10 Jun 2008

Using a monopod



There are usually plenty of ways to get around a problem if you are prepared to be a little adaptable.

Some time ago I was commissioned to photograph a lovely chap called Cedric Robinson, the official Queen’s Guide to the Kent Sands. A grand title for an important job. The Kent Sands are in Morecambe Bay in the NW of England, and some of you may remember that a few years ago over twenty cockle pickers were drowned in the bay when they were caught by the inrushing tide. It is a very dangerous, but hauntingly beautiful place. Quick sands abound and the going is treacherous underfoot – unless you know what you are doing - and Cedric certainly does.

He organises walks across the sands, and these have become hugely popular, attracting hundreds of people at a time. Obviously a magazine feature would have to include a picture of Cedric leading this multitude across the sands at low water. I envisaged a shot of him at the head of a column of followers – looking just like Moses.

Only one problem – the sands are almost completely flat, so getting an elevated position from which I would be able to see this line of people was not going to be easy. I couldn’t possibly carry a set of step ladders across the sands.

I solved the problem by mounting the camera on a monopod and using a long electrically operated shutter release. I was then able shove the whole assemble into the air above the heads of the crowd. This enabled me to get a picture of the whole long line of people with Cedric striding out at the front. Of course I could not see exactly where the picture was framed so I had to use a good dose of guesswork - and I was shooting film, so there was no way I could check the images as I went along and adjust the angles. But I took lots of pictures and was surprised when they were processed to find very few with completely wonkey horizons. Using a 24mm wide angle lens was a big help.

The biggest difficulty was holding the weight of the camera at the end of the pole, and trying to walk backwards at such a fast pace without falling over. I got the feeling that there were a few of those walkers who might have been waiting keenly for the photographer to make a complete prat of himself. They were out of luck. The picture was used across two pages in The Mail on Sunday Magazine and later in Saga Magazine along with many other pictures showing Cedric at work. That's Cedric in the centre of the picture above.

1 comment:

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