Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…?

December 30, 2009

Snow. Looks good on those Christmas cards, doesn’t it? Fun for small children. Even nice for penguins in the zoo. But photographers covering soccer? Brrrrrrrrrr. Not really.

Let’s get one thing straight. We Brits go on about the weather like a stuck record, but when it comes to it, we can’t cope with it. That’s why we live in Britain.

We whinge when the mercury drops to -3 (26 degrees Fahrenheit). A colleague of mine in Canada will point out that’s not cold. Cold, proper cold, can’t feel your fingers, just walked into a fridge cold, is -25 (-13 degrees Fahrenheit).

So when the Met Office started predicting heavy snowfalls on the night of the Aston Villa v Liverpool game, I did my best boy scout impression, packed my shovel and set off four hours early, you know, in case of snowdrifts the size of elephants.

There weren’t any.

It was the sort of game where you could find yourself nodding off, a dull, tactical, stand-off between two Premiership sides fighting to finish in the top four to get a Champions League place.

Probably the only reason this match will ever be remembered – even by the most diehard fans – is the snow. Ninety minutes of sitting by the pitch feeling some sympathy with an ice lolly.

Aston Villa’s John Carew heads the ball clear during their English Premier League match against Liverpool at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England, December 29, 2009.   REUTERS/Darren Staples

But the weather – not the game – makes the picture. A slow shutter speed can make falling snow or rain look heavier than it is and a photograph even more dramatic. With a bit of good timing, or luck, you can capture a picture like this, with the water coming off the ball and the head of the player which makes it look like he’s got a halo.

Practically, focusing is difficult because your lens picks up on the falling flakes, not the players. You need to wear a glove that isn’t too thick – or thin – so you can still feel the controls on your camera. I wear a jacket that’s so padded, I look like I’m wearing a Sumo suit. And it’s not just me. Even the camera has a waterproof ‘jacket’ on as well. It’s made of fabric and protects my 400mm lens and the body (designed by an Australian snapper – do they get snow there then?).


Then there’s wiring. You have the picture, how do you send it to the desk when it’s wet and you don’t want your laptop to go bang? Simple. You get a roll of Reuters’ sticky tape  and the groundsheet of a tent and turn it into a homemade bag that you can fit both your computer and your head.


It’s not just the weather that you’re up against. It’s the other 45,000 at the game who want to get onto their mobile phones and tell their mates what’s happening. It clogs up the networks and means that photos go so slowly it would probably be quicker to walk to London – or in this case Singapore – and deliver them by hand.

Then you’re into three minutes of injury time, the game’s 0-0 and what happens? Liverpool’s Fernando Torres scores…at the opposite end to where I’m sitting. Oh the frustration.


Liverpool’s Fernando Torres (2nd L) celebrates his goal against Aston Villa during their English Premier League  match at Villa Park in Birmingham December 29, 2009.   REUTERS/Darren Staples

And the next morning, when I’m looking forward to throwing a few snowballs with the kids, what happens? The snow’s all gone. C’est la vie.


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Nice one Darren. A great insight into the complexities of a job I’d absolutely love to have, rain, hail or shine … or snow for that matter.

I’m an Englishman in Australia and intrigued to know who designed the camera protector you mention. And for the record, yes there is plenty of snow Down Under in the winter across the Australian Alps between New South Wales and Victoria – Mt Buller is one big ski resort, and then there is Thredbo and Perisher, too.

Posted by foraggio | Report as abusive

@foraggio, I believe that’s by Aquatech, www.aquatech.com.au

Posted by Aqualung | Report as abusive

yes great blog Darren. Hope to see you again soon in slightly warmer climes

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Wonderful insight into the practicalities of the business Darren, really excellent images also.

I’m curious as to how you came to work for Reuters & any advice you may have for an optimistic photographer seeking to do so.


All the very best

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