How did you get interested in photography? Did you have any formal education in photography?
I became interested in photography way back 1982, when my officemate bought his first SLR and started showing me his pictures. I then bought my first camera, which was a Canon AE-1, with a 50mm lens. I started saving my lunch money, buying zoom lenses and fixed focals and photography books I can get my hands on.
I had no formal education. I just kept reading photography books and comparing notes with my friends. And, of course, I took a lot of pictures and learned from my mistakes. Aside from ImagePhilippines, I am also currently a contributor of PhotoSig on the Internet, where fellow camera bugs, whether they be professionals or amateurs, critique what I regularly submit.
When did you first pick up a camera and start exploring the medium? Please describe some of your earliest photographs?
I couldn't recall taking pictures before 1982. I didn’t even own even an instamatic. After buying the Canon AE-1, I then graduated to a Canon A-1, which allowed for greater flexibility and creativity.
Earlier on, I was fascinated with what you can do with DOF (Depth of Field), lighting, aperture control and lens filters. Portraiture was my early favorite and I used 70 to 100mm lenses with wide apertures to take portrait shots of my family and friends. I then gradually started experimenting with pictures of nature (trees, flowers) and local scenery, using polarizers and UV filters.
I have played around with DOF and colors in my first photographs; I particularly enjoyed taking pictures during the 1983-1986 period, of the rallies after Ninoy’s assassination, the flagwaving crowds (red, white and yellow flags can be very colorful), the yellow crowds and the ensuing confetti's from the Makati buildings, then the EDSA revolution with green uniformed Marines facing the Laban crowd. I have some unpublished pictures, but unfortunately, I didn't do a good job at preserving them.
What type of camera do you use to take most of your pictures? How important is the role of the equipment used in capturing a beautiful image?
I'm still a Canon user and I have really just jumped into the realm of digital SLR with a Rebel 300D. Good camera for budding prosumers (somewhere in between a professional and a serious amateur). I make use of a Canon EF 28-70mm L lens, a Tamron 70-210 mm zoom and the standard Canon 18-55mm zoom.
Equipment is very important… especially for those who are creative and would like to experiment with compositions, lights, depth of fields, color saturation and resolution. SLR’s will allow you to shift from automatic to manual, play around with focal points, change lenses, etc
But having a good set of equipment is just one side of the coin; the other side is the skill and creativity of the person behind the lens. Equally important is the composition, the “captured moment”, the subject, theme, contrast, etc. (I have taken numerous pictures using a 1.3 Mega instamatic, which are almost as good as the ones I have taken with my more sophisticated cameras)
What is it in nature photography that interests you? What other genres of photography are you interested in?
I like taking pictures of flowers, especially orchids (I grow orchids, too, as a pastime). I love the different colors and proper lighting, whether they be natural or studio, bring out the best in these flowers. I also do portraiture, landscapes, sunsets, black and whites… any thing that captures my fancy. I especially like doing weddings.
How do you capture a moment without altering it with your presence?
Depends on where you are and what situation. If I am taking wedding pictures, I do not take the “normal” pictures. I tend to go “behind the scenes”, back of the church, corners, behind the grills, sides, etc. , away from the other photographers. You tend to catch unguarded moments or situations.
For candid shots, I just set my camera on automatic, with the highest ISO rating (to avoid problems with low lights) and a lens setting of f/8 to f/11. I prefer using a multiple exposure mode, too. Using a zoom definitely helps in capturing the “fleeting moments” from a distance.
Lastly, if you have a camera handy, increase your “awareness”… look for unusual scenes and don’t hesitate to click away.
What lengths do you go to for a great shot?
One thing that separate the “men from the boys” or “the photo enthusiast from the mere snapshot takers” is that we squeeze ourselves into nooks and crannies, bend over, look over, angle over. And we take multiple shots of one scene, bracketing if needed. In a hundred shots, you will end up with three or four that you really, really like.
Also, experiment. And be patient.
What defines a good photograph?
Just like defining a good book, a good movie, a good painting. A good photograph tells a story and you do not labor over background clutters, scattered colors, out of focus, to understand the message the photograph is trying to convey. One glance and you understand and enjoy, like relishing the taste of a good wine.
What advice do you have for people who don't have an eye for photography?
First, take pictures out of the ordinary. Candid and unguarded moments. Avoid having people stand like statues in front of the cameras. Move, swing, sway.
Second, if possible, avoid a too clutter background, if you are taking people or portrait shots. Help the viewer focus on the subject.
Third, use the “one third rule”. Basically, the subject should be place one third of the way vertically and one third of the way horizontally. Makes for an interesting shot.
Third, especially with digital cameras (no expensive films to play around with), take a lot of shots with different poses and angles, whether they be people or flowers or landscapes. Experiment, experiment, experiment…..