Squash was one of my first assignments when I began working for Colorsport back in January 2010. Just over six weeks in, and I was listed to do the National Championships at Manchester’s National Squash Centre. It was the first sport that I’d done for the agency that wasn’t football. A difficult sport it turned out to be too.
Firstly, was the positioning available for photographers. It was brilliant. Located directly behind the glass wall which was used as the main part of the court, it gave fantastic views of the action unfolding literally feet in front of me. What’s so terrible about that I hear you cry? Small rubber balls, flying at 100mph plus make quite a racket I can tell you! When it hits the glass wall inches from your face it certainly lets you know about it.
Secondly, the sheer speed of the play and unpredictability of players movements made it difficult to keep up and frame the action nicely before it moved on. Thankfully this is one of those things that you pick up relatively quickly and after an hour or so you can beat the players to the next spot on the court.
My plan of action was the get a clean action picture of each player during the warm up, this meant I’d have a picture of each of them on their own with as little background distraction as possible. The first couple of sets would consist of more action, but with both players in the frame. Lastly, as the match was drawing to a close I’d concentrate on interactions and facial expressions.
Somewhere amongst all that I intended to take a wander up into the stands to get shots looking back down on the court. This was something that I added during the first game, as I’d realised that players turned their backs on the court when they were contesting a referee decision.
A call from the Colorsport office on a sunny Monday morning began the day on a high note. The Times newspaper had been in touch to ask if anyone was available in the Manchester area. I was. The assignment, which I gladly chose to accept, was to visit the Lowry Hotel in the city centre to produce a series of photographs of Manchester City star James Milner who was launching a new foundation aiming to help young people.
From the foundation website:
The James Milner Foundation (JMF) is a charity to promote healthy recreation for the benefit of young people in the United Kingdom by the development, improvement and provision of opportunities in sports, in particular football, rugby and cricket.
Dubrovnik, Croatia was my base during the trip out to Montenegro for England’s UEFA Euro 2012 qualifying game. Having a couple of days there beforehand, was always going to mean that I had some time for exploration, and normally I’d be all researched out before I’d even checked in for my flight. Alas, on this occasion I hadn’t found the time to even check out the city’s own Wikipedia page.
Upon arrival at the airport alone, I soon realised this had been a mistake. The drive in to the city was one of the most beautiful that I have ever had the fortune to make during my travels. Every turn of a corner, as I made my way along the snaking coast line, provided a new awe inspiring view. The fact it was touching 6pm, still in the late twenties and raining back home had little to no influence on this, what so ever.
My memory strained to remember the vivid descriptions of the history of Croatia that I had recently read in Andrew Eames’ 8:55 to Baghdad. I knew that war had ravaged much of the country, and in my own living memory – which is something quite unique. Will I be casually visiting Iraq in the next 5 to 10 years? I hasten to think not.
Much of the war damage has been lovingly restored, and it was only upon writing this entry that I stumbled across a useful hint to help visualise Dubrovnik following war. The brighter coloured roofing is the newer, and so is most likely to have been damaged through war. Looking at the patchwork of terracotta, it’s easy to see the impact that the dissolution of Yugoslavia had. In fact, it wasn’t until a visit to a memorial upon a hillside overlooking Dubrovnik that I came to find my first actual evidence of warfare. A battered communications fort still bore the scars of war, with gaping holes in it’s fortified (yet still incredibly pretty) walls, and the shrapnel damaged comms cable unit, pictured below.
I have visited many places damaged during World War 2, and very few of them show any signs of what had been. Visiting a place with such recent history, and the evidence to show was quite moving.
Dubrovnik is a city that has firmly taken it’s place in my memory and will certainly be revisited, when I have a better understanding of it’s history. Besides this, they do fantastic pizza!
As I closed in on Manchester, from the Sheffield direction over the A628 Woodhead Pass (which just happens to be my favourite road) I could see the weather deteriorating quickly. Welcome home, Phil! Compounded by the early morning drive back from London where I had been at the Champions League final (in which, United had been defeated by Barcelona) and London Legends over the weekend, my heart began to sink. I hadn’t been properly rained on all season, and was rather hoping that this would extend to the final day of my personal season. The Manchester United home coming parade, with the Premier League trophy. It wasn’t to be.
Would I turn up at the Cathedral starting point to find a few damp squibs of supporters, who had braved the rain and early bank holiday start? Would it be cancelled? Just a couple of the many fears I was facing. Thankfully, I needed not worry.
I parked up at Deansgate Locks, making use of the free bank holiday parking in the city centre. Arriving just under an hour before the start, I was a little worried at it being so easy to actually find a space, but I could spot a good number of fans piling out of Deansgate railway and Metrolink stations. I decided on following the majority of them right down Deansgate to the Cathedral so I could take some fan related shots and then the team on the bus in the first minute or so of their journey, where I thought they would be at their most boisterous. Needless to say, by the time I’d reached the start I was as wet as brave fans in the pictures below!
Next to do, was to decide which side of Deansgate to get a spot on. The eastern side would give me the earliest shots of the team bus, whereas the western side would give me better backgrounds, with the Cathedral and prettier architectural delights of the route through the city. The western side it was. On the whole, a good decision, thought it did mean I was blocked by the curve in the road for the opening explosion of confetti.. alas, I was not the only one, having spotted colleagues on the same side.
Eventually however (how slow do those buses go?) the bus creeped into view and I was blessed with the view presented below. Enthusiasm had not dampened in the rain, and Rio Ferdinand was in full control of the mic! The crowd were being spurred on to sing and chant by each and every team member. Some were clearly enjoying it, whilst others found the direct attention every so slightly embarrassing!
I followed the bus and the crowd back down Deansgate. Partly to get more shots, and partly because I’d parked the car back down by the Beetham Tower and the Locks. Having done so proved to be fruitful, as Edwin van der Sar pretended to drop the trophy in true Sergio Ramos style, much to the shock of his team mates.. soon followed by the realisation of the prank!
As the bus passed under the railway bridge and onto Chester Road, I left the party for the relative dry and warmth of my car to edit and wire pictures out to newspapers. All this action and it was still only 10.30am! The rest of the day was spent as a bank holiday should, in front of the telly with good food, and good beer, but I could rest assured that my work was done.
The wedding of Maggie and Matthew took place in the stunning Grade II listed surrounds of The Place Hotel Apartments, Manchester. In attendance, to induce salvation with his gorgeous crepes, was Andrew from Original Crepes. Assisting myself (with a lovely 15mm fisheye!) was Chris Jackson whom I must thank for his light holding abilities!
Whilst Winter brings darkness and gloominess (seemingly by the bucketful in Manchester), it also brings new avenues for creativity. Darker afternoons mean natural light is, well.. none existent. Flash provides a new angle on lighting, and used well can add another dimension to what would otherwise be dull, flat images. Coupled with beautiful surrounds.. you can’t help but capture those unique, treasured images!
A trip out to Poland to follow Manchester City in their Europa League campaign – lovely! Flying in to Krakow the day before allowed me some time in quite possibly my favourite city in the world, then the following morning was an 8 hour train ride to compete with, and the return leg immediately after the game for my flight home the next morning. I shared much of the journey with a small number of travelling fans, the 3-1 defeat and lack of sleep really was showing on the trip home.. myself certainly included in that.
The game itself was a frustrating one, and very quiet on the action front. An equaliser from Emmanuel Adebayor lifted spirits for a short time but Poznan’s second and third goals sealed the fate for Roberto Mancini’s side, whom still need points for qualification to the knock out stages.
I spent the weekend at Manchester’s Sport City athletics track, with Action Replay Photography to cover the UK Youth Athletics League Finals. Teams from throughout the UK were involved over the two days, with many future hopeful medal winning athletes participating.
Photographs may be purchased directly from Action Replay Photography
Today, was purely basketball. I thought there was a goalball exhibition match on.. but was getting ahead of myself, as it is tomorrow.. so keep an eye out for that one! Four games shot today, which covers every team in the tournament, both men’s and women’s. I have a growing admiration for the talents of these athletes!
Day two of the BT Paralympic World Cup saw the start of the football competition. The first game up was Team GB v USA. The game is slightly modified to be 7 a-side, and a little shorter at 30 minutes per half. The athletes entered suffer with cerebral palsy.
Today marked the beginning of an important weeks sporting events in the paralympic calendar. To start off the BT Paralympic World Cup, was the athletics, taking place at the Sport City athletics track in Manchester. Many famous names were lined up to take part, in particular, one Oscar Pistorius (South Africa). He is of course, known for his controversial legs, which have proved a head scratcher for scientists and sporting bodies alike.
The afternoon of May 16th, provided host to a gathering of the world’s top sprinters. The coming together was for naturally, for competition, on an temporary built running track down Manchester’s Deansgate road.
A new world record (my 2nd of the year!) was set in the men’s 200m straight track event, with Tyson Gay romping home in 19.41 seconds – into a headwind. Fantastic to watch and a privilege to photograph!
Sunday 16th May 2010.. a massive day for sport in Manchester. Both participation and spectator. The day was split in to two stages, the BUPA Great Manchester 10km Run in the morning, followed by the Powerade Great City Games (pictures coming soon!) in the afternoon.
The men’s event was won by Ethiopian Haile Gebreselassie, whilst his fellow countrywoman Werknesh Kidane took the women’s event honours. Jo Pavey, returning to enter her first UK race since the birth of her child, finished in a disappointing fifth spot.
Tonight I was shooting the engage Super League game between Salford and Bradford. As you can see from the scoreline.. it wasn’t the most thrilling of games! A trait that has followed me for a good couple of weeks now.. let’s hope things pick up!
As with my other entry today, I was at the Victoria Bath’s in central Manchester, to help out with a video shoot for some good friends. Aside the images in the other entry.. I also snapped these more ‘behind the scenes’ type shots.
The last of the quarter finals today.. same set up as yesterday so straight on to the pictures!
Thursday evening saw the first of the quarter finals in this competition, and featured many famous faces from the squash circuit, and a few highly ranked individuals!
The venue, Sport City Manchester’s very own National Squash Centre was fantastic. The lighting was very good, providing more light than some football grounds… and was comfortably shooting at 1/640, f2.8 and ISO1600.
More to follow tomorrow!