Charlotte Jennifer Calonge balances the worlds of science and art in her life. A mind of a chemist and scientist with a heart for photography. Her love affair for travel started due to her work commitment and evolved into a penchant for exploring the beauty of the world and shooting it with her camera. She wanders looking for stories of the places she has been, and in one particular object she has found the perfect subject to document : doors. Yes, those portals that usher us from one place to the next. Read on why she considers doors as essential in her travel photography.
Jing Calonge is our featured Focus photographer of the month.
Q : You're an environmental scientist by profession but you're also an avid photographer. How long has it been a passion for you? And how did it start?
Jing : I started with a point and shoot camera. Bitbit ko 'yung camera ng office namin dati. 'Pag nag-schedule kami ng trabaho, lalo na kapag outside Metro Manila, itinataon namin na by Friday kami matatapos, as much as possible, para sa weekend, gagala na kami. Dahil sa paggagala kung saan-saan, I discovered the beauty of the Philippines and I thought, sayang kung 'di ko ma-capture at maiuwi yung magandang tanawin na nakita ko. That’s when I started to enjoy taking pictures and to self-study how to take better photos, until I decided to buy my own point and shoot camera and eventually a DSLR camera. I’ve been using DSLR for 6 years now.
Q : Since you travel a lot because of work, what is your usual camera setup?
J : I used to travel more as part of my work, but now I try to save up for personal travels. Ang hirap kasi magbitbit ng laptop, damit pang-work, damit pang-pasyal at camera. Kung may mirrorless camera lang sana ako, eh di ayos. I normally bring one camera and one or two lenses for longer travel times. I’m in Aperture Priority about 90 percent of the time and shift to Manual mode during low light conditions.
Q : Obviously you're heavily into travel and landscapes, but what other genre do you enjoy shooting? And which genre would you love to try?
J : Maybe the easier way for me to get through this question is to answer what I less enjoy shooting. Sa totoo lang po, I’m not comfortable shooting people. Basta 'pag ang subject ay kailangan mo kausapin, 'yun 'yung weakness ko. Gusto kong masanay sa street photography. Bilib ako sa mga kasamahan ko sa Focus na may tatak street photography na tulad nina Sir Joel Domingo, Jay Salvador at Julius Calzo. Ilang taon na akong nag-e-enjoy sa photography pero noong nakita ko 'yung mga pictures nila, nabuksan ang isip ko na ganun pala ang SP, gusto ko din i-try. Akala ko kasi dati, basta nasa labas ka at nag-picture sa street, 'yun na 'yun. Hehe. I can see that street photography is what I need to train my eyes in finding good composition, getting a good story, learn how to use natural light effectively and develop the guts to shoot strangers.
Jing's Doors Compilation ( PLEASE click thumbnails to view photos in full)
Q : Jing, why doors?
J : Because doors are everywhere. They are the same yet they are different. Every door speak of a story, kumbaga, bawat door ay may sariling hugot. It amuses me how doors can tell about a place’s history, culture, arts and people. They have different colors, shapes, textures, designs, patterns, materials. They could be open or closed, antique or modern, big or small. These are the things that make doors interesting for me.
Q : It also begs the question : why not windows?
J : Gusto ko nga din ng windows kaso 'yung ibang windows, mas mataas sa eye level kaya mas mahirap kuhanan na walang distortion.
Q : Do you have a favorite door shot? Or the one door photo that's most memorable for you.
J : The most memorable for me is the one I took in a small village in Nepal. Unlike the famous tourist spots with entrance fees, the village where I snapped the photo is like an off the beaten path. A few steps further after taking the door shot, a large dog who obviously isn’t friendly at all cornered me in a narrow alley, while nobody seem to be outside that street at that time. Kaya nanginginig na lang akong umatras at dahan-dahang lumayo. Lost photo opportunity is better than a dog bite.
Q : Do you have other photo series you have in mind or wanna start soon?
J : I’m not over yet with my fascination of doors, so there will be "doors pa more". I’m thinking a tricycle series is a nice idea. Idea ito ng boss ko dati. Iba-iba kasi ang design ng tricycle sa iba’t ibang probinsya o cities sa Pilipinas. This will be challenging, though, cost-wise kasi mahirap nang mabalikan 'yung ibang probinsiyang napuntahan ko dati.
Q : Describe your photographic style.
J : I don’t know my photographic style. Is this a bad thing? All I can say is that whenever I get out to shoot, I just let my senses dictate where to aim. Looking back at my images, I find that I’m drawn to colors and textures.
Q : If there is something in common about your profession and photography, what is it?
J : Both keep me alive, one literally, the other figuratively.
Q : What advice can you give to other travelers or tourists who love taking pictures?
J : Bring only the essential lens and accessories. Sabi nga nila, travel light, travel further. When you travel, follow your passion. You can take a mandatory picture of iconic places, like the Eiffel Tower, for example, and have a similar photo as millions of other travelers who’ve been to Paris have. That’s okay but following your passion will make the experience more meaningful for you, rather than just ticking off your travel bucket list of places to see. If you’re a foodie, taste the local cuisine, but take a photo of the food first, if that’s what will make you happy. If you’re into architecture, visit places where you can find structures that are unique to the place. If you love chasing waterfalls, then go chase those waterfalls. If abandoned structures resonate with you, then search them. Create your own adventure, do what you love, shoot what your heart tells you to shoot. I learned this from an experienced Filipina traveler I met recently and what she shared made me re-think what travel and photography means to me.
More of Jing's photos of doors (click photos to view larger)
Q : How about tips for photography enthusiasts in general?
J : Never stop learning. I’ve been practicing photography for several years now and the learning never stops. Aside from internet sources, one of the best sources is still interacting with the experts. Likewise, learning from other photographers is a humbling experience.
Q : What would be the dream photography destination for you?
J : It would be Morocco. I once googled “doors of Morocco” and my heart palpitated with wanderlust. Blue is my favorite color, as well, so visiting their Blue City definitely appeals to me.
Q : Your message for Focus followers and your co-members.
J : To all Focus followers, thank you for supporting Focus Bulacan. Sa aking mga ka-Focus, thank you dahil marami akong natutunan sa inyo. Thank you for challenging me, in a positive way, to be better, bolder and sharper.
So the next time we hear the Michael Johnson song asking the question, "Doors...why do there have to be doors?", we already know the answer.
For them to be photographed by Jing Calonge and for us to see their story.
He'll burst into a scene full of enthusiasm, and one couldn't help but notice and offer a smile. But it's a smile that wouldn't be as infectious as his. Makes you wonder if that's the same charm he uses when he does photoshoots with gorgeous people and demanding staff that make them satisfy his creative lust.
A newsman by day (he's a production coordinator for GMA News' Special Assignments Team), he ventures into collaborations or personal projects on his free time, nonchalantly but definitely making his mark with his brand of photography. Always on the lookout for opportunities to learn and upgrade his skills, but now one who has been called upon to share his insight to budding photographers in workshops. It's time we get to know more about the man with the passion for fashion. Gerald Gloton is Focus Bulacan's featured photographer of the month.
Q : Tell us about your photography beginnings.
Gerald : It was during 3rd year high when I started being trigger-happy as I capture photos with my phone camera. Then my college friend let me borrow their school paper DSLR for a day which made me explore more by shooting behind-the-scene photos from our stage play. Then in college I started earning from photographing for events, and did new layouts for our student publication magazines. All these experiences kept my passion alive.
Q : You work well with models…. why do you think is that so?
G : Maybe it’s just me, being a ‘people’ person. I have developed that skill since age 7 when I needed to borrow a puncher from the bus conductor for my birthday giveaways. Making them at ease is one good factor of a successful shoot. Good music and the magic of engaging with them by six degrees of separation like…”kilala mo rin si ganito?” will do. Also, for the first few shots, I let them do the poses they want to at least make them comfortable.
Q : What made you inclined to fashion photography?
G : The existence of friends with star quality, I guess? I started out shooting with class fashionistas and the influence brought about by watching America’s Next Top Model and checking on the sheets of Rogue magazine.
Q : What’s the most difficult part of fashion shoots or editorials?
G : More than dealing with a set of people with various inputs and contributions to uphold a seamless layout, it’s actually about the ideas. Aside from communicating trends, one has to deliver an appropriate look which involves emotion and action that will give balance to a photo.
Q : We know you’re just starting to accumulate lighting gear. Can you share with us what equipment you mostly use in your shoots?
G : I currently use a 300-watt studio monolight flash and for backdrops, 5-peso cartolinas will do.
Q : What look do you usually try to achieve? Or what’s your signature style in shooting fashion?
G : Since I’ve already started with folio looks, I’m now trying to commute a higher impact portraiture with fashion. The signature I could apply at times is from magazine influences, breathing and in motion.
Q : Have plans of eventually making photography your bread and butter?
G : For me it still works part-time, but if there’s an open door…why not? Hence, photography serves as my break from a stressful weekly day job.
Q : Who are your photography idols, especially when it comes to fashion photography?
G : Mark Nicdao, for he has been successfully pairing portraiture with fashion…giving impact from motion and emotion. Annie Leibovitz for her iconic and ethereal works. Nigel Barker for his high ‘Top Model’ influence. And the high fashion layouts of Alexander Neumann.
Q: Looking back, what was the most frustrating thing you encountered relating to photography?
G: Shooting for me brings out positivity and learning. I couldn’t recall any frustrating moment, so far.
Q : How does it feel now that you’re the one imparting knowledge in photography talks?
G: Being able to share my knowledge even if I am self-taught, it feels really great that I get to encourage fellow budding artists to nurture their craft. It is actually a blessing to share this blessing.
Q: What else do you still want to achieve in photography?
G : Every shoot is a learning experience. I am open to endless possibilities. But as of the moment, I am thinking of creating a photo series which focuses on certain advocacies.
Q : Who would be your dream male model? Female model?
G : The amazing Lucky Blue Smith for male, and contemporary female model Coco Rocha.
Q : And who would be your dream collaboration?
G : Mark Nicdao for a Rogue cover and Paco Guerrero for a travel editorial!
Q : Would there be a most kick-ass concept you’ve been wanting to execute? Care to share it?
G : I could hardly recall but what I could say is I gotta kick ass in every shoot!
More of Gerald's favorite fashion/portrait photos (click thumbnails to view in full)
View more of Gerald's works on his Instagram account : chowderglotty
or his Facebook page for events : Dream Project Media
Q : Do you have a most favorite photo?
G : Every single work I do has a relevant story and that’s why it’s just so hard to choose. But for now I would say, it’s the Floral Thorn, depicting a gender-bender identity which surely speaks of a lot of things. I’m actually planning to make a series out of it in the future if time and opportunity permit.
Q : What are your tips or advice for photographers who are just starting to get their feet wet.
G : Kapit lang. If you do what you love, and love what you do…I’m sure you’re on track. It’s normal to feel unsatisfied and hopeless at times... these moments give more gravity to your passion. Of course, you gotta love your photo first before anyone else.
Q : What's your message for fellow Focus photographers?
G : I am forever thankful because more than being a part of a premier photography group, I found a great family of diverse talents with bottomless serving of creative juices. Being a part of Focus keeps the drive, helps everyone upgrade in various aspects, and gives a clearer path to a photographer’s free-spirited journey.
Full of promise and brimming with optimism, things are definitely looking up. The ride has been long, but for Gerald it has been a cruise all along. He has enjoyed every single mile of it. And we should, too, you know?
Every month, we have a feature on our members, our photography idols, and other photography issues we feel deserve a heads-up.