All you can do is do what you must

Princess AnneTHE more I think about it, my entire career in journalism has been one of a succession of  moments when… if only the ground would open up.

This tale is a warning to reporters to treat their snapper brethren with professional honour and respect.

Back in the summer of 1991, I was preparing, as editor of a local newspaper in Argyll, to cover the visit of the Princess Royal to our local fishing village of Tarbert.

I had lined up two staff photographers and a freelancer to capture what would hopefully be a picture special for my paper and our sister title, The Oban Times.

I even decided to take an office SLR camera along myself.

Arriving on time I checked in with our local police superintendent, who I knew quite well, and ensured my snappers were not over-stepping protocol for the visit.

He glanced at the camera in my hand and whispered: “If you want a cracking good picture, just stand here next to me.”

I smiled back and took up position. Sure enough, within 15 minutes, the Royal Range Rover pulled up within four feet of me and out stepped Princess Anne and Peter and Zara. I immediately raised my camera just as the Princess looked straight at me with a smile (yes a smile!) on her face.

I clicked the camera button and clicked again … but nothing happened. No whirr, no shutter release, nothing. The blasted thing was jammed. As I frantically tried to get the camera operational, I managed to open the back and expose the film to daylight. I muttered something in disgust as the superintendent turned to me and asked: ‘Get a good picture?’

I cursed, ferried in my pocket for a new roll of film, and looked up to see the Royal entourage had moved on some 100 yards away.

It was my first and last attempt at being a newspaper photographer. My adage is now: leave it to the pros and respect what they do.