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.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Stranded in Perth! It could be worse.

Tuesday 1st

Seems weird, Christmas decorations against a blue sky on a hot sunny day.

I had spent the day on Sunday after the Downing Street party and the Queen had left CHOGM and Perth far behind getting the last of the kit cleared out of the Media Centre.

There was still some hope that my flight to Brisbane might not be cancelled. Into the afternoon it was still showing as scheduled.

It was inevitable. It was then cancelled late on in the afternoon.

Unlike my colleagues who were able to get themselves on alternative airline to Qantas I had to wait because of all the sponsorship nonsense before I could look into booking other airlines.

Needless to say the chance to get out of Perth on any other airline before Wednesday had gone.

Even then the flights prices were through the roof.

The only thing to do was to keep trying.

The Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard had referred the dispute to the Fair Work Australia court.

They would make a ruling about whether the industrial action by the Qantas CEO to ground the fleet would be allowed to continue.

I was glued to the TV News as it devoted all its coverage to the Qantas dispute.

The good news was that in the early hours of Monday morning the ruling from the court was that the dispute should be terminated.

That meant flights would be back in the air as soon as possible.

I hoped then that I might be able to get out by late Monday or early Tuesday.

On Monday morning there was no change in the status of most of the flights for Monday and Tuesday.

After breakfast on Monday morning I bumped into Phil the Sky News cameraman. He was now, like me stuck in Perth for a bit longer with all his team managing to get away either on the PM’s flight or another airline’s.

Phil did have a flight out to he UK via Dubai leaving late that evening.

I was still in limbo.

So we had a day to kick our heels in Perth with all the work done and dusted.

Phil suggested a bit of a cycle ride. So we hired bikes and set out on the 30 kilometre ride to Freemantle.


Me, well my shadow.

The ride skirts round he Swan River passing some fantastic houses. It must be an architects heaven here because no two houses are the same and there are hundreds of them all along the route.

Some of the amazing houses on the route.

Not exactly shacks.....

...more like little palaces...

...each one grand... its own individual way...

...with great views of Perth's CBD and some guys preparing to go kite surfing..

...just so many desirable places, out of my reach though.

Fancy that one Phil?

Of course you need somewhere close to park your boat.

Don't think we got that fast...

..Speed camera on a cycle path? No, on closer inspection it is a meter for a pumping station.

We had lunch in Freemantle and then headed back to Perth in the highest temperatures we had encountered on the trip so far.

Phil introduced me to a thing called Geo Cache. It is a GPS based treasure hunt.

People hide little containers all over the world leaving clues either in the form of riddles or using GPS co-ordinates.

We found two, one at the Roundhouse in Freemantle and one on the ride back.

Phil signed the little finders logs that are in the containers and then carefully put them back for the next treasure seekers to find.

Signing the cache's log book at the Rooundhouse in Freemantle.

Bike parked whilst we search on the route back.

Found it!

Phil signs that cache'e log book too.

It only lasts a couple of days but it takes over the city.

Not far to go now...

...passing where the Queen went to the Big Sausage Sizzle.

Hot but happy after four hours in the saddle.

There was good news when we arrived back at the hotel hot sweaty and knackered but, not suffering from sore bottoms from our four hours of cycling. The Qantas flights had opened up.

I was able to book for the early morning flight to Brisbane.

After dinner I said good bye to Phil as he prepared for his late night flight back to the UK.

I packed my kit.

This morning I left a whole stack of kit that is not needed on the Daybreak assignment with the hotel to be looked after by tourism Western Australia.

After the filming and live broadcasts in Melbourne we’d be hot footing back over to Perth for live broadcasts there when I would be reunited with the kit for the journey home.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

News at Ten, in the morning?

Saturday 29th

For the first time on this trip I was in a real deep sleep when the iPhone alarm rang and rang to rouse me.

It was kind of business as usual for me getting up at half past three to get ready to do a breakfast TV live broadcast, only this time it was going to be a live broadcast for News at Ten.

It felt rather weird indeed.

I threw on some clothes, picked up the minimum kit that I would need to do the broadcast and deal with any little mishaps that might jeopardise it. It was a weary walk to the Media Centre.

The Media Centre empty at 4 am.

At the live points outside the main entrance I set up my kit and checked that it all worked.

Kevin, the Globecast engineer who had moved out from the UK three years ago made sure that the important things were sorted, like showing me where I could get a cup of coffee.

Never mind the pictures and sound where's the coffee?

The Police are the only others in the building.

Shortly before News at Ten went on air everything was looking good. My pictures and sound were getting to ITN MCR in London and I was receiving their programme sound.

All systems go.

Tom and Sam arrived with a few moments to spare before we hit air.

He stuck his earpiece in and I clipped the talk back on. Then on went the lapel mic.

Tom Bradby checking his e-mails just before we went on air.

The studio in London spoke to Tom and we set the voice level.

Sam was listening in to gallery and relayed timings to us.

Tom’s report played, he took his cue and off he went.

Job done.

Tom and Sam left.

I derigged my kit and went back to the hotel to get a quick shower before heading off to see the Prime Ministers of the UK and Australia.

I was about to get ready for my shower when my phone rang.

It was Kate from the Prime MInister’s office. I had been given the wrong time for the departure. It was 6 am not 6:30 am and it was now just after 6.

That’ll be no shower then I thought.

I picked up the gear and headed down to meet the little group that would be going to the Pan Pacific hotel where the PM and Co were staying.

The car to take us to the Pan Pacific hotel....

There's always a bit of a walk when the roads are closed. Even in an accredited vehicle.

We were there in plenty of time so once we had been security screened it was time for a very good breakfast. What made it better was that it was not too much of a rush.

The room where the meeting would be held.

We went up to the room where the bilateral meeting was gong to be held and having once again been bibbed up we waited for the pair to arrive.

In they came, shook hands, sat down and started a bit of small talk.

That was it. We were ushered out by all the officials.

The first wait.

There was then a bit of hanging around before we were ushered back in to hear the pair make a bit of an announcement.

Mark, the soundman that had travelled with the PM would provide me with a sound feed.

The second wait.

When we went in we did not get as far forwards as we would have liked .before the pair started off with their little bits of chat.

The crux of what they said was that agreement had been reached to try to eradicate Polio in the few countries where it still existed.

Mark was not able to get his boom in as far as we would have liked so the levels were a bit low but, at least they were audible.

Once again it was a little bus ride. At the media centre I sent the short amount of footage to ITN to distribute to the BBC and Sky in London.

Then to allow Chris to get a chance to get out and see a bit of Australia I said that I would monitor the various feeds and record anything that might make a story.

Monitoring the feeds.

The big news that broke was something that could affect quite a few of us and had already affected William Hague the Foreign Secretary who was due to be on at least one Quantas flight on his visit here.

Breaking new on the screens in the Media Centre.

Quantas had grounded all its flights both domestic and international because of an industrial dispute that had been rumbling on for a while.

So what will happen to those of us on Quantas flights out of here in the next few days?

I was not able to get in touch with the travel people looking after my booking to investigate alternative flights.

Quantas is sponsoring the Daybreak Down Under job that I will be doing in a few days time. Will that be affected? Will one hundred Daybreak viewers still make it out here?

Big News indeed.

Where are Cameron's shots as CHOGM starts?

Friday 28th

I dragged myself out of bed after too little sleep again.

Today was the start of the big Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. All the big wigs from around the world were due to gather at the Convention Centre in Perth.

My first job of the day was to get the arrival shots of the leaders.

The early start was because I had to be in position a bit before the first of the leaders arrived in their little three car convoy.

The nice aspect of what I would be doing today was that there would be no need to don my shirt, tie and jacket. I could be more practically dressed and anyway I would have to wear one of the ridiculous bibs that signifies that I am part of the pool for that event over whatever I wore.

Getting the bibs and being told the pool rules...

...which would be strictly enforced.

Outside the Convention Centre there was a little platform for us cameramen and an area infront of that for the stills photographers.

There were four cameramen, one doing the live feed for the host broadcaster, one for the Australian networks, Christophe, Reuter’s French cameraman based in Singapore, and me, doing it for all of the UK broadcasters.

The main entrance to CHOGM.

My position was in the corner in the shade.

The view from the platform.

Everyone would get access to the host broadcaster’s feed.

That shot would be a fairly wide shot as the cars pulled up and the leaders got out to be greeted and walk past a little welcoming ceremony consisting of an Aboriginal guy wafting smoke from burning eucalyptus leaves over them and a couple of people wearing kangaroo skins draped over their normal clothes saying hello.

Making smoke from eucalyptus leaves.

My plan was to do a closer shot of the leaders that would allow an edit from the host broadcaster's shot making, I hoped for a more interesting sequence.

There are 53 leaders of the Commonwealth countries. It would be fair to say that not many of them are well known faces outside their own country. I was confident that I would be able to recognise two of them.

It was lucky then that apart from the Sri Lankan leader who’s shot was needed for an ITV documentary about that country's killing fields the only ones that I really needed for today's pieces would be David Cameron and probably the Queen.

The others would be wanted for archive.

One of the media organisers had an earpiece that informed him of who was in what car as it came in.

He told me and I put a sound ident on one of the audio tracks.

The 53 Leaders.

The steady progression of cars came in and i duly taped the VIP passenger’s walk into the building and said which country they were from.

The more important the leader the later down the list they were arriving.

So, towards the end of this seemingly never ending stream of white cars came Mr Cameron.

As with the rest I started on a big close up through the cars rear passenger window and eased the shot out as he exited, shook hands with his greeter and walked into the building.

The last to arrive were the Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh.

The shots were not to the liking of we cameramen for two reasons. Firstly we were shooting against the very bright sunlight and added to that was that we and part of the short walk was in deep shadow.

A big light behind our platform would have made a huge difference but, on the whole we coped.

During the two hour arrival process David from the Palace came out to speak to me.

David, the Queen's Senior Press Secretary.

The way he said what he said made me sound very important indeed and amused me greatly.

“Once you have done this would you like to come up to Government House with me and we will do lunch with the Queen?”

What he meant of course was that there would be some shooting for me to do before lunch. When any member of the royal family is eating there is a strictly enforced no filming and no photograph rule.

The only thing was that I would need to dash back to the hotel and get suited up again.

What I would be shooting would be a few moments with the Queen meeting the newest of the leaders in a small reception before they went in to lunch.

David had extended the same invitation to two Australian photographers and understandably they had accepted.

David took us to Government House a little while before the event so that we could have a quick look at the room we would be working in.

Waiting for security clearance at the backdoor of Government House.

Immediately before our bit the Queen would be having audiences with various people. David, the official photographer for the Australians would be doing that.

The room where the Queen would hold her audiences.

The other side of the room where the reception would be held.

The two Davids talk about shooting the audiences.

It may be a very grand and special place but, it is still a family home.

Children's toys outside one of the windows.

The two Australian photographers has one small joint problem, neither of them had jackets and given the small room that we would be in, the close proximity we would be to her and that we were there by special invitation a jacket was a must.

The hunt was on for two dark jackets that the guys could borrow.

It was two unknown members of the Canadian Delegation that made the sacrifice of temporarily donating their jackets to the pair of snappers.

Bibs off. Jackets on. That is if you've got one.

There was a bit of time before our event. There was time for me to nip out and grab a very quick coffee.

Crowds were lining the road waiting to get a fleeting view of the Queen as went past in her black Range Rover with the crown on the front and back.

There was a restrained relaxed excitement in the centre of he city.

I was enjoying my brief outing in the warm sun and reflecting that things had turned out fine. We had managed to get on air with the royal story much more than we thought and that even given the various problems both logistical and technical we had not missed anything.

I felt that I could join with the people of Perth and relax myself for the first time in quite a few days.

The authorities in Perth had done a bit of a switcheroo with a public holiday, taking a day that would normally have been around the first weekend in October to mark the Queen’s birthday and making it today.

Consequently there were very few places open. I was in the process of searching for a coffee shop when my phone vibrated in my pocket.

The text from Sam said, “Having trouble finding Cameron on your card.”

It is a cameraman’s nightmare not to have recorded something for whatever reason.

The worst is what we call double buttoning. That is shorthand for not pressing the record button.

Had I double buttoned on Cameron? The only really vital shot and it looked like I did not have it.

I quickly sent Phil a text.

His reply was equally negative.

My subsequent reply short and to the point, “Shit”.

I was desperate to get back to my camera at Government House to check if the shot was on tape.

Things then started to sound much worse.

I sent a test back to Phil to ask if he could see the Queen on the material.

His answer came back pretty quickly. It was not what I wanted to hear.

“no nope”

Great, out of all the 53 plus shots that I had done of he Heads of Government and other VIPs arriving the two that were vital to us, the BBC and Sky were missing.

My brief moment of relaxation vanished as the cold leaden block formed in the pit of my stomach and I felt sick.

Once again I had visions of a P45 along with a boarding card being handed to me when I got back to the media centre.

I wanted to get to my camera and have a look at what was on tape.

The frustration at not being by the camera grew and I got very antsy.

It was now impossible to cross the road because the Queen was due any time.

I hopped from one foot to he other as the slow moving convoy approached. How I wished it would speed up.

The Queen's convoy passes by all too slowly for me.

At last it was past me. It was a few distressing minutes before the crossing was open and I got back through the security at Government House.

It was with a sense of trepidation that I rewound the tape that I had shot.

When I saw both the Queen and Mr Cameron my relief was immeasurable.

There had obviously been some problem with the card that I had also recorded on to.

So, when I went in to see the Queen I was not as uptight as I had been a few moments previously.

We were only in the room for a very short time.

The new leaders trooped in and got drinks form the waitresses carrying crystal glasses on silver trays.

Once they had settled an official lined them up in some sort of preordained order. A few moments later the Queen came into the room.

She did her usual thing shaking hands with each of them saying a few words as she did so.

Apart from a very short time when I got a great close up profile shot of the Queen smiling she had her back to us most of the time which was not ideal but getting this access was really good so any shot counted.

The Media Centre filling up.

Phil editing in the Media Centre...

...and doing live broadcasts with Sky News Political Correspondent Joey Jones.

Nick Witchell doing his for the BBC.

On returning to the Media Centre I switched into CHOGM political mode.

I met up with Chris, Sam and Tom at the space that I had organised yesterday.

They already looked shattered.

They had travelled on the same flight as the Prime Minister and his party.

This trip to Perth would see them spend one hour more in the air to get here and back than they would actually spend on the ground in Australia.

Sam, Chris and Tom get to work.

I had a little bit of down time before my first CHOGM job which would be a joint press conference with the two Prime Ministers from the UK and Australia.

I was able to get a leisurely bite to eat from the Media Centre’s in-house cafe before having to set up for the presser.

I had already put my tripod in position next to the host broadcasters camera to reserve my place on the long raised camera platform.

The camera platform with cameras and a couple of tripods.

It was not looking very busy as the time for the presser to start got closer.

There was only one other cameraman beside me on the platform, Christophe from Reuters had joined me and we both got our sound feeds sorted and chatted about the lighting, cameras and tripods in true camera geek fashion.

The presser was going to be about the rules of succession to the throne. It became clear that there was big news coming.

The guys that set the rooms up and deal with the technical things suddenly came rushing in and changed the long table and chairs for two presidential type lecterns.

This was shaping up to be more of an announcement than a press briefing.

The way the room started.

Then it started to change..

..the guys were working really quickly.

The room was starting to fill up with journalists and a few cameramen were setting up down the sides to get cutaway shots and the entrance of the Prime Ministers.

The platform was still fairly empty however, a little Indian cameraman from New Delhi decided that he wanted to squeeze between my camera and the host broadcaster’s large lensed camera.

When I pointed out that there was not quite enough room he started to unscrew my pan bar to alter its position.

I was having none of that.

He stopped when I removed his hand from my tripod but, stayed in position.

When Mr Cameron and Mrs Gillard came in and stepped up to the podium we concentrated on them.

My pan bar fiddling friend on my right was no problem during the proceedings the heralded two major changes to the rules of succession to the British crown.

No longer would the first born have to be a male to become monarch and it would now be permissible for the sovereign to marry a Catholic.

The way the room ended up with the two Prime Ministers at the lecterns.

Mr Cameron and Mrs Gillard making the succession announcement.

Mr Cameron in my viewfinder...

...Mrs Gillard is in there too.

Straight after the presser Mr Cameron went outside to where Sky and the BBC had set up a two camera interview position where in the true spirit of pooling ITN’s Tom Bradby would conduct a very short interview with him.

Once that was done Chris and I did a bit of work.

He got down to editing a report with Tom and I got the interview material and dent it to London along with some other bits and pieces.

Chris editing.

When that was done Tom, Sam and I went out to the front of the building to do a long piece to camera.

Chris then sent that to London.

The evening was drawing on when we packed up to leave.

I got to my hotel at around 9 pm with the prospect of having to be up again at before 4 am.

This was very weird to me. I was having to get up as if I was working on Daybreak yet it would be News at Ten that I would be doing my stuff for.

At least I would be able to get back to bed after that for another few hours kip.

I had just thrown my accreditation on the bed when my phone rang with a number that I did not recognise.

It was Matthew from Number ten. He was calling with a polite request to see if I could help out.

There was an early morning meeting, called a bilateral between David Cameron and Julia Gillard and it had to be covered.

Tony, the BBC cameraman who had travelled as part of the PM’s group was due to do the shoot.

He was going to be working right through and was not going to get any sleep at all. Would I mind getting up and meeting Kate from Number Ten at 6:30 am to go and do the shoot.

It was with reluctance that I said yes.

That meant my opportunity to get back to bed had gone.