Write-up and Photos by Winston Baltasar
While I had been shooting sports for about 10 years, Sports5 opened up a new world for me: the professional Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and Philippine SuperLiga (PSL) games. I had shot college basketball and volleyball for many years but this was the big leagues.
It has been quite fulfilling shooting the trials, travails and victories of these athletes. People who don’t follow sports do not realize that sports can be like your favorite telenovela. If you invest in the lives of the athletes involved, you vicariously experience their struggles and their triumphs.
There is a lot of drama in sports. We, sports photographers, are happy to capture some of it for you.
10. The Posterizer
Tristan Thompson of the newly crowned NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers shared my photo of him dunking on hapless Turkey center Semih Erden on his Instagram page and quickly garnered 35k+ likes. This photo was shot on Day 1 of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in July, 2016 at the MOA Arena. #FIBAOQT
9. The Grieving
A few days before the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, Turkey played Gilas in a warm up game. A day or so before that, there was a terrorist bombing at the Istanbul airport. As their national anthem played before the game, the sadness was palpable. Truly a poignant moment felt by all.
8. The French Kiss
No, there was no kiss but there might as well have been several as the France team won the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (Manila) and booked their ticket to the Rio Olympics.
There was a high level of difficulty in taking this photo. I had to crawl under a wall of photographers to take this photo while kneeling. As the colored confetti fell, there was a small 8” window that opened between arms and legs. I prayed for San Antonio Spur point guard Tony Parker to turn towards the camera and he did. Maybe the kneeling helped.
Bonus: Three NBA players, Nick Batum, Boris Diaw, and Tony Parker are in the frame.
7. The Jump Shot
I was happily shooting on the sidelines at the Philippine SuperLiga Volleyball photoshoot when the main photographer took a break. Kim Dy (in black sleeveless shirt) of the F2 Logistics Cargo Movers approached me and said, “Tito, can you take a photo of the team?”
Since they are volleyball players, I asked to do a “jump shot.” It took only two takes because these athletes are good sports (pun intended).
Bonus 1: Former DLSU Lady Archers, Mika Reyes (in red) and Aby Marano (in blue sleeveless) are in archer pose.
Bonus 2: Ara Galang (in blue jacket) wants to be Spiderman, while Kim Fajardo (in neon green) supplements in Iron Fist pose.
Bonus 3: Cha Cruz (in pink) stretches one lovely long leg.
6. The Phenom
Alyssa Valdez did not leave the UAAP with a win but she is a champion in many people’s hearts. I especially like this photo because it catches her in a solitary moment while framing her in a sea of green at a DLSU vs. Ateneo championship match. Moreover, it showcases her powerful legs.
5. The UAAP Basketball Champions
The main architects of the DLSU Men’s Basketball Championship, Coach Aldin Ayo, Ben Mbala, and Jeron Teng, all celebrating in one frame; the ceremonial taking down of the basketball net in the background is a bonus.
Coach Ayo initially did not want to be carried but finally gave in to the moment.
4. The PSL Grand Prix Champions
This shot was taken before the Foton Tornadoes took to the court for Game 2 of the PSL Grand Prix Championship matches. Oftentimes, the players are tense and concentrated before a Finals Game. I cautiously asked a few players if I could take a photo and before I knew it the whole team was posing, relaxed and confident. An hour or so later, they won the Championship.
Whoever said a photographer shouldn’t shoot against the light doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
3. The Dukot
I love how LA Tenorio’s legs are going one way while his shooting hand and the basketball are going another. LA is fearless going against vaunted shot-blocker (and much taller) Arwind Santos.
2. The 3-Point Shot
Who would have thought that the 8-year Ginebra Championship drought would be broken by a 3-point shot at the last second from way downtown?
After I gave Justin Brownlee a print of this photo, he signed one for me. It is now one of my most treasured mementos.
1. The Proposal
Speaking of level of difficulty, try shooting a long-awaited Ginebra championship celebration with behemoth’s arms raised above heads, gazillions of photographers and well-wishers in your way, plus the added complexity of an unexpected marriage proposal.
Bonus: The Fast (Jayjay Helterbrand) is smiling at the Furious (Mark Caguioa) kissing his fiancee.
The Father of Modern Photojournalism, Henri Cartier-Bresson, described photography as capturing the decisive moment. “There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture.” One blink and it is gone forever.
We are happy to capture and share these decisive moments with you.
and Scottie Thompson
Since I’m new to shooting PBA, I have a soft spot for the player “newbies”. Romeo and Thompson are also not especially tall, making them easier to relate to.
They fought the good fight but the odds were overwhelming.
It bodes well for Philippine Volleyball when your two Filipinas (Jaja Santiago, 6’5” and Dindin Santiago-Manabat, 6’3”) in the front line are taller (or as tall) as the import (Ariel Usher, 6’3”).
Ariel personally thanked me for the photo; she said it’s the only one she’s seen where all three are captured in action in a line (facing the same way). She also said they’re appropriately nicknamed, “The Triplets.”