Brighton Photographer On Assignment | Photographing The Duchess Of Cornwall At The South Of England Show
Brighton Photographer On Assignment: photographing goats, lambs, cows, three cute sheepdogs and a Royal V.I.P guest.
Working as a photographer in Brighton is great fun. I love the city and its people, heck, there's always something going on and photos to be taken, but during this recent photography assignment in Sussex, the pressure was on to get the pictures everyone was after.
I work regularly with the National Farmers Union and each year I'm asked to join them at the South Of England Show in Ardingly, where I spend the day on their trade stand photographing the activities they put on for the visitors, it's usually a busy day and a lot of fun.
The NFU trade stand is located in a large barn and covers a big area. It's very popular, and I'm kept busy photographing everything from sheepdog demonstrations to the livestock, and on this occasion, a visit by a member of the Royal family! It was the first time I'd photographed HRH, The Duchess of Cornwall but over the years I've been lucky enough to have photographed The Queen several times during several Royal engagements here in the UK. I've even photographed The Duke Of Edinborough riding a small motorcycle and Prince Charles playing the drums! But I'll save those stories for another time ;-)
As you can imagine photographing a member of the Royal Family involves a lot of preparation, and although it wasn't my first time I'm not ashamed to say, it tends to leave one feeling somewhat nervous the night before. Thankfully over the years, I've learnt preparation is vital, so I usually spend some time the day before checking my cameras and photography gear.
On the day of the photo shoot, I arrived early and collected my Royal Rota Pass from the media centre and headed to the NFU stand, grabbing a coffee along the way. I was suited, booted and the old moustache was waxed to perfection! Well, there are standards to be met! I was raring to go. I had a few hours before our VIP visitor was to arrive so I set about working through my list of photographs that my client wanted while checking in every now again making sure the Royal schedule hadn't changed, something that's not unusual during an event like this. Soon enough the time had arrived, and I prepared my camera gear and waited for her arrival. As people started to gather, I could just see the head of HRH, The Duchess Of Cornwall walking through the showground towards us. As she arrived senior members from the NFU greeted her and escorted her into the barn closely followed by numerous photographers and a TV News crew. As you can imagine it's pretty much all go from then on, and I worked hard to photograph all the key moments as they happened. On an assignment like this, you don't have the opportunity to stage any photos, all though I did suggest to my client that it might be a good idea to ask The Duchess to stand in front of there vegetable display, which she kindly did for me.
So apart from this staged image, I spent most of the time trying to stay one step ahead of our Royal guest and had very little control over what was happening. Although I often have a list of must-have photos from my client along with my own personal wishlist of images I would love to get if the situation arises. But you can never be sure, some photography assignments are just like this. It's all good fun, and it keeps me sharp, I enjoy it.
The visit was nearly over, my client was happy, and I was pleased with the images I had taken, I had even managed to step away from the press pack a few times and get a few different photos, something I always like to try and do. We all headed outside, and as HRH was being shown some livestock, the other photographers moved on around the side of the barn. It's moments like this you need to make a quick decision, shall I stay or follow? I had a hunch to hang on, so I waited cameras at the ready. I anticipated her route, and as The Duchess approached I managed to get some great photos, although I soon found myself right in her way, maybe it wasn't such a good idea? Smiling I lowered my camera, stepped aside and let her pass, all was well, and I followed on at a respectful distance. Unfortunately, by now, I was behind the party, which really wasn't ideal, would my hunch backfire on me? I decided to try and move in front and just as I choose my moment to change position HRH stopped and was unexpectedly handed a newborn Black Welsh Mountain Lamb. By now I was right alongside her, and a little concerned I was too close. I glanced at the royal protection officer, and he gave a nod of approval, so I started taking photos, perfect, my hunch had paid off. As the Duchess grappled with the wriggling lamb and I took my pictures I could hear the other photographers, who by now and realised what was happening, start to shout "Overhear Mam" "Just this way please, mam". Thankfully for me, this meant only one thing. They were in the wrong position! Great news for me as hopefully I'll get an exclusive!
The photographs I was taking were good but not quite what I wanted. Either the Duchess was looking down, or I couldn't see the lamb clearly due it all it's wriggling. All I could do was wait, take photos and hope she didn't turn to face the other photographers!
As you can imagine being this close to a member of the Royal family and trying to get "The Picture" means you have quite a lot of things going through your head. Will she turn away from me, will I get moved on, I hope these pictures are sharp, whats the light doing, shall I add some flash, shall I change cameras? I hope my memory cards aren't nearly full. Good job I've just eaten a fresh mint! I wonder if she likes my moustache?
Hang on there sonny Jim! "I wonder if she likes my moustache?" Scott, what are you talking about?
Argh yes, my moustache. Regular readers of my blog and those that follow me on social media will know several things about me. Firstly I believe appearance is everything, and you need to dress appropriately for the given situation: Royal Visit = Suit, shirt, tie and polished shoes. Secondly, I like to do things a bit differently to others. I like to create images that tell a story and make people stop and think. Photographs that make the viewer feel something. And lastly I love coffee, visiting the beach and I'm also very proud of my moustache and beard. You see my moustache often attracts peoples attention and they just can't help commenting on it. Last year I was in Spain working on an assignment, and a restaurant owner loved my moustache so much he insisted on taking a selfie with me! So you see its a great ice breaker.
Now I'm not saying having a moustache makes you a better photographer but on this occasion, I think it could have made all the difference! Why I hear you ask? Well, let me explain. You see in the very moment I'm stood next to The Duchess Of Cornwall taking photos while she struggled to hold a lively newborn lamb and I'm waiting for the perfect picture, something strange happened! Just for second HRH looked directly at me, smiled and looked at my moustache. Now I don't want to be locked up in the Tower of London or put words into her mouth, but she defiantly had a look about her that seemed to suggest she was thinking "This lamb is adorable, I hope he holds still. Those photographers are rather noisy. Oh, look there's a photographer next to me taking photos. He looks rather smart and wow look at his splendid curly moustache."
And it's that very moment I took my photos and got my pictures, and here they are.
And the result, which may or may not be credited to my now famous moustache, is that HRH, The Duchess of Cornwall ignored all calls to look the other way and instead continued to stand in front of me with that small black lamb so I could get my photo. Much to the annoyance of some of the other photographers, lol.
So there you have it, forget about any advice you have ever been given about how to improve your photography. To succeed as a photographer in Brighton get yourself a curly moustache. You won't regret it ;-)