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national track 2019 crowd

RED Sports: 2019 Recap

Introduction

I feel this introduction deserves some extra attention. After all, 2019 was my first year with RED Sports (henceforth “RS” for short). As 2020 begins (and I flesh out content for this blog of sorts), I think it appropriate for me to look back while continuing to move forward.

First off, most of the people reading this will not know who I am. A personal introduction is in order. I’m Jared. I turn eighteen in 2020. Over the years, I have invested both money and time into pursuing photography and music. I shoot Nikon (for y’all photographers out there) and I play multiple instruments. I also produce music, and own quite a sizable collection of music production gear, including a full 16U flightcase outfit with a portable mixing rig… but I digress. This is about photography.

Virgin DSLR experience

The first time I picked up a DSLR was in 2009. My family and I were staying in Vancouver, Canada at the time and my father bought a brand-new D90. Compared to today’s cameras, the D90 falls apart at every turn. It has a comparatively megapixel count, a laughable continuous capture speed (FPS), and the pictures that it produces cannot compare to the ones I take now. Yet at the time it was an up-to-date, advanced camera. I was too young to fully understand aperture, shutter speed, and all the other “fancy” settings, instead preferring to stick to auto — after all, this wasn’t my camera, it was my father’s! I had no reason to learn how to use it properly.

That being said, I did pick up some basics: aperture and shutter speed had to do with light. This dial did this, that dial did that, so on and so forth. Certainly not anything that qualified me as a “photographer”, but the knowledge I picked up here would come in handy later on.

Wow. This is turning out to be a long introduction. Let’s speed it up. In the early 2010’s, back from Canada and once again residing in Singapore, my parents signed me up for a beginner’s photography class. We met in Hort Park and spent the afternoon going over the basics. I found I already knew much of what was being taught.

But the real jump in skill level and experience came in 2018 when I purchased a D500. Not that gear means skill, but it made my job significantly easier. I also invested in a 70-200mm f/2.8 and a 50mm f/1.8. These two lenses served me pretty well. Over the next two years, I expanded my gear collection to include a D850, Nikon’s highest megapixel full-frame, and multiple other lenses, including a 105mm f/1.4, a 200-500mm f/5.6, and a 24-70mm f/2.8. And this is what I shot all of my RED Sports content on in 2019.

Enough about me, let’s move on to my 2019 RED Sports story.

Pre-SSSC Season 2019

Let me begin with a disclaimer: not every article and event is included in this timeline. It would simply take too long to tell my story without skipping the boring less interesting bits.

stefanus ian screenshot

7 January 2019. Stefanus, the editor at RS who handles a lot of the day-to-day administration, texted me this on Telegram.

On the actual day, two other interns and myself sat through a concise briefing on RS house style. Stefanus walked us through the basic formatting, including both how to write a lead for an article and the picture sizing. We got our feet wet by watching a short Tottenham gameplay clip and then writing a lead, ending by reviewing each other’s compositions.

Everyone walked away with a little more know-how on how to shoot and write for RS.

17 January 2019. About ten teens and young adults gathered in a cozy space, the living room of Leslie Tan, the founder of RS. Looking out the apartment window, I could see the south Singaporean skyline contrasted against the amber sky, the outline of the buildings accentuated by the setting sun. We had gathered for dinner and to get to know one another. My fellow volunteers that year: a teacher who would go on to write 2019’s rugby stories; several recent ‘A’ level graduates, including a girl from Raffles football and another from Meridian floorball; a Youth Olympic Games gold medalist (2014). The food? Multiple shepherd’s pies. Time to join RED Sports, perhaps, inquisitive reader?

red sports gathering
Red Crew 2019 as of January — those that could make it. We had more join us in February through April.

30 January 2019. My first article: the Volleyball Association of Singapore’s Series One Premier Cup final. Whew, that’s a mouthful. I made the rookie mistake of doing two things I shouldn’t have done… simultaneously:

  • Writing about a sport I’d never watched or played before (volleyball)
  • Trying to write about the game AND take pictures at the same time

To be fair, I did the second (writing and covering photographically) for hockey later on in the year and did just fine. This time was difficult because I had no experience shooting the sport and still had to keep up with the sport. I literally Google’d volleyball rules on the way to the venue.

First article

When I got there, I set up in the wrong place, getting the wrong angle for the sport. Many of my photos that day have the net obscuring the subject’s face. If you’re interested, you can check out my article by clicking here. On top of the failed pictures, I also lost count of the score multiple times throughout the night. Thankfully, I was there with friends who helped me immensely.

Compound these two shortcomings with the fact that I failed to get phone numbers / contact details from one representative per team, and you have a recipe for disaster. I wrote my article overnight, but had to hold off on publishing it for a week more. I had to get in touch with teams to interview them over Facebook Messenger and alternative online mediums. A friend who played for the team that won the Cup helped me, so getting quotes from his teammates proved to be of no difficulty; however, contacting the team they played against was a challenge.

This article didn’t turn out quite the way I wanted it to, but it was an important learning opportunity. I like to think my writing ability and photo-taking mindset improved drastically because of this.

Season 2019

I started off my season hopping between covering ‘B’ division football and badminton. Find a full list of the articles I’ve contributed to here. By the time March rolled around, I had only managed to contribute to six articles.

Let me go off on a tangent here. RED Sports article contributors are credited as much as possible, in bylines and in picture captions. For each volunteer’s first twenty articles contributed to, they’re credited as “REDintern” so and so. I was REDintern Jared Khoo until March.

Back to the narrative. March held an important event in my RED Sports “career”: National Track finals. While other sports may have matches — each match translating to one article — over weeks and weeks, track is different. Track means multiple events on the same day, meaning I quickly hit my twenty-article quota. The Red Crew likes to call this “earning your slash” because the accreditation format changes. Instead of “REDintern Jared Khoo”, I was now “Jared Khoo/Red Sports.”

If you check the list of articles I’ve contributed to, you can easily count the number of articles that those few days of finals heats produced. Twenty. Twenty articles. More than enough.

But these were articles I was contributing photos to. I had yet to write anything other than my initial VAS volleyball article (the disaster, remember?).

Hockey season

Along comes ‘A’ div hockey season. Context: one of my good friends vice-captained St. Andrew Junior College’s 2019 hockey team. Ryu Azmi Tanaka. Naturally, I got into hockey.

sajc ryu tanaka hockey
Here’s Ryu Tanaka.

I covered as much of the hockey season as I could without killing myself. At the time, I was still in school; I still had assignments to complete and the normal workload of studying. I followed Saints and Raffles their preliminary, round-robin style games. Coincidentally, these were also the two final teams of 2019. By the end of the ‘A’ division hockey season, I was a self-proclaimed master at taking photographs of the game and making voice notes, which I would later convert to narrative-style articles for RED Sports. It helped to have friends or friends of friends in the teams as well, as I could easily reach out to members of the teams for quotes and content.

RED Sports also mandates that their photographers caption each and every photo (if possible) with the image subject’s name and jersey number. This is difficult to do if the jersey number isn’t visible in the picture. Having contacts within Saints and Raffles eased the burden; I just had to Telegram someone from the team to help me identify their teammate.

raffles institution haikel yasin hockey
Haikel Yasin (RI #66) kicks up a water spray with a pass. Raffles defended their title in 2019 without conceding a single goal in any match, preliminary or elimination.

I also like to think that by the end of season I could at least name the players from RI and SAJC by a combination of their boots and hockey stick design, but that’s a story for another time.

End 2019

After hockey season ended, I only pitched in for another five articles. Stefanus asked me to help cover national schools swimming, where I had my first taste of swimming photography. Suffice to say water gets in the way more than one would expect. Because I had a friend in VJC girls’ football, I thought I’d stop by on finals day to help out. Ended up shooting girls’ and guys’ ‘A’ div football 3rd/4th and final games.

victoria junior college vjc football celebration
Victoria Junior College football players celebrate their title-defending win over SAJC in 2019.

And thus ended my 2019 RED Sports journey. I passed on covering anything else, instead relegating myself to keeping up with RED Sports by the chatter in the Telegram group and by reading the website.

My thoughts

Would you do it again? Yes.

Not for the money (we get paid!), because I definitely lost money in the 2019 season. I took Grab to and from the hockey stadium in Sengkang on multiple occasions and I stay in Woodlands, so you can imagine the bill I racked up. I bought Grab’s subscription plan and used all of the coupons that plan afforded me. Not to mention the opportunity cost — shooting an event may only take a single afternoon, but editing and captioning photos often took me multiple nights. Finally, I shot everything on my own equipment. Factoring in wear and tear on my camera bodies puts me further in the red.

So why do it again? It’s not as if putting “wrote for RED Sports” on my university applications will help me out that much. I have no intentions of going into journalism, so this experience will probably be pretty useless in my future job.

The first reason is the lamest. It’s something to do, it’s something to shoot, and it’s exciting. I don’t get that many opportunities to practice my photography skills. I volunteer to cover student-led initiatives’ concerts (find out more here) but other than that I don’t get much exposure. RED Sports provides willing subjects who display varying levels of emotion. I’ve always been a people photographer — landscapes bore me — and RED Sports is the perfect avenue to pursue that.

The team

I’m an expert in neither writing and journalism nor in photography, so I really can’t speak to any of my fellow Red Crew members’ abilities. But each and every one of them has been nothing less than encouraging and helpful. But to anyone worried about joining because you’re scared of social interaction: everyone is really nice! Come join us.

In particular, I have to thank Stefanus for going over and above editing my work and providing feedback as well. It wasn’t uncommon to receive detailed reviews of my work, pointing out instances where I could have written differently or phrased something more precisely. The feedback was always constructive, cheers Stef.

Closing

Well, I’ve learned a lot of things from my experience in 2019. Let’s list some…

  1. Always bring a chair to rugby games. Standing around with a monopod (rugby needs long lenses) is not pleasant. Standing around in the mud with a monopod under the sun is less pleasant. Doing all that for over an hour is horrible. Still better than getting tackled, I guess, but comfort comes first now.
  2. It helps to have friends. Friends are the ones who will put you in touch with their friends. Friends network.
  3. It’s really awkward to interview female team captains because we’re supposed to ask for their numbers. As a guy, that’s a bit weird. And do I tell her I need her number in case we need to clarify quotes, or is it weird to bring it up at all? Does she get it without me having to say it? Goodness…
  4. My blue thermos is too small to fit 330mL of apple cider with ice in it, but if I put less ice in I can fit the whole can in. Barely.

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