Rugby World Cup 2019™ was a fantastic spectacle for sports enthusiasts around the world, and a hectic time for photographers trying to capture the action. While fans were immersed in events and cheering on their teams, photographers were firing off thousands of action shots and editors were rapidly evaluating, post-processing and sending out images across the world.
One of those editors was James Chance, who has worked at Getty Images for over three years and was the agency's lead rugby editor at Rugby World Cup 2019™. He worked as part of a team of between four and nine editors in Getty's London office.
James was responsible for 'tagging' – viewing the images as they were sent in by the agency's photographers and selecting the ones to keep, edit and send out. He ensured the agency had images of each match's peak action, significant events and newsworthy incidents, plus shots that captured its spectacle and atmosphere.
Other team members were responsible for cropping, colour correction and adjusting brightness, or captioning and sending images to clients and the Getty Images website. The team was kept busy – during the Rugby World Cup™ final, for example, they received over 2,000 images from photographers.
"During a live match it's very pressurised, but it's a fantastic job because we get to see these amazing images live," says James. "It's a privilege. We get to see history being made – for instance, images of a winning try, penalty or drop goal – before anyone else. We're also helping to create history by editing the photographs and sending them out to clients worldwide."
From the many thousands of Rugby World Cup 2019™ images that James saw, there are some shots that stood out from the crowd. Here, he selects his five personal favourite images from an exciting and incident-packed tournament, and tells us why he found them special.
When he first saw Shaun Botterill's image above, James says: "The thing that stood out was the Oita stadium itself. Photographically, it was probably the stadium that stood out the most throughout the whole tournament. Most of the pictures taken there were shot when it was darker, so the roof of the stadium is pitch black. But this was one of the rare matches that took place earlier in the day, so you can see the amazing architecture of the roof. It was taken with a Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM wide-angle lens, which shows the whole stadium.
"When you add the three France fans, with all their flags showing the three colours, plus the large number of fans in the frame, it makes an incredible atmospheric shot. This picture definitely would have been picked up for the live internet blogs, because it tells a story of the match: you can see the players walking out onto the pitch in the background and you can sense the crowd's excitement and anticipation."
"I like this picture first of all because it was shot from a different angle," says James. "The photographer, David Ramos, was positioned up in the stands, which creates a different angle completely. You wouldn't see that picture in domestic rugby because most photographers will be shooting pitch-side. The contrast between the blue and red kits is very strong; these colours clash really well, and some of the biggest derbies in sport are red versus blue.
"I also really like the way the picture is composed diagonally from the bottom right across to the top left-hand side, where the player is making the break. It draws the viewer's attention directly to the player who's making that run. So many players are chasing that one player, and it's just a hectic scene you wouldn't normally see in rugby.
"It was taken on a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens, which fills the frame with the pitch and gets a lot of players in. David has picked a zoom lens so he's ready for any kind of situation, and it has given him the flexibility to capture this image in the way he's wanted."
James says: "Out of all the crunching tackle pictures taken during Rugby World Cup 2019™, I love this one for several reasons. For one thing, the New Zealand player is off the ground between two England players who have picked him up and are marching him back to where they want him to be. Also, his facial expression is great and I like the symmetry of the two players either side of the frame. They're both looking back at what's happening and their faces say it all. From a rugby photographer's perspective, you ideally want a massive impact in a peak action image, so it's a perfect shot.
"The Canon EOS-1D X Mark II allows the photographer to set a high shutter speed, and the focusing on that camera is incredible. The picture is pin-sharp where it needs to be, which is on the New Zealand player's face. It was taken with a Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 IS III USM lens, which is ideal because you can get in tight on the action. At the same time, the background focus drops off nicely and doesn't detract from the subject."
"The contrasting emotion of the two sets of players in this shot is just incredible," says James. "It was taken at the final whistle in the Rugby World Cup™ final. The referee has his hand in the air and the whistle to his mouth, so you know it's the exact moment the match ended. It's the moment the South African players knew they'd won the Rugby World Cup™ and the moment the England players realised it hadn't gone their way.
"It was shot using a Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens. The photographer, Michael Steele, was obviously shooting from an elevated position and has got lots of players in the frame. Most photographers positioned pitch-side would have been concentrating on one specific player that was close to them. However, shooting from the stands, you want to set the scene and show the contrast in emotions from as many players as you can. Each player's actions tell a story after an incredibly hard-fought match."
James says: "Japan's team did so well in the tournament and were a breath of fresh air throughout. This shot was taken just after Japan had scored a try during the match against Scotland, which was one of Japan's big wins in the group matches. This image sums up the pure emotion of the moment and how much it meant to the Japanese team.
"The picture was taken by Stu Forster, who is one of our most experienced rugby photographers. He chose a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens, and using the zoom has given him the flexibility to compose the shot in a way that gives context. As well as showing Japan's players celebrating, there's also the two dejected Scotland players. In particular the expression of Stuart Hogg on the far right, looking towards the celebrating Japanese players, captures the moment perfectly. Stu has created a picture that sums up the whole match rather than just being a nice celebration picture."