When "Larawang Bulakenyo" was launched in 2016, the Provincial History, Arts, Culture, and Tourism Office (PHACTO) wanted shutterbugs to highlight the best of Bulacan - its landmarks, travel destinations, products, celebrations, and talent in photography. It was a competition that was open to all Bulakenyos and backed by the provincial government. Needless to say, the contest was significant and prestigious.
The first (and we sure hope not the last) grand winner is a proud and ardent shooter of Bulacan's colorful festivals who makes it a point to give his viewers a glimpse of Bulacan's pomp and pleasant smiles. A Baliuag native who scours neighboring towns to document their local celebrations.
Larawang Bulakenyo Grand Prize Winner Sherwin Tomas is the featured Focus photographer of the month.
Q : How and when did you get into photography?
S : When I bought my first camera five years ago, I wanted to put up a photobooth business, but it was awkward because I lacked materials, so cancel na ang photobooth. Then I was deciding where to take pictures until I met Mr. Gilbert Macapagal, a product of FPPF (Federation of Philippine Photographers Foundation) and now also a Focus Bulacan member like me. He taught me Basic Photography. After that I met different photography groups and that was a good start of my hobby.
Q : Before specializing in festivals, what did you like to shoot?
S : I liked to shoot still life, macro, and some pictorial or model shoots.
Q : What made you decide to focus on festivals?
S : Festivals are really beautiful. They have colorful clothing and beautiful participants. When I shoot festivals, I feel like I’m involved in the performances. I feel the intensity of the surroundings.
Q : What is your favorite festival in Bulacan and why?
S : All the festivals in Bulacan are magnificent, but if you ask what festival is easy to shoot, I think it's the Minasa Festival of Bustos. The event is not hot, the weather is pretty cold, they start in the morning at 5AM. It's easy to shoot and capture the beautiful participants.
Q : Tell us about your Larawang Bulakenyo experience. Did you feel that your entry had a good chance of winning?
S : Awesome! I did not know if my entry would be selected. I was surprised when they announced the winner and suddenly called my name as the grand prize winner.
Q : What was going through your mind when it was announced that you were the grand winner?
S : Shocked!!! Speechless.
Q : Care to disclose where you spent the cash prize?
S : I went to Manila and bought a mountain bike. I then rode it from Manila to Bulacan. Medyo excited mag-bike. Ang layo pala. Hahaha.
Q : Aside from your Larawang Bulakenyo-winning entry, what photo are you most proud of?
S : All my photos that my friends love, I’m proud of.
Q : What camera and lens do you usually use when shooting festivals?
S : I usually use two cameras, a prime lens, a 100mm macro for shooting portraits, and a wide angle lens for shooting group shots or wides. I think that’s a good combination for shooting festivals.
Q : What is the biggest challenge in shooting festivals and what tip could you give those who also want to shoot those kinds of events?
Q : Maybe the biggest challenge is it's too hot in the street because most of the festivals start at noon. It's very hot and you walk too far because of the length of the parade. For tips, I would say, be one or two hours early. Visit all the participants, find the most beautiful, colorful, and then watch and shoot at the start of the parade.
Q : What other genre or subject would you like to master?
S : I also like Landscape Photography because as you take pictures the scenery is very relaxing. Also Macro Photography because you do not need to go far, you can find subjects nearby.
Q : What remain your frustrations or areas that you need to improve on?
S : When you need the right lens to use but you can't do anything about it because you do not have it. Hahaha.
I need to improve my editing skills.
More of Sherwin's favorite festival snaps (Click thumbnails to view photos in full)
Q : What is your most unforgettable shoot?
S : One is yung 'big photowalk in Binondo in 2015 (Focus with DAAN and FSP). It was so much fun. Second is 'yung every nationwide photowalk ng Fujifilm. The last photowalk theme, "Five", my picture got included in the Top 100. Third is Scott Kelby Photowalk. Ang dami mong makikilala na magagaling na street photographers. Hmmm.. of course every gathering of festivals is really unforgettable. They have their own story.
Q : Your message to Focus Bulacan followers and your fellow Focus members?
S : To all Focus followers, thanks for the support you have given us. You can expect that we will continue to improve. To the Focus family, thank you for all and thanks for being part of my life. Let's keep shooting!
From still life to insects and now the colorful, dynamic spectacle of festivals. Sherwin has found a niche and, more importantly, something that he truly enjoys shooting. It's a path that he has pursued vigorously and one that is now reaping rewards.
One can conceivably describe his festival photography as colorful, lively, and immersive.
And, without a doubt with the Larawang Bulakenyo accolade under his name... award-winning.
Every month, we have a feature on our members, our photography idols, and other photography issues we feel deserve a heads-up.