Skip to main content

Considering a creative course starting in 2020 or 2021? Email to find out about studying with us. Register for one of our Online Open Days at

Posted 14.04.14

Introducing Heather Clease

Get up and fight! Photo by John Rooney.

In his second bout with Sonny Liston, after winning the first in controversial circumstances, Muhammad Ali stood over his opponent yelling 'get up and fight!' after his first-round knockout.

The moment, captured by photographer John Rooney, made the cover of a special edition of Sports Illustrated, and has since been lauded as one of the greatest sporting photographs of all time. Rooney's is one of many culture-defining moments that have been captured by sports photographers.

Here, we talk to FD Commercial Photography student Heather Clease about her aims to capture "the moment, memories, beauty and emotion" of sports and action events in her own work. 

Hi Heather. You’ve just secured an internship this summer, in Greece. That sounds exciting.
Yes, I’ll be working there over the summer, for a company called Claire Edmeed, as their sports and portrait photographer. I’m looking forward to it.

How did you get into photography?
I studied photography at A-level and absolutely loved it, but at the end of the course I wasn't sure if I was ready for university. So I took a year out to work as a Graphic Designer, deferred my place on the degree programme and took it up at the end of that year when I felt ready.

Did that extra year help you?
Yeah, definitely. Unfortunately the fees went up that year but it felt right. I'm so glad I did it.

You’ve developed an excellent portfolio of sports photography on your course. Was that interest there from the beginning?
When I first started I loved all areas of photography, and wasn't sure what I wanted to specialise in. In the first year of my foundation course we did several different modules which focused on different areas of photography, and that  allowed me to find my niche. Now, in my second year, I've pursued sports, action and events photography.

Photo by Heather Clease

So you like “live” stuff?
Yeah. People think that every football game is the same, that every basketball game is the same, but every game is unique and you never know what might happen. The atmosphere of a game is always amazing, too. You get to meet so many different people, you get to be outside sometimes, and you get to travel. It's just amazing - most people who are interested in sports or sports photography know the feeling.

Great. So, tell us about a couple of good games you've shot recently.
Last year I got to shoot a Plymouth Argyle game, where I sat pitch-side with Plymouth Argyle’s chief photographer and John Sheridan, their manager. This year I've done some work experience with the Herald, where I've shadowed their chief photographer. I've also worked on photo shoots for the Plymouth Raiders basketball team and for the new ski and snowboard centre. I've been busy!

Photo by Heather Clease

Now that you’ve got some work experience under your belt, do you see yourself working in sports photography after you finish your degree?
Definitely. The dream is to work for Red Bull, who have always been an inspiration of mine, and shoot all of their extreme sports coverage. But generally, I hope to travel and keep taking photos of everything.

How have you found the course so far?
When I first came here last year I felt very unprepared and thought that maybe I shouldn't have taken up my deferred place, but I got over that very quickly because the teachers are so great. They really help you, and always allocate time for you if you need a tutorial. All of the students are really friendly, I guess we’re all in the same position as each other - wanting to learn as much as we can. The course allows you to work collaboratively with other students -- we often assist each other on shoots -- and through that you make great relationships and friendships. Networking is key, and so is building your portfolio. Both help to develop your skills and knowledge of photography so that once you've finished your degree, you can go out there and start working.

To see more of Heather's work visit: