May 9, 2012

The Ashes

An action shot in the English countryside

Hamish Blair
 © Hamish Blair/Getty Images
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Hi everyone,

Firstly, I wanted to welcome my good friend Philip [Brown] to this blog. It's great having him to be a part of it. If you don't already know his work, he's a fantastic photographer as you will see with his posts here. I've spent a lot of time shooting alongside him and his sense of humour and fun make an already enjoyable job even bThe photo I've chosen for this post is a shot of Adam Gilchrist from the opening match of Australia's 2005 Ashes tour of England against the Professional Cricketers Association Masters XI. The Ashes tour traditionally opens with a match at the incredibly picturesque Arundel Castle ground in southern England. It is set in the grounds of the castle and is a perfect place to start a tour of England as it is a great example of the beautiful cricket grounds that can be found all over the country.

Shooting a tour match as opposed to a Test, ODI or T20I is a little different. While there is still interest in the result, the focus isn't always on exact incidents and highlights. It can often be a good opportunity to try and take some different and sometimes a little more interesting photos.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, a lot of cricket is shot from a fairly straight position, at fine leg/long-off to a right-hand batsman. This photo is an example of an action shot from a different angle.

One thing to consider when deciding where to shoot from is what will be in the background. Cricket is different from most other sports in that most of the action takes place in one place of the ground, on the pitch. When I decide where to work from, I try to find as clean a background as possible. In a lot of stadiums, this is a bank of seats that will hopefully fill up with crowd. More often than not it is a compromise though. The angle I want to shoot from doesn't always have a good background. Stairwells, security guards in bright jackets and advertising signs are all part of modern cricket that, while necessary, aren't always welcome additions to the background of a photo.

The Arundel Castle ground is mostly surrounded by trees, spectators bring their own chairs and rugs and sit on grass banks running down to the ground with no advertising boards obscuring their view (or spoiling my background!). There is a small section square of the wicket with no trees, which gives way to a view of the English countryside, complete with rolling hills and fields. I sat directly opposite with this gap in my background. I liked it as it gave the photos a real feel of being in England, which for a photo from an opening match of a tour of England is great. All that was need was to wait for a nice piece of action in front of it.

With Gilchrist opening the batting in a T20 match, it wasn't long before he played a big shot and I got the photo I wanted. This photo was shot with a Canon 1D Mark II with a 500mm f4 lens. Due to this match being played in the evening, the light wasn't very bright. As such it was shot at 800 ISO at 1/640th of a second with the lens wide open at an aperture of f4. A wide open lens gives the lowest depth of field, meaning the background is a long way out of focus, which normally is a good thing in a photo as it makes the action stand out. With a little more light I would probably have closed the aperture a little to bring the unusual background a little more into focus. This wasn't possible, but I was still happy with the result.

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Hamish Blair is a Melbourne-based photographer for Getty Images

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Posted by Hershchoc on (June 8, 2012, 14:10 GMT)

Normally I would agree with CricketPissek and Sriram Jagath about the composition. However I love this shot. Sometimes breaking the "rules" actually makes the image more interesting.

In this case I like the impression generated that Gilly is moving forward, no hesitation in his mind or movement. It represents how Gilly approached his cricket career.

Not only is this a good shot, it is also a portrait of Gilly's cricket.

Posted by Veronica on (May 29, 2012, 15:15 GMT)

Wonderful to see you sharing your passion. Some amazing shots over the years, love the thought behind all of them. Great blog H.

Posted by Sriram Jagath on (May 14, 2012, 16:56 GMT)

Hi....great shot (pun intended)! But I gotta agree with CricketPissek's comment above - the composition is not that great. When the subject here is Gilly's awesome striking pose, the shot needs to capture the moment. People seeing this need to believe that he was indeed in his elements. Another thing I noticed is the over dependence on aperture for a low depth of field. Sometimes, it's important that the background is not too much out of focus - there needs to be the perfect mix, so that there is enough justice done to what complements the subject of the photo. Also, shortage of light can easily be compensated in the modern age of shooting great pictures. Overall though, I have to admit it's still a good shot - it takes a lot to get good shots like this, so the effort has to be lauded. Just my two cents, though...so don't get me wrong! :) Cheers, SJ

Posted by Sriram Jagath on (May 14, 2012, 16:55 GMT)

Hi....great shot (pun intended)! But I gotta agree with CricketPissek's comment above - the composition is not that great. When the subject here is Gilly's awesome striking pose, the shot needs to capture the moment. People seeing this need to believe that he was indeed in his elements. Another thing I noticed is the over dependence on aperture for a low depth of field. Sometimes, it's important that the background is not too much out of focus - there needs to be the perfect mix, so that there is enough justice done to what complements the subject of the photo. Also, shortage of light can easily be compensated in the modern age of shooting great pictures. Overall though, I have to admit it's still a good shot - it takes a lot to get good shots like this, so the effort has to be lauded. Just my two cents, though...so don't get me wrong! :) Cheers, SJ

Posted by Rahul Oak on (May 11, 2012, 16:36 GMT)

That's a stunner! Great capture!

Posted by Shahid on (May 10, 2012, 18:49 GMT)

Cheers Hamish, love your photographs. Your comment about sometimes having to compromise on the background and things popping up in the background that are best left out. Lets say you happen to catch a particularly nice photograph of the action but there is a glaring blob of whatever in the background that is ruining the picture. Have you ever considered using Photoshop to "adjust" the background without taking away from the action? There can be different levels to it, for example if you just blur out the background I wouldn't call it cheating, would you?

Posted by Prasanth on (May 9, 2012, 17:27 GMT)

Wow! If only there was a bit more light and would've got the background a bit more clearer. i'd pay through my nose if I could get to watch a match in surroundings like these.

Posted by GK Adam on (May 9, 2012, 10:35 GMT)

Really love the hills in the background! Great capture this!

Posted by CricketPissek on (May 9, 2012, 9:22 GMT)

What I like about this shot: The beautifully crisp overall look. Extremely sharp for an action shot. Great moment captured with Gilly looking where he hit it. Beautiful backdrop and nice rough use of 1/3s of crowd, hills, and sky.

What I don't like: The composition. Specifically where Gilly is in the frame. He is far too much to the left for my liking. Almost like he's about to hit the side of the frame. All that negative space on the right hand side feels wasted. Would've been a 100 times better if the negative space was 'in front' of him instead. That would give more sense of the distance the ball has travelled as well.

My humble opinion anyway :) Lovely capture, but falls short of being a great shot due to the subject's position in the frame.

Posted by Philip Brown on (May 9, 2012, 9:14 GMT)

Thanks very much for your kind welcoming words Hamish. It's very nice to have been invited to join you in Shot Selection. By the way, I'm really looking forward to the first Shot selection Xmas party here in the UK, I assume you can make it? (Dec 22)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hamish Blair
Hamish Blair is a Melbourne-based Australian photographer who works for Getty Images. He covered his first Test match in 1996 and has spent a good deal of his career since following the Australian cricket team around the world. He has photographed over 100 Tests in the 13 years he has been shooting cricket.

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