Well, the Primaries are over, and it was a very long day for not just myself, but ALL journalists covering it in different parts of the state. I was slated to cover both Ann Kobayashi and Mufi Hannemann–Kobayashi after the first printout, and Hannemann immediately after that. All staff photographers on elections that day were also required to shoot polling centers at different parts of the island. I had Kamiloiki School in Hawaii Kai, where voter turnout was sparse, to say the least. Still, I had to make a picture that told that story.
Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35 f2.8L at 16mm, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO 50, 1/2 second @ f10, Auto whitebalance
I was told by the polling captain (who happened to be one of my former English professors in college!) that we weren’t allowed to shoot voter faces nor identify them, so I used motion-blur to capture the two voters entering the booths. So that was that. Now off to Kobayashi’s headquarters to set up shop.
When I arrived, I was quite shocked at how nice and tight the quarters were. Of course, television had already set up their stages, lights, cables, etc. for their live feeds–leaving me with virtually NO workspace to edit and transmit a picture.
Nice intimate quarters at Ann Kobayashi's headquarters
I arrived at about 4:40. The first printout was supposed to be around (note: AROUND) 6:30pm or so. And so the wait begins. Kobayashi was not on the premises yet. Luckily, there was a very entertaining and amusing fellow by the name of J.J. He was poking jokes and talking up a storm with literally everyone who came within reach of his vocal calamity.
J.J. badgering a woman at Kobayashi's.
After a while, I couldn’t take anymore of J.J.’s antics and decided to step outside for some air. At this point, there were more members of the media than actual supporters at Kobayashi’s headquarters. One of the gentlemen helping with the overall setup for Kobayashi’s camp walked by, and I asked what time Ann would be showing up, as it was getting near the 6 o’clock hour–almost printout time.
“Oh, Ann’s not going to be here til after 8 or so,” he said.
“Uh-oh,” I thought to myself. How in the heck was I going to get hers AND Mufi’s reactions at the same time? I decide to call the newsroom to give a sit-rep.
As fast as our man J.J. was turning people off with his antics and short shorts, plans changed for my agenda. I received instructions to go down to the Senate gallery to make photographs of the ballot counting taking place. From there, it was off to Hannemann’s, while our other photographer, FL Morris, would catch Kobayashi as she arrived at her headquarters.
I got to the Senate gallery and was intrigued at how busy the floor was with ballot counters, computer workers, and various other personnel milling around. After shooting the activity with my 70-200mm lens (the Senate gallery is above the actual floor, so I was shooting down at the ballot counters), I decided to get a little artsy-fartsy and play with some slow exposures since the action down there resembled worker ants going to and from where they had to go. There was detached circuit breaker housing leaning against the railing that lines the lower gallery. Using that, I played with exposures of 2 seconds or more.
Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200 f2.8L IS at 173mm, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO 50, 2 seconds @ f10, Tungsten whitebalance.
Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN, EF 16-35 f2.8L at 16mm, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO 100, 2.5 seconds @ f22, Tungsten whitebalance.
It felt rather weird shooting from up there. The officials knew I was there photographing them, yet I couldn’t communicate with them in any way. I like the feeling of connecting with the subject I am photographing–I didn’t get that feeling up in that second-floor gallery. It was like photographing animals at the zoo. Of course, not in terms of the subject, but the connection between myself and the subject. I am in no way saying the officials are animals!
Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 70-200 f2.8L IS at 150mm, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO 800, 1/15 @ f8, Tungsten whitebalance.
After I got what I needed, it was off to Dole Cannery for my third and final stop on Primary day–Mufi Hannemann’s headquarters. When I arrived, there were already over a hundred supporters having dinner and enjoying the entertainment. Immediately, I scanned the area for a workstation so I could edit/transmit what I had shot as well as lock-up my laptop for later. Nothing. The usual stages for television were there, and there was noticeably more room, but I resorted to a corner of the room near the main entrance. Here’s my view from there, as I sent my first take:
AP shooter Ronen Zilberman, left, and Ka Leo photo editor Kent Nishimura stand like sentries as I send my photos.
After I sent my first batch of photos, I chatted with Bill Brennan and he said that Mufi wouldn’t be arriving until 9 o’clock or so. More waiting–how fun! When Hannemann finally arrived, myself, the Advertiser’s Bruce Asato, Ronen Zilberman, and Kent Nishimura all hounded the front of the stage. It felt like a rock concert with all these cheering people behind us. Hannemann wasn’t as animated as he usually was during his first talk with the supporters. He led the crowd in a prayer, gave his thanks to everyone, and proceeded to have dinner with his family behind closed doors.
Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN, EF 16-35 f2.8L at 32mm, Speedlite 580EX set to E-TTL, 2nd curtain sync, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO 1000, 1/50 sec @ f5.6, Auto whitebalance.
I made several stock images of Hannemann talking on the mic, but I wanted to give the reader a sense of place, and of the support he had. I moved a row back from the front of the stage and waited to frame Mufi between the clapping hands of one of the supporters in front of me. I’m a fan of little elements within the frame that add definition and place in juxtaposition with the subject being photographed.
As soon as he left the stage, I knew that the window of opportunity to make a picture of him interacting with people would be very tiny, so I maneuvered my way towards him through the sea of people and in position in front so I could catch him hugging, shaking hands, or doing something. I didn’t want to send just a talking head picture of him onstage. So I jostled and pushed and all of a sudden–BAM!–Mufi let out a huge “HEEEEEEY!!!” to a woman who he obviously was very glad to see. But–BAM!–I was HOSED!! By another woman in the frame who conveniently pushed through and walked right through my frame. UGH.
I'm HOSED! Thanks so much, lady on the left!
So Mufi disappears into the back room. More waiting ensues. The crowd has slowly started to trickle out, though a substantial number of supporters remain and cause a raucous every time one of the television stations do a live stand-up. Meanwhile, I go back to my corner to send what I have to the newsroom.
Guess what? More waiting. In fact, Hannemann doesn’t even peek outside the door until after the third printout. By the time he hits the stage again, it’s about 11:15. With all that waiting, I took notice of the designs printed on the bright red “Mufi Hannemann” sign behind the stage. ”Mufi” was written in white cursive, and I thought it’d be interesting to frame him through the upper curve of the letter F while he’s talking. It took a LOT of tries, especially because I wanted the right facial expression from him that told the story:
Ehhhh.....still not the one.
Frustrated, I tried something different, I wanted to get his wife Gail in the shot too, so I used a 15mm fisheye on a few frames. He let out a really great expression that told the story of his race against Kobayashi and how he just fell short of 50% by THIS MUCH:
Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 15mm f2.8, Speedlite 580EX, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO 2500, 1/125 sec @ f4, Auto whitebalance.
I switched back to the wide angle and continued to pursue the framed, halo photo in the “F” of “Mufi.” There were other problems too, like flashes from other cameras:
Someone else's flash cooks Mufi a well-done...darn it!
Finally, FINALLY, I got one with the right facial expression and position:
Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN, EF 24-70 f2.8L at 25mm, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO 1000, 1/125 sec. @ f2.8, Auto whitebalance.
Why the relentless pursuit of the framed head, you may ask? Backgrounds are just as important as the subject themselves. Every element within the frame counts towards composition, and you don’t want trees growing out of someone’s shoulder in a portrait or powerlines running through their head. This is the same reason why we shoot sports with long lenses and apertures wide open–to isolate the action. In Mufi’s case, I wanted the background to add to the photo.
Meanwhile, it’s nearing midnight, and my cellphone is buzzing. Deadline is grabbing at my heels. Time to file!
After the night was over, it was 12:30am, and I was exhausted, hungry, and sore from all the standing and waiting. I moved 22 photos of Mufi, 5 of the polling places, 14 of the ballot counting, and 3 from Kobayashi’s headquarters. My framed Mufi shot made A1, so I was really pleased that our awesome designer Mike Rovner caught the elements I had in that frame. Oodles of fun, can’t wait for November! Sayonara for now!