ARTICLE

Living the dream: a day in the life of a Rugby World Cup™ photographer

George Kruis of England wins a lineout during the England v Tonga match at Rugby World Cup 2019™.
George Kruis of England wins the lineout during the Rugby World Cup 2019™ Group C match between England and Tonga at Sapporo Dome. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens at 1/2000 sec, f/3.2 and ISO3200. © Dave Rogers/World Rugby via Getty Images

Sports photographer Dave Rogers covered his first rugby tour in South Africa in 1980. So much has changed since then – not least the technology. In those early days he'd rush off after the match to process his own films in the bathtub of his blacked-out hotel room.

"I'd print them on an enlarger, and take them to the general post office, where they were sent on a machine the size of a car to the cable and wireless office in London," remembers the Getty Images photographer from the UK. "My boss at the time would drive around all the newspaper offices in Fleet Street dropping the prints off."

But after more than 40 years as a sports photographer, most of that time specialising in rugby, Dave's passion for the game has only grown. "You have to be dedicated to the job, because it's so anti-social," he says. "Every game is different. I like having to think on my feet." We caught up with him fresh from shooting the Rugby World Cup 2019™ England v Tonga opener, to find out what a typical day in his job is really like…

Dave Rogers carrying his Canon camera with telephoto lens on a tripod in Sapporo Dome Stadium at Rugby World Cup 2019™.
Dave Rogers on the spot in Sapporo Dome Stadium at Rugby World Cup 2019™. © Dave Rogers/World Rugby via Getty Images

8am: "I get up and have breakfast with some journo friends at my hotel. I had got my gear together the night before, recharging batteries and things, to make sure I was ready in the morning. When I was starting out in photography, a friend of mine, Barry Newcombe, who worked at the Sunday Express, gave me two pieces of advice. Number one: always go down for breakfast, because you may not eat again all day, and it's a good way to find out what's going on. And number two: always pack the night before. I've followed that advice ever since."

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12.30pm: "Kick-off isn't until the evening, so I do the tourist thing and visit the Sapporo TV Tower and take some pictures. After that I go for coffee before heading back to the hotel to collect my gear. In my kitbag I have three Canon EOS-1D X Mark II camera bodies. That's partly so I have some backup just in case, but also so I have a different body for each of my lenses – a Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM, a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM and a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM. You haven't got time to change lenses, everything happens so fast.

"For most of the match I'll be using the 400mm, often with a 1.4x Extender to make it even longer. I use the 70-200mm lens for the try line, and the zoom is for general shots of the stadium. And just in case players go mad and celebrate right in front of me, I've got the 16-35mm wide angle."

2.30pm: "Leave the hotel to catch my train from the main station in Sapporo to the Sapporo Dome stadium. I want to arrive early, about four hours before kick-off. The train journey is about 25 minutes. I spend the journey figuring out how to get to the stadium. It's pretty well organised and it's just a 300-400 metre walk from the station to the ground, but I like to be prepared."

3pm: "I arrive at the stadium and go through security. It's pretty quick because it's not so busy as I'm early. I collect my match ticket from the photographic liaison, which gives me access to the pitch. I have an upgrade pass, which gives me access to all areas. Then I test all the lines – there are ethernet cables everywhere in the photographers' room and on the pitch so you can send images back to the office instantaneously."

Manu Tuilagi of England is tackled by two Tonga players during the Rugby World Cup 2019™.
Manu Tuilagi of England is tackled by two Tonga players during the Rugby World Cup 2019™ Group C match between England and Tonga at Sapporo Dome. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with a Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens plus 1.4x Extender at 1/1600 sec, f/4 and ISO4000. © Dave Rogers/World Rugby via Getty Images

5pm: "I am one of the official RFU photographers as well as being an official World Rugby™ photographer, so I need to get some shots of the dressing room before the England team is due to arrive, which is about 90 minutes before kick off. You have to be careful about what you show, because there are team plans stuck on the wall. I shoot the shirts hanging up, the programmes, water bottles, things like that. Teams use them for websites.

"When I go in, there's just the kit man laying the shirts out, and all the physios. They have music blaring out – they know what the players like coming in to. This time it was 1980s classics by John Farnham and people like that, so I knew all the songs. Often it's modern stuff like rap, which I'm a bit old for."

South Africa rugby player Bryan Habana dives to score a try, with a Samoa player grabbing his leg. Photo by Hannah Peters.

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5.50pm "Get shots of the teams as they arrive and walk from the coach to the dressing room. You're trying to get something a bit creative, maybe showing the Rugby World Cup 2019™ logo in the background. You can't use flash, you have to work with what's there, but fortunately there's a TV light. I'm using my Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM to shoot the whole line of players and capture the atmosphere in the shots because the public don't get to see that. The 16-35mm lens is really effective in bad light, which you invariably have in stadiums, but you have to be careful not to go too wide and distort people's bodies."

6pm: "I head to the photographers' room to transmit those pictures to the Getty Images office in London. They'll edit them, caption them and get them sent out. We send everything straight from the camera to a Dropbox folder. I don't have a brief, I know what they're after, so I select what to send – for example a try, a good attack, or a picture of England head coach Eddie Jones. We're continually corresponding via WhatsApp on our phones. I'll tell them what's coming up, so they can look out for it."

6.30pm: "We're allowed on the pitch about 50 minutes before kick-off to take warm-up pictures, fan pictures, generic stuff. Then I send some test photos to London, and they'll message me to say they've received them. We're told 45 minutes before kick-off which end the teams will be attacking, so we know where to sit. There's a team of us from Getty. We have three blue 'static' bibs and one maroon 'roving' bib – that's mine."

Dave Rogers on his laptop sending his images to Getty.
Dave sends over all of his shots from the game to the Getty Images team, who caption and edit them. © Dave Rogers/World Rugby via Getty Images

7pm: "Time to shoot the teams walking out. A TV cameraman stands in my way, but luckily I just about get what I need! It's quite a big stadium. There are about six of us with roving bibs from different agencies. The pitch is on a raised level about 4 metres up in the air – I think it's normally used for baseball. It's totally enclosed, but the grass is on rollers and they put it outside to grow in the sunlight and then bring it back in under the roof when they need it. This means weather isn't an issue, which is good because it rains quite a lot in Sapporo. The light's quite glaring because the floodlights are low, but I'd been there the day before for the training session, so I knew what to expect. The working conditions at rugby grounds in the UK are much harder – the floodlights are like glow-worms compared with these things."

7.15pm: "Kick-off. I'm fully focused on covering the game. It's a hard game with some massive tackles. I was lucky to get pictures of all four tries England scored – that doesn't always happen."

7.35pm: "England player Billy Vunipola gets knocked off his feet in an absolutely brilliant tackle. It was a great moment because I've never seen that happen before – he's normally the one knocking people over. His dad played for Tonga against England in the 1999 World Cup™. You're always looking for incidents like that. I take a sequence of about four images and send all of them back to the UK."

Manu Tuilagi of England dives to score his side's first try during the England v Tonga match at Rugby World Cup 2019™.
Manu Tuilagi of England dives to score his side's first try during the Rugby World Cup 2019™ Group C match between England and Tonga at Sapporo Dome. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens at 1/2000 sec, f/3.2 and ISO3200. © Dave Rogers/World Rugby via Getty Images

7.55pm: "When England's Manu Tuilagi scores his second try, I get a nice picture of him celebrating. It is later used in both The Times and The Telegraph newspapers in the UK. He'd already scored a try in front of me but the second one is better because he runs right towards me. The white shirts really stood out against the black background.

"With those celebration shots, you're trying to show the emotion of the occasion. Another photographer nearly blocked my view. It's sheer luck sometimes – you see it or you don't. After a moment like that, it can be a race to get the best image back to London. I know the other agency photographers, and we always have a friendly rivalry. Nobody wants to be outgunned by the opposition!"

9.08pm: "Luke Cowan-Dickie breaks through to score. England had missed a few chances, so I thought at one point they weren't going to get the fourth try. It got them the bonus point, and you have to get as many points as possible to qualify for the next stage in the competition. You could see the relief on their faces."

England players are applauded by Tonga players after their Rugby World Cup 2019™ match.
England players are applauded by Tonga players after their Rugby World Cup 2019™ match at Sapporo Dome. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens at 1/1300 sec, f/4.5 and ISO3200. © Dave Rogers/World Rugby via Getty Images

9.25pm: "After the match I get some shots of the teams shaking hands, doing a lap of honour, waving to the crowd. Once I've sent the most urgent pictures back to the office, I head to the photographers' room to do a second edit of photos to send back. I download my memory cards onto my laptop, go through everything and make a selection to send through."

10.45pm: "Leave the stadium with my Getty colleagues. We're not sure if we are in time to catch the train and we are feeling pretty drained, so we just get a taxi. I haven't really eaten since breakfast. You get a meal voucher, but I don't tend to eat during the game because I'm too busy concentrating on the work. I've just snacked on some chocolate and a banana."

11.30pm: "I get back to the hotel just in time to catch the last 10 minutes of my football team – Wolverhampton Wanderers – on TV. I watch that on my phone while doing more editing and packing my bag. Tomorrow I'm heading to a different venue, in Kobe City."

2am: "Go to bed. If you've had a good game, you fall asleep buzzing. If not, you're full of recriminations, thinking why didn't I do this or that. I still get that even though I've done it for so many years, but you always want to do a good job."

Skrevet av Rachel Segal Hamilton


• Canon is an official sponsor of Rugby World Cup 2019™, taking place in Japan from 20 September to 2 November. Getty Images sports photographer Dave Rogers is an official photographer at the event.

• TM © Rugby World Cup Limited 2015. All rights reserved.

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Dave Rogers at the side of the pitch looks through a Canon camera.

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