. But when they tell me that Workshops From Home has lessened the amount of time they’ve spent worrying, panicking, being sad or feeling alone, I know that the effort has been worth it.
We wonder what’s next, after the community quarantine, do you have plans of extending Workshops From Home?
N : It’s still a decision we’re closely studying. But we are leaning towards maintaining the group as a welcoming community wherein people can join, learn, and be inspired by notable photographers, regardless of brand, location, or social class.
More of Nicco's photos (click thumbnails to view photos in full)
What’s your message to your fellow Focus Bulacan members and Focus followers, including those who would love to get on track in photography?
N : You’re never gonna be the best because that state doesn’t exist in this. What you should aim for is to be better than yourself the previous day. Never stop learning, never stop shooting, but also keep your feet on the ground.
What advice would you like to shoutout to the public in general, in terms of battling this pandemic?
N : The real frontline is the one where your door is. We can never truly defeat this virus if we are always selfish and disobey the quarantine rules. Frontliners are risking their lives to heal the sick, and your most vital role is to stay healthy and not be the one that spreads the virus. Stay the f*** home.
What gives you hope for the future?
N : Little victories. Look for one everyday. It may be the increase in the number of COVID recoveries, it could be a win on your mobile phone game, or a fulfilling productive endeavor like editing old photos or reading a book. Find and do something meaningful everyday.
Photographs remain a universal language and one of the most effective ways to communicate. May the stories they tell lead us to better understanding of other people and of life in general. It is in this light that we can affirm that photography is a powerful tool for social change. Photographers wield influence and have the ability to impact the world. Nicco is prime example that in good hands and with sincere intentions, that power could translate into positive gains and help those in need.
It is especially in these times that we need to support each other and, even when apart, heal together. In our own ways, we could contribute to making the situation more manageable. One day at a time. One step at a time. One victory at a time. Toward a collective effort that would make us better humans.
Just what the good doctor prescribed.
She's considered as Focus Bulacan's "Iron Lady" due to her undaunted commitment to uphold club rules and also as tribute to her long-standing service and support as officer. A native of Malolos, she was working as a powerplant construction and electrical design engineer when she was assigned to Japan to coordinate her company's projects. It was there that she realized the need to document life's moments with a camera.
Now employed in an Australian mining company as an electrical and instrumentation designer, photography has somewhat taken a backseat while she also juggles duties as wife and mother. Despite her hectic lifestyle she continues to fulfill her role as a Focus leader, a responsibility that she has skillfully managed all these years.
Ma. Katrina "Katcen" Centeno-Verzano is our featured Focus photographer of the month.
How did your photography story start?
K : Year 2011 when I was assigned to work for 10 months in Nagasaki, Japan. It so happened na meron kaming Japanese supervisor na photo enthusiast at niyaya kami mag-travel with him to explore Nagasaki. Digicam lang ang dala ko noon pero kapag umaalis kami pinapahiram niya sa akin 'yung mga dala niyang DSLR.
You’ve obviously undergone a change in lifestyle now that you have a family. What do you miss most about photography?
K : Nakaka-miss 'yung monthly photomeets lalo na 'yunh mga outside of Bulacan. Ang dami ko din kasing natutunan sa ganun, mula sa settings ng camera pati composition. Sa Focus Bulacan photomeets ko din na-experience mag-shoot ng iba't ibang genre.
You’re one of the founding officers of Focus Bulacan. How do you feel that seven years after, Focus Bulacan is still very much active and you’re still helping guide it?
K : Sobrang nakaka-proud na ang layo na ng narating ng grupo. Hindi man ako naging passionate and successful sa photography pero nakakatuwa na isa ako sa mga nag-strive para marating nito 'yung success and fame sa ngayon. I'm also very grateful na for years, pinagkakatiwalaan ako as officer, from Activity Committee, Finance Officer, and ngayon as Senior Membership Officer.
What’s the biggest challenge in serving as Focus Bulacan officer?
K : Habang dumadami ang members nagiging struggle sa officers 'yung communication between members at 'yung pag-instill ng sense of responsibility. And since may family na ako at employed din...mas nahirapan ako sa pag-manage ng time kung kailan ko isisingit ang pagiging officer, lalo na sa meetings na kailangan ng physical attendance.
What do you think has been the best achievement of the club so far?
K : For me ang best achievement ng Focus Bulacan sa ngayon ay 'yung pagiging well-known at established niya sa photography community. Imagine noon hirap kaming humanap ng sponsors para sa funding ng events and activities namin. Ang hirap humanap ng connections. Pero ngayon isang message lang sa kanila madali na sila mag-"yes". Also, for seven years nakita ko 'yung personal, professional, and career growth ng members and previous members, with Focus Bulacan as their stepping stone to know more of their passion. Marami sa kanila may sariling photo and video or studio business na. Their success story is Focus Bulacan's success too.
What’s your favorite Focus photomeet or activity?
K : Favorite ko 'yung foodtrips at photo travels. Photo travel siguro dahil 'yun din ang nag-introduce sa akin sa photography. And pag malalayong photomeets kasi nagkakaron kami ng maraming time for bonding and communication with other members during travel time.
What was the most memorable photography experience you’ve had?
K : First noong January 2017 sa Batanes. I never imagined na ma-e-experience ko mag-landscape and mamasyal sa Batanes for a cheap travel cost. First two days ang ganda ng panahon, it's stunningly beautiful everywhere. Pero 'yung next days umulan and na-stranded kami sa island, the rest was adventure. Another memorable sa akin 'yung summer outing sa Dingalan, Aurora, May 2018. Parang 'yun na kasi ang last na nakasama ko ang group after my lifestyle change and a chance na maisama at maipakilala ko ang baby ko at asawa ko sa group.
Where would be your dream photography destination?
K : I'm praying na makapag-travel ako with family for a month sa Japan, Hokkaido and Tokyo. Then noong napanood ko ang "Crash Landing On You", gusto ko na din ata sa Switzerland. Ang ganda ng landscapes nila, though this is really dreamy knowing how expensive 'yung pagpunta doon.
What remains in your photography bucket list?
K : Hindi ko pa na-experience mag-shoot ng Hot Air Baloon event, sports photography and live concerts. Parang 'yang tatlo na 'yan ang gusto ko ma-try in the future kapag may time na ulit for photography.
Which photo are you most proud of?
K : 'Yung photo ko sa tulips field with windmills. Ito kasi 'yung isa sa unang photos ko sa Japan. Dito ko na-realize na napakahalaga mag-capture ng moments para ma-preserve 'yung memories. And also, I'm proud na isa 'to sa mga photos na na-feature sa Focus Bulacan exhibit. (Photo shown above.)
Are there any similarities about motherhood and photography?
K : Siguro pareho silang trial-and-error and continuous learning experience. Sa photography, sa una mahirap, laging sabaw ang shot, walang story or di ma-gets ng iba, "ano 'tong shot na 'to?". Just keep on practicing, read a lot especially your camera manual, explore more to know your genre and break some photography rules para makuha mo 'yung best shot for you. Sa motherhood, walang manual pero learnings from others' experience, and reading a lot about kids' behaviours. Sometimes breaking the "pamahiins" and setting our own rules on our child's upbringing and as my child grows, I keep on learning din through him.
Katcen's other favorite snaps (Click thumbnails to view photos in full)
What's your message to Focus members and fellow officers?
K : Keep on supporting the group. Always respect each other's differences and opinion, take responsibility of every action or decision na related sa members or sa group. Never burn bridges, ayusin anumang conflict sa grupo. We are not just members and officers here, we are family. Enjoy the company of everyone, attend every photomeet, join contests and makisali kahit sa non-photography related kalokohan. Time will come na mag-iiba din ang priorities ninyo, change of career, having your own family or maybe running your own business, but never forget Focus Bulacan. You'll someday realize hindi lang photography learnings ang meron ka, may life lessons din.
Your message to Focus followers.
K : Thank you so much for your undying support sa Focus Bulacan. Part kayo ng success ng grupo na ito. Thanks for supporting our events and activities, and please keep on doing so. You inspire us to be better on our craft and you help us improve as a group.
Priorities in life may change but when one is committed to a cause, there's always a way to contribute. Katcen is prime example of how we could make our presence felt even in absence... like how she remains a guiding light for Focus Bulacan in spite of being fully-engaged with her family and career.
The process ends. The journey begins. Congratulations to our newest members, Batch January 2020!
We are excited to have you in the team. You are reminded to be responsible and active members. Welcome to the Focus family. Looking forward to shooting with you soon!
Batch 14 (January 2020) :
Next batch of approved applicants will be announced on July 2020.
Coming from a family who runs a printing and signage business, she was exposed to the world of media at an early age. She was taught Photoshop even before she learned how to take pictures with a camera. She decided to major in Tourism in college but eventually shifted to a Multimedia Technology course, not exactly because that's her area of interest all along, but because of a drastic change of circumstance.
During her second year in college, she was diagnosed with sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that affects bones and tissues. After it was determined that it was already in Stage 4, doctors gave her no more than 5 years to live. As she couldn't travel, she decided to change courses and alter her diet and lifestyle altogether, embracing an all-natural method to combat her affliction.
Today, eight years after her diagnosis, she is living life to the fullest. She still maintains a strict diet while managing her condition but she feels as healthy as ever, looking forward to a future full of promise. A future that is also full of positivity and creativity, with photography a big source of her inspiration.
We're all blessed to introduce you to Adit Gomez, our featured Focus photographer of the month.
What do you remember about the first time you used a camera?
A : Elementary days. Na-amaze ako. Parang ayoko na siya bitawan. Gusto ko picture-an lahat. Kahit ano lang hanggang ma-lowbatt, hahaha.
So when did you realize that you wanted to pursue photography?
A : First year college. Noong nakakita ako ng mga magagandang photographs online. Sabi ko, gusto ko din matutunan 'yung ganun. Click lang kasi ako nang click noon. Wala pa akong alam sa mga settings back then.
How would you define photography?
A : Photography is an art and a way of preserving memories and capturing life's precious moments.
What do you enjoy shooting most?
A: Portraits! Gusto ko kasi 'yung naka-capture ko 'yung at-the-moment na emotion nung subject. Mostly, puro pagent contestants 'yung na-shoot ko recently. Natutuwa ako kapag nakukuhanan ko silang nakangiti pa rin kahit nandun 'yung kaba at pagod nila.
What's your most memorable photo?
A : So far, 'yung third attempt ko mag-shoot ng star trails last year. Around 10 PM ako nag-start then natapos mga 2 AM na. Memorable sa akin 'yun kasi ako lang mag-isa sa rooftop namin. 'Di ako sanay lumabas sa kwarto ng ganung oras dati kasi takot ako, hahaha. Pero para sa star trail ginawa ko 'yun and happy ako sa naging output. At dahil din dun, hindi na ako natatakot lumabas mag-isa kahit anong oras. Hahaha. (Photo shown above)
What do you consider is your best trait as an artist or photographer?
A : Siguro 'yung hindi ko paggi-give up as an artist. Mapapagod at magpapahinga lang ako minsan pero I will never quit on making art. Gusto ko nga sya i-priority talaga next year. Okay, so sinabi ko na, kaya kailangan panindigan. Hahaha.
Which area of photography do you think you need to improve on?
A : Lahat? Hahaha. Wala pa kasi akong masabing, "ah magaling ako sa area na 'to, okay ako dito." Para sa akin, ang dami ko pang kailangang matutunan at aralin. Learning is a never-ending process. Tsaka goal ko din 'yung maka -10,000 worst photographs at 10,000 favorite shots.
What has been the most unforgettable photography moment you've had?
A: I think 'yung nagka-media pass kami with Focus sa concert ng Parokya ni Edgar. Tapos may kuha ako kay Chito na sobrang lapit. Nakatingala lang ako sa kanya habang kumakanta siya. Literal na abot-kamay ko lang siya. Fan girl! (Photo shown below)
Any photographer you look up to?
A : Alen Palander! Sobrang solid lagi ng mga shoots at video niya, pinag-isipan at hindi basta pitik at post lang. Gusto ko din 'yung pagiging consistent niya sa kulay at professionalism niya sa bawat post nya. Bonus na din 'yung kamukha niya ang ex ko na si Zac Efron, hahaha!
What would be your dream subject or project to shoot?
A : My mom as the subject tapos sa Top 10 world's best travel destinations para sa akin.
What remains in your photography bucket list?
A: Aerial and underwater photography, shoot wildlife sa South Africa, tapos northern lights. Tsaka syempre, own my dream camera.
What's your dream camera, by the way?
A : Sony Alpha a7 III. Hahaha.
If you knew then what you know now, you would....?
A : Kung alam ko lang na masaya sumali at madaming matututunan sa Focus Bulacan, matagal na ako sumali. More than a year of being a member, ang dami ko na agad na-experience i-shoot dahil sa Focus, what more pa kung from the start member na ako di ba? Hahaha.
What advice could you give to Focus followers and aspiring photographers?
A : Kapag feeling mo hindi pa maganda ang mga kuha mo, keep on shooting. Kapag feeling mo naaral mo na lahat, maganda at perfect na 'yung mga kuha mo, keep on shooting pa rin! Kasi tama ka, feeling mo lang 'yun! May igaganda pa 'yan. Always keep on shooting. Keep on learning!
Adit's favorites (Click thumbnails to view photos in full)
Did photography play a role in your battle with the Big C?
A : Isa siya sa mga naging outlet ko. Nagpaka-busy ako, especially with art, para ma-occupy ang isip ko. Kasi kung wala akong gagawin, baka kung anu-ano ang maisip ko with my condition. I also listened to podcasts about positivity and self-help. 'Yun ang hilig ko gawin together with art and photography.
Looking back on your early struggles, and now that you've overcome them and manage your condition, what's your greatest realization?
A : Buti na lang talaga positive person ako bago pa ako magkasakit. I never pitied myself. Once lang ako nag-question na "bakit ako?". Pero mabilis ko rin na-realize and natanggap. Kung time ko na, time ko na. Hindi ako takot mawala dahil na rin sa faith ko. 'Yung time na 'yun, I don't look at it as negative. I consider myself blessed dahil malakas pa rin ako.
What was your reaction when so many people responded and even messaged you after you shared your story on Facebook?
A : Thankful ako na naging source of inspiration 'yung story ko when I shared it on Facebook. Kahit mga hindi ko kilala, nagulat ako nag-message sa akin. 'Yun talaga ang purpose ko kaya ko pinost. Gusto kong maging testimony 'yung nangyari sa akin.
After surviving probably the toughest challenge she has experienced, life goes on for Adit. She accepts design and print projects thru Adit Works while keeping her options and calendar open for different kinds of media-related bookings, including stints as resource speaker for computer-related topics. At the time of this posting, she's serving in a week-long digital literacy campaign of the Department of Information and Communications Technology. Life has a way of rewarding those who never quit. Especially those who doesn't take anything for granted.
If she has an advice for all of us, it's probably this : "Dapat you take everyday as a blessing. May sakit ka man o wala."
Words of wisdom. From a beautiful story of faith and survival.
What started as exposure into the world of multimedia in college has turned into a rewarding profession. He has worked as Studio Technician in his alma mater Bulacan State University and as cameraman in TV shows such as "Agribusiness" on Studio 23 and "Drive" on CNN Philippines. Nowadays, you will find him minding his own business (literally) : a rice trading store in his adopted town of Pandi. But he's still on call as a freelance videographer and photographer, willing to work events and corporate gigs especially those that require him to travel out of town.
Driven to succeed both as an entrepreneur and a creative. Guillermo "Gemmz" Robles, Jr. is our featured Focus photographer of the month.
Do you still remember your first camera experience?
G : My first camera was a Nikon Coolpix S2500, gift sa akin ng cousin ko since she knew that I love photography and I always shoot our family occasions. Kapag may travel and events sa school lagi ko siyang dinadala to try and shoot na din ng different styles and subjects.
What made you realize that you wanted to pursue photography and videography?
G : Influence ng Multimedia Division organization namin when I was in college. That time kasi madami kaming trainings and seminars sa org about photography, videography, editing, and film. Madami din learnings and experiences. I'm very thankful to my mentor, Danilo Gatchalian, dahil siya ang nagturo and nag-push sa akin to continue my career as a videographer. Then noong time na nagwo-work na ako as photographer and videographer sa Manila, ang saya kasi that time ang daming travel shoots. First time ko din nakapunta ng Visayas and Mindanao. Nakakapasyal na ako for free then kumikita pa ako.
What were the usual struggles when you were starting out?
G : Noong time na wala pa akong sariling camera puro hiram lang ako that time kasi wala pa akong pambili ng DSLR. Kaya talagang nag-ipon ako para makabili ng sariling DSLR ko, Canon 60D with 18-135mm lens. Six years din kami nagsama ni "Baby G", name ng 60D ko. Now I'm using Sony a6500.
What do you like most in being a professional cameraman?
G : Masaya ako 'pag satisfied ang mga clients ko and mga directors ko sa output ng shoot ko. Then I really love travel shoots lalo na sa mga places na first time ko mapuntahan.
What's your most memorable photography experience?
G : Educational tour of MassCom at Ilocos, there's a lot of beautiful places in Ilocos. Masarap na food and very kind people.
How do you see yourself and your career ten years from now?
G: Ngayon I enjoy being a freelancer, but hopefully ten years from now matupad ang dream ko na maging professional cinematographer and film director.
Do you have an ultimate favorite photo?
G : My photo at Biak-na-Bato, one of the bridges doon. That time humiwalay ako sa group namin and naghanap ako ng ibang spot to take different shots then nakita ko 'yung bridge. Ang ganda at walang tao kaya I took the opportunity to take that shot. (Photo shown below.)
Which places do you want to go to, as part of your bucket list?
G: Dito sa Pinas, Batanes syempre. Lahat siguro ng photograper dream place ang Batanes because of its breathtaking views. Then kung abroad, sa Singapore and Japan.
What's the most fun photography moment you remember?
G : Every Scott Kelby Photowalk masaya kasi ang daming photographers na makikilala at makakasama from different parts of Bulacan. Masaya din mapuntahan 'yung iba't-ibang bayan sa Bulacan na madaming natatagong magagandang lugar at puno ng kasaysayan.
How is it like working with James Deakin?
G : Sobrang bait and very professional. Actually walang script si Sir James sa show namin na "Drive". Grabe 'yung passion niya sa car industry and sa environment. I really love working with Sir James.
What advice would you tell aspiring photographers?
G : For me sobrang importante ng basics in photography, especially the Exposure Triangle. 'Pag naaral mo 'yan pwede ka na mag-explore and experiment ng gusto mong shots. Then mag-focus ka sa gusto mong genre o forte. Then just keep on shooting!
How would you describe your photographic style or approach?
G : I love shooting landscapes and events. Lalo sa mga travel shoots. Basta masarap sa mata gusto kong ma-capture siya to keep as memories.
What would be your dream project?
G : My own directed film.
Your message to Focus Bulacan followers and fellow members.
G : I'm really happy being part of the Focus Bulacan family. Sobrang dami kong natutunan and still learning more and more. Madami ring new friends and unforgettable experiences. Thank you Focus family and thank you Sir Jer Sandel for being my inspiration in photography. I always wait for your next amazing photos in social media. I know grabe 'yung passion n'yo sa photography and I'm really a big fan of yours. Ganun din sa mga ka-Focus ko. And to all Focus followers, if you love photography, join us. Let's shoot, learn, and have fun together in Focus Bulacan. God bless you all!
Some people say happiness comes after contentment. Such is not the case with Gemmz : he's overjoyed as a family man with wife Jane and daughter Mirr Giellane, but he's far from being satisfied in terms of career growth. There's always that next step, that next level that he wants to reach, to make him a better artist and, more importantly, a better person.
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.
Every month, we have a feature on our members, our photography idols, and other photography issues we feel deserve a heads-up.