I, amongst many others, have been a long-time admirer of Paul’s photography. So I was delighted when he agreed for We Are SO Photo to pick his brains and allow us to display some of his fantastic images. Paul’s work can be seen at his website Pitchside Photography.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and Pitchside Photography.
I am based on the South Coast near Southampton with a lovely and understanding wife and 2 boys. Photography is very much a hobby that I enjoy alongside my full time job and family commitments. I set up the Pitchside Photo website a few years ago to display images taken at local football matches. Initially I attempted to take just action photographs but became a little bored of sitting in one place taking the same shots game after game and inspired by the likes of Stuart Clarke, David Bauckham and others I began to experiment with a variety of shots. My approach is to attempt to show the match from a fans point of view with details of the ground, fans, surroundings, etc interspersed with more traditional action shots. I also like to experiment with different angles to hopefully show something new to the viewers of my photos.
What made you get into photography and more specifically, football photography?
I’m not sure really. I have always loved looking at football photos and remember taking a small point and shoot camera to a few Reading games in the 80’s. I used to watch Reading frequently but about 5 years ago due to escalating cost and with a family to support I started watching a few local non league clubs instead. It felt much more like real football than the professional game and I loved it. I had a small digital compact camera and took a few snaps of the action. I set up a website to display my photos and got some good feedback and progressed from there.
What’s in your camera bag?
I use a Canon 7D DSLR with Canon 70-200 f2.8 and Canon 15-85 Lenses. I have just recently purchased an Olympus OM-D and use this with a selection of prime lenses for my non action shots.
If you could only use one lens, which one would it be?
Probably the 70-200 as it is so versatile and produces really lovely images however I would be lost without a wide angle lens as well
How important to you are the rules of photography?
Rules are meant to be broken but you need to new when to break them. I spend a lot of time viewing other photos, especially from professional sports photographers and working out why the pictures work (or not). I would certainly recommend newcomers to look at the work of the likes of Tom Jenkins at the Guardian
What do you feel is the most challenging thing about photographing sport?
Aside from the obvious such as poor floodlights in non league football I find the real challenge is attempting to show something that the viewer has not seen before. With so many photos widely available the impact can be diluted somewhat when you see the same type of picture over and over again. I hopefully try to provide a varied selection of photos that are of interest to the viewer.
From your experience, have your best shots come from perfect planning or accidents?
A little bit of both. A tend to do a bit of planning beforehand, especially if it is a new ground for me and the internet makes this so much easier. For example before my trip to Bath earlier in the season a quick check on google maps showed that there was a large hill overlooking the ground and I would be able to take a nice shot from there that would show the ground and across the city. I arrived early and went up there but felt I needed players on the pitch to make it work. After finding the right angle I then went back up at half time and took the picture. You can do all the planning you want however there will always be luck involved in getting good light, the right weather conditions, the desired action on the pitch to make a good photograph or, as my picture at Bath shows (see below), some local wildlife to get in the picture !
If you could choose one sporting event to photograph, what would it be and why?
I would imagine the Olympics would be the pinnacle for a sports photographer but I would love to shoot a big South American football match with thousands of crazy supporters. The opportunities for a photographer would be endless
What’s your personal favourite photo that you’ve taken and why?
I think I will choose that picture at Bath. The view across the city and the goats appearing to watch the match make it for me. It is a lovely old non-league ground as well.
If you could give just one piece of advice to beginners of photography, what would it be and why?
Practice. Get to know your camera and what it can and can’t do. Shoot as much as you can so when you see a great picture you know exactly how to capture it and don’t be afraid to try something different.
More of Paul’s work can be seen here.