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The Two-Second Shot

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., fools around with colleagues upon arriving for a news conference on Jan. 13. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Many times on the Hill, a photographer has to guess which direction someone will go, how many photographers will be there already, what the light situation will be and numerous other scenarios.  

And then you guess wrong anyway. This event wasn’t on my schedule, but I was nearby so I decided to give it a few minutes and see if I ran into anything that made a picture.  

I was photographing Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., prepping in the Capitol’s Senate TV and Radio Gallery before a news conference on Guantánamo detainees. They started looking toward me, so I assumed another senator had walked in. I looked over and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., had his face pressed up to the glass and was making a scary face. Luckily, he held it for just long enough — about two seconds according to the time stamps — for me to get the camera up and fire off six frames, most of them in focus around his eye.  

I used a 35mm fixed lens with an exposure of ISO 1250, 1/320 at 1.8. This means the lens was almost wide open to let in a lot of light, so I couldn’t afford to blow the focus by much.  

After the group of senators, photographers and staff had a laugh, McCain communicated something to the effect of I’d better not use that photo anywhere.  

I told him it was the best picture I was going to get all day and I couldn’t rightly sit on it. He sort of laughed it off, and the senators went into the studio. It ran on our Capitol Lens page in the next day's newspaper.  

I like this shot because it is equal parts luck and the ability to react quickly. It’s also a great example that in this job, 80 percent of success is showing up.  

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