We're coming into the final weeks, the pointy end, of the rugby union season. Not only are promotion and relegation issues ever closer to being decided, the various cup competitions are also reaching their final rounds and games begin to pile on top of each other. So there's a busy weekend coming up for ickledot and also a particular disappointment that a game will be missed due to the impossibility of being in two places at the same time.
On Saturday there's a trip to a new ground to see a club in action in a national cup competition. As with Pontefract last weekend it's through invitation, which is very pleasing, to West Leeds. As it happens, ickledot has photographed this club on several occasions but never on their own home pitch. According to Flickr it's actually five times: against Bradford & Bingley seconds, at Ilkley and against local rivals West Park Leeds. The fourth and fifth occasions were both at the English home of rugby, Twickenham.
Not only did they win, they did so quite convincingly, scoring more than fifty points. This season they're in the Intermediate Cup and have reached the quarter final which takes place on Saturday. Opponents are a team from the north west, Aspatria. Something of an unknown quantity as the two clubs won't have met before, playing in different regional leagues.
Good luck to West Leeds then, it's sure to be an exciting 'winner takes all' encounter. Sunday sees another one to whet the rugby appetite: Doncaster Knights v Yorkshire Carnegie. As last season, both teams are pushing to be in what are going to be the Green King Championship's final play-offs, the RFU recently announcing that only the team finishing top of the league will be promoted in future.
Both played in the play-offs last season, the Knights going onto the final itself. This season Carnegie began the season strongly and were certainly dominant when the two met at Headingley before Christmas. The Knights have strengthened since then though and Carnegie have faltered, most recently against Jersey and London Irish. In the corresponding fixture last season the Knights came out on top with a last minute try from captain Michael Hills. Knights fans would be very happy with a similar result on Sunday.
Also on Sunday Yorkshire Under 20s are playing their second group game at Durham. Best of luck to them. Sorry not to be there.
Finally, ickledot's recently been asked, via email, about the gear he uses. It's something he's never really considered writing about before but if you look anywhere on the internet, particularly on YouTube, many people are interested in gear, some more so than photographing itself. So here's the first report in an occasional series about ickledot's gear.
Main Camera: Canon 7D MkII: It's taken quite a few years to reach the dizzy heights of a single digit Canon DSLR. Why Canon? Can't actually remember but it's certainly true that, when money is tight, once a choice has been made and a couple of lenses bought, it's very difficult to change. The first Canon was a 450D, then a 500D and a 550D with the compact little-mentioned 100D somewhere along the way as well. With each of these there was a period of learning how it worked and then moving on when it didn't quite manage what was wanted. Each time the old camera was sold in part exchange to buy the new one.
The 7D MII is a great camera. Seven frames a second and most effective in poor light which is just the job for our dark British winters. It's not a full frame camera which obviously has its disadvantages but the extra reach it gives a lens such as the 70-200 is much appreciated when shooting rugby. While not one of Canon's biggest cameras, it's still quite bulky, particularly with a long lens attached and ickledot is getting on a bit so doesn't enjoy the weight. However, the excellent auto focus which this camera possesses cannot currently be matched by the new smaller, lighter mirrorless models. When it can, ickledot will seriously consider a swap but not yet!