The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

Out of frame

Featuring photographers and their work for team sports at MVHS
Daphne Huang
Freelance photographer John Ling looks into his camera as he attempts to take a picture of a jumping athlete.

Freelance photographer John Ling recalls looking into his Sony Alpha One camera on a Friday night two years ago, capturing an MVHS football player from the sideline when — out of nowhere — another player came barreling at him. Looking at a field of view focused at a faraway point through his camera, Ling didn’t see the player coming until the player jabbed his cleats into Ling’s ankle.

“You see that happening in the NFL all the time,” Ling said. “Since then, I’ve been trying to be a little more careful about players that might get too excited. If you see a player running on the ball and getting tackled almost right in front of you, you need to have slightly quick reflexes to get out of the way.”

For MVHS ‘23 alum Agnes Wang, an ankle sprain prior to the cross country spring season her sophomore year was the reason she embarked on her photography journey. Wanting to remain on the Cross Country and Track and Field teams despite her injury, Wang passed the time at meets by taking pictures of her teammates and posting her photos on MVRunning’s Flickr account.

Graphic by Lillian Wang

“Anyone who knows Coach Flatow knows he’s a very big team player,” Wang said. “That’s his motto, and a big part of his philosophy is that no matter if you’re injured or running — even if you’re done with your race — you can’t go home and you have to be there until the team finishes. Taking photos was one thing I could do for the team that was fulfilling in a team player aspect.”

On the other hand, Ling first tried out photography in a class he had in middle school where he used his brother’s camera to shoot photos. Once his three kids started taking up a variety of sports, from soccer to baseball, Ling brought his camera to their games to capture them in play.

Similarly, photography hobbyist Arnold de Leon’s interest in photography also blossomed during parenthood. Before starting sports photography, de Leon first took up family photography, recalling that “having a child gave him more of a reason to try to do it well.” When his daughter became involved in gymnastics, de Leon extended his hobby to sports photography and since then, he has been taking photos of sports for about 20 years. 

“Whatever activity she was doing, one of the ways I could participate was by being the photographer,” de Leon said. “Also, the thing that extends into it, it’s like, I wasn’t just doing it for my child. When she was doing gymnastics, her team was there so I was like ‘I’m here. I might as well do the team photos,’ and so it became a bit more than just doing it for us.”

When de Leon’s daughter joined the MVHS Field Hockey team, de Leon progressed to taking pictures of field hockey, and even after she graduated, he continued to show up to the Matadors’ games. For every hour he spends shooting, de Leon spends two to three post-processing, occasionally enlisting another parent’s help to streamline the process. Having taken photos of almost every match, de Leon makes each gallery available to the team on Flickr or his personal site

“When I’m doing sports photography, I’m creating,” de Leon said. “I’m trying to time and figure out what the action is. In gymnastics, it helps to know the routine so you know when the highlights will be. In sports, it helps to know how the sport flows, so you anticipate the play, and so on. You’re in the game.” 

Like de Leon, Ling has transitioned from taking photos of sports his children partake in, such as water polo and basketball, to taking pictures and high-elevation videos for multiple sports teams at MVHS. Now a freelance photographer for 10 years, Ling posts his pictures on his personal website, portfolio and Instagram, through which parents can order photos or see videos of their children. 

“Most people just pay attention to the game, but when you take pictures, you can actually freeze a moment of greatness,” Ling said. “A lot of the time, I don’t just shoot photos. I take videos as well because there are times when simply a photo doesn’t necessarily capture the essence of the event. Taking a picture to capture that moment is hard, but in the video, you’ll get the shot and it’s more fun to watch.”


Ling uses a season of footage to create a short video with the highlights for athletes and onlookers to remember the season. Video courtesy of John Ling | Used with permission

De Leon also records videos for the field hockey team using a sports camera that does full-field tracking to help the team break down plays. However, he adds that sometimes intense games are worth putting down his camera for.

“The funny thing is when the games are really close and high tension, I’ll stop shooting and I’m just watching the game,” De Leon said. “This is why I don’t like to do paid gigs because it’s like ‘I’m working’ versus ‘I’m doing it because I’m having fun,’ and if I ever decide not to shoot, it’s OK because it’s just up to me.”

Wang says her primary motivation for taking photos of track meets was the knowledge that her teammates would be happy to have someone record their races, though she also had fun experimenting with unique angles at track meetings. During running events, she would lie down on the grass near the finish line to take shots contrasting athletes against the skyline. She also enjoyed zooming into her teammates’ faces for close-ups. 

“With most of them, just seeing a familiar face smiling actually has a pretty big impact,” Wang said. “I got to connect with a lot of people — we didn’t actually exchange words but they’d see my camera and immediately put on a smile or pose, but it was just these little interactions in which I knew their name and they also knew my name.”

Like Wang, photography also allowed Ling to build connections with others, though in his case he became acquaintances with multiple coaches of various sports as well as Athletic Director Nick Bonacorsi. For Football, Boys Basketball and Girls Basketball, Ling received a request from the athletes’ parents and Bonacorsi to help commemorate the seniors on their senior nights. He came up with the idea to make banners for each senior to hang on the wall for the last few games of their season.

Five banners created by Ling are pulled up to commemorate the five seniors on Varsity Girls Basketball. (Daphne Huang)

Ling primarily used Adobe Photoshop to make the posters although he typically uses Lightroom to edit raw photos, which he says takes longer than most people think. Ling also edits videos on Adobe Premiere, which can take even longer than photos as he has to go through a whole season of footage in an attempt to clip plays into a 10-minute highlight film for the team at the end of its season. 

“It’s not like an iPhone where you just press a button on your phone’s camera app and then upload it,” Ling said. “There’s a lot of work that goes into getting a really good picture that most people don’t understand or realize. I guess, people kind of see it as ‘Oh, what’s so hard about taking a good picture,’ but there is an art that goes into it if you want to make something look great, and it can take quite a bit of time.”

De Leon adds that it can be difficult to edit photos after spending hours at a game as he also juggles a job as an engineer. However, having not had the opportunity to participate in sports when he was a child, de Leon reflects on the lack of a Sports Illustrated quality photo of himself to memorialize his activities as a teenager. With this in mind, he has taken it upon himself to provide such photos for all young athletes.

“There is a little part of me that considers sports and other extracurricular activities to be a critical part of the high school or just the young person experience,” de Leon said. “It’s what I would have wanted — to have at least one photo where I can proudly say ‘Yes, I was there and I did it’ in addition to the memory of playing.”

Ling’s inspiration for continuing to take photos is also rooted in leaving behind a keepsake for high school athletes. For most students, Ling believes that playing a sport might be an activity that ceases when they move on to college, and he hopes that having pictures can serve as a memento of their history on MVHS teams. 

“My wish is to make athletes feel good about playing their sport and for these images to get their families, parents and friends to come out and watch,” Ling said. “I know everybody’s always very busy with school, but if everybody can take some time out, and have some fun, watching the sports team, supporting our athletes, our school will be very happy to see that. We’re not really known for our sports as much as our academics, but we can try to change that perspective to ‘All of these kids can do well in sports as well as in academics.’”

About the Contributors
Daphne Huang
Daphne Huang, Sports Editor
Daphne Huang is currently a senior and a sports editor for El Estoque. When she manages to escape the paws of her attention-seeking husky, she can usually be found playing badminton, managing cat cafes or spending time with family and friends.
Lillian Wang
Lillian Wang, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Lillian is a senior and a co-editor-in-chief for El Estoque.
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