President Obama’s February 10, 2016 Visit to Springfield, Illinois – Part 3
Late in the day we were informed at Horizon Aviation that the president would be returning soon. We were also told something we were NOT told as the VC-25A, radio call sign Air Force One, approached to land that morning: that the lockdown declared for people occupying buildings adjacent to the tarmac and the prohibition against any ground vehicles moving during the approach and until the motorcade had departed the airport had been CANCELLED! That explains why we saw so many cars and trucks in motion that morning and again when the entourage returned. Once we knew the new reality, Horizon’s front door was unlocked, and I was permitted to walk over to the fence facing the VC-25 on the other side of the obstacles and join the 20 or so spectators already gathered there.
It was a happy bunch. Without asking anyone to move, I snuggled into a open spot next to the fence and apologized to three or four close by for taking up so much space. I said “You have as much right to be here as I do.” One replied that I wasn’t in the way, she and her family had been waiting by the fence four hours, and everyone was glad to be there and for the only slight chill in the weather.
The challenge awaiting me in the next five minutes was to double check shutterspeed and to fanagle, which is to say gently step, unhurredly to the left corner of the fence to be ready at first glimpse of the airplane to frame without the fence wires in the way and take what I could as fast as I could. If the fence got in the way, my pre-auto-focusing at infinity would be wasted effort since the auto-focus would re-engage and cost me precious pieces of seconds to recover from that. Another factor was that the airplane would be so quiet, even at takeoff power as it approached the obstructing terminal from the right as it accelerated, that I had to listen to the crowd whose reaction would help me be ready and then do the best I could as fast as I could.
It’s a MIRACLE that my first picture was in focus. And I consider myself extremely lucky with the second picture. I had deliberately NOT set the shutter in rapid-fire mode because I wanted to SEE the picture and like it, before I pressed the shutter release. I have heard too many stories of how good photographers missed “the money maker picture” because the camera was cycling to the next picture.
The last picture was a “Hail Mary” desperate snap that worked out okay. Nothing was cropped, and the angle of the slightly tilted horizon was not adjusted to true horizontal because I feel the angle contributes to the picture. Again, Lady Luck was riding on my shoulder!
There will be parts 4 and 5 of this series. The next will share the departure of the C-17 which visited the same terminal ramp to pick up equipment delivered to the 183d Fighter W ing, Illinois Air National Guard facility about a week before the presidential visit. Part 5 will be every picture I took during the president’s visit to Springfield February 9, 2009. Those pictures were taken following my SUCCESSFUL ACQUISITION of media credentials. The difference between what I took on that joyous occasion and the most recent will astound you. Stay tuned.
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