Malaysian Wheelchair Basketball: First Encounter

Side Note: Olympus Malaysia is organizing a Macro Workshop on 16th March 2013. The speakers are Amir Ridhwan and Sanjitpaal Singh, both great photographers whom I admire and respect. If you want learn macro photography, learn from the best!! I will be there, so I sure hope to see some of you there too.
More info on my previous blog here (click) and Olympus Facebook Page here (click). 

If you have been following this blog recently, you must have known a very important photographer whom I have mentioned a couple of times here, Luke Chua, who is wheelchair bound. The incredible thing about him is that he is not just an amazing photographer whom I have come to respect and admire a lot (seriously his photography work is nothing short of breathtaking, check out his blog to see for yourself) but he is also a National Athlete, having represented the country for international basketball competitions. So when he asked me if I was interested to tag him along in one of the national basketball league which happened today, I thought this was a photography opportunity NOT to be missed !! Hence, I spent an entire afternoon capturing wheelchair basketball in action, and this was my virgin experience. 

All images were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Digital lenses: 50-200mm F2.8-3.5, 25mm F2.8 pancake or 50mm F2 macro. 

The man himself, Luke Chua !!

I do not play basketball, and I am completely not familiar with the game rules, even for the ordinary basketball games. When I was faced with wheelchair basketball, I was almost clueless about the whole thing. Initially, I only intended to grab a few shots for Luke, shooting a friend in action, and I thought that itself would be rather cool. Nonetheless, considering the fact that I was the only one with a DSLR running around the whole place shooting like nobody's business, suddenly I was requested to shoot the event. Since I was already shooting the event, I thought it would be great to contribute my photographs to the wheelchair basketball community. I surely do not have the financial prowess to move mountains, but I know I can do some things with my camera, and with that little power that I have, I did what I can for them. 

As I have mentioned, I came to the event rather unprepared. I thought I would be standing very far away from the court, hence I brought the tele-lens, 50-200mm. However, I was allowed to roam around freely, and there was no other media or press photographers to watch out for. I was the only photographer !! Now lets sidetrack a little bit, where the HECK were Malaysian media? I thought National level sports like these deserves some attention, and surely would benefit from local news coverage !! It was sadenning to see how people would be so ignorant, and certainly I felt that this wonderful community of wheelchair basketball players deserve some exposure. They really were amazing on court, and seeing them being so determined and putting out their best game was nothing short of an inspiration in itself. All that aside, not having interruptions meant I could choose my best position for my photographs, and I can relocate as I wish. Poor composition was not an excuse now. 

Considering how near I could get to the court, I regretted not bringing my wide angle lens, the 11-22mm F2.8-3.5 !! That lens would have opened up a whole new perspective, creating more dramatic shots and fitting in more within one frame. Though the 25mm pancake was not a wide angle, it has to suffice for wide angle job, as I step back a lot further to fit what I needed within its frame. 

Knowing Olympus 50-200mm NON-SWD version, Autofocus performance was not exactly super fast. I am not going to lie, I did miss plenty of shots due to focus not catching up with my need to rapidly click the shutter button to freeze motion. Perhaps the SWD version would solve this problem, with the super sonic wave drive providing much faster and accurate focusing. I did not use continuous focus, knowing the lens might struggle, so I used single AF instead. As much as I have missed focus, there are plenty more shots that I found to be quite usable, and become keepers. Perhaps focusing was the only issue this time. Lighting was fine, with plenty of sunlight since the basketball court was a shaded open area. 

When I was shooting this particular event a lot of thoughts ran through my mind. I was not sure why this happened, but maybe it was because I did not put that much thought to photography lately as I was rather occupied with my engineering work. 

Some of the thoughts actually came in the form of realization on how inapplicable some general photography "rules and guidelines" can be. There are those people who kept preaching that machine-gunning or continuous burst shots are for lazy people, who would just shoot multiple shots and just pick a few from a whole huge bunch of photographs. While there are some truths to that, having shot the basketball competition, I dare say, when you need to burst and shoot multiple frames (up to a few dozens for a single action sequence, for example), just do it. Shooting just one by one will surely result in regrettable misses at the end of the day. Why limit yourself by not shooting more? The camera should NOT be limiting your needs, or stopping you from shooting more. It was the total opposite. The camera should encourage you to shoot more and more, and only by doing so you increase your chance of getting that better shot, and subsequently improve further. Shooting more for flexibility in photo-selection, is not the same with spamming thoughtlessly. Of course, when you know what you are doing, and you do ALL YOU CAN to get that shot, surely you will nail some of them, irregardless of how many you have missed or failed. 

Sometimes, I think the concept of HCB's decisive moment is flawed. How do you know one moment is the decisive moment, when the next moment could be even better? How can you just take that one shot and not wonder if there is a possibility of things getting better? It would be stupid and risky to just shoot a few frames and be content with what you have. If you are serious about getting the best photograph, you should be shooting more, and be more open to possibilities. 

Strangely, new generation of modern photographers these days have some very odd theories that they live by. Theories such as zoom lenses are for lazy people, prime lenses are for the pros. Theories like using flash will kill the ambiance, and natural available light is the only way to go, hence no flash and push up the ISO to 1235670000 for that amazing shot. Some can go "Oh I only shoot what I want to shoot, and shoot how I want to shoot it", with not the slightest care whether their image is in focus or even know how to use anything else in the camera except the full Auto mode. One thing I always emphasize when it comes to shooting in whatever form, being practical is the most important consideration. If you need that long tele-zoom lens, you will need that lens, and no matter what excuse you come up with not to use it, you are only killing your own photography opportunities. If you need to use flash, use it !! 

I used both continuous burst and tele-lens to achieve the shots I got today. Without those two, I do not think I can produce half decent shots. 

I am not a sports photographer, and I rarely do shoot sports. Thus, the images surely would not fulfill the expectations of good sports photography. I should have done my research on the game before shooting it, and I should be more prepared. 

It was surely a fun experience, and awesome opportunity to shoot the Malaysian Wheelchair Basketball players. I know for very sure this would not be my last time shooting this sort of event, and I have mentioned sports photography is not my cup of tea, but doing it for myself and for the pure fun of it, I'd say why not? 

Oh yeah, if you go to their page, find the photo-album of this event titled "Liga BKKR Edisi Ke-8, 2013", and you will find a load more of my images of this event there (about 87 images in total).

Special thanks to Luke Chua for having me today. It was great finally being able to see you in action (apart from photography or course) and I am sure you will continue to do our country proud. 

I did mention earlier this year that I wanted to explore different forms of photography and dared myself to shoot things that I have not explored before. I strongly believe this Wheelchair Basketball thing counted as one !! A great start to the month of March, surely. 


  1. "modern photographers these days have some very odd theories"

    These people really need to get over themselves. You shoot what works.

    One thing I have found over the years especially when shooting stuff like this is go for the faces. To an event organizer and/or the family involved, the face that shows joy, strife, determination s always going to win over the shot of some amazing athletic feat with someone's rear as the prime area of interest.

    And for anyone who doesn't think that the disabled cant compete, well, think again. Great series.

    And here is some Sled Hockey for you

    1. Thanks Libby for the link, amazing stuff indeed !!
      You were spot on about disabled people in competition, in fact, they compete a lot fiercer than I would imagine. Luke my friend, is one of the most amazing photographers I have known in KL.

  2. These being your photos, Robin, so no surprise, what comes through is the soul of these amazing athletes, putting their all into the game. Also, those Olympus colors do not let up! Beautiful documentary work!

    1. Hello Reverend,
      Thanks for the kind words, but I do think I need to improve and can do much better. After all it was my first attempt.

    2. Oh and yes, Olympus colors !

  3. ...amazing that thanks to the Internet, we can discover new friends half a world away.... While I enjoy your photographs, shutter therapy, and "practical" insights into photography, your Blog lets us see the humanity and goodness of your soul.....

    1. Hello Dwight,
      I strongly believe being practical is very important in everything we do. It makes the diferrence between just philosophical, or actually getting the real shot.
      Thanks so much for the compliments !

  4. I am in total awe of the performance of these athletes. Absolutely amazing. You provided them (and us!) with some excellent shots of these guys performing, in my eyes, amazing feats. I think this is excellent work.

    As for the rules: as far as I am concerned, the "rules" are that there are no rules. One does what one needs to do to get the shot. Sometimes machine-gunning a scene, sometimes more contemplating and trying to be proactive and nail it with one shot. But often that's not simply not possible, especially in very dynamic situations. Rules are merely guidelines and to be creatively interpreted as such... but that's just me.

    You did great!

    1. Thanks Andre, and I like your take on the rules are "there are no rules". Indeed, more photographers should heed this, surely this could save lives !!

  5. Donald W Leitzel3/05/2013 03:47:00 AM


    Don't apologize for not being a "sports photographer" you did a beautiful job of capturing the action and the expression of the athletes. As far as not being prepared for sports photography success comes from knowing the limitations of your gear.


    1. Hello Don,
      Thanks for the kind words. I still feel I could do much better !! Room for improvements of course.

  6. Hello Robin,
    Thank you for sharing of another great adventure in photography. Great images with sear determination painted on their faces and not to forget the expression of satisfaction when the game is over. Great series of images that bring the sense of being at the event for me is a job well done. I believe sport photography will flow natural to you as you have done street and panning. Being Robin Wong is also the main factor. Last year, I have covered badminton event for our club of which I have deleted from my blog due to 'some policy compliance'. It's really fun and I know you also feel 'that fun and excitement' while pressing the camera button. Hope to see more of your images of sport in the future as you have that niche to capture the moment.
    May you have a great evening.
    John Ragai

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