If you are a sports fan the British summer has endless joy, Motor Racing at the The British Grand Prix, Tennis at Wimbledon , Golf at The Open, but above all the summer is Cricket. No greater joy is there than an Ashes Tour. Five gruelling matches between arguably the best teams in the world to decide who will carry off the Ashes trophy There is possibly no greater rivalry than that of the England and Australian cricket teams.
Sports photographers are specialists with an in-depth knowledge of the sports they cover which give them the edge in their field. The competition in sports photography is probably as great as the competitors themselves. Photographers will be able to tell you the best position to get the best photograph of the 100 meters sprint, the best position to get ’the’ picture of the Grand National and the best position to get the goal that counts and there will be great competition to get these positions. It is rare for a photographer to leave it to luck.
The field of cricket photography has changed greatly. In the 70’s cricket photography was monopolised by Test match grounds. In 1972 the grounds were opened by the Test and County Cricket Board to allow other photographers to work, with permits, around the grounds, during Test matches.
Photographers were told that there were specific positions from which you could work so as not to disturb the players or the paying spectators.
Dave Ashdown who worked for the Independent for twenty-five years as their chief sports photographer for many years took this fantastic picture of Michael Strauss diving to catch the ball during the 2005 Ashes Test match at Trent Bridge between England and Australia.
This photo by David Ashdown is among the back catalogue of work now available to the public to buy. This and many other great images from the archives of the Independent are now available from Fleets Streets Finest, where it is added to a collection of iconic images from British Newspapers from previous decades.
The 1970’s saw a change for the coverage of test match cricket. Until then the photography rights for test match grounds around the country were divided by two photo agencies Central Press Photos and arch rivals Sport and General. Central Press had the rights to the Oval in London and Trent Bridge in Nottingham and the Manchester Test Ground, Old Trafford. Sport and General had exclusive access to Lords and to Headingly, Leeds.
In 1972 The Test and County Cricket Board opened the grounds up to other photographers and among the new arrivals was Patrick Eager. The traditional tools of agencies like Central Press and Sport and General was a forty-eight-inch glass plate camera. The 48-inch referred to the length of the camera from glass ￼plate to the lens cap. The photographer worked from a fixed position in the upper tiers of the stands and shot straight down the wicket. Ex Royal Navy photographer Denis Oulds was the main operator of this camera for Central Press. It required a great deal of skill to get the timing right, the delay between pressing the shutter and the exposure on the glass plate camera required the photographer to anticipate the action far more than is necessary with modern equipment.
If Denis was photographing the wicket nearest to him, he would add a wooden wedge under the camera that tilted the camera the extra inch to allow him to photograph the nearest wicket. He would hope that the batsman would look over his shoulder as he swung for the ball and if he was working on the wicket at the other end then the wooden wedge was removed, and life became easier because the batsman was now facing you.
Then things changed. Patrick Eagar was working with completely different kit. It was flexible, manoeuvrable, and mobile. It was a 35mm camera with a telephoto lens.
The photographer was able to work around the perimeter of the ground, working from different angles and with different lenses. Its revolutionary approach gave the cricket coverage of the national press a new perspective.
The coverage of cricket changed forever, and many photographers went where Eagar had led and the days of the 48 inch were numbered.
Among those that followed was David Ashdown, Chief Sports Photographer for the Independent. His sports coverage was second to none. Among the back catalogue of work is this fantastic image of Andrew Strauss catching this ball from Adam Gilchrist in 2005 at Trent Bridge which was hailed as the Sports News Photo of the Year in 2005.
David, now retired considers this image to be among his best photos in his illustrious fifty year career, many of the photos are now available through Fleet Streets Finest.