Photographers' Blog

Hollywood royals

Britain’s Prince William and his wife Catherine the Duchess of Cambridge wrapped up their eleven day tour with a stopover in the Los Angeles area. Even though I deal with celebrity coverage on a daily basis and plan major award show coverage for Reuters, when I saw the pool assignment from the British consulate for their trip, it was an uh-oh moment for me.

In Los Angeles, the big 6 photo agency/media companies (LA Times, Reuters, AP, Getty, AFP and EPA) regularly pool images from celebrity trials and other high profile news events where it is not possible for all to cover. We have developed a friendly system that works for all. Half expecting this event to be business as usual, the official pooling plan became a web of complexity we as a group hadn’t dealt with before.

I am an obsessive planner. If I can’t get all the details in order way before the event, I get edgy. In the weeks before the event, information was scarce, the credentialing process difficult, and the unknown loomed larger by the day. Questions like, how many feet from riser to stage? How will we deliver the pool? What are our responsibilities to the UK WPA pool? All went unanswered. In the end I had to learn to relax and not sweat the details and let things play out on their own, because that’s the way this event will operate. Acceptance of what I can’t control became my mantra.

That’s not to say we couldn’t be as prepared as possible. You just have to plan for the unknown. Which included coordinating pool distribution from ourselves and new contributors that were not part of our regular rotation. When the pooling assignments came out the day the royal couple landed, we got together on a conference call to figure out how to produce the event. Reuters senior photographer Mike Blake came up with the idea of using Dropbox.com as a quick way to deliver the images with equality. It worked perfectly.

The call ended and just like that, the Canadian Air Force plane was rolling up on the tarmac at LAX. Reuters photographer Danny Moloshok was on the riser, and made a nice telephoto pic of the royals with the Canadian CG, Gov Jerry Brown. One pool down and 7 more to go. Reuters was not shooting pool on any of the Day One adventures, but plenty of unilateral and pool pictures arrived. Our remote editing software Paneikon allows us to get to the wire faster than the competition. By 7pm, I was waiting for pool pictures from the reception, where David Beckham was schmoozing with the Prince. He and his wife Victoria would have their fourth child days later. Mike Blake, who helped edit the Canadian leg of the trip, jumped on board to help Friday through the weekend. Los Angeles photographer Fred Prouser also helped crank out the images to our Singapore desk for the trip when he wasn’t shooting.

Royal media circus comes to Canada

The last few days have been frantic to say the least as part of the traveling media circus following William and Kate across Canada.

There are no media charter flights on this particular tour which means that in order to stay apace with the couple’s Canadian airforce jet we are constantly having to decide which events to shoot whilst leaving us enough time to dash to the airport to get our scheduled flights.

This is a nightmare, as you just never know where the picture will happen and you are making decisions based purely on pre-tour briefings and judgment. Fortunately, we are blessed with a hugely talented pool of local photographers in Canada who can still provide coverage at events whilst I race to the airport repacking my kit as I go.

The Royal couple say “I will” and I won’t (…be photographed)

The dust settles in London as scaffolding, media platforms and gantries are dismantled and the world’s news organizations pack up and leave town. Their job complete with hundreds of news programs run, and countless special supplements and newspaper and magazine fronts globally filled with memorable photographs from the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton on April 29th.

I was one of the Reuters photographers assigned to an official spot and ringside view: outside of Westminster Abbey as the happy couple emerged immediately after the actual ceremony. Light cloud gave good even light and an unfettered view meant after months of team preparation and logistical headaches, me and my colleagues/rivals in our spot got the right frames transmitted in speedy time for that part of the day and the Palace got the images of record they wanted.

Job done.

36 hours earlier, after 10 hours perched precariously high up on a set of steps shooting between narrow iron railings, in the fading light on a handheld 500mm lens with 2 x converter, through two side windows of a couple of police vans positioned to prevent news media getting a picture, I took the second frame of William, Kate and best man Prince Harry. They were 200 meters away, walking into a discreet back entrance to Westminster Abbey to conduct a last minute rehearsal of the wedding ceremony.

Final preparations for the big day

The guest list was finalized weeks ago and the invitations sent out. For the lucky ones their presence was requested, nobody refused.

There was no fancily decorated envelope from the lord chancellors office landing on our doormat, but an email from the UK chief photographer asking you to be part of the Reuters team to shoot William and Kate’s wedding is an invitation you don’t turn down.

It’s like any other wedding in many respects; you worry about what to wear. How do you keep dry and warm whilst dressing for a wedding? Not as easy task.

A Royal prayer to the weather gods

Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton arrive at the Darwen Aldridge Community Academy (DACA), in Darwen, northern England April 11, 2011.   REUTERS/Phil Noble

It can’t be very often that I have the same thought as Prince William, or indeed his fiance Kate Middleton. But after today’s visit to Darwen in northern England I’m sure there was at least one point, as the rain bounced off the pavement, that we were all thinking the same thing; I hope the weather is better than this on the 29th!

It was billed as the couples last public engagement before the big day and myself and Reuters colleague Darren Staples had arrived at our separate venues early in the morning to set up and claim our positions.

Security and competition from other photographers means the call time is usually at least a couple of hours before the VIP’s arrival. This is fine when the weather is on your side, but after a gloriously sunny weekend England’s famed April showers chose today to put in an appearance and soaked us to the bone.

Bring your Granny to work day

With a month to go before the big day the British media is revving up its engine and increasing the output of wedding related stories. The head chef and household staff at Buckingham house have been filmed preparing food and readying carriages and companies making souvenirs ranging from plates and mugs to beer and sweets have been splashed across the evening news and morning papers.

Britain's Prince William smiles after showing his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, around a Sea King search and rescue helicopter, during a visit to RAF Valley, in north Wales, April 1, 2011.   REUTERS/Phil Noble

In a recent interview given by the Prince he admitted to feeling a bit nervous ahead of the big day and even suffered from a mild bout of ‘knee-knocking’ at a recent wedding rehearsal.

Perhaps it was for this reason that his grandmother decided to ‘pop in’ and see how he was settling in to his new job as a search and rescue pilot with the Royal Air Force based on the North Wales island of Anglesey.

Flip, flip, hooray!

Prince William and Kate Middleton completed the final leg of their pre-wedding warm up tour of the United Kingdom by flying into Northern Ireland and carrying out a day of engagements in and around Belfast.

Britain's Prince William and his fiancee, Kate Middleton, applaud as they watch a play at the Youth Action Northern Ireland Centre, in Belfast, Northern Ireland March 8, 2011.  REUTERS/Phil Noble

Earlier visits to England, Wales and Scotland by the couple meant a trip across the Irish Sea was inevitable before the big day, but the region’s troubled past and heightened security level meant the royal whistle stop tour was unveiled to the press with much less notice than the earlier visits.

Reuters’ Ireland photographer Cathal McNaughton was quickly up and running sorting accreditation and scouting out locations, whilst my soccer match between Blackpool and Chelsea was reassigned and flights and hotels quickly sorted. Within hours I was on my way across the Irish sea.

A date with Kate

It’s the wedding of the year, well unless you believe all the hype in which case its the wedding of the decade, if not the millennium!

Kate Middleton, the fiancee to Britain's Prince William, smiles during a Naming Ceremony and Service of Dedication for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution's (RLNI) new Atlantic 85 Lifeboat, the 'Hereford Endeavour', at Trearddur Bay Lifeboat Station, in Trearddur Bay, Anglesey in north Wales February 24, 2011.  Prince William and bride-to-be Kate Middleton performed their first official engagement as a couple on Thursday, giving them an early taste of the life in the spotlight that awaits them.      REUTERS/Phil Noble

Whatever you believe, the rapidly approaching marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton is going to be huge. The global interest in the British royal family, and the two young princes in particular, is massive, although not quite at the dizzying heights of Diana and Fergie in the 80′s yet. But I’d be willing to wager it will be a close run thing by the end of the year, especially if yesterday was any indication.

Strangely for the world’s most famous engaged couple, photographs of the two of them together are quite scarce. Sure they’ve been snapped by paparazzi over the last few years and there has been the occasional official photograph of the two taken to mark their engagement and at other large Royal gatherings, but aside from that they have remained low key.

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