17 06 2012 – EURO 2012 – Portugal v Netherlands

Some points I realised today…

(i) I regret Manchester Untied selling Ronaldo. I love photographing him. He is exciting, unpredictable, a challenge to follow around the pitch. Photographing him is a game itself.

© AMA SPORTS PHOTO AGENCY

(ii) Self doubt? it’s not me… you can only shoot what is in front of you. TIme and time again I keep saying this but we all have high standards. We (my photographer colleagues – rivals in business but great friends on the road) have all covered countless tournaments and are all fed up with the lack of opportunity to create master pieces outside of the stadiums. We all agree the grass is greener on the other side in Poland as it seems that is where all the great pictures are coming from.

(iii) Whatever you write, do or say – you will always be criticised. We had fun today. Carl’s blog for Canon cameras has gone global – it’s all over the internet. He tested the new Canon camera – as did I – but his thoughts went on the Canon website and so many people who quite sincerely do not know my mate from Stoke have been slaughtering him suggesting he is getting a huge bung from Canon for enthusing about the new work tool.

(iv) We are all getting tired. Today a Japanese photographer and a Dutch photographer both comment that they prefer to work with a more intense rhythm. Doing a game every other day is still difficult to muster. The Dutch lose and go home. Tired faces become happy ones. William who works for the Netherlands agency I collaborate with shows me iPhone pictures of his new house that he has just purchased – three down from Dirk Kuyt.

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(v) It still winds my colleagues up and indeed myself on the amount of people who think they can do this job. The elation of getting a great goal picture in an important tournament and then seeing a newspaper you have an excellent relationship with use a contracted, already paid for image that is not as good as yours means your skin has to be tougher almost every day. It’s almost like a football manager and his team being 2-1 down. Still having faith in his players but the media and fans having a go at him. Lots of people would walk away. Only the crazy stick it out.

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(vi) Photographers have become journalists – writing blogs

Journalists have become photographers – taking pictures for their blogs

Ex-players reporting – and reporters knowing that they can coach.

Today was the last game in Kharkiv. My excellent break to Kiev only highlighted the monotony of our schedule. Kharkiv to Donetsk. Donetsk to Kharkiv. Kharkiv to Donetsk. Donetsk to Kharkiv.

The helpful local staff who had given up their jobs to assist and aid us were all sad. They had to return back to work on Monday. Many of them English teachers but have never been to England. We let them dream of seeing Big Ben, The Queen and going on a red double-decker bus.

People in the UK now probably think that the Ukraine is a violent, racist place as portrayed by the BBC Panaroma programme. Let me do a documentary about England for the Ukrainians. I’d include the terrible transport, high fuel prices, London riots, shootings and armed robberies, immigration problems and our financial woes.

Some of us English hate the Royal Family. The are jealous of their handouts. Think they live the life of Royalty (well they do – whatever that is) but have no idea on how much they are loved all over the world and are a magnet for tourism. The Ukrainians LOVE the Royal Family!

Assumption is a horrible thing. I like people who look around corners. Narrow minded people wind myself and seemingly my colleagues up too. We share the same beliefs and attitudes. Perhaps it is what keeps us together or indeed survive.

I assume the Netherlands will win this one!

But they are a bad team – with great individuals though. Portugal are exciting. I think of the awful Netherlands v Denmark game I covered here first, wishing I had covered Germany v Portugal instead. The Netherlands players look lost and tired.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon in the privileged position of having a top person from Canon (the camera manufacturer) show me the new Canon 1DX camera. My blog is not for geeks. It does not really cater for photographers wanting to know tips and information – the aim has always been really to show my mates back home what I am up to so they understand my job.

However what can I say about this new beast? Quite simply, the best camera I have ever used in my life. It is also expensive. Photographers who drive Ferrari cars and earn far more dollars than me even say that they can only afford one of them in these difficult times, when in the past they would be purchasing three.

It is instant love at first sight. I want to sell my Nikon gear again and go back to Canon. Its ace. Its great. Its superb.

Canon like my pictures. I like my pictures.

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What I see is still important! ….this ace machine does not stop me from cutting people’s limbs off though!

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Everyone still shows off their best pictures – or just those that they want you to see – things like lightning over the stadium which can not be repeated… Close up images of referees, football boots, blurred images of the Adidas ball are still kept under wraps for the fear they will be copied and bettered.

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I provide a syndication feed to newspapers and other agents to tell the story – goals, celebrations, despair and dejection. A few postcard type images to show what the day was about. Photography is a communications tool. Trying to make masterpieces to enthuse what is it like here is increasingly difficult though.

The Metro station is still shut. The amount of fans here compared to other tournaments is practically zero. Perhaps Panorama and scaremongering stories and of course the locals hiking up prices has meant fans have not travelled.

We still blame the Italians. It was a seemingly dead cert that Italy would be the host nation of Euro 2012. Alas when it was voting time, UEFA could not be seen sanctioning bribery and corruption from Italy and awarding them the honour of Euro 2012. The only other option was Poland and Ukraine.

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I hope Portugal defeat the Czech Republic. I want to photograph Ronaldo again. I remember Derby County v Manchester Untied. Ronaldo had about 22 efforts on target. I captured 21 of them superbly! I just missed the one that mattered that won the game and helped Man U win the league!

As William goes home to his new house in Holland. The media workers in Kharkiv all return back to their normal lives without Euro 2012 in their city.

I want it to be 2004 again. Back in Portugal. Freedom. Financial freedom – I had a wage then! A freedom to travel – thousands of people from all over Europe visiting Portugal with hotel rooms to spare… A freedom to take pictures – Police not shutting roads or closing Metro stations.

This tournament is in the Ukraine. The Ukraine Metro stations are amazing locations. Dutch fans in the Metro in orange suits, carrots in their hair with Eastern European surroundings would have made amazing pictures. Sadly all we see is them sitting in blue seats or walking 100M away – fenced off.

Again people reading this may think I’m moaning, complaining, ungrateful etc – but on order to gauge and opinion, my criteria has been going to great tournaments like the recent Asian Cup in Qatar, Euros in Portugal and even the world cup in South Africa. In the late 90s doing Copa Americas, photographers had total freedom. I don’t think I could get away with walking on a stadium roof like I did in Bolivia over here!

My feelings so far are… the Ukraine is OK. The BBC is rubbish and full of lies with the documentaries they make. Propaganda is a powerful tool.

Football is always football but I like and indeed love the colour and documenting it all. In Japan I had such amazing pictures of Argentinian and Mexican fans asleep on the Shinkansen. In Portugal – almost fashion like images of fans with amazing architecturally brilliant football stadiums behind them. Here, sadly – as of yet – I have no fans on the Metro trains. Any pictures of fans by the stadium would be a fashion shoot. Great cameras or not, you can only document what is in front of you. For the budding, enthusiastic football photographer – at the moment anyway – it’s just not happening.

We head to Donetsk. The England circus awaits.

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