Experience of being on the Royal Rota
I had the very unexpected pleasure to be part of an official Royal Rota, covering the visit of Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall’s visit to the Beaumont Sainsbury’s Animal Hospital on 26 February 2015. From a photographers point of view it was a very different and interesting experience.
About a month before I was approached by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) about being the photographer for a “VIP event at the Beaumont Hospital”, but I had no idea who I’d be photographing until a few days in advance.
Apart from confirming date and time, I remained none the wiser as the last person I had photographed for the RVC was Sir Robert Winston and was expecting somebody of similar stature. Then the details came that it was Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall and that the dress code was ‘smart’, ie shirt and tie. That didn’t change anything from my point of view. Preparation wise it was just the normal case of making sure all equipment was working, batteries charged, accessories and equipment where I could find it. Oh and both cameras, which I normally take for event and wedding photography. In this case I was glad I did.
I found was the only freelance photographer as I was working on behalf of the RVC. The other three photographers were the press from the Daily Mail, Camden New Journal and one of the veterinary magazines. Camera’s also varied from professional Nikon kit (Daily Mail) to digital pocket cameras used by the Camden New Journal and veterinary magazines. To be honest I didn’t pay that much attention to what they were using, just what type.
Probably because of the limited space and need to manage the logistics of movement, all press had been asked to arrive some time in advance, where we were taken in advance around the route Her Royal Highness would be walking, the rooms she would shown, go into, people she would meet and possibly any animals. For those working for the press it also was an opportunity to make a note of names in advance of the actual visit. From a photography point of view it meant organising and selecting the locations where we would get the best images, but be out of the way. All in all a good rehearsal of the visit without the actual photography.
I was spared the necessity of collecting information about the visit. My mission was just to get the list of shots the RVC had requested, but apart from that free to take what I liked. However, as several of those requests were generic, one being of Her Royal Highness meeting people and another of her interacting and seeing the animals. That was most of the time.
So the moment came. Her Royal Highness arrived stepping through the door and all was business. Flash was allowed thankfully or the task in the dim lighting of the building would have been much more of an interesting challenge of balancing ISO, shutter speed and apperture and therefore depth of field.
I’ve had a few people say they would have been very nervous and their hands would have been shaking, but I just found myself concentrating on getting the images that had been requested. There was a moment much later when I thought I had equipment failure as I had noticed some of the images in the camera preview appeared to be more blurred, or rather the focus seemed to slip was to something different to what I had selected. As I was still getting good shots that were in focus I kept going, but when there was a lull, I took the opportunity to change camera bodies (I normally carry my second camera with around with me with another lens as it gives me very rapid access to a wide telephoto range of 28mm – 200mm).
With the departure of the Duchess of Cornwall my mission wasn’t quite finished. A sprint back (well as fast as public transport and First Great Western would allow) to my pad and rapid editing of the most uregent photos for a press release later that day.
All in all a lot of fun and I learnt a lot from it.