Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee

You’ll be hearing a lot about Queen Elizabeth II this week. On the death of her father in 1952, she became Head of the Commonwealth and queen regnant of seven independent Commonwealth countries: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon. Her coronation service in 1953 was the first to be televised. Her Diamond Jubilee celebration starts June 2.

[I thought “regnant” was a typo until I looked it up. “A queen regnant is a female monarch who reigns in her own right, in contrast to a queen consort, who is the wife of a reigning king.”]

How I got to shoot the queen

I was coming back from an assignment in Okeechobee, 60 miles away, when it sounded like someone was trying to call me on the company two-way radio. I knew there was an overpass ahead that would get me high enough to hit the office for about 45 seconds, so I checked in as I started to climb the bridge and told them to talk fast.

Between bursts of static, I thought I heard the boss ask “Do you have a suit?”

“Say again, ‘suit?'”

“Do you have a SUIT? We need somebody to cover the Queen and we think you may be the only guy on the staff with a suit.”

So, that’s how I got the assignment to go to the Bahamas in February of 1975 to cover Queen Elizabeth. It wasn’t because of my spot news prowess, my superior ability to shoot portraits or my ability to find unusual angles. It was because I was the only guy on the Palm Beach Post photo staff who owned a suit.

Is that normal?

Reporter Sally Swartz and I had just settled into our seats in the small plane that was taking us to Nassau when I took a glance out the window. I gestured for a stewardess to come over and asked her, “Does that appear to you to be an extraordinary amount of hydraulic fluid flowing back over the wing?”

“No, sir,” she replied in a calm voice. “That’s perfectly normal.” I was comforted until she took off in a dead run for the cockpit. Soon, the first officer was peering out the window. He went back to the cockpit, I didn’t notice any parachutes in the air and we landed safely in Nassau, so it must have been normal for THAT plane.

On the wrong side of the wrong side

The plane ride was the least dangerous part of the trip. A whole bunch of us journalists were herded onto a beat-up vehicle that was a cross between a van and a small bus. It was driven by someone who alternated between homicidal and suicidal.

It’s bad enough that people in the Bahamas drive on the wrong side of the road. This guy liked to drive on the wrong side of the wrong side of the road. Traffic was horrific, so when he came upon a slowdown on the two-lane road, he’d lay on the horn and pull out to pass the whole world. Either he figured he had a bigger horn than the oncoming vehicles or he didn’t care if he died so long as he could take a busload of journalists with him.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip

Sally and I checked in, got press credentials (more about that later) and a press packet with all kinds of Queenie goodies in it. If I root deep enough, I can probably find it, if anybody wants to put in a bid.

The good news I got at the press center was that photographers weren’t going to be allowed on the Royal Yacht; only reporters. That meant I didn’t need to wear my suit.

The Royal Couple arrived. I bet THEIR plane was better maintained than the one Sally and I flew over in.

Press herded and corralled

As soon as the Royal Couple got off the plane, anyone with a press credential was herded into a holding area where we would be controlled. I saw that the Royals were getting right up with folks, so I ditched my credentials and played tourist.

That worked for a short while. Then, two very tall, very big Bahamian policemen got on both sides of me, gently grabbed me under the armpits and half-carried / half-walked me back over to the press pen. They figured if they went to all of the trouble of issuing you a little piece of paper, you’d better wear it and you’d better go where they tell you to go.

Another photographer busted

My compatriot from a Miami paper didn’t take his ID off, and they nailed him, too. I love his “who me?” expression. (My cops were bigger than his cops.)

HMY Britannia

The Queen and her husband flew in, but left on the HMY Britannia, with lifeboats as big as some yachts. I bet it’s safe to say the rule is “Queens and Princes first, THEN women and children.”

Journalist Andrew Marr wrote in his book The Real Elizabeth that the British government planned for the Royal Yacht to serve as the Queen’s refuge in the event of a nuclear war.

 The Queen does not sweat

She doesn’t even glow. I was soaked to the skin and I saw sweat running down faces in the crowd, but Queen Elizabeth II must have had all her sweat glands removed as a child. I watched her through a telephoto lens for an hour hoping to see a bead of sweat or a hint of moisture. Zip, nada, none. I don’t know how she did it.

Photo gallery of Queen’s 1975 visit to the Bahamas

Here’s a selection of photos from the Queen’s visit to the Bahamas. Time has caused some color shifts, but they still look pretty good. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.

Mount St. Helens

When Wife Lila and I traveled to Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument last summer, I complained that I couldn’t see the forest for the sneeze. I had a killer cold that made me so miserable I’d have welcomed a Second Coming of  Mt. Helens to put me out of my misery.

On top of that, we got a late start and it was a longer drive than we had anticipated. By the time we got there, it was late in the day and the cloud cover was heavy. It didn’t provide the best opportunities for shooting.

Hoffstadt Creek Bridge

A lot of money flowed into the area to restore infrastructure. This bridge over Hoffstadt was built as quickly as possible to help loggers salvage what trees could be salvaged.

View into the crater

We expected to see what we remembered from news photos of the aftermath of the eruption: trees laid over, stripped landscapes and mud flows. (One of my former staffers won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the event.)

Nature is much more resilient than anyone had expected. Many of the trees have been replanted, wildflowers and wildlife are returning. This view down into the crater shows a lot of green.

Fragile ecosystem

Many areas of the mountain are closed to the public to give scientists a unique opportunity to study the progression of life in an area that had been effectively stripped clean of anything living.

Other Seattle area stories

Photo Gallery of Mount St. Helens

I shot these photos when I was dog-sick with a cold, so it’s appropriate that I edited them when I’m (hopefully) getting over one. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.

Master of 22-Minute Nap

On the way out of town, I stopped by to pick up some stuff at Annie Laurie’s that my Foodie Friend Jan wanted. I was pleased to see my Glimpses of East Perry County calendar on display. It would make a great Christmas present for someone, hint, hint.

I don’t mind driving

Wife Lila doesn’t like to spend two days on the road. I don’t like the hassle of flying these days. We’ve compromised: I drive, she flies. When folks express concern about me driving half-way across the country by myself – aren’t you afraid of falling asleep? – I explain that I’m the Master of the 22-Minute Nap, perfected since I’ve retired.

When I feel myself getting drowsy, I pull into the next rest area, set the alarm on my phone for 22 minutes, wake up and drive for three or four more hours.

This was taken somewhere in Georgia right about sunset Monday night shortly after the alarm went off.

Look what greeted me

This was the first thing I saw when I walked into the house.

Son Adam saw the post I did on the sign my Grandmother made and said it would be neat to make one for me here. Wife Lila designed it, Adam approved it, and it was posted on the Christmas tree. Thanks.

When Pet Rocks Grow Up

Were you one of the folks who bought a Pet Rock in 1975?

You don’t know what a Pet Rock is? Here’s a 70s website that will fill you in on the history of the Pet Rock (the comments are actually better than the original story).

To the road-building Steinhoff family, rocks were something you blasted out, dug up or crushed.

Gary Dahl had a better, more profitable idea. He bought three tons of stone from Rosarita Beach in Baja, Mexico, and created over a million pet rocks that sold for $3.95 each.

(Click on any photo to make it large enough for you to see if one of your Pet Rocks is here.)

Pet Rocks and puppies start out cute

You know how cuddly kittens and puppies are? Well, Pet Rocks started out that way, but quickly grew out of control. Some were turned loose in the country to fend for themselves; some slipped away from their owners; others, thought dead, were unceremoniously flushed or buried in coffee cans in the back yard. Most of those seemingly dead rocks were really still alive: their slow metabolism had fooled their owners.

Before long, these rogue rocks were getting large enough to be noticed, just like the poodle-poaching pythons in South Florida.

Environmentalists were concerned that the Rosarita Beach stones, without natural predators, could upset the balance of nature.

Privatizing Pet Rock control

The better behaved Pet Rocks were rounded up, given wooden beds to sleep on and were allowed to become free range rocks under close supervision.

Local governments, not wanting to have to build and staff rock shelters, turned to private enterprise and companies like Lotus Naturescapes to round up, domesticate and find homes for the aging Pet Rocks. This particular no-kill shelter is located in Ware, Ill., at the intersection of  Ill 3 and Hwy 146 West, not too far from Cape Girardeau.

Rock ‘n Roll takes its toll

Some Pet Rocks have seen some tough times, as evidenced by the wrinkles on this one. Rock and roll will take its toll.

Some Pet Rock are well-behaved

The rocks in the background have learned the STAY command. The ones in the foreground weren’t as well-trained. They still have have to be restrained.

Nocturnal Meanderings

Some of the rocks get up and meander around when nobody’s looking, but they’re not all that smart. Everybody knows that moss grows on the north side. This rock has shifted until his (her?) moss was facing nearly due south. He (she?) has a rather smug expression, but the folks at Lotus Naturescapes know what’s going on.

[It will come as no surprise to you that I didn’t actually check my facts with anyone at Lotus Naturescapes. Why spoil a good story?]