Picture Perfect: 'It is the highest spot in the stadium and all I had for company were a few dead birds'

Tommy Dickson shares the story behind his favourite photograph.
Picture Perfect: 'It is the highest spot in the stadium and all I had for company were a few dead birds'

Ireland's Jacob Stockdale scores a try despite the efforts of Damian McKenzie and Aaron Smith of New Zealand. Photo: INPHO/Tommy Dickson
Ireland's Jacob Stockdale scores a try despite the efforts of Damian McKenzie and Aaron Smith of New Zealand. Photo: INPHO/Tommy Dickson

My favourite picture

I’ve never had a photograph which has garnered the kind of reaction that this picture generated.

It was the perfect picture from the perfect game.

Ireland against New Zealand is always a glamour match but the hype around this was upped a few notches given the historic win over the All Blacks in Chicago in 2016.

So there was a huge sense of expectation around this game two years ago with every Irish fan hoping that history was about to repeat itself - but this time on home soil.

We, in the INPHO agency, had a number of photographers covering the game and I was sent up to the rafters, up near the giant TV screen.

There is a risk with a placement like this, you could literally spend the full match up there and not come up with anything that made the trip worthwhile. But given the magnitude of the game, and the need to try and produce something different, we felt it was a risk worth taking.

It is the highest spot in the stadium and all I had for company were a few dead birds. For safety reasons, I had a helmet on, and it was just as well as I kept banging my head off the cross-beams up there!

I was standing on a wee mesh floor and if you looked directly down, it did give you a nasty feeling of vertigo so I tried to avoid doing that as much as possible.

I was primarily operating of a 400mm lens which is hugely powerful but naturally you are still dependent on the action falling in the right part of the pitch for it to work.

For the try, Ireland won a lineout so I moved over to that side of the field to shoot from that angle. From the lineout the ball moved in the opposite direction, away from me. These guys can zip the ball across the pitch in seconds, and it looked like I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But then Jack Stockdale chipped the ball through changing the direction back towards me. I just kept shooting it without thinking. Jacob dived over the line under me. It looks like a drone picture ….

I couldn’t have been any more on top of it. There is no immediate celebration or sense of a job well done. When you are shooting a game you can’t think back on the pictures you have just taken, you have to keep focused on documenting the event and the images you are about to shoot.

There will be plenty of time after the final whistle to review the pictures. You want to do the best job possible when you are on duty. The picture went out and was subsequently tweeted by Murray Kinsella of the42.ie. That lit the fuse and my phone started to light up with notifications and likes. Having a picture on social media is one thing but there is a huge buzz still when your picture makes the newspapers the next day. Seeing your name in print alongside it is still very special. I think that every photographer is chasing a picture like this that - an image that is stunning, and historic.

I got Jacob to sign a print for my mother, and my uncle (as it was his birthday that weekend). My mother now has it hanging on the wall in the living room at home. She puts all the special ones there!

Interview: Colm O’Connor

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