Shooting His Holiness: the challenge of getting Pope Francis’ photo
Pope Francis’ visit is undeniably the first highlight of 2015, with an estimated total of millilons flocking the papal convoy just to get a glimpse of the charismatic catholic leader. We got insights from some young photojournalists who shot His Holiness from the crowd that patiently waited for hours just for a few seconds of waving to be blessed by the pope. We’ll never know when it will happen again.
Andrew Pamorada (Instagram: @andoyp | Check his Facebook set here) I’m a bit frustrated actually, after all my ninja plans in Quirino Grandstand, falling in line for more than 3 hours from Taft to the Grandstand itself, waiting for another 8 hours, I ended not having a really good shot of the Pope. After all the planning, maybe there are just unexpected things that happened, changed Pope mobile route, really bad rain weather, not-cooperating-drenched camera to name a few. This is the photo that I just got and maybe this will be reminder for me in the future that not all “perfect” planning results to good photos. But still I’m happy that I’ve been part of history and attended a mass that was celebrated by the Pope himself.
I brought a ladder, borrowed a second camera, and waited for hours. I was confident I’ll get the best photo of the Pope on his first day in Manila. I adjusted the settings to match the street lights, not aware the Popemobile had LED lights installed to illuminate the Pope. It approached my position, I took around 8 shots in burst. I held the camera up to see the photos just to see a white blown out figure riding the Popemobile. I thought “baka umikot yung sasakyan o something, para makunan ko ulit”.
But no. Haha.
I went home ashamed of my self. I can’t sleep. I kept thinking about the photo. I even questioned my technical mastery and why I’m a photographer. Di ko matanggap men. Haha.
I knew I had to redeem my self from my self.
I planned to take at least one decent photo whenever Pope’s on the road on his second day. This photo was taken on his way to MOA Arena. My friend and I befriended the PNP officers positioned near CCP to get a good position. We sat down just where the officers are lined up. Then the Pope came. The popemobile was at the end of my lens’ reach and the Pope was looking at the other side but I still held the shutter for burst shots. He then faced our side… my camera buffered, it won’t take photos no matter how hard I pressed the button. Then it did. It took one photo. Off Pope Francis went. I looked at the camera. I shouted proud. I got this photo.
Ronin Bautista (Instagram: @roninshoots | Read his story on GMA News Online) It’s frustrating to pressure yourself for the perfect shot, especially if a huge chunk of your professional life has been finding that right moment and then stitching it with the right words for a majestic fit of a story. But when I went off to see Pope Francis with just a camera and hope that my trigger finger will work like old days and failed, I took it really hard.
Then I looked at the people around me, with all smiles while I sulked for having a sucky shot. Everyone was happy, and my girlfriend was, too. Maybe I was too hard on myself in my aim for perfection. Maybe, I should get back to what I really love to do. Maybe, I was too negative. Maybe, that was Pope Francis’ gift to me: discernment
I have a photo of His Holiness sporting a very huge smile, with a blur of one of just thousands of hands along the road that waved back at him in welcome. Then I was thankful to just be in his presence. It was that moment, the people I’m with, and the significance of being a witness, and not necessarily getting that quality shot, that made it perfect.
Friday morning, I was at the gates of the Malacanang Palace waiting for the arrival of the pope. I was hoping to somehow get an “ok,” if not a great photo of him. Through the four-hour wait I prayed that I may be granted the chance. He rode not on the pope mobile though and I suddenly got pushed behind the crowd. It was a failed try.
We tried again to see the Pope leave Malacanang. From the other gate, passing by diplomatic cars, we walked a bit of a distance to another gate. Was able to only get a glimpse of him leave, but didn’t got the chance anymore to get close since we were still on our way to where the crowd is gathered.
There’s still a public event in Mall of Asia (MOA,) and I was determined to get a chance still. With most of the roads closed and there seems to be a “shortage” of PUVs wanting to go to MOA, a cab stopped in front of us. Eventually, the passengers who rode the cab before me are also following the pope. I had a very smooth ride to MOA, and while I was expecting that I’m in again for a long walk, it so does happen that there are still drop of points near the mall.
I asked a lady offering assistance what the pope’s route is and where he’ll pass by. She suggested a good spot. While walking through the venue, I found the spot the lady suggested to be a good place to take a photo indeed, plus the fact that there aren’t that much people in that spot yet.
I was in MOA at around 1:00pm. The pope is expected to leave for the venue, from the nunciature by 4:30. Thinking of things I can do, I edited pictures from the morning. And then I prayed again. I was able to finish a mystery of the rosary. I prayed and contemplated again that if I am meant to take a good photo then it will happen, if not, then probably I’m not meant to take a good one.
When the pope arrived in MOA everyone is of course eager to take their own photos/videos. I was contented with what I got. I was now walking with a smile. Haha. I ate and rested, planned to leave MOA early. Started the long walk. As expected, roads were still closed. I planned to walk to Buendia from MOA. On my way, I observed that the number of people waiting for the pope’s return home to the nunciature lessened. I was on my way home and so is the pope.
While walking, not planning or expecting to take more photos since it’s already dark, I heard people saying that the Pope is already on his way back, that he left MOA already. Would I pass the chance… I brought out my camera again. Unlike the first two encounters where the thick crowd is a problem, this time I felt, I can be closer to the pope and get a more “intimate” shot (just because there isn’t that much people anymore).
Most of the time, it had been the absence of light that photographers dreaded. Since it’s already dark, I too worried that there wouldn’t be sufficient lighting to capture a moving subject. And using flash is kinda my pet peeve. As much as possible I refrain from using it. And so I adjusted my camera settings and fired away when the pope passed. Most of the shots were blurry. There were one or two shots I find “ok.”Since no cab will still take me home, went to a hotel to freshen up. Used their internet, lounged around and edited photos.
The photo I took on my way home, also on the Pope’s way back to his residence, appears to be the most liked photo amongst all of my Pope pictures. I am overwhelmed and really thankful with the feedback. The photo may be “noisy” and may not pass the technical standards of some of my other peers, but I am just happy that most appreciate it.
Truly, good things happen when you least expect it and one gets joy through the joys of others.
The light emanating from the pope mobile was enough.
BONUS: Old photo of Pope John Paul II in the Philippines Fritz Dalida Well, we used to live in Pandacan, Manila when Pope John Paul II was here. The moment we knew na dadaan sya sa Quirino Highway, my mom, me, and my sis quickly headed out sa road to watch him pass by. I grabbed my mom’s film camera then took the shot.