In 1989, when I was a fresh-faced cadet on the Canberra Times, I was sent to a job at Parliament House one night.
I can't remember what the occasion was but all sorts of political luminaries were there, including Sir Joh Bjelke Petersen, the former premier of (the Australian state of) Queensland.
Sir Joh was a controversial figure. He'd been the Qld Premier for 20 years and had left politics the previous year in 'uncertain' circumstance. In the time he'd been in power he'd passed some dubious - some might even say draconian - laws.
My favourite was that any group of people walking down the street three-abreast could be construed as a street march and arrested. He later survived a corruption trial by the skin of his teeth when a unanimous decision was needed by the jury and it was a hung jury, 11-1. It was later revealed the foreman of the jury was a junior member of Sir Joh's political party...you can guess who the '1' was. Queenslanders were used to him, whereas the rest of Australia
didn't know what to make of him.
Anyway, I grew up in Queensland and Sir Joh was the only political figure I knew until I was 20-years-old. And here I was in the same room as him.
The event was being recorded for TV, I remember that, and there were TV lights scattered around the room.
I'd brought with me a 300mm f2.8 lens and was sat on the floor photographing proceedings up on stage. I have no idea who I was photographing.
Anyway, there was either a lull in proceedings or I was bored and began looking around the room, just seeing what else there might be on offer.
Being sat on the floor I could see very little of the room. Then, at some point, someone at the table next to me lent forward and Sir Joh came into view.
Most of the light from the TV lights were, understandably, directed at the stage area and Sir Joh was far enough away from the stage to be in darkened area. However, one of the TV lights on the far side of the room had spilled enough light so that it caught the edge of Sir Joh's face, which I could see in profile.
I swung my camera around and fired off two frames before the same person that had lent forward to reveal Sir Joh sat back and Sir Joh disappeared out of sight.
The whole room other then the stage was quite dark and I was shooting at f2.8. For the uninitiated, this meant the depth of field - the area that would be in focus - I had to work with was only going to be a couple of centimetres. If I'd been photographing Sir Joh front on and the end of his nose was in focus, his eyes wouldn't be.
I'd had seconds to take my two frames and had focused 'on the run'. It had all happened in a blur and I wasn't sure what I had.
I wasn't overly bothered as Joh wasn't the photo I was after. It was an extra if it turned out.
When I got back to the office and processed the films I couldn't believe that, out of the two frames I'd shot, one of them not only had Sir Joh in perfect profile, his eye was 'pin sharp' and the rim light better then anything I could have hoped for. It looked like I'd set up the shot in studio, sat Sir Joh down and snapped away. I wish!
I don't know what photos I gave them to use but Sir Joh's photo was one of them and I remember the photo was used small on the story along with the main photo - whatever it was.
Gear used - Nikon FM2, 300mm f2.8, Neopan 400ISO B&W film pushed to at least 800ISO.