Another trip to Belgium – this time for a double-header of International Friendlies. With the FIFA 2014 World Cup fast approaching, the mission to get as much library material as possible of the four teams I am photographing. Thursday took me to the Heysel Stadium. A dark, cold night welcomed me in Bruxelles. The Belgian photographers looking intensively at the internet in the media centre staring at live weather satellites showing buckets of rain over the capital city but predicting a dry 90 minutes. Upon entering the stadium I remembered how bad the lights were. Yes a photographer complaining – but in my defence, not two but three light sources resulted in a horrible yellow cast. For those reading in black and white, different types of light emit different colour casts. Household bulbs produce a yellow tint. Lovely lights like in the PSV Eindhoven stadium emit daylight balanced light. Here in Belgium, the towering floodlights looked a bit purple, the lights on the roof of the stand a mixture of yellow and more yellow. The Belgian photographers should go into weather forecasting, 10 mins before kick off and the torrential thankfully rain stopped. Two lady fans were surprised at the presence of Jose Mourinho in front of them. Time to snap Radamel Falcao García Zárate commonly known simply as Radamel Falcao. Falcao the pin up boy for Colombia and in my opinion one of the best strikers in the world, wearing the brand new Adidas kit was the focus of the day – however not forgetting all his team mates, subs and manager. And of course Belgium. I have done Belgium a few times over their FIFA World Cup campaign, but spectacularly had not got Eden Hazard. Belgium are everyone’s dark horses for the Brazil World Cup, if they don’t make it this time, great expectations are predicted for the Russia competition in 2018. Here in Europe, all the talk is Germany, Belgium, Spain etc – we forget the South Americans. Everyone automatically thinks of the greats like Argentina and Brazil but this time around Chile and Colombia will provide a stern opposition. Colombia shock the expectant Belgium crowd, but they could not complain. Colombia winning 2-0, with no booing or moaning, just compliments galore. Cynical British people would claim that the manager was deflecting the defeat but the Belgium manager did nothing but build up the Colombians as a great team. Sometimes its good to just say the opponents were better. Its always nice to hear cultural differences in opinions. Faced with a mass of editing and captioning in the back of my mind, I drove to the town of Hasselt. After a deep sleep, a four-hour edit, I had time to explore this unknown town to me. Another hidden gem that I did not know about. Thats the beauty of travel and exploration. A beautiful Indian meal with the most wonderful saag paneer filled my stomach for another nights much needed sleep. The next day saw a short drive to Genk. Not Gent, but Genk. I did Chelsea here a while back but there was so much fog it was not until I was 100 yards away that I actually saw the stadium. Here Japan took on the Netherlands. A 13.15 kick off so that the Japanese could watch back in Asia. Another new kit, Japan wearing a deep dark blue kit with pink illuminous stripes. I hated it at first but it grew on me. I have seen far worse! A few weeks ago, I attended a Canon workshop day in Manchester. I learnt a lot! The nice man from Adobe who was there (I forget his name now) giving me a personal one on one quick guide to editing football pictures. Now if I was to boast, I would boast about my colour printing skills. All my computer work is basically self-taught. In the fog, my new-found knowledge was put to great use as I rescued the shoot – contrasting the awfully flat pictures and adding a spot of saturation to them as well as adding new techniques like lens correction and reducing the chromatic aberration. It’s a shame no one wants black and white these days – the foggy conditions looked great in monotone! Of course the Japanese fans were as always great to shoot. Taking pictures of us photographers, the photographers mirrored their lenses on them.
I was once told by a photography teacher that being a photographer is hard work. For every hour spent in a helicopter you spent ten hours in a dark room. For 180 minutes of shooting plus a good twenty minutes prior and after, seven hours have passed and I have still not yet finished editing the 4,500 images I shot! Luckily the players all have numbers on the shirts, however I am still trying to marry up certain head shots of the Colombian subs who never made it onto the pitch.
Oh… it was Netherlands 2-2 Japan by the way.