After a day walking around shopping centres in the delightful city of Belo Horizonte documenting all things football, but off the pitch, the evening was spent enjoying the relaxing Friday nightlife, I was left pondering that if I had based myself in Belo Horizonte then this World Cup experience would have been a better one.
BH has the feel to Madrid or Santiago in Chile or even Argentina. People don’t have anger here, have a more relaxed outlook on life , I don’t have the feeling that they are out to rob you . It was good to compare this lovely city with a local who lived in Paris who confirmed that local bar owners are happy for you to just sit and occupy their bar, even if you are not eating or drinking, where as in European cities, you would be made to feel uncomfortable and made to leave so that the owner could then make more money with a new customer sitting on your seat.
After a lovely night sleep in a massive double bed and a great widescreen TV and not forgetting a stinking hot shower I was good to go and was already feeling BH sick knowing people in Rio would be out for my dollar where as here you got a lot more for your money!
Thankfully FIFA put on transport for us media people to the stadium. Again another 3KM cordon off around the stadium which we thankfully drove through to the media centre entrance. We are eternally grateful for the way FIFA organise things.
I like the Estádio Mineirão, I got so many nice pictures when I first came here to cover Cruzerio in the Brazil League about 15 years ago.
As always, the first job of the day was to get the match tickets to enable us access onto the pitch.
Back home in England, if I am shooting Aston Villa, four hours before kick off I am still in bed!
Here is how it works : There are four categories for photographers
(1) Competing nations in said match plus the other two nations from the same group
(2) All Brazilians (host nation)
(3) Other countries in the World Cup
(4) Everyone else
Mostly then, unless England are playing, I am Category 3. So its vital to get a spot in the queue early to give myself a chance of a position I want and need.
There are huge detailed plans of the stadium in the media centre showing TV camera positions, numbered photographer positions, ENG camera positions etc.
“Don’t sit there mate, you will be blocked by the linesman”- “He never celebrates that side, go the other”
When taking harsh shadows in to consideration, or the need to get a certain player or the need to follow a certain team – this dictates where you sit.
Where as on other occasions opting for utterly random places sometimes ensures you get the best pictures!
Today I opt for seat 207 by the corner flag.
I go outside and capture the feel of the day.
I have spent a lot of my life covering Iran over the years. Ali Daei and Khodadad Azizi being my favourite players, in this team I only know Andranik Teymourian who used to play for Bolton once upon a time.
After encountering a cold environment in Sao Paulo the sun was back out shining in Belo Horizonte – though it is still winter so no need for the factor 4 or sun block. The sun is bright, but weak, Europe has the strength of the sun as in Brazil, Spring is on the horizon.
Days like today though I wished I did not have the technology I have and in fact was wishing for a manual 600mm lens and a Nikon F3HP like “back in the day” before this digital nonsense was released!
The heat, humidity constantly fooling the camera’s autofocus system making the first half a very frustrating encounter.
Investing in heaps of money to shoot a game of football on the other side of the world and the humid conditions have done me 1-0!
At half time I moved to a random empty spot to cover Argentina in the second half. Today there were about 100 photographers for 250 places, so it was easy to move around OK.
In the second half, after much fiddling around with focus points, speed of focus and other functions that I never use on my lovely Canon 1DX camera, I finally got my camera working.
I was good to go and spent the last 30 minutes doing what I should have done in the first half.
Just as I finally got into a good rhythm, the referee was thinking about blowing the whistle for full-time – Messi stole the show.
Being totally blocked for the goal itself, Messi ran straight towards me with arms out.Though expressionless, it was a nice image to get. My only gripe is that Messi normally shows more emotion – sadly not this time.
With some top, fast editing by Cath back in the UK – mu pictures going from Belo Horizonte to Buckinghamshire in seconds, we managed to get two UK front pages and all being well lots of publications elsewhere in the world.
I had a nice chat with the helpful representatives from Canon here in Brazil and it was not only just me who had experienced focussing issues. Sometimes being on the other side of the world in a seemingly sunny and humid glamorous location, a cold windy Wigan Athletic mostly causes less problems!