Rugby Photography

A friend is a rugby coach for pontypool district. He is employed by the WRU (Welsh rugby union) to improve teenager’s rugby knowledge, understanding, skills, attitude and behaviour and is based at West Mon high school in the Gwent valley, South Wales.

We were at a family meal when, buzzing with excitement, he explained that his team, Pontypool district schools u16s, had made it through to the Dewar shield semi-final and were due to play Cardiff on Friday that week at Ystrad Mynach.

Due to his enthusiasm for the event we felt we had to attend to show our support for his achievements thus far.

I took my camera along with me and sat in the stand with the other spectators and took a few shots of my brother-in-law – ‘Coach’, and a few actions shots of the players during the game.

It as an epic and enthralling game, played on a 4G pitch through the howling wind and rain. This didn’t seem to phase Pontypool as they triumphed 17-13 over Cardiff district school.

Their prize was a game against Rhondda district schools, who had won the tournament the past 15 years, at none other that the home of Welsh Rugby, the Millennium Stadium – what an achievement!

I was fortunate enough that my off-the-cuff photos of the semi final were so well relieved that Coach invited me along as Pontypool’s official photographer for the final at the millennium stadium! The game was due to be played the following Wednesday afternoon and being between jobs at the time I was able to accept the offer and attend as requested.

Then the rush began, I met the team bus at the entrance of the millennium stadium, I took photos of the players and coaching staff stepping off the bus, walking up the famous entrance steps, in the changing room prior to kick off and on the pitch during the game.

I was overawed by the fact that I was given an access-all-areas pass to go wherever I wanted to get the photos that I needed. I roamed around the pitch, hugging the touchline as I went in search for the best action shots of the Pontypool players. I caught all the important parts including Pontypool’s 4 tries, the noise of the supporters was deafening even though the attendance was barely 5% of the stadium capacity.

​No team that scores 4 tries should end up as losers and that was no exception here and thanks to the hard work, tenacity, grit, determination, skill, endeavour and a bit of luck, Pontypool were champions after international referee Nigel Owens blew the final whistle.

Pontypool had never been so successful in this tournament and neither has one individual; my brother-in-law is the only man to have won the Dewar shield as a player and a coach – congratulations!

Thoughts and feedback from me:

Shutter speed; for the best action photos a fast shutter speed is great to capture that millisecond moment in time.

Low Light; again the grain has returned to many of my images, I really need to improve upon selecting the correct ISO, shutter speed and aperture balance for low light situations.

Lens selection; the zoom length on my lens ranges from 18 – 135mm so I wasn’t able to get a great shot when the play was at the other end of the pitch, but I moved to get a better angle. However, I will consider buying a longer zoom lens possibly upto 300mm so that I can get a better focus on long distance shots. I dream of the day I will be able to afford a red-ringed telephoto lens that the professionals use.

Compared to a wedding this was far easier because there is no real pressure to get awesome photos. There is no posing for photos, nothing is staged, it is all raw actions, capturing the facial expressions of players, the emotions of the coaching staff and the joys and dissatisfaction of the watching supporters. A great day, an awesome experience. Congratulations Pontypool. Thank You!

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