Backstory: Three cameras, two ladders – snapping Tesla’s Elon Musk at court


NEW YORK (Reuters) – (Backstory is a series of reports showing how Reuters journalists work and the standards under which they operate)

FILE PHOTO: Tesla CEO Elon Musk arrives at Manhattan federal court for a hearing on his fraud settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in New York City, U.S., April 4, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo

Hundreds of reporters and photographers pressed up against steel barriers last week to get a glimpse of Tesla Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk at Manhattan’s downtown federal courthouse.

Three Reuters photographers used two ladders and years of experience to get some of the clearest, unobstructed shots of him entering and leaving the building, which were used by media outlets around the world.

Two hours before, Brendan McDermid, Shannon Stapleton and freelancer Eduardo Munoz staked out both entrances to the courthouse, which was ringed by barricades to control the expected crowd.

About 30 minutes before the hearing, concerning Musk’s legal spat with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, two brand-new Teslas pulled up in front of the courthouse. As soon as Musk stepped out, a crowd of photographers and reporters swarmed him.

McDermid and Stapleton, perched on small ladders, snapped pictures of Musk as he scaled the court’s pale granite steps.

About 90 minutes later, as Musk exited the building, Munoz took over at street level.

Anticipating where the car would whisk Musk away, Munoz snapped one shot of him square on, unobstructed by the throng of handlers and reporters, and then scooted around the barriers to the other side of the car to capture Musk again, with his face and the imposing pillars of the court building reflected in the shiny roof of the Tesla Model S.

His camera, as those of his colleagues, automatically sent photos wirelessly to Reuters picture editors who were primed to publish them in a matter of seconds to media clients hungry for images of the erratic billionaire entrepreneur.

“The best you can do is to get the exposure and focus correct and worry about your composition secondary,” said McDermid. “More importantly, try not to trip and fall on your colleagues. Or fall to the ground and get trampled by them.”

Reporting by Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Bill Rigby and Howard Goller

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