Saturday, October 27, 2007

Winning the Canon Smile 7107 Photo Contest- Nightscapes Category (Philippines, 2007)

I have to admit it. It is this week’s win in the 2007 Canon Smile 7107 Photo Contest which prompted me to start my blog after years of deliberate procrastination.

The stars simply aligned when the judges chose my picture as the 1st prize winner in the Nightscapes category. I would have thought that a picture of well-lit urban skylines will grab the plum award but lo and behold, my photo of a traditional candlelight procession in old and rustic Bantayan Island got the nod.

The dream: conceptualizing the photo
I have always enjoyed my experiments with slow shutter speed even before I bought my dSLR. I think my best attempt of producing the quintessential colored traffic lines using my old yet trusty pocket camera (Canon Powershot S40) is this photo that I took in Jalan Malioboro, Jogjakarta, Indonesia.

Dua becak di Jalan Malioboro
An exposure of 8 seconds, f/8

Suddenly it struck me, why not capture a moving religious candlelight procession? I knew exactly where I should be. I have be above street level so as to overlook the moving processional. The place must be in a street corner so that light lines would come out as curves. To top it all, I wanted the locale in view to be rustic and a step out of time to impress the universality of the religious rite.

The chance: making it happen
Then came the opportunity. On April 2006, we decided to join the famed Holy Week celebration of Bantayan Island, north of Cebu. As I have a friend who worked as an assistant bank manager in Bantayan, I knew he must be acquainted with somebody who had a house that can afford me the view that I wanted. The house he led me to was perfect! Shamelessly and sheepishly, we squeezed ourselves in the balcony already crammed with the homeowner’s relatives and friends (including nuns I should add). Bantayanons, like most Filipinos, are hospitable and accommodating folks.

The challenges: initial attempts
The early shots of the procession presented to me issues that I did not anticipate. When I tried to include the carroza or processional cart in the frame, I cannot extend the exposure beyond the planned 20 seconds as the carroza just became an indistinct smudge of light. Even when I chanced on a moment that the carroza stopped, the people did not really move along and just hovered around.

GF procession_140-1, 3.2s
Exposure of 0.8s, when the carroza of San Pedro (St. Peter) came to a halt

I then tried to shoot scenes of the moving candle-bearing crowd in-between carrozas, after all there was probably more than 15 on Good Friday. Unfortunately, most carrozas moved too slow and there was not enough movement to capture in the long exposure. Also, the carrozas are either bunched too close together, creating a mess of lights or there were interruptions when the stream of people would just disappear.

An exposure of 3.2 seconds, taken when the processional crowd was still thin

The moment of capture
There appeared to be only one last chance for me. As a procession follower all my life – without fail I always join at least one religious procession once a year – I know that the climax of the Good Friday procession would be the Santo Entierro. Majority of people would always join the Holy Body of Christ, being the most important tableau in any Holy Week procession. With this knowledge, I know that immediately after the Santo Entierro would be a multitude of candle-bearing people. I readied my camera settings and focused the lens on the house across us. My first 20 second shot of the throng following the Santo Entierro was passable but something was off with the composition. I quickly took another shot, this time showing more foreground of the river of light.

This proved to be my winning shot.


There were still a few more carrozas after the Santo Entierro but the crowd was beginning to become sparse and the subsequent photos were just denouement.

To date, this picture is still the most favorited and most commented picture in my flickr photostream. It still is the photo which defined my photographic conviction, until of course the next one that may still be waiting around the corner.

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Jervis said...

Hi Farl, it's nice to know you start blogging. I always look forward to your photos as they are quite an inspiration to me. Keep it up! :)

Anonymous said...

I'll take the honor of making the first comment on your blog (if none has beat me to it)...

Processions are a vital part of our memories as kids growing up together. This long ritualistic walk used to constitute a love-hate relationship often becoming bereft of meaning by the passage of time. Somehow, traditions are like that -- implicitly ritualistic but silently pleasurable upon repetition.

Congratulations on this blog!


Charu said...

good show, Farl! welcome to the blogging world... hope to see some great posts and photographs here too...

Charu ('roadblog' from flickr)

chacal la chaise said...

thank you for posting how you went about getting this superb shot of the procession; it is an amazing candlelight river of the faithful.

Monika N. said...

Congratulations, Farl!
Well deserved ^-^ .

TwistedHalo said...

Congrats, Farl!

Dhon Jason said...

COngratulations Farl! Welcome to the blogging world. =)

Anonymous said...

Congratulations for your win and your blog, you deserve it ...
I find the article very educative and interesting

Best regards,

Yato & Family

Farl said...

Thanks for the support!

Aman Manglik said...

Hey welcome to the blogging world. Most of your flickr descriptions generally tell the stories behind the pics but it will be a different experience to read them from travel point of view. Good choice for making your blog this way. Good Luck...

spirithands said...

A splendid idea to have a blog. Your work is very inspired. I will be a regular visitor!

abou said...

it is nice to know how you came up with that shot. i learned something reading that post. your photojourney inspire me to go on in this newfound hobby. im not a pro but my shot placed second in canon. it's funny because i dont even own a camera. i just borrowed one when i took that shot. it's about time i save up and buy then shoot all i want. expect me to be a constant reader of your blog.