Anatomy of the scrum

The Times asked me to get up close and personal with the England scrum.

A little email to and fro between Alan Miller, the sports picture editor and the RFU eventually led to my arrival at Pennyhill Park.


Nikon provided me with 7 x D810 Bodies and 7 x 14-24mm lenses.

Direct photographic provided the Pocket wizard transmitters.

I provided the blind faith that I could produce an image!


We were due to shoot at 10.30 in the morning, but due to a change in the training schedule we didn’t shoot until 4.30 in the afternoon.

This actually worked in our favour as we were able to iron out a few niggles with the equipment.

At first I tried to light the scrum underneath with Profoto B1’s, but we were unable to synchronize all the cameras. And fire the strobes.

They were all firing, but not in unison a couple of the cameras were slightly delayed.

I adjusted every setting that could’ve affected this but to no avail.

So I decided to use the built in flashes on the Nikon D810’s.

I also compensated the exposures to reduce the amount of flash and used more of the ambient light.

I didn’t quite know how the photographs would work as a set.

So I set out to “capture” as much as possible and then work out afterwards how I would produce a single image.

I laid my favourite images in a grid. My reason for this was to illustrate the anatomy of the entire scrum. Something that I don’t think has been seen this way before. I love all the expressions.

I then decided to use three  separate images from the front of the scrum to build a composite photograph.

In a perfect world I would’ve either built a stage with a glass floor and then shot from underneath, but it would’ve meant attempting to transport the England team to a studio, which was not going to work with their busy training schedule.

The alternative would’ve been to dig a large crater in the pitch with the cameras underneath a glass floor, but I didn’t have the heart to ask the groundsman if I could dig a huge ditch.



About Gray Hughes photographer

Gray Hughes grew up in southwest London but has always had strong connections to the USA. He has spent many summers on road trips, visiting family in California. In his early twenties he moved to New York and assisted various fashion photographers before returning to London to shoot editorial sports and lifestyle. He soon graduated into shooting commercially for brands including Coca-Cola, Asics, Nike, Adidas, Reebok and Powerade. Gray has always loved film and music – his mother exposed him to Hitchcock at an inappropriately young age. As a young teen he used to record music demos on a four track recorder. Then in 2001 he took a break from photography to pursue a career in music, remixing dance music for four years before returning to his first love, photography. Gray’s personal projects have taken him to cowboy country in Montana, USA as well as Rio de Janeiro and more recently, around the grassroots rugby clubs of Britain. His film, ‘Heartland’ was a finalist in the 2015 AOP awards, with the accompanying photographs featured in the Sunday Times Magazine. He directed his first commercial for Glamorgan Brewing Company in 2015 and then subsequently joined Ridley Scott Associates where he was added to the photgraphy and moving image roster, he is on an indenpendent arrangement while he grows his show-reel so is free to collaborate with other production companies. So far this year he has directed films for Reebok and Standard Life and has shot a global advertising campaign for Vodafone.

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