(FEATURE ARTICLE BY GERALD GLOTON)
I merely couldn’t remember how we got to know each other. But when we finally did, he, by far, just turns out to be one of the greatest people I have met. My former publication feature editor was sending me links of amazing photography posts and profiles on Facebook and one of these happens to be his. I tried to the bearded guy and eventually he responded to the request. To my surprise, he is more than just a premier photographer. He’s part of Focus Bulacan. And he was able to lure me to join the fray and experience the “Focus” way.
Blessed with a beautiful loving wife and two adorable kids, matched with his epic shooting skills and undeniable good looks, “Sir Jer”, as he is fondly called by fellow Focus members, has been setting the bar and putting up the A-Game as he leads the organization’s competitions.
Now, it’s either we dig deeper or go into the lighter note as the “Sir” himself divulges some of the juiciest info and wisest words. Here we go.
Q : Mind if you tell us your moment of discovery in photography? Plus the greatest experiences and challenges.
Sir Jer : I’ve always loved photos. When I was a kid, I’d get mesmerized when I saw a beautiful or interesting photo. I’d imagine how it was like in that scene and admire the elements. When the time came that I finally got my own camera, the love for looking at photos easily translated to the love for taking photos. I didn’t really take photography seriously until 2008 when I got curious why some lenses were more expensive than others. After doing my research and stumbling upon the concepts of photography, everything just took off from there. Non-stop learning.
I’m always amazed and excited when I learn something new, like in a workshop or a talk or even something I read online or in a book. That’s also one of the challenge, because sometimes I feel like I’ve stopped striving to learn more. I could be content with what I know at times. Another challenge is how to draw a line between photo enhancement and manipulation. Sometimes I’m really tempted to go into full-manipulator mode because it’s fun and challenging, but then when I remember how pissed I get when people question if effects on my photos were done in Photoshop, like a long-exposure effect I did on-cam that they thought was done in post-processing, I take a step back and easily return to photo enhancer mode. It’s always a challenge when to stop and how to stay true to the image. Perhaps the biggest challenge for me is trying to find time to shoot. Having a family changes things. Haha. I’m just thankful that I still get to shoot, not like I used to, but still enough. I think.
Photography has been good to me. Life-changing, actually. For one, I’ve made a lot of friends because of it. Some really good people, some awful ones, but it’s part of the process, right? Gotta take the bad with the good. Haha. I’ve also gotten to inspire people because of my images, well at least that’s what they tell me. Haha. I mean it’s just a photo for me but for some it’s something else, so it really surprises me when I get messages thanking me for the inspiration. Like, wow, I just took a photo with my camera, I didn’t know it would affect them that way. So that’s the power of photography I think, it could really connect people. Photography has also taken me to many places, many heights, and many expenses. Hahaha. Well it pays itself back eventually. But the main thing for me has always been to express myself thru the camera. I never considered myself as artistic or something like that until I picked up the camera.
Q : When did you realize that it is in your full capacity and skills to be a photographer?
Sir Jer : I guess when people started to make “bola” with their “great shot!”, “nice pic!”, “ang ganda” comments. Seriously. We all need our bolero or bolera friends. They build up our confidence so we could pursue something. Hahaha. The crucial thing for me was to make sure they weren’t just making empty compliments, I had to make sure my photos were good. ‘Di naman ako madaling madala sa bola, pero alam ko kung nagagandahan talaga ako sa shot ko. At least sa sarili ko alam kong I did well with that photo.
Q : What does Sir Jer do when he is not on photographer mode?
Sir Jer : I’m probably on sports fan or family man mode. I love being home, and when I’m home that’s what my mind is into.
Q : What type of gear or lens is Jeremy Sandel?
Sir Jer : I’m a full-frame body with a mid-range zoom lens. Versatile with specs for optimal quality. To be specific, a Canon 5D Mark 3 with a 24-70mm f/2.8L. Hahaha. But my favorite lens is the 135mm f/2 L.
Q : Let’s talk about gwapo-at-your-age secrets, fun facts, strange rituals, and even pet peeves.
Sir Jer : Hahaha, seryoso? I used to have problem with acne, not so much but I had a little before. Two or three years ago, I think I got so old that they stopped growing. I don’t even know what I did, so I’m thankful for that, but there’s no secret. I believe you shouldn’t hold on to stress too much. Stress is the culprit for aging. Here’s a strange ritual : When I’m a little sleepy or when I want to get pumped up for a shoot or activity, I listen to the Chemical Brothers or Prodigy on my car or on my phone. Works like a jolt every time.
As for peeves, I hate it when people keep on speaking or posting in English but their grammar is awful. I mean, ‘wag nang pilitin, mag-Tagalog na lang, mas maiintindihan ka pa namin. As for photography, my pet peeve would be seeing dirty, like really dirty, photos that they’d like to think as “HDR”. Folks, HDR stands for high dynamic range, not “hanep ang dumi at residue.” I don’t like overprocessed photos in general. Processing also requires good taste.
Q : Cite some things that people still don’t know about you or things they think about you.
Sir Jer : I love eating and I feel guilty each time I eat too much. My conscience will bother me until I take a run or play badminton to shake off the extra calories. I like fine-dining but I also dig cheap food. My fave dish is papaitan. Ha! I’m getting older so I don’t eat it as much, which is a damn shame. Hmmm, I eat French fries by pair. Hahaha. It always has to be by pair and I would find the pair that’s identical in size or length. Weird. I’m also not masungit as some people might think. Really. No kidding. I’m kind and warm. But I have low tolerance for stupidity or inconsiderateness.
Q : Other interests and activities?
Sir Jer : I’m a big sports fan, especially basketball, boxing, American football, and tennis. But I only play badminton, mind you. I also love music, I’m a Coldplay fanatic. They had me at "Yellow".
Q : Being a leader, what could you show the world or impart to your fellow photographers?
Sir Jer : I just don’t believe in excuses. In being a leader and in being a photographer, make no excuses. Whether you lead a group of people or capture a kick-ass photo, all that matters is the result. Nobody cares about your excuses. Excuses are for the lazy. Mediocre photography and ineffective leadership are also for the lazy.
Q : What makes you stand out from the rest?
Sir Jer : I don’t really know if I do. There are thousands of good photographers out there. As for me, I think I’m my own worst critic. I nitpick everything about my photos. Composition, processing, presentation, everything. I’m even harsh to myself sometimes, like if I didn’t get the focus spot-on, or why didn’t I see this distraction in the frame, or why I didn’t ask the model to improve her pose, or why didn’t I shoot a scene 5 minutes earlier so the light would be better. Things like that. But of course you don’t know that. Hahaha.
Q : What could be your best contributions to Focus?
Sir Jer : I just do what I could to drive the members to improve their photography. Offer challenges and opportunities, or give them a chance to learn. It excites me to see them inspired to shoot. I’m happy when I see their photos are much improved than before or when someone wins a contest for the first time. That’s their reward. When they give effort to their photos and I see it with their output, that’s my reward. Always strive to get better, that’s our mantra in Focus Bulacan.
Q: Based on your personal vision in the 2014 Officers online article, "For every Focus Bulacan member to improve in photography and be better persons. For the group to spread goodwill through photography. And for Focus to be instrumental in making photography be considered a field where Bulakenyos excel at," how will you rate the current status of the premier photography club in Bulacan? Has your vision started coming true? Or are there unexpected events that fell into place?
Sir Jer : I believe we’re on our way, but we’ve got a long way to go. I already see improvement in some members, especially the ones who regularly join shoots and contests. Focus also has reached out to a lot of people through its activities, so that’s a plus. The last part is the toughest one, because that involves perception of other people and other interests. I’m happy with where we are and where we’re heading. It’s going to be challenging, it’s going to take a lot of hard work, but it’s going to be worth it. We’re not a bunch of lazy folks so I’m confident we could get it done.
Some of Jer's favorite photos. Click on thumbnails to view in full.
Check out more of Jer's photos at these links :
Blogsite : www.jersandel.com
Online Gallery : www.jersandelphoto.com
Instagram (strictly for his phone photography) : instagram.com/jersandel
Every month, we have a feature on our members, our photography idols, and other photography issues we feel deserve a heads-up.