IT WAS an uncharacteristically breezy evening on an otherwise hot day, and the rooftop of a building in Mandaue had the most perfect light.
I whipped out my camera to snap away at Kairos’ beautiful food and setup, wondering how such an amazing space could remain hidden in the middle of the city and no one was the wiser. Except for those who dare climb the five flights of stairs, of course. The rewards were all worth it: naked bulbs strung for illumination, rustic furniture that looked like they were snatched from flea markets or found in old abandoned buildings, and food that looked like artwork. Everything was, dare I say it, Instagrammable.
Photographer Jim Ubalde sidles up to me as I was focusing on a bowl of avocado salad, “Ingon si Nap ga auto kuno ka.” Startled, my eye left the viewfinder to meet his gaze, which was a concerned look, quizzical but with a hint of disappointment. I had just been called out.
Nap Bojos, Jim’s second camera, had picked up on my gaffe. Here I was, armed with a beautiful piece of technology, and I had it on Automatic mode. What a shame, I could read Nap’s thought bubble. All three of us held Fujifilm’s X series for the shoot, mine being the Fujifilm XT-10, with its vintage feel design and powerful performance for such a compact package. I started photographing my own stories with a Leica D-Lux 5, a no-brainer point-and-shoot from the legendary brand, but felt limited because it had a fixed lens and didn’t have much in terms of versatility with the output. Soon after, I had dinner with two amazing photographers that I had worked with for stories with Mabuhay magazine: Dr. Erwin Lim and NatGeo photog Hannah Reyes-Morales, who both convinced me to finally get a professional camera. They had both used Fujifilm and suggested I try it for starters, pointing out that the price point was reasonable for a hobbyist like me who, on occasion, had their work finding its way onto print.
But I needed to test drive one first. My friend, photographer Dyan Dy-Gayas let me toy with her Fujifilm XT-10 and a 35mm prime lens, a combination that kept the package still tiny, but gave me the bokeh (that blur in the background that shows depth of field) that I wanted. I was hooked.
The next step was, as my brother Chad (himself a photography hobbyist) calls it, “switching off from auto.” Thanks to Jim and Nap, I have yet to switch that dang toggle back.
It can get rather complicated, navigating the ideal levels of aperture, ISO and shutter speed, especially when the moment is passing you by as you fumble to get the money shot. The XT-10 makes it easier with external knobs for shutter speed adjustment right next to the shoot button, and the aperture adjustment on a dial right on the lens. “If there is bright enough light, lower your ISO, and just play with aperture and the shutter speed knobs,” Jim drills me on the basics. In the evenings, when the Fujifilm X series cameras truly shine, the reverse is true, raising the ISO and playing with the shutter speed, to capture those motion blur shots I’m working on perfecting (as of this writing, they still elude me, except for the first non-auto shot I took).
As an editor attempting photography, my grasp of the technical
aspect is limited. “But you have a good eye, which cannot be taught,” points out Erwin Lim, referring to the way I frame my photos, and generally how I freeze time. Encouraged, I have photographed an entire travel story on Taiwan all by myself, the first one all on auto, and the second trip just this month, on full manual. The stories were published on these pages, in Cebu Living Magazine for Inquirer, and the Mega Groups’ Travel Now magazine.
My weapons of choice? Still the XT-10 for its compact size (I can carry it around all the time in my purses, it fits!) and my new favorite lens, the 16mm prime with the 1.4 aperture. An upgrade from my beloved 35mm, it can take beautiful close-up photos for food and products, but also wider shots that the 35mm cannot fit in its frame. Also a compact lens, it is perfect for traveling if you are a lazy photog like me. I cannot be bothered to be switching lenses doing street photography, so the 16mm prime does the trick every single time with its versatility. With just this one lens, I take my food shots, portraits, interior shots and the magnificent views I am blessed to find myself in front of. Leaving auto never felt so good.
(For the best service and after-sales for Fujifilm’s X series, I love F8 Photo and Accessories at Unit 104 Eden’s Place, C. Rosal Street, Lahug. Call them at +63 32 412 2603. My trip to Taiwan was courtesy of the Taiwan Leisure Farm Association. Discover their 300 leisure farms at