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.
Every month, we have a feature on our members, our photography idols, and other photography issues we feel deserve a heads-up.