RNC Cleveland – Let The Show Begin

It is a tough shoot. When you’re at an event with 15,000 of your fellow journalists (covering 4,000 delegates) it’s obviously a tight squeeze reminiscent of trying to squeeze into a packed subway car during peak New York City rush hour, only everybody’s got a camera.

Every day is similar. Wake up early, get to the venue, work all day and night, eat on the run, get back to my room, edit and sleep four hours and start all over again. But I do not complain; everyone attending the conventions has pretty much the same schedule and for me, I need to put in the time to get the kind of images to round up my coverage of conventions and hopefully publish the work in book form in 2017. It is a project that takes two weeks every four years, my “personal project Olympics”.

I’m in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention and can’t believe four years have past. Not since 2004, when the Republican Convention was in New York— 9/11 was still a fresh memory and the city was bracing for what turned out to be a fairly raucous convention—have I had a similar uneasy feelings about covering a convention.

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This time it’s even more uncertain. Fresh off the horrific slaughter in Nice, so many violent gun incidents, police shootings (another one in Baton Rouge just a few hours ago) and now  Presidential Nominees who square off  and strengthen the divide between Americans.

I plan to peek behind the curtain of these conventions at what is obviously a dramatic time of uncertainty and nervousness.

Political conventions are theatre, no quite as entertaining as Hamilton and everything is stage-managed for maximum message delivery. Inside the political arenas everything is tightly controlled. Outside, all bets are off. There will be protest. Here in Cleveland, Ohio’s open-carry law means gun-permit holders can have their weapons with them in the “demonstration zone”. This does not makes much sense to me—especially at such a highly charged time. I hope things stay peaceful.

I will attempt to photograph some of those protests…the drama of the theatre and of course the media. If the 15,000 media army was not here, would we even have these conventions?

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So that is my general agenda. I find it’s good to go in with a plan but be open and ready to throw out any pre-conceived ideas to replace with something better.

From a technical perspective, I’m taking my Nikon D5 and D500 what I know will be a great combination to capture the action, particularly with both cameras having very fast frame rates. I will shoot RAW of course but will turn my picture control to monochrome to see what the color looks like as gray-tones. I was thinking long and hard about lens selection. In 2012, I did the majority of my work with two 1.4G Nikkor lenses: 35mm and 85mm.

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This time I took two 1.4G lenses, my favorite 35mm and my new 58mm, which I find a great focal length especially when I have the flexibility of moving around and in closer. It feels more comfortable for me to shoot with than my 85mm. I had never really liked the 50mm focal length on full frame but 58mm seems to make all the difference.

Because of what I expect to be an even more heightened sense of security than in 2012, I have brought along three zooms if I can’t quite get to where I want to be while framing the image: 24-70mm f2.8VR, 16-80mm f2.8-4 (24-120mm full frame equivalent on the D500 -DX Camera) and a 70-200mm if I’m really held back from the action, which often happens as the conventions crescendo on the last days—floor access severely limited.

Nikon Professional Services NPS will be there to bring me closer with a really long lens if necessary.

Here’s hoping for a peaceful bit of theatre. More to come.

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