As the Northern Hemisphere slowly tilts its way to the winter solstice, cold weather has arrived in so many areas already. It snowed it Suncheon very early this morning, and I had to pour hot water on my gate handle so I could exit our property.
At that moment I was reminded of our most recent visit to the Philippines - the only ice around were the cubes to keep the drinks cool.
I first met Mario Dandi Romano, who is from the Philippines, on Facebook. He is a photographer, a classical piano instructor at his family's art and music studio, and a graphic artist and consultant for Studio 2. An articulate man who loves coffee, he also spends time on a non-stock/non-profit organization called Caffeinated Photographers. It was through Caffeinated Photographers on Facebook I met Mario. More about that organization in just a little bit.
Mario was exposed to photography, no pun intended, as a child due to the fact that his father was a photographer for the Cultural Center of the Philippines. His father was one to take his work home - he processed and developed the negatives and the photos at home. That influenced Mario greatly.
Mario is a landscape photographer whose work often features water due to his living in the Philippines as well as his traveling to the coasts in other countries. He is fascinated by the different details that can be captured when photographing water.
As can be seen, Mario enjoys photographing during the blue hour. He will often shoot using long exposure times.
Mario will shoot in manual mode, except when he is on a photo walk. Then he will set in aperture or shutter speed priority. Rarely will he use any other lens but his Nikkor 17-55mm 2.8DX lens. It is ideal for his portraiture and landscape photography.
Speaking to the subject of post-processing, Mario continually experiments with different styles. It would be folly for me to paraphrase his philosophy regarding his work in the dry darkroom - he says:
"I feel every subject has a style that would fit it perfectly and I don’t want my range to be limited because some people feel black and white is the only true art of photography, or because some think HDR is too “artificial”, or because some may think post-processing is heresy and an adulteration of the “true” image.
Some say a photographer should find a style he is comfortable with, master it, and make it his own. It makes sense to me up to a point but I don’t want to be tethered to a single style especially since I don’t want to use the same process for every subject – I want to use the best post-processing technique for each subject – I want to use the post-processing technique that will best render the mood of a certain scene or subject.
Photography for me is a continuous learning process, a journey of endless discovery and wonder – I want to take advantage of all the possibilities that the technology of our time offers but I also want to learn and retain the classic techniques of the old masters.
I personally prefer to use post-processing to bring out the scene that my mind captured and if I have to use HDR to recreate that scene I won’t hesitate to use it. However, I never use presets – for me, it takes out the creativity from the process and you will only end up with a mediocre image. I find it wrong to say that Photoshop/Lightroom makes everything easy and takes art and skill out of the equation – yes, it may be true when you use presets but, for me, real post-processing takes a lot of skill and knowledge.
To get the best image out of a good RAW file, a photographer needs to know how every little adjustment will affect the overall work, a photographer needs to understand the relation of shadows and light, colors and space in order get the exact image you have in your mind. In my opinion, post-processing should only be used to enhance an already good photo – using Photoshop or any software to try to improve a badly taken photo truly takes away the art from photography.
Since I don’t do any heavy editing and only use post-processing to enhance my photos, I rarely use Photoshop – I find Lightroom and the NIK plugins quite sufficient for my needs. NIK’s Viveza and Silver Efex Pro are my favorites."
Now, about Caffeinated Photographers I mentioned at the beginning of this article.
Caffeinated Photographers is a collaborative effort involving Mario, Paulina Uy, who was a co-founder with Mario, Miracle Romano, Camellia Alferez, and Rose Alferez. At the onset, it was an informal club to celebrate the shared love of photography...and coffee. It has since grown into a significant international group as a result of planning and having a vision of the potential impact the group could have within the photography community at large.
In his own words:
"A few days after we launched the Caffeinated Photographers page, Paulina and I decided to feature photographers from different countries each week to promote photography, inspire new photographers, and more importantly, to show how photography helps bring people together by allowing them to see different cultures and countries through the eyes of different photographers. We also launched an online group where members could freely share their work and have a chance to be selected by our Caffeinated panel for the Top Photos of the Week Album in our official page – as of now, we have almost 6,000 members in the online group."
The official Caffeinated Photographers page is found on Facebook here.
The group page that is very active and dynamic can be accessed on Facebook here.
The popularity and growth of the group inspired a decision to begin Caffeinated in Every Continent Project. Mario says it best:
"Due to the popularity of the group and its diverse and “international” nature, we decided to launch the Caffeinated in Every Continent Project last May 2012. The goal of this project is to build on the existing partnership and further enhance cooperation and communication between members all over the world. It currently has registered members from more than 40 countries and we are currently in the process of building a database that will only be accessible to our registered members. In the near future, we will also compile all the material provided by our volunteers about their respective areas and publish it in PDF form for easy downloading. This project will give our members free access to information about great places for photography in areas that they may be traveling in. It also allows members to meet up, coordinate photo walks, etc. should they find themselves in the same area. Other useful information about hotels, restaurants, tourist sites, hospitals in specific areas are also made available to our members.
Anyone interested in participating in this project can register as a "member" or as a "volunteer." Specific details can be found on the project's Facebook page here.
Mario takes a moment to talk about the organization's magazine:
"The first issue of Caffeinated Photographers Magazine was published on May 2012 with the participation of photography luminaries and award-winners from Asia to Europe to the Americas. On World Photography Day, last August 2012, we published our second issue featuring Marina Cano..."
The published work is moving, and it is beautiful. The third edition was published this past November 2012 on the anniversary of the groups formation. It featured Filipino photographer Yen Baet as well as the founder of Mute Planet, Mark Malby.
To view more of Mario's photography, visit the websites listed below:
"My dream is to travel the world and celebrate life through photography. My life experiences hasn’t changed that dream – yes, not every experience is a joyful experience but it’s how we react to each circumstance that makes life worth living and celebrating. A huge part of my inspiration is my faith – I know that good or bad, everything happens for a reason. I believe in working hard towards a goal, doing everything in your power to achieve it, but after doing everything you possibly can there’s also a certain freedom in letting the chips fall where they may.
I am inspired by many people and many things – my parents, family, friends, photographers, artists, composers, musicians, birds, trees, landscapes. When one focuses on positive things it isn’t hard to find something to inspire you each and every day – the bird singing outside, the footsteps of a child, heavy rain or hot summer days, cars honking incessantly, trees swaying in the breeze…there’s always beauty to be found if we open our eyes.
As Proust once said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”"