In a football season where predominantly there have been no fans in attendance apart from a few games when it was possible but at much reduced amount. The season has been played behind close doors which has been an interesting experience having important element missing from the game.
One advantage that has come about is the ability to place remote cameras in positions that would not normally be practical or possible at football grounds. During the course of this season I have covered 11 Charlton Athletic games at The Valley in South London for the Press Association. As we covers all their home and away fixtures for the club match-day programs & online feeds and fulfil any requirements they need.
Traditionally remote cameras are normally place behind the goal nets but with an empty stadium the possibilities were endless. Over the course of 11 home games I’ve placed cameras in about 17 different positions around the stadium. Sometimes running anything from one camera up to 3 remote cameras at any given time. Using a combination of the PocketWizard Plus III, Manfrotto magic arm’s and 3 Legged Thing tripod placed around the ground.
A few of these positions I’ve have needed to get permission from the club to gain access such as the TV gantry positions in the East stand and in the Jimmy Seed Stand. The latter being one I needed to be escorted by the grounds safety officer, due to climbing up ladder and the low head head walking towards the placement of the remote camera above the goal. With the help from the press officer Olly Groome, who I’ve worked with for the past five seasons this has not been an issue to arrange considering I’m working on behalf of the club.
In a football season that has been very restrictive with the amount of COVID protocols that have been put in place. Where photographers are allowed to sit pitch-side or in the stands to avoid the red zone and keeping social distancing among other photographers. Games being played behind closed doors losing part of the atmosphere that the fans bring to the experience that feeds the players. One of the highlights is that we have been able to cover games in photo positions where normally you be in a supporter seat or in a gangway.
From these images that you have seen from Charlton Athletic ground at the Valley. I have put together a series of images during matches that potentially next season with fans returning in large numbers I will not have the opportunity to do again. There are a few positions such as TV gantry positions where I will fix remote cameras again and be able to show the difference with and without the fans. Once the stadium is full again as comparison during Covid and afterwards.
Finally if you’re interested here are a few behind the scenes images of where & how I placed the remotes cameras inside the Valley ground.
Photographer Steven Paston regales us with tales from his latest overseas trip.
“My latest European adventure saw me travel to Romania, this time to cover FC Astra v Celtic in the Europa League. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, I really enjoy visiting places that I would not normal travel to. However, this trip began with a 4am wake-up call, and a very cold drive to Gatwick airport!”
Here is link to a short video I made of my trip with my GoPro camera Bucharest 24hrs
“There are some advantages to taking early flights though, including a lack of traffic on the drive to the airport, and much shorter security queues waiting for hand luggage to be x-rayed. Every now and again on these trips my bags are selected for a secondary inspection, usually because they contain a 1DX, 400mm, laptop and a whole host of cables, hard drives, portable USB, and camera batteries! The main reason for this is that I don’t fully trust any airline not to lose my hold baggage en route…”
“On this trip I flew into Bucharest and collected my hire car as the game was taking place around 60 miles away to in Giurgiu, close to the border with Bulgaria. Luckily for me I was given a new mark 7 Volkswagen Golf to drive, which is exactly the same as the car I drive back home, so I didn’t have a repeat of an issue I have a few years ago, when I ended up calling a colleague back home to find out how to put the car into reverse!”
“Finally after getting though Bucharest’s version of rush hour traffic I had a simple drive down south. On arrival at the stadium in Giurgiu the weather had closed in, there was a thick cloud of fog covering the entire pitch. Having collected my accreditation I headed down to pitch side to capture a few early pictures, just on the off chance that the match was postponed. You couldn’t see from one end of the pitch to the other, but the referee was happy and the game went ahead. In conditions like these you already know that the chances of shooting great action photos are fairly remote, however I tried to make the most of the opportunity to shoot something a little bit different.”
“With the stadium wi-fi quite patchy, I resorted to using 3G on my dongle, and fortunately this enabled me to send directly from the back of the camera for Celtic’s goal, and for the disallowed goal that followed. Throughout the match Celtic’s travelling supporters provided a great backdrop with singing, chanting and even climbing up the wire fences.”
“With the match ending 1-1, it was time to pack up and drive back to my hotel in Bucharest, and it seemed as though the weather was following me. The whole return journey was made in thick fog, and I could only see about a car length in front of me at any given time. There were varying levels of street lighting, large pot holes and bends that came out of nowhere, but I managed to get back in one piece, including the car which may surprise some of my colleagues!”
“My next trip takes me to Germany for Vfl Wolfsburg v Everton, so I will need to watch my speed on the Autobahn!”
Photographer Steven Paston took a midweek trip to Serbia for some Thursday night Europa League action.
“It’s Europa League week and I’ve been assigned to cover FK Partizan v Tottenham Hotspur, which is taking place in Belgrade, Serbia. One of the joys of my job is that I get to travel to a lot of places that I wouldn’t normally visit. Last year I had a number of trips including Moscow (twice within 5 weeks!), allowing me to explore the Moscow metro system which has always fascinated me with its unique architectural design.”
A general view of the Metro in Moscow. Photo: Steven Paston
“I also travelled to cover FC Sheriff in Tiraspol, Transnistria, which is a self-proclaimed independent state that is not recognized by any UN member state (except for Russia), and has a tricky relationship with its neighboring countries of Moldova and Ukraine. Finally I visited Tromso in Norway, which sits inside the Arctic Circle. During the winter months the daytime is extremely short, and when I arrived around midday, the sun had already set for the day! Both of the last two games were to cover Tottenham Hotspur in Europa League fixtures.”
“One of the things that particularly appeals to me in these far-flung locations compared to the more travelled cities in Central Europe is the real sense of adventure. I enjoy the challenge of working out how to get about from the airport to the hotel, finding my way to the stadium and then figuring out how to even get inside when faced with a substantial language barrier.”
“To get to Belgrade required two flights, and by the time I arrived it was it was midnight. In the past I have been ripped off heavily in taxi fares travelling to and from the airport, Moscow in particular springs to mind. However on this trip it was fine, I chose to use the official taxi agents and thankfully got to my hotel for a reasonable price for a change. This kind of thing always helps to put me at ease when visiting a new place for the first time.”
“As Tottenham Hotspur is one of our contract clubs, part of the package we provide on these trips is the press conference and training session the day before the match. One good thing about that from a personal perspective is that all it takes place in the evening, giving me a chance to explore the city during the day, and on match day I have almost another full day for more sight-seeing. On some other recent trips I have checked into my hotel, headed straight to the stadium to shoot the match, and then flown back to the UK in the early hours of the morning.”
“Another bonus of covering the pre match build up is that I have already collected my accreditation from the press officer at the training session, so on match day I know exactly where I’m going. On other trips I have found it challenging trying to explain to foreign stewards that I need to collect my accreditation when neither of us speaks the same language!”
“Having set up pitch side, amongst the things I like to prepare is a team sheet, and to make sure that I can connect to the internet, either using the stadium wifi or my own mifi. In this case neither was working, and I was under pressure to deliver images for the club, as well as for the live feed. It’s a double edged sword going to these far-flung locations, that a lack of signal can stop you in your tracks, in spite of ever-advancing technology. I have the ability to send directly from the back of my cameras using a wifi transmitter without even opening my laptop, or at stadiums such as Wembley I can plug my Canon 1DX into an ethernet cable and file images back to the office even quicker.”
“For this game my mifi was only finding 2G signal, very occasionally 3G. Back in the UK I regularly use 4G, so I called the office to let them know that I was having issues sending but I managed to get a small selection out during the first half. At half time I managed to connect to the stadium wifi which enabled me to catch up a bit so going into the second half I was up to date. It’s a shame that during the course of the whole game there was not much action to send at all, a disappointment not just for me, but also for the 150-odd fans that had travelled over to support the team.”
“In the UK, most football clubs don’t have a section of fans that we would openly call “ultras”, but on mainland Europe it is much more common. Partizan’s ultras occupy an entire stand behind one of the goals, singing, shouting, waving huge banners, not to mention the loud bang of firecrackers exploding just behind the photography position all throughout the game! On a side note the local photographers work slightly differently, casually smoking cigarettes at pitch side during the game whilst working.”
“Serbia has a reputation as a country that is not very open to varied ethnicity, with several England U21 players being racially abused in Serbia a couple of years ago, including Tottenham’s Danny Rose, who didn’t travel for this match. The Partizan ultras displayed a banner which was seemingly directed at the Tottenham fans, which the club reported to UEFA following the match.”
“Overall it’s been a good couple of days, cheap taxi prices, good food, nice weather and an interesting city to explore. As part of my sight-seeing I captured the results of the bombing by NATO in 1999, such as the Ministry of Defense building, which for the past 15 years has been left as testament to the city’s recent history.”
“Now all I need to do is keep my passport safe, as I’m sure to be jetting off somewhere in couple of weeks’ time!”