Through The Lens: Nick Wood’s 2019 Season (Part One)


Essex Cricket’s Club Photographer Nick Wood probably saw as much county cricket as anyone last year. He follows the team up and down the country, sitting in the stands capturing every moment. Last year was a special year for Essex, with Anthony McGrath’s side reclaiming the County Championship title, and Nick was there for it all. So with the 2020 season delayed, Nick thought it would be nice to open up his camera and show everyone some of his favourite photos from a wonderful campaign.

Through The Lens (Part One):

As I sat frustrated inside pining for the 2020 season, I reflected on last year’s Championship season and so decided to dig out some of my favourite images. Being in the most privileged of positions as the Club Photographer for the past 10 years means that I get a unique insight not only of the matches but also a view behind the scenes for which I am truly thankful to the players and staff for. The images I have selected are not all technically perfect but remind me of specific instances in the last season that I vividly remember and left an impact on me. I have tried to write a short description of each, to give you a better insight as to why I selected the image.


Description: 9th January 2019 – Anthony McGrath holds a team talk during pre-season training.

It’s a great feeling when the players return in the new year and I get to take a few images of them in pre-season training. I try to stay well out of the way as I guess it is not everyone’s idea of a great time sprinting up and down and being tested so soon after Christmas and the new year – on top of that no-one wants a camera in their face so I put a longer lens onto my camera and sit further back out of the way. Strangely enough, the guys are normally pleased to see me and everyone comes over and says hello which is great. Cricket seems a long way away at this point.

The Allen Ford Graham Gooch Cricket Centre has had a bit of work done over the years and the improved lighting helps my photography no end being so much brighter. I chose the image as the players lined up nicely framing Anthony McGrath – there is a lot going on in the picture which we try to avoid normally but it comes across as pretty clean.


Description: 26th March 2019 – Sir Alastair Cook of Essex in batting action during Cambridge University vs Essex – MCC University match at Fenner’s.

Not a Championship image as such but by the time the traditional university match comes around it feels like the start of the cricket season to me. Getting to see Alastair Cook batting for Essex is something special and I feel especially optimistic that it will be a good year as we have him available for the whole season.

When shooting sports, we try to find a background that is clear of distractions which can be tricky at so many grounds as there can be cars, buildings and other objects dotted around. When all else fails we will try and find some high vantage point so that we can shoot against a plain grass background. Fortunately when we go to Cambridge, one of the stewards in the closest college is a keen Southend United fan and after a brief catch up regarding the form of the Shrimpers every year he sneaks me in and lets me sit on a balcony overlooking the pitch. The problem with shooting from so high up is that you end up with a collection of images that could have been shot anywhere in the world as the grass gives no clues as to where you are so I try to shoot from a lower vantage point whenever I can.

Earlier in the season, we try to shoot as many frames as we can so that the marketing team have plenty of images to use. With ever-changing strips and sponsors, last year’s images are of little use so we shoot plenty to build up ‘library stock’. As the season wears on we become more selective of the frames we take and process.

This was actually a typically tricky cricket shot to take as the bright sun results in dark shadows over the face and excessively bright cricket whites that can bleach out to become little more than a bright white blob. Fortunately, Cooky lifted his head high enough so we could see his eyes in the shot and a little Photoshop helped with the highlights and shadows.


Description: 13th April 2019 – A fan soaks up the rays during Surrey vs Essex – County Championship at the Kia Oval.

Being a cricket photographer sounds like a great job and most of the time it is, however, every year without fail I forget just how cold it is in March and early April if you sit for days on end in the shady part of the ground. You can pretty much guarantee though that the best viewing angle for photography that gives you a clean background and the best selection of action images will result in you sitting in the shade. I can clearly remember having lost most of the feeling in my fingers catching sight of the fan on the opposite side of the ground sunning himself in beautiful isolation.

On a normal cricket day, I will turn up two to three hours prior to the match so I can tell the story of the day. This normally starts with some shots around the ground for the marketing team to use on social media and build some excitement for the days play. As a sports photographer, you also want to get in early with the papers and agencies and try to earn a few extra pounds. Having taken some ground shots, I will try to identify the best position to shoot for the day and set up camp. We carry so much heavy kit that you really don’t want to be moving around too much and you want to be within sprinting distance of the media lounge to get back for lunch before the journalists polish it all off.

As the match rolls along we try to capture not only action shots but also any interesting observations that we can find, normally this will involve the crowd – this guy stood out as he found a spot as far from anyone else that he could, I can remember feeling colder just looking at him with jealousy.


Description: 14th April 2019 – Essex team huddle during Surrey vs Essex – County Championship match at the Kia Oval.

I’m not sure if I like shooting at the Oval or not – it’s a bit of a trek with all the kit, I can’t stand driving so prefer the train but then again with so much kit it is a pain. I generally end up driving for the county matches – I get there early to grab the best spot but most importantly to get a parking space. The Media Centre is fabulous, good food and great coffee which helps but I get there normally too early so I have to walk and grab something locally.

After grabbing the obligatory ‘general views’ of the ground I am itching to get some early player shots to wire to the marketing team and press. As it is so early in the season, I blast away at anything and everything which only adds to the workload. I am hoping to get a couple of ‘iconic’ shots that the marketing team will like and want to start using – fortunately the Oval lends itself well to that type of thing and we have the added luxury of endless good shooting locations and freedom to roam.

I love to get hold of a decent team huddle shot as early as possible but I always feel torn between giving the lads the needed privacy by standing back whilst trying to get as close as I can to get the best shot. I see loads of photographers who have no issue with invading the player’s space and practically join in the huddle – I like the lads a lot and value the access they give me so I tend to stand back a little, let them focus on each other and keep their concentration (I also don’t fancy Tendo giving me an earful, so I take the cowards approach).

When I took the huddle shot there was a cracking blue sky and the lads stood in just the right space to shoot the gasholder in the background. I actually gave the shot a bit of a boost in editing to ensure the sky looked rich but nothing too much – we keep processing to an absolute minimum for use with the papers – normally we select images, give them a crop and straighten and a fine tune of the brightness.


Description: 16th June 2019 – Ryan ten Doeschate takes the catch of Sam Northeast during Essex vs Hampshire – County Championship match at The Cloudfm County Ground.

The Essex fans are a great bunch, always ready with a friendly greeting and eager for a chat. Having said that there are only so many times in a day that you liked being asked ‘did you get that?’ mainly because most of the time we don’t! The reason for not getting the shots is that the ridiculously long lenses zoom in to such a small area that it is very hard to follow the ball and unless you start by focusing on a specific player and hope the ball comes to them, then chances are you have missed that shot – it is much safer to focus on a bowler and follow them as they run in and then just sit on them and hope for a reaction should a wicket be taken.

I am always impressed by the way Ryan leads by example and puts himself in harm’s way, fielding in close. Capturing a close in catch on a photograph is a nigh on impossible task yet on this particular day Ryan has been close on a couple of occasions so I decided to point the camera at him and hope for the best. This is a risky strategy as chances are, I would be missing so much more action and could in fact spend a couple of hours without capturing a decent frame. Fortunately, the ball came to him once again and I had kept my concentration. It is by no means a perfect shot, in the ideal world he would have the ball on his fingertips and his eyes would be visible but it’s just about close enough. I can remember feeling relieved that my patience paid off and also delighted as it was against Hampshire, a team I never feel totally comfortable playing against until we are well on top.

About Unshaken Photography:

Nick runs courses across the region for people with a range of ability, so book your place and get more from your cameras when taking photos. Locations for the courses include The Cloudfm County Ground in Chelmsford, Cambridge, Maidstone or St Albans.

Courses cover the basics for beginners, portraits, landscapes and even sport, so if you fancy improving your photography get in touch with Nick at [email protected], by phone on 01245 494258 or visit the website – click here.