F8 and Be There

March 19, 2008

When a dignitary leaves home for a foreign trip, Reuters and other major news organisations make an editorial and logistical decision on whether to send a staff photographer or rely on local cover.

As we don’t have a local Jamaican photographer, I was dispatched from Washington to join the seven London-based photographers working for various newspapers, agencies and freelance organisations covering the recent visit to the Caribbean by Britain’s Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

Whether coming from London or elsewhere, our respective companies commit time, effort and money to get us into position for the royal tour. Having traveled all that way it usually boils down to a few precious seconds when the memorable images that define the whole assignment flash before your eyes and you have to be in place to capture them. Easier said than done when you have to decide what NOT to shoot!

The decision to cover one photo opportunity at the expense of another, simply because a tight schedule doesn’t allow time for transport between both, means that careful forethought, the ability to visualize how an event is going to play out, and a fair measure of luck is vital. A simple miscalculation can result in missing the best pictures and wreck your day.

Sometimes the obvious has to be covered, and some photographers traveled to the dockside to photograph the royal couple arriving in Jamaica. It was a guaranteed picture, and as the old saying goes, ‘one in the hand is worth two in the bush.’ But I took a gamble to miss the dockside picture because it promised to be dull, instead choosing what I hoped would be a colourful visit to the home of the late Jamaican musician Bob Marley. There was no guarantee of what we would be able to shoot, but I thought ‘What says “Prince Charles in Jamaica” more than being surrounded by Rastafarians playing the drums?’ and kept my fingers firmly crossed.

I took the chance, and was rewarded when Prince Charles and Camilla joined in on the drum-beating themselves. In addition I got a bonus during a light-hearted and rare moment of interaction between the royal couple and locals that pulled all the required visual elements together into one neat package. These are the sort of pictures that are never going to win any awards and I have no illusion that they have any artistic value, but they demonstrate that sometimes getting back to the wire-photographer basics of “F8 and be there” are sometimes all it takes to get into print, as the following photographs show…





However, even a routine walkabout can make interesting photographs, especially when there are children there, who always like to get in on the act. Composition and a helpful smile also helps, as the pictures below demonstrate.



The news business is unpredictable! It keeps you on your toes, forces you to develop a sharp logistical mind and a good nose for a picture. I took a risk and it paid off, but tomorrow… well, that’s another day.

Of course, getting the pictures out fast as possible is essential, with the aid of a laptop and an aircard that transmits data over the mobile phone network, for tight London deadlines. But that is another story and, maybe, the subject of another post.

One comment

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Jason Reed, I’ll bet you didn’t know that your and your running buddy Kevin Lamarque’s photos are just about the only things that have kept me sane these last seven dreadful years of Bush.

I especially love your photos of what I call “talk to the hand:” Dubya sitting there, grinning from ear to ear in whatever office it is in the White House where the visiting dignitary photo ops take place, with his paw stuck out into open space. Some of them have been particularly special as the visitor looks at “the hand” with such distaste. I was glad to see your latest with Kevin Rudd as it had been quite awhile since the last, I think.

Anyway, you are a master of perspective (thinking especially of the several series where Booshy appears to shrink behind the presidential podium)and you have delighted me so very often. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

A devoted fan,
Judi Halford

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