It’s been a hard day’s night… and I’ve been working like a ‘tog
By Darren Staples
You off again?” people say. “Ukraine? The Euros? You’ve got the best job in the world haven’t you?”
So here I am, the man with ‘the best job in the world’, about to have a needle stuck in my backside by one half of the Mario brothers.
It wasn’t meant to be like this.
As a day, it started like many others; up at 5am to catch my fourth of eleven flights during this tournament, bleary-eyed and grey I helped fellow photographers Eddie Keogh, Alexander Demianchuk and technician Magnus Storm load the taxi to the roof with our equipment.
But by the time I reached Kiev airport, something was wrong. I was doubled up in pain: a kidney infection, brought on by the 30 degree Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) heat and not drinking enough water I guess.
I never drink enough water. Rule #1 in this job is that toilets are often scarce. The worry of finding a convenient bush puts you off drinking.
My Ukrainian counterpart Alexander found the airport doctor, a kindly man with overalls, who looked like a plumber. He probably was. I was in no position to argue and ask for his medical school certificates. I pointed to some pain killers I had bought to numb the pain. “Those good,” he said in his broken English. “This better,” he said, needle poised.
I scrambled on to the plane with minutes to spare. Will all my gratitude, the doctor was right about the jab. The pain had dwindled a little by the time we reached Lviv Airport with its characteristic Stalinist-era architecture. No conveyor belts here, a man pushes your luggage through a hole in the wall.
But from there, a familiar routine took hold. We met up with the rest of our shooting team, Michael Dalder and Gleb Garanich at our hotel. Hotels in the Ukraine are magnificent in their shabby grandeur, the facades promise magnificence and splendor, the interiors needing a lick of paint and a makeover team.
I spent a few minutes in my room, making sure I had the right kit and that it was all in working order. Few things are guaranteed to light my fuse more than arriving at a game to find that I’ve left a charger in another bag, or my laptop has decided to give up the ghost. It’s one of the biggest stresses of the job, I’ve already had one camera go down this tournament and I’ve only been here a week.
My colleagues and I had been blessed with the early 7pm kick-off, the Portugal v Denmark game. We arrived at the ground four hours before kick-off and headed to the photographers room where there’s always a bit of banter, good-humored ribbing. It’s like a pub but without the beer. Here we set up our laptops, make sure our captions are correct in Paneikon, Reuters’ remote editing software which allows us to upload our images with the push of a button to the editors in Berlin.
Three hours before kickoff and we headed pitch side to our allocated positions amongst the 150 available. In this case we had a photographer in each corner and one looking down from the press tribune. We hardwired our laptops and set up remote cameras behind the goals which are triggered when we shoot goalmouth action.
Once our little camps are set up and running we turn out attention to the fans, looking for colorful faces excited by the forthcoming event.
When the game starts, it’s a race to get team pictures and early action shots on the wire. You’re then in the lap of the gods, hoping that you’re not blocked for that winning goal and the scorer chooses your corner to celebrate. Portugal won 3-2 and hardly anything came my way but that’s why we work as a team and Michael got some nice remote shots.
It was past 10pm, by the time we’d finished. The five of us squeezed into Gleb’s car and returned our gear to the hotel. It had been a 17-hour day, we were tired and hungry but we attempted to find a restaurant. The only place still serving was a popular fast food joint. I imagined the wife tut as I bit into the burger.
So. the best job in the world? I’ll get back to you on that one – depending on the sort of tournament I have.
Oh, and whether I need to see another doctor.