As I’ve mentioned in a few posts, the Rugby World Cup is in town. Or rather, it was, as it all finished up last weekend with New Zealand beating Australia 34-17 to retain their title and bring to a close six weeks of what has been hailed as a hugely successful tournament. For most of those six weeks, we’ve used the weekends full of rugby as an excuse to stay inside for some much needed R&R (with the exception of opening weekend, when we marked our anniversary by running away). Not to denigrate the World Cup, we just felt like ignoring it as best we could. We could only ignore so much – friend and part-time collaborator Catherine was volunteering at Twickenham and crashed in our spare room most weekends.
But with final day upon us, and the Red Arrows scheduled for a flypast of the stadium and our flat just before kickoff, I figured I should finally get out into the throngs and soak up the atmosphere.
My first venture out was just before lunch, more than four hours before kickoff. Even then, a lot of people were milling around the stadium, collecting tickets, taking pictures and generally just absorbing the excitement in the air.
The stadium, of course, was decked out for the occasion, with massive banners for the match adding the the colourful markings that had been there all tournament.
Most of the colour and activity was to be seen around the front of the stadium, near the statue the adorns that spot. This is where the flags of the teams competing in the tournament were flying, as well as where most of the people were milling.
Either side of the statue (which surely has a name but I have no idea what that might be) were large cutouts of the kits of the two competing teams, complete with stands for people at take pictures against.
Even four hours before kickoff there was a helicopter circling overhead, presumably doing some buildup piece for the news.
Part of what I went out there to shoot was the crowds. As you’d expect, most people were wearing either black or yellow, the team colours of the All Blacks and the Wallabies respectively.
Some groups even contained people wearing both.
I also wanted to get shots of the stadium resplendent in its World Cup Final livery before it was all inevitably removed – from the flags that had been there all tournament to the new gold signage to mark the final itself.
I also managed to get straight-on shots of the large kit cutouts without them being cluttered by too many people.
Having wandered around for a bit, I headed back home.
I ventured back out less than a quarter of an hour before kickoff (and less than ten minutes before the flypast). By that point the sun was beginning to set, and its golden tones played beautifully with the autumnal colours of the trees.
I was still keen on grabbing shots of the stadium’s new uniform, this time in softer light.
This being the World Cup, there were a few characters about. This chap on his bicycle caught me off guard so my blurry drive-by shot was a bit blurrier than I intended.
And as we often do when the rugby is in town, there was a lunatic proselytising. Perhaps he was trying to convert the people to rugby league.
With not long until kickoff, there wasn’t very many people left out and about, and the ones that were were rushing along tickets in hand to get into the stadium and find their seats before the match started.
I had left things a bit tight for the flypast. They were scheduled to fly over the stadium at 15.55, and this being the Red Arrows they would not be late. Knowing that they were flying over Trafalgar Square at 15.53, I was 80% certain what direction they would be travelling and had a vague idea in my head of where I wanted to be to get a shot.
I didn’t make it. I’d left a bit late, and I was not quite where I wanted to be when someone called out “look!” and helpfully pointed in the direction the planes were coming from (which, I’d like to point out, is the direction I thought they would be). Their flight line took them straight into the setting sun, making for some lovely lighting as they flew overhead.
The main thing for me was getting the stadium in the shot, or else I might as well have recycled shots from the Bournemouth Air Festival (and actually watched the planes from my own flat).
This photo even managed to get the word ‘Final’ and the phrase “Rugby World Cup 2015” in the shot, just in case there was any doubt.
Although I didn’t get the spot I was intending, I’m actually not entirely sure the spot I envisioned existed without having the stadium block my view of the planes. And besides, I tweeted the latter two images above to the Red Arrows twitter account and got retweeted, being viewed by almost 11,000 people, so they’re probably not that bad.
After the flypast I could relax a little more. The Red Arrows may have gone, but they had left their usual telltale calling card.
Before the match had even kicked off, the cleaning crews were out in force to clean up.
And the camera crews were still interviewing people. Not that I recognised the interviewee or the station that was interviewing him.
With outside the stadium calming down, and the inside where the action was out-of-bounds, I started heading back towards home. That was when the team must’ve ran out onto the pitch, because the sky exploded.
On my way back I saw a few different angles on things, like this poster for the Wallabies.
I also wanted to capture more of the autumnal colours in the setting sun. Behind the stadium near the Twickenham Pavilion (a large temporary hospitality structure) the flags are of the more traditional country type rather than team flags. The breeze had settled however so they were flat against the poles, but they still added some hints of colour.
With the evening drawing in I took a shot towards the setting sun, using HDR to capture the long shadows and the details and colours of the stadium.
There was a lovely tree by the Twickenham Pavilion that had perfect autumn colours. I loved the shades of orange and brown, especially with the blue of the building.
I headed home to watch the game.
With New Zealand the victors, I kept an eye on the outside, expecting a fireworks display as they lifted the trophy. When nothing happened, I returned to the TV and set my camera down, which of course is when the fireworks started. Not being particularly ready, I only got one decent shot that wasn’t a blurry mess – and this one looks more like a shot from a bombing campaign in the Middle East on the news than the end of a sporting tournament.
The fireworks marked the end of the World Cup. For the last week things have been turning to normal. The livery is being peeled off the stadium, the crowds have gone, and the Twickenham Pavilion is being dismantled and turned back into a car park. Meanwhile Twickenham Stadium is going from hosting the Rugby World Cup to the NFL.
I’m glad I took the opportunity to take in a small part of the World Cup. It’s not often a major sporting tournament comes within a few hundred yards of your house and although I can’t say I made the most of it I certainly made some of it. Who knows when such a thing will come by again?