This week for the Behind The Lens story I thought I would write about one of my favorite photos taken during my time at The Examiner, when Prince Charles and Camilla visited Tasmania back in November 2012.
Mark Baker, chief of staff at the time, asked weeks in advance if I was interested in covering the royal visit; and while it sounded interesting, I knew well there would be a lot of waiting around, formality, and being accredited.
One of the ironies with the accreditation was needing to provide certain documents of identification, one of which I didn't have, but I did have a passport.
This wasn't good enough, I had to pay for the new document, when to get that document, all I needed was my passport. The accreditation meant we were allocated a "spot", from which we were not allowed to move. My spot would be next to the sheep yards on a farm near Sorell.
It was an early cold spring morning when I roared The Examiner's white Mitsubishi pool car up the southern outlet hill onto the Midland Highway for the run south. I met reporter Rose at the Hobart office and by lunch time we had parked the Lancer in the long grass at a Sorell farm, to begin the long wait.
It took only a quick glance around the farm to realize that we had been given a great "spot". It was long, maybe 30 metres, shared only with a Launceston TV cameraman (can't remember who it was now), another TV camera, and from memory, only two other still cameras.
The Prince would walk in "over there", our guide pointed to a gate, a dog would round up sheep, they would walk into the shearing shed. Crammed into that little opening the size of a single garage door were a dozen cameras.
It was about now that the weather added an extra challenge. It hammered down. Our great spot beside the sheep yard also had a roof, we kept dry.
The pantomime began to unfold with the arrival of a white Holden Statesman, gliding silently across the wet grass. The door was opened for the Prince, no Camilla here, there was handshaking and he was escorted as our guide said, to the gate and the sheepdog ran off to do his thing.
The Examiner camera of choice at the time was a Nikon D300. The 12 mp DX sensor multiplied my 200mm lens to 300. It was overcast with that unusual soft light that happens after a heavy storm blows over.
I wanted a little depth of field, more importantly, a good shutter speed, and with that camera, as low ISO as possible. Normally I shoot on either aperture priority or manual to control what's going to be in focus - or out of focus as I seem to do half the time, and chose f5.6 and 500 ISO. As the light fell, I wasn't comfortable with the shutter speed it was selecting and bumped the ISO up to 1000.
The Prince and the farmer waffled on for a while, inspected wool and posed nonchalantly against a fence. The dog herded the sheep into a pen, and ran along their backs. I moved to the end of our allocated spot where it was higher to zoom in to compress the background.
As a line of sheep filed along a race towards the Prince and the farmer, a couple of them jumped over an imaginary obstacle. I zoomed in and hoped for the best and to my delight another sheep leaped up right in front of the prince.
I could probably have gone home there and then, but we had another "spot" allocated to us at a wharf in Hobart, where Camilla and Charles were due to walk through a warehouse later in the afternoon.
Rose and I hurried back to town and found our accredited spot on a platform close to the doorway where Charles and Camilla were supposed to enter. This is where the afternoon became silly. It poured rain again.
Camilla didn't want to walk in the rain and appeared early. There were no international cameras, only TheMercury photographer and me, and one of the aides strode up and barked at us to get out there and follow Camilla around the room.
This we did but I found myself not really knowing what I was doing. I was aware that I was going to have to file photos imminently and looked for faces in the crowd that I might know were from the north so I wouldn't have to chase up names.
The international media arrived, we scurried back to our spot on the platform by the door. Charles persisted with the street walk in the rain, seeing as there were thousands there to see him, but as he approached the door, his security staff got in the way of every single shot.
Premier Giddings put out her hand to greet him at the exact moment he lifted his hand to wave with a big goofy finger fluttering wave and the Premier's hand quickly went down. It was a hilariously awkward moment that Rose and I laughed about for the rest of the evening.
It was getting late and I hadn't filed a thing. Weighing up what we had against what more we might get, we decided it was time to go and hope there was no royal assassination attempt, or if there was, at least The Mercury and The Examiner would both miss it and not just one of us.
A security guard locking the door behind the prince let us sneak out, Rose went back to the office, the photographer walked back to his office, and I got back into the white Lancer and headed for the Midland Highway.
Back then The Examiner was not renown for its capacity to send photos remotely. The one laptop for all six (!) photographers to share had a faulty battery and worked only if plugged into an inverter with the car engine running.
Unlike The Examiner's pool car, it was notoriously slow, and it sat on the passenger seat copying files off the camera card all the way to Bridgewater McDonalds and practically as far as Jericho before it was ready for me to pull over and work out what to send back.
A quick call back to the office from the picnic ground at Tunbridge made things easy. The night news editor (remember them?) wanted only a couple of photos, the rest could wait for the morning.
This was such a relief and I fired off the sheep jumping photo and another few. When I say fired, it still took quarter of an hour to send the compressed jpegs. As a bonus, on the way home there was another storm and I got a great scene of a rainbow and the Oatlands windmill.
The best part of the day was actually the next morning when I went to the letterbox to retrieve the paper. I knew my photo wasn't bad, but in combination with Dean Southwell's brilliant headline, our paper looked really good that morning.