Photographing the New Doctor Who Experience

Photographing the New Doctor Who Experience

Saturday October 25, 2014

The Thrill of Being the Official Photographer on the Opening Day of the New Doctor Who Experience

When the email first appeared in my inbox I thought it was from one of my friends as the subject simply stated 'Doctor Who'.  I am a huge fan of Doctor Who and only when I opened and read the email did I see that it was from someone at BBC Worldwide.  My heart skipped a little.  They were looking for a commercial photographer and would like to speak with me.  As soon as I could I called the BBC Worldwide team in London and arranged to meet them at the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff Bay.  They were looking for some marketing images for the new Doctor Who Experience Adventure and asked whether I would be interested.  After 3 nanosceconds I said "Yes".

Working with the team who have designed, built and are now running the new adventure was a fantastic experience.  Their objective was for all visitors, no matter how young or old, to find themselves involved in an interactive adventure with the Doctor, whilst encountering several of his arch enemies.  As I walked around the set, working out ways to overcome the challenges of photographing in near darkness or in swirling smoke, it was clearly apparent to me that their objective had not only been achieved but exceeded.

I do not intend to disclose any details about the adventure, but I have to warn you that it is exciting, thrilling and frightening.  From the atmospheric start through to the visual finale, you are helping the Doctor fight aliens.  It is fantastic!

My first photoshoot focused on getting images of the set and working with a small group of children as they were taken through the adventure.  Their expressions and gasps were wonderful as they were guided through the adventure, encountering many of the Doctor's most terrifying foes.  Technically, photographing the children was challenging as I wanted to limit the use of flash to try and capture the magical atmosphere.  Thankfully, we captured some special moments.

We also were photographing images of children entering the TARDIS for new marketing material.  My son, Tom, who assisted me on both days, stood and set up the lights inside a TARDIS whilst we directed the children and took the photographs.  With the high KW bulbs glowing bright, I think he nearly cooked inside the wooden box (despite the bigger on the inside interior!!!).  Working closely with the BBC graphic designer as we took the photographs was a real help, ensuring that we captured the image that would work.

On that first day, Tom and I also had to take photographs in an area with Weeping Angels.  Now I must admit, the Weeping Angels have always frightened me, but this was a set and I am a intelligent man.  Even as I write this a shiver goes down my spine as that area was chilling.  Oddly, it was colder than any other area and had a very eerie atmosphere.  We were both glad to get out of there.  In fact, looking back, I think I have spent two whole days being ever so slightly scared most of the time.

The second day's photoshoot was on Friday 24th October 2014 when the new Doctor Who Experience opened for the first time with the new adventure.  My job was to take photographs that captured the magic and excitement of the day.  One of the monsters from the recent episodes, The Teller, was on hand for photographs.  He was terrifying!  We took some photographs with a brave group of children on the set.  None of us wanted to get too close! 

I also had the pleasure to meet and photograph Doctor Who fans, many of whom had turned up dressed as one of their favourite Doctors.  You could almost taste their excitement and everyone I spoke with after they had been through the adventure had a broad smile and wide twinkling eyes.

The new exhibition upstairs is also awesome, with many of the monsters from the new Peter Capaldi series on display.  There is so much to see and so much to photograph.  I met and photographed a lovely couple with the gentlemen dressed as Matt Smith's Doctor.  He stood next to the TARDIS with a key in his hand by the lock and his 'companion' by his side.  They were both beaming.

Working with the Doctor Who Experience team and all the Doctor's fans has been amazing and I want to thank everyone.  You all made my job much easier.  On Monday and Friday I was officially working, but I felt so guilty as work should never be this much fun!

A selection of the photographs can be seen in the Business - Photographs of Tourist and Media Attractions section on the website.

You can read a report on the new Doctor Who Experience in the online Radio Times.

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