THE EYE OF THE VAGABOND - Jeremy Villasis, travel photographer
Jeremy Villasis is a freelance travel photographer and writer based in Manila. His work has been featured in many publications throughout Asia and is a contributor for Getty Images. We've asked him about his passion for photography and tips to take better pictures while on location.
How did you become a photographer ?
Photography has always fascinated me even when I was young, I would flip through every coffee table book I can get my hands on. I got my first camera, I think back in ‘04-‘05, and I would half-heartedly document things around me. Honestly, I didn’t know what I was doing back then and may have had destroyed lots of rolls of film in the process. That camera ended up stowed away somewhere. When I started traveling a couple of years later, I was compelled to pick up a camera once again, this time going digital. I got so hooked into it, I started posting photos online and was actually quite surprised to get good feedback from people. As I was also doing some writing for magazines back then, I was asked by a friend from the academe to join their photojournalism program. I thought it would be good way to complement my photos with my writing, and so I did. Never have I dreamed of becoming a travel photographer, it was unintentional yet it was one of the the best things that happened to me.
What do you enjoy photographing the most and why ?
Generally, I enjoy taking photographs of people, because it allows me to get a sense of life, specially of a new destination. People’s expressions, clothing, and the environment they are in can say so much about a place more than anything else.
I also love taking photos of festivals, despite being one of the most difficult subject matters to photograph. There are certain things you can’t control like the behavior of the crowd, the lighting conditions, and the constant movement of the participants. The rewards, however, can be great as it allows for some very diverse shots, from the costumes, to the food, and most important, the stories of those who take part in it. It is a great way to learn about the local culture and customs.
Lately I also find myself in search of really nice graffiti and street art. You can learn a great deal about a certain place just by looking at what’s written or drawn on its walls.
Where are your favorite places in the world to shoot?
Each place I’ve been to has a different thing to offer so it’s really hard to say which destination is my favorite when it comes to taking photos. For people and culture, I really love Bhaktapur in Nepal and Myanmar. India provides a lot of photographic opportunities, especially when it comes to playing with colors and textures. Each European city offers different kinds of architecture, but I particularly love those of Paris, Prague and Amsterdam, while it’s always nice to find myself participating in the wonderful festivals of Thailand and my country, the Philippines. Greece is high on my list, especially Santorini, I think no matter what lighting condition, it always looks good in photos.
What is your favorite picture you've taken and why?
The photo that really comes to mind is one of the very first photos I took of a festival, that is of two Songkran revelers in Bangkok’s Khao San Road, with their water guns shooting at my camera. It simply says so much about me as a photographer and as a person, I don’t take myself too seriously. Hahaha!
Any tips on how to take great pictures on a trip?
Do a lot of research about the place beforehand. Before going on a trip, know the area, the weather, how to get around, the local customs and culture, and the dos and don’ts. On location, I recommend to making an effort to waking up and getting out early if you want to capture a sense of place without the tourist crowd. However, if you had one too many drinks the night before, then I suggest to working the crowd by choosing different angles and zooming in and exploiting the many intricate details the place has to offer. Of course sometimes, people and crowds are an inseparable part of a scene, so you should know when to include them, but be sure to have a main focus or central element to the shot. Another important thing is to have patience. You have to be patient with your gear and the conditions around you. Frustration of not getting the shot that you want instantly will only cloud your creativity. Finally, remember that the golden hour, the period shortly after sunrise and before sunset, makes for magical photos.