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.
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.
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!
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).
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