Primes for the Prime Minister

I am just back from 3 weeks of party political events, photographing the autumn conferences of our largest political parties; starting with the Liberal Democrats in Bournemouth, moving on to Labour in Brighton before finishing up with the Conservatives in Manchester.

It’s a gradual build up of importance culminating in the Prime Ministers speech – arguably the most important event of the 3 weeks (especially this year with BREXIT and the stories circulating about our Prime Minister Boris Johnson).

I headed up to Manchester having the 200mm/F2 Fujion lens on hire again, along with the 1.4TC (giving the equivalent of 300mm/F2 and 420mm/F2.8 on my Fuji X-T2 bodies). Added to that I took my normal supply of 3 x X-T2, the 14mm/F2.8, 27mm/F2.8 pancake, 90mm/F2 and the 50-140/F2.8 (just in case but the plan was not to use it).

My workspace on the final day – taken using the “miniature” filter on the X-T2 with the 14mm

On the morning of the PM’s speech, we arrive early for a briefing that informs us of the plan for the speech; entrance, exit, timings, security arrangements (where we can stand, where not) etc.

With the stories circulating about the PM it was clear that “the picture” of the day would be Boris and Carrie (his girlfriend) leaving at the end of the speech. However the briefing made it clear that getting this image clearly would be very difficult and as the pool photographer would get it perfectly, it was not worth worrying about.

So I formulated a plan..

I would start at the rear at the top of the stadium seating to photograph the PM as he enters, I would then bit by bit move around the rear of the hall, over the stadium seating at the other end before working round to the rear quarter, photographing Boris “conducting” his troops before working my way back to the original position for his exit.

Arriving in the hall before a good while before the speech I was pleased that as I suspected, most of the photographers covering the event had opted for the central positions to shoot the “traditional” speaker image. I was happy to be sitting up at the back near the entrance alone, hoping the others had missed a trick and that my plan was not totally unworkable.

Waiting, I shot a few images of party members around me and the general atmosphere. Then the moment arrived, the PM walked in alone down a dark part of the hall below me to greet members down the bottom of my seating area.

Atmosphere before the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, makes his keynote speech to the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 14mm

My plan with the blog post now was to show two totally out of focus images showing that we all make mistakes totally contrary to how we are supposed to portray ourselves online. However going back through the images I have found one that was in fact useable, one that I missed in the heat of the moment editing on the day…

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, enters to make his keynote speech to close the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. X-T2 + 90mm @ F2

Starting with establishing shots on the 200, 90 and 14….

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, makes his keynote speech to the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 14mm
Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, makes his keynote speech to the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 90mm

Then adding the TC on the 200 (giving an equivalence of 420/F2.8) before moving down the back and shooting through spaces between the seating. A quick nod with one of the PM’s security detail to confirm all was ok with the location (next to him) , staying there for 5 minutes or so before moving on to the next location …

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, makes his keynote speech to close the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 200mm/1.4TC
Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, makes his keynote speech to close the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 200mm/1.4TC

Having been briefed that the speech would be 40-45 minutes I allowed myself approximately 5 minutes in each location before moving on, getting the the far point on time for the “conducting” shot, before returning via the same method to my original position.

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, makes his keynote speech to close the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 200mm/1.4TC
Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, makes his keynote speech to close the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. . Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 200mm/1.4TC

Once back, I was joined by one other photographer in this position for the exit but as there were about 8 positions reserved for us there was plenty of room. Planning for a “melee” image as the PM leaves, I removed the TC….

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, exits the Conservative Party Autumn Conference on Wednesday 2 October 2019 at Manchester Central, Manchester. Boris huged Carrie Symonds, his girlfriend, before greeting activists as he exited the hall. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2 + 200mm

In all, photographing the speech and editing took about 6 and a half hours; from entering the hall at 8am for the briefing , planning, re-entering the hall at 10:30am through to leaving it at about 12:45 and then finishing my edit with all images with the agency by about 2:30pm. All for a set of photographs that I knew were unlikely to make the front page the next day because, as I said, the story was Boris and Carrie.

Not every paper went with the pooled “couple” image.. but most did…

Onwards…

Hi my name is Julie and I’m a creative

In a world where it seems everyone wants to leave the “rat race” and become a “creative” of some kind, why does it seem so guilty to admit it?

Phone selfie

“Hi I’m Julie and I’m a photographer” – almost sounds like something that should be said at “Photographers anonymous” . Well I am and after a few months of struggling I am happy to admit it again, to myself and others.

Note: It’s often said that press photographers should not be creative but thats just rubbish, there are times to be creative and times not to be creative in this job, the key is knowing when.

I had become jaded with my work, with the situations I found myself in, with the images I created. The fact is it’s easy to blame the situation, the lack of control (in public places or arranged photocalls), the light, the kit (oh how often do we hear “if only I had xxxxxxx”) but the fact is, what we produce is never the fault of the kit, of the situation, of the lack of control.

National Youth Dance Company / Botis Seva perform MADHEAD during a Photocall at Sadler’s Wells. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2+XF90 @ 1/100 F2

What we produce is always a product of the decisions we make given the situation we find ourselves in. They may not be the images we planned, or want but we always have a choice how we shoot something, how we approach it, our attitude and our commitment.

National Youth Dance Company / Botis Seva perform MADHEAD during a Photocall at Sadler’s Wells. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2+XF35 @ 1/20 F1.4

I was recently introduced to the concept of “Hell Yeah or No”. Put simply it means 100% commitment. When presented with an opportunity, decide “Can I give this 100%?” . If not then say no! Once there, commit to the job, no matter what the situation, too controlled? poor light? bad positioning? poor location? If they are things you can control then take ownership. If not, make the best images you can.. 100%..

National Youth Dance Company / Botis Seva perform MADHEAD during a Photocall at Sadler’s Wells. Picture by Julie Edwards/LFI/Avalon. X-T2+XF56 @ 1/15 F1.2

Take the 3 dance images above. When I had the notice that this photocall was available, I checked my diary, found I was in town and had time. It was obvious that it should make nice images, I was not sure what they would be as you never know how a production is staged until you see it, all I could be sure was that the light would be “interesting”. Upon arrival it was suggested it was “a bit dark”. I had sort of surmised this before and although I did not take a tripod I did carry my 35/1.4 , 56/1.2 & 90/2.0 giving me the best chance in low light. From then on it was a case of using what I had, making the most of the light and making the most interesting images I could. Some I shot with intentional blur, some I froze the movement.

The key was though, I did not think “this is too dark”, I just committed 100% to what was in front of me. Looking back now (and listening to others) it’s obvious, if I (you) don’t commit 100% to what I (you) are shooting, how can I (you) produce the best images possible?

“Hi, I’m Julie, I’m a creative and I am always going to create the best images I can”