By Suzanne Plunkett
The last occasion I spent any amount of time at St Mary’s hospital in London, I was giving birth to my own child. And I can honestly say that experience was a lot less painful than covering the arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s newborn son.
A photocall for a baby might not seem like that tough an assignment — and for many of the endless days of waiting in the run up to the birth, the only challenge was boredom — but when the time came, the physical and mental stress gave even the most severe labor contractions a run for their money.
First there was the planning — far more meticulous than for a birth when most couples simply have to pack an overnight bag, work out the quickest way to hospital and, for reasons we will never truly understand, prepare a relaxing CD of whale sounds. For the photographers, this was more of a forensic exercise in which every detail was scrutinized minutely and agonized over.
Reuters had secured four jealously-guarded camera positions offering different angles over the entrance to the Lindo Wing, where the baby was born. This might seem excessive, but to get that first shot of the new prince we needed to be ready for any eventuality. We might only have a few seconds and we had no way of knowing where the couple would stand or even which way they would look.
For clues, we pored over photos of Charles and Diana taken in the same spot after the birth of Prince William. We even tried to establish whether the Duchess of Cambridge was left or right handed to predict which way the baby would be facing. In order to capture the baby’s first expression, one photographer was stationed at the end of the street armed with an enormous 600mm lens and perched precariously atop an eight-step ladder.