Conservatives 2018

As another season of party political conferences draws to an end I thought I’d pen a little piece on my experiences this year covering The Conservative Party Annual Conference which took place in Birmingham, “Dancing Queen” and all.

Following last year’s shennnigans when a rogue comedian managed to present The Prime Minister with a “P45” during her Keynote speech, during a coughing fit and as bits of the normally carefully managed stage set literally fell apart we all knew it was going to be us photographers that paid the price. Sure enough a strictly managed exclusion zone was in place in front of the stage and we were under no circumstances (under pain of expulsion) to enter it. The space we have available to work in in front of the stage is always too small and we are constantly scrambling over whoever is sat in the front row as we move around and try and frame our pictures. It is possible to get a spot and stay there but you end up with pictures that all look the same so we tend to shoot a particular angle then move elsewhere for variety. The “Photo-managers” are never interested in helping us do anything other than keep out of the way and not annoy the delegates. One of the best ways to avoid this is to allow access elsewhere such as at the back of the hall or on one of the upper floors but on this occasion these options were not on offer on day one. Day two we were told we could go to the back, but not square on to the podium and then the handlers on the floor hadn’t been told so we were once again stopped. Various permissions were sought, often agreed too then reneged on, it was looking like the main event ” The Leader’s Speech” was going to be a nightmare. As always we worked around the rules as much as we could and managed to cover the speakers as best we could. By all accounts in contrast to this The Labour Party had been very generous with access allowing photographers pretty much wherever they wanted to go as long as they kept off the stage, fair enough. After much discussion (pleading really) it was agreed that for The PM’s speech we could use the back of the hall and the first floor balcony. I lugged my ancient 600mm lens down to the conference on the last day and set about finding a spot on the balcony. First reaction was ” no your not allowed” eventually we got in then were told the position wasn’t square on and it was at the back of the balcony so you couldn’t see May walking out of the auditorium…No use at all. I headed downstairs to find a spot at the back of the hall…nothing Square on…No use at all. So as with all the best laid plans I threw them out the window and opted for a rubbish position down the front directly in front of the podium. This may sound like a good position but it wasn’t. We were on the floor, May would be on the stage and the podium was so high that we’d struggle to see her face. I’d tried on day one to shoot from this spot and you can see what I mean from my picture of Liam Fox, it’s the one with the outstretched arms but no head. I sat there for about an hour before she was due on, opting out of the traditional photocall of her and her husband crossing the bridge from The Hyatt Hotel on their way to the hall. I waited and waited wondering how I was going to squeeze in somewhere else should another photographer move on after the first few minutes. The Attorney General spoke before May and he was very good. His speech style was variously compared to Winston Churchill and Brian Blessed and he didn’t stand stuck behind the podium, he moved around booming across the hall and actually making good pictures. I turned to the phtographer’s next to me on the floor and said “He’s bloody good, she’ll have a job following that” to which one replied “Maybe she’ll dance”. He finished and ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” started up. I was watching the door through my 70-200 when it happened, The PM came dancing out the doors and across the stage, we were gobsmacked. (Boring technical interlude) I was shooting manually at 2000 ISO and there was very little light by the door. I’d set my exposure for the podium so had to rack down the shutterspeed to adjust for her position then up again as she boogied into the light. Thankfully she did two or three bursts of her jig because the pictures I shot by the door were far from perfect. By the time she’d started her speech we’d realised that we were not going to beat the dancing pictures.

As with all the things luck plays a big part, in my case it was a mix of bad and good luck in not being allowed to go where I really wanted. I just got lucky in choosing my third position.

 

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Wimbledon done 2018.

Another year another Wimbledon. Arguably the most prestigious Tennis Championship in the world and my annual opportunity to test my reflexes in the company of some of the best players and best photographers in the business all using the best cameras available. With this in mind this blog is bit more of an equipment review, so look away now if that’s not your cup of tea.

As usual we assembled, a few days before the crowds descended, to cover players’ pre tournament training. This turned out to be wise as it was our first and only sighting of twice champion and Great British hope Andy Murray. There was some debate that his recovery from surgery wasn’t complete but he turned up wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the words ‘I Will’ and went through a hard training session.

In the end it turned out he ‘Wouldn’t’.

With no Murray at Wimbledon and England doing well, in that little international football competition in Russia, it looked like it was going to be a quiet fortnight. There were other Brits playing but they all fell before reaching the Singles Finals. Even Roger Federer couldn’t make it all the way for once.

So a quiet Wimbledon was the perfect opportunity to accept the offer from Sony to put some of their cameras and lenses through their paces. Sony had approached The BPPA to see if anyone covering the Championship wanted to try out their A9’s and a variety of glass including a phenomenal 400mm f2.8, which came with a 1.4x and 2x converters. The most outstanding feature of this lens, which I used quite a lot, was its weight, or rather its lack of weight, making it possible to handhold it with the 2x effectively giving you a short, light, 800mm f5.6 telephoto. It’s about 1000g lighter than the Nikon 400mm f2.8 and about 1600g lighter than their 800mm f5.6. The focussing is lightening fast but then again so are the Nikons. The cameras do over 20 frames per second, quite useful for tennis but in reality working on your timing is more effective. As a die hard Nikon user, the layout of the controls were very sympathetic, back button focus dials were in almost the exact same place as they are on my D4s and D3’s. The zoom function works in the same direction as Nikon and once you’ve had a bit of instruction the camera menus are easy enough to navigate. The cameras are smaller and lighter but the image file sizes are bigger. The pictures they produced were stunning. I loved the Electronic ViewFinder and the fact that it went lighter and darker as you adjusted exposure meant it was easy to get it spot on without looking at the lightmeter details. I especially liked the way you can review pictures in the viewfinder rather than trying to see them on the screen, which is fantastic for those of us who are usually scrabbling around to find our glasses. Personally, I’d have no qualms whatsoever with swapping over to Sony if it wasn’t for the cost and one other drawback; covering news and lots of Royal jobs, many of which are ‘Solo Rotas’, I need to be able to caption, edit and send directly from the camera via a mifi device. I’m not technically minded but I managed to set up my D4S to do this and once you preload the caption it’s a case of deciding which photo you want to send, then hitting two buttons simultaneously and the picture is sent. You can crop in camera and adjust the exposure on raw files then export as JPGs. You can also add voice tags to the files before you send them. All this stuff is vital to me and whilst I loved the A9s without these features they are of very limited use to me. They’d be great for anyone who never has to send from the camera and, trust me, your back would thank you for swapping. To be totally honest, the tech is there to send from the Sonys but it buries the pictures in numerous folders making it difficult to find at the other end, which will not go down well with a busy picture desk. I didn’t go down the route of trying out the sending capability so I can only say what others far more knowledgable have told me. Sony say the problem can be overcome with firmware and by using their App on your phone to add captions etc but this, to me, is a step backwards from how I operate now. I imagine the techs in Japan are solving this issue as I write and if  the next camera they come up with deals with the problem then I can’t think why (money aside) you wouldn’t swap.

Anyway that’s the boring bit over. Here are some of the pictures I shot, some Sony, some Nikon. Can you tell which is which?

 

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Sunday Review 31/12/17

Hi Everyone, It’s been a while but your luck has run out. “Mulholland’s Mumbles” are back. I’m going to do the annual review of my pictorial year, but 2018 is going to be plagued by a regular ‘Mumbling’. I was looking through my work and thinking this and that was good and that was interesting but realised if I was going to go into detail it’d be longer than “War and Peace” but if I did it on a monthly basis it might actually be worth reading, so I’m afraid that’s what you’re facing next year. I’m also diving head long back into Black and White film photography with Mr Jeff Moore and we are starting up “Black and White Basics” to teach the magic of shooting ,processing and printing black and white film. So all in all, fingers crossed 2018 should be very interesting.

2017 for me was heavily UK based. Nothing wrong with that, you don’t have to travel to get good pictures. I did a few trips, the most enjoyable being to Hong Kong, somewhere new to tick off.  It was a great trip with a great writer Tom Rowley to illustrate 20 years since HK was handed over to China. Great story but difficult to illustrate, mainly consisting of portraits of movers and shakers that Tom interviewed. But 2017 involved quite a few portraits, lots of Arts jobs, lots of politics and a fair bit of Royals including Prince Harry’s engagement and Prince Philip The Duke of Edinburgh’s last solo public appearence. Tge latter happened to be with The Royal Marines in front of Buckingham Palace. This job stands out for me mainly because I have never ever been so soaked whilst wearing clothes in my life. It was torrential. I had every lense from 16-35mm to 600mm and had no idea what I’d need. There was no cover and the rain did not let up for one minute, changing lenses was difficult to say the least. I have to give a nod to Nikon here, despite the conditions all my kit kept working and after an evening drying out by the radiator it has all worked since.

The biggest news story of the year in my opinion was the dreadful fire at Grenfell Tower. The morning it happened I was covering the aftermath of another major story, the minute’s silence for the terrorist attack on London Bridge and Borough Market at the re-opening of the market. The following day and the next two days after I spent at the tower, it was grim. The locals were great. They got stuck in and looked after eachother and they were mostly helpful to us. As the days went on their frustration became more obvious and as ‘representatives’ of ‘The System’ we became a bit of a target for their anger, understandably so. As I said, it was grim, bloody grim.

Going straight from Grenfell to Ascot was one of those weird things that happens in this job. One day photographing the aftermath of multiple deaths, the next wandering around a car park full of Bentleys and Range Rovers photographing some of the richest people in the land quaffing champers.

Anyway enough of this, I promised not to ramble on, here are some of my faves from 2017.

See if you can spot the Royal job where I arrived sooo early I got “Pole Position”…..

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2016 a Mumbling Review

Wow ! I’ve left this to the last minute (not an unusual thing for me) just in case something else happened. 2016 both epic and emotional. I’m hoping the sequel is less of a rollercoaster but I’m not sure it will be.

“May you live in interesting times” an ancient Chineses curse. Well we’ve certainly got that bang on.

A little slippage from 2015 ( I didn’t do a year review for 2015 ) with a Winter Solstice picture right through to November and the Edenbridge Bonfire Effigy burning; the target this year was Donald Trump. Lots of good calls by the desk and a little luck here and there (not always of the good variety) made another very memorable year. If I had to chose, it would be a photograph from the march and minute’s silence for murdered Arkadiusz Jozwik in Harlow Essex. The atmosphere was incredibly respectful and the group I photographed just struck me as so sad. Such a pointless act with such terrible consequences.

Anyway enough words here are the pictures.

..............Polish Murder.........

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Lesbos-The Refugee crisis

The death of Aylan Kurdi or, more specifically, the photographs of his body washed up on a beach in Bodrum, Turkey seemed to cause a seismic shift in public attitude towards the plight of those risking all to escape their own countries for life in Europe.

I was despatchedby The Daily Telegraph to Turkey in the aftermath of that event and then onto the Greek Island of Lesbos.  Where a backlog in processing onward travel documents had caused a bottleneck of somewhere in the region of 20,000 refugees, all keen to reach the Greek mainland and continue their journey to a new home.  More often than not we were told that their intended destination was Germany.

Myself and a colleague drove from Bodrum to Ayvalik and caught the ferry to Lesbos.  As we arrived in the port of Mytilene on Lesbos it became obvious things were getting out of control.  There was an angry demo taking place with lots of young men demanding their travel documents.  The riot police were out and the whole place had the feel that it was near boiling point.  We skirted through the edge of the demo and booked into a hotel right across the road from the dock where we had landed.  We dumped our luggage and went straight back outside.

The demonstrators had been chanting and wandering up and down the streets outside the port when we arrived but had now returned to the makeshift camp in the terminal, where a stand-off was in place with the baton and shield wielding police.

Almost immediately, there was a police charge and I found myself in exactly the wrong place between the charging police and the now retreating protesters.  Two police with raised batons came hurtling towards me.  Having nowhere to run, I stood my ground, camera held aloft and shouted as loud as I could “HANG ON HANG ON “.  Thankfully, the two officers parted around me and chased after the demonstrators.

It was a far cry from an out and out riot.  The refugees, mainly Syrian, would regroup and the police would chase after them, belting those that were too slow.  A few were injured and received first aid from other demonstrators.

In between the charges, we were beseiged by demonstrators begging us to help them.  They didn’t want money just someone, anyone to fix the mess they were in.  Essentially, the problem was that there were thousands of people in the port and each one was waiting to be issued with a piece of paper which would allow them to buy a ticket and board the ferry for mainland Greece.  There were only two government officials working short hours to issue these bits of paper.  The queues were momentous and people were essentially living next to the issuing office with no access to toilet facilities or fresh water and on funds that were dwindling away.  Funds which they would need for the rest of their journeys.  The 35ºC heat wasn’t helping matters either.

When things calmed down for the evening we headed back to the hotel.

At first light we went back to the port.  The queues had already formed for that day’s short issuing window. Those lucky enough to have tents and those who had been sleeping with their families on nothing more than the floor were stirring and getting ready to face another day in the heat with little food or water.  Everyone we spoke to told the same story, all they wanted was that little piece of paper.  It seemed ridiculous that such a desperate situation could be caused by obvious incompetence.  Everyone seemed agreed that all that was required was more officials working longer hours to get the backlog cleared, and that the backlog was getting worse because refugees were arriving by dinghy at the rate of about 1,000 per day on the north coast of the island, near a town called Molivos.

We set off to Molivos the next day, a distance of about 60km.  On the way, we saw hundreds of refugees making the journey to Mytilene by foot.  There were no buses and locals, and indeed ourselves, had been told that giving lifts would be treated as ‘trafficking’.

Everyone we passed was still smiling from the joy of finally being in Europe.  It was a long walk in blistering heat but they considered themselves lucky.  At least they had survived the most perilous part of their journey, the sea.  Later, that afternoon, we were on the coast road as a dinghy came in.  We raced down to the landing site and watched the first steps of these latest arrivals on European soil.

That evening we witnessed the Coastguard delivering a boatful of refugees rescued from their sinking dinghies and the following morning watched as they left the pretty town of Moilivos and were finally bussed to Mytilene, it turned out one of the only ways to jump the registration queue was to be ‘lucky’ enough to almost drown, those picked up by the Coastguard get registered. We followed them back and, after getting lost a few times, found the new ‘Registration’ facility that had been erected the evening before.  It was almost deserted. The UNHCR and the Greeks had been hard at it for 18 hours and had broken the back of the backlog.  They had registered over 12,000 people.

It wasn’t the registration that was the problem they explained.  The problem was that there were simply not enough spaces on the ferries during the tourist season.  Now that had ended the space had freed up and they were able to shift large numbers of people at speed off the island.  I went back to the port that evening and watched as people waved from packed ferries, on their way at last.  The port was a lot quieter.

I visited the port one more time the following day, before flying home.  It was transformed. There were still people camped out but the numbers had been slashed.  There was order to replace the chaos.  As long as the authories can keep that flow to the mainland there will be some semblance of normality returning to Lesbos.  However, with the same numbers arriving on the north of the island everyday, they will have to keep on top of it or it will return to the desperate conditions we first witnessed in no time at all.

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Mulholland’s Mumbles 13/05/15- The Doorstep Challenge

Well that was an eventful week that was.  Two of the biggest domestic news jobs of the year, both of which consisted of hours of waiting preceded by months of planning to take a ‘couple walk out of building and pose on steps’ picture.

It sounds very straightforward I know, I mean how difficult can it be?  They’re not moving very fast, in fact, they’re not really moving much at all.  The difficulty factor should register very low for this one.

The only problem was that the first job was the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge leaving the Lindo Wing of St Mary’s Hospital Paddington with, their new addition to the family, Princess Charlotte and the second job was David and Samantha Cameron outside Number 10 Downing Street following his party’s success in winning the General Election.

Still… when it comes down to it, it is still ‘couple walk out of building and pose on steps’…  anyone could do that, couldn’t they ? Or maybe there is a bit more to it?

On big set-piece pictures like this, as with every other job in press photography, position is king.  One would imagine that it is just a case of stand directly opposite the door, out they come, bosh, job’s a good’un.  The trouble is that well over 100 other photographers and broadcasters have also worked that out and not all of them can be in that ‘sweet spot’.

At the hospital, last time there had been an impending royal birth the media ended up camping outside the Lindo Wing for three weeks; mostly with nothing to report, guarding their positions jealously and generally getting in the way of the normal busy mechanics of hospital life. This time and with the help of Kensington Palace, the police, the NMA (News Media Association, which deals with allocating government and royal rotas, amongst many other tasks), the WPA (which does a similar job for the wire agencies), the hospital PR department and a few control freak photographers, a system of ‘pens’ were set up outside the Lindo Wing and all accredited press were put in a draw for positions.  Pen A was directly opposite the door and the Daily Telegraph was given their primary position there with a secondary spot in Pen C, which was further up the road to the right of the door as you look at it.

The plan was for the pens to become operational when the Duchess was admitted to the hospital.  Kensington Palace would announce on Twitter that she had gone into labour and staff from the Palace press team would police the uptake of the pre-allocated positions.

A slight panic on the Tuesday before the Duchess gave birth, caused by erroneous tweets of convoys being seen on their way, lead to several days of staking out the hospital.  However, no-one, apart from the union-flag clad Superfans, tried to set up shop and the hospital carried on as normal.  Although, there was perhaps a surge in profits in the hospital cafe.

My colleague ,Geoff Pugh, was on early call on Saturday, the day of the birth, and so was in place as soon as the pens opened.  Geoff and I had planned to toss a coin to see who went into which pen but, as it was quickly apparent it would be a short hospital stay, and he was already in place, it seemed silly to start messing about.  I got set up in Pen C and had barely sorted my gear before we were told that Prince William was on his way out to collect Prince George so he could come and meet his new sister.  Prince William gave a quick wave to the cameras on his departure and returned about 20 minutes later with his son. This made a great picture, the second heir to the throne carrying the third heir to the throne.  We even got a little wave from George.  Any other day and that picture would have flown onto the covers of all the newspapers.

After William slipped out the back to take George home, it was obvious our day would be ending sooner rather than later and finally the moment arrived.  The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with the new Princess Charlotte came out of the door and onto the steps to pose for the world’s media.

One doorstep done, one more to go.  Time to start thinking about Downing Street and  when we would be seeing a Prime Minister.

It was less than a week before the General Election.  So whilst balancing a few other jobs, including a portrait of Theresa May and a long wait for Boris Johnson to cast his vote in Islington, I got all my batteries charged up, checked remote triggers and cleared my computer’s hard-drive ready for the next big doorstep.

As everyone is now aware, the polls were a disaster and the Conservative Party won by a fair old majority.  We had expected the formation of another coalition to take anything up to and possibly beyond a week and were expecting to be almost camped in Downing Street whilst the backroom horse-trading went on.

We had organised a grid of positions directly opposite Number 10 and had once again drawn lots for those positions. At 5AM on the day after voting I headed out to set up facing the famous door.

As the morning wore on it became more and more obvious we would be seeing David and Samantha posing for us…  We even got a practice when they returned at 7.30am from the count in Witney, where Mr Cameron had held his seat.

Everyone seemed happy with their position and we just had to wait until the newly confirmed PM had visited the Queen before getting the traditional waving picture around lunchtime.  All went to plan and for once we all got an earlyish exit.

On both these jobs I used a Nikon D4S and a 70-200mm 2.8 lens, though I did add a 2X converter for the pictures of William carrying Prince George.  I was also using a WT5 wireless transmitter ,which attaches to the camera and allows you to file straight to the office via FTP using a mobile broadband mifi device.  I shot raw Neff files alongside the JPEGS ,which I cropped via the camera screen, tagged then filed.  On both occasions my photographs were the first to drop in the office.

Mcc0062096 ©Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 07831257107 The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's baby girl born today at St Mary's hospital London.

Mcc0062096 ©Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 07831257107 The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's baby girl born today at St Mary's hospital London.

Mcc0062096 ©Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 07831257107 The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's baby girl born today at St Mary's hospital London.

Mcc0062096 ©Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 07831257107 The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's baby girl born today at St Mary's hospital London.

Mcc0062288 ©Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 07831257107 General Election Tory Victory.

Mcc0062288 ©Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 07831257107 General Election Tory Victory.

Mcc0062288 ©Eddie Mulholland eddie_mulholland@hotmail.com 07831257107 General Election Tory Victory.

The bits in between…

....

 

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It’s Back

In the spiritual home of Newspapers, the start of a series of exhibitions of the very best Press Photography, get yourself down there and buy a piece of history.

https://fleetstreetphoto.wordpress.com/2015/02/03/were-back/

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