One of my great passions throughout my career as a photojournalist has been photographing presidential campaigns, especially in the very early phases, which is where we are now. Campaign 2016 is well underway!
Every 4 years, I photograph a lot of people who think they are qualified to be president. This is my 10th Presidential campaign. I started doing this when Carter first ran. My first great success was shooting the Newsweek cover when Ronald Reagan won the New Hampshire primary defeating George Bush. I was on assignment for Newsweek covering George H.W. Bush in Manchester, NH. After Bush gave his concession speech, I quickly left his campaign headquarters and drove from Machester to Concord to see if I could make it before Reagan gave his acceptance speech. I made it in time and nicely pushed my way through the crowd to the third row behind two rows of fellow photojournalists and positioned my 50mm lens between the other photographers. Today, due to security this would never happen. I sent off my film and would have been happy to have a photo in the magazine. When my agent, Howard Chapnick of Black Star called on Thursday early evening and asked "how does it feel to have your first Newsweek cover?' I respond with "how would I know". That excitement of covering politics has never left me. I still believe I have the best job in world. The person I am with could go on to become the president and today they are shaking hands with a few people in a drug store.
So far this campaign, I have photographed, Jeb Bush, Chris Christy, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Ben Carson and Rand Paul. With in the next few weeks I will photograph at least a dozen people who think they are the one to lead our country. It is an unique experience. Whether or not you agree with them politically, it is fascinating to spend time with this amazing group of people and hear their political views.
Over my 10 presidential campaigns I have learned a few things that have worked well for me covering the campaign trail.
Dos & Dont's:
Do: play nice with others!
Get to know the candidate, they may become president!
Get to know their staff, they control access. Get to know the national and local politicos. And very important, get to know security. Whether it's local police or Secret Service, be polite, understand their job. You may want to make a photograph, but they have to protect the candidate. I learned a long time ago, never challenge a person with badge and a gun. You will not win. If you are nice and you get to know them, you will get your shots.
Do: Play nice with fellow journalists! They can make your job some much easier or much more difficult.
Do: Travel Light
Some times there is not much light and high ISO is the answer. I would always rather use the native ISO of a camera. If the stage is not lit, sometimes I will light it with my own strobes, my strobe of choice is a Dynalite Baja, set up in the back of the room. I'll fire the Dynalite with a Pocket Wizard Plus III. I can have nice light with direction and make portrait in a situation that is not optimal and have the flexibly to move around the room. I was able to shoot Chris Christie at ISO 400! You can read more detailed info on "how to" in my past blog post "Lighting Politics!"
Do: pay attention to color balance. All of my strobes have a Rosco CTO and 3304 fluorescent filter attached with Velcro to the top of the flash. It's always there when I need it.
This is me using my Rosco 3304 fluorescent filter, covering Ben Carson in NH.
Do: Keep an eye out for items that add to your photos. If there is an American flag or a campaign sign, add to your photo. Place your photograph, look for things that show the location of the event.
Be ready, the great photographs happen in a second. Pay Attention for candidate's entrance and exit .
Do: Use negative space in your images.
Don't block other people's view.
Be award of the people you are working around. Be respectful of the people whose lives and homes we invade. A journalist who is inconsiderate makes us all look bad and makes our job harder.
Don't: carry too much equimpemet with you. During a long campaign day, your equipment will feel like it gains weight as the day goes on.
When I need my 300mm and my computer at an event, I carry a ThinkTank Street Walker backpack.
One last do: Enjoy this amazing experience!