David Ashdown's Sports Picture Diary: Harlequins v Stade Francais

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The Independent Online

Rugby in the rain again! Sounds horrible... and it was. The pitch was flooded at the edges, and the lens case I was siting on sank about an inch into the mud. I know I have moaned endlessly about the weather in recent weeks but on Saturday it was something special, as in especially awful!

Not only did it rain constantly throughout the match, the temperature was about four degrees and falling.

I was at the Stoop for the Heineken Cup match between Harlequins and Stade Francais. The game started at 17.30 which meant I had to send some pictures before half time - but more about that later.

The lights at the Stoop are along the top of both the east and west stands. I was sitting just up from the try line on the west side. When the conditions are this bad, perversely it can be very good for pictures.

This image of a scrum was half way through the second half, and nearer the east stand than the west. The players look almost backlit with the rain falling so heavily and the floodlights make it look almost like snow. With so many players so close together a lot of heat is produced and the lights pick out the steam rising from their bodies.

I was only using one Nikon D3 camera with a 500mm F4.0 lens at 1/500 second at F4.0 and letting the camera's variable ISO setting (the sensitivity of the CCD that records the image) change the exposure.

Normally I would have used two cameras, using another one with a shorter focal length lens on it, but because of the heavy rain, it's better to concentrate on just using the one.

With ten minutes to go into the first half it was 18.00 and the first edition goes at about 18.45 so I had to send some pictures (while cursing the powers that be for starting the match at such a silly time!). Under normal weather conditions I would send the pictures from pitch side, but computers and water do not make a good combination, so I had to leave the pitch and go into the media room. At least it was nice and warm in there with free tea and coffee and it gave me the chance to dry off a little before heading back out for the second half.

Overall it was cold, wet and very muddy - in other words generally horrible conditions for photography. But the match itself was great and the pictures were even better, in fact much better than they would have been in the dry. And after all, for me, it's all about taking the best pictures I can - come rain or shine.

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