Archive for the ‘Soapbox’ Category

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.

It was a civics lesson like no other.

For the first time in my life, I attended a City Council hearing in downtown Tampa. I had no idea what I was in for. I went to show my support for a pair of friends and long time clients, Blake and Allison Casper (brother and sister) who own the Oxford Exchange (formerly, the Bryn Alan Photography headquarters building) on Kennedy Blvd. They, along with a considerable number of South Tampa residents and business owners were there to object to a proposed zoning change on property adjacent to the Oxford Exchange, that would ultimately result in the demolition of buildings that, oddly, up until this week, had been designated as historically significant to South Tampa.

I arrived for the 6:00pm hearing at 5:30. I was unaware that they there were seven zoning changes being considered, and ours was number seven. They didn’t get to us until sometime around 8:30, and lemme tell ya… if ya suffer from insomnia folks, a hearing on planned development has GOT to be an AWESOME cure… unless, of course, the Oxford Exchange is involved!

Between 8:30 and MIDNIGHT, lawyers, citizens, business owners, investors, planning commission folks, arborists, historical preservation society presidents, and City Council Members, duked it out in what one City Councilman described as “not a hearing, this was a trial!”

A vote was finally called for and at the stroke of midnight, the proposed development plan was defeated in a 5-1 vote. The room was still packed – at MIDNIGHT – to standing room only status, and the great majority of those in attendance (wearing #tampadeservesbetter tee shirts in support of the Oxford Exchange), quietly celebrated as they filed out of the room.

Things I learned…

  • never leave your seat – you may not get it back
  • eat before you arrive – you never know how long this is going to take
  • if you bring water, don’t drink it – you’ll have to use the bathroom and you’ll be standing the rest of the meeting
  • City Council Members don’t ask questions – they give speeches that end with a question mark
  • City planners need to hire a professional photographer to create the images they plan on using on that opaque projector – those things were HORRIBLE!

It was interesting to witness, I’m glad I went, and I was pleased with the outcome. For a tad bit more info on this, see the Tampa Bay Times article online.

As a side note, when I arrived, I was personally greeted by Tampa City Councilman Guido Maniscalco. He recognized me immediately, and turned to the woman next to him and said “This gentleman photographed my First Communion Portraits!” Yes. Yes, I’m that old. In fact, I’ve photographed many of his family members throughout the years, including a few weddings. Guido and my son, Logan, attended grade school together. Great to see the next generation taking responsibility for the future of our city, and doing it quite well, I might add.


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