‘With a surname like Canon how could I possibly use anything other than a Canon camera? It may seem obvious, but I can honestly say I don’t think I would have chosen any other make, even I had had a name like Nikon, Hasselblad, Pentax or Olympus!
When I went to Public School (the UK’s version of a private school) in 1969, my lovely American godmother sent me a gift of a Kodak Instamatic, in a very smart carrying case. I treasured this camera and remember clearly on a family holiday in Scotland, lying beside a salmon river waiting to try and catch a fish leaping! My parents told me that I was there for hours and luckily enough I managed to catch a salmon leaping – just a dot on the horizon but sure enough it was caught! I remember my excitement when my mother collected our prints from the chemists and I was so thrilled to see the picture! I suppose this was the first sign of the wonderful career that lay ahead of me.
My first attempt at using a 35mm camera was in 1976, when I borrowed my sister’s Zenit camera for a trip to a golf tournament. I remember again the excitement of collecting the processed film and prints, and especially seeing the clarity that could be achieved with a 35mm camera. I was already hooked. A few weeks later I was standing in line at Jessops of Leicester, having sold a little Mini car, waiting to spend £420 on a Canon AE1 camera, a 50mm f1.8 lens, and a 135mm f3.5 lens. I was in possession of my very first 35mm camera, my first Canon camera, it was magical! There was hardly a day I would not take pictures. The tool shed at home was swiftly cleaned, painted and transformed into a darkroom and every spare penny I earnt went on darkroom kit and more equipment.
By the end of 1979 I possessed a Canon A1 camera, the successor to the AE1 body, an 85mm f1.8, and my first zoom lens – a Canon 100-200 f5.6. I soon found out that it was not really ‘fast’ enough for poor light and this pushed me over the edge to get a Canon 300mm f4.0. This lens was my ticket to my first full time job in sports photography, after my work was spotted in the Leicester City match programmes by Bob Thomas, who owned and ran a sports photography agency in Northampton.
I took the plunge because from the first moment that I started taking sports pictures, it was all I wanted to do in life. I could not have cared less that I had to take a 50% pay cut from my job, as a nylon sheets salesman with a Ford Cortina, changing to a totally brilliant job travelling the country in my white Morris Marina van. I was in my element. This was my only spell when I did not use Canon equipment, but I learnt so much in 18 months working for Bob, that I was totally prepared for a new job with Allsport in March 1983.’