Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…?
Snow. Looks good on those Christmas cards, doesnâ€™t it? Fun for small children. Even nice for penguins in the zoo. But photographers covering soccer? Brrrrrrrrrr. Not really.
Letâ€™s get one thing straight. We Brits go on about the weather like a stuck record, but when it comes to it, we canâ€™t cope with it. Thatâ€™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 thatâ€™s not cold. Cold, proper cold, canâ€™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 werenâ€™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.Â Â REUTERS/Darren Staples
But the weather â€“ 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 heâ€™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 isnâ€™t too thick â€“ or thin â€“ so you can still feel the controls on your camera. I wear a jacket thatâ€™s so padded, I look like Iâ€™m wearing a Sumo suit. And itâ€™s not just me. Even the camera has a waterproof â€˜jacketâ€™ on as well. Itâ€™s made of fabric and protects my 400mm lens and the body (designed by an Australian snapper â€“ do they get snow there then?).
Then thereâ€™s wiring. You have the picture, how do you send it to the desk when itâ€™s wet and you donâ€™t want your laptop to go bang? Simple. You get a roll of Reutersâ€™ sticky tape Â and the groundsheet of a tent and turn it into a homemade bag that you can fit both your computer and your head.
Itâ€™s not just the weather that youâ€™re up against. Itâ€™s the other 45,000 at the game who want to get onto their mobile phones and tell their mates whatâ€™s happening. It clogs up the networks and means that photos go so slowly it would probably be quicker to walk to London â€“ or in this case Singapore â€“ and deliver them by hand.
Then youâ€™re into three minutes of injury time, the gameâ€™s 0-0 and what happens? Liverpoolâ€™s Fernando Torres scoresâ€¦at the opposite end to where Iâ€™m sitting. Oh the frustration.
Liverpool’s Fernando Torres (2nd L) celebrates his goal against Aston Villa during their English Premier LeagueÂ match at Villa Park in Birmingham December 29, 2009.Â Â REUTERS/Darren Staples
And the next morning, when Iâ€™m looking forward to throwing a few snowballs with the kids, what happens? The snow’s all gone. Câ€™est la vie.