Yes, my job really is this glamorous

September 23, 2010

When people ask me what I do for a living, or they hear tales from my wife about me being away at the Olympics or shooting football or golf or a Papal visit somewhere, the usual response is to tell me how glamorous my job is, rubbing shoulders with all these famous sporting and political icons and how lucky I am to get to attend all these events and call it work!

Granted, I am incredibly lucky to have an office that regularly includes Premier League football grounds and other major sporting events, but glamorous……not a word I would often use, and last night was a perfect case in point.

I’ve been shooting professionally now for 15 years. Being located in the north of England, an awful lot of that time has been spent shooting football, which we all know is an outdoor sport. I’ve experienced most things that football can throw at you: the thrills, the spills and the bad weather. But I have never been as wet as I was at last night’s league cup game between Liverpool and Northampton Town.

Photographer Phil Noble at Liverpool's and Northampton Town's English League Cup soccer match at Anfield in Liverpool, northern England, September 22, 2010. REUTERS/Phil Noble

The early rounds of the annual cup competitions always throw up the classic David and Goliath contests with teams from the lower leagues drawn against the Premiership big boys,. This one had all the ingredients for an upset, especially when you take into account my beloved Liverpool’s off pitch going’s on with talk of takeovers and board room splits being rife. So, the game plan had to be to shoot as if Liverpool would lose, after all they are expected to beat a team from the lower divisions with ease, so where is the story in that?

I positioned myself in front of the Northampton fans, knowing that this would usually give me Liverpool’s attack in the first half should they run away with it but also give me a picture if Northampton scored and ran to their own supporters in celebration. The only issue with this plan was it was raining, not too badly, but enough to get you soaked and the end I had chosen to sit at offers the photographers no protection.

Liverpool duly scored early on and ran towards me, job done I thought. The floodgates would now open and Northampton would be swept away. But at half time it was still only 1-0 and Liverpool were far from dominant. I would have to file pictures and return to the same end, just in case.

After half time the floodgates did indeed open, but not on the pitch. The heavens opened and stayed that way right through the remainder of the game and extra time which saw Northampton first equalize and then take a shock, but well deserved, lead only for Liverpool to equalize late on to take the game into penalties.

Northampton Town's Abdul Osman (L) scores past Liverpool's Brad Jones (R) to win their English League Cup soccer match at Anfield in Liverpool, northern England, September 22, 2010. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Northampton Town's Billy McKay celebrates after scoring during their English League Cup soccer match against Liverpool at Anfield in Liverpool, northern England, September 22, 2010. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Persistent heavy rain is a photographers worst nightmare. I’d rather sit in below zero temperatures or howling gales, anything as long as its dry. Rain is just the worst. It makes you miserable and cold, your hands and fingers go numb. It’s a constant battle to keep the cameras dry and working and with the wind swirling around inside the stadium its nigh on impossible to keep both the lens element and the viewfinder rain free so you can shoot.

All you can do is batten down the hatches, only opening them slightly when you see a key moment, in this case Liverpool dejection and Northampton celebration. As penalties began I was so wet I didn’t really care who won as long as whoever did, did it quickly.

Northampton Town's manager Ian Sampson celebrates after the final whistle in their English League Cup soccer match against Liverpool at Anfield in Liverpool, northern England, September 22, 2010. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Liverpool's manager Roy Hodgson walks across the pitch following their English League Cup soccer match against Northampton Town at Anfield in Liverpool, northern England, September 22, 2010. REUTERS/Phil Noble

Northampton held their nerve and took the scalp of the premier league team 4-2. After shooting the celebrations at the end, I trudged back to the wire room to file. The night was complete when I got to the other end of the pitch to see other photographers smiling, not even wearing a rain jacket. The wind had seemingly blown all the rain to me!

The squelchy 40 minute car journey home with the heater on full blast to stave of the pneumonia I felt was sure to follow (probably just man flu) gave me time to reflect on the conditions I’d just sat in for nearly 3 hours. I couldn’t help but come up with my own version of that famous children’s nursery rhyme….Doctor Noble went to Anfield in a shower of rain, he sat in a puddle, right up to his middle and watched Liverpool lose again! Glamor all the way.


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Incredible photographs!

I for one, admire the tenacity it must take to work in such adverse conditions, especially with thousands of dollars worth of gear in peril.


Well yes, probably at times, however one must accept the good with the bad. Thank you for showing us both sides of the coin.

EF 70-200MM

Posted by codyfutures | Report as abusive

…But your Hodgson pic in the Telegraph (almost) made it all worthwhile didn’t it? Great photographs Phil and hey, you’re not a bad writer either!

Posted by zimmy0 | Report as abusive

Your shots are why you do it. They’re great. I ask myself why do I pursue photography when I’m wet and cold, wrapping my camera and lens with cellophane, or drenched in sweat eyes stinging. The answer is, I am only as good as my next great shot. I am completely addicted to the adrenalin rush I get when I know I got the shot.

Posted by wsihs | Report as abusive

Mr. Noble i love your pitures especially when you catch in the moment ones.I’m taking a photography class and we have to write a paper on a photographer who catches our interest and i would love to write my paper on you. if you could please answer some questions it would be much appreciated. you can contact me via e-mail at thank you

Posted by poncesheyla | Report as abusive

Hi Phil,
As for sitting in the rain only to experience another disappointment,it could be worse. You might have pursued wedding photography. Anyway…
I’m contacting you to ask permission to use your photo of “Keith” the toilet snake in an amateur video. I presume you know there are two versions online. One has excellent detail, the other looks like Keith’s head has melted. I would like to use the former. I can easily grab a copy online, and I’ll be sure to include your byline. The video, by the way, is entitled “Feminine Protection” or “The Worst Thing In The World” and is about creatures, usually rats, that appear in peoples
toilets. (aka loos) A fun topic with a hint of Orwell’s room 101. fchemel at (Please ‘fix’ the email address.
Francis Chemel

Posted by fchemel | Report as abusive

I’ve been at events in the same weather conditions as well, un-commissioned.

Posted by nikonman | Report as abusive

What I’d like to know is “How did you wire your pictures without ruining your laptop” ? as I’m always afraid to wire in such weather conditions, even with the laptop covered by a bag of some kind.

Posted by nikonman | Report as abusive