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Ascot 2009

Ascot 2009 - James Vellacott is a staff photographer with the Daily Mirror. Here's how he covered Ascot.

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Ascot Ladies day
Photo by James Vellacott.
Hats and outfits are popular subjects for photographers at Ascot.
The races at Ascot are always a popular event for the papers and Jame's Vellacott, staff photographer for the Daily Mirror, goes there to capture famous faces, hats and fashion. This year, he went for two days – the day before Ladies Day and for  Ladies Day, which is the big day for the papers.
 
Ladies Day means outfits, hats and looks. You get designers creating crazy and outrages hats for women to wear, purely because they know the newspapers are looking for unusual outfits to photograph. These women always come through the entrance where the photographers are to make sure they're seen. There's usually a bank of twenty or so photographers and women literally queue up to be photographed. The paper always needs good, clean shots of hats, full length shots of outfits and anything different that will make a great spread.
 
All photographers who attend Ascot have to wear jackets and ties and they must be an accredited photographer so any freelancers who are not known to Ascot may find it difficult to get a pass. As James works for a national newspaper obtaining a pass isn't a problem and the hard work only starts when he has to make the decision of what to photograph.
 
There's no real exclusives at Ascot but James always keeps his ear close to the ground to make sure he doesn't miss anything.
 
Last year, there was a rumour going round that a couple were having sex on the opposite side of the course so all the photographers shot off to get a picture but they'd already moved on. It's funny little stories like that you look out for.
 
The only amusing story this year was one of two gentlemen who had an identity crisis and were subsequently thrown out of the event by Ascot staff.
 
Dames at Ascot
Photo by James Vellacott.
These aren't quite the women Ascot were hoping for on Ladies Day.
They somehow got into the place and the staff at Ascot were not amused and threw them out which gave the photographers something a little bit different to work with. I don't know if it made any of the national newspapers but it was a funny story just the same, having security pushing two dames out of the gates is guaranteed to make an amusing picture.
 
Apart from the outfits, newspapers are, of course, interested in celebrities and James can often be found at the front of the grandstand scouting boxes to see who's in attendance.
 
This year we had: Simon Cowell, Sinita and Piers Morgan who could be seen drinking wine and cigars while watching the races. Rod Stewart was also there, he goes every year, and could be found in the Royal enclosure.
Simon Cowell at Ascot
Photo by James Vellacott.
Simon Cowell, Sinita and Piers Morgan in their box at Ascot.
As there's so much ground to cover and photographers can go anywhere except the Royal enclosure, it can be hard to keep track of everyone so many of the newspaper photographers work together. A quick phone call to say who's where and using the same lenses always guarantees everyone walks away with something.
 
Two cameras, each with a different lens are used for arrivals. This year, James used a 24-70mm and a 70-200mm lens.
 
I have two lenses as often celebrities wont stop or they may pause for just a second so you need a wide angle lens. But if a celebrity agrees to stop and pose then you'll switch to the other camera with the longer lens which gives everyone a better angle. It also takes the background out of focus, and as it's cluttered at Ascot, the longer lens will create a nicer picture.
 
With all the non celebrity, Ladies Day pictures, James will always get them to pose and shoot it on the longer lens as it makes a nicer picture. For the celebrities in boxes you need a 500mm or a 600mm lens to get a clean picture and James used the 500mm with a 1.4x tele converter to give him 700mm.
Quality Street hats at Ascot 2009.
Photo by James Vellacott.
With eye catching hats like this who wouldn't stop for a photograph?
The 500mm with the f/1.4 is a really nice piece of glass to use and it just gives a very nice, clean image and a result where the box, more or less, fills the frame. Then when we come to sending the pictures we tend to crop and pull the subject out of the photograph slightly and it gives you a really nice image that looks like it was shot on a much shorter lens.
 
Photographers are asked  not to photograph the Royal Family in their box but capturing their arrival is a must. They all arrive in open carriages and getting a good clean shot of the Queen is very important. Their procession takes them up the course and then into the paddock area where the public, with the better tickets, can see them and this is where James can be found with his 500mm lens.
 
Queen at Royal Ascot Royal Family at Ascot 2009
 Photo by James Vellacott.
What the Queen wears is always important.
 Photo by James Vellacott.
One of the younger members of the Royal family arriving at Ascot.
What the Queen's wearing and her colour choices are always a big interest to the papers. I always look for something a bit different too. This year we had Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie who I kept an eye on to see if anything a bit different happened. It's a standard royal job really and it's unusual if anything happens. For the papers it tends to be a little bit on the Royals, a bit on the celebrities and a bit on the hats which is all turned into a spread.”
 
Prince Charles at Royal Ascot
 Photo by James Vellacott.
Prince Charles gives the crowd a wave.
At the end of the day, unless something specific has happened, the pictures are sent off to the newspaper where they make a double page spread for a reporter to write around.
 
Ascot's hard work as you're always running around and trying to stay in touch with the other photographers but it's a great day out.
Royal Family at Ascot
Photo by James Vellacott.
 Princess Anne arriving at Ascot.
If you want to know more about press photography take a look at how James covered the London Marathon or how the Daily Mirror works a fashion shoot. If you want to know more about him take a look at James Vellacott's interview with ePHOTOzine or check out his Daily Mirror Blog.

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