When I posted the above image at a popular photo sharing site, a viewer commented: “Wow! You captured the whole island!” Well, not really, just one area of the island which happens to be its most visible part. It’s because motorboats and their passengers pass along this sea route on their way to the main island some two hours away. I don’t know if other corners of the island are as gorgeous, but I should say the above area looks the part of a tropical Eden, unspoiled and untouched (unlike the famous Boracay Island which is teeming with people).
Imagine yourself in the island above, lying on the beach, feeling the warm caress of white, powdery sand on your skin as the balmy wind tempers the midday sun and sways the lush palms. Then you arise and dive into those tempting waters, practicing your strokes against the incoming tide. Later you retreat to the natural shade and get your fill of ripe, juicy mangoes, papaya, avocado and of course the coconut fruit…this is gastronomic heaven. Your eyes feel heavy and the cool hut beckons…with the sweet singing of birds above and the soothing sound of the surf below, you get to dreamland…fast. This is back-to-basics living, without your smartphone, tablet, laptop, music player or radio or whatever gadget. I can live with that, but not without my camera!
Another week and another picture series. The Philippines as an archipelago has 7,100 of them jutting out like pearls from the sea. Some are world-renowned destinations but we’ll explore those that don’t have hotels, bars and cabanas on the beach. We’ll go to the untrodden places, quiet, peaceful and free, and where time seemingly stands still. Welcome to Islands Week!
It will be a week-long images of boats – large and small, fast and slow, empty or with people. The Philippines is an archipelago with 7,100 islands and a combined coastline of 23,000 kilometers. Though airplanes provide fast, convenient means of transport to major cities, it is the boat, from large inter-island ferries that carry a couple of thousand passengers to small dozen seaters, that are preferred by most of the budget-conscious traveling population. Smaller ones are workhorses of the country’s fishermen. And of course, island-hopping with these boats provides a different kind of adventure. All aboard! Have a great week ahead my friends!
Tomorrow, the last Sunday of January, is the culmination of one of the biggest if not the biggest tourism event in the Philippines – the Dinagyang Festival of Iloilo City in the central part of the country. It has been voted for three consecutive years in the past by a national organization of tourist and travel operators as the No. 1 tourism event, rivaling the equally grandiose Sinulog Festival of Cebu City. I had the opportunity a couple of years back to cover the Dinagyang event together with my photo buddies from Metro Manila and I tell you, even for locals like us who watched it for the first time, it was an experience unlike any other. Now the Philippines is a “fiesta country.” Every town and city celebrate a fiesta of sorts in honor of a patron saint. There’s almost a fiesta everyday somewhere all year round. These usually consist of local beauty contests, drum and bugle competition, the community parade and a culmination night in the city gymnasium or town square where there are special numbers, live bands and fireworks show. Some places have kept the celebration small, others through the years have become a national showcase and tourism attraction – the likes of the Ati-Atihan in Kalibo City, the Sinulog in Cebu held last weekend and tomorrow’s Dinagyang in Iloilo. These premiere festivals that attract thousands of visitors from within the country and from all over the world are virtual explosions of colors, of tribal and local costumes, elaborate choreography, beats of drums and music. It is a flurry of synchronized movement from the performers garbed in their most eye-catching attire. It is the “Mardi Gras” of East Asia. I will run out of words to describe the magnificence and sheer pageantry of these events. But I will not run out of photos I took and the best of them will be presented in the next issue of Junsjazz Digital Magazine which will come out this February. It will be in direct contrast to Issue #5 which was all black and white. Issue #6 will be all about the colors of Fiesta!
Unless its a skyline of jagged peaks and mountains in a land-locked scene, your horizon won’t be a straight line. But if those mountains meet the sea in the distance, that meeting point will usually be a straight narrow line. We encounter these horizons during nature shoots – landscapes, seascapes, vistas, sunsets and sunrises. Now when framing, where do you place the horizon line? Should it be in the upper portion or lower portion? It depends on what you are going to highlight. If your subject is in the foreground, your horizon line will naturally be higher as you’ll be focusing on subjects down below, nearer you. If your subject is the sky or in the sky or up in the clouds, you’ll be pointing up and your horizon line be at the lower portion of the frame. What if your horizon line cuts across the middle of the frame. Others consider this a no-no. It just doesn’t follow through with the rules of composition. But heck, what are rules anyway? If the mountains in our example cast an interesting reflection on the sea, oh shoot to your heart’s content with the line in the middle. You are shooting for what is appealing, interesting and captivating; not for any rules. In the picture, my main subject is the man rowing his boat. I could capture him whole by zooming in, but I wanted also to include the subtle rays of the sun during that late afternoon so I pointed up a little. Which is why the horizon line placed lower from the middle portion, and it was okay since I had nothing to include in the foreground as it was all water. What was important was my main subject against an enchanting backdrop. And another thing, keep your horizon line level. Unless, for whatever effect and purpose you have in my mind, you want it tilted to one side. More on this topic from our mainstay photography instructor Darren Rowse with his write up Getting Horizons Horizontal.
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)
I had a laugh while reading this article 10 Differences Between Tourists and Travelers because more or less they are so true. Though I can’t validate item #9 on the list, I have to say I also drink but not to get drunk; it’s just to get a taste of the local beverage. Like when I was in Vietnam, I had to savor the local beer such as 333, Bia Saigon and Tiger Beer. Got to compare them with the Philippine’s very own San Miguel Beer. I’m biased but I’d still go for the distinctive taste of San Miguel. Anyway, back to our topic. Items # 2 and 4 in the list are photography related and I’d like to explore them further. Item #2 says a “tourist wants to see all the sights while a traveler wants to see some, but also to find something interesting that isn’t in the guidebook.” It’s the common complaint of people I’m with when I’m on travel – I wander off from the group, I go solo, astray and stroll along. That’s the instinct of photographers, they go the unbeaten path. If tourists flock on a certain area or follow a certain trail to take a shot of a scenery, a traveler photographer goes the other way. He finds vantage points, other angles, an unusual perspective. He is constantly on the lookout for something fresh, unique and interesting, outside and away from the normal point of view. Item #4 in the list says “a tourist takes photos of all the famous stuff. A traveler takes pictures of ordinary people and things and is rewarded by the locals with gratitude or puzzlement.” True again, and related to what I just mentioned. Photographers will shoot any ordinary, everyday subjects but will find ways to do it differently, far from the normal shot. I recall the words of a legendary photographer who said something like if he were with a group of photographers who were all huddled at one area taking a picture of a subject, that he would go to the other side. The bottomline: you can spot a tourist from a traveler by how he shoots. A tourist will take pictures casually, and just probably snap on. A traveler will stoop, crouch low, look around, eye the scene, scout the place, look up to see where the sun is and where the light falls. He is thinking, envisioning, establishing his shot. They may have the same DSLR or point and shoot cam, but they will have contrasting ways to take a shot. It’s easy to tell one from the other. (Photo location: Bird’s Beak Island in the middle of Tri An Lake, Vietnam)
Geometrical forms, asymmetrical or symmetrical shapes and two or three dimensional spaces. I barely have an idea of what these are but I know I have taken many images of these, its just that I didn’t have a full understanding of their significance and how they are related with one another. That’s the trap I often fall into – photographing without thinking. There is no precision. No forethought. The art of capturing images requires some cerebral activity, of honing in on a specific target, of visualizing the outcome, of creative idea development and many more. That many? Yup. But with practice and an eye that is trained to see compelling photographic situations and subjects, those “many” become one collective block of knowledge that can readily be available when the situation calls for it. I’ll add another important chunk of knowledge with this very informative article – Form, Shape and Space. Its opening paragraph gives us an overview of how essential these elements are: “Form and shape are areas or masses which define objects in space. Form and shape imply space; indeed they cannot exist without space.” As in previous posts, I will not re-echo what the article says; just give yourself three to five minutes to read it. Suffice to say that understanding form, shape and space will provide us both “visual literacy” and photographic proficiency. Now find that form, and shoot that shape. (Photo location: Sentosa, Singapore)