Houston-based photographer John Glaser has had the opportunity to join Beto O'Rourke throughout his campaign as his official photographer.
Glaser and I met while covering sporting events together, so I took the opportunity to interview him about his experiences on the campaign trail with Beto. Glaser first heard about Beto when he live streamed his cross country drive with fellow congressman Will Hurd. Beto and Hurd sit across the aisle but used social media to discuss their positions in a friendly, amicable manner, garnering each some national spotlight.
Getting involved with a high profile campaign might have been easier than you would expect, especially considering that Glaser had never shot a political event before. When Beto began running for Texas Senate, he held an event about 30 minutes from Glaser's house, so he brought his camera. "I figured I could post some stock photos of Beto for news to use in the event someone decided to do an article on him," Glaser said. "I shared some of my photos with the campaign and a relationship started."
Glaser grew that relationship with the Beto campaign and it worked out as mutually beneficial. "After a few more events, I started to work for the campaign when they were in my area," he said.
Not everything has been fun and games, though. The ever-changing schedule and Glaser's other photography commitments to events like MLB playoffs, can make it difficult. But even with his demanding schedule, Glaser has been able to photograph about 80 events for the Beto campaign over the last 10 months.
"It has been fun seeing how Beto's campaign has exploded," Glaser said. "When I started working with the campaign, there were maybe 100 people coming to the events we were attending - ten months later we are seeing thousands of people at events and the energy is something I have never seen before."
Picking a favorite photo is never easy for most photographers, but Glaser picked this one for how he feels it is characteristic of Beto's campaign. "I believe it represents the campaign Beto has run - he has visited all 254 counties and wants to be available for all the people of Texas," Glaser said. While the Beto campaign doesn't give Glaser a shot list, he does mentally create his own for each event. "At each event, I wanted to show the scope of the crown and venue with a wide shot, preferably with people waving signs or clapping," Glaser said.
Many of Beto's events are town hall meetings where Beto can interact more intimately with attendees. Politically, these can be very beneficial, but photographically, they can be very repetitive. Glaser explains how he approached this: "One of the things I loved is the challenge to work and find something new and different at each venue that was memorable for that particular event."
In any photographic situation, having the right equipment can mean getting the shot and missing the shot. Glaser carries an array of gear that allows him to create different images in different situations. Glaser shoots mainly with two bodies: a Canon 1D X mounted with a 16-35mm f/2.8L III on one and a Canon 7D Mark II mounted with a 70-200mm f/2.8L III or 70-200mm f/4 if there is enough light to allow it.
Using the crop body with telephoto in tandem with the full frame body with wide angle allows Glaser to cover a wide variety of looks while taking a minimal stress on the body. "The f4 is much lighter which is great for my back on those long days on the campaign carrying all my gear."
He also carries a Canon 5D Mark III as a third camera body at times, as well as a Canon 24-105mm f4L, a Canon 15mm 2.8 fisheye, and a Canon 300mm 2.8L lens to create different looks, but uses these far less than his main go-to gear.
A piece of gear that has become invaluable has been a TP-Link wireless router. "This device plugs into my camera and allows me to send photos directly to the communications director to be posted to social media during an event," Glaser explained. "I also need portable phone chargers to keep my phone charged to allow me to keep sending photos.
That wireless router quickly became a necessity. "When I started doing work with the campaign I edited on the fly using my laptop but I had to carry a laptop everywhere I went," Glaser said. "The events are often so close together and we move so fast it was difficult to edit between events."
When carrying three cameras and a dozen lenses, being able to leave the laptop at home was a welcome change. Glaser expounded on the difficulties with a laptop, "I never knew where I would have power when traveling from event to event and with the long days on the campaign trail, shedding the extra weight helps make the days easier."
With the full and fast-paced political days in the Texas heat, Glaser found that keeping snacks and water in his camera belt to be essential. "The campaign staff keeps Beto’s schedule full and it is very fast paced, there are days we go go go and there is little time for a full meal."
Talking to Glaser and watching his social media the last year, one can see the joy that his work with the Beto campaign has brought to not just him but his entire family. "People think it is awesome that I get to photograph sporting events at the highest level such as March Madness, NCAA and NFL football, the MLB playoffs, and various other events. However, working with Beto’s campaign has given me more pride than anything I ever photographed in sports. The work I am doing with Beto has a whole lot more meaning and affects us all more than a sporting event."