Asking questions is good and healthy.
However apart from “How many air stewardesses do I get through a year” to “Do I meet the players” – the most annoying question for me is “What do you do when the football season is over..?”
The season never finishes! There is ALWAYS football to shoot.
Since the UEFA Champions League Final I think the longest stretch I have had without snapping something to do with football has been four days.
Thursday was a big day – the official start of the 2011- 2012 football season and pre-season training for Shrewsbury Town.
This was the first picture of the season..
… it went in the bin.
The game was TNS – The New Saints who drew 1-1 with Irish side Cliftonville in the first round qualification of the UEFA Europa League.
It was nice to speak to gentle UEFA delegates who let me tell the photographers to sit where they wanted as long as they did not step out of line after my torrid time in the USA. On this subject, my last blog prompted two seasoned pros who thankfully recalled even worse horror stories about Americans stopping photographers from working – so at least I know that it was not just me and this big cultural divide has been going on for sometime now.
Back to the Europa League – the final is to be held in Romania. It did not seem five minutes since I was at a TNS game in the UEFA Champions League in the pouring rain last season. Thankfully the weather was kinder and although sitting on an artificial pitch, I was drugged up to the hills on hayfever pills.
We had three snappers at this game. For the majority of the second half I was in the ear of Tom who I am training up. I HATED with a passion the guys who trained me up as they were always right and had an answer for everything – I guess I have grown into the same annoying person.
Tom is doing well but when he mentions that even after shooting for a season that he has a lot to learn I know that I am doing my job properly. My methods result to basic brainwashing, but it’s the only way to really learn. Reading and understanding like studying other crafts does not work in this game. You only learn when you make mistakes and you have to reason and point out great acts of photography to educate and make the student understand.
Many who know me, know that if I was not a photographer I’d sincerely love to follow a career in Psychology or better still Psychiatry. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy fascinates me as does learning to program the mind.
Being a photographer you HAVE to program your mind to look and think in a way at an extremely high and crazy level. I am not very good at taking complements, especially from those I admire myself – but when someone once commented that I “Look sideways”, I liked that expression.
So it is officially back to the new season and trying to look sideways still.
Am I tired? Yes
Do I need a rest? No
I am going through yet another period of unconditionally being in love with each and every one of my friends as I miss them like crazy and yearn for a normal 9-5 life. But I know I’d be bored and wanting to travel.
Thankfully I have Skype and Facebook to keep in contact. When I started this stupid job the worst thing was being away for weeks on end and waiting for the phone to ring when I got back home. Thankfully last week in the USA I was Facebook messaging all kinds of people who I know from famous rock stars to footballers, to people I grew up with, my school buddies and new people I have got to know in the last few months.
They all knew I was back and life has been good for the past two days.
Back to the football.
Taking pictures is only 20% of the job. Understanding your subject is a huge part. Understanding the people you are with is another part. Covering pre-season training is a psychologists dream. Groups of Alpha Males trying to get one over each other and always making fun of the photographer. There is no hiding. We are easy subjects.
If you have long hair – you are a gypsy. If you have short hair – convict. Facial features can resort in name calling such as big nose, Indian if you have a sun tan or granddad should a player spot one stray slightly white eyebrow.
Mixing with footballers is not for the fainthearted. New signings are like little deer waiting to be pounced on by the big tigers but equally the most charming, chatty and most friendly being eager to make new friends in their new club.
Going home and getting phone calls from players who were released at the end of last season and have not signed up for another club is equally hard. Sometimes I almost feel that I am cheating on them in sucking up to the new signing who has replaced my buddies for the past two years.
Football is a tough game on friends and family which most friends do not appreciate. At a moments notice you can be on the move to a new club having to uproot family and start your life again for most of the part survival. Although there is lots of money in the game, the majority of lower league players do it to survive.
And anyone who thinks being a footballer is easy should attend pre-season training. I was once told that I could get match fit quite easily – as long as I was willing to train every morning for 4 months and accept that I would probably go to hospital at least two times though exhaustion. The fitness levels required are immense as is the pain experienced in order to get there.
This is where photography plays a vital part in club news or propaganda as I sometimes prefer to call it. Through photography a fan can breathe a sigh of relief upon seeing his favorite player or the rising star back training at the club.
Equally I have to be sly and not let out the fact that I have shot players who ‘should not’ be there or who will not officially sign until next week.
For Shrewsbury Town day one consisted of ball control and getting to know one another again and then short sharp runs totalling 3k.
The second day was the same then the short trip to the local beauty spot in Shrewsbury called Haughmond Hill.
Running three laps of what is a lovely romantic walk is not a place of beauty for the players. They hate it!
Each lap taking on average 11 minutes – then a 90 second breather and then off again. No lying down to breathe, the rules are hands on head and no bending over whilst recovering.
My pre-season training consisted of having to jog down the same path trying to find a suitable spot to take the pictures from. Rather like a Tour de France photographer who does the route before the cyclists to determine the best vantage point to get his scenic postcard pictures from. No sunflower fields or chateaux viewpoints for me – just shafts of light coming through the tall trees.
Ten minutes of waiting for about four seconds of snapping the players running past you. Most make faces and swear as you are not running 6km too!
But, the most important aspect is to get a nice picture and find the best location… then head back and caption the pictures correctly to ensure the fans know who their new stars for the season are. I am their eyes. They have no clue who the new players are so I have learn pretty quick to deliver the relevant message.