For many people the true excitement of big events such as the Carling Cup Final is what you see on the pitch - and while the match itself is what fans remember most, there are plenty of fascinating stories to be had behind the scenes.

And that's where Tom Jenkins comes in. The award-winning photographer, a member of the team at The Guardian since 1990 and lover of countless sports, was granted exclusive access at Wembley Stadium for this year's final between Cardiff City and Liverpool.

Tom, having previously been behind the scenes at the 2010 and 2011 finals, headed to areas of Wembley Stadium that would otherwise have been off-limits to produce a live gallery of images for The Guardian's website.

"I have been doing live galleries from matches for quite a few years now and The Football League thought they wanted to do something a little bit different for the 50th League Cup Final [in 2010] so they came to me and we worked it out," explained Tom.

"We did do quite a bit of planning as this is the third year I have done this so we learn from previous years what went right and what went wrong.

"I had a meeting the week before the final with The League to go through things, and discuss ideas and different angles that might make a decent picture so we produce something different from previous years.

"We have an itinerary of the day so we know when certain things will happen but then you have to react to things as well.

"Cardiff turned up incredibly late, that threw us a bit in our planning because I wanted to capture them arriving, but there were other things as well.

"You can have a plan but you have to adapt to things happening on the day."

Tom did eventually get his shot of the Cardiff players arriving at Wembley Stadium, though as they were only on-site an hour or so before kick-off there was plenty of other activity for Tom to capture.

Tom's gallery began early on final day with shots of the pitch undergoing its final preparations, images of the match officials - including referee Mark Clattenburg's own personal FIFA coin which he used for the pre-match toss.

The behind-the-scenes access continued with pictures in the hospitality lounges and the Carling Cup trophy itself getting a last polish while decorated in blue and red ribbons, the colours of the competing teams.

"I do love the pictures in the Royal Box when the players are lifting the trophy," said Tom. "The pictures of Birmingham from last year were particularly good because they weren't favourites to win, so they were wonderful scenes of celebration for them.

"But it's also seeing the dejection of the losing players walking up and picking up their medals, and seeing how much it means to them that they've lost.

"It's quite shocking to see the difference in the emotions of the players as they walk in front of the Royal Box.

"There are also some lovely scenes in the tunnel before the game when the teams congregate before coming out to the pitch.

"This year, Steven Gerrard met the Liverpool mascot, tapped him on the head and had a little word with him, a nice scene before the game that you don't normally see.

"You see the players out there being professional and determined to win but you don't normally see them like that.

"I haven't yet been in the dressing rooms with the teams. That's their prerogative, that's their area and I completely understand why they don't want to let a photographer in there, but one day it would be nice to see - whether the players are in there or after the game, celebrating with the trophy."

It's a long day for Tom, who is at the stadium well before the fans start arriving and remains in place long after the final whistle has blown, and with this year's event also going to a penalty shoot-out he spent many hours taking several hundred shots throughout the day.

From the early images of the pitch to the final pictures of Liverpool's Dirk Kuyt on his phone outside the dressing room, and a lone blooded sock inside the Cardiff area, Tom's pictures tell the story of an extraordinary day.

He was armed at Wembley with four different digital SLR camera bodies, plus a wide range of lenses to cover all eventualities, ranging from close-up shots to the match action which required a long zoom lens.

Then there were other issues to overcome such as the onset of nightfall by the time the trophy presentation took place, and with no flash photography allowed in the Royal Box Tom was faced with further challenges that he was able to overcome to great effect.

And in the digital age, gone are the days where a photographer would hand a roll of film to a "runner" ready for it to be sent to the newspaper and processed prior to publication.

"I have an editor with me on-site who I give my memory cards to and he edits the pictures for me," continued Tom.

"I work with him all the time and he knows what sort of pictures I like so he will do the gallery at the venue. He edits pictures and transmits them back to the office but he can also remotely build the gallery online.

"He will be responsible for putting them online as soon as possible after I have shot them. As far as the paper is concerned, it's up to the sports editor to choose whatever pictures he wants from the ones that have been transmitted."

Tom's recent work portfolio includes rugby union's Six Nations Championship and horse racing's Cheltenham Festival, along with test events for the 2012 London Olympic Games and top-level football matches.

It's very much a labour of love for Tom, whose enthusiasm for photography and sport go back to his school days whereas now he combines the two.

Events such as the FA Cup Final, the tennis at Wimbledon and the Olympics are in his diary at the start of the year, and he covers other occasions as the job demands.

Going behind the scenes at the Carling Cup Final was an enjoyable experience and it's something he likes to repeat elsewhere when the opportunity arises.

"Occasionally I will get other ways of looking at events as it's quite nice to go and see what happens on the other side of the curtain, to see the amount of effort that goes in to the events," he said.

"It's about whatever will make a nice story or an interesting picture in the paper or online."

You can see Tom's gallery from the 2012 Carling Cup Final by clicking here