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Shooting the Next President

(Attn. Homeland Security: In photography, “shooting” is a term we use for “photographing” someone. You know, as in “photo shoot.” So no need to worry. And by “worry”, I mean wiretap, surveil, or put me on a list. I’m not a terrorist.)

In July, I was fortunate enough to get the photo assignment to shoot presumptive presidential nominees John McCain and Barack Obama. They visited San Diego for the National Council of La Raza conference.

Barack Obama at the National Center of La Raza Conference

Obama Speaking

Obama delivered a speech punctuated by applause. But it was still a bit lukewarm compared to what I expected. I’d heard stories of his charismatic delivery and rockstar-like receptions. That was all there, I guess, but there was a lingering stress in the air. Obama needed to get defeated Hillary Clinton supporters excited about voting for him. He got loud cheers in reference to oppressive immigration raids, but applause was absent from his discussion of details: securing the border first, path to citizenship starts at the back of the line, fines for non-legal status, etc. When the speech was over, he shook hands with the students seated behind him and made his way slowly through the front edge of the crowd.

The press were given a sideline area at about half-court in the convention center’s large ballroom. My 70-200mm zoom lens only got me close enough for a decent medium-wide shot. I had to crop the shot above by 50 percent to get something usable. At this distance, my lens looked pretty weak compared to the pros bumping shoulders next to me — the ones you see at sports games with what look like space-age sniper rifles. I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to get closer and, more specifically, that we weren’t allowed to get any closer. The only concession was being taken two-by-two into the center aisle for about 60 seconds, once.

John McCain at the National Council of La Raza Conference

Introducing John McCain

McCain’s appearance had a dramatically different tone. For starters, his wife Cindy McCain accompanied him on stage. It felt warmer than Obama’s solo performance, somehow less formal and more classy at the same time. I couldn’t help thinking McCain scored a few extra “family values” points with the Latino crowd. He spoke not as if he were trying to impress, but as if he were having a conversation with friends. He took questions from the audience after his speech. And after conference organizers said the Q&A session was over, McCain threw the microphone into the crowd to take another question.

Before the speech began, there were rumors that we’d be escorted in small groups to the front lines. Apparently the McCain people caught wind of photographer’s complaints and agreed to allow us better access than during Obama’s speech. The conference staff members I spoke with said the campaign staff set the rules in terms of press access, not the conference itself.

Conclusions

McCain’s performance was definitely the most interesting of the two candidates, not only in terms of his interaction with the crowd but in his campaign’s interaction with the press. But I’m not sure how much of a difference it makes in the end. Of the photos I uploaded to Flickr, Obama’s mediocre shots have been viewed more than twice as much as McCain’s more dynamic photos. And of McCain’s, two-thirds of his views come from the photos of his wife Cindy.

We don’t learn anything terribly valuable from these numbers. Yeah, Obama has more buzz than McCain. And on average, Cindy McCain has more than either of them. Perhaps it’s really only an indicator of the superficial nature of the statistical mob. We can only hope the people vote based on their version of who will be the best president, not merely on who will be a best looking one.

Flash Lamp Photography: Behind the Scenes of an NPR Interview

I met Race Gentry standing with his antique camera and vintage flash lamp outside his mother’s home in La Jolla. I was there to record audio for an All Things Considered story and shoot video to accompany the interview on NPR’s website. Race is one of the few people around who uses the 100-year-old technique.

Screenshot of NPR media player

In typical tape sync fashion, Robert Siegel spoke to Race by phone. I stood next to Race, holding the mic six inches from his mouth — my recording of his voice would later be combined with the host’s voice by NPR editors, giving the conversation a higher quality, natural sound. Unfortunately, we had to stop the interview every few minutes because of the military flights going in and out of MCAS Miramar. We were also interrupted for trash collection. And again for recycling.

Race explained the process of pouring the powder in the tray, setting the percussion cap in place, pulling the trigger to ignite the cap, and the explosive flash that follows. The first flash lamp he demonstrated with wouldn’t fire. He was using toy paper caps, but the humidity or bad luck kept it from firing. He switched to another flash lamp that uses rare, original percussion caps. That definitely did the trick. The massive smoke cloud was pretty impressive.

Take a look at the final video, listen to the interview and hear the flash lamp sound. Race Gentry also has his own flash lamp videos on YouTube.

Two Hour Time-Lapse at Work

I just got a new camera gadget, the Canon Timer Remote Controller TC-80N3. This is the main tool that Ross Ching uses to make really amazing time-lapse videos. Check out Eclectic, Eclectic 2.0, a behind the scenes video, and some great press he’s been getting.

I had my camera at my desk after taking a photo at work and decided to test out the new timer. The video spans two hours in 20 seconds. I was listening to the Citizen Voices interview from the photo, working with Kelli Enger on producing web videos about the authors of Three Cups of Tea, talking with Angela Carone about future projects, and having birthday cake and ice cream for Gloria Penner’s birthday and mine.

Tijuana Flickr Meetup

The first time I met someone in person after first meeting online, I approached David at a bar on our way into a Beth Orton concert. It was quite a date for two straight guys. He later introduced me to a few other bloggers, Xoloitzquintle, HP and Cindylu. All four bloggers have unique perspectives on Mexico and the U.S., leading to some fascinating conversations.

Having spent quite a bit of time in Tijuana, I’ve spread my photos across various Flickr groups. When one of those groups decided to have a face-to-face meetup, I was excited. It would be the first time to meet Flickr contacts in Tijuana. And if past experience was any guide, it had promise.

I couldn’t make the 4 p.m. Friday gathering time, but knew they’d be at Playas de Tijuana until sunset. I arrived around 6 p.m. and cautiously walked to the meeting place with my gear. I wandered about a bit looking for a group with cameras, taking a few photos along the way.

Approaching the group, I recognized a few of them from their photos. After brief introductions, it was a relatively quiet walk along the beach. Noesh, even smaller than her “chiquita pero picosita” tagline, tripped over her son and Vanezia’s son at the water’s edge. Unbeknownst to me, I was at the front of a meta chain. I did my best to impress them with my Spanish, even though everyone is likely bilingual. It was a beautiful sunset and nice to chat a bit with these Tijuanenses.

Tijuana Flickr Meetup

Tour La Baja Group

Following the walking tour, Isha.Net* created a new group for Flickr meetups across Baja California. I’m looking forward to future meetups and the chance to meet those who weren’t able to make this initial gathering.

To each of you, Sërch, Gioser_Chivas, Xeelee, Isha.Net*, JoVaNnItA, Vanezia, Noesh, Griselda, Liam, Ibrahim, it was great to meet you.

Flat Carlita Comes for a Visit

One of our nieces sent Flat Carlita in the mail for a visit. She toured San Diego and Tijuana for a few weeks, meeting friends and family, making memories, and seemed to have a great time.

Documenting a Deported Teen in Tijuana

This summer, I met a 17-year-old boy named Jay at a DIF shelter in Tijuana. He had spent 15 of his 17 years in the U.S., brought from Mexico at age 2. Working alongside KPBS reporter Amy Isackson, we recorded his story and photographed him (all except his face because the shelter administrators wouldn’t allow it).

View photos from the Tijuana youth shelter on Flickr »

Jay's PerchIn the CourtyardAmy Interviews JayMusicPersonal BelongingsJay's DrawingWatching TVPassing the TimeIn LimboFootball ScarScarThinking of Home

Off Mic screenshot



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