Desert Dreams

Published May 8, 2018, 12:05 AM

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By By Maan D’Asis Pamaran

Photographer of the week

Rolly Batacan

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He considers himself as a hobbyist, driven by a bucket list of locations and ideas that he wants to shoot. Rolly Batacan, now based in Dubai, has subjects aplenty, and he gives them an ethereal quality that seems to float languidly from the searing heat of the deserts.

It has been only half a year since he took photography seriously, as his first foray into the visual art using a DLSR camera that was an impulse purchase from the 2012 Dubai Shopping Festival did not exactly augur well. “I thought that simply by having a good camera, I could already take good shots,” he shared sheepishly. The first few shots—of buildings, birds, and flowers—were, as he described, mediocre. “Those were not good photos but I did not mind because I was not serious with photography. Later, I lost interest and sold the camera,” he smiles. “I thought photography was not for me.”

Diverse interests

His interest was rekindled four years later when he saw an engineer’s photo of a Dubai bridge reflected on the water. The photographer explained that it was a long exposure shot taken on his first photo walk with a basic photography group. “I immediately bought an entry-level DSLR and enrolled in a Filipino photography school in Dubai. It was a three-hour class every Friday for six consecutive weeks. That is where I learned about the exposure triangle and different types of compositions. I got my first good photo of the same Dubai bridge and I was so happy having achieved my first goal,” he recalls.

He has not looked back since, and his creativity is as boundless as his interests. “Friends advised me to focus on a single genre, so I could be known in that niche. But why limit myself to shooting a single genre, when I can shoot anything and everything that moves me?” His resulting portfolio is diverse, ranging from architecture, landscape, cityscape, street, portrait, wildlife, and sports. “But basically, my favorite subject or theme is the life in the Emirates, how the people live in UAE,” he explains.

Rolly joined Neutral Ground Reborn (NGR) in February last year. It is a group managed by some of the best Filipino photographers and visual artists, where he learns more about different styles and approaches to photography. He also joined the Konsepto Camera Club so he can compete in PhotoWorld Cup in the Philippines. So far, he has won first place in the Nikon 100 Years Black and White Competition and the IPA-NGR 2017 Photographer of the Year for Architecture.

Light, lens, and life

For him, an effective photograph is one that makes people feel what is being portrayed or presented in the frame. “It is something that needs no explanation or elaboration. It is important that the photographer always comes out with good pictures. But it is not easy unless you are in a studio where you can control almost all elements of photography —the lights, background, and the subject. I mainly shoot candid scenes and every time I go out to shoot, I say a little prayer that God gives me the right moment, the beautiful scene that I can shoot.”

He says that he is drawn to natural light.“If you notice, most of my photos were taken during sunrises and sunsets when the light is soft and the moods are both subdued and glorious as in breaking of the light during sunrise. I took note of the shadows and highlights that natural light creates on different elements in my frame. I love my subject silhouetted against natural lights. I like both colored and black-and-white photos. But for me, black and white is more expressive and mysterious than colored photos.”

More than helping him express himself, photography is also an avenue for Rolly to keep active. It gives him a reason to travel and to continuously search for good locations and scenes. “It also provides me the physical exercise that I need. I am a diabetic, and it helps keep me healthy with activities such as long walks, climbing dunes and buildings, and walking along the beach.”

According to him, as a photographer, you have to shoot your subject the way you see it. “The best lens is your eyes; it can see, visualize, and feel the moment.” For him, it also has an element of serendipity and faith. “Photography is not about me creating the photos; the best photos are those moments that are given to you by God to capture at a destined place and exact time. You must be prepared to take those shots when the time comes.”

 
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