June 7, 2012

County cricket

Unconventional backdrop, stand-out photo

Philip Brown
 © Philip Brown
Enlarge

In the 1990s I worked a lot for the Daily Telegraph newspaper and during the summer covered quite a lot of county cricket. I was sent to Edgbaston one Friday in September 1996 to get photographs from the last day of a county championship match between Warwickshire and Essex.

I'd been at Edgbaston on the previous weekend when England had defeated the touring Pakistan team easily in a Texaco trophy one-day match. I arrived just before the start of play and I took up a position on the city side of the ground and prepared for about three and a half hours of taking photographs.

This was a time when photographers had to drive their films back to the office, so I knew you had to get your photographs to the sports department by about 6.30pm. The Telegraph was in Canary Wharf in London, so I'd have to leave Birmingham around 3pm.

After sitting down I noticed that the sightscreen from the Texaco trophy match was still in place and showing a colourful ad with large stumps and a ball. I immediately thought this was a really interesting background for photographs. I also thought someone might be sent along to change the sightscreen as the batsmen would object to this as it was pretty much in their eyeline. I was amazed when the game continued with the sightscreen untouched.

I photographed batsmen in front of it and also bowlers bowling from that end of the ground. I was pretty confident that I had some really good photographs as I drove back to London.

The best photo was of Essex bowler Neil Williams, who played one Test match for England in 1990. The photo had to be cropped so that the edge of the sightscreen was not visible - so it was basically a massive ball, large stumps and Williams … oh, and three spectators.

It's quite incredible that photographers can now see the images that they have captured straightaway. Just a few years ago, I'd have to wait until the film was developed, dried, and sleeved before I could see whether I did indeed have a good photograph. Digital photography has truly transformed the industry, not totally positively either. More on that another time.

Back at Canary Wharf I had the films developed, found the best shots and had them scanned into the system before heading downstairs to the sports department. I was told that nothing was needed from the county match as the paper was running a preview of the next day's Natwest Trophy final and the page was completed.

I was really disappointed as the chaps in sport hadn't even looked at my pictures and they came out with the same old line: "Money is the same", meaning that you may think you've wasted your day but we'll still pay you, which was annoying.

Beaten, I walked around the corner to the picture desk that looked after the photographs on the news pages and also gave out boxes of film to all the photographers. I only popped around there as I needed more film.

I asked the picture editor Bob Bodman if he was desperate for pictures and he asked me what I had. After showing him a paper copy of the picture of Neil Williams bowling in front of the advertisement, he grabbed the photo and rushed off to the 'back bench'.

The next day my photo from Edgbaston was on the front page of the newspaper, but the guys in sport were right - the money was the same. I was pleased that I had managed to get my photo used, as I was pretty proud of my efforts that day.

Sadly Neil Williams passed away in 2006, aged just 43.

Specifications: Nikon F3 camera, 600mm, f4, 1/500th sec, Fuji 400 ASA film

RELATED LINKS

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

RSS Feeds: Philip Brown

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Philip Brown
An Australian freelance cricket photographer who has been based in England for over 20 years, Philip Brown has photographed over 150 Test matches and numerous one-day and T20 tournaments around the world. Possibly his proudest moment was winning a gold medal for barbecuing burgers and hot dogs at the Murrumbateman show.

All articles by this writer