Inside a long morning

Well as promised here is an inside look at my coverage of the John McCain town hall meeting yesterday. Things technically begin when the alarm clock went off at 4:15am. Not my favorite time to open my eyes, ya know? So I get on the road and head to the location where I need to be by 6am to get a spot on the press riser. It’s lovely at that time of the day although I’m rarely up at this hour.

I get there on time and find that it’s just me and 5 TV crews in line which is good as I don’t have to fight any still photogs for a space.

I picked the spot on the far edge because McCain was entering to the very left of me. The main deal is that I have my spot and everything is set. However we are told that we have to leave all our gear for the security sweep of the building that will take the next 2 hours. I do get a quick snap of my where John McCain will be and this gives me an impression of the light quality at his position. I find that the lights on my right are about a stop brighter than the other. This helps me plan my shooting.


So I wander off with all my gear behind in search of breakfast. At 8:30 when they open the doors to the public, after a much needed ham and cheese omlette, I have to go through the now in place security check point.


So right in front of me are a bunch of reporters and none of can move out of our roped in area but I got this peek.   

Now if you have never been to one of these things the deal is that it’s very very TV based. The risers are mainly for the TV guys to put their tripods on and give them some lift to see over the heads of the attendees. Lights are brought in so the TV people have lots of even lighting and the sound is fed to them from the PA system via a large box that they can plug their cameras into to get quality sound. The stills guys like me are expected to work around the wall of TV tripods that tend to build a long fence. That’s another reason I was glad to get there early: I put my tripod down and staked my claim. Before the show starts one guy from the campaign will take a microphone and go to where the important person will be and talk to the TV crews to give them a sound level to set and he will hold up a piece of paper so that they can get a color balance. It’s also a good tool for us stills guys to get our color balance set too but I don’t know if anyone does this besides me. Probably.


Then a few minutes later they introduce McCain. At this point I’ve been on location for 4 hours and am ready to get down to business. The trick here is that these things are very controlled and in many ways boring so getting images that are interesting or unexpected is really tough. It’s a "dog and pony" show, not a spontaneous happening unless we get a heckler. So I shoot a lot. Well, more like a ton since I’m not the kind of shooter who blazes through hundreds of frames in an hour. Still I need to give my agency options for sales. Verticals, horizontals, wide shots, tight shots … lots of variation on a guy standing there talking into a microphone. I brought the 400mm to go on the tripod and I noticed that I was the only guy who did so I would have shots tighter than anyone that day. This one is full frame and I know that it is saleable.


However I did get lucky and an audience member said something that cracked McCain up and a genuine moment happened from a guy who always to me seems a bit over controlled.

I was trying a lot of stuff to show him in relation to the audience. Some worked some didn’t. He was about 2 1/2 stops brighter than the audience so that posed a problem. Then I was watching his gestures which are minimal and usually close to the body. I worked that idea a bit and got this shot. I don’t think that the agency will ever sell it but for me it’s an interesting frame. I dunno, but I like it.


When he thinks of an answer he puts on a "thoughtful" face. This to me isn’t a typical "I’m the guy to run the country" expression as it seems rather, uh, human and frail.

Then after an hour of a lot of speech and some questions he works the crowd as he makes his way out. I caught this and wondered "Is this a Lewinsky frame?" You know the one where Bill Clinton was shown hugging the then unknown intern? I’m going to remember this for the future.

So then by 11:15 I grab my stuff and head to transmit. 5+ hours total time for 1 hour of shooting. Frame count: 715. Just to make things better, after I was done transmitting I had to shoot 2 state qualifier Lacrosse games so I didn’t get home till 9:20PM. But in no way am I complaining. It was all very cool.

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