So after my over night and morning journey, I got back to Port Elizabeth. A great place to spend the South Africa summer doing cricket, but it is not one of my favorite towns in this country. But I’m here for work and not sight-seeing, so it is not an issue.
Upon entering the media centre I encounter lots of familiar faces. Hard core journalists who I have spent countless hours drinking vodka with in Lebanon whilst dong the Asia Cup there at the turn of the century, TV cameramen I have seemed to follow for years and of course other English photographers – the ones who have been staying down south.
Due to the nature of this country, 7 venues are in distance of the capital Johannesburg whilst the others are a long long way away! I may have driven to Port Elizabeth but when it comes to the semi-finals, it is logistically impossible to do a game in Cape Town and then Durban the next day. Hence another crop of snappers are living next to the Indian and South Atlantic Oceans.
One thing for sure is that those who are hard-core are loving it. Those who do not do much travelling are missing home comforts have a lesser opinion of the tournament.
For me, I’m fine. I’m surprised at how much the media affects our lives. Some before the trip were saying how South Africa is such a dangerous country blah blah blah – everywhere is dangerous if you make it dangerous and stick out as a vulnerable victim. As I laugh at the disappointed England fans expecting their nation to trounce the USA, I wonder if it is because the uneducated think that Wayne Rooney is the best player in the world because some ex-pro sitting on a couch says so on Saturday night time TV.
I have not read a newspaper, looked at a website, listened to the radio for over 10 days now. All I do is focus on what I have to do that day. I do not worry about tomorrow and I put yesterday behind me – be it a good day or a bad day. Doing tournaments the way I do them is all about keeping a good rhythm. I realise who much crap I eat at home. Perhaps that is why I long to be away sometimes as when I am away I eat well! I like home, but the food establishments in my home country of England are simply terrible.
Anyway back to the football. I had to do this match as lots of clients wanted it. That is why I am here – working, for people who want pictures.
When I came to this country last year and covered some South African Premier League games, as I have mentioned before I loved the Vuvuzela. I thought people who wanted it banned were killing the local football culture. After 11 days I have dramatically changed my opinion. In go the earphones – how I want to be shooting live stage concerts again… only to speak to the always helpful mixing desk engineers. Surely there can’t be any better earphones?!
Today I put my iPhone iPod on random – First up is a big of Age of Chance, then Air as Kelly watches the stars as the Saudi referee bizarrely sends off Behrami, the Beckham of Swiss football.
The Doobie Brothers kick in as my pictures are sent to Switzerland. I have all sorts on my iPhone – some J-Pop (I’m a huge Judy and Mary fan), Little Steven and his Bitter Fruit and the Sneaker Pimps all keep out the Vuvuzela in this joyous first half.
I’m sat right behind the goal today. The position I want at Soccer City for the final. Although I kick up a fuss about being sat on the side at Soccer City, I don’t want to use up my Karma points too early, so hopefully I can trade-off with the ticketing lady the fact that 7 games on the side deserves one last go behind the goal!
The day started off cold until the sun appeared. Today has been glorious. At the start of the second half it gets cold once more.
Chile attack and attack and attack. Switzerland miss two howlers. The Wonder Stuff who come from the same part of the world as me and T’Pau who come from the same town as me help me to concentrate. I have no problems working at loud pop concerts or indeed stadiums where crowd levels are so loud that you want to put your fingers in your ears, but the Vuvuzela is just a bloody pain. It is like a swarm of wasps. In fact I’d prefer a swarm of wasps right now.
Chile break and score. I miss it. Just as the Brazil samba band was drowned out by buzzing, the 5,000 Chile fans roared as their team we were breaking forward – now when at any stadium in most places in the world, a photographer uses his ears to alert him on goalmouth action should he be using a long lens and focussing at something else. Back home doing English Premier League I have got into the habit of listening to the radio. The amount of times I miss things scares me, but thanks to radio commentators I anticipate better and produce more pictures of important things like goals and red cards when someone receives a yellow and then a red.
I had enough music in my ears for the moment – its been all day, constant! I can not receive my normal radio stations via the web here. I went back to listening to the Vuvuzela. Then it happens.
Basically – what I am saying is that I today I missed one of the most easiest goals to get. But I missed it because I was concentrating shooting something else – not many photographers follow the action like a TV camera.
The Chile fans roared, I could not hear them. Chile scored. I missed it. A poor excuse? Well it’s my excuse. As the tournament progresses I will concentrate more on getting goals, but at the moment, I just go to get ‘nice’ pictures – after all the game could be 0-0.
As I walk off I see the groundsmen repairing the pitch. It’s in a bad state but I’m sure it will be fine for the England game in two days time. However, for someone who slaughters the media I work for, I contribute to it and send out images of the bad pitch! – Just in case the English journalists want to make their excuses for another win-less performance by Capello’s men.
After my edit, I think about driving home. I am more chilled than I was yesterday. This week my brain has been full of logistics. What car goes where? Is the FTP address to so and so working? If we pick up someone from the airport will they fit into the other car coming from that other place?
I am now glad I came here alone.
I prefer it when I use my creative side – thinking of the helicopter shots that I had in my mind driving down here rather than being the counsellor and logistics man. I then remember it is night-time. I still have not got used to it being dark at 5pm. I am not going to witness the amazing scenery that I saw earlier.
I then somehow think about directing pop videos again and am transfixed with the Katie Melua video to “The Flood”. When I go to concerts, I stare at the lights and look at the production. I know some amazing people who spend their life on tour putting on concert shows. Their work inspires me.
The same is when I watch TV. Perhaps I have weird friends, or I am the one who is weird – as most appreciate Jack Bauer as a hero for saving the world, I could watch 24 for its production and direction. Critics say some Guy Ritchie films are trash – the stories may be, but the production and how it is made is awe inspiring.
How I would have loved to produce Katie’s video. I helped direct the video Justify the Rain for the Cosmic Rough Riders – when I get pictures published in newspapers I stare at them for a second and move on. But getting footage on TV is something else! When I saw the video on MTV a freaked! But I choose to still take pictures of football – even though the industry is getting tougher, working conditions are getting worse and the football poorer.
Katie’s Flood will still be on You Tube tomorrow – I need to head north and depart the media center.
I drive back North to Middelburg. Slow lorries going up the hills pull over to let me pass. In South Africa is it a custom to put on your hazzard lights as a thank you. One particular driver lets me know when it is safe to pass. He gets three blinks of the hazzard lights!
In South Africa, people are patient, polite and no where near as selfish unlike the drivers back home. Every time when I am on the M40 driving back from Chelsea, idiots hogging the middle lane, unaware I am behind them and want to over take. Before I came here, in Telford, Shropshire, a chav/idiot/boy racer – call him what you like, gave me the finger and gestured that he wanted a scrap in the street . Basically a car in front of me stalled, leaving me to be half over a roundabout junction. The driver restarted his engine and went on his way. Along came twatty chap in his boy racer Ford Focus trying to first Police me and then fight me for having my wheels over a white line causing him to change his direction of travel slightly.
This would never happen in South Africa. I’m not even angry on the road. Everyone is totally chilled and cool and not in such of a rush like they are in the United Kingdom. The only vehicle in a rush is my VW as I want and need sleep. It’s been 38 hours since I had a sleep. I try to listen to the Spain v Honduras match on Radio2000. But the commentary reaches new depths. I say to myself that if he mentions Honduras have 3 brothers playing for them again then the radio will go off. 100km from the hotel, the radio goes off. Back comes Water from a Vine Leaf (Cromer Chroma mix).
I get to the hotel just before midnight. I pay £8 for internet access to reply to an email that I forgot about – they take my money but nothing works. At home I am a TV freak. In Europe I am a TV freak. I have 5 satellite dishes in my back garden to pick up signals from the sky. I’m not tired but I have to get sleep. As soon as I turn off the light, I am asleep in seconds. I may brag about being awake for 38 hours – but when it is time to sleep, its time to sleep!