John McCain Sound Check 3Tonight is the big finale for the GOP. The events tonight surround the official nomination and acceptance of the presidential and vice presidential candidates, John McCain and Sarah Palin. It’s a packed house. I can’t help but feel tonight is somewhat anticlimactic after yesterday. The tone of this past week seems to have been set on Friday with the announcement of Sarah Palin– briefly derailed by Hurricane Gustav– and then right back onto Palin. Who is she? What’s up with her daughter? Is she going to come out swinging when she speaks?

Some of those questions were answered last night and the response around the bureau today seems to be mostly of the opinion that she did well. Our journalists put together these headline stories: Chicago Tribune, “Palin fires up faithful, comes out swinging”. Los Angeles Times, “Defiant Palin comes out swinging”.

John McCain came out onto the stage early this afternoon to go through a lighting and sound check. I got the heads up from a colleague and quickly grabbed my camera to see what kind of picture I could get– if any. As I walked into the hall, my heart sunk a little bit, looking at the sea of cameramen and photographers clustered around the new stage catwalk constructed especially for McCain’s speech tonight. So I climbed up onto the center camera platform.

Nuccio DiNuzzo 2Nuccio DiNuzzo was up there in our position working out how he was going to shoot the speech tonight. He had all of his cameras and lenses with him: three bodies and about 7 different lenses. I meandered up with my Canon 40D and 24-70mm lens. Way too short to shoot anything directly. Just wide shots of context. DiNuzzo asked if I wanted to use his 400mm. I blinked and then jumped at the chance. DiNuzzo shoots Canon gear and the lenses are interchangeable among all the bodies in the EOS line. So I pulled off my lens and snapped the body onto this huge lens. The Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS weighs almost twelve pounds and is monstrous. For about 10 minutes, McCain came out and took in the shape of the hall.

McCain and Lieberman 2Joe Lieberman joined him at one point and McCain took some notes from a number of handlers. I snapped away for most of it. Toward the end of the sound check, DiNuzzo asked for his lens back and I went back to my shorter portrait lens. I got a couple pictures of the photographers around the new stage and one of DiNuzzo hard at work at his craft.

I thought it was very cool to get to play with that lens. For a moment I got to be a real photojournalist. If only in my mind.

So this is it! This is the last day of the two conventions. I have one more day of work tomorrow– tear down and packing up. That should go pretty quickly and easily. It will be the last major responsibility I have for this project.

I’m looking forward to going home. It has been a long, strange, fascinating trip.