Random Thoughts

In awe

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I stood in awe from the vantage point of an elevated field. I was at the border of two provinces and the vastness of the scene was overwhelming. A giant cloud cast its shadows at the mountain range in the horizon, leaving dark blotches on the ground. The valley below was all lit up by the midday sun, exposing its verdant flourish. It was nature blooming in vegetation, silent and invigorated by a glorious day. Photographers have been taught to take pictures in the golden hours of sunset and sunrise to take advantage of colorful skies and soft, dreamy light. But who can resist this scene, though harsh and bright, in the middle of the day? The sun may be unrelenting at this hour yet the natural environment revels in it, and it is incumbent upon the photographer to capture life and nature as he sees it whatever time of day.

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The lesson is…

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I saw this grasshopper one morning perched on an aloe vera plant at the house. It was still and I immediately saw the reason for its non-activity. Missing were its most powerful anatomical parts – its hind legs. Hurriedly I took out the digital camera and took shots. Some thoughts ran into my mind – I was taking advantage of a poor, hapless creature. But then its immobility was a strong attraction. For crying out loud, now was not the time to have a conscience for a cricket! So I snapped on, took different angles, tried different perspectives and came out with a couple of dozen shots. Afterwards, I took hold of the creature by the wings and gently settled it on a bush across the fence. In its condition, I don’t know if it could even survive the day but I thought I had done my part by placing it in a most conducive environment. And the lesson is? Photographers may be relentless, inflexible and determined when it comes to taking a shot, yet they are only human; they also have a heart. Wishing you all a wonderful week ahead!


A chronicler of everyday life

Besides artistic portraits and street photography, there is another area that captures humans and its called documentary-style people photography. It is about photographing people in relation to issues, situations, places and the environment they are in. It involves documenting their stories as they go about their everyday lives, such as the girl and her little brother in the photo.

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They live in a small coastal community in Guimaras Island in central Philippines. The main livelihood of families in the community are fishing but they get a bigger income by ferrying tourists to nearby small islands that boast of pristine beaches, undeveloped and undisturbed patches of nature. The primary means of transportation from one island to another is the banca, a local outrigger canoe that can carry two to three passengers. It is propelled by the sheer effort of paddling, by the girl in this case, with her little brother playing the role of lookout and assistant. The girl has just ferried me and my photo buddy to this small island and I took this picture as they were about to set off to transport more of my fellow photographers waiting in the main island some 300 meters away. I guess we are all chroniclers when we have our cameras and arrive at a new country, city or place. Knowingly or unknowingly, we capture images of people as they go through the daily grind and struggles in life. In the picture above, it is a poignant story of siblings helping their family to make ends meet; their parents are out at sea fishing. The camera is there not only to capture beautiful sceneries but also slices of life, no matter how humbling, as we encounter them.


A short blogging break

JJWP353I’ll be out for two or three days. I’ll be going to Metro Manila to attend to some matters. The metropolitan capital of the Philippines is two hours north from where I reside. I probably won’t be blogging until this weekend. I hope I get through it. Like most of you, blogging for me has become a daily activity. A day seems incomplete without me posting something. But anyway I leave you with the photo above. Let’s always be inspired, creative and clicking. For us artists – writers, poets, photographers – its our way of life. Take care everyone!


Color harmony

JJWP318Love the sea, sand, surf, sky. For a country like mine with over 23,000 kilometers of coastline, the sea is a favorite scene, a postcard staple, a weekend getaway, a summer fixture, a representational image of a tropical eden. I took this shot at a resort in the town of San Juan, province of La Union. I was waiting for a wave or for the surf to splash on shore, all the while observing the surrounding colors. There was so much tonal and color contrast in the scene – the brown sand, the white crest, the emerald sea, patches of smoky clouds and the blue sky. It dawned upon me that photography is a successful synthesis of colors. Though the art of black and white photography is deeply moving and inspiring, an image of compositional colors is likewise visually celebrated and felt, probably even more because we see in color, not in monotones. If there is order and organization in black and white, there is balance and harmony in color. Nature consistently set things in agreement and affinity.


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.


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.