Cameraman based in Edinburgh, employed by ITN, working for ITV's Good Morning Britain covering stories all over the UK and the world. War Zones, World Cups, Royal Tours and many other less exciting assignments, like interviewing current and ex Prime Ministers have kept me busy over the years working in Breakfast Television since GMTV came on the scene back in '93 and regional TV before that. In 2009 I began to record what it is like to work, the often strange and long hours needed to bring the hard news, human interest and fluffy fun to the UK's TV screens in the morning, mostly broadcasting live.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Who ordered this rain then?

Tuesday 25th

There was just one event planned for the day at Canberra’s large War Memorial. It’s imposing building in the distance opposite Parliament House.

The Australian National War Memorial.

When we woke up it was to a day more like we would have expected back home rather than the sun and warmth we had come to expect here in Australia.

It was grey, wet and a little bit cooler than the previous days.

The satellite trucks lined up outside the memorial.

Going to work in the rain.

Part of the crowd that had gathered despite the grim grey weather.

We all trooped into the War Memorial to be greeted by the Communications Manager of the site Mary Lou.

In customary fashion she gave us a briefing emphasising the solemnity of the place and making a request verging on a demand that photographers should not take photographs during the playing of The Last Post because the noise of the shutters going off would shatter the peace and quiet when the bugle was silent.

Mary Lou giving the briefing to the media.

Tim and Peter waiting in the dry.

Stills kit ready and waiting.

Peter, Phil, Duncan and I went to our allocated positions.

Peter had his usual roaming remit.

Phil would be arrival, departure and piece to camera man.

Duncan would do the meeting the people and any interviews.

I would do the shot of the walk along the Roll of Honour inscribed with the names of the fallen in various military operations.

Phil takes his position.

Not just servicemen remembered in this memorial.

The important shot would be the one where the Queen looked at the plaque commemorating the more recent conflicts involving Australian servicemen.

The area where we, that was me, Arthur Edwards, Ray Strange an Australian photographer and a cameraman from Channel 7 with his live camera, were to be positioned was very small and tight. Ailsa from the Palace media team would also be there to make sure that we behaved ourselves.

This was the number of people that had been allocated to this pool because it was such a small area.

However, there was also a photographer from the War Memorial standing in the spot. Ailsa from the Palace politely pointed out that unfortunately there was no room for him.

Rather brusquely and with a tone verging on being belligerent and aggressive he said that he was here at the behest of the Director of the Memorial and if anyone was going to move it would not be him.

Ailsa then had a little word with Mary Lou who gently told the guy that it was the Queen’s shout about who would be in this area and as we would be very close to invading her personal space it was him that would have to go.

With a plaintive, “Why me?”, he wandered off drawing us four, Arthur and me in particular a look that would certainly have caused damage if not killed.

The incident over we settled down to wait for the Queen and the two old royal visit hands Arthur and Ray, one from the UK and Australia, chatted about the tours past, like the Charles and Di one with the crowds and the Queen's previous tours down under.

After the Queen and the Duke had paid their respects at the tomb of the Australian unknown soldier and the moving sound of the bugle playing the Last Post had resounded around the stone walls of the Memorial and faded away without the interruption of any clicking of shutters, they appeared at the end of the long cloister where the Roll of Honour was.

I held a wide shot as the party entered and then slowly zoomed in.

The Duke and the Queen took their time walking up towards us giving me time to do a few different shots. All the time now my sound track was the shutter sounds from Arthur and Raymond’s cameras as they took loads and loads of shots.

The Queen came very close to us as planned and looked for a little while at the plaque. There were two little things that made the shot I got not as good as I would have liked, particularly because it would be one of the shots of the day.

The light was all behind the Queen so that she was very back lit with nothing bouncing off the dark bronze plaque and stone behind us and we were so close that I could have done with a wide angle lens rather than the standard one that I had on the camera.

Of course my two stills colleagues won those two battles hands down.

They had all the lenses they needed to hand and enough flash power to easily cope with the back light problem.

We were only allowed a few seconds to get our shots before having to make a quick. quiet and unobtrusive an exit as possible down the narrow flight of stairs that the Queen was about to descend.

We went straight to stand in front of a table with a big book on it which a few moments later the Queen and Duke came to and signed.

Once again it was a bit of a back lit situation but, not as bad as upstairs.

The Queen then went off to meet some people inside. That would be covered by Duncan.

Our little group went out into the rain to get into position beside some of the children that had endured the weather to get the chance of seeing the queen.

The kids waiting to give the Queen the flowers that would end up with the Ladies in waiting.

Our little walkabout pool, Ray, Channel 7 cameraman and Arthur.

Ailsa from the Palace keeping an eye on things.

Peter goes to take his position.

It was still raining but, not too hard when the Queen came out. To the delight of the crowd she came over to collect the bunches of flowers and cards that were being thrust at her.

Of course she handed them straight to either one of her Ladies in Waiting or one of the policemen. In fact a few of the bunches of flowers from the crowd bypassed the Queen entirely and went from the person in the crowd to a policeman and then over to the Lady in Waiting.

I got a nice selection of shots, close ups, wides and with kids in the foreground but, Pete trumped my shots by getting a shot of the Queen saying “best of luck”, to a woman trying to cope with a crying baby and a toddler.

The Queen’s words were not crystal clear but just about audible to be used.

My final shot was of the Queen and Duke waving from the back of the black Range Rover as it pulled away from the front of the memorial.

Then we quickly did a long piece to camera with Tim for Daybreak which I would get to them as soon as I could.

Daybreak could then use the pictures that they were getting from the international feed to cover because, given how long it would take to ingest the various cards from me, Duncan, Phil and Peter and edit them down it was the safest option to make sure they were able to transmit a report in the early bulletins.

The motorcade heading away from the War Memorial....

....heading towards Parliament House.

Not such a glamorous departure for most.

Tim’s feeling, which Georgina and I echoed was that even though the pictures from today were quite good there was not a strong enough story to warrant us offering London a piece.

After early discussions the editors at ITN came to the same conclusion.

Therefore back at the hotel in the lobby after having to be out of our rooms I sat and got all the material into the laptop.

There was enough time to clip up some of the material and send it to London just incase they changed their mind, because if they did, it would not be possible to get any material to them. We would all be in the air on our way to Melbourne.

Sky News in their part of the lobby doing their edit.

Things were very relaxed. The material was going in to the laptop nicely. Peter joined Tim, Georgina and me as things trundled along.

Tim and Peter started talking about the old characters that worked at ITN in the seventies and eighties and some of the shots that were missed because cameramen had nipped off for a quick pint or in the days of film missed goals at football matches because they had their hands in the black bag whilst they changed rolls of film.

I could listen to those sort of stories all day.

The laptop busy encoding away in our part of the lobby.

The coach to take us to the airport would be leaving shortly.

Tim and I had selected the little bits of sound bites that were needed and I had laid down enough shots for an editor to have a play with if a piece was wanted.

All that had to happen was for the material to be encoded into the software that would transmit it over the internet to London.

There was about fifteen minutes to go before we had to be on the bus.

I started the process off and whilst it was doing its stuff Tim and Georgina took the gear to the coach.

Things had been going far to smoothly. That all came to a grinding halt and for an hour or so I was in another small nightmare situation.

The first thing that provided the until then joyfully absent stress, was that the progress bar on the computer stopped making progress.

There was no error message to say that there was a problem.

These things happen from time to time and a restart of the application usually sorts it out, or if that doesn’t a restart of the computer is more likely the answer.

The bus boarding time was now almost upon me and by the time I had gone through the restarting procedure a couple of times it was clear that there would be no time left to get the material over the internet before getting on the bus.

All the kit had gone onto the bus all I needed to take was my camera and the laptop which was now once again trying to complete the encoding process.

I picked them both up and got on the bus. I sat down and as the bus bounced out of the car park bound for the domestic terminal at Canberra airport I carried on trying to get the material in and work out what the problem was.

I had a feeling that it was probably an issue with how full one of the disks was but, I was not sure which on or how to safely remove some of the extraneous files.

It was then that I though, “Where’s my phone?”

That familiar feeling of dread came over me when I went through my pockets and bag. I could not see or feel my phone.

I tried calling it from Duncan’s phone. I heard it ring out. There was no sound from anywhere near me.

By this time we had arrived at the airport.

David from the Palace media team had the hotel number in his phone and he called it.

Thankfully the phone had been found on the seat that I had been sitting on when I was editing but, this was not confirmed until I was half way back to the hotel to check myself.

Tim and Georgina got landed with the job of lugging the gear through to check in when I went off to look for the phone.

On the way I carried on trying to find which disk was the culprit.

Bouncing around in a fast moving bus is not the best conditions in which to scour a computer’s disks and folders.

Given that any footage would not now be needed for a few hours and even then was only going to be on standby I decided that I could wait until Melbourne and talk to the ever helpful Bob when he got into work.

Arriving at another airport, this time Melbourne....

....and loading another bus.... head for the city centre.

I called Bob as soon as I got set up in my hotel room and under his expert guidance we found out what the problem was. There were some files that had somehow found themselves somewhere they should not really have been.

It did not take to long to identify what was needed to sort things out.

At least there was no deadline steaming up to increase the stress levels again.

Once the problem was fixed I got the footage into London and could then properly relax even though by that time it was 11 pm local time.

So another night in a hotel room staring at a computer screen and eating room service food.

At least I finished this lot and it was very tasty.

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