In this section you can find out all about the goings off for SB Sports Photography and its main photographer, Stephen Buckley.
The Special Olympics run from the 7th of August 2017 to the 11th of August 2017 and I have to admit I was very lucky to be involved. The first thanks has to go to my employer Barclays for allowing me to volunteer over 3 days. They have an extensive citizenship programme to really get out there and help in the local community but I thought I was pushing it when I asked them to agree for me to be involved but I am very grateful that they gave me the opportunity to be a small part at this event.
I came across this opportunity by chance, at a networking event I was told about a breakfast meeting that was going off about an event that was going to be happening in Sheffield. As a sports photographer I thought it was worth me attending to see what may come from it. As soon as I saw the presentation at the meeting that morning I knew I wanted to help out. It was an opportunity to fine tune my skills as a photographer whilst helping out a really good cause. From that moment 12 months ago time has flown and the event was soon upon us last week. What a week it turned out to be.
The Opening Ceremony
The weather was awful but it didn't dampen the spirit of the event one bit. This was my first taste of what was to come as the athletes came in region by region. You could see the smiles as each athlete took their turn in the spot light. Some milked it for all their worth with some trying to stay in the background. This was the start of their event and what an evening it was. The families cheered with all their might as their teams walked in. I can only describe the atmosphere as electric.
The headline act was former Spandau Ballet star Tony Hadley who performed 3 songs, supported by Kyle Tomlinson whose voice is sensational and then by Toseland who debuted their Special Olympics song. The presenters were Chris Kamara, Suzi Perry and Jim Carter. Although as rain soddened Bramall Lane was it actually felt like it was bathed in a sunshine of smiles that brightened the evening and made the event even more spectacular. It was a great start to the event.
Competition Gets Started
The rain of the previous evening actually delayed the start of the football. Due to start at 11am it was decided that the pitches needed another hour to dry out. I had arrived early at 8 am only to find that the first lot of volunteers were not arriving until 9am which gave me time to take in the surroundings of the event. It gave me the opportunity to set up my code acements to enable me to put names with players in the captions to my photographs which meant I could describe more accurately what was going on. Once it all kicked off the action started straight away. In the first game I covered I got the shot below which was a thunderous tackle from a Northern player in their opener against Scotland West one. From this point onwards you knew that this was going to be a serious competition.
It was a day that started cloudy but the sun soon started to burn through the cloud. This feeling was added to as the cheers of the fans started to go up as the goals started to go in. I would look up and out of the corner of my eye I could see the celebrations of the scorers. It wasn't long before I got the first celebration and I have to admit it might be one of the best celebration shots I have taken. It was the Dumfries & Galloway game verses Forth Valley. As a photographer you are trying to capture the emotion of what has happened and I think it does this perfectly. This expression is what it means to score your first goal at the Special Olympics. Its that 48 months of training that finally is rewarded and the release of that sense of achievement.
This was when I got a real sense of what this event was all about. I have been lucky enough to go to football events at the highest level which include the South Africa 2010 World Cup, the Euro's in Ukraine, the World cup in Brazil and the Euro's in France 2016. I have to admit the feelings that I experienced in the Special Olympics on this day were almost on par seeing Danny Welbeck scoring to make it 3-2 to England against Sweden in the Olympic stadium in Kiev or Daniel Sturridge scoring the winner late on in Lens against Wales in the Euro's last year. Maybe at that moment it wasn't quite as intense but certainly the feeling you walk away with after is certainly comparable. The Special Olympics caters for all abilities and the lowest ability group provided me with the greatest feeling. The first taste I had was in the morning session when I took photographs of East Midlands v South West 1. The East Midlands team had 4 or 5 players that had down's syndrome. Each time they did something that would seem quite simple such as kick the ball out there were some of the loudest cheers of the day. I then started to understand why because their disability means that they do not have full control over their physical movements. To then produce this simple skill took a massive effort.
It was so heartwarming seeing their every move being cheered to the rafters. You could not help but smile when you see the East Midlands keeper stop a shot turn round and fist pump to the crowd behind. Unfortunately they ended up losing by a margin in this one as the ability of the opposition team was superior in this instance. The next game that I covered with them it was against Yorkshire & Humber and this time the ability was matched. I have to say it was one of the most enjoyable games I have covered as a photographer. The celebrations were immense and I was cheering both teams on as they went forward hoping for them to score. When they did the celebrations didn't disappoint as you can see below.
I came away after the day with that euphoric feeling. It was so uplifting to watch these people compete, entertain and take part in this competition. I actually felt privileged to have been there and part of me wanted to go to the bar get a beer and just sit and enjoy the action!
The final day had come around very quickly as the first 2 days had sailed by. This was the business end of the tournament where each game would really mean something. It wasn't quite as bright as the last two days however there was that sense of anticipation in the air. I covered all of the games on pitch 1 which meant seeing the gold/silver matches. The players were focused on the prize ahead of them and it produced some really entertaining displays.
Everyone on the day played for something even if that was for the ribbon in the bronze/ribbon games. It meant that everyone took something away from the event. After all it is more than just medals that these athletes were there for. This event gives every athlete a sense an aim, a goal and a purpose. Some of these people may have been left in their own world going about their day to day lives but instead the Special Olympics gives them friends, competition and something to look forward to. As someone who saw this all for the first time I can only be amazed by what goes on. The commitment of the people that goes into organising the event and the volunteers is commendable. The hours and hours of planning and organisation is massive but is worthwhile once you see the celebrations of the athletes who compete.
Final Word to the Volunteers
What an effort from all of the volunteers. In total there were around 70 people that come together to make sure this event run smoothly. I know from my own point of view it was a real experience that I wouldn't have missed it and I'm sure many of the volunteers feel the same. The days, although sometimes long hours, flew by in no time at all. It was all worthwhile to see the enjoyment of the athletes and their families. It gives you a sense of pride to know that you played a small part in helping support all the achievement and smiles. I think we all go away with memories and stories that will last a lifetime.
I really hope that the images I have captured will go towards promoting and help to get more people to participate in the sports for this event, especially football which is close to my heart. The countdown is on for the next national games in 4 years time, I hope it can be a bigger spectacle than Sheffield 2017 but it will take some beating!!
This weekend saw me visit the Proact stadium to photograph Chesterfield v Port Vale in the League One clash for AHPix and the Derbyshire Times. It was a beautiful and sunny afternoon that could have seen Chesterfield relegated if results had gone a certain way. I come away from an enjoyable game thinking that it had been the best set of pictures I have produced. It wasn't a perfect set of pictures that I submitted but it's getting there and perfection is what I'm striving towards. Its the pressure of getting photographs out quickly that probably means that the odd one still slips through.
The last 12 months have been a long learning curve for me especially when it came to identifying the right pictures to use. It is that aid old sharpe verses sharpe and for one reason or another it has taken quite a while to sink in. I'll try and show you some examples to show you how not to make the same mistakes.
For a long time out of the two pictures above I would look at both of these and be happy with the outcome. I would look at the one on the left and think everything looks in focus but that gut feeling told you something wasn't quite right. It is right that the more you practice the better you get and this is a prime example. I would generally have selected the one on the left as it looked a little more pleasing with the ball position. However I was missing the point as this one isn't tac sharp. When the pictures are sent to the photo editors they probably see the same that there is something not quite right in the picture. Its only when you zoom in that you can see where the difference lies.
On real close inspection you can see a slight haze on the picture on the left however the photo on the right is significantly clearer. When the shutter is activating because the object is moving out of 3 - 5 frames you will always get this where some frames go in and out of focus. It is the ability to see this on the back of the screen or more importantly when imported into the computer. The back of the screen can narrow your selection down but only on the computer screen with its higher resolution will you see clearly how in focus the image is. Obviously the better the equipment you have can have an effect on the amount of pictures you can choose from.
Back to the Proact, and the Chesterfield v Port Vale game. It was a game that was tight with both teams creating half chances but nothing clear cut. Out of the two teams I would say Port Vale shaded the first half with more action in the Chesterfield half. The second half saw Chesterfield come back into the game more but it was Chesterfield keeper Thorsten Stuckman that won the game before Chesterfield had scored. A cross from the left saw an effort on goal that he somehow deflected the ball over the bar and out for a corner. A match winning save that changed the flow of the game as Chesterfield grew in confidence.
It was then over to the youngster in the team an seventeen year old Joe Rowley. He had a bright game and caused lots of problems for Vales defence. A neat run and shot from Kristian Dennis saw the keeper push it out only for Joe Rowley to follow up with a neat finish. Hs celebration told you what it meant to score his first professional goal having only signed his professional contract the week before. Definitely the best celebration shots I have managed to get as usually I get them running away rather than towards. Anyway you can see some of the shots used over on Derbyshire Times website.
Today saw a few firsts, first time to Bootham Crescent to photograph for the first time in the Vanarama national conference. It was the first time covering either York City or Braintree Town and the first time working for Off The Bench Media.
I arrived early at the stadium as Liverpool were taking on Everton in the early kick off. I managed to miss the first goal but it turned out to be a routine victory for the men in red and it got the day off to a good start being a big Liverpool fan. I collected my ticket from the ticket office and this is where things started to go a bit wrong! First I had spent time getting together all of the team information for my code replacements only to realise I had completed them but not transferred them to the computer I use on gameday! I then spent 20 mins typing out a text document re completing this information manually. This put me behind setting up only then to find that I had left my memory card at home!
That sinking feeling come over me so I trudged off and embarrassingly had to ask other photographers if they had a spare card. Luckily, 3rd time lucky, Mark came to my rescue and gave me an SD card to use. It meant I was only able to use my D300s but it was better than having nothing at all. I think lessons will be learnt going forward and that's to make sure all your prep has been completed and once you have used cards put them back! I was lucky today and I think I'm going to make sure it doesn't happen again by getting a few more bits!
My incident meant that I got caught out as the teams changed halfs to kick off that left me up the other end to where the home team were facing. It almost felt like it was going to be a stroke of luck as Braintree Town came out of the blocks the quickest and mounted a few attacks. They were unlucky on a few occasions as it seemed that only the final ball was lacking. I did think that it would be them who would take the lead.
However it wasn't long after that York City found themselves going ahead. I superb free kick from Jon Parkin found the top corner and saw him running off to celebrate in front of the David Longhurst stand. It was against the run of play but it seemed to kick York into action who then started to dominate the game. They went 2 - 0 up on the stroke of half time through Asa Hall with a header at the back post. The keeper, Sam Beasant, made a huge mistake to allowing the York City player to head in at the back post. Speaking with the photographer from Braintree Town this has been an issue all season as they have been unable to keep a consistent back 4 with injuries taking their toll.
The second half saw York City in full control with only the odd foray into the York half from Braintree Town. It certainly didn't feel like York were in the relegation zone with some free flowing football creating lots of chances. It would have been interesting to have seen the stats for territory. The pressure told eventually and Amari Morgan-Smith made it 3 - 0 to put that comfortable look to the scoreline. It came from a shot from the edge of the box that found the bottom right hand corner and sealed him being chosen as the man of the match.
It was an impressive afternoon for York, a team full of ex league players as they made it back to back wins. It gives them a real shot of being out of the relegation zone by Tuesday where they take on Bromley and if they perform as they did on Saturday it will be another 3 points. It would be a shame to see a team like York go out of the conference but it shows what a difficult league it is. Gary Mills will be hoping that there is enough time to stop this from happening.
All of the photo's were done for Off The Bench Media for the Non-League Football Paper below:
The Non-League Football Paper
Apr 2 2017
This was a chance for me to try something a little bit different to what I normally do photography wise. Usually it's all fast action and challenging light situations that the football grounds create. Travel is another passion alongside football. Over the last 10 years I have been fortunate enough to travel and see a lot of things, how I wish I had had my camera equipment for the Galapogos, Costa Rica or South Africa. As soon as I got the equipment I knew that I wanted to try a safari. We had been mulling over India for some time and when we heard that England cricket team were going to tour it made up our minds.
We booked flights out with Jet starting off in Rajkot to catch day 4 and 5 of the first test and then flew on to Delhi then Agra, Ranthambore and finally Jaipur for the famous Golden Triangle. We were set up to see all that India had to offer from the biggest sport, culture and wildlife.
We changed our hotel at the last minute for this trip after having tried to contact them on numerous occasions we had failed to catch them. On looking through the alternatives we found that the Fortune Park JPS Grand hotel was available which an article said that the England team were staying at for the game. I was able to speak with the hotel prior who then arranged all of our transfers to and from the airport as well as getting to and from the ground. It was a good job that we did seems as though the government had decided to remove 500 and 1000 rupee notes out of circulation. It was a decision that mean we were without currency for pretty much the duration of our stay.
When we arrived at the hotel, the outside confirmed our thoughts that the team were staying due to the massive posters of the face of the building. England on the left with India on the right and it was the first time Rakot had hosted a test match so they were shouting from the rooftops. We had been advised that Rajkot was not really a tourist place and you could tell. It wouldn't be a place that I would recommend to visit without a purpose such as the cricket or business. We went for the cricket but the first night was about trying to get some money. Our intention was to get our money at the airport but this didn't come off as all of the exchange booths were all out of cash. We waited and watched the team arrive back at the hotel from day 3 and the hotel arranged a taxi for us and we went on a city tour of all of the ATM's. Each and every one, 6 in total, didn't have any cash left and it started to worry us. We knew that the ground wouldn't accept card which was the only form of payment and our hotel had the same issue as we did.
The next day arrived and with some excitement and trepidation we headed to the ground for day 4 of the test match. The excitement was due to the fact we were on our way to watch our first away test match in the hotbed of cricket that is India with the trepidation due to the fact that we had no money! Luckily we didn't have to wait too long to get our hands on some as whilst waiting in the que to collect our tickets we bumped into an english gentleman who was on his own. Whilst talking with him it turned out that he lived in the Philipines and had decided to come out to watch the game. We explained our situation and he had been lucky enough to exchange some money just before the withdrawal of the notes. In exchange for a £5 note (the only money we had) he gave us roughly 1000 rupees which was worth about £10. This kindness is something that I will always remember and be thankful for. It turned out it would be the only cash that we would have on us for the entirety of the trip. Luckily the prices were not the same as UK venues like Wembley and we managed to make it last us for the two days we were in the ground. Unfortunately we didn't exchange details for us to send a thank you but if he ever reads this it meant a lot to both my wife and I. It mean that we could relax and enjoy the sun and the atmosphere of the game.
The ground wasn't as full as I was thinking it might with lots of seats available but still the locals could make a lot of noise especially when captain and hero Virat Kholi was at the crease. There were no more than 50 to 100 english people in the ground so we were one of a few to get this experience. We were able to see all 6 sessions over the two days that we were there as the game eventually ended in a draw. England had looked to be in the ascendancy on day four and we had hoped that the team would have put their foot down to build a good lead quickly but both Cook and Hameed batted cautiously and made sure that they were in for the beginning of the next day. By the close of play on day 5 we had managed to get them 6 down but Virat Kholi was stubborn up to the last ball which meant India saw it out for the draw. It was a great experience in the Indian sun and although we couldn't quite knock them over there were a few things that will live long in the memory. One of those was getting to feel what it is like to be a celeb.
The picture above is one of many selfies that were taken over the course of the two days. Rajkot is an area where they probably don't see a lot of people with white skin and they took any opportunity they could to get a picture. They were very respectful but once you had agreed with one it wasn't long before you then had 2, 3, 5 or more then wanting to join in and get one of their own. We tried to be as accommodating as possible but you can see why some celebs don't take too kindly to being asked constantly for them. On one of the mornings in the hotel we saw Jimmy Anderson look like it was the last thing that he wanted as he posed with a pleased local, he did look like he had stayed up to watch the England v Scotland football game though like I did. It was a 3am kick off but well worth staying up for though with a good 3 - 0 win.
It was quite cool being close to the England team in the hotel and was quite surreal as we sat down for breakfast with Cook, Root, Anderson, Broad, Bairstow and the rest. Johnny Bairstow was the friendliest saying hello and making conversation each morning. We sat on the table next to Paul Farbrace on both mornings who also said hello and acknowledged us being there. We were able to have a much closer experience with the team than when we stayed in the same hotel as the England football team in Slovenia where you couldn't get anywhere near the team. The hotel went out of their way to make the team feel comfortable with mugs for each of the team and serving meat curries in what is usually a vegetarian state.
The hotel was beautiful and as luxurious as you would expect but the money situation really meant that we didn't really get to see Rajkot fully. Whilst travelling around the city in taxi's it was a real surprise to see cows in the middle of built up areas. All of the people that we met were friendly and tried to help where they could. The city itself is probably as authentic India that we were likely to see with tourism leaving it generally untouched. The traffic was chaotic and with people going when they thought it was clear there was no real highway code. It really was the India that you see on the TV with cars and tuk tuks all over the place zipping in and out of the traffic. Our stay in Rajkot come to an end and we followed the England teams belongings back to the airport as we drove through the city. Our next destination was Delhi which was a short flight away.
We arrived in Delhi over an hour earlier than our scheduled time so got to experience the airport more than we should have and have to say we were less than impressed. In the arrivals hall there was the usual gang of drivers with boards greeting passengers as they come out of customs but our driver hadn't arrived, understandable with the early arrival. I took the opportunity to try the cash machine again (no luck) before deciding to sit down at the Starbucks to get a coffee to pass the time. Just as I was about to sit down we saw that outside there was another place where people were waiting with boards so I thought I would go out to check just in case before we bought the coffee. The only problem was that when I discovered no board had our name on and tried to head back into the terminal the security guard refused to let me back in. It left me outside and my wife inside the terminal. Of course the missis wanted to come through to meet me but I urged her not to as I knew it would be very difficult for us to find the person that was meeting us. It appeared that the higher class companies met people inside the terminal and the others were left outside. It was a good choice as a member of staff soon noticed my wife waiting and after being concerned he called the company picking us up and everything was sorted with our guide eventually meeting us outside the terminal. Anyone travelling to Delhi be aware of this security feature which is designed to protect the airport from terrorist attack. I did feel that common sense was lacking though as they could clearly see that we had become separated. This lead to a poor experience of the airport but unfortunately service at this airport was to let us down again on the way home.
Once our guide Hassan met us he lead us to our car and driver for the whole tour Rajkumar. The city tour started straight from the airport as they felt that traffic conditions meant that we would get more out of our day that way. The itinerary was to go to see Qutoub, Humayuns Tomb, palace, parliament buildings and finally India Gate.
Qutub is a complex is made up from several monuments that were constructed during the Moghul era rule of India 11th century. The Qutub Minar is the prize of the lot and stands in the grounds of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque. The tower stands at an impressive 73 meters and is decorated intricate stone carvings which is impressive for the era. As part of the complex the images above include the Mehrauli Pillar which is made out of pure iron which doesn't rust as well as the about 4 different tombs with the Iltutmish tomb in the picture above. Finally is a shot of the Alai minar which was meant to be bigger than the Qutub minar however construction was never completed after the ruler that commissioned it had died. We spent about an hour at the monuments before moving to the next location Humayun's Tomb.
Humayuns tomb 'aka' the mini Taj is one of a number of monuments the constructed during the reign of the Moghuls. All of the buildings were constructed by muslims rulers so one of the most surprising aspects of the build is the presence of what we would see as the Star of David. This was the most surprising aspect of anything that I saw during my time in India. All of the monuments were impressive built with symmetrical architecture and there were never just one on their own. The last picture shows Isa Khan Niyazi's tomb which is in the same grounds along with other tombs and mosques that make up the complex.
After this stop we went for lunch and a beer. It was our first beer for a while as Rajkot as well as being vegetarian was also an alcohol free zone. Curry ended up being a meal that we ate most days so it was a good job it's something we enjoy. They were very rich and although I can't say I tasted the best curry I have had they were all really nice and I was never disappointed with anything that I ate. Kingfisher is the local beer out there and it was one of the nicest beers I have tasted. That could have had something to do with the time of going without!
After lunch the next stop was to book into our hotel for the evening the Surayaa Delhi. It was a nice hotel very spacious rooms and a rooftop bar although this is not an outdoor type. We did have the curse of the suitcase where the locks jammed meaning that we had to get out maintenance who had to pry the suitcase open. Once this was sorted we freshened up and then headed out for the next part of our Delhi city tour which was to see the palace, parliament buildings and the India gate which can be seen in the pictures below.
It turned out to be a public holiday so when we got to the India Gate that is a memorial to remember the cost of WW2 it was great to see everyone in the park enjoying themselves. The place was buzzing with families enjoying the late evening sun eating and drinking from the local stalls. After spending some time walking around the parks the gate is situated we then headed back to the hotel for the evening.
On our way back we again tried to visit a local ATM to get some cash but it was another wasted effort. It meant that we had to again spend the evening at the hotel but the good thing about the Surayaa but the plus was the top floor bar which gave views of the city. We enjoyed the local rum called Old Monk which has a sweeter taste than some others we like to drink. We always enjoy rum on our travels it is great to see other countries interpretations of this drink. We then went for a meal in the buffet which wasn't the best although I do highly recommend the ice cream. The chef made the dessert on a cold plate mixing in all sorts and it has to be one of the nicest ice creams I have had. It was a nice end to the night before one last drink in the bar and bed. The next day was our drive to Agra which was 6 and a half hours so we needed the rest.
The drive was really good to Agra and went fairly quickly. Rajkumar our driver was very talkative asking questions our lives finding out more about us. We found out that he had a wife and 2 children at home in Delhi and that he not see them as he stayed in each location he would be taking us to. It was nice to see him taking a real interest in his guests. On the way there was a stop on the way but just beware these places are the inevitable tourist traps and we paid a small fortune for crisps, chocolate and drinks. We could pay on card though which with our situation helped! We arrived at our hotel the Hilton Double Tree Agra around mid afternoon. This place was built only a few years ago and it was a gorgeous hotel which has views of the Taj Mahal in the distance from the swimming pool although our schedule didn't allow us to enjoy this.
After checking out our room it was soon time to go out on the tourist trail again. The first stop was Agra fort.
Our guide Aman told us about how they had mastered air conditioning with a combination of tanks that used gravity to generate a fine spray through pipes. He also explained that although the Moghul kings were muslim they were tolerant of all religions. This meant that a lot of the ladies in their life were from other religions such as Hinduism and this meant the palaces had both mosques and temples so everyone could practice the religion of choice. It was quite a surprise to see how tolerant they must have been of each others beliefs as this is not always the case now.
The next stop on our itinerary was food at a local restaurant. We ate in the gardens and were treated to some local dance in the form of a farther playing a violin type instrument and a young boy. He was in traditional dress and as the music played he shuffled his feet and waved his arms. His ankles hd bells on that rung as he shuffled. It was good to see but unfortunate that the cash situation made it impossible to reward his efforts. The food at the restaurant was nice but be aware that if you choose to eat outside there are a lot of flies. The food, curry again, was very nice but the next day was when we both were affected a little with stomach issues which I would put down to the flies rather than the food.
We started to get the feeling that money was something that was going to elude us for the rest of the trip as we drove around Agra to our various stops. There were lots of banks in and around all cities but the que's that were present at all the banks were too much for us to try to join. It would mean that going out and about into the local markets was not something that we were going to be able to do.
The next stop on our trip was the Taj Mahal. This is one of those places that makes you want to visit India. You know about from a young age and its one of those places you want to have been to. Well now I can say I have.
All I can say about this monument is that photographs do not do it justice and seeing is the only way to get the full impact of the place. We entered into the complex through Fatehabad gate with the sunset fast approaching. The anticipation grows as you walk into the complex and the sunset meant there was a glorious glow around the place. You walk into the forecourt that leads to the main gate where you start to get small glimpses of the monument. The gate itself is a great piece of architecture with its 26 domes on the top. These domes represent the 26 years that it took to complete the construction. The opening of the gate decorated with a verse from the koran which is carved into the stone. As you walk through the gate you start to get your first views of the Taj Mahal and you get that sense of anticipation with every step closer. When it comes into view and you start to feel the size of the building which was a shock. I don't think the pictures give you the magnitude of the place.
The closer you get to the monument the bigger it gets and your start to see the intricate detail on the outside of the building. We forced our way through the crowds to get a picture on the 'Diana' bench in front of the Taj Mahal. Of course the actual bench Diana had the picture taken was the one in the background but with all the crowds and everyone wanting to get that picture. The light was giving a wonderful glow to the building and the closer we got the lower the sun got. It allowed me to some really nice pictures.
The above pictures include the mosque which has a building that looks exactly the same at the opposite side to keep the symmetry exact. The next picture shows the gardens between the main gatehouse and the Taj Mahal. Anyone wanting to know about the scaffolding beside the tower on the right of the images it is put up to clean the marble. The pollution, which can be seen by a slight yellow tinge on the main building, is cleaned off by workers that do it inch by inch and has a cycle of around four years. This cleaning enables the building to retain the white colour of the marble which everyone is used to seeing. After we finished walking around we returned to our hotel and enjoyed cocktails in the bar to reflect on a wonderful day. The Taj Mahal was majestic and exceeded all expectations I had and although the pictures captured have probably been done over and again I can proudly reflect on the images I have taken for years to come.
The drive to Ranthambore was around 6 and a half hours but again our driver made it comfortable. Although moving from one place to the next is never anyones idea of fun on a holiday the new destination and activities always seemed to make the travelling more than worthwhile and this was no exception. We were on our way to Khem Villas and experience a stay in a luxury tent on the edge of the Ranthambore national park. It wasn't the cheapest part of our stay however it was worth every penny. The tent was gorgeous situated with a view out into the fields. There was a big double bed with a nice bathroom with shower. It was everything you would expect from a 5 star room but in a tent.
The Khem Villas are situated in lovely grounds on the edge of the national park. It has two water bodies that has a resident crocodile. Don't worry about this as during the day the only real thing it was interested in was sleeping or cooling off in the water. It never really comes camp side unless its the dead of night moving from one water body to the other. The evenings are spent around the camp fire where you can discuss the days going on with the other guests and naturalists that the hotel provides. You enjoy a refreshing drink after your game drives and are served some of the most wonderful starters I have tasted. I could have feasted on them all night. The food on the evening was indian with 2 or 3 selections and was really good even though I wouldn't consider a vegetarian option normally. We were full after every meal which is good when, at the time of year we went, the evenings were a little cooler. We relaxed in our tent after the food which was nice and warm thanks to the hotel putting on a heater in the tent on the turndown service. The beds were lovely and comfy and before long your were drifting off to sleep. There was a wake up call for the morning game drives with coffee and a biscuit which was a great way to start the day.
The game drives were the reason we were here. It had been something that I knew I wanted to try as soon as I had bought my camera. I was very excited as we had booked a total of 4 drives with two morning and two afternoon. The first drive was on route 3 and was where we saw the most animals, we had only been in the park a matter of minutes before we saw a group of vehicles looking in to the under growth. Pacman one of the alpha male tigers was hidden in the undergrowth tucking in to his breakfast. This was when I was pleased that I had my 300mm lens as it would have been difficult to get the shot otherwise as he was deep in the undergrowth under a log. With a normal camera I think it would have been more difficult to get a shot.
You here of occasions where people didn't see anything and we certainly heard of a few of these back at camp from the other guests that had been out. We were extremely fortunate to be able to tick it off the list as soon as we did. By doing so it meant we could then relax and enjoy what the park had to offer. This drive certainly offered plenty with a variety of deer, birds and monkeys. I seemed to be getting the camera up every two minutes and got some wonderful shots.
Among the pictures above we saw Samba deer, stalks, spotted deer and sand grouse. There were lots of varieties of birds and it made the drive go very quickly and it didn't seem long before we were heading back to our hotel. The drives start around 6:30am with you arriving back at 10:30am. It left you looking forward to next drive, hoping to get closer to the tiger than we had in our first encounter.
The next drive we went to gate number 5. This one was a slightly longer drive going up a hilly incline and over to the top of one of the hills inside the park. On the winding roads we came up to two other vehicles in the road that had stopped. The word come through that a leopard had been sighted on the rocks high to our left. I kept looking but couldn't see in through the branch's of the trees although the missis thought that she could see something moving. We had been there a while with no movement from the other vehicles in front as our guide shouted at the other vehicles it was time to move. The message came back saying 'we can't as the leopard has killed a cow and left it in the middle of the road.' It soon became a jam as further vehicles joined us and at the end I think nearly all the vehicles on this route were stuck behind the cow.
Now in India the cow is sacred to Hindu's and as this was the religion of most of the drivers and guides there was a reluctance to move it so we could pass. I think in all we were stood there for 20 to 30 minutes before a group decided to take action. Soon after it was moved we were on our way into the park and looking back you could see where the leopard had struck. This drive the animals were a little more elusive and apart from the staple of deer and birds we didn't see too much in the park on this gate. It wasn't for the want of trying as the guide was using all his knowledge to no avail. As the sun started to go down we pulled up along side another vehicle who thought they had heard a tiger calling and we zoomed off down a track but the result we couldn't find it so thought we were going back disappointed. We started the drive back down the winding tracks to the park exit. We joined some vehicles looking down into a ravine and we were excited to learn that they were all looking towards the leopard from earlier. It was perched on a rock with its kill, the cow from earlier, in the ravine. Unfortunately due to the fading light and the leopards position I was unable to get quite the shot I would have liked.
We have been to Africa to do a safari and didn't get to see one and have always been told they are quite a shy cat which makes them hard to sight. It was quite something that on our first two drives we got to see exactly what we wanted. A part of me wanted closer encounters still but the fact remains that we were lucky. We spoke to people who only had two drives and didn't see anything before they left for their next destination. We went the short trip back very happy to have had a good day and enjoyed talking around the camp fire about our days adventures.
We enjoyed hearing that some had got the experience of a lifetime where they actually tracked the tiger for over 45 minutes as it strolled through the park but couldn't help being a tad jealous. Realistically though we enjoyed sitting in front of the fire going over the days events enjoying our delicious starters whilst sipping on our rum and cokes. The clear sky's meant you could gaze up at the stars, seeing them shining brightly. I was tempted to try and catch a few frames of them but decided relaxing took priority.
Morning two saw us have game drive 3 which was at gate 8 and quite a drive away from our hotel. It took us through the the main town and to another gate at the other side of the national park. On the way we saw the locals going about their daily lives getting ready for the day ahead whilst you are wondering what the drive will bring. It's worth noting that at this time of year the mornings can be quite chilly and although the hotel provides blankets you still needed a coat. As the minutes pass you can start to feel the sun beat down as the day breaks fully and it starts to warm up.
As we travelled to the gate our guide told us that in this area there was a female tiger and two cubs. As we entered the gate our guide had a conversation with the people on the gate and soon the drivers foot was down heading to the spot that had been suggested. There were already three vehicles at the location and through the trees resting on the rock was the female tiger. The driver tried to position the jeep to get a good view but these spots were already taken by the other vehicles. We could see the tiger but had tree branches stopping us from again getting a clear view. Our guide explained that at this time of the day they would expect tigers to be up and about so it was only a matter of time before she moved. There were others saying that the cubs were in the background but unfortunately I couldn't see sight of them. As you can see from the picture below the tree branches were quite dense which made the light very low and sighting the tigers difficult.
She did get up and move but as you can see this movement was away from where we were. Mind you I wasn't surprised as there were again numerous vehicles that joined us to try and get a view. The guides tried to anticipate where the tiger may go heading towards a watering hole that they thought they would want to use but this didn't work out and it was the last sighting of the trip. Gate 8 didn't really give much else and the guide did say that it was more of a scenic trip. We headed up to the top of the mountain with the tacks steep and winding until we got to the top. It gave you a great view of the national park which can be seen below.
You can understand from this position why it can be difficult to see a tiger when your in the park. This is just a small proportion of the national park and there is so much space meaning places to hide. Overall gate 8 didn't leave us with quite the thrill of the first drives and it didn't give many pictures which as a photographer was disappointing. The drive back didn't help either as our driver seemed to put his foot down and made it very uncomfortable. I have to say although I haven't mentioned the driving it was indifferent to say the least but on this drive we got up to speeds of 40km per hour on dirt tracks. When we got back to the hotel we did complain about the standard. I would recommend to anyone that as soon as they feel uncomfortable with the driving to let them know. Hopefully the comments we raised will improve this.
We set out to gate 6 for our last drive which again was at the side of the park we had entered earlier so meant another long drive. We had a sense of disappointment as we had been told that the best gates were 1 to 5 plus it was another long drive. The positive was, however, that the drive was a lot more comfortable. The terrain in gate 6 was flatter than the terrain from earlier in the day and our disappointment was short lived. This gate is one of those that you can see the Sloth bear and apparently seeing this animal is even more rare than seeing the tiger. Our guide spotted something in the distance which turned out to be this beautiful creature and when we got near you could see he could smell us in the air.
We watched as he mosied around before climbing a tree and getting back down. Our guide told us that these bears are very shy and it wasn't long before he was heading away into the distance. Again it was good that I had my long lense with me as we couldn't get very close. Our guide actually took us off the path to enable us to see the bear in the tree which would later see him reprimanded by the park wardens at the gate. Although others got to view the bear it was typically from distance as can be seen from the picture below with the sloth bear in the distance between the trees.
This ended up being a great drive and if you were not going to see one of the big cats, what we saw made up for this. We visited a couple of waterholes where we watched samba deer bathing in the mud and as well as trying to hide in the bush. We watched the spotted deer as they raise their heads wondering whether to stay or run as well as lizards, monkeys and birds. It was really plentiful in what we saw so it was a drive that I was happy to end on.
We were able to come away saying that we had ticked off tiger, leopard and sloth bear. We would have taken that before things had started for sure. We did contemplate doing another drive on our final morning before our drive to Jaipur. We didn't end up doing this but it was possibly the right decision as it enabled us to relax with a coffee in the morning over looking the park for one last time. It meant on a trip where relaxation wasn't always the theme we were able to enjoy some quiet time. The drive to Jaipur was to be around 4 1/2 hours so the respite was short lived.
This city is referred to as the pink city as during a visit of Edward the VIII all the buildings were painted to welcome the Prince of Wales at the time. We stayed at the ICT Rajputana and have to say that walking into the lobby you felt a real sense of grandeur. The room was beautiful too and is probably one of the nicest hotels I have stayed in where you get a wow factor. It has pool with an outside bar which was great to relax in the early afternoons and evenings. They served some crisps as snacks when you had drinks in the bar below which were very moreish so watch out for them.
We stayed here two nights and got there early afternoon the first day so just relaxed around the pool before sitting in the bar. When your itinerary is as full as what our was you do enjoy some of the quiet moments even more. Day two was full as we had Amer fort, the observatory and the city palace to visit.
Amer fort was our first stop of the day. The fort overlooks the city and looks magnificent and stands proud as you drive up the road into the hills where is it situated. It has a lake at the bottom and I was able to get this photograph with the reflection showing in the water.. Not the best light as it was harsh early morning sun but its a picture I particularly like.
The inside of the fort was just as impressive and was bustling with other people looking around. The main feature of the palace is the palace of mirrors. It shows you everything about the extravagance of the era when these palaces were constructed. The detail of the place was a site to behold and extremely impressive, you can only imagine the way it looked when it was first done.
I enjoyed this fort as it had lots of different places to look around. A lot of the palaces are rebuilt as time takes a heavy toll on the original features. In fact there was a part of the mirror palace that was being renovated when we visited. In the same courtyard as the palace of mirrors was an original door from the 1500's. You can see from this the detail that went into anything that was constructed. The materials used were the best and the workmanship the finest. You can tell that when this door was first put up how vibrant it would have been and definitely gives a sense of importance.
The fort had the most to offer out of all the forts that we had seen on this trip and I was very happy to be able to see it. They were always intricate in detail and never any expense spared. It was good to have guides that could explain all of the features to you as I'm sure you could have missed things if you had been on your own.
A couple of the other places we visited were the Jal Mahal, translated to the water palace and the Hawa Mahal. The Jal Mahal is in the middle of a man made lake and was being renovated into a hotel. However the local politics meant that a court case was brought and this project was stopped. This means you can't get close and can only view from the shore. I can imagine it would have made a beautiful hotel had the plans gone all the way through. The Hawa Mahal or palace of the winds was built so the ladies of the royal family could watch the parades that went through the city. It would have been used when Edward the VIII visited for the queens to watch the goings on in the street.
We stopped for lunch after the water palace and it was the first time they got the spice level right. We had been asking for it spicy each time (we like our curries hot) we ordered but I guess they saw us and always decided to go cautiously. This time was spot on and had to be the most enjoyable curry we had. It got us ready for the afternoon sites.
The afternoon brought us to Jantar Mantar and the City Palace. Jantar Mantar known as the observatory is where astronomical instruments were built in the 17th century. There are pieces that use the sun to depict the time angles, altitudes and all other types of calculations. It's amazing how they were able to build this structure without the tools we have now a days and be so accurate. The size of the structures helped them to be more accurate so some of the smaller time pieces were within 20 seconds but the larger ones could get to within 2 seconds.
It was then only over the road to the last stop of the trip and the City Palace. The king of Jaipur has been on the throne since the age of 14 after his grandfather died and he has just celebrated his 18th birthday. The palace has two parts with his private residence and the part that is open to the public. A lot of the museums inside wouldn't allow photography so couldn't capture these parts. The first museum is for the clothing worn by the royal family for special occasions and then the armoury with all of the weapons. The armoury showed you things they used from the ages from knives through to muskets. I'm sure that Rick from Pawn Stars would love to have seen some of these very ornate weapons come into his shop. You then move into the court yard of the palace and into an area where the Diwan-I-Kas with their silver earns.
The next area of the palace the Chandra Mahal stands tall over you what looks like a big ship. This is the kings main residence and but he wasn't in whilst we were there. In the court yard there are 4 very ornate gates that lead through to other parts of the palace. They were decorated in different themes of the seasons and Hindu gods, the pictures showing the southwest Rose gate. There were also the Peacock gate, Leheriya and Lotus gate all in the gold and decorated with mosaic type tiles.
After the palace the trip had come to an end and now it was just a case of our flight home after our last night in the hotel. We have had an amazing time and seen everything that India and the Golden Triangle had to offer. We have seen some amazing sites and were lucky enough to see tiger and leopard. The trip had lived up to everything that we had hoped. We had our challenges on this trip with the money situation and a 14 hour delay (all I can say don't travel Jet as the experience wasn't great.) but it all adds to the stories you can tell. I enjoyed doing something different with my camera and feel that I got some good shots. It was interesting being a travel photographer and I will be taking it with me on my travels again! If you have any comments or questions leave them below!
It has been a while since my last blog post. Although I started the Euro's post it was difficult polast seasn they sting from my iPad and as everyone knows it didn't end too well! It was torcher standing through THAT game with Iceland. Fair play they did everything they could and played to the best of their ability which couldn't be said for the 3 lions. In fact there was nothing that could be associated with lions about that performance!
In terms of travelling away I have decided to try a sport that we are actually half decent at and will follow the barmy army out to India in November. This will again be purely as a spectator but would love at some point to get the camera to one of these games. I'm sure there is a whole different skill to capture some of the best shots that you see in the papers. I have found this with venturing into going to the rugby.
I have had a couple of trips down to Doncaster Knights in the Greene King IPA Championship. Last season they were beaten in the play off final against Bristol so just missed out on getting into the Aviva Premiership. Compared to football the speed of the action is a little less frantic which enables better tracking of the game. The action shots though can be just as impressive with some of the explosive play. Shots like the one above though don't always happy due to the dynamics of the game mean that rucks and mauls and the typically close nature of the players means that the scoring action is not always as dramatic!
My trip to India will also allow me to try out something else other than sports photography. The trip will include time at the Taj Mahal and Rathambore National park where I hope to get pictures of tigers, leopards and asian elephant among some of the potential wildlife. I'm really looking forward to this little adventure as this is the type of photography I have wanted to do in addition to the sport. I feel I may have to be a little more patient than I have been previously!
Keep your eyes open as things in my business start to develop with interesting links to Doncaster college and a few other sports clubs potentially on the horizon. I'l make sure my next update isn't quite as long. Thanks for reading.
Well it has been an eventful few days here in France. Whilst personally I have met some nice people and had a good time the sense of trouble has not been far away. It's not quite as the papers are reporting the trouble either. I haven't been where the trouble has started but on Friday evening when I walked up towards where a good majority of the fans were what I saw gave me an indication of what possibly happened.
The picture shows England fans singing on tables after generally having a good time and on the left locals gathering watching and riot police in the middle. In the local group two lads dressed in Bayern Munich track suits that stood out as well as people just taking pictures. I did ask myself why was this guy just stood watching with a intense look. I found out the morning after going through the papers. There was a picture of one of these lads kicking out as someone fell to the ground. The picture was a daylight shot so possibly around 6-7 when the first kick off occurred. This picture was taken around 1145pm so he was still hanging around a long time, for what you would have to ask? It's a different picture from what the media is giving. Of course there will be plenty of England fans that have overstepped the mark but with what provacation. On a lighter note when we got back to our hotel we saw some Russians in Liecester City shirts here's what the said.
Yesterday for me was what makes me come away to watch England play. The weather was hot, England flags flying, beer and a party atmosphere. Songs being sung with a nice cold beer in hand. We always travel in great numbers and the flags that people take are amazing. They are from all over the country too which shows the mass appeal of travelling to watch England away. We (I go with my wife Charlie) watched the first half of the Switzerland game at the Temples bar and met some guys from Grimsby. One of the group had travelled over from Canada after emigrating there 10 years ago. All were in good spirits enjoying their wine bought in little cartons from the shop near by. We saw Switzerland take the lead from a goalkeeping error that seems to be a common theme from the early group games after the Romania keeper had mis judged a cross in Friday's opener.
We moved from there to the fan zone so missed the second half however doesn't seem like we missed too much. The fan park is situated miles away from the city centre. It took us 20 mins on the bus to get near and a ten minute walk. I do enjoy visiting the fan parks though as they really do making watching games a lot easier with beer, food and other entertainment on had. Prior to the Wales game they had the worlds biggest dance stars on screen. It was funny watching people get up and have a go. The place started to fill up as the Wales game got ready to start with England fans willing on Slovakia. Bale opened the scoring with a free kick which helped get them off to a great start. Neither side really imposed themselves on the game and both had half chances. The best falling to Slovakia who had a goal bound shot cleared off the line. The half finished in 1-0 to Wales.
With the expected additional security measures we decided to start the walk to the stadium at this point. A half hour walk between the venues added to this but lots of others had the same idea. It was noticeable that there were streams of Russian fans on the right of the road and English fans on the left as we walked up the straight road. At the top was a round a bout with a load of bars with England fans swinging from the trees or anything else they could climb. When we finally got to the bar it was out of beer so we went on the vodka, well there was no alcohol being served inside the ground. We then started the trek to the stadium and what a trek it was. One minute heading towards the stadium next back out onto the road. We eventually got to the entrance which wasn't as secure as you might have hoped. There were large que's of people waiting to get into the security area which didn't feel quite right as a repeat of the Paris attacks would have resulted differently trying to get into the Stade Velodrome.
The atmosphere in the ground was amazing with more of a home game feeling. At least 75% seemed to be white with England shirts. The national anthem was sung with gusto with lots of chants of England. England started the the game positively and on the front foot. Lallana had our first chance but dragged his shot wide. For all of the first half domination we didn't look like we were going to score plenty of half chances but no real clear cut ones. The Russian side were poor in the first half and didn't offer much.
That did change in the second half where they became more threatening but a little like us didn't look like scoring. England best second half chance was a shot by Rooney from the edge of the box and I'm still not sure how Akinfeev got down to save it and push it away. That i's it going to be our day' feeling started to creep in. The longer the game went.
After a run down the middle from Ali brought a free kick there was Rooney, Ali and Dier round the ball. Ali walked away then did Rooney and I turn round to my missis asking what they are playing at why is Dier taking the free kick?! It was our best opportunity to score and what I thought was the worst person to take the free kick was about too. Boy did he make me eat my words! He struck the ball perfectly into the top corner to set off the fans in the stadium. I remember thinking we had got out of jail and we were ending up with the 3 points.
That turned out to be a wrong thought! We did sit back inviting the Russians on to us albeit they were not creating anything until that last second. The cross was floated in and Berasutzky risked above Rose at the back to loop the ball in. I'm can't remember a more deflating feeling at a football game. Oh yes I can the time that Croatia knocked us out of Euro 2008 qualification or that Suarez goal in São Paulo, Brazil! It was a real blow especially with Wales winning the earlier game 2 - 1. I think it sets up the game from a neutrals point of view but I will be nervous to say the least. It will be a difficult game and Wales will be confidant of qualification especially if they take more points of us. It is one to really look forward to and a defining game but this is what football is all about. On the edge of your seat waiting to see if it will be a high or a low. I hope that I'l be writing the next installment more positively! Paris the next stop before Lens.
This time next week we will be waking up knowing IF England have made the start we wanted at Euro 2016 in Marseille against Russia. I will be there in the stadium so there will be a couple of weeks with pictures from my iPhone only. I'm really looking forward to the tournament and go into it optimistic we can do well. How well will be the question. Having said that I went into the Brazil World Cup in 2014 with the same feeling but it has got to be different hasn't it?!
The three warm up games were all wins for England but lots of people have been asking questions about the performances. I will say that I feel that these performances do not give a reflection of how the first game against Russia will be. With a lot of young players in the squad (only 3 potential starters from players who played in Brazil) I expect us to go into it all guns blazing. Lets just hope we get some of the luck we will need.
Security is a big talking point at these championships. It was also at the previous two events, when we went to Cape Town and South Africa it was that the streets are not safe and in Brazil it was the same. Both proved to be unfounded but I do go into this with a lot more trepidation. I think the risk is significantly higher but we can not stop doing the things we love in the face of this threat. After all you could be driving down the motorway and be killed by none of your own fault. At the end of the day what ever will be will be and as some say if its your time! Hopefully though the security forces will be enough to stop anything significant like the Paris incident from happening this summer.
A look back on my last couple of weeks since my last post saw me cover the UK Athletics Development League North for the U20's and U17's. I was really impressed with the commitment of some of these young athletes. I was taking pictures of the different events and the same faces came up again and again. Especially when towards the end of the day it was the 800m and the 4 x 400m meter relay. See the shots here. My favourite image of he event has to be towards the end of the day and the 4 x 100m shot of the ladies event (below).
I feel like it really captures the intensity and focus of the event going into the final 100m stretch. Why not comment and tell me your thoughts or whether you have another favourite?
This morning saw me take in the team I help out with, Doncaster Town FC v Glasshouse FC. After a good first half which saw Town go in 2 - 1 up a half time injury to Haydn Cahill and a second half capitulation saw the game end with 9 men for Town after Alex Ain left the field before the 90 mins.
The game started well with a real ebb and flow with both teams creating chances. The fact was Town took there chances with two nice lobs from Alex Ain to shoot Town into a two goal lead. Sloppy defending in the late stages of the first half saw Glasshouse get themselves back in the game at 2 - 1.
Half time saw Haydn Cahill withdraw due to injury and with 10 men it was always going to be an uphill struggle against a well organised and team like Glasshouse FC. Unfortunately for Town the shape went as players heads dropped and the goals started to flow. It ended up not a scoreline anyone would have wanted to see and a little bit like back at the start for Town. Maybe its when I get my camera out they freeze! Next season hopefully will bring in some new faces to freshen things up.
The sun was out this morning and I'm hoping it stays there for the next few weeks while I am in France. Come back to my blog to read about how things end up for England.
What an interesting week it has been since my last blog post! I don't think anyone would have given Derby a chance of getting back in the game against Hull but its exactly what they did. Early goals got them right back in the tie but ultimately that last minute goal Andy Robertson got at the iPro was the difference between the two sides. The win saw Hull progress to the Championship final where it will see them take on Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday. Its a game I will be watching intently as it is a fixture that I covered earlier in the season. I hope it will be a good game and certainly more goals than I saw at 0 - 0.
My weekend started on Friday evening covering the Doncaster & District FA Challenge Cup final at the Keepmoat between Swinton Athletic and Houghton Main. It was he first time I had covered a final and I certainly took a lot away from the experience you can see all the images here. I got all of the main action with the game finishing 1 - 0 to Swinton. The game saw Hougton Main reduced to 9 men by the 60th minute and I was very impressed with Houghton's resilliance although they were under the cosh for a lot of the game but clear cut chances were few and far between. In the end it was an own goal that settled the tie and on the balance of the game it was deserved for Swinton however against 11 it could have been a very different result.
At half time it was the inaugural presentation of the Alick Jeffrey award which was won by Eddie Beaglehole. Its an award that is given for service to grass roots football and Eddie's 60 years in the game made him a well deserved winner. My picture, the one below, was used in various outlets and I'm looking forward to see what is used from the game in Thursday's Free Press.
The weekend saw a little time for relaxation as I was fortunate enough to get to both the cricket at Headingley and then the football in Manchester. At the England v Sri Lanka test in Leeds although there was a rain break in the day there were still enough time for England to take 10 wickets with Jimmy Anderson claiming 5 and the last wicket of the day. Sri Lanka really had no answer for the conditions or the quality of the England attack. Lets hope they can be a little more competitive in the remaining tests. I did get a shot of the final wicket which to say it was on my iPhone wasn't really bad at all. You can just see the ball beating the bat before the ball hits the wicket!
Sunday brought the friendly between England and Turkey in the warm up to Euro 2016. We had tickets on the touchline so was as close to the action as you can be. It wasn't the best game but England still come out on top 2 - 1 with goals from the in form Kane and Vardy. Some will question England's defence as Turkey caused problems all afternoon but I feel with a couple of weeks of preparation its something we can get right. I feel that Jack Wilshire coming back will be very important for the team but we have to get him 100% fit and firing on all cylinders. There is no doubt if he can replicate the performance out in Slovenia on a more regular basis, England will do well in Euro 2016. Its a tournament I will be following closely with tickets all the way to the final, IF England were to get there. There is excitement with recent performances but can England deliver on the big stage? Time will tell, follow my blog throughout Euro 2016 for my experience and thoughts!
Tomorrow night see's me go to photograph my biggest game to date, the Championship Play Off semi final. The next game, the final, is reported to be worth £200 million to the club that wins the game with all the spoils of promotion to the Premier League. The home side go into this game clear favourites to make it into the final by taking a 3 goal advantage back to the KC stadium.
It will be my third trip to the KC stadium for me which is an example of a great modern stadium. I have enjoyed my previous visits to the ground and can recommend their pies, the pulled pork on my last visit was extremely tasty. Its a great stage for photographers as well with the LED lighting makes is easier to catch the right images than some of the older floodlight systems. My previous visits were the games against Cardiff City and Sheffield Wednesday (a potential play off finalist opponent) with the games finishing 2-0 and 0-0 respectively. I have had a habit of picking 0-0 games this season, hopefully that won't be the case tomorrow night.
Its a game that Derby will have to start quickly if they have any chance of getting back into contention for the final. Only complacency from Hull will stop them from getting through, which will hopefully be against another Yorkshire team Sheffield Wednesday. For the Final I'l be sat at home watching the game on TV but for tomorrow night I will get to experience the atmosphere of this great story that these end of season play off's bring!
I have been doing this now for 6 months and enjoy getting up close to the action and trying to freeze those moments in time with my pictures. I'm now trying to forge a business from it and I can say it's harder than just displaying your images to get work.
It all started when I offered Doncaster Town manager, Daniel Black, my help and services for the team he had set up. I felt that I could help in the social media side of things learning new skills as I went along. I decided to try and get the head shots of all the players for the website and it was a comment by one of the players who said 'I thought you would have had a better camera than that!' that started me thinking about photography. I was using my iPhone to take the pictures and with my birthday looming I thought I might be able to get a camera. I knew one of my colleagues at works husband was a sports photographer so I asked if he had any equipment for sale. The rest they say is history. Luckily this gave me the opportunity to go to professional games and take pictures of teams in the Championship and League One through his company AHPix. It's not what you know it is who!
I got lucky early on with a picture I took in the Doncaster Rovers v Chesterfield game. Rovers were awarded a penalty and Andrew Roe, from AHpix, told me to position myself to get a side shot of the penalty. Nathan Tyson stepped up but his effort was initially saved. The keeper didn't push it away far enough which allowed Tyson to slide in and get it in the corner. I was contacted the next morning by Howard Roe, the boss at AHPix, who told me to go and get a copy of the Free Press. When I did, the main picture was the one I captured of sliding in.
It was such a rush to find out a picture had been used and it meant that I had caught the bug. I didn't at this time have my own equipment, it was during the next few months that I found out how expensive this hobby would be. £2500 later I was starting to get the idea that it wasn't something you can go into half hearted. Once I had all of the kit it enabled me to start doing more professional games in the Football League Championship and League One.
The new year came and in the FA Cup, Doncaster had drawn Stoke City a top flight team. I went along with excitement at photographing a Premier League team and took the opportunity to photograph the away team with Peter Crouch, Jonathan Walters, Mo Diouf in the attack. It was thrilling to be able to capture images of the stars that I have watched from the stands and on TV. Peter Crouch got the first goal and I got a great picture of him guiding the ball into the bottom corner. Rovers however did hit back to go in at 1-1.
Buzzing at half time I change over to the other end and found myself on my own to the left hand side of the goal. The away end was packed with Stoke City fans who were in great voice. The game had a real ebb and flow to it with both teams creating chances but Stoke City started to get a real foothold and started to show their dominance. The ball found its way to Jonathan Walters on the edge of the box where the Rovers defenders stood off. He turned and fired a shot into the top corner giving Thorsten Stuckman no chance. I was thrilled to have captured his strike but then in a flash he started to run over to me. My heart rate increased as it dawned on me he was coming towards me and I was the only person there. I was thinking 'don't miss this, don't miss this!'. I started snapping away as he run over and jumped up raising his finger to the stars. His team mates come over to join him in their normal routine in congratulating him before returning to their half for the re-start. I looked down to my camera and pressed the play button to show the pictures. I was amazed to see I'd captured it all and quickly run the shots over to Howard so he could get them sent off to the papers.
At the end of the game Howard and Andrew congratulated me and said that there was a real good chance of the images being used. The next morning a checked my emails and Howard had emailed me to say that it had been used in the Sunday Star, I couldn't get out quick enough to buy the paper.
It started to make me think what could be achieved. There was a little bit of luck, I was in the right place at the right time, but it proved that I could do it. In the subsequent months however I have started the real learning on how to get the best out of my camera and the lenses. I feel I'm getting it right just as the season is coming to an end. Hopefully though there will be plenty more next season!
I would like to take the opportunity to say thank you to AHpix Ltd and Howard and Andrew Roe for giving me the opportunity I have had. I am unable to display photo's I take at professional games due to copyright but you can see the games I have covered in the following links on Facebook:
- FA Cup
- Doncaster Rovers v Stoke City*
- Hull City v Cardiff City*
- Hull City v Sheffield Wednesday
- Rotherham v Nottingham Forest
- League One
- Doncaster Rovers v Chesterfield*
- Doncaster Rovers v Oldham*
- Doncaster Rovers v Walsall*
- Doncaster Rovers v Port Vale*
- Doncaster Rovers v Millwall*
- Sheffield United v Barnsley
- Sheffield United v Gillingham
*not all images in albums are mine please see caption information for who took the shot.
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