Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Basic Photography for Photojournalism

Group photo and panoramic

Snapped view from moving car

Silhouette effect against sun

Confidence and timing needed

Discovery of subject

Dr Abe V Rotor

Reading assignment for students in Printing and Photojournalism, UST, as field guide and test review.

Know your camera. Befriend it, and you will go places together, and "conquer" the world of photography.

1. Subjects are everywhere. But you have to look for your subject. See new angles, dimensions, perspectives, and many other ways to make the most of each subject. Use all senses possible, draw out subjects from imagination. More than a "nose for news" approach or "gut feel", imagine, re-create, and feel your subject.

2. Camera cannot discriminate. "You and I may lie, but the camera does not lie." The camera captures all within its vision. But you can focus only on a particular object or part of it. You can script. Be sure a scripted picture is not obvious.

3. Power of colors. It means appropriate colors for your subject tuned to the occasion, ambiance, purpose - with the sense of moderation and fine taste. Colors are all around. Discern colors to attract, harmonize, create moods, contrast, emphasis. To make your subject look real. Use color schemes to add coherence to your picture, to interpret expressively. Use warm and cool colors properly. Strong colors do not always attract, maybe you need distorted colors like reflection on water. Be guided in color harmony using the Color Chart.

4. Exposure setting. Even with an automatic camera, you need to check and apply the proper exposure. Otherwise you get over exposed or under exposed results. Too high DIN/ASA/ISO under the sun results to granulated photo. (Pointillism effect). Practice bracketing: make a series of shots of the same subject with different modes (aperture, shutter, ISO), and at variable distance. Compare and choose, edit (if necessary), arrange or collage

5. Use lines properly. Lines lead the eye. Lines create moods, emphasis, direction. Break monotony, repetition, prosaic impression. Lines give a sense of measurement like distance, volume, height.

6. Focus to make clear, sharp image. Even with automatic cameras, be sure you get the best focus. The light meter measures light - not necessarily the subject.Use focus for emphasis and viewpoint, and differential focus (sharp and soft). Focus guides you in editing, specially cropping. It emphasizes the value of the picture, its newsworthiness and artistic quality.

7. Shutter freezes action. Or creates mood. Movement is a difficult subject. Split of a second. Passing view. Fast cars, winning shot, fired bullet. Yet a little blur or haze gives a special touch to the picture.

8. Aperture or lens opening. Depth of field must be well defined, unless you have another objective, like eliminating undesirable background. Shallow depth of field makes a particular person to stand out in a crowd. General rule is that the smaller the aperture, the deeper is the depth of field. Infinity mode is usually set on smaller aperture or lens opening just like how the pupil of the eye works.

9. Exposure setting. Even with an automatic camera, you need to check and apply the proper exposure. Otherwise you get over exposed or under exposed results. Too high DIN/ASA/ISO under the sun results to granulated photo. (Pointillism effect). Practice bracketing: make a series of shots of the same subject with different modes (aperture, shutter, ISO), and at variable distance.

10. Composition. This is basic in writing a song or theme, in painting, in architecture, and the like. Adopt necessary format - horizontal, vertical, or square - to the final picture, either with the camera or by editing, or both. Composition is the key to a masterpiece, it tells a story, it leads to the message, it presents a holistic view. It removes the wasteland, so to speak.

11. Viewpoint. This element has a great impact on composition. Is it at the left or right? How close should the subject appear? Close-up? Is it a low or high viewpoint in terms of perspective. Fill up the whole frame? Or give a breathing space? Often we ask, "What's your viewpoint?" You may mean, "How do you see the thing?"

12. Framing. It's like seeing a play. The characters are framed on the stage. In photography it may be a window, arched doorway, or an arch itself like the Arch of the Centuries. These can make a natural frame in your photo. Or you may need background framing, instead, like stained glass behind a praying person.

13. Contrast. This means subject contrast (rock and flowing water, tall and short partners). Or lighting contrast (brightness and darkness, light and shadow). Tonal differences can be subjective (simultaneous contrast, like silver lining of nimbus cloud). Use tone to simplify, or low-key tone to moderate. Contrasting tones make a silhouette effect.

14. Background. Ang ganda ang bundok! Akala mo ikaw ang sinasabing maganda. Sometimes what is beautiful is the background or backdrop, not the subject. Capitalize on the background to enrich your picture. In fact you can arrange it, if you can, to fit to your objective. The background may steal the show, so to speak. It might even ruin it. Don't allow this to happen.

15. Balance. Balance by conformity or balance by contrast. Be sure you know how to differentiate the two. Also, there's balance by position. Avoid rigid symmetry, for all you know the result is a better perception of balance. Variety leads to balance. Center is not always the rule for balance. Don't stand on the center. Have more space at the front than at its back. Move the building to one side to show, say sunset, or the road.

16. Light. Without light there can be no photography. Look at light, natural or artificial, as important element in photography. Use light on translucent object (leaves, cloth). Sunlight tells time and direction, creates repetition or twin patterns. Vary light to create moods, silhouettes, rim-lighting effect, in outlining shapes, flare and glare. Make essence of existing light, make it "spill", hide, appear like curtain or frame an object.

17. Direction refers mainly to the direction of sunlight as it strikes an object. High noon emphasizes the eye sockets, makes trees dwarf, shoulders broad. Light reveals rough surface, bares embossed figures. It's you who adjust to directional effect, you can't fix it. Certain views like buildings and landscapes are best at certain hours of the day.

18. Use lenses creatively. Standard lens can take you far and wide to a variety of subjects. But you may need special lenses. Telephoto for news coverage and bird watching. You may need extended perspective to extend depth of field, wide angle for panoramic view, fisheye lens for circular images and to frame skyscrapers. Telezoom acts in two ways as the term implies - reach out and crop. Mirror lens is designed to reduce the bulk and length of extrema telephoto lenses. They are used in war zone and in astronomy.

19. Filters enhance or change the look of pictures, whether color or black and white. The universal filters are Ultra Violet (UV) filter, and polarizing filter to remove reflection.
Green makes view fresher, blue makes the sea deeper, red a more dramatic sunset, yellow makes the ricefields at harvestime golden.

20. Flash. Today's cameras have built-in flash which automatically flashes when lighting is inadequate. There are cameras that have flash mode irrespective of lighting condition. This is to counteract glare. It equalizes distribution of light. Or it lights the subject without lighting the background. But flash can minimize details. In fact it leads to over exposed pictures.

Key to success in photography is constant practice. Like any other skill, the ability to see and realize is not just automatic response. The skill is best absorbed and used subconsciously through constant practice.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Swallow (La Golondrina)

Abe V Rotor

La Golondrina is one of the best loved songs in the world. It comes in many versions and musical renditions - instrumental, orchestral, quartet, chorus, or simply as ballad. It is one of the favorite songs of the late singer Nat King Cole, the great tenors Pavarotti and Domingo, and not least, the balladeer Pat Boone.

The lyrics of the song have been translated in practically all major languages of the world. Sad to say, however, some versions have failed to keep the classical quality and significance of the song.

You can play it on the violin, piano or flute. If you have advanced music lessons try making your own variations - maybe two or three, but reserve one for the finale. Throughout your playing be keen at preserving the melody and theme.

I prefer the solo violin with a soulful ambiance of nostalgia, imagining this majestic bird flying in the blue sky, keeping company with its flock and momentarily finding freedom, and coming close to earth to bring a message of peace and joy this Christmas Season.

Swallows keep equidistance on electric wire. Florida Blanca, Pampanga

Version 1: The Swallow (La Golondrina)

To far off lands, the swallow now is speeding
For warmer climes and sun-drenched foreign shores
While cooler breezes tell of summer fading
My heart with you, into the heavens will soar.

Oh graceful swallow bear a message of love
For on your journey, lies the land of my heart
As down you sweep, shed my blessings upon them
That tell of love which in my heart still burns

Among those shores are all that I care or live for
My home, my loved ones, waiting for my return
Then glide downwards as you see from above
A sea swept isle from which we had to part

Each winter long console me in my dreaming
And you fond swallow on your gleaming wings
Will speed as I would wish I could go speeding
Straight to their hearts, and with you my love bring

Oh graceful swallow . . .
(repeat last line)

Song also known as 'The Mexican 'Home Sweet Home'. Serradel: Mexican composer (1843-1910) born in Veracruz. His name appears variously as 'Narciso Serradell', 'Narciso Serradel' or 'Narciso Serradel Sevilla'.

The Spanish lyrics of La Golondrina (The Swallow) use the image of a migrating swallow to evoke sentiments of longing for one's homeland. The song has been recorded by numerous artists over the years, either as an instrumental or with various lyrics.


1. High in the sky
At break of dawn I see
The swallow fly
Above the world
Among the drifting clouds he flashes by
Beneath the caves his little mate is waiting
Beneath the leaves where all his treasures lie.

2. Ah, would that I were a swallow that flies through the sky,
On the wing, rejoicing, where all care flutters by,
So light and free, above the voice of the throng,
High up in the sky, where all the world's a song!



Whither so swiftly flies the timid swallow,
What distant bourne seeks her untiring wing?
To reach it safe, what needle does she follow,
When darkness wraps the poor, wee storm-tossed thing?
To build her nest near to my couch, I'll call her;
Why go so far bright and warm skies to keep!
Safe would she be; no evil should befall her,
For I am an exile sad, too sad to weep;

My fatherland is dear, but I too left it;
Far am I from the spot where I was born;
Cheerless is life, fierce storms of joy bereft it;
Made me an exile lifelong and forlorn.
Come then to me, sweet feathered pilgrim stranger;
Oh! Let me clasp thee to my loving breast,
And list thy warbling low, secure from danger,
Unwonted tears bringing relief and rest.

(English words Thos. M. Westrup, ca. 1883) The lyrics above from a copy published in 1889 by Thomas Goggan & Bro., Galveston, TX, compliments of the Mexican National R Narciso Serradel Sevilla (1843-1910), a native of Alverado, Vera Cruz, Mexico, was both a doctor and a composer. During the war against the French Maximiliano, Serradel fought against the French Imperial troops alongside General Zaragoza. He was taken prisoner---and deported to France. He is most famous for his popular song of farewell, "La Golondrina." The song is a favorite of expatriate Mexicans..." It is often requested at the funerals of Mexican-Americans." The first two verses are often omitted (see post above, from "Canciones Populares"). The song is often thought of as "traditional."

In his lyrics, Serradel assumes the persona of Aben Hamid, a Moor of Granada, who was forced to leave his beloved home when Isabella and Ferdinand expelled the Moors and Jews from Spain in the 1490's; they were never to see their homeland, where they had lived for centuries, again.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Our Lady on the Rock

Abe V Rotor

Santa Paradise. Santa, Ilocos Sur

Come to me when rage the mind,
the spirit, the heart;
When tempest shudders the shore,
tears the world apart.

Yonder on the rock we stand,
and watch as the sun rises;
Free from earthly bound and cares,
guilt of our forebears. ~

Living with Nature 3, AVR (All Rights Reserved 2010)

Old Lighthouse

Detail of Mural, AVR 2000

Abe V Rotor

I'm a tower on the craggy shore,
Gleaming white against the sunlight,
Against the wind and the shifting floor;

I stand by day, keep watch at night.

I can only wink but not sleep,

For all eyes at sea are watching me,

As I watch them go on their trip

Into the wide, blue sea. ~

Living with Nature, 3 AVR (All Rights Reserved 2010)


Rampage, acrylic AVR 2008

Abe V Rotor

When there's danger and you're on its path,
Make haste, stand aside;
Or stay firm for others' sake, be tough;
Act not in your own pride.

When silent the throng with doubt caressed,
Rise, rise up to the fore;
And say your piece, until follow all the rest
To the edge of the shore.

When in doldrums idle in storm cast,
And sweet death comes too close;
Raise the mast, the helm by the horn you must
Stir, there's no other choice.

When too soft and lonely at times the heart,
Or when it is of wood;
Leave others not, theirs also your part,
Stay put and behold.

When the trip is done and now the prize
Is won, sing a hymn;
His gifts truly aren’t in vain, arise;
Let the sunshine in. ~

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Touch the Clouds - A Retreat Message:

Abe V Rotor

Cirrus clouds unveil Mount Saint Paul, Benguet

When one goes to the mountain there is that definite feeling that he is closer to God. With the summit at his feet he touches the clouds. The clouds open and he hopes to find the gate of Heaven. There is no gate there.

Read this message when you have settled down at the retreat house on Mount Saint Paul (Benguet).

There on this solemn piece of Eden, you will be surrounded by towering pine trees and honored by bouquets of flowers bathed with morning sun and studded with trains of dewdrops, that heighten the ambiance of adoration. You will be enveloped by serenity and peace. Listen well to the words of your retreat master. Listen to your heart. Find Peace of Mind.

While the outside world grinds cruel and chaotic. It is the world you left behind for the time being. By being detached you may find a better vantage point to see the difference of perfection and imperfection. No one will ever reach perfection though. But it is the very intention and act of reaching for it that is most important.

I got a copy of a critical version of Matthew 25. It may lack the conventions of a critic, but it is something worthy to think about. To wit.

"I was hungry, and you formed a human rights club to discuss the politics of my hunger, thank you;

I was imprisoned, and you crept off quietly to your chapel in the cellar, and prayed for my release;

I was naked, and in your mind you debated the morality of my nakedness;

I was homeless, and you preached to me about my home in heaven;

I was lonely, and you left me alone to attend to your Sunday obligations;

You seem so holy, so close to God, but I am still very hungry, lonely and homeless."

Perhaps you should look at the version on the point of view of the faithful. Our faith is as strong as how we profess it. We cannot be passive and subservient to a point of indifference and surrender.

Now, ponder on these verses:

1. Come, come to me in silence or in song,
that I may hear you better among the throng.

2. Fewer are the grains in number
when the tillers fall in slumber.

3. The weak makes up for its frailty
in number and simplicity.

4. Cream on top, whatever is inside,
makes way for the hero and his bride.

5. Sinner or saint, saint or sinner;
never, never a cycle ever;
no matter what and where,
that the past is redeemed - or never.

6. If there is a fourth King
other that the first three;
make me a fifth being
that I'll suffer for three.

7. God is everywhere yet discreet
in many ways beyond our pain,
in our sleep or with busy feet
in far away places on the plain.

8. Truthfulness without kindness
Makes a cold, cruel steel;
Kindness without truthfulness,
Like a boat without keel.

9. Rich in the pocket, least in his heart
his life did make, is a vulture's art.

10. Walk.

Running is sometimes bad;
You’ll better see and talk
About the countryside,
And to God. ~

Good luck. May God's blessings bring out the best in you as Christian and Filipino.

(To my students, St. Paul University QC 2001; critical version of Matthew 25 by Bob
Rowland )

Monday, November 15, 2010

City Skyscape

Autumn leaves of talisay tree

Entangled branches and cable wires

UST on a summer vacation

Drifting cloud hangs on cable wires

Stratus to cirrus cloud - a subtle transformation

Breezeless day at UST

Cumulus cloud towers over building and tree tops

Escape from the City

Shells, layer after layer of walls,
But breath and keep on breathing,
Wave after wave, time enthralls
You to the art of living and dying.

As the world makes the final roll call,
You are left alone among the throng;
People are everywhere but not a soul
To tell you what is right or wrong.

Escape if you must to Agape land;
Resort to the sky as Daedalus did;
The skyscape your map to that land,
Least by imagination, best by creed. ~

Food on Wheels

Abe V Rotor




Love those food on wheels - they keep you alive;
They run with you, they make haste
As you hurry up to your work or play,
Time and nothing go to waste. ~

Courtesy of Anna, SOLB


Abe V Rotor

Hairy caterpillar (higad) writhes as soldier hantik ants drive their razor-sharp mandibles spiked with immobilizing poison. Soon this fleshy Goliath will be reduced into shreds and tidbits which will be carried off to be served as food to the colony's nursery.

Here is a case of poison against poison. The wasp tucks in a dagger that injects bee venom, while the ants have formic acid. Here too, a giant is pitted against Lilliputians, but what spells victory is number - the strategy of ants. An ant colony is made up of thousands of active members working in precise coordination.

Living with Nature 3, All Rights Reserved 2010 AVR

Friday, November 12, 2010

Part 1: Rediscovering Lost Culture and Arts

Abe V. Rotor

Bountiful harvest brings a whole family to work on the farm. Bantay, Ilocos Sur.

Revival of Pottery: art and livelihood, environment friendly

Homogenization, like a giant pool, mirrors a phenomenon which is a consequence of progress - globalization.

Globalization is irreversible. But is it really progression. If it is trend of progress where will it lead us to? To what extent, and for how long? The believers of this thesis are disciples of science and technology, and therefore are not afraid to open new horizons. They seldom look behind.

The traditionalists look at things differently. They have deeper roots in history and culture, they find time to ponder and analyze, and ask others and themselves, “Quo vadis?” But don’t get me wrong as anti progressive, anti technology.

Globalization is like a cauldron in which diversities of culture are thrown into. They dissolve in our very eyes. Either they disappear or lose their identity.

Clearly there is homogenization of races, creeds, ideologies - technology. For example there is only one kind of car in the world – they all work of the principle of Internal Combustion. Formal education has generally of one pattern worldwide, from preparatory to post graduate; so with the various courses offered.

Ethnicity encompasses many aspects of life and culture; other the humanities are the natural sciences, ethnobotany among them (the study of the relationship of people and plants in a natural setting.). From here evolved the knowledge of man in pharmacology, and while such knowledge has vastly grown into a major industry dominated by multinational companies, a great deal of herbal healing still abound in rural communities.

Folk wisdom akin to traditional knowledge is carried onto the present by elder members of the community has lost much significance in general perception, but a great number of them are enshrined by our culture and writings. They are natural leaders whose words are listened to with respect. Why village elders have also the role of an herbolario, matchmakers in marriages, teachers in their own right based on rich experiences and long practice!

Confucian teachings permeate in the family. Christian values are reinforced by age-long heritage, and vice versa. So with the teachings of Buddha and Mohammad, and other great religious leaders. Mythology, too, has deep rooted influence in our lives. It lives in our superstitious belief, folklore and customs. But many of these are being threatened, if not endangered, in our march toward progress and affluence, along with the current of postmodernism which is sweeping the world today.

On the other hand, there is growing consciousness for moderation in living. More and more people are looking for alternatives of the so-called Good Life.

One alternative is the revival of tradition, a rediscovery of lost culture and art can be enshrined in our present life.

1. Revival of ethno medicinal healing has suddenly found relevance where the dangers of modern medicine are perceived. Lagundi, Oregano, Sambong are now DOH-approved How about the bulk of herbal medicine?

2. It’s the cold wind from the north that came too soon that caused poor rice harvest. Old folks would tell us. And scientists confirm that pollination-fertilization is indeed adversely affected by cold weather.

3. Pet therapy is gaining popularity even in modern hospitals. Victims of stroke who lost coordination of their hands surprisingly recover with a pet around.

4. Honeybee sting sends arthritic people back on the road.

5. Return to cotton, ramie, abaca, flax, and other natural fibers for clothing and other wears is indicative of people's awareness on the comfort and health benefits of these natural fibers, not to mention their being environment friendly.

5. Ethnic art is gaining popularity in galleries and studios. Native arts are found on murals and in halls. The revival of ethnic art is very visible among the aborigines of Australia, the American Indians, the Incas and Aztecs.So with other indigenous cultures.


University of Santo Tomas Landmark at Night

Photos by Marlo R Rotor

Part 2: Assignment in Photojournalism, UST

Statue of Knowledge

Owl, Symbol of Wisdom

Arch of the Centuries in two eras.
Note division of the arch's faces

Stone deer sentinel

Arch of the Centuries facing EspaƱa

Panoramic view of the university's entrance

Sentinel, oh sentinel,
don't sleep into the night,
keep the vigil for'ver bright,
for reason has faith
and faith has reason,
that makes human
humane and sane.

Write an essay on a short bond in handwriting the significance of these photos.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Serendipity and Peace

UST Arch of the Centuries and Fountain of Knowledge

Serendipity means accidentally discovering something valuable while looking entirely for something else.

"We are gathered here looking for a way to make peace in a turbulent world. I hope that/we shall learn not only techniques and strategies on how to make peace. I hope we shall discover that peace is not something we make: as in make love, make money, or make believe. A holy man named Augustine once wrote: Peace is the tranquility of order. Tranquilitas ordinis.
Peace, like happiness, is a by-product. It is the end result of our common endeavor to put things in their proper order. We shall never experience peace if there is dis-order in our personal lives, in society, in our churches.

One contemporary apostle of UNITY among peoples, Chiara Lubich once gave us this insight into our contemporary situation: 'What hurts me is mine.' I take those words to mean that peace begins when we realize that all the pain and suffering we endure are of our own making. It is by owning this pain that we develop a sense of belonging to a human family broken by sin and its consequences, and which enable us to dialogue with others in humility and reverence."

Excerpt from the welcome address of Rev Fr Rolando V de la Rosa, OP, rector of the University of Santo Tomas, before the delegates to the 7th General Assembly Asian Conference of Religions for Peace (ARCP) Peacemaking in Asia, October 17 to 21, 2008.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Sample Test in Economic Botany

Typical cornfield at harvest time, Bantay, Ilocos Sur

Abe V Rotor

These are the staple food of many countries. A. Rice B. Corn C. Wheat D. Potato D. Oat

____ 1. More people depend on this staple compared to the others. In fact it is the foundation of their livelihood and culture.

____ 2. This crop has the highest response to fertilizer application so that it outstrips the productivity of other staple crops.

____ 3. To a large extent, this crop can be grown in temperate and tropical regions, but not in high altitude areas.

____ 4. It comprises the bulk of agricultural products - in raw, processed and finished, thus dominating the world’s food trade.

____ 5. Ireland suffered mass starvation leading to death and migration of millions when this crop failed in the 18th century.

____ 6. This has high protein, it is served for breakfast and to recuperation patients. It costs relatively higher than any of these food crops.

____ 7. Twenty percent of our population is dependent on this staple, particularly in the Southern provinces.

____ 8. This crop displaced the natural vegetation of the Prairies of the US.

____9. While International Rice Research Institute or IRRI is concerned rice, its counterpart - CIMMYT in Mexico is focusing on two of these staple crops.

____10. This has become a favorite finger food in fast food chains. Lately it is being prepared in extruded form so that the product is longer and more uniform, and convenient to handle.

1 Rice
2 Corn
3 Corn
4 Wheat
5 Potato
6 Oat
7 Corn
8 Wheat
9 Corn and Wheat
10 Potato

The Art of Flower Arrangement - some models for wedding

Abe V Rotor

Flower arrangement is an art. It provides livelihood to many people from the grower to the decor expert for wedding, graduation or simply for the table.

Acknowledgment: Evelyn's Garden and Services, QC