Presidential Vacations Part Two: Truman, Key West, and the Photographers

President Truman talking to reporters in Key WestTruman vacationed at the Key West Naval Air Station eleven times while he was in office. These were major vacations; some lasted nearly a month. In contrast to the presidential vacations where the first family jumps from hiking, to fishing, to golf in a day, Truman limited his activities to an occasional fishing trip and the sport of poker. The photographers went along and loved every minute. The president stayed in the commandant’s quarters and many of the photographers stayed in the Bachelor’s Officers Quarters—Building 128. The press room was also in the BOQ. Truman would often walk into the BOQ just to check on how his boys were doing.   There were no credit cards back then and the photographers  got their travel expenses in cash before they left Washington. Truman  learned that INP photographer Al Muto was nearly broke. He and the other photographers were making their pictures when the president reached into his pocket. “Al,” Truman said, “I hear you are running low on cash.” He gave Muto a hundred-dollar bill and said, “Remember, this is a loan, not a gimme.” Muto said, “I know, Mr. President”—then wired for more money as soon as he could.

 

 


  • PRESIDENTIAL VACATIONS: PART ONE

    Rancho del Cielo,A voter’s first look at a presidential candidate considers the person’s ability to handle economic issues, foreign policy experience, family values, and so on. The members of the White House press corps have just one question: “Where does the candidate go on vacation?” Vacation coverage duty can be heaven or hell. Sometimes, not often, the president likes to vacation in miserable places. For example, Carter chose St. Simons Island, Georgia, and the press stayed at Jekyll Island. The mosquitoes and the smell of pulp paper plants made that a vacation to forget. Other presidents chose wonderful places but were so active that it was not a vacation for the press. I guess it should not be a vacation for the working press, but we could always hope.

    RONALD AND NANCY REAGAN AT SANTA BARBARA RANCHReagan passed the vacation test with flying colors. During his second term as governor, he and his wife purchased Rancho del Cielo, a small ranch in the Santa Ynez Mountains near Solvang, California.  During his tenure in the White House, Reagan would go to the ranch every year and the press would have to spend his vacation time in nearby Santa Barbara. That helped to make presidential vacation duty at its absolute best.Rancho del Cielo, Once the Reagans went up the mountain, everyone knew that they were in and not to be heard from until the vacation was over.

    The photographers usually hung out with advance or travel office staff who had two-way radios and would know if there were any breaking stories or pool calls. Some photographers did have to work during those ranch vacations. The nightly news shows needed footage as visuals to roll during the reporter’s story on presidential issues.   They found a clearing on one of the mountains that overlooked the ranch and named it Privacy Peak.Rancho del Cielo, Even with the 40,000mm mirror lens that CBS had rented, the quality was rough. Images of the Reagans’ morning ride looked like glimpses of Bigfoot.   The crews took hours to get to the top of the mountain and  they stayed up there for the entire day. It was all right for the men on the crews but not for camerawoman Jenny Vicario of ABC News, the only woman assigned to the coverage. One day the mountain crews heard the whoop of a large helicopter and looked up to see a portable toilet swinging in the wind. The helicopter hovered, the chain disconnected, and Vicario smiled. It was quickly named Jenny’s Jon.


  • A New Look at the Break Room

    Photo by Dennis BrackThe break room consists of a  small eating area which is generally occupied by network crews eating their catered lunch meals.  This room is connected to the work area by a tiny hall.  With the exception of a coffee maker given to us by Tom Hanks-that’s a story for another time–it was  pretty bland.  That is until this morning.  We came in to find a collection of portraits of the  video journalists by Anthony, Kadesh DuBose.  Anthony spent months taking these portraits and it is a nice addition to our work space.  Great job Anthony!


  • Obama News Conference. A different view

    Obama 7/15/15The East Room was packed for the President Obama’s news conferences in the East Room during the first days of his presidency. Obama 7/15/15

    Now, not so much.  In fact, there were more chairs than reporters and the White House staff discreetly and quickly removed a few rows.

    The first minutes of the news conference are busy times for wire service photographers. Obama 7/15/15 The make a few photographs, take the chip out and insert it into their computers and transmit them via their internet set up.  Unfortunately, the reception is poor in the East Room.  Tense moments.

    These conferences last for about an hour and there are so many angles, presidential expressions. Obama 7/15/15 Nikon and Canon lenses from 16mm to 400mm are used.  In this news conference there was a new player.  A Sony digital still camera was used as a remote.  Speaking of remotes, it seems like everyone feels the need to mount one.  Actually it does pay off.  The photographs from the remotes do get a great deal of play.

    Obama 7/15/15There are velvet ropes that bar photographers from the seats, but nothing prohibits the correspondents and reporters from making their own photographs. Obama 7/15/15 For example, CBS correspondent Major Garrett makes some nice close ups of President Obama.  That was before he asked his question. Obama 7/15/15

    You never know when a great photograph will happen so the photographers work the press conference from start to finish.Obama 7/15/15

     


  • If it’s Sunday, it must be…….BURGER KING!!!!!

    Photo by Dennis BrackOn week days the White House press will photograph world leaders, occasionally even the Pope.  Some days a trip on Air Force One to Paris, Rome, Beijing and later this month Kenya.  BUT on Sunday they visit the Burger King at Andrews Air Force Base (these days they call it Joint Base Andrews).Photo by Dennis Brack

    A speedy motorcade passing tourists who don’t realize that they have just seen a presidential motorcade until it has passed and through the gates of Joint Base Andrews.  The presidential motorcade package continues to the links but we make a sharp right, pass the Military shopping center and on to the Burger King. We have our own private party room.  It’s neat, except for a the greasy  table tops, until we hit it. Bags, computers, camera equipment is quickly everywhere.  Actually, the place is pretty good as far as pool holds go.  Everyone can tell you about awful pool holds.  I remember one in the kennel of  Hollywood producer.

    ReadingThis place is fine. There are ample plugs for computers and chargers and even a veranda for outside dining.  There’s always a walk to the Starbucks with one of our photo-wranglers of course.  No need to walk.  I ordered coffee at the Burger King counter, the attendant asked if I was over 55 . It was for free.  Turns out about half of the pool was over 55 so BK lost money this Sunday.

    Finally the Secret Service agent gets the call that POTUS is about to finish and we get back to the vans.  We wait at what they thought was the place to re join the motorcade.  No motorcade.  A black SUV passes and tells the agent that the motorcade has  gone on another road.  Our two vans return to the White House without POTUS.  At least the coffee was good and the price was right.


  • Bob Daughtery is selected for the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame

    Bob Daughtery would do  just about anything to get the picture.  A rally on the day of George Lincoln Rockwell's cremation produced a tight line of Rockwell's Nazi i storm troops who were not interested in giving the photographers the best  angles for their  pictures.  Bob found a way.

    Bob Daughtery would do just about anything to get the picture. A rally on the day of George Lincoln Rockwell’s cremation produced a tight line of Rockwell’s Nazi i storm troops who were not interested in giving the photographers the best angles for their pictures. Bob found a way.

    One of the benefits of working the White House as a news photographer is the opportunity to work with the most talented, the best newsmen and women in the profession.  Bob Daughtery is right on the top of this list.

    Bob was the “go to” photographer for the Associated Press at the White House for many years.  He was the Air Force One photographer for the AP on President Nixon’s Historic trip to China.  That was no easy task since the UPI Air Force One photographer was Frank Cancellare.

    In his 43 year career Bob covered the Johnson, Nixon, Ford,Carter, Reagan,Bush, and Clinton administrations.  He made one of the iconic Nixon’s double-whammy photographs on the final day of his presidency.    A photograph that Bob is proud of was made on a day he stayed with President Jimmy Carter.  Most of the other photographers had decided not to do what they thought would be a dull moment in Bardstown,,Kentucky in July 1979  It turned to be anything but dull and Bob made his famous photograph of Carter on the top of the Presidential limousine shaking hands surrounded by hundreds of well-wishers.

    Working and traveling with Bob was always a pleasure,  BUT you had to keep one thing in mind: Bob loved practical jokes and did them them very well.  One of his best was the creation of Granville Withers—see page 114 and 115 PRESIDENTIAL PICTURE STORIES.  A superb spoof expertly executed!!

    Bob Daughtery receiving a gift as he received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the "Eyes of History" Gala of the White House News Photographers Association in May 2009. Photo: Kevin Wolf

    Bob Daughtery receiving a gift as he received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the “Eyes of History” Gala of the White House News Photographers Association in May 2009. Photo: Kevin Wolf

    In 2009 Bob was honored by the White House News Photographers Association with the Life Time Achievement Award.  An award well deserved.


  • White House coverage–remotely

    Photo by Dennis Brack Remote cameras are part of the coverage of wire service photographers covering the White House.  During the pre-set for an event, the photographers would position the remote cameras behind the president to get a back shot or a photograph of the president walking into or out of the event.  Today’s announcement of President Obama’s statement is a good example. AP, Reuters, and AFP positioned the remotes to the side of the flags, but they were seen by the television cameras on the back stand. Photo by Dennis Brack The photographers moved their cameras out of the shot, but they were seen in the picture of the president and vice president walking down the colonnade.

    Remotes are triggered by radios that work off of the flash synch of the camera,so the photographers can make remote photos at the same time that they are using their hand held camera.

    A story from PRESIDENTIAL PICTURE STORIES tells of a time when remotes were triggered by infra red transmitters and receivers.

    The White House florist and Nikon tech representative Ron Thompson talk about putting flowers in the top of the wooden flowers pots and remote cameras at the state dinner. Photo: Dennis Brack.

    The White House florist and Nikon tech representative Ron Thompson talk about putting flowers in
    the top of the wooden flowers pots and remote cameras at the state dinner. Photo: Dennis Brack.

    In the story below, I used  a Nikon infra red triggering device which triggered the Nikon cameras. When one camera fired, it triggered a second infra red triggering device, (on a different frequency), which triggered a 2000 Watt Dynamite strobe which was mounted at the top of a FicusTree. Reagan remote 3 SS This was used to generate the large amount needed to override the television lights from the back of the room.  Ron Thompson, the Nikon technical representative for Washington, helped a great deal on this.  Ron was a master at making photographers look much better than they actually were.  Nikon Professional Services does this same service all over the world today.  Thank  you Nikon!!!  One last word.  Ron also worked with various government undercover law enforcement agencies and he asked if I had any use for the “flower pots”.  I didn’t and they had a second life housing surveillance cameras.

    President Reagan giving a toast with the flower pot camera in the background. The 2000 watt strobe is mounted on a light stand  on the back of the truck of the ficus tree extended to the to.p of the  tree with the head bounce off of the  ceiling of the State Dining Room. Photo: Dennis Brack.

    President Reagan giving a toast with the flower pot camera in the background. The 2000 watt strobe is mounted on a light stand on the back of the truck of the ficus tree extended to the to.p of the tree with the head bounce off of the ceiling of the State Dining Room. Photo: Dennis Brack.

    A story from the book:   Throughout her time as the first lady, Mrs. Reagan remembered the photographers who were on the early Reagan campaigns.  Time magazine was doing a large story on a state dinner and one of the “must” photographs was a picture of the toasts. On all state dinners, the guests stood for the toasts, blocking the photographers in the back of the room. A solution was a remote camera mounted in a flower vase positioned behind the president. The only vase that would allow a hole for the camera was a six-sided wooden container. I cut a hole in each side and then sanded and painted the two vases white.  On the afternoon of the dinner, Mrs. Reagan came into the State Dining Room to check on the final arrangements. I had the two vases in position for her approval before the White House florist arranged the flowers, which were planned for the top of the vases.

    “Do we really have to do this?” she asked.

    At that point Rex Scouten, the White House usher, said of course not. That could have been the end of the toast picture. As a last plea, I said that I had worked for six hours sanding and painting my flower pots. The first lady looked at the pots and then at me and said, “Okay, but don’t put any flowers in the vases.” Reagan Sadat dinnerThe photograph worked and nobody noticed the containers—except for Howard Baker, the longtime senator from Tennessee and a chief of staff for Reagan. Baker who was an excellent photographer.


  • Jonathan Ernst, the new staff for the Reuters Bureau in Washington

    Ernst at workRecently Reuters made Jonathan Ernst a staff photographer.   I am sure that most White House News Photographers reaction was the same as mine. “Well, it was about time”.  Ernst has been Reuters “go to” photographer at the White House for years and especially after Larry Downing’s retirement.  Actually,  Reuters needed Jonathan more than he needed them.  Why?  Because he is one of the best news photographers in this town.  His services as a freelancer were sought after by Getty and other news gathering organizations. Most of all he is a  fierce competitor who wins.

    Jonathan wanted the Reuters job and he worked hard to get it.  It is a good feeling when something is done correctly in this town!

    BTW:  Jonathan is one of the photographers who gives back whether it is a project that he feels deeply about or a project for the Washington photographic community.   He has spent, hours, days, working on the White House News Photographers Association “Eyes of History” contest.  Jonathan always comes forward to lend a hand for his friends.

     

    GOOD LUCK, JONATHAN FOR A JOB THAT YOU CERTAINLY DESERVE!


  • Hillary! www.dennisbrack.net

    Clintons waveA selection of photographs of Hillary Rodham Clinton that I have made is on my photographic website:   www.dennisbrack.net

    An interesting look at a presidential candidate, a secretary of state, a first lady and the wife of a candidate.


  • Mathew Brady Birthday toast in NPPA NEWS PHOTOGRAPHER

    NPPA MayBill O’Leary’s photograph of Chris Usher making a portrait of Brady historian Wayne Ritchie and his wife was featured as a page article in the National Press  Photographers Association, NEWS PHOTOGRAPHER May issue.