Shooting Sport on Film - The Return of an Artform

By Paul McKay

Sport is exciting, fast-paced, and it happens in the blink of an eye. So of course photographers have always wanted to try and capture those instances - nail down the emotion and the action into a tangible image. The popularity meant that film brands like Kodak paid huge amounts to be the 'official film partner' of the Olympics, to showcase their emulsions in high profile situations. But it is a technically challenging endeavour - you need long lenses, fast shutter speeds, and high ISO films to cope with the demands of the light and the pace. This meant that photographers needed to be skilled, agile and lucky 😂 to catch the best of the action.

 

Sport on Expired Film - Salford Football

 

The advent of digital cameras - specifically high capacity DSLRs - made things a lot easier and helped sports photographers overcome many of the technical challenges, quickly pushing sports analogue shooting into the history books.

That is...until Miles Myerscough-Harris, the founder of ExpiredFilmClub and a professional videographer, decided to bring it back. You might have seen his account and his videos - he has covered Premier League football, Six Nations Rugby, the snooker Masters, baseball and more - all on film, and has garnered millions of views on social media in return.

We're lucky enough to work with him on all his developing and processing for these assignments, so we sat him down to explore his motivations and success!

 


 

Miles! Thanks for the chat 😊 Let's start at the beginning: what’s your photography background and how did you start shooting on film?

 

I've had a camera in my hand for as long as I can remember - it's the only thing I've ever wanted to do. I even found some home videos of me when I was 3 or 4 recently, and all I wanted to do was grab the video camera off my mum to use it myself!

I've done a lot of video work in the music industry throughout my career, alongside stills, which obviously ground to a halt when the pandemic hit. That was actually the catalyst for me getting back into film photography, as I hadn't held a film camera since sixth form (where I studied photography) but lockdown gave me the chance to really delve back into it as a passion!

I found myself an Olympus OM-10 local to me on Facebook Marketplace, and fell in love again straight away.

 


 

Your ExpiredFilmClub following went wild in 2021 - how soon did you know you’d hit on such a big idea?

 

It's hard to say really. I vividly remember the first video of mine that went viral on TikTok - I got my lovely wife to film me loading a roll of expired film over Kynance Cove in Cornwall, and posted it with some of my favourite music in the background (Agape by Nicholas Britell) and it quickly got a couple of million views. That led to gaining several thousand followers, and I just thought 'I should keep on doing these types of videos.'

 

@expiredfilmclub Loading up a roll of expired film on the Cornish coast 🎞 link in bio to get yours! #expiredfilmclub #filmcamera #BeRightBackWorld #dontletthisflop ♬ original sound - speblack

 

So I carried on posting those sort of POV videos of me loading interesting rolls of film, in interesting places, using interesting cameras, and they just kept gaining traction. There was one I posted using an old folding camera from 1933 that got about 15 million views - I remember going to sleep and waking up to see a notification that over 20 thousand people had followed me overnight. That was pretty wild!

 


 

What do you think is it about expired film that appeals to so many people today? And film photography in general?

 

I think it's doing the same thing as vinyl has in recent years - I guess people (me included) love having something more tactile that you can physically feel and pour part of yourself into rather than loads of 1s and 0s on a screen. It also just has that extra bit of 'life' to it - I think the film grain and sprockets etc that film can have means you almost interpret each photo as more of a story to me.

 

Shooting sports on film - black and white with Miles Myerscough Harris

 

Expired film I guess is particularly interesting just due to its unpredictability, it's almost like applying a random film filter to your photos, and I think the craziness of some of the results - including light leaks like below - is really cool. Plus I love all the old retro designs on the boxes and canisters!

 

Expired Film sports photography - Arsenal Football Club

 


 

You’ve recently been trail-blazing in the world of sports photography - shooting professional football, rugby, snooker and more on vintage cameras and analogue film. How did that begin?

 

It all happened really naturally. Alongside photography, sport (particularly football) is my real passion, and so I would always take my film cameras to sports games I would go to watch. My younger brother Dylan (who is also a film shooter) and I have this tradition now where we find really cheap flights to somewhere in Europe to go and watch a football game, and bring our film cameras along with us to shoot some photos whilst we're wherever we are for those few days!

 

Expired Film Club - WFA

 

I then connected with an account on Instagram called @football35mm, who works for a football social media company & always takes his film cameras to games too. He managed to get me and Dylan tickets to a Fulham home game, and I obviously brought a point & shoot or two with me. I then posted one of my videos to Instagram that I shot at the game and the club saw it and loved it, so we kept in touch and they officially invited me down to be a pitchside photographer for a game this season!

I then posted a video from that game that I shot from my pitchside position showing the results on film, and that did really well on socials, getting about 10 million views across Instagram and TikTok. And that was it! Because it did so well I just started getting messages from clubs and sports all over the place, which has led now to me essentially specialising in sports photography on film, which is literally a dream come true for me. I'm very lucky.

 


 

How do people react to seeing you pitchside?

 

Most of the other photographers to me are like 'thank god I don't have to do that anymore' 😂 but it's actually mostly really lovely. I've actually started to get recognised a bit at games as 'that guy who shoots sports on film' which is fun!

 

Miles Myerscough-Harris Expired Film Club - shooting sport on film camera 

 


 

I can imagine! And then how do people typically react to seeing the results?

 

It's really nice to see that people seem to react overwhelmingly positively to seeing the results. I recently got invited to Stockholm to shoot AIK on my 127 year-old Kodak, and everyone was so excited to see the results which was so nice to see!

 

EFC Salford Expired Film - sport on film photography

 


 

What has been your favourite ‘sport on film’ experience so far?

 

Apart from shooting my first Premier League game, which was such a bucket list moment for me, my favourite moment so far was probably managing to capture Jarrod Bowen scoring a goal for West Ham right in front of me!

I managed to track the focus & framing just right, and I had some Ilford Delta 3200 film loaded at the time, so the shutter speed was nice & high, and everything just came together perfectly.

 

Jarrod Bowen scoring on film - expired film club

 


 

What are the technical challenges you face when photographing sport on film?

 

There are just so many more limitations to shooting on film, that comes from the lack of light (remember your Exposure Triangle!) The ISO of the film is really important. Realistically the highest I can possibly go is 3200 which, for night games or indoor sport, is just about enough to have the shutter speed high enough to not get too much blur. But I'd say the hardest bit is manual focus. At 300mm f/2.8 & with fast-moving action it can be so difficult!!

 

EFC Six Nations rugby shot on film - sports on film photography

 


 

What is your favourite photo you’ve taken in the past few months and why?

 

I think this one of the AIK team wearing a special centenary kit has to be it. I was asked to do this to try and recreate a team photo from 100 years ago at the founding of the Swedish first division, where the team was wearing a kit that inspired this special edition one!

 

AIK Team Photo for 100 years - sports on film photography

 

To shoot this I used a Kodak camera that is over 120 years old, and so finickity to work with. It's a bellows camera with a little plate that indicates how far away you're focusing, aperture goes down to f/4, the shutter speeds can only be selected from slow, medium and fast, plus I have to use 3d printed adapters to fit 120 film in it, which causes a slight panorama effect!

Alongside all of this I literally only had time to take a single frame of the team, and I was so nervous that it would come out… but luckily it did, thanks in no small part to the beautiful processing from AW!

 


 

Oh go on then - now you've brought it up, tell us why you trust Analogue Wonderland's lab with these precious films?!

 

The WonderLab is, quite simply, the only place I'll go to process my film now. The service has never been anything other than excellent, and the results have always been absolutely top-notch too, from decades-expired black and white film to fresh Kodak Portra 800. Big shout out to Max (lab manager) as he is so knowledgeable and always knows exactly what to do with all of the weird and wonderful films I send his way, and remains extremely patient with me when I need stuff turned around really quickly for my sports partners!

 

World Snooker Tour shot on film by Miles Myerscough Harris

 

But the whole team is great and I always know that I can 100% rely on them to get the best possible results from the rolls I send them containing really important work for high-profile clients. Can't speak highly enough of the service. (Plus, it's super convenient that the lab is literally on my way home from London 😅)

 


 

Ok I'm blushing. Let's move on: what's next on your hitlist?!

 

I've actually got some incredibly exciting sporting projects coming up, but unfortunately I'm sworn to secrecy for now. Let's just say that they are going to be shoots that are beyond my wildest dreams...

 


 

What a tease! So dear reader, over to you...

Do you have a specific sport / match / favourite team that you want Miles to photograph next?


3 Comments

  • Great article thanks.
    There’s something magical about the whole film process, it slows you down and really makes you think.
    There’s nothing quite like the feeling of anticipation and excitement of collecting your contacts or prints a day after your shoot. Digital is obviously beneficial in many ways, but nothing compares to that analogue atmosphere!
    Keep on keeping on! ( to quote Alan Bennett )
    Thanks,
    Richard

    richard tennant
  • I’ve been shooting my kids football games every Sunday for about a year. I create a book for the kids at the end of the year. The parents utterly adore it. I Use Delta 400 mostly or TriX with Nikon F5s and also an OM10! It’s frustrating not being able to share them in the same way though. Photos of kids are obviously more protected. Happy to read of his success. Maybe one day the same kind of penny will drop for me too.

    Ted Smith
  • I’m of that age where I got into photography in the days of film. I’ve been out and about a few times and occasionally I get a reaction from someone nearby who hears the shutter go off and then asks the question…what camera is that? When I tell them it’s a film camera then it’s either…oh yes I remember them to a what! And next it’s…don’t you use digital?
    It’s an age thing of course.
    Anyway, I live near Liverpool and of course the reds are my team.
    I occasionally get the Liverpool echo and years ago they had a staff photographer by the name of Stephen Shakeshaft who’s sports photographs were superb. The other photographer I had the pleasure of actually meeting was the late great Eamonn McCabe. To see his photographs in the flesh was inspiring and his talk about his life as a sports photographer was very interesting.
    Great interview with Miles bring back those memories when film was king.

    Tom Murphy

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