"Until this week, I never shared the fact that I had corresponded with the queen," said photojournalist Roger Sandler.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The United Kingdom and the world said their final goodbyes to Queen Elizabeth II on Monday and one California photojournalist is sharing a unique encounter he had with the queen - one he says he'll never forget.
Roger Sandler first covered the queen for the Washington Post during the United States Bicentennial celebrations in 1976.
But he first spoke with the queen later that month in Canada during the Summer Olympics in Montreal where Princess Anne was competing as an equestrian.
"Suddenly, the queen looks at me and she says, 'So many cameras,'" said Sandler during an interview with Eyewitness News. "I looked all around ... Is there anyone else around? Is there a print reporter? Is there another photojournalist around? I hope not, because pictures are the most important, but that chat was a nice bonus."
It turns out, he was the only person there.
In that moment, Sandler said the two struck up a conversation, just a California photojournalist and Britain's queen.
"And that started a correspondence, not a regular correspondence, but here and there, I would receive a Christmas card," said Sandler. "Until this week, I never shared the fact that I had corresponded with the queen. I had kept it to myself. I felt that that was the most professional and ethical thing to do."
Now, with the queen's passing, and so many stories swirling of the late monarch, Sandler felt his own story showed who the queen was behind the royal formality.
His favorite photo of her, he says, doesn't show any of the regality, but rather just a woman in thought.
"I think that's one of those ... it's a picture that makes me ask, 'What is she thinking?' Other pictures are more obvious," said Sandler.
As Monday's state funeral drew presidents and kings, princes and prime ministers and crowds in the streets of London and at Windsor Castle, Sandler spent the last 10 days watching the events with a professional eye.
"I do wish I was in London this week," he said. "Any photojournalist worth their salt wishes they were in London this week. I am anxious to see the still pictures that will come out of it. On television, I saw the pictures I would make that would capture the moment."