Random Thoughts

In awe


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.

The lesson is…


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.


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.

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!

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)

Issue #2

JJcover2Yes folks, there is already an Issue #2 of Junsjazz Images & Inspiration interactive digital magazine. Well, at least for the magazine cover; the contents are still a work in progress. Issue #2 will feature images of Philippine churches and cathedrals, some of my random thoughts, and of course a selection of photography tips and techniques that I have compiled and shared in this blog. The second issue will come out before month’s end, hopefully after the Christmas hangover and before the big bang of the new year. For the meantime, if you haven’t seen, viewed, heard, read and flipped the pages (sorry for the verbs, the magazine is a multimedia experience) of Issue #1 featuring sunsets and sunrises, here’s your chance to do so. Just click the link. Thank you always my friends for following, for the comments, the likes, appreciation and support. Its probably why I haven’t been “facebooking” for awhile and have been more engrossed in “wordpressing”. It’s different here in the blogging community, the audience is more engaged and active. Have a great week ahead my blogger peers! Stay safe, have fun and keep on clicking!

Symbols of faith

I have around five previous posts regarding pictures of churches and how to photograph them. I can’t get enough of them so here’s another one which is probably not the last since I have a whole collection of them. My country the Philippines has a population of 95 million and 90 percent of them are Catholics. It is the only predominantly Catholic country in Asia, brought about by 300 years of Spanish colonial rule which started in the 1500s. The influence of religion is thus ingrained and pervasive in the peoples’ psych and culture, and most evident in the places of worship. From the far-flung towns to the urban centers, church structures abound, from the modern to the centuries old. They stand as symbols of faith, much like the Muslim mosques and the Buddhist temples. To individuals like me, churches, basilicas and cathedrals are profound photographic subjects. They have this visual grandeur and alluring solemnity. They invoke an aura of mysticism, serenity and of course spirituality. Those are intangibles that are represented in what we can see – the shapes, form, patterns, details, lines – elements which are in the microcosm of the physical church structure whether in its cavernous interior or its towering exterior. When you get the chance to tour my country, make it a point to visit the churches. First give thanks to the Almighty for all the blessings he has given you in this life, then pray that all the pictures you’ll take afterwards will be sharp, vivid, clear and in focus. Amen. (Photo location: Dauis Church, Panglao Island)

Rise early

What a title coming from someone who is a certified late riser and sunset shooter. I probably have only a couple of dozen sunrise shots from my vast collection of outdoor images. But whether sunrise or sunset, these are the magic hours sought by photographers. And the rare times I get to personally greet the dawn, it is always worth the while (and the effort of getting up from bed). Lots of photographic moments happen during early morning, and these include the mood of the surroundings, the stillness of things, the almost monotone color, elemental shadows and forms, and the slight tinge of light in the horizon preparing for day to break out. The unholy early hours always beckon. It is such an enigmatic power that pulls you at the core, touching your consciousness, pricking your heart, hugging your persona. Such is the feeling maybe because all your senses take it in – cool breeze caress your skin, the scent of salty sea overpower your nostrils, the shrill cries of birds passing overhead echo in your ears, and the soft watercolored views delight the eyes. You get your camera and snap on, hoping to capture what you feel, hoping to freeze the sensual bliss. A picture may not only speak a thousand words, it also convey emotions accumulated during the moment. Rise early. I’ll include that in my resolutions this coming New Year. (Photo location: Cancabato Bay, Tacloban City) 

Inspired by nature

Nature is such an inspiration. I find in it both solace and strength. Trees, flowers, islands, seas, skies, clouds and all other elements are such powerful stimulants. They overwhelm the senses. They are dreams, passions, fantasies and wishes rolled into one. They provide visual and spiritual overload, knowing that one Creator made them all. Wonder at the soft murmurs of waves splashing on the shore, the soft soothing silence of a wondrous sunrise, the miraculous sight of the last rays of light as the sun ebbs in the horizon, the soft pastel clouds of a gloomy day, dewdrops on delicate leaves in early morn, the soft spongy feel of grass, birds chirping musical melodies as they fly by, the eerie might of primeval forests, majestic mountains and fairy hills. The sight, sound and feel of nature, untouched and pure, sanctified by the Hands that created them, is evidence of a wonderful world that we must care for, preserve, protect and respect. Ours is a life dependent on the natural world around us. We are nothing without it. (Photo location: Surigao del Norte)

The journey home

Each of us choose the road we take, the path to thread, the direction to chart. Call it your destiny or fate, but life leads you to your own choosing. Ten million Filipinos do not live in their country as they have chosen to find their fortune in some other lands not their own. The force of circumstance and the dream of a better personal life and for those they have left behind, are compelling. The diaspora is constant and continuing. The labor and loneliness that awaits my countrymen in other countries is part of the sacrifice. It is a burden co-terminus with the employment contract. They must earn a living that could not be provided with enough jobs in their homeland, and the virtue of patience and hard work comes to fore to those who choose to work abroad. Until the day they come home. The culmination of months or even years of working away from one’s family is actually anti-climactic. The longing has been lessened by the technology of global communication – cellphones, e-mails, video chat. Still, nothing can take the place of hugs and kisses of loved ones. The return is a family milestone for many, a celebration of a reunion. It is a display of the indomitable human spirit, that whatever road we take or path we thread, it will take us back to where we came from. In life, or even beyond, it is always a  journey home. (Photo location: Caticlan, Aklan province)

Reminiscing the moments

Time flies by so fast you can only recall so much of what you did in a day. How much more in a month, or a year. But humans have the power to recall, to remember and reminisce, particularly special moments – your first love, first kiss, the time you said “I Do”, the shrill cries of your first born, the smell of your new car, your first out of town trip, family reunions, the first time you stood as god-parent in a baptismal or main sponsor in a wedding, the initial steps as you moved through the door of your very own house, the best sunset you ever saw, the most beautiful flower that beheld your eyes, your first cellphone or digicam, the highest mountain you climbed, the most laps you swam, the fastest you have ever driven – these and many more are the memorable entries in your life’s journal. When you are in a quiet place, a site of solitude, take time to review the notes you have made in your journey. These are moments that may never return or recur, yet you can relish them again by reminiscing. (Photo location: the sea off Mindoro Oriental)

I believe

I believe in the miracle of life. I believe in the eternity of the soul. I believe in the wondrous gifts of nature, the solemn grace of a setting sun, the calm of a morning sea, the scent of pure breeze, the warmth of a sunny day, the picturesque scene of solitude, the sway and motion of heavenly clouds, the lines, shapes and contours of a wonderful vision – bright, lucid and clear. I believe in the cacophony of aural experiences, music of the spirit, the ambient sound of sweet whispers, the surreal echo of distant dreams, the ripples and flutter of movement in the air. I believe in the visual explosion of colors, the subtle tints of dawn, the harsh light of noon and the muted tones and shadows of early evening. I believe in so much reality there is barely room for pretensions and lies. Because I believe in what I see and sense, grasp and comprehend, it is truth that beholds my being. I am what I am because I believe. (Photo location: Lake Tri An, Vietnam)

Waiting and anticipating

I got the itchy trigger finger always wanting to capture the speed of movement, the “decisive moment”. Which is why my camera is usually set to shutter-priority mode, the better not to miss those split second shots. However, there are situations where you have to wait, to anticipate for elements to converge and come together for that picture you envisioned. Take the case of this photo – a playful boy who could not stay still, and a fountain that shoots out intermittently from the floor every second or so. Both elements were erratic, unstable, in motion. I wanted a convergence, a confluence, a meeting of the elements, so I had to wait, anticipate, prepare. And there it was, contact! Click! The touching of hand and water, of solid and liquid, the distinct and amorphous, of mortal and perpetual. The image was taken with a single shot. Photography writer Nizar Bredan in his article First Wait, then Shoot believes that waiting and anticipating are essential habits for hobbyists and photographers. I agree. This fast-paced life conditioned us to be frenetic and always on the go. Yet there are times we have to pause and linger. Patience has its reward. I remember the saying – “All good things come to those who wait.” (Photo location: Sentosa, Singapore)

For free

Just look at the world around you. Not the everyday metropolitan tangle of skyscrapers, the maze of concrete highways and the bustling traffic of people. Find and view the natural world. A quiet horizon, a silent tree-lined countryside scene, a picturesque sunset, a postcard-like panorama of mountains, hills, streams, forests. The best that nature can offer. Find time for that perfect getaway. Alone. By yourself. With only God’s creations. Then take them all in. Open up and observe with the senses. Wonder at the beauty and serenity. Be awed by the resplendence of colors, of cascading hues, pastel tints here and there, the depth of shadows and silhouettes, subtle light reflections peering through. It is overwhelming. Words are inadequate to describe the view. Even the senses are insufficient and are enveloped by the atmosphere of calm and complexity, silence and simplicity. My gratitude to the Creator for coloring this world and making it available for all of us…for free. (Photo location: Montemaria, Batangas)

The world is your canvas

With photography, the world is yours to capture, to portray, to paint. It is your canvas, to put your image, to give your interpretation, to express yourself. While traditional painting may take hours or days, photography takes just an instant to create your art, and the considerations are the same – light, shadows, contrast, texture, colors. These are elements which, in the hands of a dedicated photographer with the mind of a poet and the heart of an artist, can create a personal magnum opus. Continue clicking and pursue your art. (Photo location: Batangas City)

Photography as an art

Michael Prodger in his article at The Guardian pose the question in his title – Photography: is it art? So far it has garnered 288 comments and reactions from readers. The discussion is lively and generally divided into two camps: yes, photography is an art, and no, it isn’t. I will not add to the discussion but will give an overview of the two camps’ opposing line of thoughts. Those who say “ay” reasons that photography is a means of expression therefore it is art. It is the creation and capture of beauty therefore it is art. Sixteen of the most expensive photographs ever sold ranged from one to over four million US dollars therefore they are artworks. Those who say “nay” counters that photographers can make lovely pictures but if they are not artists they can’t make works of art. Anyone can take pictures but not everyone can create an image of artistic value. My take on all of these? The photographer can learn to be an artist. That is why we have techniques and fundamentals to hone the photographer in his craft and elevate his images into the realms of art. On the other hand, the artist who becomes a photographer has a built-in advantage because he already has a grasp on the basics like design elements and composition. Oscar Wilde defines art as “the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known.” Photography is subjective, intuitive, instrospective, instinctive and highly personal – all traits of individualism. On that note, photography is art.

A love affair with life

A master’s saying rings loud in my consciousness: photography is a love affair with life. This holds true without us knowing it when we take pictures of people, flowers, trees, seas, rivers, streams, sunsets and a host of other subjects. The object of our focus may be inanimate like a rock or a mountain but, I am not delusional yet certainly imaginative, how often have you thought that a rock, stone or pebble throbbed and was warm when you held it? And a mountain that seemingly heaves as it hosts and itself sustains millions of breathing creatures. A sunset smiles, a river flows, flowers sway, winds roar, clouds roam, trees dance, and even those lilies pose for my shot! This earth of ours, with billions of elements, things and inhabitants, is life itself. Photography embraces them all!

The beauty around us

You just have to look around to see that beauty engulfs you. The miracle of creation and nature is just about everywhere. It is in that brown leaf lying in the soft green moss, in flowers which shelter the night’s dew, in mountains and cliffs that is home to all sorts of life, in the emerald sea that nourish, in trees which sway to beat of a rhythmic wind, in clouds that scatter shade and sunshine, in the smiles of people, the eyes of children, the glow of faces young and old. When you are out there, in the field or forest or shore, stare at the horizon, take in the vastness of the scenery. Peer at it not only with your visual sense, but open your heart, and also take in a mental stock of what you see. You will have a better appreciation of what is before you. The time we learn to perceive with the heart and mind is the time we understand nothing was ever meant to be unattractive, displeasing or unsightly. (Photo location: Montemaria, Batangas)

Everything changes

So nothing is permanent, we know that. This world is always changing, shifting, transforming. Sometimes you chance upon that transformation. The blinding light of day will become grayish and the sky will be enveloped in deep colors of a setting sun. The thin wisp of clouds change into full, bulbous mushrooms as they fill the distant horizon. Even the sea will ebb and eventually rise in a continuing cycle. Trees will shed leaves, shells will open, rocks shall form. Nothing is ever in a fixed state. A generation of children will become tomorrow’s workers and leaders. Innocence will be overtaken by reality. It is the call and command of nature that everything changes in its appointed time. (Photo location: Guimaras)

A poignant photo story

A chapter of individual lives close every end of the day. Body and mind need to recharge. But there are moments of reflection before we lie down to rest. Have we done any meaningful thing the past 24 hours? Perhaps nothing earth-shattering that could change the world. Just small, simple acts of an ordinary life. Yet some deeds stand out. The boy in the picture, tying his boat in a makeshift pier after an afternoon at sea, was all smiles as I approached him. I asked him if he caught any and he showed me a medium-sized pail full of fishes. He added that his father was sick and could not go fishing, and what he caught would be food for dinner for his six siblings. I was moved and impressed. What the boy did will never matter to the world, but it is all the world for him to make sure his family would not sleep on empty stomachs at the end of the day. (Photo location: Surigao City)