Mixed Week And Many Miles

A week’s work all crammed into one blog post will inevitably throw up a mixed bag of images, and there’s certainly been a variety of jobs for me over the past 7 days. Last weekend saw me back at the Etihad Stadium for Manchester City’s match against Sunderland in the Premier League. Technically, it provided us with a bit of a challenge, as the sun was constantly in and out all afternoon. I chose to position myself in the only ‘pit’ available to us, in front of the visiting fans at the far end of the ground. This allowed for some nice light on the players that darted down that wing towards me, and also left me with a dark background and relatively constant level of light in the penalty area for any goals and incidents.


Pins and badges on the jacket of a Man City fan


Mario Balotelli of Man City lies on the floor laughing and smiling


On the Sunday, I made my first trip of the season to St. James’ Park for Newcastle United’s match against Manchester United. Always one of the most anticipated games of the season, there was a huge away following that helped fill the 52,000 seats inside the ground. From pitch level, you’re privy to an amazing view of the stadium, arguably one of the most impressive in the country, let alone the league. The height and angle of the large stands on 2 sides of the ground make for an awesome sight; one which is very hard to transfer into a picture…


A general view of St. James' Park


After a long day in the north east (made lengthier by traffic diversions that needn’t have been there), I spent a good bulk of the following spare day editing my weekend’s work, before getting up and out at the crack of dawn on Tuesday to head off to Burton-upon-Trent, where Royalty was in town.

I travelled along the A50 and down into the Staffordshire countryside to the Football Association’s new National Football Centre for it’s official opening, by HRH The Duke & Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton no less. There was an incredible media presence, possibly on a scale I’d never seen before, and certainly nothing like I’d witnessed at any training session or other opening of this type before. Journalists, photographers and TV companies had travelled from all 4 corners of the country and beyond to catch a glimpse of the future King and Queen meeting the England squad at their new home.


A general view during the opening of the Football Association's new National Football Centre


We assembled at a nearby airfield where we boarded minibuses to shuttle us to the site, just a mile down the road. There were few, if any, clouds in the sky, and the building and surrounding grounds looked immaculate as we turned onto the drive and headed down towards the entrance. Once inside, we spent the next couple of hours waiting for our cue. Time slots were strict, and security was tight. Eventually, the Royals arrived, walking down the path in front of our building towards the main entrance off to the side. A volley of camera shutters erupted as photographers captured their arrival…The Duke talking to NFC Chairman David Sheepshanks, and The Duchess not far behind. We were soon led round the side of the building en masse and down towards one of the main training pitches, where the England squad was already in full flow. Soon though, they slowed down and before long, the Royal party arrived to greet them…


HRH The Duke & Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton, meet the players during the opening of the Football Association's new National Football Centre


For a good 5 minutes, if not more, they continued to chat to the players and management before finally moving on, to take a tour of the rest of the complex. They happily posed for official photos and looked amazingly relaxed in front of such a mass of media personnel…


HRH The Duke & Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton, pose with the England squad during the opening of the Football Association's new National Football Centre


Being such a monumental occasion in terms of the future of English football, I had a duty to record as much of it as possible. Not only were the Royals a key part of the day, but the number of FA directors in attendance was also hugely important, and it gave me a great chance to get some pictures of them too. The strongest and most iconic picture of them all cropped up in the press conference later, when they all sat together at the table beneath a halo of light, behind a perfectly positioned promotional board. Out came the 14mm f/2.8 lens, and this allowed me to capture the whole team together…


Chairman David Sheepshanks (R), England Ladies' captain Casey Stoney (2R), England Ladies' coach Hope Powell (3R), FA Chairman David Bernstein (C), England manager Roy Hodgson (3L), and England captain Steven Gerrard (2R) during a press conference during the opening of the Football Association's new National Football Centre


On Thursday, I journeyed down to Suffolk to photograph a series of aerial shots for my old schools. Framlingham College, and it’s prep school arm, Brandeston Hall, are in the middle of setting up an appeal to help with the construction of a new 6th Form Centre at the College, which is to be built in recognition of the school’s 150th Anniversary. Although I did some similar shots in the summer of 2011, an updated collection was needed because of various projects that have gone on around the school since, not least the construction of a new, second, astroturf pitch at the back of the school.

I got in touch with an acquaintance of mine who’d previously helped me…he was able to access a helicopter, and despite the relatively poor weather, we managed to get up and over the schools almost as soon as I arrived. The cloud was coming down with every minute that we were in the sky, but thanks in part to the guidance of Appeal organiser Mel Dellow, I managed to get the shots I needed…


An aerial view of Brandeston Hall School, in Suffolk


An aerial view of Framlingham College School, in Suffolk


After a long, tedious journey back to Cheshire that evening, I had just about enough time to go through those shots and select a few initial pictures to email, before embarking on a trip to Cardiff the next morning, for the World Cup Qualifier between Wales and Scotland. Already a fiery fixture, there was an added incentive of progression to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil to consider. The build-up to the match was overshadowed by memories of the 1985 encounter between the two sides, when Scotland manager Jock Stein tragically died of a heart attack just moments after the final whistle. When I arrived at the ground, my first port of call was to make the most of the fading light and try to find some pictures to sum up that story…


A general view of the City Walk plaque on the ground outside the Cardiff City Stadium


A plaque outside the stadium in memory of former Scotland manager Jock Stein


The match was as much about the occasion as about the result. A home nation World Cup Qualifier was not something you see played every day. I tried my best to document it for an archive, as well as shoot for editorial purposes…


The team badges and match date on the Wales shirt


On a cold, wet night, it was the Welsh star Gareth Bale who made it one to remember for the home fans. After equalising with a penalty to make it 1-1,  he made a darting run down the left wing before unleashing a rocket of a strike from 25yds that shot into the top corner of the net to earn them a famous victory. Although not particularly exciting, especially from a photographer’s point of view, his trademark ‘heart’ celebration is certainly becoming a more common sight with every match he plays…


Gareth Bale of Wales celebrates after scoring their 1st goal


2 Comments Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s