Sunday, March 22, 2020

CPAC 2020...

Well, suffice it to say, the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, was a blast.
 



While I'm probably a bit more conservative in my views than liberal, my excitement at having been hired for this gig wasn't at all based on that. Instead, it was based on just being able to photograph those who make policy and determine the direction of our country. It's not unlike when I attended a Trump rally during the 2016 campaign. The fact that it was Trump was actually secondary. The overriding factor was the opportunity to listen to someone who could well end up being the most powerful person on the planet. Honestly, back then, I would've attended a Hillary Clinton rally with the same level of excitement.

Anyway, CPAC. Wow.

I drove from St. Augustine to Maryland, where I stayed with my buddy Mark and his family. I graduated high school with Mark. We joined the Navy on the same day. He's a lifelong friend and I never pass up the opportunity to spend time with him and his family. He's also an amazing chef, so I know I'm not going hungry when I visit:




After two nights at Mark's, it was time to head to National Harbor and the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center. 

Let me tell you, this place is absolutely huge. It has 2,000 guest rooms, over 500,000 square feet of meeting space and seven restaurants. Many of the hotel's rooms have balconies which look out into the glass atrium, which is 19 stories high:


The atrium of the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center...
  
A panoramic view of the atrium at night...

After arriving on Wednesday afternoon, we all met up (there were six photographers) and walked the convention area. Despite opening in less than 24 hours, there was a lot of preparation still taking place for the conference.

When the conference finally got underway, it was a non-stop juggernaut of speakers.  Senators and Congressmen, talk show hosts and celebrities. They were all there to share their stories and insights into why we are where we are at this particular moment in time.

My job was pretty simple. I was to be backstage for the duration of the conference, photographing each speaker before they took to the stage. It offered me an opportunity I never would've imagined I would have.

Here are some photos from the three days of CPAC:


Conservative talk show host Glenn Beck. He's the one who requested the selfie...

Rick Harrison of the History Channel's "Pawn Stars"...

Senator Ted Cruz...

Brian Kilmeade, of Fox News Channel, looks over some notes prior to his presentation...

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo waits to go on stage...

Mike Pompeo walks to the lectern...

Donald Trump Jr. backstage at CPAC...

Congressman Devin Nunes and Fox News analyst Dan Bongino...

Author John Batchelor reviews his remarks before speaking to the CPAC audience...

Congressmen Mark Meadows(L) and Jim Jordan (C) speak with Matt Schalpp, the
chairman of the American Conservative Union...

Vice President Mike Pence. He walked up to me and introduced himself,. as if I might not know who he was otherwise..
 
The photo crew for CPAC, left to right: Nic, Mike (who actually left before it started), Kage, Chris and Bob...
  
Ivanka Trump backstage...

Tammy Bruce of Fox News Channel...

After commenting on his watch (I used to have the same one), Dr. Sebastian Gorka insisted I take a photo of him for the Omega Watch Owners Group on Facebook. Dr. Gorka is the former Deputy Assistant to the President...

Of course, though, the highlight of the conference was having the opportunity to photograph the President of the United States. Whether you agree with a President's politics or not, the fact of the matter is that getting to photograph the most powerful man on the planet is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Here are some random shots from the literally hundreds I took during his speech:




Eye contact, big wave. Billy Gibbsons of ZZ Top once did the same thing...

 






















 

And, after the speeches had all been given and the crowd had left the ballroom, it's customary for the staff to take pictures on the stage.

This is only part of the staff. There are literally hundreds of people who make the conference run smoothly...

Even the security team got into the act, although during the actual conference these guys were absolutely "no nonsense" and, well, a bit scary. I'm not sure who the lady in the middle is...

Just proof that I was there!

I'm a big proponent of a just reward after a hard day's work...

Chris Kennedy and I enjoying Martinis in Belvedere Lobby Bar after the conclusion of the conference...


To say the experience was surreal would be a bit of an understatement. To have the Vice President approach me, sticking out his hand and introducing himself to me, thanking me for being there to take pictures, was surreal. Having Sebastian Gorka ask for my phone number so he could text me about getting photos was surreal. Having Glenn Beck ask for a selfie was surreal. To have Tammy Bruce smile and wink at me was surreal. Wearing a pin (the one on my lapel in the above photo) which basically said the only people who could keep me from going where I wanted to go was the Secret Service was surreal.

And it was all great.

I'd like to hope I made enough of an impression to where I'm asked back next year. It was an absolute blast and I'd love for it to become part of my annual routine...


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CPAC 2020...

Well, suffice it to say, the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, was a blast.   While I'm probably a bit...