The Queen is really in the news these days so it’s hard not to reflect on what was one of the highlights of our career. We photographed her Majesty for the Canadian Armed Forces during her last visit to Calgary in 2004.
The task was to prepare three separate sets for Queen Elizabeth to sit with three separate units of the armed forces and here some of the details.
The main challenge was we were given only five minutes to do 3 group shots with the Queen positioned among over 150 military. The second challenge was it all had to be cleaned up and cleared away in under five minutes because all the VIP events were to take place in the same area right afterwards.
The location was the Calgary Military Museum, formerly known as the Museum of the Regiments. Since it was a historical sight, power was going to be an issue. Brian was concerned about blowing a breaker with so much lighting to be assembled. His solution was to have a 70 amp breaker installed and run 700 ft of movie power cable to a main breaker box.
There would be no time to change camera angles. Brian and I each took one of the three stations so she would walk from set one (me) to set two (Brian) then to set three (me) so while Brian shot I had merely seconds to re position my camera for set three before she arrived.
We were called to a meeting well in advance of the Queen’s trip to Canada where we met with her staff and learned the Queen’s protocol and how to address her.
Oddly enough the woman we met in charge of the event was actually from New York and had the full on NYC accent. She was very chill and went on about the Queen that she was a real pro and will know exactly what to do. She also mentioned that the Queen would want everyone to be comfortable and not uptight, ya right!
The first time you talk to the Queen you must address her by “Your Majesty”, but the second time you talk to her you are to call her “Mum” (which I found incredibly informal considering this is the longest reigning monarch in the last 1000 years and I am supposed to call her mom-!?)
The Museum would allow us time the evening before to do all of our set up. We had a team of four assistants and from what I remember we were there hours that night setting up. Our team accompanied us on the day of the shoot. Everyone had to go thru RCMP background checks.
There were lights and risers up everywhere, mostly large soft boxes and background lights with reflectors and grid spots to avoid light spilling onto other sets. We shot it on two large format Phase One digital cameras mounted onto Hasselblad cameras ( these were the first high res medium format digital cameras sold on the market – this was 2004 only the beginning of the digital photography age ) and the images were recorded on two Mac Book pros.
When everything was ready to go that morning all the soldiers were standing at attention impeccable in their units on risers. Soon as we were given the signal that her Majesty’s motorcade was about to arrive the RCMP swept the room with their bomb sniffing dogs, one of which run right underneath one of the tripods and almost knocked over one of our cameras! Then it was absolutely silent in the museum while we waited.
She entered on the red carpet and was greeted by officials and escorted to our sets. We were not introduced to her.
We shot it in 3 minutes and 15 seconds and with the help of 150 military all our gear was stashed out of sight in about 90 seconds. I remember disconnecting my camera and bending down to carefully put my laptop away in my briefcase and by the time I looked up all the gear was gone. Each soldier took a light stand, riser or some of the heavy cable and it all went into a room designated for our storage.
Other things I remember are you are never to extend your hand to the Queen unless she extends hers first. Her vintage reminded me a lot of Brian’s 91 year old mother because up close she looks like a nice country lady. She has lovely thin ankles and tiny feet. We also wondered what would be in her purse, would she carry money with her face on it?
We saw a very brief glimpse of the Duke after the shoot. And he is exactly like you would expect he would be. He almost looked like a caricature of himself it was surreal.
The whole experience was months in the planning and over in a few minutes. As brief as it was it became a major marker in our lives.
Long Live the Queen!
~trudie and brian