Slideshow: Photographer’s focus on Rugby World Cup

Mark Doherty, a professional sports photographer from Harrogate, has been going around the UK capturing the sights and sounds of the recent Rugby World Cup.

Mark, who supplies the Harrogate Advertiser with sports photos, sent us his account of what it was like to cover the excitement of the tournament ...

As a full time sports photographer, when the opportunity came to photograph the Rugby World Cup in the UK, one of the biggest tournaments on the planet, I jumped at the chance.

I was fortunate enough to cover nearly all the home nations, the only team missing being Wales.

However, to compensate for that omission, I got to photograph competition favourites New Zealand.

The month-long schedule was punishing, covering two or three games over each weekend as well as attending some of the open training sessions, captain’s runs and press conferences during the week.

I don’t think most people will appreciate the work that goes into being a photographer.

Mark Doherty

The games I covered were played at St James’ Park, Newcastle; Elland Road, Leeds; the Etihad Stadium, Manchester; the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff; and the Olympic Stadium in London.

Travelling from venue to venue meant plenty of miles covered, quite a few nights away and a lot of 3am or 4am finishes.

The organisation of the event was brilliant and I had very few issues working in and around the venues.

It certainly made my work easier and to be honest, I’ve been lucky with all the national and international events I’ve covered this year as to how well organised they have been.

I don’t think that most people will appreciate the amount of work that goes into being a photographer, working for an agency you not only have to carry a number of cameras, but you also have to carry quite a bit of equipment – essentially a mobile office.

Typically for an afternoon kick-off, I will arrive at the venue as early as is possible, usually between 9am and 10am. This gives me time to get set up in the pressroom, set my laptop up and ensure that I have all the appropriate match information available – team sheets, player and game stats.

For a large event like this, photographers send pictures from pitch-side, ensuring that each and every picture has the appropriate information – such as all the players included in the photo and what is happening.

All this means that you are working in a very time-pressured environment – to get great photos, label them appropriately and ensure that they are sent out quickly.

After the match has finished, there are the various press conferences and player interviews to cover, before sending out more photos and the long trek home or to the next venue.

The upside to what I do, is that I get a ringside seat to some fantastic events and work at something I love doing.

During the 44 days of the tournament, I’ve been very fortunate to see some of the true greats of the modern game, including Paul O’Connell playing for Ireland and of course the All-Blacks’ Dan Carter.

As many rugby fans will know, both Paul and Dan were playing their last games, not only in the rugby world cup, but also for their respective countries.

Of all the stadia that I’ve worked in, the best atmosphere was without a doubt, the final pool D game between Ireland and France held in the Millennium Stadium.

Being in the middle with the roof closed, the two sets of fans (all 72,163 of them) singing their national anthems made the hair on the back of your neck stand up!

I can only but imagine what it was like for the two teams with them being the focal point.

Over the course of the world cup, I believe that ultimately the best team won, lifting the Webb Ellis Cup and I think that most neutrals would agree.

In doing so, they set a number of records including being the first team to retain the cup and the first team to win it three times

Now the tournament has come to an end, I’ve returned to covering a number of other sports.

To be honest, I enjoy getting out to the different venues around the country but especially enjoy working in and around Yorkshire including covering grass roots games.

This last week, among other shoots, I’ve photographed Guiseley v Halifax in an FA Cup fourth qualifying round replay on a cold wet Tuesday night and Harrogate Railway play Clitheroe in the Evo-stik League One North - a world away from the Rugby World Cup, but something I wouldn’t miss for the world.

Next year I have some very big plans with a number of huge international finals coming up, but unfortunately they aren’t being held here in the UK.

Time to get my passport out!