The build-up leading into the weekend’s football fixtures was all about the Manchester derby…the first clash of the season between the two heavyweights, both assumed to be competing for the Premier League title. First on the agenda, however, was a trip to Merseyside, to cover Liverpool’s match against Southampton, a side new to the league, but with in-form talisman and newly-capped England striker Rickie Lambert at the heart of the attack.
At this time of year, the sun always plays a part in deciding where to shoot the game from. At Anfield, you have a straightforward choice – either shoot into the sun, sitting in front of the away fans usually, giving you a clean background and, nine times out of ten, Liverpool’s attack in the first half, or sit at The Kop end, shooting with the sun, with the pitch split across the halfway line in sun and shade, usually covering the visiting team’s attack in the first half. The latter provides rich, colourful pictures when the players are in the sun, but results in a bleached-out white background when they creep into the shade, with the sun on the background behind them.
I chose to stay put at The Kop end…the pictures weren’t as consistent in their exposure, but I still felt that Southampton might have been able to nick a surprise goal early on, giving Liverpool the prod they would need to come out and win it in the 2nd half. It just goes to show you can never be certain what’s going to happen, as the south-coast side scored the only goal of the game at the far end of the pitch shortly after half-time, leaving me with few pictures that I wanted to look at again…
And then it was Sunday, and I was off to the Etihad Stadium for Manchester City’s match against the champions, Manchester United. Both teams have new managers, in the form of David Moyes and Manuel Pellegrini, so it wasn’t clear which way the match would go, nor how either boss would react in the face of a potential embarrassment on their derby debut.
I arrived 3 hours before kick-off, joining the inevitable queue of photographer keen to mark out their spots pitchside. Unfortunately, working positions for photographers at the Etihad Stadium are fairly terrible…despite it being a relatively new ground with plenty of room around the pitch perimeter, the space allocated to pitchside media is shameful. We’re only allowed to work in the two corners of the pitch on the dugout side of the ground, and in a 10-man pit constructed in front of the away fans. For a match like this, there is far more demand for the pit than it can possibly accommodate, so a random draw is made to determine who sits there. The names in the hat are divided up into major agencies, smaller agencies, newspapers and freelancers, and those wishing to be considered for the draw make themselves known when they arrive, before the names are then pulled out an hour before kick-off, much to the relief (or disappointment) of those involved. Not only is the pit in front of the visiting fans (which often guarantees a celebration shot if they score at that end), but it’s also simply the best position to be able to shoot the match from…you’re low to the pitch, close to the goal, and have room to move as well…something of a luxury at Premier League football grounds.
Unfortunately, I missed out on the draw, meaning I had to settle for my second bleached background in consecutive days. Offside had two of us there that day, so I was lucky to have Marc Atkins covering events at the other end. He had to sit on the floor, with his legs higher than his hips, in the back-breaking position we all try to avoid at Man City.
I set a remote camera up in the stands too, allowing for a different perspective on the game. I had a certain picture in mind, and will continue to persist with this idea until the picture comes off…it might take a while, but will be worth it if and when it happens…