In the latter part of 2012 I began my adventure back into photography, I got hold of a Canon 7d and a kit lens and I cracked on taking pictures of pretty much everything I could. I had very little idea of what I was doing, but with a lot of practice and a lot of listening to those who knew a lot more than me, I gradually improved. Fast forward to 5 years later on the 14th November I was preparing to shoot my first international football game with England hosting Brazil at Wembley Stadium.
One of the questions I get asked a lot via my various social media channels is how did I get from Point A to Point B? Well the honest answer is a lot of hard work, a fair bit of money invested and a little bit of luck. I’m not afraid to say that the hardwork aspect was key. When I started out I photographed every sport I could, in my own time, without any kind of payment, just because I wanted to learn and I wanted to practice. This combined with constant review of my own work and comparing it with that of the pros enabled me to see where I needed to improve.
The luck aspect is always one that’s hard to explain, it’s not like opportunities just magically appeared in front of me, they came my way because I put myself out there. For example, most of my sports work started with basketball and once I felt I had built a solid enough portfolio I made sure to put it out there in front of various teams and basketball media outlets. With basketball being a less professionally covered sport in the UK I was ‘lucky’ to be offered a role shooting a pro team fairly early on. My football work came later after I had began to upgrade my gear and frankly I had improved my techniques.
The money aspect is always a difficult topic and something that can be discouraging for people starting out. Personally my approach was to try and make my photography work as self funding as possible. All the money I made from photography went back into the gear etc so I was able to upgrade as I went along. I’m also not afraid to say that I still do work on a budget, my total load out for this game in particular could be purchased second hand (as most of my gear is) for around about £4k. When you consider it’s been built up over about 5 years, that’s actually fairly achieveable for anyone who wants to take sports photography seriously. Being familiar with the Canon products available, I was well aware that the photographer sat to my left was using in excess of £20k worth of gear including 3 Canon 1dx Mkii’s. Now this guy was full time pro working for a high level agency, I’m more than happy to admit that his images from the game would have been in a whole different ball park to my own but still none the less, I was there and had all the gear that I needed to successfully shoot the game.
Anyway... fast forward to November 2017 and I’m quaking in my boots in the photographers queue at Wembley Stadium. Surrounded by seasoned pros sharing stories of their various World Cup and Olympics adventures, talking about which teams they intended to be covering in Russia for the the World Cup next year. It’s fair to say that there were certainly some excellent photographers there with years of experience, but nonetheless, I felt that I had earned my place and I was there on merit.
I arrived a Wembley very early, about 3.30pm to be specific. It was surprisingly deserted until I got to the media area where I wasn’t too surprised to see a lot of people already queuing up ahead of me, in my experience at Champions League games etc its fairly normal for queues to start building up from 3.30/4.00pm for an evening game. I was about 8th or 9th in the line which wasn’t bad considering that must have been about 50 photographers in the queue by the time we were let into the stadium at about 5.00pm
Once we were through the security checks and bag searches and we had queued up to collect our accreditation, the first task on the list was to run out to pitchside to reserve my spot. Being the 9th person through the door there was still a fair bit to choose from and I was lucky enough to grab a spot at one end of the pitch near the corner. Generally in the UK spaces are reserved by placing your monopod into position so I did just that, along with my stool. I also took the opportunity to layout my LAN cable for my laptop which I needed to run down about 10ft to the left of me and into the network plug. Larger stadiums tend to have pretty decent wifi but with loads of photographers and other media people the bandwidth tends to get clogged up very quickly, wherever there is the option for a hard wire I always take it and I carry a 25m LAN Cable (pictured) with me for this very purpose.
I then headed down to the photographers lounge to get my laptop all setup and make sure I was ready to go. I was working for Frozen In Motion Photography for this job so I needed to make sure that I had all the relevant metadata loaded into Photomechanic for the images. I also took the chance to grab a coffee and a sandwich from the staff cafeteria, I knew I would be pitch side for a few hours once I headed out there and I wanted to be fed and watered!
The media facilities at Wembley Stadium are unsurprisingly extensive, two pretty large rooms with lines of desks were available for photographers all supplied with power and data cables. Hot drinks and water are provided and even some cookies after the game which was a nice (and unexpected) touch.
At about 6.15pm I took the opportunity to head out of the stadium and I walked down Wembley way to get some shots of fans and also some pictures of the stadium itself. The Brazilian fans in particular were in high spirits, they truely did bring the carnival atmosphere with them.
By 7.00pm I was back in the media room and sending the acquired pictures across to FIM, by 7.15pm I headed out to my position pitch side to start to get some warm up shots. By this time things had got a lot busier out there and my once spacious position had become a small space with just enough room for me to sit with my two cameras and to have my laptop at my feet. I locked my bag and positioned it behind my seat with the strap wrapped around the legs of my stool. Fortunately pitchside theft isn’t wide spread but it’s certainly not unheard of, I always make sure that my bag is secure (even though it was mostly empty at this stage).
Onto the game itself.. I had Brazil coming towards me for the first half, I was positioned with the goal to my right handside so I had Brazil’s right flank attacking force coming straight at me. This meant I had the likes of Neymar, Courtinho and Jesus coming straight down the lens, a tasty sports photography opportunity! Sadly the first half had no goals so there were no celebrations to capture (which would have all run towards the opposite corner anyway based on my recent luck!).
I was very lucky to have Gary from FIM doing the editing for the pictures for this game so my usual captioning, editing workflow was reduced right down to just sending over the better shots to him. I have to say this was a luxury for a bigger game like this as it meant those valuable minutes where I would have normally had my head buried in the laptop were spent capturing more images.
Halftime was spent sending a few more shots, standing up for 2 minutes to stretch the legs after being cramped on my little stool for 45 mins, having a quick sip of water and then the second half was beginning.
There I sat, fingers crossed for a Jamie Vardy game winning goal celebration to head straight down the barrel of my lens! Sadly it was not to be, the game finished 0-0. I did however manage to get my share of decent action shots, Kyle Walker was relentless in attacking the right wing and he gave me a load of opportunities to capture shots of him battling with Marcelo of Brazil.
Before I knew it the final whistle went and my first international was in the books. England v Brazil at Wembley was a decent one to tick off first if I do say so myself!
I ingested my memory cards into Photomechanic and packed up my gear, I then headed back into the photographers room. I grabbed a coffee and set myself up with my laptop to go back through my images and send anything else worth while over to FIM. The 50 or so photographers gradually started to leave around me and by about 10.30pm there were only about 15 of us left.
I still had a bit of a journey ahead of me so I headed off into the night and home for well earned sleep!
Thank you all for reading, I hope it was interesting. Assuming most of you found your way here via my YouTube channel, you’ll be pleased to know that my next video won’t be far away.
All photos come courtesy of Frozen In Motion and more shots can be seen here:
See you all on the next one.