Polo is one of the world’s oldest known team sports and I have wanted to photograph Polo for a while. Recently I had the opportunity to attend Toulston Polo Club and photograph a few matches on the upper and lower field.
Prior to attending Toulston I knew very little about the sport, but here is a brief overview. Field polo consists of four to eight 7-minute chukkas, between or during which players change mounts. At the end of each 7 minute chukka, play continues for an additional 30 seconds or until a stoppage in play, whichever comes first. There is a four-minute interval between chukkas and a ten-minute halftime.
Play is continuous and is only stopped for rule infractions, broken tack (equipment) or injury to horse or player. The object is to score goals by hitting the ball between the goal posts, no matter how high in the air. If the ball goes wide of the goal, the defending team is allowed a free ‘knock-in’ from the place where the ball crossed the goal line, thus getting ball back into play
Each team consists of four mounted players, which can be mixed teams of both men and women.
Each position assigned to a player has certain responsibilities:
- Number Oneis the most offence-oriented position on the field. The Number One position generally covers the opposing team’s Number Four.
- Number Twohas an important role in offence, either running through and scoring themselves, or passing to the Number One and getting in behind them. Defensively, they will cover the opposing team’s Number Three, generally the other team’s best player. Given the difficulty of this position, it is not uncommon for the best player on the team to play Number Two so long as another strong player is available to play Three.
- Number Threeis the tactical leader and must be a long powerful hitter to feed balls to Number Two and Number One as well as maintaining a solid defence. The best player on the team is usually the Number Three player, usually wielding the highest handicap.
- Number Fouris the primary defence player. They can move anywhere on the field, but they usually try to prevent scoring. The emphasis on defence by the Number Four allows the Number Three to attempt more offensive plays, since they know that they will be covered if they lose the ball.
Polo must be played right-handed in order to prevent head-on collisions
The playing field is 300 by 160 yards (270 by 150 m), the area of approximately six football fields so unless you have a big telephoto lens 400mm and above, you will need to move up and down the side lines in order to capture the action.
I had a Sony G Master 70mm-200mm lens paired with a 1×4 teleconverter, so I had roughly 280mm focal length on the long end, which was useable, but not ideal. However, when the player were within range it was possible to capture the action and as it was my first time, I was learning.
I will defiantly be returning to photograph Polo again, the people were very friendly, and I enjoyed watching and photographing the sport.
Many Thanks to Toulston Polo Club for the invite.