On a very long overdue visit to my home country of Scotland, it was over twenty years since I’d been home, I was reminded yet again that as a photographer to always carry my camera. These days that’s not such a problem because most everybody has a camera in their smartphone, including me.
What happens when you are confronted with trying to get a photograph of former President Barack Obama and all that’s available is a smartphone camera, well not a lot unless you are lucky to be standing right next to the man.
My visit home was for a long overdue family re-union and with my cousin and her Australian husband we were having a lovely lunch in St. Andrews. The weather for early June was spectacular, blue skies, temperatures that equalled the south of France and when those magical elements come together there is no way you cannot enjoy the beauty of Scotland.
My cousins husband wanted to get a photo of the Old and Ancient Club House of the St. Andrews golf course for a mate back in Aussie. The town of St. Andrews is not that big and as we arrived into the car park close to the golf course there did seem to be a lot of people gathered around the area for a day that no major tournaments were taking place.
It didn’t take long to find out that Barack Obama was about to finish his round of golf and he was approaching the 18th. It was his first visit to Scotland and he was to give a talk in Edinburgh that evening. What had not been publicised was his yearning to play a round of golf on the oldest course in the world. The press and the general public didn’t know about his appearance when he teed off at the 1st but social media soon made sure that the world knew he was playing his game and by the time he reached the 18th there was an abundant crowd gathered to wish him well. I even met an American couple who were on a cruise and had docked in Edinburgh that morning. They rented a taxi for the round trip of several hours just to come and see the famous Old and Ancient Club House and they said it was a bonus to be able to see the former President.
I had my camera bag but nothing longer than a 180mm f2.8 which I knew was not going to do the job. I took a few shots of those just beginning their round of golf, it’s a big deal for those interested in the game. The entourage of all the Presidents men were slowly moving towards the 18th. The crowds were cheering and encouraging him to pot the shot, he missed – oops! A few more photographs and then I moved round to the front of the building. Barack Obama was being introduced and now saying his goodbyes to those who were fortunate enough to have been in the know.
Even with my press card I was finding it difficult to get close, of course I had not been vetted or been given accreditation which is the process that needs to be gone through. I asked a police officer if I could just step out to get the shot, she kindly said yes but I was quickly pointed at by the secret service and told in no uncertain terms to get back! The prominent bulges under their loose T-Shirts was enough for me to comply.
As the motorcade slowly drove out nobody wanted to get in the way of “The Beast”. I can’t say for certain that this is the same car that was used during Barack Obamas presidency nevertheless it was big, and the glass was thick. More by chance than anything else I found myself on the same side as the man himself. All of the press who had arrived had taken up position on the other side but that had given them a better shot as he was getting into the car. I got a couple of quick shots off as the car passed and in seconds in was over.
I was pleased with the images I managed to get with the equipment I had with me at the time, there is also a remarkable feeling to be in the presence of such a great man and to know he waved just at me!!
Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, so now and forever I will be Barack Obama’s Right-Hand Man.
In fact that photographic title goes to Pete Souza, who not only photographed President Reagan he spent the two terms of Barack Obama’s presidency as the Chief White house photographer. See his images here and buy this great book on Amazon, An Intimate Portrait.