January 31, 2014

Warner's Salmon leap

Philip Brown
As a rule, photographers suddenly become much more focused when a batsman closes in on a century  © Phillip Brown
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If you're tired of reading about the Ashes then please look away now. I've had to sit through ten Ashes Test matches in the past six months so I've overdosed on this famous series. The five recent Tests in Australia were all very one-sided, which was a shock to all - even the Australian players I think. Australia won the series 5 - 0 and I don't think anyone at all predicted that. Okay, maybe Glenn McGrath.

It is difficult to stay concentrated while photographing three long sessions of cricket in a day, and I think that is even harder when the match or series is not a tight one. As I've said time and time again, you have to be incredibly patient to capture some worthwhile pictures.

As a rule, photographers suddenly become much more focused when a batsman closes in on a century. Some players take a century well within their stride - off comes the helmet, a muted acknowledgement to the dressing room and back to position to await the next delivery. The player should be respected for being this cool, but to the hungry snapper, this player is a massive disappointment. The over the top leaping and clearly emotional player is much preferred by my colleagues and myself.

Years ago (2002 in fact), England's Nasser Hussain approached his century at Lord's in the NatWest Series final against India. I gave the photographer sitting beside me the benefit of my vast experience and told him that Hussain would do 'nothing' if he reached three figures as I had seen him quite a few times before. Was I wrong? Yes I was.

Nasser gestured angrily to the Sky commentators high up in the media centre, he pointed to the number 3 on his back and appeared to go a bit crazy. It's quite ironic that a few years later he joined Sky and became one of their commentators. I bet they all laugh about that day now, or maybe not?

Anyway, back to the recent Ashes series. David Warner is an animated character. He first came to prominence in England after it was reported that he had attempted to punch Yorkshire's baby-faced talent, Joe Root, in a Birmingham pub. He missed some matches as a result of that indiscretion.

Warner approached his century at the Gabba in the first Test match and the 15 or so photographers working in the ground had to decide where they were going to capture the moment from.

As a batsman approaches his century, different thoughts can enter a photographer's brain. What if he celebrates at the wrong end and is facing the other way when he does his main celebration? What if some dopey fieldsman gets in the way? What if the batsman (or woman) jumps so high that he (she) goes out of the top of the frame? Stuff like that.

You are not in control of all of these things, although you can move to where a fieldsman is unlikely to get in the way. You can also change your camera so that you are shooting 'upright,' and therefore it is almost impossible for him (or her) to disappear out of the frame, and you can also cross your fingers for luck.

Warner scored his century and luckily he was running pretty much towards me, I had my camera shooting uprights and also had my fingers crossed. It worked. I was more than happy with a shot of Warner leaping salmon-like into the air. Admittedly, though, he looked more like a turbot than a salmon.

Anyway, just a few weeks later I was sweating on the boundary at the WACA ground in Perth (it got up to about 46 degrees) and again Mr Warner was approaching a century. All the photographers knew that this was a time to concentrate as we now all knew that this player was a 'leaper".

I stayed in a position in front of the dressing rooms mainly because the background was pretty good, I couldn't be asked to move, and I was pretty much on my own (no other photographers) in my position.

Warner scored the runs that confirmed his three figures (or 'ton') and set off down the pitch holding his bat out in front of him like a sword and yelling with delight, a bit like Mel Gibson in the over-rated Braveheart. I again had my camera in the 'upright' position and waited for the oh-so familiar leap. My camera kept Warner in focus and I captured another celebration moment that in my opinion was even better than the Brisbane one.

Many other photographers also caught the leap, but I was content with my version as there are no other players in the frame, so it was a clean photograph. I think the picture was improved with a crop that took out the KFC sign underneath the player.

I once worked as a cook at the franchise when it was named 'Kentucky Fried Chicken' and can claim that it was the hardest job that I have ever done in my life. Photographing cricket by comparison is a doddle. Unfortunately, although I spent two months in their employment, I am no closer today to knowing the eleven secret herbs and spices that the Colonel combined in his original chicken recipe, although I'm pretty sure one is salt.

Finally, can I apologise for my last shot selection as it wasn't the clearest bit of word ordering that I have ever done. Give me another chance please.

Specifications: Nikon D4 600mm lens 1/1600th sec f4.5 ISO 250

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

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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.

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