Part one of my Diamond Jubilee post can be found here.
Monday saw the Jubilee Concert as the centre of attention, with the QVM being converted into an elaborate stage, high bleacher-style seating around the edge of the monument and music fans filling the full length of the Mall. Shortly before the show started, word went round that Prince Philip had been taken to hospital. While there was an initial buzz of concern that this could end up being a very different evening, it turned out to be a bladder infection, so everyone could relax a little.
The first few minutes were spoiled by a camera fault which I spotted quickly, leaving me thankful that I’d lugged three camera bodies into town. Shooting from around 50 metres from the stage, the Nikon 600mm f4 was the lens of the day with a 300mm f2.8 for wider group shots, and a 24-70mm f2.8 for the inevitable fireworks. With the Mall filled to capacity with jubilant jubilee types, networks were as clogged as a Dutchman’s foot, so the AFP editor had to revert to sending via BGAN satellite terminal. Due to the network issues, the editors from all of the agencies couldn’t send from the media room in the park, as there was too much tree coverage. Adding to glamour of the lifestyle, they were all forced to come and shelter behind the photographers’ stands with umbrellas and no power supply. Eeeh, it’s a classy life.
Highlights of the show were as eclectic as the line-up with much entertainment, laughter and dancing. The latter of which can prove problematic. If Stevie Wonder is on stage singing Superstition, a man cannot be expected to stand still, despite the fact that it causes the whole photographers riser to bounce around. Don’t blame me, blame The Wonder.
Room was at a bit of a premium on the photographer’s stand during the show, resulting in some fine lens balancing from the likes of Dan Kitwood. You don’t want to know how he operated that 500mm…
While Grace Jones performed miracles with a hula hoop, Cliff Richard managed to have both myself and Reuters photographer David Moir cheering as he broke into a rousing bit of Devil Woman. Kylie seemed to have a much longer set than most of the others on the bill but I wasn’t complaining too much. With the much-hyped Tom Jones performing a very lacklustre set and Elton John seeming a little off form after his bout of pneumonia last week, it was up to Macca and his fireworks to end the concert in style.
Then the Queen was brought onstage for an emotional speech (and even a kiss) from Prince Charles, before the grand finale. With Prince Philip in hospital, it was sad to see the Queen spending the evening without her husband, and I’m sure she must have just wanted to be with him. She smiled on through it all, and after a series of cheers from the crowds and a “God Save the Queen”, it was time for the uber-fireworks. Crikey. Them’s big bangs.
With the show over and as many images sent as we could before the power died, we trekked back across London, and I crashed into my hotel bed for a well-earned three hours sleep.
Ahh, that lovely Blackberry alarm. How I love you so. Sporting bleary eyes and an even blearier brain, it was time for the final day of the long weekend, and the procession and flypast at Buckingham Palace. With the balcony appearance not taking place until after 3pm, a healthy report time to arrive would have been noon, but for some bizarre reason, photographers were requested to gather at 7am, before being loaded onto the monument photography position to begin a long day of thumb-twiddlery. I think the long weekend was starting to get to certain other people, too…
Having some experience of shooting that balcony (*shudder*), I knew what to expect, so came prepared for anything. Made up of two D4 bodies, a D3s body, a 600mm f4, a 300mm f2.8, a 70-200mm f2.8, a 24-70mm f2.8, a 14-24mm f2.8, a “Three Legged Thing” Brian tripod, a retro Manfrotto 058, a Manfrotto Magic Arm as well as a laptop, BGAN, Pocket Wizards and assorted rain-covers, my kit rendered me as mobile as Mount Snowdon.
When the time came, so did the rain and I was frantically dashing to my wide-angled remote camera every few seconds to wipe the rain from the front element, as the crowds cheered for the Queen to appear. Eventually she did and it was time for the 6 minutes of actual proper work. Lots of waving, smiling, pointing and looking at planes was done before the Royals returned inside and the shooting was over. All that remained was the frantic edit and transmission, which isn’t helped by tens of thousands of spectators draining all of the available 3G bandwidth. Thankfully, the people soon cleared and the pictures could fly freely. After the stresses of the Royal Wedding, it was great to see a nice full set of sharp pictures with not a trace of heat-haze, pollen or camera shake to ruin the day. That was a demon that’s taken over a year to exorcise! If only Nikon did an 800mm, life would just be peachy!
Just to give you an idea of distance, see that little dot in the middle of the frame below? That dot rules your ass.
So there we are. The Diamond Jubilee is over with no problems, nightmares or screw-ups. Walking away from Buckingham Palace last night, I said that I hoped that it was time for some variety and hopefully the last that I’d see of the Royals for a few months.
This morning I received an email. “Leon, we’ve put you down to shoot the “Trooping the Colour” ceremony from the QVM on the 16th of June”. Right, where did I put that checklist?