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My top five images of the 22/23 season
Martin Greig gives us an insight into the world of football photography
Let me invite you into the world of a sports photographer. We all wield a camera, but no two of us are alike.
For example, my approach to photographing football games is different to your average pitch-side photographer. A lot of them are there to grab the action, send their pictures to the media, and be done with it. They play a vital role, and they do it well, but, for the most part, there’s a lack of creativity underpinning that process.
From small moments to wild celebrations, I try to frame the image in a way that tells a story and makes you look twice.
The freedom to be creative with my shots is what keeps me coming back week after week, and it’s why I got into football photography in the first place, so I train my lens on the shots that matter to me.
What do I do differently?
When I arrive at a ground, I assess the lighting created by the weather and the angle of the sun or the hue of the floodlights, and I look at potential backgrounds that the stadium creates. This helps me to visualise the kinds of shots I can get from different pitch-side positions. I also consider how these positions will affect the subject separation.
If you’ll allow me to get technical for a moment, subject separation is a technique photographers use to soften the background of an image so that the subject stands out. This blurred out background is called bokeh. One of the ways to create this effect is by increasing the distance between the subject and their background.
I also shoot with a wide aperture, which assists in blurring out the background and lets more light into the camera. This allows me to shoot at a higher shutter speed to freeze the fast-moving action, but it’s tricky to get the shot right as there’s a razor thin depth of field of focus.
The fact that my subjects are moving adds a layer of difficulty; one false move or autofocus malfunction and the image can be completely out of focus. It’s a high-wire act, but it’s worth the trouble when you get it right.
Once the match is underway, I bring all of these aspects together in an attempt to achieve the shots I envisaged when I arrived at the ground. When it all comes together, the buzz is phenomenal. Although, sometimes you don’t know if you got the shot until you review the pictures after the game.
I may have lost you already, but stick with me as I talk you through five of my favourite shots from Bromley’s 22/23 season. You may even come out at the other end with a different perspective on football photography.
Bromley 3 – 0 Oldham Athletic, 24th September 2022
Watching Bromley dismantle former Football League giants Oldham Athletic, no matter how average they are these days, was a turning point for me. As a recent import from Scotland, I’d hesitated to call myself a Bromley supporter up to that point. But from this game on, I knew I wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry.
I could fill this article with images from that match and be happy with all of them, but this one stands out for a few reasons.
For starters, the emotions on display are fantastic and the image is tack sharp. But look a little closer and you’ll notice that despite it being a dull day, the lighting is softly diffused, rendering a halo-like silhouette around the players and giving them a kind of glowing aura. When you couple this with the dazzling white of the Bromley shirt, you instantly feel immersed in the image, almost like you’re celebrating with them.
Actually, you could have been celebrating with them. This picture was going to be used in Bromley’s fan zone at Wembley Stadium if they reached the play-off final. Omar and Jude’s faces would have been cut out, allowing you to stick your head through for a snap. Alas, now we’ll never know what you’d look like with Omar Sowunmi’s body.
This shot also benefited from some advice from a photographer I really respect.
Several months before this game, I bumped into talented Crystal Palace photographer Sebastian Frej at London Bridge Station. He was coming back from shooting a match at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
I look up to Sebastian as he has bags of talent and plenty of experience in the field. Despite my work being inherently different in style, his endeavour to create beautiful images has been a big inspiration to me. I’ve even been one of his Patreons; supporting his work through a monthly subscription in return for his posts on creative editing. Sebastian’s editing process is moody and gritty, while my editing style results in bright and vibrant images, but there’s a clear desire to create images that stay with you.
In typical fanboy fashion, I dashed over to him to introduce myself and gush about his work. We spoke for a brief few minutes as we both had trains to catch, but he left me with a piece of advice that really resonated.
We were discussing our kit, as photographers often do, and when I showed him my super-telephoto lens, Sebastian said in his warm Polish lilt: “This lens, always use in portrait, as much as possible. Always!”
A lightbulb switched on.
I’d been using the lens to capture landscape images that often needed cropping. This simple tip was a game-changer. Shooting in portrait gives you a very high-resolution shot that captures a focused view of the moment. In this instance, the two players were running at speed towards the corner flag to celebrate and I had to match their speed in the viewfinder in order to perfectly freeze the action.
Sebastian’s wise words helped me to capture this moment and do it justice.
Maidstone United 2 – 3 Bromley, 28th March 2023
Given Louis Dennis’s injury-time winner in this fiercely contested Kent derby, it may well be a few Bromley fans' favourite game of the season. This image captured the calm before the storm, but there’s more to it than initially meets the eye.
Having just beaten Yeovil three days earlier, this narrow win against old rivals Maidstone marked the start of the unbeaten run that propelled Bromley into the play-offs. If Louis hadn't scored that last-gasp goal, those dropped points would have been a massive blow to the team’s momentum.
You may be wondering why I chose this image of Corey and Louis with their backs turned. After all, this is something you’re told not to do when photographing athletes as you want to capture faces. This rule is obsolete in my book, especially as the players’ names are on the back of the shirt.
I planned this shot long before I arrived at the Gallagher Stadium. Having studied Maidstone’s match highlights, I understood how the players would walk out onto the pitch and what they would be facing as they did so. And, as it was a Kent derby, I knew they would be walking out to packed terraces, giving me a stirring backdrop.
My aim was to capture the Bromley players looking towards their travelling supporters in the stand. I took numerous shots of the walk-out, but this is my favourite. It has the surreal feel of a computer game cut-scene, and the edit I applied to the shot highlights the gorgeous Bowie kit designed by Marc Edees.
What I like most about it, however, is that it captures a moment where Louis has just pulled his shirt on and is tilting his head towards the supporters, almost as if to say: “Look at me, I’m going to be the hero tonight.”
Woking 1 – 2 Bromley, 3rd May 2023
“Football without fans is nothing.” – Jock Stein.
A collection of stand-out images wouldn’t be complete without a picture of the supporters. This was snapped at the final whistle of Bromley’s play-off win over Woking; a gritty comeback in a do-or-die game that, for me, epitomised Andy Woodman’s class of 22/23.
I chose this image for the sheer euphoria on the faces of its subjects. I would’ve liked more Bromley indicators in the picture, such as scarves and badges, but that’s just me being a perfectionist. Wear more Bromley merch, people!
In the same batch of images, I’ve got a great shot of a Bromley fan kissing the badge, but the pose of the central fan here, and the composition of the faces around him, is just that little bit more engrossing. I’d have preferred a better background, too, but beggars can’t be choosers. Besides, this is all about emotion.
At this game, I also captured a fine shot of Michael Cheek sliding in front of the packed away end after scoring his penalty kick. It’s iconic, but Cheek is ever so slightly out of focus and it bothers me. You may have seen the image in Bromley’s media output and not noticed this error in the slightest. Such is the torment of a perfectionist photographer.
I decided to bring my flash with me to this game as I knew there would be jubilant scenes if Bromley won. I’m glad I did. I don’t often shoot with a flash as it’s a faff to set up and adds weight to an already heavy kitbag. Also, you can’t shoot with flash during a game, so you have to assemble it in the final minutes of the game, potentially missing out on important action on the pitch.
But, if you take the plunge, you can use it to capture rapturous crowd shots like this one.
Bromley 2 – 2 Aldershot Town, 21st January 2023
You may be wondering why I’ve chosen this seemingly run-of-the-mill photograph. Let me explain.
Photographers are taken for granted (no violins, please).
January 21st was one of the coldest days of the year and the thermostat plunged to -5° at Hayes Lane. Anyone who has watched football from the stands in this kind of weather will tell you how unbearable it can be. Now imagine sitting motionless next to a wide-open pitch and holding a giant metal camera lens; a lens which needs to be gently and minutely operated by hand.
It’s enough to make you want to get up and leave, especially when the going is tough on the pitch.
What I love about this image is that you can feel the cold in the air. The players’ long-sleeve shirts give you the first hint, but it’s the background that draws you in. There was no cloud cover that afternoon, which paved the way for the beautiful purple sunset that you can see developing in the dusky pink sky over the car park terrace. While you’re looking at that horizon, you’ll notice the low-lying freezing fog in the air around the trees. I bet you’re starting to feel chilly all of a sudden.
The other factor that made me choose this picture is that two of Bromley’s home-grown academy talents feature prominently. In the background we see highly-rated defender Kellen Fisher, who has been a revelation this season. In the foreground, meanwhile, talented midfielder Ben Krauhaus moves in on goal.
The image of these young lads scrapping it out on a bitterly cold day encapsulates the deep foundations and Bromley DNA that Andy Woodman often talks about.
There are a few more layers to this one. For one, I love how the bold red and blue of Aldershot’s kit matches the advertisement hoardings in the background. It’s subtle, but it’s aesthetically pleasing. I have also utilised the rule of thirds in this photograph. This rule essentially splits the image into nine equally sized boxes (try to imagine it). Ben occupies the centre and bottom-middle boxes, making him the focal point, while the other players are relatively evenly spaced in the background.
This level of detail may seem irrelevant, but the spacing of an image, and the segmenting of its subjects, subconsciously makes an image more pleasing to the eye. It helps if you have straight horizon lines, too.
The final layer is the fans in the background, who seem to belong in an L.S. Lowry painting.
See? Lots going on in a seemingly run-of-the-mill picture.
Bromley 2 – 0 Dorking Wanderers, 18th February 2023
The best photographs are always the simplest. I’ve taken a lot of pictures of Andy Woodman, but this is my favourite. Bromley had just won 2-0 against Dorking Wanderers with a fine display and Woody was peacocking in front of the Bromley fans. In life, Woody has an air of arrogance and assurance about him, which I like a lot. This pose encapsulates that for me, though it’s hard to explain why.
Technically, there isn’t too much to describe here, but the cool colours of the clothing and background (I’ve used the rule of thirds again here) are simple and effective and instinctively draw your eye toward the contrasting warm tone of Andy’s face.
In sports photography, it’s always a good idea to make your subject seem larger than life. To achieve this, you can simply get down low and use the background to convey an exaggerated sense of size.
For example, I could have taken this face on and had a backdrop of fans filing out of the Glyn Beverly Stand, but that wouldn’t make a great image as it would be too busy.
However, in this case, shooting from a low vantage point allows a quiet background that puts the subject in full focus and gives them presence. It also encourages the viewer to imprint their own meaning on the picture.
I imagine Andy here conducting an orchestra of the Ravens’ faithful, before swaggering off the pitch knowing that Bromley are in the driving seat for a place in the play-offs. But what do you see?
I hope you’ve enjoyed my photographer’s-eye-view of the 22/23 season, and I thank you for taking the time to do so. Whether here or on social media, I invite you to share your favourite images of the season. Tell us what makes the image stand out to you.
Thanks for taking the time to read the article by Martin.
Martin has provided the majority of the photos you have seen on ‘From Bromley with Love’.
All articles are edited by Peter Etherington you can link to him here
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