How We Got The Picture: President Biden at MCC

  • Helicopters arrive as President Joe Biden, visits McHenry County College Wednesday, July 7, in Crystal Lake.

    Helicopters arrive as President Joe Biden, visits McHenry County College Wednesday, July 7, in Crystal Lake. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • President Joe Biden speaks at McHenry County College Wednesday July 7, in Crystal Lake.

    President Joe Biden speaks at McHenry County College Wednesday July 7, in Crystal Lake. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

  • Brian Hill

    Brian Hill

 
 
Posted8/9/2021 1:00 AM

Being a photojournalist means being in the right place at the right time, and that often translates to hurry up and wait. Sometimes my job is filled with days like this.

Wednesday, July 7, was one of them.

 

President Joe Biden was slated to speak at 2 p.m. at McHenry County College, and the day started well ahead of that. I arrived in Crystal Lake around 9:15 a.m. to find quite a few people lining Route 14 carrying various signs, some supporting President Donald Trump and some supporting President Biden.

I sat in my vehicle in a queue to get into the parking lot and then made some images of the people along the highway. Slightly before 10:30, I grabbed all three of my cameras, my laptop and a step stool and joined the line to pass through security.

Secret Service personnel were on site and thoroughly inspected my bags and all my equipment, including having their bomb sniffing dog also check things out. I made it into the gymnasium where Biden was to speak around 11 a.m. -- three hours early.

I called our Senior Director of Photography Jeff Knox and let him know that I was in place, then called Deputy Director of Visual Journalism Paul Valade to coordinate with him and John Starks. They would be photographing outside while I was inside.

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I found Mary Kate McTague, who was part of the president's advance team, and got the lay of the land. After looking at the risers and the vantage points available, I made a plan in my head of how I would approach photographing President Biden.

While prepping my laptop in the back of the gymnasium, two hours before Biden was due to speak, I could hear and simultaneously feel the thumping of the rotors as the giant Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey helicopters made their approach.

The Secret Service had opened the southeast door of the gymnasium to let in some fresh air. I quickly grabbed a camera with my 100-400 zoom lens on it and asked if I could shoot the helicopters arriving. The giant Ospreys thundered in over the school and low to the parking lot and proceed to land in the ball fields east of the school and I had one of my pictures.

An hour and a half until Biden would speak, I quickly downloaded a few frames and sent them to our copy desk as Transportation and Projects Writer Marni Pyke prepared an early version of her story.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Biden toured the school and then spoke to the crowd.

I shot nearly 2,000 frames that day and sent 46 of them to our copy desk. Starks and Valade also sent a large collection of images for consideration.

A long day with some waiting and planning produced a lot of good images.

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