Wearing traditional Barong Tagalog shirts, President Obama talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and former Vice President Vincent Siew of Taiwan before the APEC leaders welcome dinner. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Behind the Lens: Around the World in Nine Days

By Pete Souza, Chief Official White House Photographer

We returned early Monday morning from a grueling trip to Turkey, the Philippines, and Malaysia — literally an around-the-world journey.

The President attended four summit meetings with world leaders — some with multiple sessions and participated in several bilateral meetings with individual heads of states. He also gave several speeches, visited a refugee foundation center, and answered questions at multiple press conferences.

My access to the summit meetings depended on the hard work of our advance teams as well as the rules set by the host country. In a nutshell, my access in Turkey was great; in the Philippines, good; and in Malaysia, poor.

In Turkey, at the G20 Summit, the meetings themselves were fairly scripted and static for photographs. But my real goal was to capture moments when President Obama engaged with leaders during breaks, and before and after the formal sessions. Much was made of the President’s sit-down with President Putin of Russia. The unscheduled meeting occurred when the President, heading to the restroom, encountered Putin, who was leaving the same restroom. The two spoke for a couple of minutes while standing, then decided to sit down in a corner of the coffee break room. The only cameras permitted in this area were the official photographers and videographers of the host country, Turkey. The only reason I had access to this room was because of the work of our advance office and the good graces of my Turkish counterpart and their protocol office. Contrary to a published report, the Russian official photographer was not present. Instead, one of the Turkish photographers released photographs, which were widely distributed by the Associated Press, Reuters, and Getty Images.

In the Philippines, at the APEC Summit, I did not have much access to the meetings themselves but was able to finagle my way into the leaders lounge several times to capture the President engaged with world leaders more informally.

In Malaysia, my access to the ASEAN and East Asia Summits was not good at all. I did manage to stay in the room throughout the formal State Dinner, but I was not allowed to take photographs. Despite the fact that the entire two-hour elaborate cultural program was broadcast live on Malaysia television, even the Malaysian official photographer was kicked out.

For me — and probably the President, the highlights of the trip were greeting young refugees at The Dignity for Children Foundation in Kuala Lumpur and touring the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, a frigate of the Philippine Navy (that was formerly a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter) in Manila.

President Barack Obama receives flowers upon arrival in Antalya, Turkey, Nov. 15, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama meets with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey during the G20 Summit in Antalya. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama greets G20 leaders before the group photo. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Obama joins President Erdogan and G20 leaders for a group photo. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
The President walks with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, and Donald Franciszek Tusk, President of the European Council. They are preceeded by Jean-Claude Junker, President of the European Commission and President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama talks with Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama greets President Jacob Zuma of the Republic of South Africa. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and President Vladimir Putin of Russia talk. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama, with National Security Advisor Susan Rice, meets with President Putin. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The President meets with President Putin. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The President joins President Erdoğan and other G20 leaders and staff for a moment of silence for the victims of the terrorist attacks in France. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Obama participates in a global economy, growth strategies, employment and investment strategies session with G20 leaders. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The President talks with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The President participates in a bilateral meeting with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama speaks with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The President and Prime Minister Cameron walk together after a working lunch, Nov. 16, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama greets Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius of France before a leaders meeting to discuss the terrorist attacks in Paris. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The President meets with European leaders to discuss the terrorist attacks in Paris and combatting terrorism. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama arrives at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila hotel in Manila, Philippines, Nov. 17, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama greets Philippine sailors before boarding BRP Gregorio del Pilar in Manila Harbor. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama tours the BRP Gregorio del Pilarand with Commanding Officer Capt. Vince Sibala. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Captain Sibala takes a selfie with the President. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama disembarks the BRP Gregorio del Pilar. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
The President delivers a statement in front of the BRP Gregorio del Pilar following a meeting with Philippines Navy leadership regarding maritime security. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia talk after a bilateral meeting in Manila. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama holds a bilateral meeting with Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III in Manila, Nov. 18, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama answers a question during a press conference with President Aquino. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The President participates in a climate change discussion with Jack Ma and Aiusa Mijeno during the CEO Summit. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama greets Trans-Pacific Partnership leaders prior to a group photo. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama talks with President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia in the leaders lounge prior to an APEC Summit meeting. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of Russia, right, talks with President Obama and other leaders before an APEC Summit meeting with the Pacific Alliance. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The President participates in an APEC meeting with the Pacific Alliance and Colombia. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama walks with Prime Minister John Key of New Zealand following an APEC meeting with the Pacific Alliance. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Wearing traditional Barong Tagalog shirts, President Obama talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and former Vice President Vincent Siew of Taiwan before the APEC leaders welcome dinner. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The President participates in a group photo with leaders before the APEC leaders welcome dinner. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
The President talks with Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei Darussalam as they take the escalator to the APEC dinner. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The President poses for photos with guests during the APEC leaders welcome dinner. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Raynan Dal-Anay performs during the APEC dinner. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama jokes with Ben Rhodes and Susan Rice after the APEC leaders dinner. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama talks with Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto in the leaders lounge before an APEC meeting, Nov. 19, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama shakes hands with Vietnam President Trương Tấn Sang prior to a group photo with APEC leaders. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Obama delivers remarks during an APEC Retreat Session on Inclusive Growth Through Sustainable and Resilient Communities. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama holds a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Trudeau. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama watches the sun set over Manila Bay. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
After making joint statements with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, the President grabs his chair for the formal bilateral meeting. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The President greets children during a U.S. Embassy meet and greet, Nov. 20, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama walks with Sri Ahmad Shabery Cheek, Minister of Agriculture and Agro Based Industry, on the red carpet after arrival at Subang Airbase, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Nov. 20, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
An audience member poses for a photo as the President answers questions during a Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) town hall at Taylor University in Kuala Lumpur. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The President greets participants following a YSEALI town hall. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia talk after a bilateral meeting. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama delivers remarks at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit, Nov. 21, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The President greets a refugee at a Dignity for Children Foundation classroom. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
The President talks with a refugee at the Dignity for Children Foundation. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The President guesses the age of a Dignity for Children Foundation student. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The President talks with students during a group photo. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama hugs a 16-year-old refugee while participating in a discussion at the Dignity for Children Foundation. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama says farewell to a 16-year-old refugee following a discussion at the Dignity for Children Foundation. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The President talks with Civil Society roundtable participants following a meeting. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama joins ASEAN Summit leaders for a group photo following a US-ASEAN meeting. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
The President participates in a US-ASEAN meeting with Prime Minister Razak. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama talks with President Thein Sein of Myanmar, left, following a US-ASEAN meeting. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The President participates in pull aside with Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong of Laos. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama, wearing a traditional songket shirt, talks with Assistant Secretary of State Danny Russel prior to a gala dinner in Kuala Lumpur. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan bids farewell to President Obama in Kuala Lumpur, Nov. 22, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama, White House staff and U.S. Secret Service members ride a freight elevator to the press conference. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The President holds a press conference following the East Asia Summit. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The President boards Air Force One at Subang Airbase for departure from Kuala Lumpur. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)