Taking photographs at major sporting events in glamorous locations is a bit of a pain but someone’s got to do it. Twickenham’s leading sports snapper Andrew Fosker of Seconds Left Images has the unenviable task of following the British & Irish Lions on their tour of Australia. Poor bloke. Andrew has taken time out from filing photographs of his ordeal to send dispatches for twickerati readers about the goings on down under.
We’re adding Andrew’s most recent postings at the top, so scroll down to see his previous dispatches
FINAL ENTRY – THE GRAND FINALE
Sorry for the delay to this final Lions 2013 entry; very busy final days in Sydney, the amazing series victory and 30 hours of travel took their toll on the blogging process…
So, on my third attempt at photographing a Lions’ series win I am ecstatic to have finally seen a little part of sporting history. It was a special day which involved four shoots starting at 8a.m and culminating in a match that engraves a group of players’ names into the “Wining Lions’ Ledger”. It also provides a lifetime of after dinner speaking ‘jobs’ for those players who have a good grasp of spoken English. This discounts a few players that come to mind but for others, it’s a lucrative sideline. My day finished at about 3a.m. after sending as many pictures as I could to the Sunday Times before being thrown out of the stadium and heading back into Sydney. An early start on Sunday to travel home meant very little sleep but when it’s the final journey it matters less.
I was very apprehensive on the day of the game but had various things to photograph during the day which kept me busy. We headed out to the ground at about 3pm, the Olympic park being a fair way out of the city and a pre-match event to attend for Lions Rugby Travel (ww.lionstour.com). I didn’t manage to photograph the Manics again as time ran out & I had to head into the stadium for a briefing and bib allocation. I had requested a roving, all access, bib for this final match and having not had one before was given one which was excellent as it gave me side access on the benches’ side and anywhere else I wished to go. It is all very political and there are always those who get a certain bibs who shouldn’t and vice-versa. All those working directly for UK or Australian papers were given one, plus major agencies and Lions / Wallaby official snappers.
The game started so well for the Lions and for me as I moved around to behind the goal as the Lions pressed, to be rewarded with Corbisiero’s try. It was a mucky shot with poor light and heads down but a little celebration by the scorer made it very usable. The rest you all know but it was still a nervy second half as Australia clawed their way back into the game until Halfpenny, North, Sexton and Roberts blew them away.
The end of the game was carnage; a rapid swapping of lenses and access to the pitch (with my special bib!) meant a frantic hour of celebration images mostly including other photographers getting in the frame which is unavoidable. After the Lions finally left the pitch (with 007!) I headed back to pick up my large lens (Canon 400mm f2.8 L) and my camera bag. The latter was missing and for about an hour I feared the worst but it turned out it had been moved, probably picked up by another photographer (as many have the same kit) and put down somewhere else.
A good set was sent out, missing a few key images, as I was blocked by that ridiculous Sky/Fox cameraman on a mobile bike/scooter thing for Sexton’s try (a few less than polite words were exchanged by several photographers) & I cocked up Robert’s myself but on the whole I was happy. It’s not worth beating yourself up about pictures missed as it’s gone. It can be frustrating but if you dwell on it you end up making more mistakes, rather than capturing what’s happening.
I was very happy also to be home and see my family for 24 hours before heading up to Trent Bridge for the Ashes. No rest for….
For those feeling jealous, I understand, however, I have no fixed work or income month on month and have had to generate this for 13 years with a highly transitional customer base where the contacts change or move frequently. I had a small amount of fixed shifts for the three tests but nothing else to assure three weeks’ income. I am however privileged doing what I do and do count my blessings.
So there you have it. And thanks for reading my ramblings!
[Editor’s note: And a massive thank you to Andrew for giving us his insights into his work and of course on this great Lions tour!]
WEEK 3 – SYDNEY
Final Week and I have been in Sydney for a couple of days while the Lions are in Noosa…. Good planning is an essential part of photo journalism!!
I love Sydney, it’s one of my favourite places in the World and it has definitely become a lot more sophisticated in the 16 years since I was here last. I’m only gauging this on the way the women dress and the expensive shops on show – not very empirical, I know. It’s also lovely and sunny >20 degrees C today, which is great considering it’s winter but still the locals huddle under patio heaters outside cafes & bars. We would be rejoicing in Twickenham; there would be men in inappropriate flip-flops, white flesh on show and disposable barbeques would be flying out of Tesco.
So, with no Lions in town I covered the (lucky & happy) James Horwill ‘appeal of the appeal’ press conference at lunch time, wired some pictures, which amazingly got some use (despite every agency being there) and then I spent the rest of the day hunting around for fans at Circular Quay for some location shots. However, this took ages as despite their plenitude it must have been shirt washing day. Eventually I managed to persuade some likely lads for a classic group with the Opera House in the background just to say ‘supporters in Sydney’, I also grabbed some others just around town. I ended up at the end of the Opera House pier watching the sun go down behind the Harbour Bridge I suddenly noticed excellent shadows on the OH wall behind me and started photographing the shadows and myself. This seemed to work well and I borrowed some German lady’s children to try some staged shadow shots.
I have walked miles in Sydney over the last couple of days which is probably a good thing as 3 weeks of massive cooked breakfasts may have taken their toll, although I’m not eating much during the day. Managed to take a little time to see the World Press Photo exhibition which is here at the State Library. It’s an annual press competition which I have deigned to enter in the past & the annual winners’ exhibition is always worth going to see. It is usually a free show at the Festival Hall on the South Bank in November each year.
Tomorrow the Lions return to Sydney, so will probably head to the airport to do the arrivals with all the focus on the end of Brian O’Driscoll’s legendary career as a tourist.
WEEK 2 (Part 2) – THE 2nd TEST
Well that was disappointing! The week didn’t end well in more ways than one.
Friday was a mammoth:
It started first thing trying to cover The Lions departing their hotel with supporters getting autographs. This was only moderately successful as although there were many fans outside the Grand Hyatt (which is rather grand in contrast to my friend’s ‘Quality Hotel’…) only one fan was collecting autographs, which barely ticks a box. It was also nearly scuppered by Lions’ security who tried to stop this happening, despite many players and staff being always more than willing. I am in danger of repeating myself but without the fans there is no tour. Why is it that security have to look so miserable? I feel that with a friendly smile and less negative starting points everyone would be happier. I don’t mean open access but 10 seconds, before getting on a coach to sign for one person is not an issue. Thirty fans doing the same is… it’s only common sense. All went well and I got a few frames & the supporter got his shirt signed.
I then had a classic moment, which included having to say to a taxi driver, ‘Follow that coach’. Almost my movie moment, as I tried to get to training at a very posh place called Scotch College in the Melbourne suburbs before the Lions. Arriving a few minutes ahead of the players I set up and photographed training which was an uninspiring few minutes access.
At that point I was going to shoot the press conference and head back into Melbourne to wire some pictures and get ready for the Gala Eve of Test dinner I was going to photograph. I jumped in a car with four other photographers and we decided to take a punt and head down to St. Kilda Beach where the Lions had previously been for some cold water recovery. It was a ‘stealth operation’ and paid dividends as at the beach where the Lions entered the water there were a female American football (LFL) team from Victoria. A dozen or so beautiful girls in bikinis in the water with the Lions – GOLD! Unique pictures, all very innocent but nice to get something different.
Despite it being public place and 100 plus people with smart phones taking pictures, we were far from welcome & took some serious abuse which I can’t post here but the pictures were great and mine were used variously online and in print in the Mirror and the Irish Independent. All positive stories about the Lions ignoring distractions. Positive PR!
Friday evening continued photographing an amazing Eve of Test, Gala dinner for 600+ and despite having heard most Andy Nicoll, Scott Quinnell, Joe Roth & Jerry Guscott’s ‘after dinner’ tales at previous events it was still excellent. Paul O’Connell & Warren Gatland arrived latterly for a Q&A, I was impressed by Paul’s insight and humility. A long but interesting 15 hour day. Missed talking to the family despite being busy.
After editing the previous evening’s pictures in the morning, the test match evening started with The Lions Den Supporters’ Village, at which the hosts, Lions Rugby Travel, had ‘guesstimated’ roughly 15 inclusive bottles of beer a head for the 3,500 invitees and then treated them to huge amounts of food, Jerry & Andy again and to cap it all an acoustic set from the Manic Street Preachers. Genius PR! After bagging this and a quick one to one with the charming Manics (their rider was a cup of coffee), it was my call to head over to the stadium for the snappers’ briefing, which again left me with a fixed end bib rather than a roving bib which would have given me all round access. It was a limiting factor a due to the tight nature of the match the side flexible positions yielded the best pictures.
The game itself was of great contrast to a week ago and not a gem for the uninitiated. From pitchside the hits felt huge and the defence was immense but the Lions didn’t look like crossing the try line and Halfpenny’s lead from the boot always looked fragile. Gutted! Sydney will be a huge; trying to raise their game again will a massive ask (I hate that terminology so apologies).
With the team (except captain) heading up to Noosa today (Sunday) I spoke to my lovely family, edited all morning & then staked out the Melbourne team hotel and managed to get a frame of poor Sam Warburton (one of the nicest guys in the game) leaving to go for his hospital scan. Two hours later on his return they drove straight into the underground car park which was disappointing but I suppose two exclusives was too much to ask. The grabbed shot of him leaving the hotel has already appeared on the Mail’s website and only then did I notice my embarrassing but unavoidable reflection in the car door!
Off to Sydney for the final leg tomorrow. Can’t wait for the 3rd test and also getting home, with the small distraction of the Ashes starting on Wednesday week! Let’s keep the faith!
Andrew Fosker – http://www.secondsleft.co.uk
WEEK 2 (Part 1) – MELBOURNE
It was with a slightly guilty feeling, after ‘papping’ Paul O’Connell with his tour ending broken arm at the airport, that I arrived in Melbourne for the build up to the 2nd Test. I haven’t been here since 1997 and could only remember staying in a dodgy hostel, doing the MCG Tour and going to the Melbourne Cup, other than that it was all a little vague.
It is actually a great city and everything is walkable. It’s a sport fan’s dream city, where great stadia are all located within a short stroll. AAMI Park Stadium, Rod Laver arena, The MCG & The Hisense Arena are in one part of the city and The Docklands Stadium (Another Etihad) half an hour across the city on foot. This is the location for the all important 2nd Test.
On Tuesday I spent the morning planning with Lions Rugby Travel (www.lionstour.com), trying to organise various shoots and then it was over to the Olympic Park to the AAMI stadium for the Melbourne Rebels game. It was compact stadium and nice to work in with excellent lighting which may not seem really important but to me it’s means lower iso, higher shutter speeds and less noise in my pictures. It turned out to be an easy win with Sean O’Brien, Manu Tuilagi & Ben Youngs impressing me, despite the latter nearly taking out the post in the action of scoring. The tempo and passion seemed muted when compared to the test but so it should. Had a lot of coverage in the Guardian online which was promising.
Wednesday afternoon was spent hunting down supporters for some Melbourne location stock which was harder than I had thought, as I think the excess of the previous night at the game had left fans reluctant to be out and about. Tracked a few Lions’ fans kitted out in shirts at the MCG and Flinders Street station and then gave up. Ended the evening watching the State of Origin II game in a pub with some other British & Australian media, trying to avoid being sucked into a $90 round. I’m not a great fan of Rugby League, as it all seems so one dimensional. I can see how fit, strong and skilful they are but the ‘game of wrigglers’ just doesn’t have enough variation for me.
Today I had the terrible hardship of photographing a large group of supporters spending the whole day (yes!) wine tasting at various Yarra Valley wineries. Although very tempting, I did abstain until the end of the trip, as I didn’t consider it very professional getting slaughtered while I’m supposed to be working. Pictures were duly edited and despite a rapidly worsening cold I struggled on and I took some time to add to this blog.
Friday’s plans include Lions’ training and the evening photographing a Gala Dinner with Warren Gatland in attendance but the main event is Saturday and I can’t wait! I hope it will all be sewn up at 2-0 .
Get shouting in Twickenham. ‘LIONS LIONS’
Forget Wimbledon, this is where it’s at!
WEEK 1 – BRISBANE
This is my third British & Lions’ Tour and up until yesterday I’ve only photographed the Test team winning once! Doubling that tally and back-to-back wins, albeit four years apart, has made it a privilege to be here.
I rarely get nervous about what I photograph anymore, whether it be a cover for a magazine or live international sport, which I’ve been lucky enough to do all around the world. Friday night (or Saturday morning in your case) was the exception, as it really mattered, not just in a photographic sense, that the Lions won. I would have settled for a 0-3 and a rubbish performance if I’m honest. When the clock moved towards the 80 minute mark & the Wallabies were awarded a second penalty in as many minutes, my mind went back to the 2nd test in South Africa in 2009 when Ronan O’Gara’s error of judgement left Morne Steyn with a mammoth kick to win the series, which he duly converted. For Kurtley Beale to miss with a slip and hand the game to the Lions was a twist of fate but I suppose that’s just sport. Watching a real time reply on TV yesterday I still felt the same nerves, despite knowing the result.
My work here in Australia over the three test weeks is varied, as my sponsor, Lions Rugby Travel (www.lionstour.com) have many thousands of clients and my job is to capture their events and generic fan and travel images to support their marketing. So far this had meant trips to a koala sanctuary, a giant shirt unveiling and a mammoth eve of test event with guests including Alan Quinlan, Ian Robertson, Joe Roff, Paul Wallace, Rory Underwood, Scott Quinnell, Daniel Herbert & Donal Lenihan. With a two hour free bar (for the clients I must add!), many wistful Lions’ rugby tales and plenty of banter it was a night to remember. This schedule will be repeated over the next couple of weeks.
I will also cover as many of the training and press events as possible but some of the access to these is so restricted that it is sometimes hardly worth it. Today (24th June) the Lions are granting 5 minutes vision (TV & photography) access to their Captain’s Run (pre-match training) in Melbourne which is lamentable but it seems to be the way. Rather than welcome the coverage, it is overly managed but, without the media coverage, there would be no tour. This was the huge issue in 2005 in New Zealand when Woodward & Campbell shrouded the tour in secrecy and paranoia. I was hoping this tour would be different – we’ll see.
Transfer to Melbourne today for Week 2. Flying is the biggest challenge for a photographer; trying to carry-on very expensive heavy equipment which can’t go in the hold is the constant quest. With clever bagging and ‘stealth check-in’ (no secrets revealed here) it is a headache but on the whole it seems to work. I managed to snap the poor injured and now out of the tour Paul O’Connell heading through airport on arrival.
Leaving my lovely family back in Twickenham is also a strain, although I doubt I’m going to get much sympathy here or from them! My wife and children are amazing and Skype and phone calls keep us close and compared seven weeks at the Rugby World Cup in 2011 this is a snip.
Lastly, in case this seems like one big jolly (and at about £7- £8 a pint due the awful exchange rate it can’t be) I finished working at midnight on Friday and 2a.m. after the match on Saturday. I also have no guaranteed income (this is how my business has functioned for 12 years) and as such I have to try and generate this through picture sales and shifts which is no longer easy. Despite this it’s an amazing job and I hope you don’t mind me sharing my thoughts here. Roll on the 2nd Test. Hope some of you get to the pub on Saturday morning to cheer the Lions in the second test!
And if the head honcho at twickerati HQ allows, I’ll try and provide an update later in week two.
Andrew Fosker is a Twickenham resident and professional sports photographer