Archive for December, 2012

All the best for 2013!

Wishing all my blogger friends a blessed, peaceful and prosperous New Year! Cheers!

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If the background doesn’t work together with your main subject, you won’t have a good picture.~Mary Ellen Mark (Photo location: old wharf at Guimbal town, Iloilo province)

Make it a habit – seeing what your camera sees

Book Excerpt: “When you’re outside taking pictures, all of your senses are working, taking in information and making you feel and respond in a certain, usually positive, way. Not only do you see the scene before you, you hear the wind in the trees, smell the sweet aromas of nature, feel the texture of the land and the breeze on your skin, and taste the air. But when you press the shutter, the camera only records what it sees and four out of the five senses that influence how you respond emotionally to the subject are lost…When you think about it, it’s little wonder that a two-dimensional, single-sense photograph might struggle to live up to the actual experience we had at the time of its taking. The real skill in photography that sets apart the great images from the snapshots is the ability to replace this missing/lost information using purely visual tools, to give the viewer a sense of what you felt by recording the image in such a way that it stimulates the imagination and stirs emotions…It is a skill that can be learned and the starting point is to get into the habit of seeing what your camera sees.”~Chris Weston May from his book Nature Photography 


Aspect ratios: those squares and rectangles

JJWP289We’ve tackled previously the subject of filling the frame, or how to compose a shot with the subject filling up the four corners of the frame we call a viewfinder. To photograph is to exclude, as the great Susan Sontag once said. And to exclude is part of composition – that is, to include only the essential, the point of interest, and to exclude all the others in the frame that does not emphasize or relate to the main subject. The problem nowadays is that the “frame” comes in different sizes, the proper terminology is “aspect ratios.” How do you present your subject on a 4:3 (think of your old analog TV screen) aspect ratio from that of a cinematic 16:9 (think of your new HDTV screen). From 4:3 to 16:9 there will be lots of exclusions of the subjects and other elements that you will have to do. For example in the above photo of the boat presented in 16:9, I would have to do away with most of the right side of the image if I were to present it in a boxy 4:3 aspect ratio. In the first place, how many aspect ratios are there? To answer that, my mainstay editing program PhotoScape alone has 25 aspect ratio choices in its cropping menu, though mostly there are just 6 in common use on cameras today. But the point of this post is – aspect ratio affects your composition, or what you put inside that frame. Here is a VERY interesting article titled An Introduction to Aspect Ratios and Compositional Theory. The author, Malaysian-based photographer Ming Thein, explains that the aim of the article is to “focus on understanding the compositional impact of different aspect ratios, and more importantly, how to pick the right aspect ratio for a given subject.” As most people will probably just go by the native aspect ratio of their camera and not do anything about it, the author says this is “compositionally very, very sloppy.” Read the rest of this informative article and add another chapter in your growing library of photographic knowledge. Now when you shoot those fireworks this New Year, think if they can best be presented in 1:1, 5:4, 4:3, 3:2, 16:9 or 2.40:1. That many? Yes, and that’s just a few. Hehe. Happy aspect shooting!

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Have a wonderful one – the last weekend of 2012!

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Part of it has to do with the discipline of being actively receptive. At the core of this receptivity is a process that might be called soft eyes. It is a physical sensation. You are not looking for something. You are open, receptive. At some point you are in front of something that you cannot ignore.~Henry Wessel (Photo location: Guimaras Island)

In memory of a river

JJWP286This is a scenic picture of a river’s mouth that opens up into a bay, lined with mangrove trees that help stem soil erosion. This is the last picture I have of this scenery which was taken two years ago. It is just 30 minutes from our place, outside of the city center. Last month, when I returned to this place it was no more. In its place now is a large petrochemical complex. The river with its mangrove forest just disappeared, eaten up and erased by an industrial plant. Situations like these rile me, and the feeling is a mixture of sadness, disappointment and utter frustration. I am no environmental warrior, but I don’t need to be one to know that this is totally wrong – big business taking precedence over nature, with the local city government in conspiracy with this dastardly act. Well, in the first place it was the city government that issued permits and the go signal, potentially earning big (in taxes and other fees) from these huge businesses. But to erase an entire river from the map and alter the natural features of the coastline just smacks of utter disrespect and apathy for nature. That is why nature gets back at us through soil erosion, flooding, landslides, rise in sea levels, global warming – ecological disasters brought about by man himself, because of commercial greed and selfishness. I may rant for the rest of my life but nothing will ever be the same, the river will not return. It has all but died, not from natural causes but by the wanton disregard of the human species. This picturesque scene is now vanished; ecology once again vanquished. And all I have now is this picture, a memory of beauty that once was. I bow my head in shame, we are not worthy caretakers of Mother Earth.

A tool to freeze a moment and a memory

Book Excerpt: “Now we live in a place and age I refer to as the Democracy of Digital. Technology has eliminated the basement darkroom and the whole notion of photography as an intense labor of love for obsessives and replaced them with a sense of immediacy and instant gratification. Shoot the picture; look at the picture. Shoot and look, shoot and look. If it doesn’t look good, shoot again. And again . . . and again. It’s just reusable ones and zeroes now, not frames of film winding around in a cassette, each cassette with a processing price tag.”


“You found during your research that digital photography is a fast-moving river; you just have to jump in at some point and start swimming. No more waiting to see if a new model is coming out next month. You already know it is, and it will have 20 or 30 million more pixels than the model you bought today. No matter. You now have a camera, which is this miracle device you’ve been longing for, a tool designed to catch, record and interpret light. To freeze a moment and a memory. And this magical instrument can go with you everywhere.”~Joe McNally from his book The LIFE Guide to Photography.


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To me, the excitement of photography is searching for and creating new images, responding to the world and seeing subtleties often missed by the casual observer. I try to see everything as if for the first time.~Earl Olsen (Photo location: Dinagat Province)

Fix what’s broken

JJWP280So what do we tackle after Christmas Day and before New Year’s Day? I’m actually at a loss, and I thought we just take a break from photography stuff (easier said than done!) and talk about “life” stuff. My “About” page would look something like this: “Hi! I’m JJ. Writer. Blogger. Jazz lover. Image maker. Life adviser.” And lessons would look like something straight out of a photography tutorial: “Class, sharpen your mind, activate your inner eye, visualize what is interesting, never cut what can be untied or fix something that is not broken. Life will heal itself.” Huh? Forgive Dr. JJ. He got carried away. That last part is not entirely true. Physically, emotionally and spiritually, we need some other things, outside forces, external circumstances and situations to fix what’s broken, to heal the wound, to mend a hurt. Time they say heals everything, true. But to heal fast and avoid complications, we need medications, a good dose of antiseptic and antibiotics. If you went through 2012 down, depressed and hurting, take stock. Never carry the baggage of hurt to 2013. Eliminate what made you sad, sick and impaired. We ain’t perfect but to be bogged down by things that don’t enliven and uplift us means to succumb to the power of the negative, the adverse and detrimental. That is no way to live life. Liken it to photography (told you its hard to break from this stuff) – focus only on the essential, exclude from the frame those that distract from the center of interest. If the images are blurry, fix the camera settings, focusing and lighting. If images are still out of focus, then fix the photographer (90 percent of these situations has nothing to do with the camera). The point is, as you take that leap to a new year, bring only the essential. In photography, your camera and your heart is probably all you’ll need. Then fix what’s broken. If you had lots of hurting in 2012, surely something was broken. You’ll need again your family, friends and the Good Lord to help fix things up. Counselling is not an expertise of mine, but I don’t think I need a degree to help someone carry a burden or lighten the load along the way, even just through encouragements or words and images of inspiration.

A holiday gift unwrapped

Merry Christmas! I wasn’t able to wrap my gift for all of you. But then they’re not meant to be wrapped, but rather read, listened to and experienced. Enjoy the 3 issues so far of Junsjazz Images & Inspiration, the interactive digital magazine version of this blog. Here are the links: Issue #1, Issue #2 and Issue #3. Stay updated with upcoming issues by visiting the Digital Magazine menu. Thanks!

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Have a blessed one!



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200th post

JJWPb1This is my 200th post and the above image was the one I used on my very first post last October 11, 2012. I was posting left and right, here and there, three or four times a day, at a feverish pace when the blogging bug bit me, I never minded the milestones. A hundred posts swiftly passed by unnoticed. And I think I only missed a day without posting anything. What was I able to accomplish? Nothing much really. I thank those who nominated me for four or five blogging awards. I thank those who took time to visit this blog, commented and liked the posts. I thank those who followed this blog – so far 187 blessed souls who were inspired. I just hoped readers and viewers of this blog got something out of it, bits of information, sparks of insights and pieces of wisdom. I have been blogging since 2007 at another site but that activity waned after two years. It is only now that I have again picked up the pen and paired it with photographs to come up with this effective blending of words and images. Keep on clicking blogger friends!

Let go of the technical

JJWP275The post title is borrowed from lifestyle photographer Jennifer Tonetti in her article Capturing Your Holiday Traditions With Photos. It’s an event that happens at the end of the year, an awaited celebration for many that may consist of any or all of the following – family gatherings, parties, gift-giving, prepping up the house with decorative holiday items, and many others. These are moments you want to capture and not be bogged down by camera settings and other technical stuff. Tonetti says: “My biggest piece of advice is let go of the technical, ‘I need this to be perfect’ mentality when capturing these moments. You don’t want to miss a moment in the tradition because you are fumbling with settings. In fact, AUTO is my best friend at holiday time. I want to be sure I focus on the moment, and not the technique.” Memories are said to be one of our most valuable possessions, and these are preserved in photographs. Whether in printed form or digital format, we keep these images of moments we cherish – joyous occasions, family reunions, bonding of friends, once-a-year events. These are pictures that go with the story of our life, entries in our journal worth remembering and reminiscing. As you celebrate Christmas and the New Year, capture not to create perfect photos but simply to add another set of memorable moments in the album of your life. May the best of the Season be with you all!

Issue #3 is online

JJcover3bYes folks! Issue #3 of Junsjazz Images & Inspiration digital magazine is now online (just click on the link). And as recognition for the outstanding works of photo blogger friends, I have featured three of them in this issue – Leanne Cole, Cornelia Lohs and Seth Johnson. I’d like to extend my wholehearted thanks to these three who have graciously allowed the use of their images in the magazine’s pages. I know some of you are following them, if not, oh do follow these passionate photographers. Well, this is my form of award and appreciation to blogger peers for their inspiring works and images. I intend to feature three or more photo bloggers in every succeeding issue of the magazine, making it virtually an online photography collective publication. Who knows, you might be in the next issues. Be updated with every issue that comes out through the Digital Magazine menu of this blog. Enjoy the magazine, and again put on your headphones, its a multimedia piece of work. Happy Holidays everyone!

Enhancing the focal point

JJWP273The focal point is the point of interest. In the picture on the right, the focal point is the boat, its pointed triangular tip and overall geometric shape. The eyes will rest there, then they will scan the secondary points of interest – the horizon, the blue sky, the clear waters, the sand and the shade. My favorite online photography instructor Darren Rowse shares some techniques to enhance the focal point in an image in his article Using Focal Points in Photography. These tips include position, focus, blur, size, color and shape. He says that combining these elements can work well to emphasize the subject. Just go over the short article for his brief descriptions on these elements. In nearly 200 posts (this is the 197th) since I started this blog two months ago, I have been sharing the basics, fundamentals and components of composition from articles and information I have come across the internet. Composition is crucial. And it is the easiest to learn, with a little bit of patience and practice. However we should not treat composition as the be all and end all of photography. We should not let it hamper creativity, discovery and experimentation. The techniques of composition are not rules but guideposts handed down, tried and tested by the learned masters before us. Even the masters are a bit vague on what composition is all about. The great Ernst Hass said: “My theory of composition? Simple: do not release the shutter until everything in the viewfinder feels just right.” The point is – everything will feel just right when you know how to compose. (Photo location: Guimaras Island)

Understanding mood and ambience

Book Excerpt:“…mood refers to a state of being or emotion, while ambience describes the atmosphere associated with a place or setting. Thus, a photograph that conveys a sense of mood will have an emotional quality or feeling to it, such as serenity, joy, anger, fear or foreboding. These moods can be conveyed photographically in a number of different ways. For example, by a subject’s expresion, the use of bright versus dreary colors, heavy shadows versus bright settings, and so forth. Ambience, on the other hand, will tend to manifest itself generally, such as through all encompassing qualities like color rendering…,the hardness or softness of a light source, or the use of soft focus filter, for example. And certainly, there are times when mood and ambience merge to create an effect on the viewer.”~Joseph Meehan from his book Capturing Mood, Ambience & Dramatic Effects: The Dynamic Language of Digital Photography


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The artist must see all things as if he were seeing them for the first time. All his life he must see as he did when he was a child.~Henri Matisse

The child in us

JJWP269We sometimes remember the child in us – fun, playful, uncaring, lively, unmindful, spirited. It was a world of smiles and laughter, of cries and shrieks, of bratful ‘I want’ and ‘I don’t want’. It was a most basic routine of hunger, thirst, play and sleep. It was a time of ABCs, 1-2-3s, zoos, Lego blocks, Japanese robots, and a TV with a sliding wooden front cover. My dad’s radio had a dial knob for which to find a station to tune in, and once “tuned in” it had the most awful hiss and crackle, you would hear more of the noise than the music. Dialing the phone then would break your pointer finger. Oh, it was the era of tight-fitting shirts with six-inch collars, bell-bottom pants that covered half-foot high elevator shoes. In such outfit, I wondered how they could dance to “The Hustle” or “Le Freak”. But there we were, warm and comfy in our mother’s arms as the “Let’s Make Love Not War’ movement passed by. Suckling those tiny thumbs, our little eyelids fluttered to fairyland as mom sang here sweetest lullaby. Childhood was being oblivious, selfish and indifferent. But then that is not the natural progression of life. We can’t stay in the dooldrums of innocence, or remain in the perpetual pleasure of youth. Eventually we open our eyes to the reality of what is around us, that what happens in the world matters, and that whatever happened to us in that chapter of childhood, one way or another, did matter to the world. (Photo location: Guimaras Island)

Give your eye a visual workout

Book Excerpt: “Certainly, new places can inspire and motivate. But exceptional photography really starts at home. This can be in and around your own backyard, neighborhood, home-town, or surrounding countryside…The whole idea is to give your shooting eye a visual workout. Plus, photographing close-at-hand locations is not only easy but is also enjoyable—and you may find that you come up with some worthwhile images, too…In his book Photo Impressionism, noted Canadian photographer Freeman Patterson wrote, “Learning to see subject matter well, learning to design image space well, and learning to use your tools effectively takes discipline—and discipline is something you rarely develop on a trip. You acquire it before you go, and then you take it with you.”~Jim Miotke from his book The BetterPhoto Guide to Creative Digital Photography


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Your tripod and your camera must be well-fixed but your eyes and mind should be free. ~Lawrence Sackmann

Noise is good

JJWP267Well, to a certain extent. Image noise provides a certain flair and style reminiscent of traditional film photography. However, too much noise ruins a picture. Noise at acceptable or minimal levels provides clarity and details to an image. You all know the symptoms of a noisy image, they are grainy, sandy, pixelated and with speckles. Also, you all know that noise is produced by bumping up the ISO setting in our camera, which we do during low light situations or taking night time shots. But do you know that small sensors usually found in point-and-shoots and compacts produce more noise than larger sensors found in DSLRs? And that these DSLRs even at higher ISO levels are virtually noise free? This is technical stuff best explained in layman’s terms through this article What Is…Noise? from The article explains what image noise is all about, what causes it, how to minimize it in-cam or eliminate it through editing softwares, why smaller sensors create more noise than larger sensors, and many more interesting info on the subject. And do browse through the comments and inputs of readers (some of them are engineers) who share enlightening information. Early on in my photographic journey, there was a time I deliberately upped the ISO settings on my camera to produce “noisy” image. I thought I found the images stylish and harking back to the old camera film days. Until someone told me head on that the images were boring. Arghh! Nuff with noise! Well from that point onwards I made sure my images were noise-free either through camera settings or with dedicated image editing softwares called “denoisers.” Yet there are times we go back to this “noisy” environment just for the heck of it, to satisfy photographic cravings such as the picture above. Applying some manageable noise levels, the details are clear enough including the scratches on the pot (at the left of the pic) and the design on the tiled background. With an image like this, noise is good.

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What do we see when we go to Nature? We see exactly what we are trained to see, and, if we are lucky, perhaps a little more but not much…~Henry Peach Robinson (Photo location: Oton, Iloilo province)