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Dead Pigeons and Footballers

January 01, 2014  •  1 Comment

A Great Ending...

I had a very cultural day to finish off 2013. I was hired to go down to the desert with three Paris St Germain (PSG) footballers (Zlatan, Maxwell and Camara) to record their activities and experiences, and to focus on their interaction with the Qatari culture and landscape. A pretty clear brief. I was told I'd be one of two photographers alongside a small film crew - great! It sounded like we'd all get plenty of opportunities to get our shots and I had a head filled with great ideas. As with most plans...once the day gets underway they go out the window! There were three film crews and many more photographers on the ground...so those great planned shots I had in mind became null and void and it was more about jostling for position to get any shot possible! No problem...event work usually goes that way and you have to roll with it.

Spot the camera crew!

{Spot the camera crew...}

The itinerary was designed to show the athletes a good time bashing over the dunes and visiting a Qatari winter camp to meet some locals. It was a perfect day in terms of temperature and light, so Qatar put on its best side. At the camp the players were introduced to the Qatari majlis hospitality of coffee, tea, dates and falcons...while us 'media' were hovering in close proximity to capture every audio and visual moment. Fluffy boom mics often crept into my shots and I was stood on by more than one camera guy! {I could never be media full time!}

Zlatan enjoying the Qatari hospitality...

{How cute is this Qatari boy?}

Once the hospitality was done with, the falcon was taken out for a spin. It was treat for me actually, as that was my first time to watch the falcons being worked. The handler waved a set of bird wings on a string and the falcon was released a few hundred metres away and flew at speed close to the ground to attack the decoy. Once it's allowed to capture the 'bird' it's fed a pigeon as a reward.

Falcon hunting the decoy.

The sun was setting and the desert tour was meant to now be finished, but then the offer of watching the falcon hunt a live pigeon was put to the players and Zlatan was keen to accept. "It will only take two minutes..." (that's Qatari minutes!). The PSG handlers were all checking their watches as we were already over time...but Zlatan got his way and a hunt was quickly set up. The falcon went one way, and the pigeon went another, then both were released and we watched what unfolded. People started scattering and jumping into cars...most made the decision to go with the falcon team...and I opted for the nearest car, which happened to be team pigeon.

I jumped into the back seat with a camera slung over each shoulder and landed on a bloody leather handling glove {yuk!}, then I felt something squishy under my foot...a dead pigeon {yuk again!}...and there are stressed live pigeons in boxes behind me voicing their displeasure {I'll have to ignore them for now}...and there's another hooded falcon sitting calmly on the arm rest between the two front seats. Ok. It's me, a car full of birds and two Qatari guys...we're all set...time to release the pigeon. It was thrown into the air and then the 4WD launched into warp speed. Apparently this was done so the pigeon wouldn't fly back into the car to hide {oh dear}...but the G-force threw us all back into our seats, and the calm falcon on the arm rest was now a flapping bundle of panic in the back seat with me! "Don't worry" comes the assurance from the front. Ok. Lucky I don't have a bird phobia as my space was filled with feathers and squawking {I tried to ignore it!}.

Team Pigeon

{Team pigeon}

I looked out the window to see what was happening to our pigeon, and the hunt was underway with lots of ducking and weaving between the two birds. The team falcon 4WDs were careering and swerving to keep up with the birds to grab a vantage point, and then the pigeon flew into a windscreen, and the falcon had to hit its brakes to avoid being the next victim. The dazed pigeon took refuge under the then stationary car and the falcon simply walked up to it and ended the hunt. It was hardly a challenge when the prey was semi-KO'd by a 4WD first! My high-speed chase also came to an end and hilariously my Qatari driver asked if I got some good shots! LOL! Not a chance...I was far too busy holding on while bouncing around the back of the car...not to mention the bird distraction! Too funny.

Thanks Qatar for a great end to the year...but perhaps not as great for the pigeon {RIP}.

{My favourite shot of the day...}

 


Comments

1.Taiwo Oluwaseun Mathew(non-registered)
What a wonderful shot.......
Gone through your website and in saw a wonderful snaps and the expression of the individuals culture concept. More Grease to your Elbow!
Though, i am also a professional photographer looking forward one day to full time base on my work schedule for now.
Thank you.
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