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The Complexities of the World Cup

I arrived on Friday and was dead tired.  Missed my connection on Helsinki and the drive from the airport was over an hour so not much left to do in the day except situate.  Time change is always difficult, particularly after limited sleep on the airplane.  The next day it was off to the stadium to get my game credential and bib.  Long distance, hot weather and difficulty with getting back to the hotel (took 45 minutes to get a taxi).  Two matches yesterday, France beat Argentina, probably Messi’s last international match.  Uruguay beat Portugal, also probably the last international match for Ronaldo.

When I came to the stadium yesterday, they told me that I should arrive at 10 AM to get a good place in line.  In spite of falling asleep late, got up and headed to the stadium (a 10 min ride) ion the shuttle bus.  It took the driver 40 minutes to figure out how to get to the stadium.  Still made it early enough that I am eighth in line for my group which is unfortunately group 3.  That means all group 1 and 2 photographers for first.

The next problem;em was finding out that my pocket wizards needed to be registered.  A long process to resolve this and I have registration in process.  The biggest issue with remotes is the rain today which may mitigate against using remotes, we will see.

The Joys of Travel!!

Of to a great start, haha.  My 1 PM departure from Charlotte with a three hour layover in NY of course encountered a hiccup.  Thunderstorms in New York, takeoff two hours late.  ETA about 5 PM with a 5:40 PM departure for Helsinki.  The only good news is that my departure is in the same terminal as my arrival.  I think I will make it, will my luggage.  Ah the joys of air travel.  While we were waiting, Belgium beat England 1-0 so it appears that my second match (assuming I get credentialed) will be England v Colombia!  Excited about that.  All for now, wish me luck!

It’s Almost Time!!

World Cup preparations continue!  72 hours from now I will be on a flight to Helsinki on the way to Moscow.  As the third games for each team in the knockout round continue, the games for the round of 16 will be set.  That is the signal to be able to apply for credentials.  Tonight I applied for Russia v Spain.  Tomorrow, in a big game England and Belgium play for the winner of their group.  I will apply for the game that the second place team plays in.  Currently, they are absolutely tied and there has been conjecture that they both may try to be second to avoid playing Brazil….conspiracy theories everywhere!

Current equipment count (not inclusive):

3-Canon 1DX Mark II

2-Canon 1DX

Canon 200-400, f4; 70-200, f2.8; 24-70, f2.8; 14 f2.8

3-pocket wizards

Monopod x 2–extra for a 600 mm lens from CPS

Chargers, spare battery for cameras, spare AA batteries

Wire to hardwire remotes if close to seat

Multiple different connecting cords

Luggage count–3 suitcases and a backpack, very little of this is for clothes

 

Russia arrangements continue

Well I was worried about St Petersburg.  Waited too long to try to arrange train, but got a flight for the return.  All transport is done, tickets obtained, not trivial tasks.  Far more of a challenge then Brazil or Canada.  Twenty three days until departure, time to start putting the kit together.  Given travel and other issues, I will be going minimalist approach, in particular, no remotes.  Hate it, but mobility and compactness will be key.  Did order a new Think Tank Airport Security 3.0.  I have the original version which lacks some of the current features including a cable lock, sounds trivial, but it’s not.  This weekend will make final decisions on gear. Ordered a couple extra CFast cards today.

RUSSIA BOUND!!

Well the blog has been silent for a while but it is time to begin again.  The World Cup begins in a little over two weeks.  Can’t go for the whole time but will arrive on June 29 for the round of 16.  Hopefully shoot six matches including the finals.  So far there have been multiple challenges: credentials–done, visa–done, travel to and from Russia–done, hotel in Moscow, St Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod all are done.  Most transport between cities is done and most by train, although I will have to return to Moscow from St Petersburg by plane.  All for now…to be continued.

The Nigerian with one arm!

Did I get your attention?  My last post described the process by which I ended up on the pitch for the finals.  Of course nothing is ever simple.  There are of course many little issues that come up in the course of trying to get great pics.  Not the least of this are the other photographers.  By and large, the photography community is a very tight knit group where for the most part we look out for each other.  The number of photographers that came up to me prior to my getting a ticket for the pitch to express their concern was touching.  But there are a small group of photographers who make everyones life miserable.  They can really be put into a number of groups.

 

The first is the professional who believes that he/she (usually a he) is the only one there.  The fact that there are other there is irrelevant.  We each have a space that is about 2 x 2 feet and it is easy to encroach on our neighbors.  In Belo Horizonte I had another photographer come to sit next to me at the half.  He decided that I should move over away from him to give him more space.  Why, because he said so.  I spent the next half with his lens constantly in my way.  With more experience I would have called an official to get help.

 

The boards are close to the field.  So when you are shooting down the line, a poorly placed lens can obstruct your view.  Most photographers are sensitive.  They take off their sun shade (if possible) to provide less obstruction and they do not put there equipment up against the boards in a way that they will obstruct.  One bad apple ruins everything.  Most understand this and most listen if they don’t. Operative word, most.

 

Some photographers show up without professional equipment.  Both Canon and Nikon set up booths where all photographers can borrow equipment.  These folks are the most dangerous.  They borrow most of what they use, the usually do not know how to use it.  They take up space, they cause problems because of ignorance and they often simply do not care.  At one match I had a photographer to my right repeatedly chastising the guy on his other side who he had decided was not a professional and was doing everything wrong…..ouch!

 

Now to the Nigerian.  When I showed up on the pitch for the finals there was a slight man on my right side.  I usually introduce myself to the photogs on either side of me and he told me that he was from Nigeria.  During the match, he repeatedly left his equipment in a position where it interfered with the line of sight for myself and the guy to my left.  I repeatedly asked him, initially nicely to be more careful and explained proper positioning to him.  I wondered after a while if he understood me but ultimately was certain that he did.  As this went on, I looked over and realized that he had a completely non-functional artificial right arm.  This didn’t affect his ability to shoot, but it was an additional thing that made the process more bizarre.  Now I was feeling sorry for him as he was doing things that made it impossible to get certain shots.  How do you perform a two handed process with only one.  When the match was over, he was very polite, nice and wished me well.  A bizarre event on a great day.

Gooooooal!!!!!

Well the finals of the World Cup took place yesterday.  Unlike my experience to this point, things did not start off very smoothly.  Every credential I had applied for was approved.  But not so this time.  There are always three possibilities, “approved, not approved or rejected.”  “Not approved” means that you can get on a waiting list.  Although my parking pass was approved, my credential for the pitch (field) was “not approved.”  Understanding how this would be handled was very confusing so I went to the media center early the day before the finals.  After much discussion the waiting list would be constructed at 4 PM that day.  I left but had sent an e-mail to one of the FIFA guys.  Parenthetically, they were all nice and reasonable.  I had planned to shoot beach soccer that day and went to the Copacabana.  Thirty minutes after arriving I got an e-mail, “come now.”  Picked everything up, headed to the car and then, “don’t come now, wait until 4 PM.”  Oy!  We were already far enough along that we piled in the car and headed to our favorite lunch buffet near Maracana.  Lunch complete I headed to the media center only to find out that a line for the waiting list had been constructed and there were 40+ people ahead of me.  That good news lasted until the FIFA guy came out and said that they would decide priority based on where you were from and who you worked for and not where you were in the line.  Obviously, a photographer from the country of the finalists had top priority and the 50th photographer from a random country would be low on the totem pole.  They told us that we would likely all be accommodated in the tribune, an area at the top of the stadium that we could shoot from.  Distance is a huge issue from there so I prepared by securing a 600 mm lens from Canon Professional Services.

 

The next morning, headed to the media center, not really sure what to expect.  Arrive at 9:30 and find out that they would not hand out tickets until 2:45 one hour and fifteen minutes before the match.  So to use some time, I went out and shot fans and security around the stadium.  The security compared to any prior matches was increased, they were everywhere:

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I think the security presence actually affected the number of fans that were around, because there were few when I thought there would be many.  We all assembled at the ticket counter to wait for them to give us the info from the waiting list.  First they would announce the few people who would get pitch spots opened when some photographers actually did not show up.  I knew that I didn’t have any chance so I just wanted it to be over with.  They were going through the list, seemed like it was nearing the end….Limentani, Steven!!!  Holy Shit!!  That’s me, after doing thirteen double takes, pinching myself 25 times and almost tearing up, I was at the counter getting my ticket for the finals of the world cup.  I was on the sideline about 40 yards out, not ideal, but on the pitch just the same.

 

Atmosphere…electric, fans decked out in there ultimate fan attire.  It actually becomes a game for them to see who can get their picture taken the most.  They approach this in many ways.   Some examples below:

Argentina fans

 

 

 

 

 

Argentina fans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the nice things about having been at 15 matches is that you develop relationships with the other photographers.  I know that there were at least a dozen there who were cheering for me to get a good credential.  I had one guy from Italy tell me that he would give me a picture of the winner with the world cup since he knew that I wouldn’t get it from the position up above.  Below, a shot of myself with another photographer from Atlanta who has been shooting world cups for years.  He was at one time a FIFA photographer.  PS, he is two years younger then me!!

ME

So there I was, on the pitch.  Rushing to get things in order.  As i have described previously, many teams play it safe when a lot is at stake.  This makes for a boring game.  Not at this match, both teams were going for it.  Germany had the edge in possession, but Argentina had the edge in scoring chances.  Given their previous play, where Germany was dominant and Argentina squeaked by, I viewed Argentina as a team of destiny and figured that they would be the winner.  90 minutes into play the game was 0-0 and we went to two 15 minute periods of overtime.  I was already wondering which end they would have penalty kicks at and whether or not I was well positioned.  And then it happened, gooooooooooooal GERMANY in the 113th minute and my positioning to shoot it was perfect.  My favorite spots would not have been as good.

Mario Gotze

 

 

 

 

Mario Gotze

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mario Gotze

It would have been hard to be in a better position.  Almost 4000 shots during this game resulting in almost 400 keepers.  Much more to tell you about the day and the game.  But that’s all for now.