Pool & Darts

December 17, 2012  •  Leave a Comment
13.12.2012 London, England. Team Europe raise the trophy after winning the Mosconi Cup between Team Europe and Team America from York Hall.  Not to be used without permission2012 Pool Mosconi Cup Europe v America Dec 13th

All Weekend and No Football Makes David A Dull Boy

I've had a weekend off the usual grind of covering football games, and instead found myself pointing my cameras at entirely different sport.  It would be customary this time of year to be fighting back a mild case of frostbite fingers, such is life spent beside an English football pitch in December, but for one weekend only I have enjoyed the luxury of working indoors, in the warm, covering pool and darts.  Yes, thats pool like snooker, and darts like war on a corkboard invented by drunks.

 
It all started on Friday when I sent myself to cover the Mosconi Cup, the premier event in the burgeoning world of professional pool.  Some will say its the Ryder Cup of cue sports,in that a team of US players are pitted against an outfit of Europeans, and I will say the whole event was a lot more interesting than I had expected.
 
Having not covered anything like this previously I chatted with another photographer there - a lovely gent and seasoned veteran of the pool circuit, JP Parmentier.  JP clearly has this gig sewn up and covers the game as it tours the world in various competitions.  I decided immediately he was the man from whom I needed some advice.  He was happy to share his practical tips on getting the best coverage, and I was happy to listen.
 
Photographically this was a tricky job.  There is very little room near the table since I had to manoeuvre around the TV cameras whilst trying not to block the view for the audience.  Three sides of the table area were wrapped in nasty chrome hoarding, thus spoiling a lot of the backgrounds. The audience is lit too so the fall-off of light wasn't particularly pleasing.
13.12.2012 London, England. Action at the table during the Mosconi Cup XIX between Team Europe and Team America from York Hall.  Not to be used without permission2012 Pool Mosconi Cup Europe v America Dec 13th
I went up high into the stands but lost the drama at the table and this only proved useful for wides of the venue and some abstract stuff (basically mucking about).  Instead I spent a lot of time low to the table, on a telephoto lens, trying to capture players' eyes in deep concentration. Since it is very quiet when they're taking a shot, silent mode on the shutter is essential and you absolutely cannot hammer the motordrive.  Celebration shots were difficult to achieve since the players' movements were unpredictable in a small space; if I was near the table and they turned to celebrate to the crowd the shot would be lost.
13.12.2012 London, England. World Champion Nicky Van Den Berg jumps the cue ball during the Mosconi Cup XIX between Team Europe and Team America from York Hall.  Not to be used without permission2012 Pool Mosconi Cup Europe v America Dec 13th
This was the last night of four consecutive events, culminating in a trophy award at the end (Team Europe won for the third time in a row). It was around five hours of competition, and since the audience were completely wasted after two the noise in there was crazy at times.  I really enjoyed the challenge of capturing a new game and its nice to see the sport of pool in good shape.
 
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14.12.2012 London, England. Action during the first round of the Ladbrokes World Darts Championships from Alexandra Palace.  Not to be used without permission2012 World Darts Championships Alexandra Palace Dec 14th

And so onto Friday, where I attended the opening round of the PDC World Darts Championships at Alexandra Palace, London.  This is an immense venue accommodating over 3,000 darts revellers who spend five hours doing this and generally not watching the darts.  Its a brilliantly boisterous atmosphere and I'm certain that getting carried away with it all is included in the ticket price, or simply available at the bar by the pitcher-full.

 
As this was the opening round of two weeks' of competition there wasn't much by way of sporting tension to report on, but again it was nice to be working indoors and trying something new (basically more mucking about). I was concerned going into this job that there's only so many images you can get of a man throwing a sharp thing at a board; however you look at it, there's a risk it could simply make for dull pictures.  In my prep beforehand I had not found much inspiration in existing darts photography, which compounded my fears.
 
Once on site a media handler took me round to point out where photographers could shoot from and what we weren't allowed to do.  I was confused by a bizarre rule about prohibiting photography from in front of the stage due to camera shutter noise distracting players - something that to me did not appear to pose a genuine problem in a cavernous space housing 3,000 drinkers in full voice and a 10K PA system booming this every five minutes, but then a rule is a rule if you want to keep your job.
 
Once up and running I got the basic frames off such as players at the oche and tight frames of the dart board.  I moved around to utilise all the differing positions but settled behind the TV cameras near to the stage, picking off a player celebration here and there.  The rest of the time I played with different ideas, with different degrees of success, and really not a lot to shout about.  One thing is for sure - if all else fails, punters dressed like the Stay Puft man will always make a picture. 
14.12.2012 London, England. Crowd enjoying the action during the first round of the Ladbrokes World Darts Championships from Alexandra Palace.  Not to be used without permission2012 World Darts Championships Alexandra Palace Dec 14th
I will certainly be back there before the New Year final and i'm sure the action will pick up as the competition progresses.  Up the darts!  OI! OI! OI!

 


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