HM Queen Elizabeth II … pt 3, laying in state

The last post left me at about 3:30 on The Mall having got there early on the Wednesday morning.

After filing my images and managing to get a dinner with friends in Soho, I headed to Westminster Hall where I had a 30 minute slot to photograph the late Queen laying in state at 21:30.

Luckily before dinner I was able to store some of the kit I was carrying in a secure location so again, I needed to plan what images I wanted to make. Many of the National papers and major agencies had earlier time slots which enabled me to see what they had filed. As expected most had focused quite tightly on the coffin, guards and visitors (there is an saying in the press photography world “Tight, Bright and Shi……” .

The Westminster Hall, where the late Queen was laying is the oldest part of the parliamentary estate and having walked through it many times I had an idea of its grandeur and size. I headed back with the 35/1.4 mounted on the X-H2S and the Laowa Ultra wide on the GFX50R.

The sensor on the GFX50 has an enormous dynamic range and shooting in RAW on that camera gave me the best chance of getting detail in the rafter shadows as well as the colours of the Royal Standard & Yeoman Warders.

Stopping the lens down a bit and reducing the ISO enhanced this enabled me to slow the shutter and blur the members of the public giving them a ghostly appearance.

GFX50R / LAOWA17 @ 4.5Secs exposure

Stopping this lens down a bit also does give nice a nice star points.

With the H-2S i focused on the details like the changing of the guard.

X-H2S & 35/1.4 @ ISO 1000
X-H2S & 35/1.4 @ ISO 1000

The final post in this series will be later in the week when I focus on the day of the funeral. As always I would love to hear your comments and questions.

HM Queen Elizabeth II … pt 2.

Wednesday 14th was the day of the ceremonial procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall where her late majesty would lay in state until the funeral.

I was allocated an elevated “rota” position on The Mall . The procession was due to start at 2:30pm but having checked out the position the day before, I wanted to ensure that I had the forward corner position to enable me to shoot the approaching procession so after waiting for a pret to open for my breakfast, I arrived at the position slightly after 7:35. Yet again a long wait ensued.

My position (iPhone)

The above image shows my position. An hour or two before the procession I set up a GFX50R with the Laowa 17mm, clamping it to the scaffolding to be triggered by a pocket wizard setup to get a wide image of the procession. The difficulty then is to ignore the camera and not keep fiddling / testing / adjusting it all the time up to till its needed.

GFX50R / 17mm @F5.6 ISO 320

The GFX was being triggered by either the HS2 or TX3 which I would be shooting in a burst mode, however the GFX would only fire on the first shutter press. To get rou5nd that and get a burst from the GFX I set it up in a bracketing mode (shutterspeed) at +/- third of a stop which got be 5 frames per burst.

GFX50R / 17mm @F5.6 ISO 320

Alongside the GFX I had two other cameras set up: The X-H2S with the 150-600 plus an X-T3 with 50-140 (both triggering the GFX).

X-H2S / 150-600 (at 730mm Equiv) F7.1 1/500th

As the procession moved down the Mall I started with the longer of the cameras, trying to pick smaller frames and members of the royal family from the scene.

X-H2S / 150-600 (at 458mm Equiv) F6.4 1/500th

Shooting with a fixed shutter speed and a changing aperture (due to the zoom), the ISO was reducing as the procession moved closer. These three images give an idea of the flexibility and aperture changing.

X-H2S / 150-600 (at 225mm Equiv) F5.6 1/500th

Once the procession got to this point it was a quick switch to the X-T3.

X-T3 / 50-140 (at 75mm Equiv) 1/500th
X-T3 / 50-140 (at 99mm Equiv) 1/500th

Then back to the X-H2S for the final image(s) as her late Majesty moved away.

X-H2S / 150-600 (at 900mm Equiv) F8 1/500th

Once out of view it was sit down, edit the images (on the iPad following the workflow I have outlined previously), with pre-set metadata in ShutterSnitch, waiting for the public to disperse so I actually had a strong enough signal to actually transmit the images. (Long story but it seems 4G is far more robust in these situations than 5G).

So after getting to the stand at 7:40am(ish), I finally left it at about 3:30pm (maybe later). However the day was not finished yet, during the time on the stand I received details that I would have a 30 minute position at the Laying in state .. but thats for the next post..

I look forward to hearing your comments… Until the next time..

HM Queen Elizabeth II … pt 1.

I was sitting with a number of other “entertainment” photographers at the Red Carpet for the Mercury Awards on the evening of the 8th when the PR for the televised event came and told us it was cancelled. Although we had an inkling earlier in the day, that was really the point at which I knew the Queen had passed away.

It was strange, although I have not covered “proper” news for some years, instinct kicked in, do I go to the the palace and wait for the flag to be lowered to half mast? Or do I go somewhere else? What I actually did was wait for the news to be confirmed by the palace and made a commitment to myself to make sure I do my upmost to photograph as much of the historical period as I could.

In the morning I was on the phone to Nathan at Fixation “can you get me a 150-500”? (In my mind the 100-400 might be pushing it over the next week or so for the upcoming state funeral and other events). Quite simply there were none of the new Fuji long zooms in stock. Next stop was Fuji themselves to see if there were any hire units available… yep! A few mail exchanges and I was sorted, about 30 minutes after which Nathan called me back “they have just come into stock, do you want one? I can get it to you tomorrow morning (Saturday)”. One credit card transaction later followed by a few hire cancellation emails and the new lens was winging its way to me.

All this occurred whilst i was on a train to London with 2 cameras and a couple of primes (the 35 & 90) to get a feel for the atmosphere there.

X- H2S & 35/1.4
X- H2S & 90/2

The mood was very sombre and quiet but I could not help but feel there was quite a few people being a bit over-zealous with “I’m sad” , “here’s a selfie of me being sad”, “here’s a picture of my flowers”, “here’s a selfie of me laying my flowers” oh and for good luck “here’s a picture of my flowers at the palace”..

I did not shoot much that day, nor over the weekend where I stayed at my studio in Worthing and on the beach practicing with the 150-600 which was delivered nice and early on the Saturday morning. (Posts to follow on this lens!)

My next day in London was Monday the 12th in the capacity of photographer for Mark Kermode Live at the BFI (a monthly show) preceded by a trip to Green Park to see how the floral tributes were shaping up. The mood remained sombre and I was pleased to see far less people making their visit about themselves.

X- H2S & 90/2
X- H2S & 90/2
X- H2S & 90/2
X- H2S & 90/2 (more about this horse later 🙂 )

I was back in town the next day; I needed to collect my accreditation and go through security checks for the procession to the laying in state the next day but also photograph the late Queen arriving at Buckingham Palace for the last time (as she was travelling down from Scotland that afternoon).

Hanging around the palace from about 2pm, taking a few more pictures and discussing the events with other photographers it was really difficult to judge what to do. It was clear for me the palace needed to be in the image (as surely that was the point) but knowing where the official position was and how many other photographers were around it was difficult to come up with a plan (where possible I don’t like to follow the herd, it’s true that sometimes there is just one image thats right but this night was not one of those cases). I was walking away from the front of the palace wondering if the wellington arch might be a better spot, concentrating on the hearse and the crowds and as I walked down the side of the palace I got an image in my head.

I did not have a clue if this would work. It would be dark by the time the Queen arrived (remember at this point we did not know the coffin would be lit) but I decided to do an all or nothing gamble. To be honest I thought I had maybe a 50/50 chance and even if it did work it would not be the sort of image that most of the press would use but I did think it would be a moment in history so I sat down, in the drizzle, hoping I would not be moved on and waited for 5 hours , chatting to those around me.

It got dark. Then it got darker. I kept turning the ISO dial, ending up on the max setting!

X-T3 & 16-55@2.8 – ISO 12800

The image above is the one I had in my head. A small coffin returning to the large “state” (I hoped it would be lit by the car behind, the fact the coffin was lit was a huge bonus).

X-H2S & 50-140 @2.8 – ISO 12800

The second image probably tells the story better for many though. The coffin, clearly draped in the royal standard, lit, passes into the arch as 2 soldiers stand guard.

The latter part of this blog tells the story of one image, by one photographer. Image then how I an others must feel when we see pages like this one on the bbc site. All those images created by many photographers, each image (all much better than mine) with a story, planning and a lot of time by a photographer and yet not one photographer is credited. The credits go to the organisations that distributed the images (or the photographers employers) and the people that selected the images on the page.

So please. Next time you look at an image (still or moving) on the web or in the paper, spare a thought for the work that has gone into it by a photographer.

My next post will detail the following day of the state procession

The death of Queen Elizabeth II

I am not a “royal photographer” by any sense of the imagination, however over the years I have photographed Queen Elizabeth II many times as part of my work as a press photographer either as part of the “royal rota” or at what are known as “fixed points” (i.e. Accredited)

My first memories of the queen having any influence / importance are from the Silver Jubilee year, I can remember the street party and fancy dress quite well but my overriding memory is away from these.

The Queen was due to visit Highbury Fields (my family are from the Islington area in London although we lived in Edmonton at the time). My parents wanted to take my brother and I to see her on this day however it was a school day so mum planned to phone us in sick. That day was also my cycling proficiency test day and I was in tears, being extremely upset at missing it which would mean I would be unable to cycle to school.

A compromise was reached. I went to school in the morning, did the test, earned my right to cycle to school before earning another award – this time for acting as I threw my best “tummy cramps and headaches” performance.

My parents collected me from school “sick” and we made it to Highbury fields seeing Her Majesty shake the hands of a couple of elderly women standing next to us (dad had a theory that she had a regular pattern of greeting on these walkabouts).

Anyway I digress… here is a very quick selection of photos I have taken of the late queen over the years….

My first Royal Job – HRH Queen Elizabeth attends the World Premiere and Royal Film Performance of The Cronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of The Dawn Treader at Leicester Square, London, 30 November 2010.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinbugh return to Buckingham Palace from Horse Guards Parade following Trooping the Colour in London , UK – 17/06/2017. HRH Queen Elizabeth II , Prince Phillip Duke of Edinburgh.
HRH Queen Elizabeth II at Trooping the Colour at The Mall / Buckingham Palace, London , UK – Saturday June 17, 2017. Queen Elizabeth II returns to Buckingham Palace from Horse Guards Parade where the Welsh Guards of the Household Division Trooped their colours.
State Opening of Parliament – HRH The Queen Elizabeth II departs The Houses of Parliament, Sovereign’s Entrance at Victoria Tower on 21 June 2017
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh formally welcome His Majesty King Felipe VI of Spain at Horse Guards Parade on Wednesday 12th July 2017.
The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh formally welcome His Majesty King Felipe VI of Spain at Horse Guards Parade on Wednesday 12th July 2017.
HRH Queen Elizabeth II at Trooping the Colour and Queens Birthday Parade on Saturday 9 June 2018
HRH Queen Elizabeth II at Trooping the Colour and Queens Birthday Parade on Saturday 9 June 2018 in Buckingham Palace ,
Easter 2019 Windsor Castle
Easter 2019 Windsor Castle
Trumped !!!
The Queen meets the President of the United States of America and Mrs Trump on Friday 13 July 2018 at Windsor Castle, Windsor.
Thank you and goodbye Ma’am

Frightfest 2022

Packed Bag: GFX50R / X-T3 / X-H2S / 16-55 / 90 / 56 / 35 / Godox Lights / Triggers

Since 2009 my August Bank Holiday Weekend has been spent in Leicester Square as the official photographer for the Frightfest Film Festival.

This year was no different as I headed up last Thursday morning with the Think Tank Airport full to the brim with 3 Fuji Cameras, Assorted Lenses plus Godox lighting (with a couple of Lume LED’s thrown in for good measure).

With full control of the Frightfest Media Wall and it being many of the filmmakers first experience of one, I try to make it a fun time for all whilst I endeavour to create images that are a cut above the normal flat step and repeat images that emanate from most of these events.

Tom Felton : X-T3 / 56 @ 2.2 / Single Light

I do this by setting up an AD200 on a stand controlled by a camera mounted V1 on the X-H2S. I also set up an X-T3 with a controller so I can switch to that using just the AD200 for single light portraits. With the V1 controlling the light I can change the balance, making the light flatter or adding more shape with the AD200 on the fly.

Megan Rose Buxton : X-H2S / 16-55 / 2 Lights

I augment this by moving mine and the subjects position / angle as we shoot to bring in the shadow I want.

Kyra Gardner / X-T3 / 56 @ 2.0 / Single Light

Of course this is all only possible because I have complete freedom (within reason) and a bit more time than the rest of the photographers. With the number of films attending (I shot over 60 films + atmosphere & a dinner over the weekend) there are always time limits so I have to work fast.

Zach Cregger : X-T3 / 56 @ 2.8

These limits are even more pronounced when photographing a genre icon like Dario Argento. With the security pressures keeping the autograph hunters at bay along with Dario’s increasing frailty it meant working very fast while he was with me. As I have photographed Dario a few times I decided to go all out and just go for a single light portrait on the GFX. With the language barrier between us i knew I had to get the light right up front as I would not have much time to adjust. I have too say I was fairly pleased with this…

Dario Argento : GFX50R / 63 @ 2.8 Single Light

The Timelapse below shows creating this image

Photographing Dario Timelapse / iPhone

Away from the media wall I created a number of portraits over the weekend featuring the Cinema staff who wore horror cosplay. These portraits will be the subject of the next post.

Self Portrait on IMAX screen : iPhone

As always, I select a good number of images from around the festival to create a slideshow on the IMAX screen before the last film screens. For the first time I put my self portrait / light test in. The bottom line is that the images have to be good & sharp to stand up to this huge sized scrutiny…. (They do 😉 )

Until the next post, let me know your thoughts and, as always, stay creative !

Confidence & Fear

Another non photographic post, although the lesson (if there is one) can without doubt be applied to the business of photography..

I think people of a certain age have had a couple of sayings used around them for most of their life and these sayings have been hammered into them too deeply and they without doubt they have huge negative effects.

Pride Before a Fall” can be manifested as “can’t ever be proud” (of achieving) thats wrong.

Self Confidence” was often mistaken for “Over Confidence” .

Confidence in the self, self belief, call it what you will is a huge requirement of making the most of our lives. Without it time will be spent sitting on the sofa, staying in a negative job or situation and not making the most of our lives..

The most important message I think we can impart (to our children and others) is “Have confidence, be strong, work hard, you can succeed in your dreams

Take the current situation. Following in COVID I have a (very) part time design job. I’m really grateful for it. Without it I am not sure where I would have been through the pandemic. It helps us and it help my son. Before that it helped pay to get my son through university (the reason I took it on – we can live with an income that fluctuates but for student rent etc.. not great).

Now I’m getting back to being busy, very busy. The photographic business is rebuilding and sales are starting to grow in the art business I started during the pandemic) so I’m starting to plan the way I can leave the part time job, with the way the economy is going it’s going to be tricky and it’s not going to be tomorrow, there is a balance to be made and I’m confident the tipping point is getting closer. My partner is concerned but backs me 100%.

My parents however are totally different, all they do is voice is concern and worry, just like they did when I was a teenager (I guess thats what my parents generation do). When my son decided to leave go freelance straight out of university I did not say its all sunshine and fun in the freelance world, I think I was truthful but backed him 100%, if he has confidence to do it, then I have it also. I think the generations before us measure confidence in a different way, they only see salaried jobs as the option. I’m confident but not over confident, I have self belief.

Putting it in a slightly shorter fashion. Sunday I was planing a 12km run. I have not run past 10km for 3 years. Most of my running post 2018 have been between 5 and 10km.

Since a hip injury during the 2018 London Marathon I have been fearful of it returning, I was worried about running distances, my running pace was off because my stride length is short because, guess what, i was scared my hip would go if I lengthened my stride.

For an hour before Sunday’s run I started I was pacing up and down, my head was saying I can’t do it, my body will break, my hip will go.

I made an effort to reframe the run. I made it about breaking that fear. I ran intervals concentrating on kicking my feet out and lengthening the stride in the running intervals and then walking fast with long strides between.

I made the distance, I beat the fear. (I’m sure it return but … today i won)

Post Run – iPhone / Lightroom Mobile

What am I trying to say in this post? In our creative lives there are jobs we might get offered, shoots we want to do but something holds us back. Well this is the time for measured Self Confidence, it is time to reframe your fear and beat it.

Music Concert Lighting

This post is not actually for the photographers, it’s for all the lighting techs and lighting techs in training (hopefully a few lecturers will read it also). Especially for the techs at small venues.

Before I go on to the post proper, I need to explain that I totally understand the job of the lighting is to produce a show for the gig goers, the fans, the audience. There is a reason the large bands tour with huge lighting rigs and show; it is to provoke and enhance the atmosphere, to elevate beyond just a person or band standing on a stage performing. I know that. This is beyond doubt.

However before an act reaches the levels where they can afford to go on tour with their own crew and rig, the venue technician is usually the person responsible for how the act looks on stage and as that person you should have a few other considerations.

The acts you are dealing with are normally trying to establish themselves, they want or need reviews, be they on websites, bloggers, or in local or even national press, they need to get thier name out there. When it comes to reviews, pictures help, great images can grab attention, they can promote a review from a lesser spot to a more prominent one, a reader may stop and read a review based on the image.

Anyone involved in gigs knows the rules “first 3 and out, no flash”.

So put basically, if there are photographers or videographers in the house you have 3 songs to make your act look great. After the first 3 you can do everything to build the atmosphere but the first 3, why not help the artist?

(Ok I know there are artists that don’t like photographers or who want to be in the dark, to them, I refer to the paragraph above)

So how can you help?

  • Turn the lights on! Pitch black does not really help!
  • LED colour washes look really bad on camera!
  • Add a bit of white to the front, even if you have heavy back lighting or colour washes
  • Front/Side lighting works! Flat washes are boring.

What do I mean about the LED colour washes? Well put on that yellow or blue colour wash that seems to be the “flavour of the month” at the moment. Now stand where the artist will be and take a selfie on your phone? How does it look? Let’s just say not flattering! Compared to the filtered incandescent lamps of old, LED lights produce a really intense colour that might look great from the back of the room but from the pit, on camera, it’s probably one of the least flattering looks there is. Modern camera sensors have a real issue dealing with it and it’s tricky to dial out. Adding some white from the front on the artist makes all the difference and the rest of the stage still looks great from the audience.

Backlight Colour Wash – Straight from the camera
Zithulele ‘Jovi’ Zabani Nkosi of BCUC (Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness) photographed during the 40th WOMAD (World of Music arts and Dance)- It takes a LOT of effort to get it like this and its still not flattering
Kae Tempest photographed during the 40th WOMAD (World of Music arts and Dance) – A bit of front light makes ALL the difference!

You might think I’m writing this just to make my life easier in the pit. I am but because I want to produce great flattering photos. I’m not a kid, I’ve been doing this for a while and whilst there are many more experienced photographers shooting with the big names out there, I’ve been doing this in the smallest and largest venues there are for quite a while and the bottom line is, good photos help everyone in the business!

So the next time you light a venue, have a think about those first 3. Any photographers in there? Do your act and the venue that employs you a favour..

Until the next post.

J

Primed for WOMAD

Loaded and ready to go (iPhone)

If you have read this blog for a long time or if you follow me on social media you will know I ride a motorbike and do not drive a car. This means if I choose to go to a festival and camp on the bike, I need to pack carefully. Some would say, right take 2 zooms, 16-55 & the 50-140 however one of the reasons I go to WOMAD is i don’t know what I’m going to get, which acts might become more relevant to press or who will be reviewed therefore I go with no pressure, no expectation, just having the aim of producing lovely images (there is always lots of colour here).

So my packing was 2 x X-T3, a 14/2.8, the 35/1.4 , a 56/1.2 & 90/2.0

Add to that a small tent, minimal wardrobe and the MT-07 is loaded.

Fatoumata Diawara – 56/1.2

Taking prime lenses means I have to work (slightly) harder to get the images, working the angles but this makes me think and slow down and think about how I want to portray the act.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again “there is no point having fast lenses if you shoot with them closed down all the time” so probably 90% of my images are shot wide open

Japanese vocal performer Hatis Noit – 90/2.0
Japanese vocal performer Hatis Noit – 56/1.2

Japanese vocal performer Hatis Noit was a joy to shoot – bright colours, amazing shapes and lighting that shouted “play with me” and with the 90 on camera and the 56 on the other I obliged with both lenses rendering the colours (in Astia profile) really nicely with (the 56 mainly) beautiful flare.

Kae Tempest – 56/1.2

Kae’s set was in complete contrast, more simple, stark and emotional

Fun of the fair – 35/1.4 @ F2 / 1/25th

I was sad to read the demise of regular visitor Carters Steam Fair and although the modern replacements are colourful, making lovely images, I feel they are just too brash, not meeting the the atmosphere of the festival.

Wayne Coyne – 56/1.2

The 56 is well touted as a great portrait lens – shooting wide open with eye tracking as I did for this backstage portrait of Wayne Coyne, lead singer and songwriter of the Flaming Lips, renders the background and even the hair lovely sand soft ensuring the eyes and face get all of the views attention.

Taiwanese contemporary dance troupe B.Dance – 14mm/3.6

The 14mm was useful a few times none more so that with Taiwanese contemporary dance troupe B.Dance, closing the aperture down slightly to keep them all in focus.

Im writing this on the Sunday morning before I shoot the acts of the last day, (the super efficient workflow you have been reading about 🤪 means I am totally up to date with my editing and sending) .

I think the images from the first 3 days give a good enough flavour how I use (and am inspired by the quality of) the Fuji prime lenses.

I have tried not to use the same images as I have posted on my social media channels in this post so if you do not follow me, there are links elsewhere on the page.

So, break out the primes, don’t just twist, use your feet and brain, and go create some images.. I look forward to seeing them.

More soon..

X-H2s – 4 jobs in

Ok, I know I said a few posts back “no camera reviews” , however – a few thoughts….

At the time of writing (a week or so ago), I had completed 4 “proper” jobs with the new flagship camera. Below are some images and thoughts from 3 of these jobs:

  • Kermode 3D at the BFI
  • Mabel at Somerset House
  • Bullet Train Gala

The above image is Nick, running the clips on the Kermode show at the BFI. He’s only lit by his laptop, no house lights. He is laughing (hence movement blur on the face). The camera had absolutely no problem locking onto his eyes. The technical details are below.

Face tracking and IBIS in the (very) dark
Face tracking and IBIS in the (very) dark

I’m closer this time – the eye tracking locked onto Nick’s eye despite so much of the face being covered.

The next job was Mabel performing at Somerset House. Shooting with the 90mm fully open on AF-C, face tracking. No issues with the flashing lights, dancers, fast movement or profile shots.

I’m still trying to get used to the button layout but as my camera’s are in Manual mode 90% of the time, the P-A-S-M dial is not an issue. That said I find it really annoying that in Manual mode I cannot re-assign the front command dial to roll the ISO as then it would match my X-T3’s and be far faster to adjust. When most of my lenses have aperture rings it really makes no sense to dedicate this dial to aperture!

The last of the 3 jobs was the Bullet Train UK gala screening. For this I used the X-H2s with the 100-400 for headshots. The eye tracking always found its target – tracking accurately as they walked and moved, even finding Brad Pitt’s eye on a 3/4 rear view (i.e. the dip in the profile where the eye was as he turned – i am wondering if it was the reflection on the sunglasses!)

Overall this camera is a HUGE step up from any of the other Fujifilm cameras with subject tracking that can be relied on at speed. Additionally although the CFExpress cards are expensive – seeing the RAW files download in a fraction of the time that it takes to download JPG images from the SD, the switch is positive.

Happy shooting and back to the Workflow with the next post.