Press photographers are gearing up for the Royal Wedding, an event deemed to be the biggest photographic event until the 2012 Olympics. But how are these photographers getting ready to get the "money shot"?
Speaking at the World Photography Festival, Neil Turner, vice chairman of the British Press Photographers' Association, explains how more than 650 press photographers are preparing for the most important event of the year.
"We all knew this would happen - an heir to the throne that gets married," says Turner. "Everyone had been planning for it; newspapers and news agencies have always had plans in place for such an event." And then, on 16 November 2010, Prince Williams and Kate Middleton announced their engagements. Since then, press photographers have been thinking about how they will cover the event.
"You have to look at what has been done before, but also try to guess what could happen," says Turner. But, of course, the country is used to "grandiose" events - there are regular annual processions around Buckingham Palace, as well as Royal birthdays. That experience can help press photographers on the big day. However, they have also been looking elsewhere for tips and inspiration. "These kinds of events happen the world over, says Turner. For example, in the US, the president is inaugurated every four to eight years as part of an imposing and elaborate ceremony that takes over most of Washington DC.
In the case of Prince Williams and Kate Middleton's wedding, press photographers have to deal with the short distance that separates Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey - leaving them with less opportunities to get the "Money Shot".
What is that "Money Shot"? "It's the tight picture of the married couple's first kiss," explains Turner. "It could happen at the Abbey, or at Buckingham Palace. Or it could be on route, and one lucky tourist could get it." That precious photo could mean years of revenues for its author, says Turner, and you just have to look at most storefronts to understand what he means. Thousands of memorabilia - cups, t-shirts, postcards, etc. - are harboring images of the engaged couple shot on 16 November 2010. A similar fate awaits the best photographs that will emerge on 29 April 2011.
Getty Images photographer Clive Mason, who usually covers sporting events, is already on location on The Mall near Buckingham Palace. In total, he'll be spending more than 20 hours waiting for Prince Williams and Kate Middleton to make their way to and back from Westminster Abbey. Follow his Twitter updates on twitter.com/clivemasongetty.
So press photographers are turning to technology to help in this quest for the perfect images. "Technology is here to be used, and sometimes it will dictate what we do, but we must not become slave to it," says Turner. "But for this occasion, it can help. There will be more than 500 professional photographers covering this event. The world will want to see the images very quickly. People will be watching it live on television, and when they will go online they will be bemused if they don't see these pictures right away. Technology will help."
Usually, press photographers rely on their laptops and 3G dongles to transmit their images as quickly as possible. This time, it won't be the case, says Turner. All five mobile phone operators expect that their networks will collapse between 10am and 2pm on 29 April. As a result, and for the first time in years, couriers will be running between the different photographic vantage areas and "connections points" that have been set up with reliable Internet connections. For example, the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre opposite Westminster Abbey has been fitted with additional T3 lines. In total, four media centres will be available to photographers along the procession route. "Of course, some photographers are scared of handing out their memory cards to couriers, so they will be backing up their images before they do so," says Turner. "These are wise people."
Photographers will also be using remotely controlled cameras that they have placed along the procession route. "To trigger them, they are using the Pocket Wizard, but," says Turner, "it only has four channels. That means that if you have five photographers in a particular area, there's a chance that you'll be triggering the wrong camera. But it's worth the risk."
In the end, it's all about being in the right position - the top spots being, of course, Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey. "These galleries, [which have been erected according to news organisations' specifications] are paid-for areas," says Turner. Rumors have it that a prime spot opposite of Buckingham Palace costs up to £8000. "If you don't want to pay, you need to be there very early."
And most press photographers will be there early. They are expected to arrive around 5.30am - more than eight hours before the Royal couple is expected to share its first kiss in front of thousands of spectators and billions of viewers.
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