Everything Else Will Be Bokeh

Working behind-the-scenes has always been a comfort for me. For those of you who do not know me yet, my personality and introversion are some of the reasons why I do not seek to be in positions or situations that place me in the spotlight. If the need arises, I can speak, sing, rap, or perform on stage. But, there’s something relaxing, beautiful, and meaningful for me whenever I work in the background. Two nights ago, I had the privilege of serving the Lord behind-the-scenes through photography at our church. Words cannot express how humbled and grateful I am for it.

The last time I was part of a ministry was back in 2014, when I was an active member of the singles group in one of our satellite churches in Makati. After two years in the ministry, God led me to focus on discipleship, both in the main branch of our church and in the office where I work. By His grace, He has humbled my heart, allowed me to grow, and used me to share Jesus to my colleagues and friends.

However, a few weeks ago, as I was praying for God’s direction for me, my passions, and desires in life, He encouraged me to join a ministry at church again. God reminded me of my love for photography and how it fills my heart to capture fleeting moments and share Him and His greatness through these. By faith, I sent an inquiry to our church and after a few minutes, I received a reply! God immediately opened a door for me to serve. The next day, I was invited to be part of the group of photographers and videographers who regularly volunteer and serve at church! Then, a couple of days later, the team leaders announced a sign-up sheet for the volunteers for the upcoming prayer and fasting services.

Even though I did not know anyone from the group and I had hesitations because I was not as skilled as the other volunteers, by God’s grace, He still encouraged me to sign up! A part of me could not believe how quickly God answered my prayer. But, another part of me also knew that God was working in my heart and helping me trust Him in this. For the first time after four years, I served the Lord in a ministry inside the church two nights ago. I realized that the church will continue to function with or without me. But, serving God in a ministry is a privilege that I will miss if I choose not to take part in it.

An hour before our call time, I prayed in the main hall and calmed my heart before Him. I remember feeling excited, inadequate, and anxious at the same time. I also remember thinking about all of the other concerns I had in my life which made my mind feel clouded and confused. So, I paused and asked God to remove the fears and worries in my heart and prayed for Him to clear my mind. I also thanked Him for the privilege of serving Him through photography.

“Lord, please help me focus my eyes on You. I pray that everything else will be bokeh tonight.” After praying those words, I was surprised by the analogy that God showed me. BOKEH is a term used in photography which is defined as the parts of an image that are out-of-focus. This word came from the Japanese word, Boke, which means “blur”. This effect makes the photo look nice as it allows the viewer to focus only on a certain part.

It was such a humbling and beautiful moment. I felt the God of the universe take time to be an intentional Father to me as he re-affirmed me by relating photography to my desire in keeping my eyes on Jesus. He then led me to read Isaiah 26:3 which says, “You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You.” 

“Everything else will be bokeh tonight. It’s not about me or others. I will focus my eyes on Jesus.” I repeated this to myself a couple of times before I prepared for the night’s service. It was exactly what my clouded mind needed to be reminded of.

After seeing my photos last night, I knew that I had so much to improve on. I even felt the struggle of finding the right manual settings as I moved from one spot to another. Also, it was quite challenging for me to take photos while making sure that I wasn’t a distraction to those praying. But, I had a wonderful and humbling time as I realized how this was not about me at all! It was encouraging to witness broken hearts desperately surrendering and praying to God too! Moreover, the Lord was gracious to encourage me, through the rest of the team of volunteers and photographers, to continue serving and growing in this skill for Him.

So, I am keeping myself accountable to you, dear reader. By God’s grace, I will be more intentional in sharpening my photography skills, whether or not I’ll be serving in our church’s events. Will you pray for me, please? That I will continue to seek and serve the Lord with the skills and resources that He has given me — not for my glory, but for His glory alone! Because at the end of each day, I know that everything else will be bokeh.

8 Things to Do in Central Hong Kong

1. Shop and have a photo walk around the city

One thing that you surely won’t miss when you visit Central is the view of high-rise buildings and malls filled with luxury brands and local products. If you would like to shop in Hong Kong, please remember to show your passport so you could pay for the items, tax-free! As you go through the huge sidewalks, you might find Central’s buildings and streets to be interesting subjects for photography too!

 

2. Visit the Victoria Peak

One of the famous tourist spots in Hong Kong is the Victoria Peak. This is the highest peak in the city where tourists and locals go to get a good view of the cityline. We got discounted tickets from the Klook app days before our trip to avoid any inconveniences. We also went there on a weekday to make sure that we wouldn’t be waiting in line for a long time. However, upon reaching the venue, we still had to wait for 20-30 minutes before we got on the tram.

Nonetheless, it was an interesting tour! The tram ride felt like a rollercoaster ride which only went up. Going back down was even more amusing because we went backwards fast! Haha. If you’re willing to spend extra money, you can avail the access to the Sky Terrace which gives you a better view of the whole skyline. But, if you don’t have more budget, you can take photos from the mall right beside it which gives you a gist of what it looks like.

Roundtrip: Peak Tram Only – around Php 300
Roundtrip: Peak Tram + Sky Pass – around Php 600

More details HERE

 
3. Go on a food trip

You can read more about it HERE.

 

4. Enjoy street arts at the Soho area / Graham Street

Of course, we wouldn’t miss the opportunity to visit one of the most famous Instagramable spots in Hong Kong — Graham St. It’s nice to appreciate free art in the city. As you walk along the artsy streets, you’ll even find small coffee shops and restaurants that you might like to visit too.

 

5. Shop and take photos at Pottinger Street

Don’t be intimidated by the steep slope at Pottinger Street. By exerting just a bit more effort, you’ll find it worthwhile to check out the local items sold at the stores along the way or to simply take photos at the uniquely constructed pavement — something that you don’t see everyday.

 

6. Ride the mid-level escalators

The longest mid-level escalator in the world is located at Central, Hong Kong. This is also used by the locals as their mode of transportation from one street to another, especially since the streets in the area are very steep. Feeling a bit more adventurous? Hike up the streets! But, it’s quite relaxing to street-hop by riding this one too!

 

7. Buy meat, fruits, or flowers at Graham street

While we were walking along Graham street, we happened to pass by fruit and flower stalls at the side of the road. There wasn’t much fruit markets in the area where we stayed at (Mong Kok), so it was refreshing for me to finally see fruits after all of the dim sum and noodles we ate.

 

8. Go on a tram ride around and across the cities

This is an experience that we don’t have in the Philippines. The ride was a bit bumpy but, it was fun to sightsee from the second level of the tram. Make sure to try it when you’re there! From Central, we rode the tram to Causeway Bay! It took us 15 minutes to get there. Not bad.


There are so much more to experience in Central, but we only had one day! Let me know which ones you’ve tried!

Photo Walk inside Intramuros, Manila

A few months ago, I attended a photography workshop inside Intramuros, Manila. I spent four Saturdays learning more about how to maximize my camera and how to see things and moments through different perspectives. It really was quite an experience for me. Interestingly, some of my photographer colleagues invited me to join them for a photo walk earlier this month. I was only expecting a tour around the city where our office is located, but then, they mentioned Intramuros. Suddenly, a flashback of wonderful memories whirled in my mind and I found myself immediately saying “Yes!”.

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It was good to be back! Despite our sweat, sunburn, aching muscles, and the intense heat that day, my colleagues and I enjoyed our time together. It was very refreshing to explore the simplicity and beauty of Intramuros, Manila. One of the things that I appreciate most about our photo walk is the little things we witnessed as we strolled around the streets. From seeing heart-shaped leaves on wild vines to observing Korean tourists learn more about our history and culture to being in awe of random patterns in the buildings, trees, walkways, and fences. The next time I visit Intramuros, I would probably try riding the bikes made out of bamboo. Oh, and I think it would be lovely to watch the sunset too.

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The photo walk that we had was like a breath of fresh air. It was nice to do something creative outside of the office with my colleagues. It was also a good practice for me because it was an opportunity for me to apply some of the things that I learned in the photography workshop. On our way home that day, I was reminded of how nice it is to be intentional in seeing the good and beauty in things. I realized that it is easy to take things, people, and places for granted, especially when we see them everyday. But, even in the most random moments in life, we can learn to appreciate what God has already blessed us with.

Here’s to more photo walks in the near future! Any suggestions? :)

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Food Photography Workshop by Artu Nepomuceno

I just came from a Food Photography workshop by Artu Nepomuceno at a dainty Italian restaurant in Burgos Circle named Casa Italia. Sitting in a room with a random group of aspiring food photographers was like a breath of fresh air. Usually, I spend my Saturday mornings resting at home. But today, I was very much eager to learn and have a quick adventure in the city.

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During the workshop, Artu shared about the Do’s and Don’t’s in taking photos of food and drinks, specifically. He also talked about pricing, taking photos at different angles, appreciating the story and people behind the food, and even choosing the right gear, accessories, and props for this type of photography.

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My favorite part of the workshop was the hands-on activity. The participants paired up and attempted to style and take photos of certain dishes from the restaurant. My partner (Joe) at the workshop and I chose the plate of spaghetti. It was challenging because we only had limited props available. But, it was also fun and interesting to experiment with different angles and concepts.

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Afterwards, we all went back to the room and evaluated the photos we took. Artu showed the photos to the group and gave constructive criticism and detailed points for improvement. It was the part of the workshop that I appreciated the most because we were given the opportunities to apply the tips he shared earlier today and at the same time, we learned from the strengths and weaknesses of each photo shown to the group.

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Before today, I didn’t really think about how the number of forks used in a photo of a single dish would have an effect on the overall appearance. Haha. But, even in this simple illustration, I learned from Artu that it is better to use just one fork especially when taking a photo of one dish even if we wanted to show that the dish was for a couple or a pair. Using one fork (one set of utensils) shows the intimacy in the photo which sets a completely different mood. It was very interesting.

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Just before the workshop ended, our speaker asked the participants if we had any more questions. A lady in the room then asked him “Will you continue to have workshops in the future?” and Artu replied, “As long as there are opportunities, the teaching will never stop.” Aaahhh! I love how he casually and sincerely answered it. The teaching will never stop. Of course, on my part, learning about photography will never stop as well. There’s still so much to learn, to experiment with, and to take photos of! This year, by God’s grace, I will be sharing more stories and lessons learned with you through photography. Hopefully, you can share yours with me too!

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Thank you, Manila Workshops, for organizing this event! Thank you, also, Artu Nepomuceno, for graciously sharing your knowledge and skill in photography and food styling. May God continue to use you to inspire the young and young at heart to pursue their passions in life.

ARTU NEPOMUCENO

Website: http://www.open-art.photography/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/artunepo/

MANILA WORKSHOPS

http://manilaworkshops.com/

CASA ITALIA

http://www.casaitalia.com.ph/