John Rodenn Punzalan Castillo, is a young and talented member of the Photologo community. Born in 1986 in the Philippines, he is currently a resident in Rome, Italy since 2006. “I love photography” – he says – “I roam the streets of Rome, dedicating my time in finding places and interesting subjects to photograph. I always carry my gear with me everyday. Always trying to find that perfect shot hence my favorite motto “Always take the shot”.
It was tough at the beginning
My journey into photography started in mid 2014. I had always been drawn into photography because when I was a child, I remember my father owning this big camera and capturing many of our childhood memories.
But initially, I was struggling in trying to find a niche. I was jumping from sunsets to nature shots to a simple dandelion, a tree, fallen leaves or anything that had to do with nature. Also for a short time, I decided to get into macro photography which interested me a lot.
Around that same year, I started my personal page on Instagram and Eyeem and I sold my very first stock image thanks through the partnership of the platform with Getty Images. It was time to upgrade my camera: a Full Frame mirrorless camera (Sony A7II) became my daily go-to camera for everyday photography.
Also through the years, I have travelled in many different places and was able to capture many memorable images of interesting landmarks and cityscapes during my vacations and thus this changed the way I wanted to present the theme of my work online and so I shifted from photographing sunsets, nature and macro and turned my main theme to cityscapes, architecture photography, urban shots and occasionally street photography.
Choosing a photography theme
Being a resident in the beautiful city of Rome really helped me a lot to evolve and finally find my niche in photography. The way I wanted to present my Instagram grid for example was to showcase the beauty of ancient Roman architecture in modern times because the city is literally an open museum, where every angle, every “vicoletto”, every cobblestone and marble has a story to tell.
I wanted to capture and showcase places that are normally seen when a person visits Rome, and I try to get creative in presenting my images when I post them online, like for example, that one time I was holding my camera over a puddle just inches away from the water’s surface, just to capture the image of the Colosseum with it’s reflection.
Here are 4 very simple tips I can share on how I take cityscape and urban street photography:
1. Gear preparation
Every photographer knows that a fully charged camera is a must, or maybe an extra fully charged battery along with you can save you from any trouble of your camera dying on you right in the middle of a shoot. I also carry around a couple of lenses, like a good wide angle lens (I have a 14mm wide-angle lens and a super zoom lens 24-240mm) and lastly, a very sturdy tripod which is very important if you want to shoot architecture, cityscapes and urban photography.
2. Photographing at the right time of day
Light is what really creates the photograph. Our camera sensors are capturing light and converts it into digital data within the sensor. The way we set our camera to capture light, with the addition of the correct balance of the ISO, shutter speed and the aperture will determine the outcome of your image. Photographing subjects at noon is something to avoid because the sun is directly above and is not giving that much depth and detail on the subject you want to photograph. Best moments to take photos are early in the morning, just when the sun is barely on the horizon, or in the afternoon just before then the sun sets completely.
3. Compose your shots
Get to know your camera very well. When you decide to take a shot of a specific subject, it is important to remember to get that quality shot over quantity. I study my eventual subject from my visual perspective and imagine that in my head how it could look composed in my camera. Then I take the shot. I generally follow the rules of thirds in my shots and always place my subjects in the 4 points of interest. If my shot appears to be out of place from one of the points, I easily correct them in post editing process. Remember also take your time in taking your shots. It isn’t necessary to rush things just to produce an image. A slow progress and a little patience helps you to understand more your capabilities and will help you refine your photography style.
4. Always edit your shots in RAW
Doing post production on your RAW image is just the basics of photography. I became aware that it is really very important to shoot in RAW, so to be able to bring up data from your images and have much greater control over the final image.
As many photographers did, I had tried “ugly watermarks” before but I was not happy. I discovered Photologo by chance and I was immediately curious to see what the Photologo designers could come up starting from the reference I selected during the initial order application.
I remember receiving my very first logo and really loved it! I started posting images with my customized logo on my Instagram page and on my Facebook page. This really changed the way my shots get presented online. Photologo became a cohesive part of my images. I eventually bought my second logo, because I was curious to see what the Photologo team could present me this time. Hereunder, there is my current signature Photologo, customized with a motto “Always Take The Shot” and I really loved this version.
Getting more professional and protecting my images
I always wanted to mark the images i took and to show that they are something very personal because I had taken my time and effort to capture that specific image and adding the logo just changes the whole image, making it more professional. Photography theft is a fairly common thing especially in the digital age where all our images, our work that we upload daily on the web eventually ends up in many different places, and in the end gets stolen and re-uploaded as others’ work.
What I like the most of the Photologo community is that members are really engage and they exchange ideas and tips through comments and critiques on a daily basis. That’s what makes a community grow.