Photographers' Blog

Riding with Obama – Halloween – Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere!

Reuters Washington staff photographer Jason Reed is traveling with Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Barack Obama through election day November 4. He and his colleague Brian Snyder traveling with the McCain campaign are posting daily photographers blog entries sharing their experiences and favorite pictures of the day from their campaign coverage.

Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere! It’s Halloween on the Obama presidential campaign trail.

One of the quirkiest American traditions I know, which, as a child growing up in Australia I didn’t really experience and therefore still find a little hard to understand what it’s all about, is Halloween. A custom brought over to the United States in some version by Irish immigrants in the 1800′s, Halloween had its origins in a Celtic end-of-harvest festival celebrated by pagans, and in its modern form invokes ghoulish-themed activities such as trick-or-treating, ghost tours and the carving of jack-o’-lanterns from giant pumpkins.
 
Every four years the paths of Halloween traditions and the U.S. Presidential election collide and so it played out once again in front of the cameras Thursday, during our travels with Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama in Florida. Following a campaign rally in Sarasota, Florida, we passed by the United Methodist Church’s pumpkin patch and stopped by for Obama to buy a couple of pumpkins.

 
Positioned a few vehicles back in the motorcade behind Obama’s car, gathered in a bus were the ‘embedded’ photographers, journalists and cameramen, plus a smattering of local tv news crews and newspaper writers. The bus door flung open and we all spilled out onto the pavement, rushing like a stampeding herd of elephants over garbage cans and roadside curbs, resembling a Japanese game show where the winner is subjected to a series of punishing and humiliating hurdles in order to win the prize. Our prize today was a prime spot in just the right place to cover the five-minute pumpkin circus.

After a short walk around, trying to lift up what must have been the largest and heaviest pumpkin in the patch and feigning a sore back from the experience, Senator Obama narrowed his choice down to two more modest sized offerings and paid cash for them to the Methodist church volunteer. The proceeds of the pumpkin sale went to help the needy.
 
Once back at the airport, enroute to the next frenzied stop on the campaign tour in Virginia, one of the pumpkins took a flight of its own, thrown up the stairs of the campaign plane by Obama Trip Director Marvin Nicholson to Obama’s Special Assistant Reggie Love.
 
Hours later and hundreds of miles away, rounding out what became the theme of the day, Senator Obama took to the stage during a late night election rally in Columbia, Missouri, where the stage was decked out with carved jack-o’-lanterns with a distinctly political theme, spelling out Obama’s name and encouraging the American people to vote in the November 4 election.

Riding with McCain – Enthusiasm in Defiance and Joe The Plumber

Reuters Boston staff photographer Brian Snyder is traveling with Republican U.S. presidential nominee John McCain through election day November 4. He and his colleague Jason Reed traveling with the Obama campaign are posting daily blog entries sharing their experiences and favorite pictures of the day from their campaign coverage.

One of the very first frames that I exposed on the McCain campaign this morning also turned out to be one of my favorites of the day. The Defiance, Ohio high school band lined up for Senator McCain’s entrance for his first early morning campaign rally of the day and showed more than a little enthusiasm.

However, later in the day, good old “Joe the Plumber” himself was trotted out to actually join Senator McCain on the campaign trail and lend his support and those images will surely totally overshadow the ones that we made earlier.

Riding with Obama – Bill Clinton

Reuters Washington staff photographer Jason Reed is traveling with the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama through election day.

Bill Clinton finally stands on the same stage with and endorses Barack Obama in the flesh – just days before election day.

Once a political foe of Barack Obama as the former president actively and energetically embraced the presidential primary campaign of his wife, Hillary Clinton, it was only a matter of time before former President Bill Clinton had to rally in person behind the Democratic party’s presidential nominee, Barack Obama.

Riding with Obama

Reuters Washington staff photographer Jason Reed is traveling with the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama through election day.

The hardships that fervent supporters of political candidates go through to catch a glimpse of their man in public are sometimes amazing. In blustery rain, bordering on freezing sleet in the Pennsylvania college town of Chester, thousands gathered from the dawn hours to score a prime position in the front row of an outdoor rally with Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama at Widener University. The conditions were so poor that in a gesture of compassion, Obama brought the event forward by about an hour so that the poor soaked and freezing souls could shorten their waiting time to hear his stump speech.

 

 

 

To protect our cameras from the conditions, a couple of plastic hotel laundry bags and some duct tape were employed as makeshift rain covers for our gear. Even though I go into covering all the events as if they were my last, I remember that no picture is worth a drowned camera which no longer functions! Without working equipment,  a photographer is relegated to being just a spectator to history.

Riding with McCain – Connection

U.S. Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is reflected in the glasses of a supporter at a campaign rally at Everglades Lumber in Miami, Florida October 29, 2008.   REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Reuters Boston staff photographer Brian Snyder is traveling with Republican U.S. presidential nominee John McCain through election day November 4.

On a fairly basic level, campaigning is about the candidate connecting with voters.  Unfortunately, showing that connection in a still photograph is difficult.  A television videographer can pan the camera from the crowd to the candidate and back.  As a still photographer I make pictures of the candidate shaking hands with voters at nearly every event, which shows, in one frame, a literal connection to the crowd.  Looking around today during an outdoor rally in Miami, Florida, I saw Senator McCain reflected in the glasses of a woman in the front row which provided me with another way to connect the candidate to the voter/supporter in a single frame.

Riding with McCain: Together With Palin

U.S. Republican vice-presidential nominee Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (L) and U.S. Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain (R-AZ) share a laugh at a campaign rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania October 28, 2008.   REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Reuters Boston staff photographer Brian Snyder is traveling with Republican U.S. presidential nominee John McCain through election day November 4.

Senator McCain’s choice of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate has been much written about, discussed and analyzed.  The two of them do not campaign together very often, so when they do appear onstage at the same time, as they did today during a rally in Hershey, Pennsylvania,  I watch their interactions (or lack thereof) very carefully.  The last time I photographed the two of them together, they actually stood on opposite sides of the stage.  At the beginning of this rally, Senator McCain and Governor Palin stood side by side, interacted and laughed together, creating a strong image. 

Riding with Obama: Backstage

Reuters Washington staff photographer Jason Reed is traveling with the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama through election day.

It is on extremely rare occasions that individual wire service photographers get exclusive behind the scenes access with the U.S. presidential candidates for even just a few moments during the 2008 campaign. When we do it represents a fleeting chance to grab a few unguarded moments where the candidates are more relaxed and less wary of scrutiny away from the glare of the lights and the constant presence of dozens of intrusive cameras and microphones. When you cover the same man, day in and day out, with most of the time spent jostling with dozens of other photographers to get essentially the same shots from the same positions, any chance to get a few exclusive unguarded moments with just the candidate and yourself is a huge bonus.

Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama backstage before a campaign appearance in Pittsburgh, October 27, 2008.  REUTERS/Jason Reed

One of those rare opportunities occurred Monday night as I requested and was granted access backstage and behind the scenes with the Democratic Presidential nominee, Senator Barack Obama before a campaign rally in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Riding with McCain

Reuters Boston staff photographer Brian Snyder is traveling with the campaign of Republican presidential nominee John McCain through election day.

I first met, photographed and spent time traveling with Senator John McCain more than eight years ago as he campaigned for the 2000 New Hampshire primary during his first try at becoming the Republican party’s presidential nominee.

Back then the photographers (as well as many reporters) rode around on the campaign bus, the Straight Talk Express, right with Senator McCain. Virtually everything was “on the record” and fair game. Senator McCain was very approachable, chatting with the photographers and reporters regularly and getting to know most of us by name. In the end, Senator McCain lost the Republican party’s nomination to then Texas Governor George W. Bush, but I came away from those weeks with a feeling that I had been able to get a rare and very interesting look behind the public veneer of a presidential campaign.

There is always one (but in this case two)… Part two

It didn’t take long this time to find a photograph that leapt off the screen. I had intended to select the one image from the Reuters daily file that knocks your socks off. The problem is I found two!

Of course Barack Obama’s speech at the Victory Column in Tiergarten Park in Berlin has to be a contender, for the subject matter if nothing else. But subject matter is not enough. Jim Young’s picture does the trick. It is not the conventional shot of a politician talking from a dais. The composition is pleasing on the eye; it contains, in a very simple way, all the elements necessary for a news picture and, despite the fact it is almost a silhouette, the figure of the U.S. presidential candidate is unmistakable.

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The other photograph is an absolute winner, and much more of a silhouette. Of course animal pictures are always popular, but Radu Sigheti’s picture of a giraffe in Kenya, with birds sitting on it’s neck, is just a very simple and elegant image that speaks for itself.