This weekend I shot the opening ceremony and game of The Rugby World Cup 2015, England v Fiji, and then went on to shoot the South Africa v Japan game in Brighton.
It has been an incredible experience so far, with some stressful moments, incredible atmosphere, shock results and it has just been amazing to be part of The Rugby World Cup as an accredited photographer. I have never been part of something that is on this scale, everything about the World Cup is just huge, it is on another level. I have shot some high profile premier league games last season and I thought that they were on a huge level, which they are, however nothing compares to the World Cup.
In my opening match there were 140 photographers in total, all shooting the opening ceremony and then the opening game, England v Fiji, which saw England win 35-11. Although that score line does not reflect the game, England did not play how we all expected.
When I arrived at Twickenham I had to go through to the main media centre to collect my match programme and my parking pass for my match at St. James’ park in Newcastle later this month. Once I had done all of that, together with the photographer from the Leicester Mercury Newspaper, I went to the photographers workroom where we were directed to photo workroom 2 where we would be based. Photo workroom 1 is for the Getty, AP, PA and other big agencies photographers. There is a priority system which outlines who gets first second and third choice for seating allocations around the pitch. The big agencies like Getty get first priority and it works down from there with priority based on who is playing and which country you are from. With me shooting for a UK agency I got second priority however with the majority of the photographers there being from the UK it meant that the priority system did not work as well as it will at other games.
The seating positions are based at either end of the pitch in the 4 corners as well as a couple of spaces along the side and also a handful of roaming photo positions. The roaming positions are given to Getty and the big agencies as well as photographers from the two teams playing. This position is very limited and exclusive.
By the time I managed to get my photo position sorted there was not a huge amount of choice left, I got A1-19. The A1 indicates which part of the pitch I am in and then 19 is the seat number along from the corner towards the centre, with 1 being closest to the corner. Each corner at Twickenham has 36 photographer positions. 19 was not actually a bad position and the end I was on was sunk down nearly level with the grass; this meant that I had a makeshift desk to work from where I could put my laptop, very different to working at Brighton Community Stadium, where there is no space at all.
There are very strict rules which mean that I have to carry my media accreditation, my press match ticket for the day as well as my match upgrade pass on match days, to have access to all of the different media areas. I accidentally left my match ticket behind in the photo work room when we went to go and get food, this meant that I had to go all the way back to collect it before I could eat! I certainly won’t be making that mistake again.
Once out on the pitch at Twickenham, the first thing that hits you is the size of the stadium. I have been to Twickenham many times to watch rugby, but I have never shot any rugby there, so this was my first time walking out pitchside in front of a capacity crowd. Even before the stadium filled up the atmosphere was building and it was amazing to be there. I went to my photo position and set up my laptop and got all my gear ready to shoot. All of the photographers then went to shoot the opening ceremony, so I left my laptop and other bags etc that I did not need and just took my cameras, we were able to sit either side of the tunnel to shoot the opening ceremony action as it unfolded. After the opening ceremony finished there was a quick dash back to the photo positions to copy images off cards, edit, caption, keyword and upload before kick off.
Then it was time for the teams to come out and sing the national anthems. This was one of those incredible moments which you will always remember, and certainly one of the highlights of working as a sports photographer at the World Cup. The entire stadium all sang God Save The Queen, and unlike a spectator watching from the stands, being a photographer means you are sat right in front of a capacity crowd all singing behind you, there is a huge wall of sound that hits you and it is really something amazing, this was the same when action unfolded on the pitch and the cheering went so loud.
During the game I shot the action as it happened and sent images off as fast as I could. This is made easier because all of the World Cup stadiums have power and ethernet for every photographer, this means I do not have to worry about trying to get images off because the internet I get is super fast and I can leave my laptop on charge all game.
After the game I had already uploaded all my images so I just had to pack up and try and leave at the same time as 83,000 other spectators which proved tough especially with a rolling suitcase, laptop bag and a very heavy 400mm f2.8 case.
Opening Ceremony and England v Fiji Gallery
Day 2: South Africa v Japan
The day after shooting the opening game I travelled down to Brighton to shoot the South Africa v Japan match which I think we would all agree did not go as expected!
At Brighton there was just one media workroom, where the written press and photographers all worked. I got set up nice and early and had some time to kill, so I could relax a bit and enjoy the food we got given before going out to the pitch.
I arranged with one of the Japanese photographers to swap ends at half time because he wanted to shoot Japan on attack and I wanted to shoot South Africa on attack. Not only because I am South African and South Africa is my team but because I expected South Africa to walk through Japan, so shooting South Africa’s attack would mean that I would be able to capture a lot of images of tries being scored and action close to me rather than at the other end. How wrong was I…
At half time I swapped ends and was ready for the second half expecting Japan to get very tired and South Africa to start scoring as they should have in the first half, this did not happen. A lot of the action ended up at the other end of the pitch and to top everything off my internet connection did not work at the other end, so any shots I got I could not get off and had to wait till the end of the game once I had gone back to the media workroom. Japan beat South Africa and the try that sealed the deal was right by my photo position in the first half. I could have had perfect shots, but unfortunately that is the gamble and the risk you take trying to predict the game to get the shots the papers will want to use.
South Africa v Japan Small Gallery of Images
It has been an incredible opening weekend to my coverage of the Rugby World Cup 2015, I am learning a huge amount as always and enjoying every second of it, and I will continue to post on social media especially Instagram and do as many of these blog posts as I can.