University of the Philippines Los Baños

It transcends the metaphysical limits of this universe.

The desire to freeze a brief moment, an event encapsulated within each fleeting second, has always been stored deep beneath the psyche of every man. With the advent of cheaper highend cameras and better digital cameras embedded in every device, photography is taking a step forward with a whole new spin. So here are the top three reasons why you should pick up this digital hobby in UPLB.

Los Baños is strong in this field and has great potential

“Los Baños is full of creative and intellectual pursuits,” says Alex Baluyut, one of Invisible Photographer Asia’s Most Influential Asian Photographers. And this is quite evident seeing that Los Baños houses UPLB, the center of arts and sciences in the region. Add to that is the fact that everyone nowadays just seems to want to get into photography, even to the point of having the field of getting contaminated with “feelingeros.”

Everyone starts somewhere and where you came from reflects what you value the most,” says William “Bill” Sta. Clara, a native of Los Baños and one of the first members of UP Photos. “There’s no problem with where you are but isn’t it better to ask yourself, “What can I learn today?” And learning photography is easy. Like Alex said, “Everyone has a workshop nowadays.” True. Everyone has their own twist on the photo workshop/seminar, whether it is basic photography, advanced photography, or photography courses that focus on one specific genre. He also adds that “You can’t rely on talent alone. You have to be educated. You have to know the relationship [of photography] and how it fits in with other forms of art.”

Edwin Cortes, the current president of Los Baños Camera Club says, “I think the LB community desires to create great photographs. They want more than just a snapshot. There’s a lot of talent here.” And if you need a skill boost, there’s a chance to collaborate with other photographers whether they are hobbyists, professionals or students.

Photography collectives are aplenty

Collectives offer a chance for you to be mentored in photography and maybe lead you toward the genre of your choice. These collectives also allow your creations to be constructively criticized by the other members for your improvement as a photographer.

Some of the collectives here are Quadro, Los Baños Camera Club, and UP Photos. Quadro is a group of photojournalists in Los Baños.

Headed by Alex Baluyut and co-founded by Los Baños natives Chrisanto Quintana, Al Benavente, Clifford Nuñez, and Rocel Junio, Quadro aims to be the primary photojournalist collective in Los Baños. Los Baños Camera Club (LBCC) is founded by Edwin Cortes and Eric John Azucena. LBCC is a group of people with common interests coming together and sharing ideas about photography.

As for UP Photos, the organization was designed to accommodate photography enthusiasts with different levels of knowledge and interests. One does not even need to own a camera to be a member. An appreciation of the craft is all that is needed. Anyone belonging to a certain skill level can find an organization that is fit for him/her. If being in an organization is not enough, try consulting with the masters or taking part in different workshops or seminars.

Great photographers live amongst us

“Nowadays, everyone has a workshop,” says Alex. “It’s not just about learning [photography] but more of community engagement.” The people I interviewed for this article are long-time photographers. Most are published and all of them have already had their works featured in various exhibits. When asked about what it takes to be a good photographer, here’s what they had to say:

William “Bill” Sta. Clara, member, UP Photos

If you want to excel in anything, leave your ego out the door. I usually observe how cocky, and sadly, arrogant some can become when they feel so empowered holding a 500-mm lens and whatever d, l-series and sneer at those who have an Ixus, Olympus, or Easy Shot point and shoot. They make people think that they need to have one of those to shoot or have the right to shoot. Think how much better you really can be once you’re willing to stretch and let attitude give a rest.

Edwin Cortes, founder and incumbent president, Los Baños Camera Club

Here are a few things to think about:

  • Study the potential and limitations of your gear.
  • Accept the fact that you cannot afford and don’t need all the new cameras and lenses being produced.
  • The best camera is the one that’s with you - Chase Jarvis
  • Learn about light; about shadows.
  • Learn from other photographers, but do not compare yourself with them. 
  • Don’t brag how good you think you are - let others notice it.
  • Go out and shoot.
  • Always plan a shoot/photowalk. What would you like to shoot today?
  • Learn techniques, practice them, refine them.

Alex Baluyut, veteran photojournalist and charter member, Quadro

Photography needs someone [like you] to take a leap of faith towards what you want to be as a photographer. You have to have commitment. You can’t be a supervisor in a call center and be a photographer at the same time. You can’t. If you want to make it in this industry at this time, you have to have commitment. Why? Because there’s not too many jobs to be had, and you have to be savvy in all the genres. Unlike before, information about photography can’t be passed down orally nowadays.

Photography is a profound craft. It’s more than an art. Filipinos have a hard time when it comes to this. They’re stuck with the parameters of art. In photography, you have to leave everything and keep moving forward.

You have to know your style. Through the years, your shots get influenced by other photographers and it’s not bad, but you have to have your own style. Invent yourself. You have to know your [photography] timeline. You have to have your own work because you can’t change the subliminal and the subconscious. You can get influenced, but remember that everything you do is a decision. Photography is about decisions; a never ending list of it.