Introducing one of the world's best sport photographers
It takes a great deal of expertise to take good action photos; as many of us amateur photographers will know, by the time we realise that we are seeing something that would make a great picture, it is usually over! Sports photographers are a very special breed, and at some of the world’s biggest events, you can see large crowds of them waiting for the ‘money shot’, although, in the end, it is usually just the same one that will make the front page of the world’s newspapers or magazines the following day.
The faster the sport, the more difficult the photo, so the professionals that work in motorsport, athletics or equestrian are usually at the top of their game. Neil Egerton is one of the very best, and we are delighted to have been given the opportunity to talk to him about his work and to learn about the skills that are required to take world-class action photos.
Neil has been travelling the world as a sports photographer for more than thirty years and during that time he has covered just about every sport imaginable, from lawn mower racing in Sussex to the World Aerobatic Championships in South Africa, and his sports photography has taken him far and wide, covering local and international events, including the Commonwealth Games and two Olympics.
However, 20 years ago and completely by chance, he found and fell in love with polo, and, whilst he still enjoys working in all sports, it is polo that has him completely hooked, having been struck by the combination of the skilled horsemanship and unquestionable grace that can be found on every polo pitch and every polo match across the globe.
Neil’s first commissioned trip was to Saint Moritz Polo on snow in Switzerland, where they play on a frozen lake. This was followed by a summer season in Sotogrande, Spain, then 6 months in Australia, where he was hugely privileged to be the first photographer to be invited to Ellerston after numerous years when photographers had not been permitted access, and then across Europe and South East Asia.
"The faster the sport, the more difficult the photo"
He has been able to capture the flair of many of the greatest polo players of our time including Adolfo Cambiaso, Piki Alberti and JP Clarkin, to have been asked by HRH Prince Charles to take the first polo images of the young royals Prince William and Prince Harry, and to spotting new talent and capturing their development as they have progressed from grooms to players to forces to be reckoned with, including the exceptional Alicia Gariador.
We asked Neil what his strategy is for shooting polo and how to capture the perfect shot. His response was to work hard at it: understand the game; go to the exercise tracks in the morning light; get to know as many people as possible, be it players, grooms etc, even if it’s just a nod or a wave. He says that most polo people are very welcoming and will bend over backwards to help you, so if you, as a photographer, make the effort, they will reciprocate.
But, he says, don’t get in the way or interfere! Working around one, let alone numerous horses, that cost a small fortune, can be risky to life and limb on the field or in the pony lines. As with every sport, a polo photographer must never be a nuisance and always appreciate that a polo pony is a finely-tuned athlete, who has one goal, and it is not to perform for a photographer.
And to capture the perfect polo photo? Know what you want to capture, understand light and always remember that a polo pony is an animal, albeit a highly intelligent one… anticipate the moment and do your best to capture it …. That moment will never be there again.
Over the coming months, Neil will be telling us more about his work in polo, as well as other equestrian sports, and sharing some of his favourite photos with us. We can’t wait.