It had been 2011 since I last covered a major snooker event or any such an event, that event was the World Snooker Championship. Back then, and I still have the web address in my favourites. I did not have the best photographic equipment nor the experience, skills and knowledge. Since 2011, I faced a lot of hardships, however I worked my butt off to get to the photographic level I strive to become. So when 2014 come a nockin, I knew full well the Masters in my City was coming up and this time I was ready…really ready.
The arena four hours before the doors opens for the first day of the tournament – Click to open
During my four days I put everything on the line, all my skills, knowledge and experience to hopefully walk away not only with some stunning shots which would be a testament to all the set-backs I have faced after the World Snooker, but to fill the void in my portfolio to show case my work stronger to catch the attention of sports photographic agencies.
Shaun Murphy using the rest to pot the red in the corner pocket – Click to open
Not just doing it for me:
With such an event like The Masters, you are very quickly aware that what you are about to cover will be huge. So one of the major things to do is very simple…stay calm, be alert, think first before anyone else and most importantly have fun.
However, covering the event was never easy for me at times. I faced lighting issues on few occasions and in one whole day I faced a high temperature, a broken zip on my camera bag which in the end had to be secured using with duck-tape until I got a new one the next day, and not eating for over nine hours. So a day as a sports photographer photographing such an event can be a little challenging, but you don’t let it beat you and you carry on producing your best. I got to meet and talk to the legends of the game, celebrities and current champions of the game, but never letting it faze me of what I came there to do, produce my best for me and for my dad. You see my Dad has an ‘inoperable brain tumor’ and as a fellow photographer, I always get him to critique my work the day after a game. So covering the Masters was not only a big deal for me, but a big deal for him to see me cover such an event, I can only hope I made him proud of me.
Masters Trophy – Click to open
Its all about lighting and timing:
So during the four days I covered the event I posted a number photographs on social media. One of the results was I got a lot of questions on what was my camera settings. It’s only till now that I can reveal what my settings were. Here’s the thing, we as sports photographer capture fast action, ok, for sports like snooker, pool, golf etc. you kind of have to through the rule book out. So usually if it was fast paced like football, rugby, athletics you would shoot above 1/1000 of a second and depending on the light, if not so great, you would ideally set it maximum 3200. Well since this was a slow sport to capture, I set my shutter speed around 1/320 to 1/500 and my ISO at all times was 2500, and yet the action still stays sharp at such a low shutter speed. Why, because the players never get off from the table once they hit the ball. So you focus point is always on their eyes, not the cue or balls. Keeping dead still with a monopod and in time breath in and out the same time they pull the cue back and forward before the hit the ball. When you know when the player is about to hit the ball, usually they grip the cue a lot firmer that is your signal to get ready to click. But only click the second after they hit the ball. It’s all about lighting and time.
If you get the lighting right you will produce a proper exposure, if you get the timing right you will not only get the player in sharp focus but also the ball. It’s a technique I would advise practicing before you cover an event. You don’t want to miss time it like I did once on Friday, and nearly made Stephen Maguire miss the pocket. Which resulted in the referee Michaela Tabb giving me a warning the day after the match, saying I was ” too dangerous “, but you live and learn. Although an hour after I was given a little warning the next match was refereed by the lovely lady herself so I was even more ‘aware’ of my timings and sweated a bit. After the match I asked her was I OK she said…..I was great, which gave me such a relief.
Michaela Tabb checking the referee’s score board – Click to open
Alexandra Palace – Click to open
Stephen Maguire trying to see if he can ‘clip’ the red in front of the pink – Click to open
BBC Announcer Rob Walker entertaining the crowd – Click to open
Mark Selby attempting to pot the black in the corner – Click to open
Stephen Maguire and Ronnie O’Sullivan watching closely on the cue ball – Click to open
Marco Fu not impressed with his performance – Click to open
Neil Robertson taking on the black – Click to open
Shaun Murphy sharing a joke with Mark Selby on the in correction of the score board – Click to open
Ronnie O’Sullivan being interviewed by the media on his Semi-Final win against Ricky Walden – Click to open
Referee Michaela Tabb hold two red balls – Click to open
Steve Davis – Click to open
Stephen Maguire taking on the red in the corner – Click to open
A full house Alexandra Palace arena – Click to open
Mark Selby joking with the scorer when there was an error displaying the incorrect score for Mark Selby – Click to open
Stephen Maguire not pleased with his safety play – Click to open
Ronnie O’Sullivan taking on the red in the corner – Click to open
Next stop…hopefully Sheffield to cover a little tournament called the World Snooker Championships.