Our staff photographer on Martha’s Vineyard stays one step ahead of the rest of the media while tracking down the president.
Tuesday started innocently enough with a press conference at the Oak Bluffs Elementary School gym, which is being used as the press center for the President Obama visit.
Seven a.m. was the call time for a 9 a.m. press conference with the president. At least if all else failed today, I would have a photo of Obama. Even better, it would be a photo of him doing something other than playing golf.
Too bad press conferences are boring. So boring in fact, that the president only took seven minutes out of his vacation to talk with the press before going, you guessed it, to a golf course.
On Monday, the president golfed at Farm Neck in Oak Bluffs. Assuming he was making his way to each of the island’s three courses, he would either head to Mink Meadows or the Vineyard Golf Club. He ended up at Mink Meadows, which was a nightmare since it is surrounded by woods and private homes. And I didn’t know any owners.
A group of photographers formed a small caravan with our cars and drove up and down every side road near the course. The police would let us down until we spotted a home overlooking the course. Luckily, the owner was in her front yard playing with her dog. We parked in her driveway, and after what must have looked like an invasion, we all grabbed our cameras and approached the woman as calmly as possible.
We asked her permission to stand in her back yard to photograph the president golfing.
She agreed, and we walked along her property line until we could see the seventh tee.
We had perfect timing, as the president was just finishing the sixth hole. The Secret Service ran over to us with such urgency, I would assume multiple laser gun sights were pointed at our bodies.
Luckily, one of the agents was the same agent that was stationed next to where I was camped out Monday at Farm Neck and remembered me. He cracked a joke about how many people with houses on golf courses I must know and let us take a few frames.
As I stated Monday, the president is not the best golfer, so his drive didn’t go too well and he made a funny face, which was great for us, because it’s always fun to send in pictures of important people making funny faces.
It was 11:30 a.m., and all was well. We had pictures of two different presidential outings, so if the president did nothing else the entire day, we would be set for pictures.
The photographers in our group had a bet that the press pool would call a “lid” at noon and we could all go out to get lobster. A “lid” is when the press pool, the group of press that always follows the president of the United States — POTUS as they love to call him — gets the official word that the president won’t be doing anything outside of his private compound, basically meaning that we can all go home. They never did, so we just waited.
It didn’t turn out to be such an easy day. About 5:30 p.m. the motorcade left Blue Heron Farm and headed to Oak Bluffs to visit the home of Obama family friend Valerie Jarrett, who lives on East Chop.
Once it became clear they weren’t staying long, I got excited at the prospect of getting shots of Obama walking through downtown Oak Bluffs. Since there was no access to get a photo at the house on East Chop, I headed into town to see if anything was going on.
At the end of Circuit Avenue, the main drag in Oak Bluffs, a group of about a hundred was gathered at the sidewalk.
I figured they must know something I don’t, so I parked my car at my grandmother’s house, which is a block from the end of Circuit Avenue, and headed down.
The group was gathered around Deon’s Restaurant, which appeared to be closed off and ready for a presidential visit.
Knowing the Secret Service agents would sweep the sidewalks clear of people anywhere near where the president was going to be, I found a store across the street that had a balcony with a perfect view of the area and the two neighboring restaurants, just in case he headed to either of them instead.
The woman who owns the store knows my mother, so she gladly let me upstairs.
The vantage point proved to be perfect, as the president ended up heading to the Sweet Life Cafe, which is three doors down from Deon’s.
I was the only photographer with the correct angle and got a shot of Barack and Michelle Obama heading into dine with friends. I grabbed some shots of excited fans in the crowd and took some video. Now all I had to do was wait until he finished and get more shots of him coming out.
It took me two hours of waiting on that balcony to realize it was probably a silly idea to wait until much after dark to try and get a picture that was not going to be as good a the ones I already had.
Luckily it only took five minutes more before the president left the restaurant with his wife and sped off in the motorcade back to Blue Heron Farm.
It has been a 16-1/2 hour day. I feel tired, but it was a great day with a lot of great action.
What started out at 7 a.m. in the cafeteria of my old elementary school, in the very sport where I probably sat many times eating tater tots, ended at 11:30 p.m. in front of the swanky Sweet Life Cafe, a spot visible from my grandmother’s front porch.