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Covering the Royals

The Queen's aid-de-camp reached out and pushed me back as I came perilously close to falling into her.  "I'm sorry." I said as I regained my footing.  "No you're not!" he replied, in his best aristocratic British accent.

A few minutes earlier, a large crowd at Ottawa’s Dow Lake where she went to watch the Silver Jubilee Regatta had greeted a smiling Queen Elizabeth II. She was working her way through the crowd and up a small hill to the viewing area at the lake’s edge. I rushed to get to the top first so I could make a photograph of her with the large crowd pressing in behind her.

75th Jubilee

Queen Elizabeth II smiles she walks through a large crowd at Ottawa's Dow Lake where she went to watch the Silver Jubilee Regatta, Oct. 15, 1977.                                Photo by Ron Poling

As I passed, about three feet to her right, anxious spectators bumped me while jockeying to be closer to where the queen would pass. Fortunately her aid reached out and gave me the push I needed to keep from falling into the monarch.  An international incident was thus averted! It would have raised a stir to have pictures of the Queen on the ground with me on top of her. Quite improper!

Covering the Queen and royal family changed a great deal over the years.  When I started photographing the Queen in the mid-seventies, photographers with accreditation could pretty much move around, as they liked. 

A few years later, changes were made to restrict the photographers to moving pools, where we were allowed to leapfrog in a small controlled group ahead of the Queen as she made her way down fenced paths, waving and stopping to talk to well wishers along the way. 

Having photographers stop in front of the crowd of people, who had lined up along the security fence many hours before the event in the hopes getting a front row position and meeting the Royals, brought howls of protest.  I always felt badly when I had to stop in front of them, blocking their view and did my best to keep out of their way.

Moving pools were next to go.  We were forced to stay in media pens at specific locations and not be allowed to move ahead once she passed.  The same rules apply today making it necessary to shoot tours with more photographers, one for each good pool position.

The changes made sense for increasingly difficult security situations and to benefit the people who came out to see her, but it also made it more difficult to shoot casual and more spontaneous images.   Of course it did make it less likely she would be knocked over by an enthusiastic photographer!

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