|The entrance sign at Paulton Rovers FC. So now we know where we are, we can start the story...|
We just want our labours to be loved.
|The structure photo. Players giving foreground interest.|
Paulton Rovers FC (1) 1 v 0 (0) Winchester City FC
Emirates FA Cup 1st Qualifying Round
Saturday 2nd September 2017
Colours: Claret / claret / white v Blue and black stripes / blue / blue
National Grid reference: ST6556
|Landscape for context. Tiny players. Spoil heap covered with trees...small gap top right!|
If you're going to create a satisfying album, you want to tell a story, so we tend to start a photo-story with a sign. It will literally set the scene by showing the viewer where we are that day. Is there a match board? A road sign pointing to the ground? A big board outside the entrance with club name and badge? There's one of the latter at Paulton Rovers, so that's the title of this week's story sorted.
We enter the ground. We need to set context for the match, so we take photos of the structures. The stands and terraces are part of the history of the club - there's emotion in these places. So many cheers and tears over the years, so many stories from matchdays past. Today is the latest chapter in the club's ongoing history. Empty or full of nervous, fingernail-chewing fans, the stands and terraces are our background for the day. Paulton Rovers' 25-year-old main stand is smart and colourful - painted in pink and claret - it makes a cheerful backdrop for the later action pictures. I make sure it appears often (backdrop is important for action photos).
|The action shot. Crunching tackle version.|
We'll return to the landscape to the east in more detail in due course...
Great action shots aren't easy to take. There's anticipation, timing, and luck involved. You have to anticipate that crunching tackle, that aerial battle from the goal kick - a split-second too early or too late, and the ball hasn't arrived yet, or it's already gone (it's always good to have the ball in the picture). You also want to have the players facing towards the camera - whoever views your pictures will want to see their grimacing faces. In the action shot above, it looks like Simba Mlambo is being fouled, but the ref thought otherwise and waved play on.
|The goal photo. Almost inevitably taken from the far end of the pitch. At least the scorer isn't hidden in this one.|
The trouble with goal photos is that the scorer is often obscured by another player, so it's a good idea to have a motor drive on your camera, taking several photos per second - at least in one of these pictures, the scorer may be visible.
Allied to The Goal shot is The Celebration! Taking many pictures of the goal celebration improves the story (but just choose the best shot for your story - don't fill the entire album with essentially the same moment - just because you took 17 pictures with the motor drive doesn't mean your audience want to see all of them). It's the most emotional part of the match. Are the players leaping all over each other? What are the fans in the background doing (answer: not much in the picture below - although the other photographer at the match is looking at his camera - I wonder if he caught the goal)?
|The goal celebrations. Always with the goal celebrations.|
Action shots and portraits can be taken at any game, and are essentially interchangeable. But what makes the match or the ground different? This is where a quirky or arty picture comes in. Is there an unusual sign in the ground? Or is there coloured tape wrapped around a goalpost? Zoom in and highlight the quirks. The arty shot featured here from Saturday is of a pair of speakers taken from inside the stand, taken at such an angle that Winchester's subs can be seen as well for extra interest.
There are other types of photo not featured here, such as the "crowd's eye view", where you might stand behind someone and take a picture of them watching the match. Pictures of the fans, floodlights, the carpet in the clubhouse with the club crest on it - it all adds to the story.
My photo-story of Paulton Rovers v Winchester City is partly here, but mostly on the HAH Facebook page.
|The full-length portrait with bonus blurry background landscape.|
The further west you travel, the more hills there are, the higher the chance of getting an elevated full-stadium view. So I checked an Ordnance Survey contoured map before setting off for Paulton, and sure enough, I found a lump overlooking the ground. Even better, there were public rights of way wending their way up there.
I made sure I arrived in Paulton early. I parked in the ample club car park and went for a walk. Ten minutes later, I was at the base of the lump. It's no ordinary hill - it's an old spoil heap from a neighbouring coal mine (the disused mine is no longer visible, as it apparently was a few years ago). It's a steep old lump, but I was determined to get my perfect photo! So I followed the path along the base, looking for a gap in the trees with a view of the football ground. It didn't happen, so there was only one thing to do, and that was to climb the spoil heap to the top. One major problem...it's surrounded by barbed wire, so no go.
So I walked round the base to the right, through a kissing gate and in to a field. I disturbed a woodpecker feeding on ants, but otherwise there was no other living creature up there. Still no whole-stadium view though as I reached the top of the field. At which point, I stopped dead in my tracks. In front of me was a herd of cows. Now, you might not be afraid of cows, but I most certainly am. A few years ago, I was walking along a footpath through a field full of cows when they suddenly took a dislike to me and my companions. The entire herd started running towards us, looking angry. We had no choice but to run as well. Either that or be trampled.
We reached the wall surrounding the field and just managed to climb over before the herd reached us. Cows? No thank you! As you can probably imagine, I'm very wary when out walking now, and if my route goes through a cow field, I'd rather turn back and retrace my steps. So, with one eye peeking warily behind me, I walked back down the hill, disturbing the woodpecker again.
|The quirky/arty shot. Big speaker! Small speaker!|
It was slippery - very slippery. I'd put one foot down on a tree root, but the other foot would slip back down as there was no real purchase. Eventually though, I made it to the top. Treading very carefully, avoiding the badger sett holes, I tiptoed across the top of the spoil heap. There was my friend the woodpecker again - oh, if only I had wings like you! Someone else had been up there having a bonfire recently, but they were long gone. I was on my own in a potentially dangerous place, but my urge to take the perfect photo drove me on.
Ten more steps, and there it was...Paulton Rovers below me with the players doing their pre-match warm-ups on the pitch. I could see most of the pitch and the near and far ends, but not the stand on the right, which was obscured by a tree. Three steps to my left and I'd be able to see it. Trouble was, the steps were down and would end at the top of a nearly-sheer drop of fifty feet or so. Was it time to turn back and admit defeat? Of course not! Perched precariously at the top of the cliff, I took the photo reproduced below. Was it worth it? You can decide for yourself.
|And here's the one I defied serious injury for. Was it worth it?|
Havant & Waterlooville v Merthyr Town;
Gosport Borough v Swindon Supermarine;
Cinderford Town v Basingstoke Town or Hartley Wintney;
Truro City v AFC Portchester.
Paulton Rovers will host Kidlington.
Ties to be played on Saturday 16th September.
Match reports can be found here (Paulton Rovers website) and here (Southern Daily Echo). I can't see any other photos elsewhere. So the HAH Facebook page will be the only place where the story of the day will be found (as soon as I have time to upload them).
If you're interested in football match photography, take a look at these sites to inspire you. They don't necessarily follow all the rules (rules are there to be broken, after all), but they're all exceptional at this lark:
This list is not exhaustive.
There are also a few local club-based photographers who are also very good. Take a look at Ray Routledge's photos on Sholing's website, for example.
HAH will be back in three weeks for an FA Vase tie featuring a Wessex League club. See you then.