Allen's Blog

Posts tagged ‘Barack Obama’:

The Nine Days of POTUS

It’s become part of the summer routine for President Obama and his family to spend a week or so here on Martha’s Vineyard, much of it with old friends and with a lot of hours on the Vineyard’s several golf courses. In the past, my work for the Vineyard Gazette has put me in the middle of things, but this year I had no intention of getting caught up in any of it.

Obama_Vineyard_vacation_front_page

So, Thursday morning two weeks ago (Day 6 of the visit), when I heard the sound of Eight Harleys Roaring (past our house) and turning down the road towards the neighboring golf course, I knew that would be followed by Twenty Agents Guarding and One POTUS Golfing. While the State Police motorcycle escort took a break, I stayed inside, determined to let things be. But then, Julia Wells, the Gazette’s editor texted and asked by to see what I could produce in the way of pictures when the President arrived at the 8th green. Mr. Obama likes his privacy (who can blame him) — just ask Gazette staffer Ivy Ashe, who dutifully spent a day in the press pool from 8:30 AM until after midnight and never got a glimpse of Mr. Obama. FYI, the Gazette, founded in 1846, is one of the great local papers in the U.S. and well worth reading. Their presses roll each Thursday night in Edgartown, Mass.

I respect the Secret Service’s routines, and it all makes very good sense. The President came over to a group of us, and I got the front page of that week’s edition. The light was a nightmare — deep shadows where we were (his cap and sunglasses didn’t help) and strong sunlight on the green behind him. For those interested, it was shot with my Nikon D800 and the very, very good 24-70/f2.8. Steve Durkee, the paper’s design wizard, opened up the shadows, making for a fine picture, both in print and online. For other images — a quick change to the 70-200mm.

President Obama leaving the putting green

While on the subject of gear, I’ve been helping the friend of a friend dispose of some vintage Leica rangefinder equipment, and at the same time I’m seriously looking into buying one of Fuji’s X-series cameras. Beyond all the rave reviews these cameras are getting, with comparisons to the Leica M-series (both film and digital) making for some very good reading, it’s interesting to put an M3 next to the Fuji X-E1. There’s never been a camera that felt as natural in my hands as the M3 (or the M4 for that matter). That’s a large part of why this group of Fuji cameras is so appealing. It’s not that they consciously set out to copy Leica’s design (or maybe they did), but rather that they have made the “feel,” the ergonomics of the camera, such an important consideration, just as the engineers at Leica did more than 50 years ago. If I were starting a long assignment right now, and had to lock in to one camera to document all aspects of the trip, it almost certainly would be one of these.

Fuji X-E1 and Leica M3 (top view)

The next thing I’m looking for is WiFi capability. No hurry at the moment. I’m hoping the PhotoPlus show in NYC next month will help clear the air (and my mind). I see that Fuji have reserved a healthy-sized booth… what do you suppose they’ll be showing off?

Mister, Please Take My Picture (with the President)

First of all: this is not about politics. That out of the way, one of the interesting moments in last night’s coverage of the second presidential debate at Hofstra University came post-debate, while the candidates were milling about with the invited guests and at least an equal number of Secret Service personnel.

The president’s personal photographer, Pete Souza, was doing his job, but people kept giving him their point-and-shoot cameras and asking him to take a picture of them with the president. I’m certain that very few (if any) of them knew Pete’s name or what his job is. I was watching NBC’s post-debate coverage at the time, paused my DVR’s recording and made this image. That’s Pete on the left, handing back one person’s camera, while another waits, camera in hand, to ask the same favor.

Photographer Pete Souza, pressed into service at the second Presidential Debate

Just one of those little bits of behind-the-scenes trivia you might enjoy. Pete Souza, whose official title is Chief Official White House Photographer, was the subject of a PBS/National Geographic special, The President’s Photographer, that is a must-see for photographers.

President Obama Returns to Martha’s Vineyard, and I Check My ‘Priorities’

Two days ago, the President returned to a Martha’s Vineyard golf course very near our home, so I had the chance (away from the rest of the press) to make a new image of Mr. Obama at play. After the expected full inspection by the Secret Service ahead of the President’s arrival, there was  a wait of about 15 minutes while he played the previous hole.

There are things you can control, and particularly with the President of the U.S., even more things you can’t. Instead of playing to the 8th green where I was, the President and his foursome skipped the hole and went straight to the adjacent 9th tee, after driving his cart over to say hello. He was friendly enough in his greeting,  but said he was running late (if you’re the President, I guess you can play the just holes you want).

President Obama driving a golf cart

I had already mounted the latest version of Nikon’s tack-sharp and very fine 70-200mm f/2.8ED on my D300, figuring that would cover his short game and putting. And here comes today’s photo lesson —

What shooting mode to use? First of all, there was plenty of light, even though the subject matter was largely back-lit. I wanted a bit of depth-of-field, but since the picture was all about Mr. Obama, what’s far more important was a fast shutter speed. That dictated going to Aperture-Priority set at f/4. With the VR turned on, I ended up with a shutter speed of 1/640, which guaranteed  a sharp image.

Martha's Vineyard Gazette front page Obama in golf cart

It always makes me crazy that there are so many people who buy a fine camera and great optics, whether an SLR or a point-and-shoot, and then just leave it in AUTO mode. And yet, it’s what I see all the time, even with friends and family — they eagerly seek my advice on what to buy, and then leave in AUTO until they’re ready to buy a new camera. Here’s my point: you definitely will never learn all the options and gimmicks your new camera offers, but please, at least learn how, when, and why to use the various shooting modes.

It was all over in just a few seconds and eight frames (I’m not a fan of high-speed motor drive shooting.) Then, on the 9th tee, he was a good bit farther away, but I took a couple of more shots and caught the President in the midst of the classic Obama fist-bump with one of  his partners. That picture, appearing inside the paper and cropped a bit, was just a bit of pure lucky timing.

Obama fist bumping one of his golf partners

The President leaves the Island this evening, a day early. Now I and the rest of the Gazette staff are turning our full attention to something just as unpredictable as covering Mr. Obama: tracking Hurricane Irene.

Anticipation: Planning a Photo of President Obama Playing Golf

I’m in the office in Connecticut this week, and not at our home on Martha’s Vineyard, where my wife and I spend much of the year, even in the winter. For a number of years, I’ve worked part-time for the Vineyard Gazette, a great paper with a history of more than 160 years. Seeing the coverage, both print and television, of President Obama’s vacation on the Vineyard for the third year in a row, I thought I’d share two images from 2009, his first year in office.

Wherever the President travels, the press follows. Being a Vineyard resident was what made possible this front-page photo of Mr. Obama on one of the island’s golf courses. A good friend’s home adjoins one of the greens, so once I knew which course he was playing, it was an easy matter to be waiting for him to arrive. Of course, his Secret Service detail (with lots of equipment) shadowed his play, and I had to have my pockets searched and all my gear checked out. But in the end, it was my picture alone, and that’s always satisfying.

Barack Obama playing golf on Martha's Vineyard

While the accredited press (myself included) operate from a local site set up by the White House press office, in this case the cafeteria of one of the island’s schools, it’s never known when the President may take a break from his vacation to appear for a formal announcement. That was the case almost exactly two years ago, on August 25th, 2009, when Mr. Obama re-appointed Ben Bernanke as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Besides all the usual photos of the President and Mr. Bernanke, I particularly liked making this one – the staffer with the task of putting the Presidential Seal on the podium, and making sure, absolutely sure, that it is perfectly positioned. He probably has other duties as well.

Affixing the Presidential Seal to the podium