Up until now, I’d only been to two presidential campaign speeches in my life; Obama in 2008, and Nixon in 1968. This was my third.

Donald Trump is leading in the polls. That’s why I went. That’s why I went to see Obama in ’08, as well. I wanted pics, that’s it. I’ve never in my life seen a “sitting” President in person, only “eventual” Presidents. Will Trump reach that rank? Who knows?

Trump is running what I would characterize as a “Bullworth” style campaign. Unconventional, unorthodox, and unapologetic. He’s brash, crude, unpolished, and quite confident. I might even suspect that he says the things he does, because he doesn’t really want to be President. He keeps assuming that by alienating or insulting entire races or classifications of people, he’ll drop in the polls and not be forced to actually build that wall. But confounding everyone – including him – it seems to have the opposite affect!

So, in true Trump form, a campaign speech in the home of Ringling Bros, was destined to have all the makings of a circus.


And what would a circus be without an elephant? I bet the GOP wish they’d thought of this.

There were certainly plenty of promotional products to purchase. I can’t swear to it, but I’d guess that Trump’s campaign is being financed by the revenue stream generated through these items. He’s not stupid, if there’s money to be made, he’ll get his share.


There were buttons. Lots and lots of buttons.


There were hats. Yes, those hats.


And of course, there were plenty of shirts.


Even shirts that have nothing whatsoever to do with Trump. 🙂


Stuff. Just lots of stuff.


Petitions abound… solar power?… term limits?…


“Sorry, no free samples today, just sign the petition please.”


So… let’s talk about the banning of campaign signs in the mosh pit… Cellphones, well… okay, but NO IPADS! That just LOOKS stupid, okay?

I arrived early enough to stake out a spot about 50 feet from the podium, right in the middle. I held that spot for two hours before he arrived. My legs were killing me, so I knew I would only stay there until I’d gotten a decent close up of him, then maneuver to another, more comfortable spot. But getting a decent shot from the mosh pit proved difficult.


That hat. That hat needs to be turned around, so the bill doesn’t cast a shadow on his eyes. At least that’s what every photographer would say.

My wife says that he always looks like someone just pulled a pacifier out of his mouth. She has a point.

When I left the mosh pit, I moved to the back of the room where I spotted a line of media badged photographers racing past me and up the right side aisle. I was wearing my 20 year old Domke camera vest, so I fit right in. I waited until the last one passed, then jumped in behind them and picked up the pace. I felt like the Tin Man sneaking into the Witch’s castle behind her guard. They continued all the way back to the right front and behind a curtain. I stopped short of the curtain and was 90 degrees from Trump. I didn’t know what was behind the curtain, but I was certain it wouldn’t be good if I got busted back there.


It was from here that, only a feet away, a female protester started shouting at Trump.

I had my 28-70mm in my utility pouch, and my 70-200mm was on my camera (Nikon D750). The protester was 8-10 feet away and I didn’t have time to change lenses. Instead of photographing her, I switched to video mode and attempted to film the ruckus with the 70mm setting. The crowd was booing quite loud, so you can’t understand what she was saying, but here’s the unedited, two minute video I captured.

After this mess, I was run off by security for being a fire hazard (standing in the aisle), so I ran up the steps to get another shot from above.


As soon as I took this shot, security came at me again for being on the steps (not in a seat). Oop, sorry, my bad…

When I got to the back of the room again, I was hanging out and observing the press from behind their vantage point behind the risers. I took one photo, when I was suddenly approached by an attractive, young (20 something) woman with the campaign. She immediately asked what news media I was with (camera vest, remember?). I told her “none.” She then asked if I was with the campaign… “nope.”
“Well then, you can’t be in here.”
“In where?”
“In the campaign hall.”
“Excuse me? Why?”
“Because of that camera.”
“But everyone in here has a camera, are you going to throw them out too?”
“But yours looks expensive.”
Me: <eyeblink>
About that time, an old photography friend and FPP member, Thomas Bender, approached from inside the media section. He was there working for the Sarasota Herald Tribune and quickly intervened and vouched for me to the young lady. Simultaneously, a Trump VIP (George) also had approached and asked for my business card. When Tom spoke up, George became my best friend and offered me a spot on the media podium – BOOM! (It pays to belong the FPP!). Not only am I now “allowed to be in here,” I’m playing with the big boys (and I’m referring to their lenses, btw).


Then Trump saw me, waved a thumbs up, and the crowd cheered and smiled for my camera… okay, that’s not really what happened, but it kinda felt that way.

So after a while up on the media stand, I was ready to find a seat. The only one I knew was available was the one in my car. I’d heard Trump speak of building a wall; he’d listed all the states he’s leading in; and he dissed Obama for being concerned about global warming instead of ISIS (not sure why he’s campaigning against Obama, does he know he’s not eligible to be re-elected?).  I’d heard enough.

I’m not typically a political guy. I’ve voted in every election, but I know better than to openly state my views online – it only leads to trouble. In Trump’s case, I can see how he appeals to his audience (everyone has an audience). I’m not quite sure how his style would be viewed by other global leaders and their audiences (I don’t hold a lot of hope that it’d be very good), but one thing’s for certain… he has a shot at winning and if “change” is what you’re looking for, Trump is NOT a politician. Like, at all. Good luck with that.

  1. Ken says:

    Excellent photos! And I love the commentary. By the way, I was one of the guys hustling the press back and forth … Great job.

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