Those of you who know me, and probably those who barely know me will be aware that other than photography, (and of course my wife), my main passion in life is football or more specifically the mighty Port Vale FC.
I actually celebrate 30 years as a supporter this year and during that time I have experienced the highs (promotion, wins in the Football League Trophy, in it’s many guises which includes back to back trips to Wembley). Let’s be honest it’s also included quite a few lows as well, a couple of relegations, administration (twice), protests and boycotts to shift the previous owners. I really wish that I had had the foresight to use my camera to document more of the highs, but I guess I was too busy enjoying the rollercoaster to even think about it.
I first considered taking a camera to Vale Park, when as one of the assignments that we were set on the college course I was doing, was to entitled the Spirit of the Place. I could think of nowhere else that I wanted to photograph more than my spiritual home and the “Wembley of the North”.
I had to think about the logistics of the project. I didn’t think I wanted to lug around my DSLR and I had serious doubts about whether I would be allowed into the ground with a DSLR and all the attendant equipment that goes with it, so I decided that I needed to use my compact camera (at that time a little Samsung 1050) which I could easily conceal and carry in my pocket. I eventually upgraded to a NIKON Coolpix L310, which had a better zoom and a sports mode, which I used to get some action shots. But for the purpose of the college project I used the Samsung.
At first I started by taking shots of the fabric of the stadium but I quickly realised that the spirit of Vale Park actually came from the people there, the fans, the staff and players. The timing of the project was such that it coincided with some tumultuous times at the club when fans were involved protests to remove an unpopular board and once they had gone and the club had entered administration the fan-base was mobilised to raise money to keep the club going and this provided me with the opportunity to try some street photography of sorts.
We also had some more happy events such as the installation and unveiling of the Roy Sproson, which was paid for by the supporters club but was stalled by prevarication of the old board. The statue pays tribute not only to Roy, who holds the club appearance record and served as player, coach and manager but also his bother Jesse and nephew Phil who also served the club with distinction.
Eventually last season I got around to taking my Coolpix into the stadium and I got some shots of a match, against Wycombe I think. The biggest problem was actually taking my attention away from supporting the team for long enough to anticipate the action that I wanted to take pictures of. I must admit that I cheated a little bit on this and put the camera in sports mode, which took photographs in bursts and allowed me to capture some of the action. I did end with some decent pictures and it has inspired me to maybe try some sports photography at a later date, though I think I might try a venue that would allow me to use my trusty D7000, possibly a Sunday League match or my local cricket or rugby club. Watch this space!
Having been through the photography section of one of the football magazines that I subscribe to and compare some of my pictures I think they stand up quite well.
(To find out more about Port Vale Football Club, see www.port-vale.co.uk)