Doink! Down popped a message from my trishgant.com contact form. It was a local company, ZED Tunnel Guidance Systems, needing a photographer to shoot a presentation. But is wasn’t just an ordinary presentation…oh no! It was the Queen’s Award for Industry presented by HRH Duke of Kent. Blimey!
Since 1975, ZED Tunnel Guidance has specialised in the development and manufacture of advanced guidance systems for Tunnel Boring Machines. With clients worldwide including China, their machinery is mounted on the front of boring equipment, making sure large tunnelling projects stay on their intended track.
As with most jobs, I like to meet my client first and lured by his offer of lovely tea and biscuits, I made my way over to their premises. Just 10 minutes down the road, the workshop was situated in a bleak, industrial area of Hersham, Surrey. I love workshops; don’t know why. Could it be the hubbub, the hive of productivity? It was a no-nonsense place, lots of Dexion shelving and storage boxes, components sitting on table tops in ordered rows like soldiers. Sharing their space was a lovely old boy Stan Lawrence (under the name of The Amp Hospital) who’s been fixing amplifiers for big pop groups for years. He told me bands love using the old style amps because they put out a warm sound that modern stuff can’t beat.
We had a jolly good chat but it was only after that I suddenly realised what I’d let myself in for. It was a first for me, photographing Royalty.
All Images ©trish gant
So the day before, I began testing my equipment. I knew I would have to shoot quickly, so I tried different modes on the my Canon and charged up the batteries, cleaned the lenses. I knew there wouldn’t be much room so I didn’t expect to use my longer lens but I cleaned it all the same. On the day, I was up very early: nerves I guess. When I arrived, I sensed that everyone else was too. It’s a great leveller, being in the same boat. I set my stuff up in a side room in case I needed to duck in there for something. Banners were set up in the background against which they would make the presentation. I drank a lot of water as my mouth was extremely dry. Then suddenly it was all go.
Meeting the Duke downstairs in the lobby was a harrowing ordeal. There wasn’t much space and I found the camera was really taking its time to fire the flash. I couldn’t work out why and missed a couple of shots but when I requested the Duke shake hands again, he wasn’t impressed. Oops! What a no-no. Nerves were getting the better of me, but I just ignored it and barged on. Photography is creative, yes. Getting good results is also so dependent on reliable kit and knowing it really well but there’s a point when you’ve invested in a new camera that you have your doubts….. Despite testing and testing, it seemed to be misbehaving right at the crucial moment. For the person appearing in the photograph, it’s a complete bore. I’m used to directing people in my photographs and usually they are happy to comply but not this time. I guess the Duke does so many public engagements, he’s time poor plus old school when it comes to the media. So I went with it. Following upstairs, more handshakes followed with various members of the company and a guided tour of the workshops. The Duke seemed genuinely interested and when I took a back seat, taking a more reportage style seemed to work better. I got some cracking pictures of people explaining various components but I did have to shoot fast…very fast.
Suddenly the tour was over and it was presentation time. After the usual speeches, a large engraved crystal bowl for a trophy was handed to Mick the director, an modest and gentle guy. Then the Duke was gone as suddenly as he had appeared and everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief. For Colin it had meant the end of days of prep and he could relax. I just wanted to get home and process the images as quickly as possible so I doffed my cap and left.
Back home, using a demo version of Lightroom 3, I was able to rescue a few of the failed flash shots with the app’s incredible noise reduction and clarity settings. I was blown away by it to be honest and as soon as I can, I will definitely be upgrading. It’s worth it just for this function alone and justifies the reason that I find digital photography light years ahead of traditional methods like push-processing to rescue under-exposed negs.