Presidential press pool

President Bush came to Iowa on Thursday for a briefing on the flooding, aerial tour of Cedar Rapids, Coralville and Iowa City, a few stops on the ground in Iowa City. I was the local press pool photographer -- there were national press photographers on board for Time, AP, Reuters, (I'm guessing) Getty, and the White House.

We (Gazette reporter James Lynch and I) got to the airport about an hour before Air Force One was scheduled to arrive, to get our credentials for the day and go through security. We walked out to the tarmac where a riser was positioned for us to wait on. Surveillance was under way well before we arrived, and was the only thing to photograph for awhile as we waited for the President's arrival..

As soon as the plane landed, we were led to our positions beneath the wing of the plane, where the traveling press was gathering. (A group of journalists travels with the president on Air Force One, and they came down the back stairs while the front stairs were prepared for Bush's exit.) After the local politicians greeted Bush, we all piled into our Press vans and followed the motorcade to a local briefing. From there, we ran to a helicopter for Bush's aerial tour of the flooded areas. The other photographers had clearly done this many times, and all had the best seats on the helicopter -- closest to the window. As soon as we had taken off, we all stood up and gathered around the open window to photograph Marine One's tour. With six still photographers and two videographers, it was a tight fit. I found myself shooting between someone's elbow at one point, and at others, cringing every time my camera or elbow hit the Time photographer in the head.

After a few stops on the ground in Iowa City, we were taken back to the airport in Cedar Rapids for Air Force One's departure. The other photographers used every spare second to download their cards and begin editing.. the editing continued as they crouched under the wing of the plane and waited for the president's departure.

It was an absolutely insane pace all day, and certainly different to see the destruction from the air (and in an air-conditioned briefing room) than to be walking through the muck. When I got back to the office, the fast pace continued as I edited 1400 images down to 22 to transmit to AP, UPI, Bloomberg, EPA and a few other media organizations. I'll post later on the actual coverage of the president's visit.

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