Pat rick Ea­gar

As Aus­tralia and Eng­land pre­pare for another Ashes se­ries, the doyen of cricket pho­tog­ra­phers, Pa­trick Ea­gar, talks to diehard Aus­tralian Keith Wil­son about cricket, cam­eras, Lord’s and… er, more cricket!

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Even be­fore he picked up a cam­era, cricket was in Pa­trick Ea­gar’s blood – his fa­ther Desmond was cap­tain of Hamp­shire for 12 years, and young Pa­trick quickly de­vel­oped a love for the game.

But his route to the hal­lowed turf of Lord’s owed as much to another rel­a­tive’s skill as his fa­ther’s own prow­ess with bat and ball…

When you were grow­ing up did you want to be a crick­eter like your fa­ther?

I sus­pect he wanted me to be like him! At ju­nior school I bowled leg spin. I was al­most as good as Shane Warne at that stage but it didn’t last. When you get the big­ger ball and the boys get big­ger, the straight slog goes for six rather than for noth­ing.

Who in­tro­duced you to pho­tog­ra­phy?

Both my grand­moth­ers were in­ter­ested in pho­tog­ra­phy, but in very dif­fer­ent ways. My fa­ther’s mother pho­tographed ev­ery­thing. This was the 1950s and she shot Ko­dachrome. We had slides on a screen and she did it rather well. But in the twen­ties and thir­ties my mother’s mother had pho­tographed all the churches and vil­lages in Devon and made post­card­sized prints for sale. She did all her own pro­cess­ing. To this day, I’ve still got a lot

of her post­card-sized neg­a­tives. So, it might be ge­netic.

Did one of your grand­moth­ers show you how to work a cam­era?

I can re­mem­ber the mo­ment; I was eight or nine and my fa­ther’s mother was tak­ing pic­tures. I said, “Can I take one?” She said, “Oh no. You wouldn’t know what to do.” That was a red rag to a bull. I said for the next few birthdays, “I want a cam­era!”

How old were you when you did get your first cam­era?

Prob­a­bly 12. Then I ac­ci­den­tally or­dered a de­vel­op­ing and print­ing kit for Christ­mas. I said to my par­ents in Oc­to­ber one year, “I quite like that.” It was in a shop win­dow in Ring­wood in Hamp­shire, and then by Novem­ber I had changed my mind, but they had bought it any­way. I was hooked: your first con­tact print when it comes up in the devel­oper, that was it. Magic.

When did your in­ter­ests, cricket and pho­tog­ra­phy, con­verge?

Here’s a clue. Back then the rights to Test match pho­tog­ra­phy at Lord’s were tied up with a con­tract be­tween Sport & Gen­eral Press Agency and the MCC . In re­turn for be­ing ex­clu­sive pho­tog­ra­phers for all Lord’s Test matches – which was nice – they had to pho­to­graph ev­ery day of ev­ery match. That wasn’t so good for them. So, when Hamp­shire played Mid­dle­sex at Lord’s it was recorded by Sport & Gen­eral and they sent a packet of prints to my fa­ther, who was cap­tain of Hamp­shire. He’d bring them back home. I’d look at them and think, ‘They look in­ter­est­ing.’

Which was the first game of cricket you pho­tographed?

Prob­a­bly Hamp­shire. My dad went to Aus­tralia on the 1958-59 tour as as­sis­tant man­ager and on the way out they stopped at Aden and he bought a Contaflex IV, and what he thought was a tele­photo lens. It was a Zeiss lens, but no more than 85mm, so he was a bit dis­ap­pointed when he got to Aus­tralia and wasn’t get­ting close-ups!

When he came back he gave me the cam­era. I started with that and I did what he had done, which was take pho­to­graphs through a pair of

binoc­u­lars. You line the binoc­u­lars up care­fully in front of the lens. I’ve still got some of those shots.

So you had to im­pro­vise?

Yes, the long lenses weren’t avail­able and I was dead set on 35mm then, but the pro­fes­sional stuff was still be­ing done on 2¼ square, or even 5x4 where ap­pro­pri­ate.

What about tele­photo lenses?

Cricket was dif­fi­cult to do be­cause in those days there were no long lenses. All the cricket cam­eras used air re­con­nais­sance lenses, mainly left over from both World Wars. The cam­era was like an SLR, but as big as half-plate, which is 6½x4¾ inches. They’d raise the mir­ror, fire the shut­ter, change the plate,

re-cock the shut­ter, put the mir­ror down, re­com­pose and do it all again. It was hope­less in many ways, but they had one ad­van­tage, which was the abil­ity to en­large small bits of the photo, be­cause be­ing half-plate it would blow up pretty well.

Which was your first pro job?

Jim Swan­ton, the cricket writer, took me un­der his wing and he was very good at giv­ing young peo­ple a chance. He got me work­ing for

The Crick­eter mag­a­zine. I started with them in 1965. I tended to do the fea­tures, pho­to­graph cricket grounds, that sort of thing.

Why did the MCC lift re­stric­tions on pho­tograph­ing Test matches?

It was 1972, an Aus­tralian tour, and the Aussies back in Syd­ney and Mel­bourne were re­ally pissed off with the ser­vice they were get­ting, be­cause their eastern coast dead­lines were more or less as the match started, so what they re­ally wanted was a pic­ture – they didn’t care what it was – within five min­utes. So they said, “We’ll send our own man.” The MCC said, “Oh, we don’t know about that.” Jim Swan­ton was say­ing in The Crick­eter mag­a­zine, “We never get any colour pho­to­graphs from the agency,” and Fleet Street wasn’t happy: the Daily Mir­ror was say­ing, “We don’t want the same pic­tures as the Daily Ex­press, we want our own.” The pres­sure had built up in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions, so in 1972 the re­stric­tions were lifted. I was still lucky to get in be­cause ev­ery news­pa­per got a pass and they re­served two spots for free­lances. Thanks to Swan­ton, I got one.

What were you us­ing then?

All the news­pa­per boys could think of was a big long box with a plate cam­era at one end and an air re­con­nais­sance lens at the other. They’d never worked out that times had changed. I had a Nikon F with a mo­tor­drive. I had a 500mm mir­ror lens by then and a Rus­sian 1000mm mir­ror lens, which went from f/8

The point with cricket is you do not know what’s go­ing to hap­pen next

Pa­trick Ea­gar Cricket pho­tog­ra­pher

when you bought it to about f/16 when the mir­ror got all tar­nished. So over­joyed was I that in April 1972 I or­dered a 600mm lens from Nikon. It turned up in Septem­ber!

How many cricket matches have you pho­tographed?

Tests, I can an­swer – it’s about 325 – but I haven’t a clue on one-day in­ter­na­tion­als. They tend to be for­get­table – not all of them, but most of them. I did the first nine cricket World Cups. The first World Cup fi­nal, in 1975, I loved it.

Cricket is of­ten de­scribed as ‘a sport like no other’. Is that also the case when it comes to pho­tograph­ing it?

It goes on a long time, doesn’t it? When you pho­to­graph rugby it’s 80 min­utes of con­cen­tra­tion and it’s over, ten­nis two or three hours. You can al­most af­ford to miss stuff in ten­nis. Ob­vi­ously with football you’ve got a goal to worry about, but it’s only 90 min­utes. With cricket you’ve got to keep go­ing all day.

What is in your match day kit bag?

If you’re do­ing it prop­erly, you need two cam­eras, one with a 600mm lens, which you could con­vert up to 850mm or more, and then some­thing just a lit­tle bit shorter, maybe a 400mm. I had a lovely lens, but I’ve since sold it, the Nikon 200-400mm zoom – a crack­ing lens. The point with cricket is you do not know what’s go­ing to hap­pen next. You’ve got a bats­man who’s on

80-some­thing or 90-some­thing and you want a close-up, so that’s your 600mm, maybe up­right, but then he gets caught some­where and you’re too tight in. That’s where the other lens comes in.

Do you have cam­eras any­where else around the ground?

In 1973, I was the first with cricket to use re­mote con­trol cam­eras. I had no­ticed the Sports Il­lus­trated guys used re­motes for box­ing and bas­ket­ball, so I got this guy who did aerial model air­planes to build me a wire­less set, which was great ex­cept you couldn’t use it for colour, be­cause you didn’t have a clue what the ex­po­sure was. You see, the cam­eras didn’t have built-in me­ters; the first one that did was the Nikon FE and I bought three of those. I loved them, so that was the first time I ever did colour, but I did black-and­white re­mote from 1973 on­wards.

When us­ing the re­mote cam­era, where would you set it up?

Usu­ally down the wicket for the TV view, but for the 1975 World Cup fi­nal at Lord’s I had cam­eras all over the place. It be­ing Eng­land, I’d have one loaded with slow film, one with fast film, one black-and-white and one colour. There was a lot of kit.

What is your favourite Nikon body?

I don’t think it was the F, I think the F2 be­cause it was a real leap for­ward. I had an F5, but never an F6, and the F4 I didn’t like. The F5 was good and the F2 was good and I had FE cam­eras in be­tween those.

What was your first Nikon D-SLR?

The D1x. A ter­ri­ble cam­era re­ally. It didn’t fo­cus, didn’t do any­thing.

Were you a re­luc­tant con­vert to dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy?

Well, the ad­van­tages were in speed and lower run­ning costs, and most of the agen­cies went over around 1998, but they were tiny files and they weren’t good, so shoot­ing colour trans­parency you were way ahead of them in terms of qual­ity.

I was the first [pho­tog­ra­pher] with cricket to use re­mote con­trol cam­eras

Pa­trick Ea­gar Cricket pho­tog­ra­pher

In the sum­mer of 2001, the Aus­tralians were over again and I went to the shop and got my D1x. It cost around £5000; a lot of money. Some­one said, ‘Well, you’ll need a mem­ory card, you might need two.’ It was a 320MB card, do you re­mem­ber how much that cost?

I’d hate to imag­ine…

That card cost £500! So, two of those were a grand. But, I was prob­a­bly spend­ing around £1000 a month on film pro­cess­ing alone, so it made sense. You just bit the bullet.

What is your desert is­land lens?

Well, you’re talk­ing cricket so it’s got to be the 600mm. You can’t do with­out it. I was very fond of the 200-400mm, though.

Is there another pho­tog­ra­pher’s work that you ad­mire?

Back then I did look at Sports

Il­lus­trated and the work of Neil Leifer and peo­ple like that. In Eng­land we all as­pired to be Gerry Cran­ham. Gerry was the one who got Sports Il­lus­trated work in the UK, in the six­ties. He didn’t do cricket, but he turned up one day with his Nikon and all these long lenses and said, ‘Ko­dachrome, Pa­trick, you’ve got to use Ko­dachrome.’ He was THE guy in Bri­tish sports pho­tog­ra­phy.

Who was your favourite Test crick­eter?

If you’re talk­ing pho­to­graph­i­cally, I sup­pose it was Ian Botham, be­cause you never took your eye off him, bat­ting, bowl­ing, field­ing.

Is that be­cause he was al­ways in the game?

He was al­ways up to some­thing! Against him a much bet­ter player was Garry Sobers, who would be my favourite crick­eter prob­a­bly.

Who was your favourite bats­man?

You do like the bish-bash-bosh type. Viv Richards? I don’t think he was the best in that sense, but Adam Gilchrist wasn’t far off it. There are so many. You’d be hard to deny Sachin Ten­dulkar, but he was dif­fi­cult to pho­to­graph. I never re­ally got a clas­sic pic­ture of him.

When you say he was dif­fi­cult to pho­to­graph, what do you mean?

Well, he was so in con­trol of it, he never let rip. Even when he did hit

the ball over the bowler’s head for six, it didn’t look like it! Whereas Viv Richards was master blaster.

Yes, there was al­ways an air of ex­pec­ta­tion when he walked to the crease…

Yes, and nearly ev­ery time when he faced his first ball, the bowler would bowl a lovely good length on the off stump, the per­fect ball, maybe mov­ing away a bit, and bang, it would go all the way through mid wicket along the ground for four. Ev­ery­one would be go­ing, “What hap­pened?” Es­pe­cially the bowler!

Favourite bowler?

Fast or slow?

Good ques­tion. Fast and slow…

I’ll do slow, it’s easy. It’s got to be Shane Warne. He was the best-ever at wrist spin. There had never been any­one like him be­fore.

You must have been there at Old Traf­ford in 1993 when he bowled the ‘Ball of the Cen­tury’?

Yes, it was a bug­ger to pho­to­graph. It was pitch dark. Most of us were at the wrong end, our view blocked by first slip, but luck­ily I had the re­mote go­ing and I got it in colour and black-and-white. It was film and the ex­po­sure was less than 1/250 sec, so a bit blurred, but it’s the only one of Warne and Gat­ting in the pic­ture.


Some of those West In­di­ans, Michael Hold­ing es­pe­cially, and the Aussies, Thommo [Jeff Thom­son] and Dennis Lillee. Take your pick! Michael Hold­ing’s ac­tion was so ath­letic, no ef­fort seemed to go into it at all. I put him very, very high.

Which is your favourite ground?

There’s prob­a­bly more than one. Lord’s is the ul­ti­mate for pro­fes­sion­al­ism. You look at Lord’s at 10 o’clock on a Thurs­day morn­ing, it’s im­mac­u­late; like Au­gusta at the start of the Mas­ters, or As­cot. Ev­ery­thing’s tidy, ev­ery­thing’s in place. Trent Bridge is good, ev­ery­one is very con­sci­en­tious. Ade­laide is beau­ti­ful and, this may sur­prise you, Kolkata is spec­tac­u­lar. It’s not much smaller than the MCG but it’s

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