Archive for March, 2013

Happy Easter!


We thank you Lord for this gift of talent and artistry which we are able to share to the world. Happy Easter everyone!

Venerable venues

Tomorrow, Easter Sunday, churches will be filled to capacity. It is a momentous event in the whole of Christendom. If there is one set of images in my collection that I enjoy going through over and over again, it is my photographs of Philippine churches – venerable venues of the Lord’s flock. Church structures, with their details, designs and architecture, will enthrall any photographer.


The most interesting churches are the historic ones, centuries-old structures, and there are many of them all over the country. Four of these churches are listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites “Baroque Churches in the Philippines.” One of these is pictured above – the Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Church in the town of Miag-ao in the province of Iloilo. Every time I get to visit the province, I make it a point to go to this famous church which is some 40 kilometers south of Iloilo City. The online site of the UNESCO World Heritage List gives a description:

The Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva stands on the highest point of Miag-ao, its towers serving as lookouts against Muslim raids. It is the finest surviving example of ‘Fortress Baroque’. The sumptuous facade epitomizes the Filipino transfiguration of western decorative elements, with the figure of St Christopher on the pediment dressed in native clothes, carrying the Christ Child on his back, and holding on to a coconut palm for support. The entire riotously decorated facade is flanked by massive tapering bell towers of unequal heights.

The Augustinian mission station of Miag-ao became an independent parish in 1731, when a simple church and convento (parish house) were built. However, destruction of the town by Moslem pirates in 1741 and 1754 led to the town being rebuilt in a more secure location. The new church, constructed in 1787-97, was built as a fortress, to withstand further incursions. It was, however, damaged severely by fire on two occasions – during the revolution against Spain in 1898 and in World War II.

That’s when you take a snap

A photographic urge is like a bodily itch, there is only one immediate solution – scratch. In a photographic situation, you can’t help it, you have to take a snap and hope for the best.


I have been to dozens of churches in the Philippines and they are some of my most favorite photo subjects. The older, bigger and more elaborate the church structure, the better. But there are many modern ones that catch my eye, with their attractive geometric designs. Like the above church interior when I was in Cebu City. It was the first time for me to see this particular church and as I entered its door the Mass had just started. It was filled with people and the first thing that struck me was the ceiling design above the altar. I did not want to attract attention and disturb the solemnity of the proceedings so I slowly took out the point and shoot on my belt pouch, turned it on, raised it and took a one-handed snap, all under five seconds. Some people saw me and gave disapproving looks. I bowed my head, closed my eyes and prayed for two things: apology from the Lord above, and hope that I had a good shot. The above picture was the answer. Though patience is an endearing trait of the photographer, there are times when the urge gets the better of him and he just has to take a snap, foregoing all processes of thought and forgetting all about composition. This is not an ideal situation for a thinking photographer. Yet sometimes, there is that rare moment when the photographer leaves it all to divine providence.

Photo Quotes 129


Today’s photographers think differently. Many can’t see real light anymore. They think only in terms of strobe – sure, it all looks beautiful but it’s not really seeing. If you have the eyes to see it, the nuances of light are already there on the subject’s face. If your thinking is confined to strobe light sources, your palette becomes very mean – which is the reason I photograph only in available light.~Alfred Eisenstaedt

Weekend Inspiration 20


Wishing you all a Blessed Weekend!

A Lenten Prayer


O Lord, make me an instrument of your Peace!
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, harmony;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light, and
Where there is sorrow, joy.
~St. Francis of Assisi

Photo Quotes 128


Even slight changes in subject approach can make significant differences in the effect of the picture.~Andreas Feininger

Understand visual design elements


Article Excerpt:
Many photographers on purchasing a new camera are preoccupied with learning its various features and controls and no doubt, this is important in obtaining correctly exposed images and an appropriate depth of field. However, once the basic operation of the camera is mastered, one needs to direct their attention to seeing and composing effective images. Effective images are those that command attention and communicate some feeling to an audience. Capturing a “feeling” and your viewers’ attention is a demanding task that requires practice, experimentation and study. Studying the basic elements of visual design and understanding how they work will help new photographers improve their composition, but simply following rules does not guarantee success. Furthermore, how an audience responds to an image depends on their past experiences (memory), interests, and what it is that they are looking for. This is why the same picture often receives a variety of responses from different viewers. To create effective images a photographer must understand the way people respond to various kinds of visual organization. This involves learning the vocabulary of design, viewing examples of artwork that utilize effective design elements, and actively implementing components of design into the process of photography.
~R. Berdan from his article Composition and the Elements of Design

Head height for interior shots


Article Excerpt:
As you look through the viewfinder and tilt the camera up and down from the ceiling to the floor, watch what happens to the vertical elements of the picture. You will notice when looking into the lower corner of a room the perspective in the verticals becomes convergent. This means they get wider as they get further away. The opposite can be seen if you look up to the ceiling through the viewfinder. Both these convergent or divergent verticals should be avoided. To ensure that the verticals stay vertical, try and keep the camera completely horizontal. If your eye is 150cm off the floor and your camera is at the height of your eye then you should be pointing your camera at a point on the wall at the same height of 150cm.

Don’t be afraid to shoot portraits as well as landscapes – just because most rooms are landscape in proportion, doesn’t mean the photographer can only shoot that way. Often portrait photographs are more interesting.

Resist the temptation to stand on a chair in the corner of a room unless you want the image to look like footage from a security camera. Most interior photographers shoot around head height or just above ground level which can give a different feel to an image.
~Doug Jackson from his article Photographing Interiors

Photo Quotes 127


Images are happening around you every second. You can photograph anything in a million different ways, but what I always try to remember is to photograph something as if I’ve discovered it for the first time. And if I have photographed it before, I find a way to see it as I’ve never seen it before.~Vincent Laforet


The Holy Week is a big domestic tourism activity in the Philippines. Most of my countrymen, those working and residing in Metro Manila, are flocking to the provinces. Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are official non-working holidays so it’s a long weekend. You’ll find beaches and resorts filled with people. And how about JJ? Much as I would like to spend some time outside, I’m stuck at home finishing off some online work. If you’re like me, don’t fret. There are lots of photographic subjects right inside your house.


The team at has this article Photographic Wonders Inside Your Home! which offers some tips on how to capture subjects and what to look out for. Article author Rachelle Jobard offers the following:

1. Give Thought to Your Composition
2. Explore Vantage Points
3. Focus on Your Favourite Things
4. Play with Light and Shadows
5. Every Room in Your Home has Photographic Opportunities
6. Highlight Details
7. Explore Small Corners
8. Take in Your Environment
9. Use Reflections and Illusions
10. Shoot Creative Compositions
11. Shoot Antiques and Old Things in B&W

If you think being stuck at home is a bore, read the article and be enlightened. In my recent post I mentioned that it is not always the grand and majestic subjects that make great photographs. We are not always afforded the opportunity to be in the great outdoors. But even ordinary subjects can make compelling images. It is in the power of the photographer to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. He just has to activate his photographic eye for “seeing” and dig deep into his knowledge of the technical and the creative to work his magic on visual imagery. Even inside his home.


Not always of the grand and majestic

The problem when we go out and take pictures is we try to find the grand and majestic scene. We try to search for sceneries with the “ooh” and the “ahh.” Yet it is not always that we are in front of nature’s wonders like a glorious sunset or sunrise, or an imposing mountain, a sublime forest or an awe-inspiring waterfalls. We are not National Geographic photographers who seek the marvelous in this earth. We are moms and dads, workers in a 9 to 5 cycle in the metropolis. Some of us are living a quiet life as retired citizens of this world after spending most of our time on family and work. Many of us are not certified adventurers and wilderness seekers, though given the chance we would like to be like them. So lower our expectations. Not all photos or subjects should be breathtaking.


However, all photos must be compelling. It may not be the “Grand Canyon” of our photographic dream but a picture must, at the very least, hold interest. For more than 400 posts in this almost half a year reference and information photo blog, I guess you must have picked something of what makes a picture interesting. They are very basic elements one must include in the image because they attract the eye: colors, lines, shapes, forms, patterns, textures, lighting. How you frame and compose some or all of these elements will further add appeal to the image. With some of us having precious little time for ourselves and our family, and usually only during weekends when we can have bonding with spouse and kids, or with friends, a stroll in the park or favorite hangout can feed a photographic longing. Watch out for scenes like the above picture. It is not as grand as a sunset, but it will hold its own engaging quality because the photographic elements were effectively arranged and presented.

Photo Quotes 126


You only get one sunrise and one sunset a day, and you only get so many days on the planet. A good photographer does the math and doesn’t waste either.~Galen Rowell

The eternal rule in photography


Book Excerpt:
The simple truth of it is that even the most experienced shooters still miss the moment, still make mistakes—sometimes mistakes so basic that they wonder if there’s ever any way to really and reliably learn this art and craft.

In this way, digital photography is no different from old-time photography. Good pictures are good pictures; you make some, you miss some…Digital has changed the game, to be sure, but as in sports, the same rule applies eternally: The one who performs best—the one with the most points—wins. Whether we’re talking football or tennis or photography, you play the game the right way, you win…
~Joe McNally from his book The LIFE Guide to Photography

Wishing everyone a blessed and spiritually-filled week ahead.

Centering the subject


Article Excerpt:
Centering your subject is taboo in some photographer circles. It is seen by many as an amateur mistake. However, while you should never just automatically center you subject without thinking, there are times and situations where centering your subject makes perfect sense…

Centering is an effective way to draw attention to your subject when there are very few other items in the composition. When taking photographs of stand alone objects where background and foreground are not shown and the subject will nearly fill the frame, centering works to maintain focus on the subject itself. Portraits (animal and people) and illustrations are good examples of this. Also, centering can be used to good effect on the other end of the compositional spectrum when the composition is extremely busy. When there a lot of objects in a frame that compete for attention, centering a strong and different type object can draw attention to it. This works much like when you are working a jigsaw puzzle and are faced with many similar pieces. If you place a puzzle piece of different size, color, or shape in the middle of the group your eye will be drawn to that difference.
~Liz Masoner from her article Centering Your Photographic Subjects

Photo Quotes 125


Colour is everything, black and white is more.~Dominic Rouse

The frame vision


Book Excerpt:
Photographs are created within a spatial context, and that context is the viewfinder frame. This may be carried through unchanged to the final image, whether print or on-screen, or it may be cropped or extended. In whichever case, the borders of the image, nearly always a rectangle, exert strong influences on what is arranged inside them.

There is an important distinction, nevertheless, between composing photographs in the frame as they are intended to be, and planning ahead to either crop or extend the frame. Most 35mm film photography has been concerned with tight, final composition at the time of shooting, and at times this has led to a culture of demonstrating the fact by showing the rebates (the frame edges of the film) in the final print—a way of saying “hands off” once the shutter has been released. Square-format film…is less amenable to comfortable composition, and is often used for later cropping. Large format film, such as 4×5-inch and 8×10-inch, is large enough to allow cropping without much loss of resolution in the final image, and is also often cropped, particularly in commercial work. Now digital photography adds its own twist to this, as stitching becomes more widely used for panoramas and over-sized images…

Facility at using this frame depends on two things: knowing the principles of design, and the experience that comes from taking photographs regularly. The two combine to form a photographer’s way of seeing things, a kind of frame vision that evaluates scenes from real life as potential images…
~Michael Freeman from his book The Photographer’s Eye

Black and white – are they colors?

Go to your local paint store and order pure black and pure white, and they’ll come up with those. No problem. How come there is a whole debate of whether black and white are colors? The science and theory of color which is our basis for determining black and white will have you scratching your head. Are black and white really considered as colors? We will explore and answer that.


Our reference is the site and they have an intensive description of what constitutes color and whether black or white can be categorized as such. I suggest you go over their very enlightening article Are Black & White Colors? and get a better understanding of this topic. Let me summarize the findings:

1. Black is not a color. It is the absence of color or the complete absorption of light.

2. White is a color. White reflects all the colors of the visible light spectrum to the eyes.

This obviously is going by the technical definition and scientific fundamentals of colors. As of last count, we have 16 million colors to go by. For black and white, aside from pure black and pure white, we have 254 shades of gray to choose from. But anyway, for practical purposes we categorize black and white as colors. Black is even considered the darkest of colors. The classic black is a standard color for cars, cameras, clothes and high fashion. We are practitioners of black and white photography, and we go by the power and strengths of these two colors to come up with our monochrome masterpieces. So strictly speaking, black is not a color while white is a color because it is the sum total of all the colors in the light spectrum. In the real world however, we are a pragmatic, creative and artistic bunch and we use black and white as normal colors in our palette of tools whether we are graphic artists, designers, painters or photographers.

Weekend Inspiration 19


A great weekend everyone! And this is my 400th post in a span of five months. Cheers!

Photo Quotes 124


I often find it useful to consider landscape images as comprising three areas, foreground, middle-ground and background. While our human perception tends to focus more on foreground details and objects in our near vicinity, the camera makes no such distinctions. Foreground rocks that the photographer could reach out and touch while at the scene are rendered with the same presence as distant clouds in the final image. When visualising, I think it pays to try to see background and foreground details with equal importance.~Pete Bridgwood

When less is more

It is said that minimalism is the art of less. In photography that means less clutter, less distraction, less chaos, less disarray, less disorder and hodgepodge. Minimalist images are clean, clear, plain, tidy, trimmed and unblemished. You show your subject in an empty space, or in relation to emptiness. The psychology is that in the absence of distracting elements, you highlight more the subject that you include in the frame.


The photographer has lots of tools and techniques at his disposal. He can utilize selective focus, selective blur, shallow depth of field, framing, color and tonal contrast, high key and low-key lighting and composition. Again, like many other genres of photography, this requires a combination of the technical and creative. But the motivation still remains the same – isolate and simplify. It was abstract expressionist painter Hans Hofmann who said: “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” In minimalist photography, the one that speaks is your main subject in the midst of glorious isolation, powerful in emptiness and splendid in blankness. The latest Issue of Junsjazz Digital Magazine will be all about Minimalism. Watch out for it as it goes online next week.

Photographs – the factual and the artistic


Article Excerpt:
Composing a factual photograph is entirely different from composing an artistic photograph. Both the techniques used and the mindset of the photographer must be different. A factual photograph is concerned with showing the subject in a realistic manner. As such, seeing the details of this subject is very important…Similarly, photographs taken to record scenes, events or objects must be detailed enough so that the subject is clearly visible.

Composition in factual photographs is also concerned with showing either the entire subject, or showing the part of the subject that is of interest. The goal is not to dramatize how this subject is located in the frame, or to emphasize one aspect or another, or again to use a rule of composition aimed at furthering the creativity of the photographer. The goal is not to take a creative photograph. Instead, the goal is to take an accurate photograph, a photograph that can be used as evidence by the intended audience.

On the other hand, artistic photographs are rarely concerned with showing the entire subject. Instead, they often rely on the fact that less is more, and, following this credo, the artist seeks to eliminate all elements that do not contribute to making the image stronger. In keeping with this rule certain important elements may be cropped so that only parts of these elements show in the image. Or, elements that may be deemed absolutely necessary in a factual photograph may be removed entirely, the reasoning being that the absence of these elements makes the image either stronger or more intriguing.
~Alain Briot from his article Introduction to Composition

Photo Quotes 123


Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.~George Eastman

The light in landscapes


Article Excerpt:
The three most important attributes of landscape light when photographing nature are light quality, light direction and light temperature. Each plays an important role in setting up the proper shot for nature photography.
Light Quality
In nature photography, light quality can be further divided into diffused light and specular light. Diffused light is the sun’s light coming through the clouds on an overcast day. Conversely, specular light comes from a bright point of light, like the sun shining brightly on a clear day.
Diffused light is a favorite of many nature photographers because it makes subjects easy to properly expose. Some subjects best photographed under diffused light include:

  • forest scenes
  • up-close nature scenes
  • waterfalls
  • wildlife and people portraits

Specular light casts harsh shadows, creating a greater challenge for the nature photographer. However, secular light can produce a more dramatic effect if the proper camera mechanisms are set.
Light Direction
Light direction, as the term suggests, is the direction of the light within a shot. Different directions can produce different results when photographing nature.

  • Front light (the sun is behind you) is best used when the scene features a strong color or tone.
  • Side light emphasizes texture and works well for strongly textured landscapes.
  • Back light emphasizes shape and form, making it ideal for creating a silhouette.

~Nature Photography: Tips for Photographing Nature’s Wonders from