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Rugby Through the Lens

Photography is undoubtedly the art of our time, even amongst today's frequent use of video. The 'Still' has a valued position in our lives. The subject and vision of the author make it unique and we can all do it !. From my perspective, It's great to be able to share two passions, Rugby and Photography . As age and injury impeded the former, it provided opportunity to increase time doing the latter, but the key word is 'share'.

It's nice to get a front row seat and 'behind the scenes' access, working closely with the players, it's a privilege, but It's the unpredictability that I find the best challenge to capture a good image. Read the game ,know the rules, try and get ahead .Then the hard bit...keep your eye on the ball, and the metering, focus, composition and lighting. The results though, can be rewarding !

Whilst I have some large telephoto lenses, I've found they impede the ability to capture atmosphere. They have their place, but I prefer to walk the perimeter with a Zoom lens on one camera and Wide angle on another, to cover all eventualities. I don't use my camera phone very much but I really should. It doesn't matter what camera kit you have or what it cost, just enjoy using it ! When someone asks me what equipment I use, I say "My eyes"

Having recently attended a seminar by a professional photographer who has abandoned all his 'conventional' kit in favour of the latest Apple phone camera devices .. his results were astounding and I will now be looking to use mine more.  Perhaps we all should ? as with the many readily accessible social media platforms, and club websites, alongside the fantastic quality of these devices we all carry in our pocket , Photo 'sharing' from a rugby match is easier than ever and I would actively encourage it... But don't forget the crowd !

The sharing and inclusivity of an event particularly local sport, is a memorable occasion for any number of reasons, so why not record images to remember it? .. But, What's in a photograph ? That unique 'moment' captured in perpetuity. It can never happen again.. It's an emotion, a memory locked in time, and thanks to technology we can revisit it at will, changing our viewing perspective from being a player, a parent , a friend , a spectator or even a TMO !

Volumes of academic tome's have never produced a finite answer to this question, but not unlike wine , sculpture or a work of fine art, It really doesn't matter .. The only valued opinion , Is yours.  Its wholly subjective, you decide !

I've been a Photographer since secondary school days, encouraged on the journey by many, and from the days of 35mm through to Digital DSLR (now tinged with a return to use atmospheric monochrome film) , the passion of sports photography continues, although as a lock forward I never worked out how to take pictures when actually playing.. maybe an easier task for a back or a ref !

There can be a magic to photography, Not just the jumble of colours , composition and subjects on the surface,  but the back story..  What were they thinking ?  Will we ever know ? Was it luck or Skill ?  What made this work?  What happened next ?, What was my relationship with that moment ?  As a viewer , you are presented with all these layers together. As a photographer we are capturing a 3-Dimensional event in   2-Dimensional pictorial space. But the viewer is the sole arbiter to define it as a good image or unwrap the layers, underneath as you see fit.

Remember 'The Kick'.. 2003 World Cup, Jonny Wilkinson. No explanation, passionate then ,passionate now. What we didn't know, and perhaps the most intriguing part was that many years later exercising his daemons and anxiety, having peaked at this winning moment .. Jonny waited for something , a change,  but it never came. Ive read and heard him talk directly of his punishing thoughts, fortunately he was able to make the hardest first step to wellbeing and the helping hands were there . Whilst the rest is history, the pressure to perform could not have been captured on film at a more finite moment.

I recently watched and listened to local resident and cricketing hero Fred Flintoff explaining his daemons with drink and his relationship with food [Bulimia],and whilst he's now dealing with those issues its commendable, he can speak out to signpost others. The interesting dimension i thought , was how watching old photographs stirred the wrong emotions to trigger his problem.

So if we were able to peel back that layer in the photograph, at that particular time, ( which we clearly couldn't) What would we have done? I'm sure at the very least the sporting community I know would all signpost and encourage remedial support. I do know from experience that Looseheadz were there to respond and support a player's welfare issue that I raised. So, whilst we need to protect those in difficulty first it's reassuring as a concerned 3rd party, that this worthwhile charity is there to help.

It's not just about removing the stigma of mental health it's about help, camaraderie and an acceptance that at some stage professional help is needed to support genuine goodwill. We all realise that it's not just about coping and managing, it's about good mental health all the time. So just another layer of emotion in a photograph.

We have skipped a whole range of issues to get here, If I share an image,  I'd like to think that the player, relative, spectator, can revisit the moment and enjoy it . Everyone can be a photographer, and every picture can tell a story as they say ! The photographs of your own 'kith and kin' playing at the Local club, the team shots, the 'try !'  are emotive because of our personal connection, and that's exactly how it should be. Without a connection, it's what they call in photographic competition parlance as 'a record shot'. But with a connection, it is history in its most interesting form or is it something more ?

There are so many moment's and photograph's captured in our own image banks, the passion and pride of Nations reinforced all the way to grassroots and school sport where it all began, and where even against the current Covid backdrop it still continues.

I've been fortunate to travel Nationally photographing Rugby fixtures , meeting some very interesting, players, coaches and characters on the way and just give a little back by sharing my photographs and as renowned photographer Ansel Adams once said "A photograph is usually looked at - seldom looked into "

I would encourage everyone, young and old to pick up those camera's get snapping and share those moment's, who knows what's in a picture !

Nick Jones

Wilmslow RUFC

Cheshire RFU