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How to keep champagne off your camera

To capture a celebration scene, you have to be agile (and sometimes threatening)

Philip Brown
Philip Brown
Composite: scenes from the Middlesex v Yorkshire Championship match, September 2016

Philip Brown

The England cricket season came to an exciting finale last month. Three teams had a chance of lifting the County Championship trophy as the last matches came around, and it would have been a fairy tale for all the possible winners. Yorkshire were going for three titles in a row to give their ridiculously popular Aussie coach Jason Gillespie the perfect send-off as he planned a return down under. Somerset were attempting to win their first ever Championship after coming very close on a couple of occasions. Middlesex went into their final game at the top of the table hoping to win their first title in 23 years.
I decided weeks before the match between Middlesex and Yorkshire that I would cover the entire four days and attempt to do a behind-the-scenes at Lord's at the same time. It's obviously relatively easy for a photographer to sit in one spot with a 600-millimetre lens on a tripod, waiting for something interesting to happen that makes a good photograph. It's slightly harder to rush about trying to find different angles, using different lenses and also trying to get a few significant moments on the trusty 600.
I popped into Lord's on the Monday, the day before the contest began, to see if I could get a couple of shots. On Tuesday I walked along St John's Wood road, primed to see some MCC members lined up outside the famous Grace gates. No one was there - not a sausage. This "project" had got off to an inauspicious beginning. Not to worry, I thought, as I cracked on and moved inside looking for a better, more photogenic opportunity.
I went into the stands, the famous pavilion, TV trucks, the media centre, out on the pitch, always looking for a different shot. Early starts and late finishes were the order of the day for me.
The match was extremely exciting on the Thursday as Yorkshire reached 350 in the first innings to pick up a fourth batting point and stay in the race for the title. It became even more exciting on Friday afternoon as Middlesex set Yorkshire 240 runs off 240 balls to win the Championship. At 5.30pm, Toby Roland-Jones of Middlesex completed a hat-trick, wrapped up the game, and his team-mates duly chased him around the ground and piled on top of him.
Soon after, it was champagne time. I think it is such a waste of champagne to spray it over one another after a victory, but in the time-honoured fashion the Middlesex boys got their hands around the necks of the bottles and proceeded to soak anyone near them.
I have some experience photographing champagne moments and know the first rule is to be quite far back, so that you are not soaked yourself. The second thing is to try to convince the television cameraman that it is not in his interests (it is always a man - I'm not being sexist) to get in your way. This can be done in a friendly way or by threatening to physically assault him with an empty bottle of Veuve Clicquot after the presentation has concluded. To be honest, cricket cameramen are normally very fair and keep out of the way as much as they can. The corresponding shot of the Leicester football team winning the premiership was ridiculously bad, as ten people were between the celebrating team and the photographers. The third thing to probably do is to take your camera/lens off the autofocus setting, as flying champagne will really muck up the focus.
I've included a tiny selection from the week to show you some of the variety of shots that I captured. They include Steven Finn bowling; the members visitors' book in the pavilion; the screens in the TV truck; paint marks made on the ground by bowlers Tim Murtagh and Tim Bresnan; Roland-Jones under a pile after his hat-trick; and captain James Franklin lifting the trophy as champagne flies.
By the way, I did stay dry.
Nikon D4 cameras, various lenses, various shutter speeds

An Australian freelance cricket photographer based in England, Philip Brown has photographed over 200 Test matches around the world