By Yves Herman
Picture five photographers and one technician traveling together between the cities of Kharkiv and Donetsk in Ukraine, at an average of 38 degrees C (100 degrees Fahrenheit) with air humidity of more than 50%. Eastern Ukraine is definitely not a fresh or cool place to stay during this EURO 2012 soccer championships. Nevertheless, it is our job to be there and it is a pure pleasure to be sitting alongside the pitch and taking photos of Europe’s best soccer teams. On that journey a cooling rain would have been most appreciated.
Alessandro from Italy, Felix from Spain, Michael from Switzerland, Vasily from Belarus, our technician Rod from Washington DC and myself, based in Belgium, hit the road early on June 15 on our way to Donetsk. An eagerly anticipated match between Ukraine and France was to take place that day at the famous Donbass Arena in front of more than 40,000 fans.
After a more than five hour tough drive, we arrived at the venue at around 1500 and temperatures had crept up even further. We could feel how wet the atmosphere was, even if the sky was a deep blue and cloud free.
We set up our gear; some 20 cameras with lenses ranging from a 16 mm wide angle up to long 400 mm. We tested them and the remotes and took our places on the pitch. Felix had the tribune position from where he could shoot overview photos and celebrations of the match. Charles, another Reuters photographer traveling with the French team joined us to cover that game.
An hour before kick off, everything was just perfect. Sitting on each side of the pitch we made our last tests and started shooting pictures of soccer fans displaying painted faces and big smiles, ready to support their team, with no idea of what was about to happen.