Edwin Martinez, widely respected as one of the finest landscape photographers that Philippines has ever produced, brought his vast experience and skills to photography buffs in Kuwait, at the ‘Chasing Light’ photography workshop held last week at Costa Del Sol Hotel.
The two-day Chasing Light workshop, sponsored by AAB World PHOTTIX, held on 3 and 4 April, was conducted in collaboration with ‘The Lightbenders Photography Club’ in Kuwait. The workshop participants took a hands-on, photo-tour of Doha port and nearby areas, during sunrise and sunset hours in Kuwait.
When The Times Kuwait sat down with him for a talk, post-workshop, he recalled the start of his journey, “Way back, when my family-owned resort in Philippines, which burned down, I realized that we were left with no photographs of memorable moments and important people in our lives. That is when I decided to document everything and I started photographing my kids and family.”
His interests gradually leaned towards loving nature and taking shots outdoors: “But my day job was eating too much of my time and leaving me with no time for my interests, so I quit my job, as a Product Manager at XYZ, in 2006 and dived full-time into my passion of photography, touring Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, the iconic Yosemite National Park and the rugged coastline of San Francisco, California, some of the world’s most sought after places, by tourists as well as photographers”.
Since Edwin and his business partner, photographer Jay Hallorina, set out in 2006, to start their photography institution, ‘Chasing Light’ has become “synonymous to landscape photography in Philippines”. This was at a time when “there were no such workshops” to develop photography skills and there was not enough internet penetration to circulate their work and efforts.
Shooting different iconic locales in his home country of Philippines and abroad in Iceland, Canada and the American West among others, has cemented Edwin’s undisputed and distinctive landscape photography expertise. “Most recently, in March, when I was in Iceland, the strongest Aurora lights in the history of the country happened there.”
“I have traveled to Dubai and places in Europe, conducting premiere landscape photography courses. Currently there are around 1,800 ‘Chasing Light’ alumni around the world. At these tours, it is always about anticipation, about being proactive and finding the right light, just as in nature. It also, obviously, means waking up often at odd times, going to odd places and having the patience to wait for the right time for the shot,” revealed the sought after speaker and instructor, who also shoots for several high profile companies.
Edwin is inspired by photographers Ansal Adams and Joe Cornish, his go-to gear is currently the Canon 5D Mark III with 22 megapixels. When asked of his wish-list of place shots that he wants to get to, he reveals, “There are too many places to name, some of which, I am glad to say I have already ticked-off the list. Bolivia, New Zealand, Antarctica, the famous Dolomites of Italy, Patagonia and Chile are particularly fascinating places, for me to go and photograph, because of their varied topography and the display of nature there.
“Coming from a tropical country, my first venture into this kind of photography, in Canada, was a big surprise. It was joy for me. I went to the Canadian Rockies and the Banff National Park, which was like a playground for me. It was an eye-opener; there is so much to see in the world.
I have tried to photograph as many locations as I can in the Philippines but it’s a tropical country; you have to see the world, experience snow, autumn, witness atmospheric phenomenon like the Aurora Borealis, you have to experience it. From that day on, I have tried to make 2-3 trips a year. At first, it was my money but then I thought ‘why not bring some students who are interested to see those places’ and that is how we made a tour. Whatever trips I have, it pays for itself. So, it is win-win situation for me.”
He is an inspiration for this generation’s band of photographers and many wait eagerly for photos from his next adventures. Who would not want to know how he ensures constant creativity? “Strive to be different,” he says. “There should be three elements: first – pay attention to fine light; especially sunrise and sunset; second – think out of the box and involve in constructive comparison to bring out engaging visual designs, and third – have a sense of dynamism; through sense of motion, or surrealism, making long exposures, streaking clouds, for a landscape photograph to make it enjoyable and captivating.”
Edwin is a Brand Ambassador for Canon Philippines, a featured photographer for Singh-Ray Filters of America and a constant presence in both local and international photography publications. Emphasizing on “creating your own signature”, he says, “I went to some the most loved and most shot places by photographers. Yet, I always challenge myself to bring out photos of the same place, shot n number of times, in a different composition.”
A typical two-day Chasing Light tour workshop involves “lectures on filters, different exposures, visual designs and hands-on outdoor photo-shoots, as well as lectures on post-processing.”
The darkroom process
Although there is a sense of nostalgia over the gradual disappearance of darkrooms and manual photo-imaging processes, photographers are, nonetheless, not far removed from manipulating photos for a better outcome through digital processes. Yet, Edwin maintains a low profile on his digital darkroom process, from when he downloads the files to until he displays them: “I process my photos in such a way that it is close to the natural scene.
I use non-destructive techniques in photo processing and develop images using Adobe raw camera format for about 50 percent of my work. Then I shift to Photoshop and use my own formula, which I learnt over the years through trial-and-error, to boost the colors of the photos. In addition to my own technique, I find Photoshop to be a versatile post-processing tool for corrections, enhancements, minor adjustments in sharpness, colors, contrasts and exposures when preparing images for the web and print.”
Marketing is a crucial component for any professional photographer and given that Edwin has had a number of his photographs published in different magazines, including in Digital Photographer Philippines and Digital Photographer UK, as well as in Britain’s best-selling photography magazine, Digital Camera, it becomes needless to state how he has become so popular. Yet, most often, professional photographers have their own marketing formula and we asked him how he does it. “In my case, I wear two hats – that of an instructor and teacher at the tutorial and workshop, where people come to learn and they spread the word, and the other of a published photographer. Of course, in both cases social media has worked to my advantage. Co-photographers, prints and commercials, too, are important to market oneself,” says Edwin.
The professional photography market seems to be moving away from image and book sales to photographic workshops and eBooks. Has Edwin found this to be the case with him? “Photography has moved a lot away from prints and commercial photography but at the same time, it has opened a whole new scope to thrive in, rather than to worry about. It has surely, been to the advantage of me and many other photographers, since I get to tour around, teach, meet interesting photographers and expand my capacity and reach.”
What advice would you give to someone starting out new in this field? “Know your gear; I have most often noticed that people new to photography, despite having a creative eye, do not know their camera and its accessories. When I ask them to play with the style of photography and camera settings, they just do not know how to go about it. I always suggest they read the camera manual. I also would ask them to be critical of their own images. It is common to capture thousands of images and put all of them on Facebook, but the focus should be on quality over quantity.”