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Royal snap: How paparazzi do it

Last updated 09:52 18/09/2012
Fairfax Australia

Powerful lenses mean close-up photos can be taken from long distances, as Kate Middleton knows too well. So just how far can a camera see?

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Picture Prince William and his wife reclining on the beach. Then imagine a photographer, standing more than a kilometre away to capture every move with a huge lens.

That is how far away paparazzi were estimated to have been standing when snapping photographs of the topless Duchess of Cambridge on a private holiday with her husband in southern France last week.

The photographs have been published in the French magazine Closer and in an Irish newspaper, sparking widespread condemnation and questions about how far is too far when intruding on the privacy of the royals.

The photos are understood to have been taken using powerful, long lenses by photographers standing on a public road or footpath at a distance estimated at between 800 metres and 1.3 kilometres away.

Sydney Morning Herald photographer Ben Rushton climbed to the top of Marks Park yesterday morning and zoomed in on Gabriella Duddy lying on her towel at the far end of the beach.

To take her picture he required camera equipment worth almost $20,000. He used a Canon EOS-1D Mark IV camera, a 600 millimetre lens and a 2x converter to double the magnification of the lens. He shot with a 1/1000th second shutter speed to steady the image, which shook under the extreme magnification. The lens was so heavy Rushton mounted it on a tripod to stop it snapping off the camera.

''I felt like a sniper,'' he said.

The military reference is appropriate. Another SMH photographer, Brendan Esposito, said the industry jargon for a long-range shot like the one of the duchess was ''target acquired''.

''There's some suggestion those photos have been taken by a drone aircraft,'' Esposito said. ''That's the talk in the industry.''

Duddy, who agreed to be photographed, said she felt uneasy to think she could be captured in a clear image by a man she could not see, standing so far away.

''You think you're safe,'' said Duddy, 21, who lives in the Sydney suburb of Bellevue Hill. ''She [the duchess] probably thought she was safe and private.''

The British press has branded the editors of Closer as ''grinning perverts'' while the photographer has been labelled a ''peeping Tom''.

Even the notorious tabloid The Sun, which sensationally ran photographs of Prince Harry naked in Las Vegas and features topless glamour models on page three, has described the photographs as ''grossly intrusive''.

One photographer who filmed the Duchess of Cambridge sunbathing has been revealed as a woman named Valerie Suau.

An anonymous colleague of Suau said she did not take photographs of the duchess topless, but sunbathing in her bikini.

''Valerie is concerned by the fuss and is keeping a low profile,'' the colleague told the Mail on Sunday in London.

-Sydney Morning Herald

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