The First World War officially ended on the eleventh hour on the eleventh day on the eleventh month, 1918 - Armistice Day. Today it's often known as Remembrance Day or Poppy Day and a two minute's silence is held for the fallen in all conflicts since this date. In the UK and other Commonwealth members, a poppy is worn out of respect for those that gave their lives so we can live ours freely.
The Royal British Legion is the Nation's Custodian of Remembrance and to launch this year's poppy appeal, a 'watch' was taking place at the Cenotaph on Whitehall of which I was asked to shoot.
The watch consisted of a rotation of four people from sunrise to sunset surrounding the Cenotaph, from all very different backgrounds including servicemen, family of lost relatives and also celebrity supporters.
On a technical level, something like this can be a challenge to shoot as at it's most basic, it's just four people stood still for 30 minutes at a time and then a fresh batch arrives and swaps with them. On top of this, there's the issue of respect and not wanting to annoy anybody by being too close or generally being in the way.
The morning started off with around five or six news crews lingering about as it kicked off with Joss Stone and other supporters taking the first watch. A difficult start as you don't really want to get in their way but to get the shots I needed, I'd have been in theirs so I held back for a while with just a couple of long lens shots.
Once the news crews had gone, I had a lot more room to play with. Well, a bit more room should I say as the Cenotaph is literally in the middle of the road with a small pavement either side. I do love a good challenge though as it kicks the creative mind back into life - the quest of shooting the same thing over and over really does focus your mind as you have to make it look different every time!
If you've never shot the same object or location for a project before, then go out and do it - it's good practice and really focuses your mind! A good bit of advice is to shoot shots in three's - editors love that as not only does it give them something to play with in the edit, it's common practice to edit in groups of three - the magic number indeed. Start wide, then shoot a mid then a close up. You don't have to stick to these rules but each one will give you a variation from just one shot. If you can see five potential shots, you've more than likely got fifteen!
Of course, I was going to spend all day there and produce around thirty shots with two cameras running at the same time knowing full well that they weren't all going to be used but it's better to have too many shots and a choice rather than not enough.
For most part of the day the shots were suffering with intermittent clouds - great for big wide landscapes but when it comes to detail shots, it produces flicker in the images. There's no real practical way around this although you could experiment with aperture priority or trying to de-flicker them in post using something like GBDeflicker. The kind of movement happening in and around my shots however meant that relying on the camera's intuition for exposure levels was not an option so I opted for manual exposures and de-flickered later.
After a sixteen hour day (including time to travel to location and back) the task was complete. At this point, I'd normally take the cards home, render out the shots and send them back to the production company but as this needed to be turned around by the next day, I waved goodbye to the cards with that excitement in my heart that compels me to shoot timelapse - the wait between shooting and editing reminds me of shooting on film. You know roughly how it's going to look but you'll never be able to predict exactly how - that is the anticipation that drives me!
Once I'd received the cards back, I did do a run-through of the shots just to make sure I was happy myself (I get very self-critical sometimes) and then awaited the final edit and here it is:
Canon 5D Mark II x2
Canon 16-35mm, Canon 17-40mm, Canon 24-105mm, Canon 100mm Macro, Lens Baby
Dynamic Perception Stage Zero
eMotimo TB3 Black
and a 14Ahr battery to see me through the day!
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