March 2014 - travels, UWCL and BBL
March has become synonymous with Cyprus and Women’s Cyprus Cup - four four years there has been a two week trop to Larnaca to cover some of the best Women’s International football teams for various clients.
And sometimes the weather has been treating us for some early spring sunshine.
Same again this year - 12 days of training/games covered and players caught up with in Larnaca, Nicosia and Ayia Napa.
From Larnaca it was straight up to Scotland to cover a rare meeting of Finnish players in Scottish Premier League - as Teemu Pukki and Aleksei Eremenko Jr faced in Kilmarnock vs Celtic.
Often I’ve stayed at hotels close to the venue where I’ve worked - but never have I been able to see the pitch/court from my hotel room window…. before the trip to Kilmarnock that is.
With the weather warming up - there was also increasing amount of Birmingham City Ladies games/events to cover. Another day spent inside the St Andrew’s and taking portrait images of BCLFC players - before once again hopping on a plane and going AGAIN to Ljubljana to catch up with Sasu Salin!
Once again - directly from the airport to cover Women’s Champions League action, as BCLFC edged past Arsenal to reach the Semi-Finals of the competition! A truly memorable evening at St Andrew’s (even if it was cold).
Before the month was over little bit of traveling with high fever and hours of driving from Manchester to Glasgow and back home. But it was worth it to cover Volleyball EuroCup Final in Paris and BBL Trophy Final in Glasgow.
Once again - few more images to remind what March 2014 was like, looking through the lens.
Second month of the year - this month really had only one event to consider for images.
Having covered the rise of Finnish Basketball over the past years, the one BIG event in February of 2014 was the FIBA World Cup 2014 Wild Card announcement and World Cup draw.
A trip I probably will remember for a while - heading to Barcelona on the day of the Wild Card announcement, I had a change of planes in Zurich and as I checked Twitter and news. My timeline was full of 'Finland granted one of the Wild Cards for Spain2014'.
Funnily enough the other passengers in the plane looked at me funnily as I punched the air and had a big grin on my face on the flight to Barcelona. This meant busy few days in Spain for me - talking to the Finnish Head Coach and Chairman, and doing the video interviews for Finnish Media.
Also sitting at the Media Tribune with my camera and capturing the moment when 'Finland' was drawn into the same group with Team USA. As a photographer you should of course concentrate on your work and not let the emotions get to you - but after Finland had been drawn, I did allow myself a little pumping of fist - just something you can't help when following a team so closely for a long time.
But - just so this month would not be only a one event re-cap, there was the kit launch event for Birmingham City Ladies at St Andrew's to photograph. This also enjoyable for reasons of having been traveling with the team for few years, and getting to know some of the players. Then the jobs/games come also something 'personal' to you, as it is not for a client.. it is also for 'you'. Good times and pictures with Karen Carney and Kirsty Linnett at the stadium - and also with Mary Earps (who unfortunately left the club before the season properly started).
Still - couple of great events that will stay with me for a long time, and looking at the picture with 'FINLAND' drawn at the venue in Barcelona.. still gives me a chill down the spine. Little was I to know that this was just the start of something special with Susijengi over the summer of 2014!
Busy 2014 is almost behind us - and what better way to end it than looking back at what the year has had to offer.
So in the coming days, I will try to post a page per month from my travels (read WORK!) over the past 12 months and post some of the images that I think are worth remembering the year by.
We start from January and straight to work on the 2nd of January - and the location of years first visit was Poprad in Slovakia and Finnish Men’s Volleyball National team attempting to qualify to the World Championships later in the year.
Memories start from the drive from Poland to Slovakia and battling through some mountain roads during holiday season, with 1000’s of Polish people heading for ski-holidays.
And a hotel room where the bed was made for Hobbits and the dog in the neighbouring room barking every night.
The tournament went great from team Finland and in the end they celebrated the qualification to World Championships before the last ball was struck in the final game against the hosts on Sunday evening in Arena Poprad. Nice arena, with good lights - and what is important in tournaments, a shopping mall with restaurants next door!.
Honestly the year, photography and sports-wise - could not have gotten a better start, a Finnish team making its way to the World Championships… even at the time I think I mentioned that the coming 12 months would have a LOT to live up to, if this was how the year started.
Otherwise January offered the normal events that come around this time of the year, BBL Cup Final at the NIA, NBA London games at the O2, Birmingham City Ladies FC starting their pre-season training.. and the usual mix of covering English soccer and BBL basketball, so in my terms a month with very little traveling outside of UK.
So here are five images from the January 2014 - that show how the year started from photography point of view for me.
1 - Finnish National Volleyball team gather for a team picture to celebrate winning spot in World Cup 2014 !!
2 - Head Coach Tuomas Sammelvuo roars after Finland clinch the point needed to qualify for World Cup 2014.
3 - Kirsty Linnett at Birmingham City Ladies FC pre-season training in late January.
4 - Charles Smith and Drew Sullivan - two BBL legends, faced off yet in another Cup Final.
5 - Leicester Riders coach Rob Paternostro celebrates his teams BBL Cup 2014 - win in front of an almost sell-out NIA.
Great sport and faith in humanity restored !
As someone who travels a lot after work (and I know there are fellow photographers who judge me for this) - I see and experience a lot of good things, as well as my fair share of bad things and challenges.
Trip to Busto Arsizio in Italy gave me plenty of both - so here is a short recap of my 23 hours in Northern Italy.
Last minute look at game schedules pointed me to Finnish team LP Salon Viesti starting their FIRST EVER Champions League campaign in Pala Yamamay in Busto Arzisio in Italy. So a EuroCup basketball game in Antwerp was changed to a volleyball game in Italy. Arriving to Milan airport (with the flu) at 11am on Wednesday morning, I checked into the airport hotel and crashed to bed.
Then it was the usual last minute emails to potential clients about the game and after an hour of relaxing in the Sauna and by the pool (this gives more glorious view of my traveling life!) - it was time to head to town and find the venue. Short train ride to Busto Arsizio - to which I assumed to be the station named in the signs above the doors of the station (Busto Arsizio) - and I started to walk, in the rain, towards what I thought was the direction of the Arena
Two and half hours before the game started, so that should have been plenty of time, unfortunately yours truly managed to get lost.. well, not lost but just not finding the Arena. No worries, I might have been soaking wet - but still knew the way back to the train station, so just walk back there and get a Taxi... right?!?
WRONG!!! Arriving to the station, I see no taxis waiting outside the station - OK, just go inside and find a number for a taxi. Oh, lucky me - I was given TWO numbers to call. After about 15 minutes of trying, and no answer (theme of the day, from the room service at the hotel!).. I walked to the little cafe at the station to ask the owner to call me a taxi. As a local, he must get asked this often... he tries for 20 minutes.. still no answer.
By now the game is only 45 minutes away from starting - you can forgive me to start to get a little worried that I might not make it to this Arena in a city with no taxis and no map (and as you will find out - the map would have been little use!). So, there I am in the middle of Busto Arsizio train station soaking wet, and desperately mouthing 'Pala Yamamay... Yamamay... Yamamay...'
Frienly customer tries to be helpful and decides to speak to me in German..."Pala Yamamay, zwei minute.." This perks me up, two minute.. really!?! This is followed by everyone at the cafe joining in the discussion, in usually animated Italian style... in Italian (so I am left wondering what is said). Then I am taken to a group of teenagers and few of them speak English... "Pala Yamamay...??" they helpfully take out their smartphones and plot the route... walking time 2 DAYS 2 HOURS!! By now I am starting to wonder if this is even the right country!
But, just when things look bleak...my faith in the goodness of humanity is restored. A stranger walks next to me and says.. " I know where it is ... and I can take you there!"... after a quick conversation, I find out his name and that he is waiting for his girlfriend to come on a train and once she arrives they can take me to Pala Yamamay.
Five minutes later I am sitting in a car with Davide and his girlfriend (if I remember correctly, Gabriela) and speeding through the wet streets of town I had started not to like too much. OK - we did get lost, but in ten minutes I am walking in through the doors of Pala Yamamay!! Before leaving the car, Davide says that he might have some friends at the game who can help me after the game.. or just give him a call.
Now - without Davide's help.. I do not know how I would ever have made it to the game!! But.. I do still have to get back FROM the game.
After the game.. I get a lift with the Finnish team to their hotel, from where I can call a Taxi, so does this mean there are taxis in this town? Arriving to the hotel (nice hotel) around 11pm the reception calls a taxi for me. I get talking to a Lebanese doctor while waiting for my taxi.. which takes 35 minutes to arrive.. and in the end, probably isn't a taxi - but just someone with a fancy car who wants to make few extra Euros. The driver also looks like a big tough guy.. so I doubt there will be haggling of the price he will tell me once we get to my hotel :-)
Safely at the hotel around midnight... I order a Parma Ham, Rocket and Mozzarella salad to the room, edit few images and crash to bed for four hours of sleep before starting my journey back home.
OH - the game of Volleyball!!
Loved the game, and ALWAYS love coming to photograph this sport, there is so much emotion and so much action and different angles to cover it from. And the Italian fans... once I get too old to work as a photographer, I'll just travel to games of some of the teams I've photographed to experience this as a fan and despite Busto Arsizio not becoming my favourite city.. I will come here to see their volleyball team!!
Weekends are great?? Right?!
When the Mon-Fri 9to5 crowd chat excitedly on Friday about the weekend and time-off, for myself - the excitement is of a different kind, sports are waking up from the mid-week hibernation in the UK and it's time to get some serious work done!!
Here is a little re-cap of a quite 'normal' weekend - which just happens to be this weekend gone by.
Friday : Off to done some Head-Shots and Action stuff in a basketball game in Leeds - having trundled along the English roads for enough years, I know that to be sure to get to Leeds by 4pm, I better start driving at 10am (for those who don't know - this journey SHOULD take about 3 hours). My motto is that it's always better to be 2 hours early than 5 minutes late at a job.
Once again the M42 and M1 were true to their Friday form - and the drive from Worcester to Leeds took me SIX hours, but - I got there on time.
Set-up my lights, I had forgotten my backdrop stand - but but of gaffer-tape and clamps on the walls and all was good! Photograph the players, then the game.. and back down the motorways to get some sleep. Smooth driving most of the way - apart from SatNav directing me to a road that was closed (Thanks TomTom!!).
Arrive home around 1.45am - shower, bed !
Saturday : Alarm rings at 6.45am.. off to our local French bakery, baguette, serrano ham, pain au chocolat.. and then off to Loughborough University to cover the opening day of WBBL. Head shots..action shots and also a Men's BBL game to end the evening with.
Luckily for this day I had some help from a fellow photographer (Hvala !!) - long day at the University from around 9am until 9.30pm. And this is without a break in the games/head-shots. So my diet was mainly the baguette and serrano ham.. flushed down with coke and red bull. Who says you can't live healthy and have a busy work schedule ;-)
Back home and just make it there before midnight.. shower.. bed!
Sunday : Alarm once again at 6.45 - French bakery closed today, not good!! So just a quick bite to eat before heading out. Three WBBL games to cover and in between rushing to Birmingham City Ladies in Solihull (and once again help from a friend).
Set-up in Loughborough - yes, we had to change to different room/venue from Saturday :-) Go through the first team of head-shots and then down the M42 to Solihull. Cover the footy game there, edit game-gallery for the client and up the M42 to Loughborough to cover the last WBBL game of the weekend.
Studio gear nicely packed away - stuff into the car (it's still in the car today - Tuesday) and fight my way through Sunday traffic back home. Shower... bed...
Monday : Not going to wake-up early!! But once I do - it's time to look at about 5000 images on the computer. Time to get some serious image editing done, lots of head-shots, action shots.. now this is the part of Sports Photographers job that you don't see. We sit alone in our office/living room/bedroom and spend hours shifting through the images, archiving them, uploading them....
But !! It is a job I love, a job that will never make me rich in monetary values... but the people I meet, the games I cover.. it is something I love and am very fortunate to be able to call a 'job'.
During the weekend I spent about :
- 20 hours driving
- 18 hours sleeping (three nights)
- 24 hours photographing games
- 10 hours editing images (Monday)
My diet was :
- 1 baguette
- 8 slices of Serrano Ham
- 2 Pain Au Chocolat
- 3 'Grab Bags' of crisps
- 4 cans of Red Bull
- 6 litres of water
- 1 yoghurt
- 1 cheese burger
- 1 bowl of cereal
- 2 bottles of Coke
And that is all I ate from Friday afternoon to Sunday evening - yes, it is a healthy lifestyle !!!