It will have been a decade at the oche for me traveling to Alexandra Palace otherwise known as ‘Ally Pally’ over the festive period in December though to the new year. For the PDC World Darts Championships that take place, where a field of 72 players from 24 countries this year will battle it out to be crowned World Darts Champion.
While working as a staff photographer for Action Images I somehow ended up with the roll to cover the tournament in its entirety. Which I assume from my fellow colleagues were ‘very very’ happy about! Where previous tournaments at Ally Pally and previously at Circus Tavern would have been spread out with different photographer coming in for few days at time.
Having never watched or had any interesting in the sport other than previously watching ‘Bullseye’ TV show in the either the late 80s early 90s on ITV as a kid. I didn’t know who any of the big players were, how the scoring worked with legs, sets or when “Bully’s Star Prize would come out!
From the period of 2008 – 2014 I cover the tournament in its entirety from every round and every throw of the dart be it majority sat in the press room eating chocolate biscuit or surfing the web ‘I mean editing my pictures to send out of course’ for Action Images. From 2015 to the present now as a freelancer I only cover about half the tournament spread over several days for the Press Association and previous for Backpage Images and also covered a day for PDC as there official photographer Laurence Lustig was unable to cover that day in 2016. I guess after covering 7 tournament I do deserve to get to some daylight in November or the lack of it before 4pm sunset is for a couple of days. Cover other sporting events such as the busy Christmas football fixtures list.
Looking back though my extensive archive of 8,000 images for this post from when I starting shooting darts in 2008 up the present. I’ve see not only my own person development in coverage, where I focused on the action in the early years before expanding my content to include more of the sporting personalities in attendance watching. From footballers, boxers, snooker players, actors and the odd royal to two. Heading into the fans village and showing the venue full of fans and of course the Ally Pally as building in all kinds on weather conditions.
Not forgetting the most important aspect of the tournament being the 3,500 people inside and there involvement with fans dressing up in fancy dress from the basis outfit all the up to full on costume themes. The songs about players the crowds sing for different matches to the banter between those who sit at the tables and those in the terrace sitting. Lastly the oche girls that escort the players to the oche during the walk on before each of the matches. More recently while working for the Press Association, William Hill is a client and therefore needs to be photographed as part of the brief we provide, I just can’t quite find the reason for my extensive coverage for the previous 7 years while working for Action Images other then for myself!
With all sporting events it’s also the TV broadcaster and the increase in viewership that as also risen and expanded over the years from Sky Sport coverage even creating it’s own channel to broadcast the event. For a sport that’s ‘field of play’ is only about 8ft long from player to dartboard and standing still, Sky Sport does have every possible camera position covered. From mounted camera overhead looking down, behind the players focus of the board, side on, looking back towards the players, swinging boom arms and roaming cameras in the crowds. For a short time SKY Sport also used 3D cameras which must have been great the TV viewer but not so great for us photographers with less space to work around. Considering we only have about 3 different official position to work from. To finally the prize money ever increasingly becoming larger and the internationally press coverage that follows with it.
This brings us up the present and this years tournament still continues to bring surprises with previous winners and finalist going out in the early rounds. Jamie Lewis who came from the qualifiers into the preliminary round all the way the semi final. From the current world dart champion Michael van Gerwen taking his semi final match all the way to end at 5-5 in sets and to 5-5 in legs to the sudden death leg to lose to Rob Cross that finished just after midnight. Who in his debut year in the PDC went on to defeat Phil Taylor ‘who would be retiring after this tournament after a 30 year career, 16 world titles to his name as well countless other titles wins’ in the final 7-2 to win his 1st title.
So this wraps up a decade of my professional sport photography career at the oche for me and my testimonial, perhaps the powers that be at the PDC for next years tournament I may get wide card entry to complete. If it could happen to Rob Cross on his debut year at this years World Darts Championship. It could quite possible be me in 2019! If not the case here’s to another decade at the Oche at Ally Pally, I would not have it any other way.