Soft-spoken and self-effacing but don't let his boyish looks fool you. At such a young age, he's already a seasoned professional in the events coverage industry. He's also a sought-after drone pilot, a skill that complements his photography, videography, and editing expertise. The artist behind Oneday Project and countless amazing aerial images and footage, he's on a relentless rise toward mastering his craft, taking all of us higher and showing us awe-inspiring views.
Ronald Balan takes centerstage as the featured Focus photographer of the month.
Q : What was your first camera?
R : My brother worked in a photo studio in Ortigas. He had his camera, a Nikon D200. He often visited us and whenever he did, he would always teach me how to use his camera. Then the first time I used his camera was 2009, it was a concert of Rivermaya and Gloc 9 at Bulacan Sports Complex. I bought my first camera April 26, 2014. A Canon 60D and a 50mm f/1.8 It was urgent for a shoot. I only had 5,000 pesos savings, estudyante pa lang ako. Luckily, my mom and girlfriend lent me some money. Thanks to them. Nabayaran ko rin naman sila within that year.
Q : When you were just beginning, what did you usually shoot? And what were common frustrations in shooting?
R : Mga pini-picture-an ko lang noon mga mahilig mag-skate, tsaka mga banda. Frustration in shooting, sana may 70-200mm lens. Kasi ang hirap lumapit sa mga subjects ko.
Q : You're also exposed to different forms of media and art. Why do you think you connected most with photography?
R : I attached myself to photography because I can see behind through the lens the true happiness, love, and even 'yung sad part. Basta 'yung lahat ng pwedeng emotion or kahit candid makikita mo.
Q : How did you get started in having photography as a profession?
R : It was just a hobby lang naman talaga that turned into a career. Mahilig ako mag-picture ng mga band concerts and one time there was this friend of mine who referred me to her friend to shoot for a debut. Nagsimula na doon mag-aral, paano mag-portrait, at iba pa.
Q : And then of course you turned your focus into video. Tell us about that shift.
R : College days pa. Back then we used to have lots of activities and projects at school that needed video. Since 'di naman ako kagalingan magsalita in front of the camera, I insisted to be the one who took videos and also edit them. I ended up watching tutorials of how to edit videos. After a year, most of my masscom student friends were asking me to edit their videos, na raket na rin.
Q : What would you say is the distinct challenge of shooting video compared to shooting photos?
R : When it comes to shooting video kasi you have to direct the subject in a way that comes up with a story. Different angles, use of tripod and stabilizer. Kailangan ng madaming practice para maging smooth ang clips.
Q : With the dawn of drones, you were one of the first to specialize in aerial photos and videos. What made you decide to pursue that?
R : Because of my willingness to travel to different parts of the country, drone was a perfect gadget to capture beautiful sceneries we have. 2015, kaunti pa lang ang may drone and that time 10,000 to 15,000 pesos ang fee for drone footage. Mababawi mo agad ang pinangbili. At first, I was just watching other operators how they do it, then it turned into curiousity. It eventually led me to buy a drone to use in my wedding events and also for my travels.
Q : Have you had "muntikan na" moments in flying your drone? Or have you crashed one?
R : Nag-crash!!! But it was only 6 feet above the ground, buti buhangin ang binagsakan. It was still functioning and completely intact. There was also a "muntikan na" moment at a beach in Bagac, Bataan. I was in the hut near the shore, I was with my friend and we were talking when I needed to drop off the drone, then I unintentionally clicked the remote that made the drone hit the hut. Still, wala pa ring damage.
Q : What for you would be the most amazing place you've been to, in terms of aerial view?
R : Calaguas Island, kasi kaunti lang ang mga bahay doon and super linaw ng tubig. Pero sobrang lakas ng hangin kaya challenge ang pagbyahe. Risky rin gamitin ang drone kasi malakas talaga ang hangin.
Q : What are places in your bucket list that you'd like to shoot, and places you'd like to capture on drone?
R : Sea of clouds in Sagada. I want to capture the sea of clouds using the drone and how it looks like. Also, buildings in Ortigas, Makati, BGC but it's restricted.
Q : What has been the most memorable event you've covered?
R : An Indian wedding in Malaysia. It was my first time and I didn't know how the ceremony will go plus the language and culture were different. Luckily, there was another Pinoy who guided me what will happen in that ceremony and it was okay naman. After a week, I came back to Malaysia to shoot the reception part. Ibang araw pa 'yung sa kasal sa reception nila.
Q : What photo are you most proud of?
R : It was the photo that was part of the exhibit of Focus Bulacan back in 2014. The photo I took during Hillsong United's concert in Manila that same year. Joel Houston of Hillsong shared my photo on his Facebook account. (Photo shown below)
Q : What's next on your career plan?
R : Mag-a-artista naman ako. Haha. Joke lang. To be serious, I want to build a solid video team.
Q : 10 years from now, how would you like to envision yourself in terms of your career as a photo and video specialist?
R : In 10 years, I'm owning a studio or a big production house that handles talented photographers, videographers, editors, and drone pilots. Parang job interview pala 'to. Hahaha.
Q : Any photographer or videographer who you look up to, and why?
R : For local, it's Jason Magbanua. "Be passionate, look for the story." Also, mga idols like Bob Nicolas, Cinemaworks. For foreign naman, Fiore Films.
Q : What would you advise photography beginners?
R : Shoot lang nang shoot. Practice lang nang practice. Manood ng gawa ng mga hinahangaan at alamin paano nila ito ginagawa.
Q : What would you advise those who are planning to buy drones and get into aerial photography?
R : Sobrang dami ng drone ngayon. Ask and watch ng reviews. Drones have different features. Practice ng mga safety guidelines bago magpalipad. Know the rules and regulations bago magpalipad.
Q : If you knew then what you know now, you would..?
R : I would want to share my learnings and experiences to those who need it. I would also want to engage myself to study more regarding video editing, 'yung mas makakaganda pa ng videos.
Q : Any message to Focus followers and your fellow Focus members?
R: Thank you sa lahat ng nai-inspire ng Focus Bulacan. Alam ko madami kayong natutunan sa grupo na ito. Ganoon din kami,nai-inspire pa kami para mag-share pa sa inyo. Sa Focus members.. madami akong natutunan sa bawat member dito. Bawat miyembro talented. Lagi lang conflict sa sked ko ang mga photomeet pero love ko kayo. Hahaha.
Ronald's other favorite aerials (Click thumbnails to view in full)
Drones have given photographers and their audience a new medium to take and enjoy photos. It lets us see the world in a new perspective, one that overcomes the limitations of gravity. As technology advances, those who adapt quickly and passionately put themselves in the forefront of a new era. Ronald turned his curiosity into a well-calculated investment and is now reaping the rewards of his profession. What profession exactly?
Don't be surprised if he adds a few more specialization. When you want to succeed, you have to keep reaching for greater heights.
Every month, we have a feature on our members, our photography idols, and other photography issues we feel deserve a heads-up.