Cricket in the Caribbean July 6, 2012

Beach boy

Luck sometimes plays a huge part in photography. You can have lots of skill, knowledge and experience but sometimes you need elements that you cannot control to come together

© Philip Brown

Luck sometimes plays a huge part in photography. You can have lots of skill, knowledge and experience but sometimes you need elements that you cannot control to come together to help you capture a special photo.

In 2007 I decided to go to the Caribbean for the final fortnight of the very long cricket World Cup as a freelance photographer. Newspaper budgets had recently been squeezed and far less of them were likely to use photographs from a freelancer. I decided to travel in spite of this.

I covered just five one-day matches and as I'd accurately predicted beforehand it wasn't really a good idea to go financially. To put it simply I lost money.

The 2007 World Cup will probably be best remembered for two events. Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer died during the tournament and that was very sad. Bob was a really nice approachable man and I'd enjoyed photographing him a few months earlier when Pakistan played at Canterbury.

The second incident occurred on the island of St Lucia after members of the England team and also some back-room staff stayed out drinking one evening. "Freddie" Flintoff decided it was an appropriate time to teach himself how to ride a pedalo. Take it from me, if you've been drinking for 5 hours, it's dark and it's the wee hours of the morning, don't go near any precarious floating-on-the-top-of-the-water mode of transport. Or helicopters for that matter.

On the Saturday, April the 21st to be precise, I covered a match between West Indies and England at Bridgetown which happened to be Brian Lara's last appearance for his national team. England won a very tight match but neither West Indies nor England progressed to the semi-finals. Lara shook hands with the England players before walking around the entire ground shaking hands with fans. This was the end of an astonishing era. Lara was a phenomenal player and very good to photograph as he played some stunning shots. After this match concluded I faced a four-day wait for my next match.

There was very little to do between games photographically speaking. My hotel was all-inclusive so I could have spent all me time drinking vodka and swimming in the pool but I decided not to do this, well, not to do this all the time anyway. My base was on the west of the island and I was told by a lady working at reception that there was a walking tour of the area the next morning. It promised to be an interesting walk along the beautiful beach and there was a good chance some monkeys would be spotted. I took a camera with me.

We did indeed walk along a beach and we did see some monkeys. I even saw my first pair of crocs* on the lady who was taking the tour. Just after the successful monkey search I spied a beach through some palm trees where some cricket was being played and I left the group and headed for the sand. A father was throwing a tennis ball to his son and they had no problem with me taking photos as they continued their game.

One of the advantages of digital cameras is that you can see the shots that you have taken straight away. This was one time I was really pleased to have that feature. I was holding my camera down on the sand as I squatted low and shooting some pictures every time the boy played a shot. After an initial viewing of my screen I made sure the exposure was correct and with the shutter speed and focus set I continued to take shots from ground, sorry, make that sand level. The boy was batting in the shade of a large palm tree and became almost a silhouette as I exposed for the sea and the sky. One concern was that often a wave would suddenly come and wash over the makeshift pitch and I had to be very careful that my camera didn't get swamped by one of these waves. Seawater, sand and cameras certainly don't mix.

A handful of shots from this five-minute session were quite acceptable but one frame stood out as the best. For a start the boy, the ball and the stumps were all in frame. This was slightly difficult to achieve as I wasn't able to look through the camera to compose the shot as I clicked away. Four swimmers bobbed about in the water and I don't believe that they could've been positioned much better. Also the sun is catching the sails of a boat in the distance where in some of the photos the boat was in shadow and not as obvious. I also love the colours in the shot - the blue sky with a smattering of cloud and the absolutely amazing colours of the sea. Everything seemed to come together nicely, neatly, and luckily in this one photograph.

It could well be my favourite work photograph that I have ever taken. In that respect I look back fondly on the trip. You know, it's not all about money.

*crocs - lightweight rubber footwear (I now own a blue pair myself)

Specifications: EOS 1D MkII, 16-35mm lens at 21mm, f 6.3, 1/1600th

An Australian freelance cricket photographer based in England, Philip Brown has photographed over 150 Test matches around the world