Steve Phillips's blog: Photographing Wales v England Six Nations decider
Hi Welcome to my first ever blog. My name is Steve Phillips and I am group picture editor of South West Wales Media Ltd incorporating the South Wales Evening Post, Llanelli Star, Carmarthen Journal and Swansea Life magazine.
What better way than to start my first blog by describing what it was like to cover the recent Wales v England match at the Millennium Stadium. I am very lucky in that I am amongst a select few in Wales in having photographed over a hundred Wales international rugby matches in my 26 year career as a press photographer and picture editor.
I have had better days than that wonderful Saturday…….but not many! The intensity of the crowd, the determination on Wales' players faces when they lined up was incredible. There is always doubt about what is going to happen before a match and this game was no different. The last thing I wanted to see was England come into our living room and pinch the family silver. Ten minutes into the match I knew this was not going to happen. At half time I was genuinely confident we would win the championship. Our scrum was magnificent. Our defence holding firm and England where not getting the breaks. It was going to be our day.
That superb second half was akin to being in rugby paradise. To see the English player's heads drop, to hear the magnificent Wales supporters released of all doubt, roar and pump out Hymns and Arias. To photograph the fans sitting behind me leaping into the air with joy with clenched fists and faces withered with ecstasy.
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Then in the eerie light to chase the Wales players around the pitch highlighted by spotlights and photograph their celebrations. It does not get much better for a Welsh press photographer and rugby fan.
Amongst all this emotion I have to do my job. I should be detached and professional, unemotional. Ok if it's Wales v France or Argentina or even Scotland. But this is England. Nobody wants to lose to England, especially at home, especially when they are going for a grand slam. So yes I am emotional, I am not detached and I am a little unprofessional. But I get the job done – I don't miss any important pictures and I will not apologise for enjoying one of the greatest ever Wales victories just like the tens of thousands of other Wales fans in the stadium Anyway I even saw Shaun Edwards smile up in the stands towards the end of the match. You would probably expect me to say this but it is not as easy as it seems! It's a long day - a 5pm kick off means being in Cardiff for 1pm to make sure I can park near enough to the stadium not to give me a hernia when I'm carrying my kit to the stadium. I'm usually out on the pitch an hour before kick off to get some file shots of Wales players and management when the warm up and some pics of the crowd.
The match usually passes by in a blur but you have to concentrate the whole match or you may miss a shot. After the match I was editing and captioning pictures for 5 hours. I make sure I have pictures of every player even replacements, preferably decent action shots as well as static file pics. With all the celebration pictures that's about 350 shots which are used in the next edition of our papers and kept in our archive for future use. There was a web gallery to upload and a slideshow to produce. So all in all with travel factored in it's a good 12 hour day – when Wales lose it can be a bit of a slog. When they win and win as well as they did it's a delight.
For all you technically minded people I used a Nikon D3 with a 400mm f2.8 lens, a Nikon D2 with a 70-200mm f2.8 with a Nikon 17-35 f2.8 lens and SB900 flashgun. Oh and a monopod to save my arms dropping off when using the 400mm lens. The light when the roof is closed in the stadium means we shoot the action at 1600 ASA at 500sec and f2.8. I shot the match on the jpeg fine setting of the cameras.
I hope you enjoyed my first blog, maybe not as much as you enjoyed Wales win over England if you are Welsh! Look out for more soon.