The official website of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines
The official website of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines

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Dropping the Trigger for the Shutter
By : Raffy Paredes*

Crested Serpent Eagle
Crested Serpent Eagle


In just a short span of about a year and a half, Romeo M. Ocon, Jr. has taken more than 40,000 photos of Philippine birds. Of the 572 known species of birds in the country, he has accumulated images of 174. Today, almost 2000 of these pictures are posted on his website.


By doggedly pursuing his hobby, prolific photographer Romy Ocon is not only elating fellow birders at the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP) but is doing Philippine ornithology a favor as well.


In the definitive book, A Guide to the Birds of the Philippines, the authors state that: “Despite the efforts of numerous scientists and, more recently, birdwatchers, the birds of the Philippines are still among the most poorly known in the world”. All efforts therefore, that contribute to the documentation of local birdlife are most welcome.


Romy did not always shoot birds with a camera. Like most boys growing up in the province, the young Romy used to hunt them with slingshots and airguns either in his father’s hometown of Bacnotan, La Union or while vacationing at his mother’s native place of Sto. Tomas, Batangas. Among the common game then “when Mt. Makiling was still pristine (in the ‘70s)”, says Romy were red jungle fowl (labuyo), a quail species (pugo), a rail species (tikling) and even the monitor lizard (bayawak).

Dollarbird


Until a couple of years ago, Romy admits that he still had a hunter’s mentality. He had bought a BB gun for his then 6 year old son. This all changed however, when he started shooting birds with a camera instead in 2004. He says “ I found that taking their pics is more challenging and rewarding”. More than just aiming and squeezing the trigger, the photographer focuses, frames and composes along with ensuring the right exposure. (Add to the challenge of photography Romy’s condition of being acutely color-blind.) He states further “ a shot game bird can only be enjoyed by a few people in a meal. A bird pic can be enjoyed by countless people, especially when posted on the internet or published. The bird flies away free after the photograph, unharmed and able to breed future subjects as well. It can itself be a photographic subject again in another setting, perhaps by another photographer or birdwatcher”.

Blue-naped Parrot

Romy credits the WBCP for opening “my eyes to realize the rapid destruction happening with the environment, and the need for conservation measures” to preserve the natural beauty of the local flora and fauna for future generations. Fully aware of the endangered status of many Philippine birds, he would like to photograph all that he can before some of them become extinct. Romy does not want to pressure himself however, by setting deadlines for this project. After all, he says, “this is a hobby, a break from the rigors of entrepreneurship”.

 


When not taking photographs, Romy Ocon , a civil engineer by profession runs a company he set up in 1997 – Maxikrete Philippines, Inc., now one of the leading makers of construction chemicals in the country. Only 40 years old, he’s had experience in the last 20 years in the diverse fields of concrete technology, construction, advertising, journalism and local government service. He is also one of the organizers of 300D-ph, a loose e-group of Canon 300D users in the country put up in 2003.



Today, Romy uses a Canon 20D as his main camera, and a 350D and 300D as backups. His long lenses are the Sigmonster (Sigma 300 – 800 DG), Canon 400 5.6L and Canon 100 – 400 L IS. For close up shots of natural subjects, he uses a Canon 100 2.8 USM macro. For scenics and other subjects, a 50 mm F1.8 prime and 18 – 55 mm kit lens comes in handy.

When encouraging hobbyists to take up nature photography, one’s equipment need not be very expensive at the start, Romy advices. “Some point and shoots with at least 4 MP, 10x or 12x optical zoom and with image stabilization are now available at just over 20T. Properly used, these cameras can already produce professional quality results” he notes.

Romy Ocon in action

Readers can view more of Romy Ocon’s works at www.pbase.com/liquidstone

WBCP website is at www.birdwatch.ph