Over the last eighteen months I have felt very lucky to be given the opportunity of working with Action Plus Sports Images to help them archive over 1.1 million iconic sports pictures in 35mm film slides. In terms of our progress, to date over 800,000 slides have been selected, digitised and all ready for the world to see, which is amazing progress in only eighteen months. On a personal note, aside from the painstaking task of closely checking every single slide’s sharpness & composition to eventually select the very best pictures from very old & fragile plastic sheets & getting them digitised, I am also able to study the very best sports pictures & in return give me an old school education into great sports photography. It makes it even more amazing when I am able to hold in my finger tips a tiny frame of a fantastic sports picture that was captured at the same time when I was watching the actual event on TV in my parents living room as a young boy & teenager.
On Saturday 23rd March I was assigned by my agency Action Plus Sports Images to cover the ‘Superstars of Gymnastics’ at the O2 Arena. A major new event showcasing the very best of Gymnastics featuring olympic gold medalists & global megastars Simone Biles and Max Whitlock. Biles & Whitlock would be the judges to score the Superstars of Gymnastics which would feature, from Great Britain, James Hall, Danny Purvis, Dom Cunningham, Courtney Tulloch, Sam Oldham and Jay Thompson. As well as Germany’s Fabian Hambüchen, a gold medallist on horizontal bars at Rio 2016, triple Commonwealth Games gold medallist Ellie Black of Canada, double Olympic silver medallist Marcel Nguyen, three-time World Champion Oksana Chusovitine, four-time World Cup medallist Elisabeth Seitz, six-time Dutch national champion Casimir Schmidt and Jamacian international Danusia Francis.
Over a course of an afternoon and evening sessions, I didn’t have a lot of time to send live images while every other event was starting every twenty minutes. So knowing this, I had to pre plan everything, from the timing and position of where I will be photographing each Gymnastic event. The O2 Arena doesn’t have the best lighting or backdrop so I had to take that into consideration as well. However, I was able to photograph pretty much where ever I wanted inside the O2 Arena, which was kind of Matchroom Sport to give me that type of access.
Beam - Canon 1DX MKII with EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM inc a 4-star filter.
Parallel Bars - Canon 1DX MKII with EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM.
Vault (Men) - Canon 1DX MKII with EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM.
Vault (Women) - Canon 1DX MKII with EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM inc a 4-star filter.
Uneven Bars - Canon 1DX MKII with EF 70-200 mm F/2.8 L IS II USM.
Pommel - Canon 1DX MKII with EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM.
Floor (Ground Level) - Canon 1DX MKI with EF 70-200 mm F/2.8 L IS II USM.
Floor (4th Floor Level) - Canon 1DX MKII with EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM.
Below are my favourite photographs I captured.
We’re back for another spin at the Nitto ATP Finals inside London’s O2 Arena.
The ATP Finals is the second highest tier of annual men's tennis tournament after the four Grand Slam tournaments. A week-long event, the ATP Finals are the season-ending championships of the ATP World Tour and feature the top eight singles players and doubles teams of the ATP Rankings.
As an Editorial Sports Photographer covering a week-long tournament, my assignment was to capture news-related moments for the national and international press. However, the fundamental core of being a Photographer is to be creative, so capturing editorial photographs can put the creative side on the back shelf. Thankfully Nitto ATP Finals is a week-long tournament which gave me opportunities to be creative and capture not just your typical tennis action photographs.
I want to say thank The Nitto ATP Finals Media Team for providing excellent facilities and photo positions throughout the tournament. I also want to say a massive thank you to Canon for allowing me to borrow the 1DX MKII to cover the tournament.
Early starts and late finishes for fifteen days to photograph the worlds greatest players at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club was an absolute blast, but not without its moments.
Photographing this years Wimbledon Championships was super hard work, but then again it is the biggest tennis tournament in the world with eighteen courts over two weeks with over 30 degree heat on a daily basis. The one constant thought I had throughout this tournament was getting a photo spot to cover both the ladies & gentlemen’s singles semi finals & final matches. To qualify for a photo shot you have to earn it by getting a decent number of publications throughout the tournament. So I had thirteen days to earn my place and cover as many matches as possible and submit as many pictures as possible to the national & international press, every match and picture counted…so no pressure then.
From 25th June to 15th July I covered a total of seventy nine matches and submitted to the agencies, which send directly to the press, one thousand eight hundred and sixty four photographs. Looking at those numbers it is massive but the numbers do reflect the amount of work that was involved, don’t forget Wimbledon is a two weeks tournament with dozens of singles, doubles and mixed doubles matches on the go on a daily basis. With so many matches going on it can be very daunting to figure out which ones to cover, so myself and my agency drew up a daily plan on which matches to photograph, those particular matches would give us the best opportunities to hopefully get published throughout the tournament.
Covering so many matches wasn’t without its photographic obstacles, as an accredited photographer covering the Championships my type of photographers pass only allowed me to photograph all courts from the West Side which was behind the umpires chair, the players chairs, the drinks bins, the line judges and tv cameras. However due to the size of some of the courts, I was allowed to photograph from the East Side, but in general all the main courts from Centre to Court number three, I was allowed to photograph from a gantry position if I wanted (by permission) to get those type of pictures. The reason why some photographers have West & East side passes is because of the number of photographers covering the tournament, so competition to get pictures published before everyone else was sometimes difficult. However, from the start of the Championships I was never bothered about the other photographers, I was experienced enough to fully concentrate on nailing those important court action moments.
The only obstacle I faced at the Championships was having enough time to be creative. Two weeks at a tennis tournament may seem at first plenty of time to be creative with your pictures, but honestly it wasn’t. I was darting from one match to another on the first week covering both gentlemen’s and ladies singles matches so making time to be creative was tough. However, during the first week of the Championships I observed how the sun’s shadow covered the courts from late mornings to late afternoons, so from week two I made the time to produce some creative photographs.
So I made it, I not only gained a photo position to cover the semi finals but also both the ladies and gentlemen’s single finals. This was due to making a total of sixty publications both online and print nationally and internationally in a two week period, such an achievement in a short period of time during a major tournament is a wonderful personal achievement. As a Sports Photographer, I’ve covered many major moments in sports and its always important to not get nervous or carried away in the occasion. I mentally treated both finals as just another match, that way I was alway calm, fully concentrated and ready to capture the important moments at both finals.
On reflection a few days after the tournament, despite the running around covering matches, the hopes, the worries, the cuts and bruises, the large amount of sun cream I had to put on, tv cameras in the way, spectators in the way, this tournament was a lot of fun to photograph and I’ve come back with some amazing memories. As a photographer covering this tournament is another level, its very prestigious. I always feel once you get a photographers pass to cover Wimbledon it is an honour and an absolute privilege to photograph the biggest tennis tournament in the world at the grandest of stages. As Novak Djokovic said during his post match interview with the BBC after winning his fourth Wimbledon Championships “…this is a sacred place for world of tennis”
A few hours before I photographed the Gentlemen’s Singles Final, I spent about half an hour wondering around the Wimbledon Museum, its free for the media, and no one was around as it just opened. After being amazed by seeing Billie Jean King and Bjorn Borg’s winning rackets and clothes, as well as a interactive John McEnroe telling stories about his time battling against Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Conners, I turned towards a small round room, in front of me behind a thick tube glass was the Gentlemen’s Singles Final Trophy.
Standing their just reading the past champions and admiring the shape, the height and the gold that covers this special trophy that has been lifted at Centre Court by legends for decades, in a few hours time I would again be in front of this iconic trophy photographing the soon to be 2018 Champion, that moment inside a quite museum front of that trophy gave me enough motivation to go back into Centre Court and do what I do best.
Below are some of my favourite publications I made over the two weeks;
My tennis season began with the Fever-Tree Championships at Queen’s Club in Barons Court, London. Overall thirty matches I photographed in a week long tournament which ultimately for both players and photographers was the preparation for the up and coming Grand Slam tournament at the All England Club, Wimbledon.
This year my photography position was on the East Side facing the Umpires Chair and the backdrop of the Queen’s Club House.
My workhorse lenses was the 400mm USMII f/2.8 and 70-200mm USMII f/2.8. I’m always hesitate on bringing the 400mm lens to any tennis tournament because depending on where I’m positioned, the 400mm USMII f/2.8 prime lens is too tight when focusing on a forehand shot to the nearest corner of the court or a backhand shot at the net, your bound to cut off some part of an arm, hand or the top part of a racket in your frame. However, by timing it right & picking your moments carefully and observing where the player will run and what type of shot he will commit to, you’ll have opportunities to capture some pretty decent racket action.
Theirs a lot of similarities between tennis players and sports photographers, despite athletic physique ;). Principally you have to stay calm, focused and commit to your action. As a photographer I’m sitting next to eight (out of twenty plus) other photographers all very close to each other so you don’t want to at the last second swing your lens to the other player before a serve is hit or much worse follow the ball with your lens. It’s also important to understand you can’t photograph everything at one moment. So before every match I make a plan in the photographers room or the night before on where I’ll be (photo position wise) on certain matches. Thankfully at the Fever-Tree Championships, the East side court position was not the only photo position I was allowed to photograph the action from. I had the photo credentials to photograph from the TV Gantry, top of the East Side stand or on the West Side court position. So it was important to not panic about missing any tennis action, it was a week long tournament so I had plenty of chances and position to capture the action.
With grass court tennis starting in the summer, it was very important to drink plenty of water and put on loads of Sunscreen. There were matches that went on for more then an hour or two under very hot temperatures, so taking loads of water and Suncream prevented me from being very dehydrated and my face looking like the colour of a tomato.
Lastly, I want to say a big thank you to the organisers on providing excellent media facilities and offering any assistance, see you next year Queen’s.
After the big finale of the FA Cup Final came to an end this month, the next three matches coming up was the Football League Play-Offs at Wembley Stadium. After covering ten months of Premier League, Champions League and Europa League including the League Cup and FA Cup competitions, the EFL Play Off Finals always seemed to be the last thing you wanted to cover. The reason is, and its not because I think lower league football is not worth photographing, there are some very excellent teams in the lower leagues and during the regular I do cover some lower league football, but its actually because after covering so many matches it always feels like I have to muster up some extra energy somewhere to photograph three important finals at Wembley Stadium. Just when you thought your summer break was about to start.
League One Play Off Final - Rotherham United vs Shrewsbury Town
League Two Play Off Final - Coventry City v Exeter City
Photographing any FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium is always special and a great way to end a long season in the domestic footballing calendar. So seeing that my beloved Manchester United was in this year’s Final, I went for my heart and placed my monopod down for a photo position in front of the Manchester United corner. Unfortunately, even though I captured the winning goal of the 2018 FA Cup Final, it was scored by a player wearing the wrong shirt. Naturally I was a little disappointed with the final result, but I would of been even more disappointed if I messed up photographing the only goal of the match right in front of me. I will admit the harsh sunlight that covered Wembley Stadium did make the job more tricky then normal on pitchside, however it was still a good day out with the cameras at the home of English football.
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Just a few publications
One of the biggest European matches in the footballing calendar, the Europa League Final was staged at the 59,186 seated stadium Stade de Lyon, and I was assigned to fly over and cover the match between Marseille vs Atlético Madrid.
Training sessions – Day before final
Catching an early flight from London Gatwick to Lyon–Saint-Exupéry, I arrived at the Stade de Lyon the day before the final to primarily photograph both teams training sessions. With my ThinkTank International V2 roller and ThinkTank Glass Limo filled with Canon equipment, I joined the queue to collect my accreditation and photograph both Atlético Madrid’s and Marseille’s training sessions. The other reason for arriving at the stadium very early was to get an general idea of the stadium layout, capture some GV’s (general views), find out information about the photographers positions and pop down to CPS (Canon Professional Services) to fix one of my lenses.
Hours before kick off the photographers chairs were placed around the electronic boards. I went over to have a look and choose a 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice position. Because they're was 120 accredited photographers, it would not be wise to just have one preferred photo position, you’ve got to have a back-up and have a back-up’s back-up. Thankfully out of 120 photographers, I was number 28, so I got to chose my 1st preferred position which was in the south-west corner behind the Atlético Madrid fans and sticking to it.
I believe it’s important for any major final in any sport for a photographer to choose a position and stick to it, theirs nothing worse than running around panicking and worrying that you’ve chosen the worst photo position. As Cristiano Ronaldo once said to help motivated Moutinho take a penalty for Portugal against Poland in the 2016 Euro’s “It’s in God’s hands now!”. Timing is also very important, especially having a plan of action near the final whistle because one team will lift the trophy. So at the 89th minute when Gabi of Atlético Madrid scored his sides 3rd goal, I put away my 400mm lens and dashed to the south-east corner to be first in queue to dash even more to get a centralised position on the photographers trophy presentation podium to photograph Atlético Madrid lift the UEFA Cup.
At the end of the day, its just another football match, yes the occasion is much bigger then normal, its the Europa League Final, but as long as you stay calm, stay focused, and don’t run around like a headless chicken trying to photograph everything, but instead capture the story of the Europa League Final, pause for a few moments to realise where you are, take everything and enjoy it.
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Next stop, Wembley Stadium to cover the FA Cup Final between Chelsea vs Manchester United.