It’s not often that one goes from photographing local junior events to a PSA Gold event. Heck, how many Singaporean photographers even get an opportunity to be behind the front wall of a PSA Gold event? From our records – none that we are aware of. At least not until Regina Ho, a former junior player and currently one of the most active volunteers in Singapore Squash got herself a media pass for the Citigold Canary Wharf Classic in London in March and following that up at the inaugural women’s only event – the Manchester Open.
Apart from the local events and the PSA5 Singapore Open held at the Kallang Squash Centre, Regina has only ever been a spectator accompanying her dad at the CIMB Singapore Masters back in the days when it was held at VivoCity. So to have to come face to face with the world’s best men’s players behind the front wall at the Canary Wharf Classic, that must’ve been rather daunting for the University of Manchester student.
“The first couple of days I felt really, really out of place because I was about half, if not a third of the age of everyone else there, and also the only girl. Beyond that, people often say that it’s not the camera but the photographer, but being there with just my kit lens and a camera that is made for beginners made me quite intimidated by the giant “machine guns” – a term often used by professional photographers in reference to the sound a pro-camera makes when shooting at high speed”.
The East Wintergarden, where the Canary Wharf Classic is held each year, is one venue that is known for its “wow” factor. Nestled in between the world’s largest financial houses and corporate offices, the audience is also understandably made up fully-suited up professionals. If there was a local comparison to be made, it would be like having an all-glass court erected in the centre of Raffles Place complete with a full-service restaurant and bar.
“I would say that I was incredibly excited but also really nervous because I didn’t quite have a plan heading into it. Stepping into East Wintergarden for the first time, I was rather overwhelmed. A lot of the feelings were probably also about if I was even going to be good enough to be amongst all these professional photographers,” added Regina on her first PSA media experience.
Having been photographing local events in Singapore, we asked Regina what she thought were the differences between our players and the top in the world.
“The top players just move so much faster than the players that we see in Kallang. Being behind the front wall, having to react to the insane things that the players do on court took a lot of adjusting to at the start.
“Exposure wise, the glass courts, though giving a great angle for video and photos as well as audience, made it a little difficult to take photos of such a fast moving sport because of the lack of light.”
Perhaps an interesting point that Regina found out was that photographing the professionals could sometimes be easier than photographing the amateurs. Between photographing the Manchester Open, she also went to photograph the county league that was similar to the National Squash League in Singapore.
“Strangely, it could actually be easier taking photos of the professionals because they move in the way you expect, and it can often be quite predictable. When photographing casual club players, I found that I had to improvise a lot, and take guesses as to what’s happening on court,” Regina said.
To be a good squash photographer, one has to be very observant and somewhat get to know the players well – not personally, but learning each players game, traits and for some, even their habits. When one knows the little details of each player, one will be more able to anticipate when to click the shutter when the time arises. We asked Regina what makes a player interesting to photograph and who were her favourite players to photograph from the two events.
“I think it really depends on the player. Some players get really emotional when they play and it’s interesting to shoot their reactions.”
Regina felt New Zealand’s Paul Coll, who is known as Superman on the tour, was one of the more interesting men she photographed in Canary Wharf. Apart from the many acrobatic dives which he is known for, he is also popular for his poster boy looks. But what made him interesting to photograph for Regina was an interesting one.
“Paul Coll brought (at least) 3 pairs of shoes for that week, just so they would match his shirts, which honestly is more effort than any of the women in Manchester put in for their match outfits.”
In Manchester, Regina named American Amanda Sobhy as her favourite for the many random facial expressions she makes in court.
In the final part of the interview, we asked Regina to choose her favourite shots across both events and here is what she came up with:
This has to be my favourite across both events. It was on the first day, and I think all of the photographers present took photos of this moment. Declan had just scored his first ever win over a top ten player in his first round match against Marwan Elshorbagy. Maybe it’s because I’m shorter, I am able to capture him in this angle, and the contrast brings out the power he felt in that moment.
On her Instagram posts, Amanda Sohby seems like a really funny person and I just felt like this picture matched her personality quite well with just the reaction to the ball and everything surrounding it.
He’s not known as Superman for nothing. This guy loves diving and all the photographers were looking out for that. This was the closest I got to getting a dive, but now taking a closer look at the photo, some of the audience members’ reactions to the rally happening in front of them is quite amusing too.
I wasn’t able to get Paul Coll in full-dive, but this is my first proper air-time photo.