Photographers' Blog

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.

Which picture was the most rewarding? Which picture the most important? Which picture stronger?

The actual wedding frames we all shot: outside the Abbey, the Balcony kiss and the open-top Just Wed car drive – these will get used again and again and it will be those images that are ingrained into the collective public memory.

The view from inside the Abbey

There were probably more than a billion people who would’ve loved to have been inside Westminster Abbey to see Prince William marry Kate Middleton and to soak up the glamor of what was, for a day, the world’s biggest news story.

I was lucky enough to be assigned a position inside the abbey, but though I got to witness the spectacle through a camera lens, my experience was less about pomp and pageantry and more about perils and pratfalls.

With the congregation dolled up to the nines, even the photographers were expected to smarten up. Abbey staff told us to wear “a suit and tie or female equivalent”. Dressed accordingly in my smartest jacket and skirt, I felt the part – right up until I saw the ladders.

Completing the Royal puzzle

As dawn broke over Westminster Abbey on Friday, myself and the other Reuters photographers were already on our way to our positions for the big day. With no donkey in sight, it already felt like we had done a days work by the time we got there.

Those of us with fixed positions on media gantries could access them from 6am which seems plenty of time for an 11 am start. But with the abbey doors opening from just after 8am and the guests starting to arrive shortly after it didn’t allow for much time for us to set up all the equipment and ensure our various editors around the world could see our pictures.

It wasn’t good for the blood pressure when we discovered the internet connection we had installed outside the abbey for myself, Kai and Toby Melville (who would shoot the key head on picture of the couple leaving as man and wife), had failed overnight and it was a frantic hour or so while replacement parts were sought and installed by our technical team. As with most assignments like this, the on day reality of the event often bears little resemblance to how it appeared in rehearsal or the day earlier.

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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