On the 13th of February this year (2009) I accomplished what I thought was almost impossible almost a year before. I bought my DSLR camera. It was the Nikon D60 I had for so long dreamed about, and with the collective proceeds of my SSS, Pag-Ibig loans and my salary for that pay period I finally managed to purchase one.
My husband and I named it Jason, after the practice of people naming their gadgets after real people. Jason, because he was “born” on Friday the 13th. And so for the next four months I slept with Jason on the table by my bedside, I downloaded digital photography magazines on the internet, I signed up to a couple of digital photography forums and hobnobbed with a few lady photographers and a fun bunch of D60 users.
But then I slowly realized something was missing. I had my camera and I had my shots, and maybe some of them were good snapshots, but absolutely none of them were real artful photographs. I began to think that maybe I didn’t have the talent or the eye for photography, and that I had just bought myself a very expensive point and shoot camera.
In the photography forum I signed up for, digitalphotographer.com.ph, I asked for the help of a few professionals in the forum, inviting them to look at the photos I had so far and to critique them so that I could find out what I was doing wrong. After much discussion and professionals pointing out what I needed to be doing and otherwise, I decided to take lessons.
“Lessons?!” my friend and co-worker Abi said. “For how much?” She balked when I told her the price, but then she wasn’t surprised because she knew me, and my quirks.
My teacher was to be Rolly Magpayo, art director for GMA, environmentalist, mountaineer, diver and painter. I’m sure there’s a lot more than that, but one day is not enough to get to know the person who was going to teach me the basics and the intricacies of photography.
And that he did. For an entire morning last Sunday we sat at the lobby of the Manila Hotel while Rolly took me through a presentation that included the history of cameras, the kinds of cameras, lenses and filters and how, in principle and practice, take good pictures. He explained the rule of thirds, and the golden mean, and the golden spiral, and the relationship of the trinity: ISO, Aperture, and Shutter speed. And Rolly compelled me to go on manual settings beginning on that day, something I thought was impossible for me.
But the greatest thing about a good teacher is that he can make things look so simple for a student. And with Rolly explaining photography to me, everything fell into place. I saw everything that I was doing wrong, which was—well—everything. He taught me that manual settings was actually not intricate alchemy but mere common sense. And after those four hours in the morning I recalled some of the stuff I’d been saying in the forums, especially in the Comments and Critique section, and realized my words were pure hogwash.
After lunch we went on a walk through Fort Santiago, a place that I’ve been to for the third time this year. I figured since I’d been there before the walk would be nothing new for me, but I was dead wrong. Rolly showed me corners and paths that I had never seen before and that were perfect for shooting with or without a model.
There were shots that he took with his own camera with ease, and and after showing the shots to me he would tell me to to take the same shot. And I would twist and bend and kneel till I was a pretzel and realize I could not duplicate the shot that took him a few seconds to make. But he kept encouraging me and giving me tips and he didn’t stop until I got the shot that he wanted.
There were times when I could feel he was shaking his head behind me, whenever I attempted a shot that was poorly thought out. And his words would ring inside my head. Consider your subject, how to light your subject, how to position yourself with regards to your subject. And I realized this was hard work, but I also saw the difference evident in the photos I took then and now.
When I got home I started a new Picasa and Flickr account, and turned my back on the pictures that I took in the past. I knew for sure that this was the first day in the rest of my photographer’s life. And if that sounds a bit presumptious then so be it.
Thank you, Rolly, for your time, your patience and experience. I hope I live up to, or even exceed, your expectations.