Obama from the front row (and the back)

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Living in Iowa has its perks. Depending on who you ask, Presidential election season is certainly one of them. As a swing state, we see plenty of the candidates for the two years leading up to the election, followed by two years of quiet. Although I have yet to photograph Mitt Romney, I've covered visits by Obama three times in 2012 alone (four times if you count staking out his hotel one night waiting for the motorcade, but I don't.). To give you a taste of what it's like to cover a Presidential campaign visit, I thought I'd share photos from two recent visits, with two very different perspectives.

First things first, we spend anywhere from five to 50 minutes waiting for the Secret Service to clear our bags, get our credential and claim a work area. In Iowa City last month, that was a table with power for my laptop, which spent most of the day wrapped in a poncho to protect it from the rain. In Mount Vernon, it was a coveted end seat on the bleachers so I could file continuously through the day. After settling in, I quickly file the photos I shot of the line outside, and start looking for features of the growing audience inside.

After a few other speakers, the President arrives. There are risers for the media at the back of the audience and off to the side, which is the cut-away riser. Events are usually carefully staged with the photographers' risers in mind. Generally, this results in images like...

You can see the back press riser to the right of the frame below. The image above was taken from the cut-away riser.

The traveling press pool has access to the buffer area in front of the rest of the audience, and generally a few local press photographers are given special credentials to join them. For the Cornell College/Mount Vernon event, I was in that close pool. You can see what a difference it makes in the photos below, where you can compare photos from the close pool and the riser.

At the end of every event, the President walks along the rope line shaking hands. Close pool photographers are allowed on stage to photograph from behind, which can result in photos of reaction from the crowd, while photographing from the riser gets you plenty of cameras held overhead and hopefully a clean shot of his face.          

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