Quite what it is that football fans find so much to sing and shout about has always puzzled me but I put it down to my profound indifference to the game. However, photography is another game with different goals, so I was determined not to let my disinterest in the sport cloud my enjoyment of this evening’s talk.
Starting in 2007 taking snaps of his son playing football, Andy decided that sports photography was his calling. Encouraged after a couple of years by having one of his pictures used on the cover of Polo Times, he decided that to make any money he had to shoot football. To do this you need accreditation for each match, but to get it you need a track record of photos already published – 25 for most league matches and 40 for the Premier League – a Catch 22 for someone trying to get their toe in the door.
So he joined a small picture agency (Focus Images Ltd) which helped him build his portfolio and get the necessary accreditation. In the first half of the evening he described this process, and then planning his trip to Brazil. He told us what equipment he took and how getting a 20 kg bag of equipment on the plane as hand luggage took some blagging at check-in. Then followed some insight into the rigmarole of obtaining the necessary clearance to attend the matches.
Having a clear idea of the kind of shots you want (those that will sell!) is vital. Essentially picture editors want three kinds of picture. First ‘Action’, particularly goal-scoring, so you need to get to the match early to bag a good spot and set a remotely controlled camera behind the goal. Secondly ‘Cellies’ (celebrations shots) of the emotional reactions to scoring, or failing to score, among the players, the management team and their supporters. If you’ve chosen your position well, you’ll get the scorer’s triumph ritual and his run across the pitch to the team’s dugout for approval. Lastly, you need ‘Documentary’ shots to give a flavour of the place and the surroundings.
Andy used two Canon 1DS cameras with a 400 mm prime lens on one and a 70 – 200 on the other, and part of the skill is knowing exactly when to switch cameras. Each allotted station has a laptop with a fast internet connection to the picture editor’s desk. Once you have some potentially publishable shots, the card has to be put in the laptop, edited, details of the players and what was happening recorded in the metadata, and the pictures sent. The whole process has to be done within 2 to 3 minutes of taking the pictures, and all this time you might be missing action on the field. A neat trick to psych your near neighbours into thinking they are missing something is to fire off a long burst on fast motor drive while they are thus occupied. All’s fair in love, war and press photography it appears.
You might suppose there is as much camaraderie among the press photographers as there is among the players. Not a bit of it. He said they all hated each other!
As with anyone who talks with enthusiasm and passion, they take you there. But for me, that’s as far as I would want to go. The financial rewards were pretty modest considering how much stress you have to go through.. but what an exciting experience you get. Little wonder that he relaxes by taking tranquil landscapes. Thanks Andy for a truly memorable evening.
Anyone wanting to read the daily Blog Andy posted during his trip will find it here: http://tobinators.com/blog/category/world-cup-2014-2/worldcupdailyposts/