Back on the Taiwan Killer media bus
On my way back from a routine election assignment in Hsinchu, a fellow wire photographer quizzes me on my age.
“Errr… 26″ I reply and the other wire photographer goes “Wah sey!” which translates as something like “Whoa” if there is such a word in english. He proceeds to to tell me that he can’t remember where he was when he was 26.
Which is probably also why Russell, the Asia Chief photographer, asked me to write about my newbie experience operating and planning my first big team story, namely the Taiwan presidential election won by Nationalist candidate, Ma ying-jeou.
My plan was simple, don’t screw up and don’t miss any news. I must admit though, I would not have had such a comprehensive coverage of the elections without the guidance of Reinhard Krause and Russell Boyce (If I was an ‘Angel’, they would be Charlie).
(Darren in the centre with red bandana on the Taiwan Killer media bus, picture taken by Bobby Yip)
(A ride on the Taiwan Killer media bus gets you a shot like this)
After months of following the campaign, the big election day finally came for Taiwan.
The plan was to file early voting pix for U.S., Canada and South American clients who might have an interest in the Taiwan elections. Filing early at say 9am here would be 9pm over there, very close to or past newspaper deadlines. Also, filing early ensure your pix hit the news websites first.
Now with all the nice looking voting feature pictures done, comes the boring but mandatory pix of the presidential candidates voting. I say mandatory because if you manage to get a pic of the candidate looking victorious even before results are annouced way later at night, early edition papers or websites might use the voting pix as an alternative to the night jubo pix if the candidates do not appear till really late at night.
The big mama of elections is really getting a simple pic of the president-elect gesturing in victory. I quote “The first person to get that pic out usually gets the headlines tomorrow”.
The planning that goes behind that though is another story.
5am on election day, my assistant and I carry eight stepladders to the headquarters of both candidates to ensure that we have the best positions at night to shoot the victor. We arrive at the KMT location at 6am only to find that TV crews were already poised to attack the media stages. We lock and chain up three stepladders at different locations at Ma’s headquarters whom we expect to win. Shortly after at around 7am, AP and AFP arrive to place their stepladders too.
12 hours later, the area was packed with supporters and as planned, I got a postion in front of the stage, Reinhard shot from the right and Russell from the left. As Russell was the closest to the media centre, he would shoot for five minutes and immediately file while Reinhard and my assistans would “Speedy Gonzales” the cards to him to edit the first batch of jubo pictures.
My spot was slightly tricky though, because the organisers had rearranged the stepladders in front of the stage, I was forced slightly further back, which made my shot messy, while AP and AFP had slightly off centre positions but a better angle to get a nice background which read “Moving Forward” in Chinese.
“Screwed!” I thought to myself. After much comtemplating and negotiating with a local photographer who agreed to let me move forward to the stage on the basis that I don’t stand up, I got a much better angle for an opportunity to shoot the jubo shot well. Turns out, I was the first person to kneel at the new president (who would not arrive till about an hour later ) because of my “No standing up agreement”. A good lesson to never underestimate your relations with a local newspaper photographer this was though, he saved my skin!
All’s well that ends well and it’s finally time to treat myself to beer and a foot massage. In a month following the two candidates around I’ve seen more of them than I have my Mum.