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Through the eyes of a champ


By Maan D’Asis Pamaran


Raphael Evan Grabador

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    This photographer has the heart of a champ. Raphael Evan A. Grabador has brought honor to the country several times over by representing the Philippines at sporting events, including two turns at the SEA Games in Indonesia (2011) and in Laos (2009) for Water Polo.  He also played in the FINA World Men’s Water Polo Development Trophy in Kuwait and at the Singapore Invitational Water Polo Tournament, both in 2009.  The UP Hall of Famer is a former varsity student athlete who still holds an unbroken swimming record for the 100 backstroke at the Palarong Pambansa and has taken up coaching to pass on the torch to the next generation of champions.

    Aside from his passion for sports, he unleashed his creative side by taking up photography as a hobby. He grins and shares, “My wife brought me camera as a present two years ago because she always noticed me taking pictures of my daughter and during our travel. At first, I didn’t even know how to set my camera —the aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. I was always on Auto Mode,” he laughs.

    The bemedalled athlete is no stranger to challenges and took it upon himself to learn all that he could about the technicalities of photography, in between his coaching jobs at three different schools. Now, he shoots in the streets. “Street photography is part of my daily routine. Even if I don’t have a camera, I can practice it by observing the surroundings. But as I become mature in photography, I want to apply its creativity in other genres of photography like sports, travel, landscape, and even composite.”

    He integrates the discipline and mental toughness he has learned from his sports background into his craft—he takes criticism as a way to improve and is challenging himself to keep producing better work. “If the viewer didn’t connect to your photograph, it doesn’t mean that your photo is not effective. If you feel that you are improving as a photographer and if you think you challenge yourself enough to get that shot you wanted, for me, that’s effective photography. You, as a photographer, are always capable to accept or reject criticism. Whether they are good or bad comments, treat those two as the same so that you can visualize and have that options to choose your shot’s mood depending on the scenario.”

    In the same vein, he has started experimenting with his color schemes. “When I started photography, I would always convert my colored photos to black and white just to see which one looks better. Now, before I take the shot, I already know if that photo will look good in colored or black and white. For my street photography that involves colorful pattern, I always choose the colored photo. For emotions and shadows, it is black and white all the way.”

    With photography, he has been reaping recognition out of the waters. Evan has been with the Manila Avid Photographers club. His first ever entry to the monthly PhotoWorld Cup, organized by the Federation of Philippine Photographers Foundation (FPPF), won third place. He is on probationary status with the Camera Club of the Philippines and has recently won a trophy for the People’s Choice Award under the “Bicycle” theme and won third place for Top Photographer just this month.

    He relates his sports training to the discipline needed in photography. “In swimming, hard work is always the key to success; it is not about your swim trunks or goggles. In the same way with photography, you can’t create a perfect shot if you don’t practice. The gears don’t create your imagination. Through your creativity, patience, and with God’s perfect timing, sooner or later you will be able to achieve your dream shot.” Here, the champ/coach reiterates that practice makes perfect. “In swimming and in photography, not everyone has the talent or what we call ‘the eye,’ but if you are willing enough to learn, I don’t see a reason not to improve.”

    His ultimate goal is to share and help through photography, as with his coaching on swimming (he is now the head coach of the Swimming Team of the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde and the De La Salle University). “I believe that knowledge should be taught and experiences should be shared,” he explains. For those starting out, this is one of the lessons he wants to impart: “The best thing about being a photographer is to freeze the special moment and to be able to see and share it with your family and friends. Invest in your eyes, heart, and knowledge—not on your cameras.”

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