Monday, August 31, 2009

Thank you Teddy

So I spent most of the past week covering the death of Senator Edward Kennedy. This of course was a major national news event. There are a lot of things that go on in the background that journalists need to go through in order to make the photos and videos you see. Sorry in advance for my long winded-ness but I have been thinking about this lately and thought some of my readers (all 5 of you) may be interested in learning about it.

I started by heading straight down to Hyannis Port on Cape Cod on Wednesday, the morning after he passed, to get some photos of reaction near the late Senators home. Now the Police had created an area for the photo and video crews to set up which was nowhere near the private residence, but it did allow us to see if anyone was coming by car to offer their condolences.

Just a fraction of the media gathered at Hyannis Port

I arrived at the scene above and like everyone else knew there wasn't much for pictures. But not everything is just right in front of you. Thats when you have to just start wandering and talking to people and observing. You eventually start to see things and meet people and thats when the photos start to happen. I ended up bumping into a fellow that was a house cleaner for T ed. He was holding a photo of himself with the late Senator and just sort of taking in the whole scene. From there I got word that anyone that wanted to cover the arrival of the casket at the JFK Museum needed to be there in three hours.

So I hop in the car and head up to Boston. I arrive at the museum and a riser platform has already been set up. First thing you do when you get to a riser is grab some tape and a sharpie and mark off a spot for yourself. If you are there early enough, then you should be able to grab a prime spot. I was there early enough (although in the end it didn't matter, which is good). Then I waited for the walk through to start. At the walk through we were told about the time lines and the pool positions. A pool photo position is oftentimes used at events like this that have lots of photographers but they either
A: Don't have room for them inside the venue or
B:They don't want them to be a major disturbance.
There are a few ways to create a photo pool. There can be either one photographer who is sent in to shoot. They then distribute all of their photos via an FTP website or by just handing out a memory card. The other way is to rotate photographers in a few at a time. Priority usually given to the major news wires and local papers first and then the secondary wires and papers etc get their chance.

There was a bit of a misunderstanding with the pool for this event and only 5 photographers from 5 wires/papers were allowed in and there were no plans for sharing (nothing in the open at least).

Anyway the next morning I showed up and got into my spot. I made sure it was still marked and then put down my equipment and my step ladder (very important) and then waited....and waited....and waited. Okay by 'waited' I mean I started shooting almost immediately. But I was there 4 hours before the procession was supposed to show up and that eventually turned into almost 6 hours. Again, part of the job. I was lucky enough to have another photographer sent up from Washington, D.C. to assist me on this one so we would have someone out on the procession route and I would be at the museum.

The media riser on Thursday.

I and others were all able to watch the procession on the video monitors that the TV crews have going so we know when it is getting close. We could also tell by watching the four news copters get closer and closer. This is when the nervous energy starts to take over. You know you are here for one important moment, the casket getting carried into the museum. So you start constantly checking your camera batteries, your exposure settings, your memory cards and just waiting. If something goes wrong you need to be able to fix it fast. Dead battery - new one in left front pocket...full memory card - new one in right front pocket....dead camera - switch lenses on the other one on your right shoulder - anything to keep moving and shooting. You most likely have only a few seconds for THE shot whatever it may be.

Eventually the procession arrives and I start shooting. The casket is removed by the honor guard and that is a photo. Then the family is lined up facing the media the casket is passing by and they are watching. Thats THE photo.

An honor guard carries the casket of Senator Edward Kennedy past members of the Kennedy family and into the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum for a wake on August 27, 2009. Looking on at left is the Senators wife Victoria Kennedy, daughter Kara Kennedy receiving a hug from a family member, grandson Teddy Kennedy III and son Patrick Kennedy. Senator Kennedy who passed away late Tuesday night at the age of 77, will lay in repose at the Museum for two days. UPI/Matthew Healey

The whole scene of the casket moving by the family took 10 seconds total but with only 5 second window to make the above photo or else you were too late.

Once that was done I waited a few minutes and make sure there are no other photos to make, then to the laptop to download edit and sent the photos.

After that batch was sent I went back and worked the line a bit and looked for interesting photos. At one point when I was near the media riser I noticed a woman standing on it carrying a small dog. She was bathed in some great light and just watching everything going on. I took a few pics and she told me she was just out on her daily walk but had to stop by to say a prayer for the Senator and his family. Sweet woman.

Geri Hebb of Quincy, MA stands on the media riser holding her Yorkshire Terrier 'Big Ben' looking at the entrance of the JFK Library and Museum in Boston, MA on the day of Senator Edward Kennedy's public wake.

Anyway the next day was much of the same. I went to the Library and shot a bunch and Kevin the other photographer went to the church to mark a spot for us and to pick up credentials. For credentials we had to be cleared by security the day before so both of us had to give or names, socials, date of birth and place of birth. This was because the President would be at the Church.

I eventually left the museum and headed to a shift for another client. Worked late and then got up and was at the Church by 6am next morning. Unfortunately the rain had started. Spent an hour and 15 minutes in the security line in order to access the press area. Since there were two of us we decided to split up. I took a higher position in one of the apartment buildings and Kevin stayed on the ground. We waited for the crowds to arrive and the funeral procession to enter then we filed our pics. Waited again for the procession to exit and then the crowds and then we filed again. We were done by about 1:30.

Pretty hectic few days. Being in work mode didn't really allow me to reflect on how big of a deal it was but talking to some of the folks coming out to pay their respects definately opened my eyes. Ted certainly helped out a lot of people both directly and indirectly.