I had the distinct honour of being asked to be an official photographer at the Guinness Six Nations... and I shot the whole thing on film!
One day I was scrolling through my Instagram DMs when I noticed a message from the official Six Nations account. I clicked on it to find a very nice message asking whether I might be up for coming along to shoot the England vs Italy match at Twickenham in London, all on film, and of course I said yes straight away!
So, it got to the night before the game and I set about packing up all of the gear I wanted to take with me for the shoot. I knew that the bulk of the photos I wanted to shoot would be taken on my Canon F-1, armed with my massive FD 300mm f/2.8, but I wanted to have a bit of variation with my cameras & lenses to cover all angles. Here was the list of kit I went with:
Pentax 67 x 2
- Takumar 105mm f2.4
- Takumar 135mm f4 macro
- FD 300mm f2.8L
- FD 55mm f1.2 SSC
- Tokina RMC 17mm f3.5
- Tele extender
Polaroid P 600
Mostly Kodak Portra 800, Lomography 800, CineStill 800T & Ilford Delta 3200 film
Sony A7R iii
- Sigma 28-70mm f2.8
- Sigma 70-200mm f2.8
- Tamron 35mm f2.8 macro
A bit overkill probably (definitely) but I wanted to make sure I had absolutely everything I needed for the day. I also made sure to have spare batteries for all the cameras - don't get caught short folks!
The following morning I left for Twickenham early to make the photographers' briefing at the stadium. Getting in was nice & easy (notwithstanding the shoulder pain from my incredibly heavy bags) and before I knew it I was inside Twickenham with my pitchside accreditation round my neck!
Shortly after the briefing I was shown to my spot at the side of the pitch & given a little stool to sit on during the game. (I learned quite early on in the game that standing up definitely wasn't allowed!) My name was written on the back of the advertising board in white chalk, so I knew exactly where to be, and made my way to my spot 15 minutes or so before kick off to get settled and get my gear all set up.
I attached a monopod to the bottom of the 300mm f/2.8 lens, as it's so heavy that trying to shoot it handheld for an extended period of time is just impossible! Once that was all hooked up to my Canon F-1 I laid out the other cameras either side of me and got comfortable on my little stool.
Then the game began. Well, not after a great opening presentation with army veterans unfurling a flag across the pitch & pyrotechnics going off, and the national anthem sung. But then the game began! I frantically changed cameras and lenses a lot during the game, trying my best to capture the most important moments in detail. The 300mm lens did indeed get the most use during the game, and it did a mighty fine job too. Partnered with the 2x tele extender for the first half it essentially gave me a 600mm lens when needed, which was ample enough focal length to get some nice close-ups of the players.
The two Pentax 67s didn't get as much use, mostly because I only had wider lenses for them, but the shots I did get were great and detailed for wide shots of the stadium. I also had a mega wide 17mm lens on a Canon T50 body, which basically acted as a super wide manual focus point & shoot. That was great as a one-off, but in the end the photos from that roll didn't get used very much as they all came out very similar to each other.
The game was an amazing spectacle. I love shooting live sports of all kinds, and particularly in such a massive stadium, the atmosphere was amazing. I have to admit, it was slightly nerve wracking doing such an important shoot entirely on film, as I had no idea how the images came out until Tuesday when I took the rolls to the lab... but it was an incredible experience and, luckily, the photos came out great!
In terms of camera settings, my priority was keeping the shutter speed nice & high to avoid any motion blur in the players or the ball, which meant choosing some nice high ISO film & low aperture lenses. I mostly shot 800 ISO colour film with the 300mm f/2.8 wide open or at f/4, and the shutter speed as high as that would allow - normally 1/500 or 1/1000. I think this seemed to be a winning combination as the photos came out just like I was after - so all in all, a great success!
After the game, I headed back into the photographer's room to copy off any digital photos I took, which weren't many, but enough that I knew I had some usable photos in case everything went pear shaped with the film. Then I packed up my stuff, walked back to my car and headed home. What a day. Thanks so much to Twickenham & the Six Nations for having me - it was honestly one of my favourite shoots I've ever done!