Sports Photography at Leeds Varsity

The biggest Varsity showdown after Oxbridge is held annually in Leeds. I was commissioned by Leeds University to capture 10 hours of action at many different venue throughout the Uni and Met campuses. The breif was to capture as many events as possible – so took the huge list of sports, planned the day and set off to capture the events.

First off was Badminton at Edge – a lot faster than you think and the lighting was pretty low, so we’re talking serioulsy high ISO settings and wide apertures to capture the action – here’s one where the shuttle is sharp with the racket about to hit it.

Next was swimming – very humid and instantly had lenses steaming up, so had to wait for them to acclimatise – then got to work with the long lenses, trying to capture the emotion and spirit of the event through facial expressions.


So lots of swimming and diving later, the netball starts at Edge, so move along to the hall to capture that. Again, pretty fast moving – and rather than “gunning” 1000’s of photos of the action, I determined to shoot just 1 shot – the right shot – of each move, waiting for the perfect moment – just love the expression on the right-most Leeds player as the Met score….

Edge was finished, so headed up to Becketts Park for a variety of other sports…. starting with the 100m

Then inside to the Tennis matches

And the wonders of Netball

That was Beckett’s Park complete – so up to Weetwood for the Lacrosse, Hockey and Football

So most of the day was done – I spotted more Netball going on, headed down to the uni campus and captured that along with some of the squash… not a lot you can do with squash other than look down upon them!

Palpable tension in the audience!

Squash… not the king of photogenic sports really…

And so to Headingley Stadium – the finale, the cheer leaders, the trophies, the rugby union and the rain…


First up, the Met Cheerleaders


next, the rather acrobatic Uni Cheerleaders….

And then on to the game

One of the regular sports photographers warned me that it was “a bit dark” on pitch due to the low-ish powered floodlights. He wasn’t wrong – once they were in the corners, the light fell away so much that you were struggling to get anything useful… but the main action was in the middle, luckily. Using my trusty 500 F4.5l lens and the 70-200 occasionally, I knocked out about 400 shots over the 2 halves.

So the result….

It was 29-30 when the Rugby started – the Met had the lead, the Uni had to win to level the day.

Luckily, for my client anyway, the Uni came through strongly in the second half and won by a good margin – levelling the Varsity at 30 each.

A long hard day for the sports men and women, and pretty tiring and lots of exhilaration for the photographers.

Even better is that the University loved the photos and are looking to use McFade on a regular basis!

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