I had the wonderful opportunity to have (almost) unfettered access to shoot First Lady Michelle Obama yesterday as she gave a short luncheon speech to attendees of Greater DC Cares’ Business and Nonprofit Philanthropy Summit and Awards event. At this event, the press were stuck all the way in the back of the room, with photographers allowed to approach the buffer for “four clicks only.” Makes the three-song rule look absolutely luxurious in comparison. Inside the buffer were four Secret Service agents, White House photographer Samantha Appleton, and… me (after several rounds of security clearance). So that was fun.
I don’t envy working photojournalists covering events like this. It’s pretty tough to take consistently interesting (much less creative) photos of people speechifying, especially when you’re stuck at the back of a room shooting with a mega-telephoto lens. Luckily I was able to move around and find some different angles, and I had some decent elements to work with, including some gorgeous blue lighting on the curtains behind the podium. There were many other shots I would have liked to have tried, but I figured those Secret Service agents would probably take a dim view of my standing directly behind the First Lady during her speech. So I played it pretty safe.
After her speech, Mrs. Obama worked the ropeline, greeting the attendees, who were overflowing with enthusiasm. Really, this was a lot like taking crowd shots at big concerts, except with older subjects, more cameras, more handshakes, more Secret Service agents, and fewer devil’s horns. My favorite shot is this one, though, taken with a long lens and the benefit of some catchflash from someone else’s camera. This was a seriously lucky shot – that catchflash makes the First Lady stand out in a sea of tungsten-lit haze. I don’t need no radio-triggered remote strobes when I can just use other people’s perfectly aimed flashes!
All told, this went pretty well other than a time or two that I got too close and was either shouldered aside by Secret Service agents or pulled back by Samantha. Oops. “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough” is always near the front of my brain, but this time around it probably shouldn’t have been.
After the jump, a few more photos from the event. There’s a small gallery here; I’ll be turning over a full set to Greater DC Cares within a few days. (They’re already using one of my shots – the second one above – as their main homepage image.) I documented the entire summit, not just the luncheon, but obviously the keynote speech was the big draw.