There is a burst of activity inside the White House press bus on Lobsterville Road in Aquinnah, a little before noon last Thursday, at the prospect of capturing footage of members of the First Family on bicycles. From a tiny vantage point halfway up the bus, Associated Press and Reuters photographers and a camera operator from Fox News crouch low and point their lenses at the corner of Lighthouse Road, some 100 yards off in the distance.

The photographers let off a battery of shutter clicks as a girl, assumed to be either Sasha or Malia Obama, pedals around the corner and disappears. White House radio correspondent for the Associated Press (AP) Mark Smith captures the footage, no more than five seconds in length, on a compact video recorder.

The girl turns out to be a friend of the first daughters, making the brief photo opportunity useless for news purposes.

“It had so much potential,” jokes a thwarted reporter as the occupants of the bus retake their seats.

It is a typical episode for the rotating team of White House reporters who spent much of last week penned inside this air-conditioned vehicle, watching the President’s vehicle disappear into the grounds of a private golf club or down the path to Mr. Obama’s Chilmark vacation home. In among the few dozen sleek dark vehicles in the presidential motorcade, the less-salubrious-looking press bus, with its semi-functioning toilet, was a permanent fixture.

Mr. Smith, who started out at the White House during the Carter administration, spends valuable time these days looking for his glasses while on the road with the President. It’s an occupational hazard of a man who carries a laptop, a boom mike, a video recorder, a Blackberry, a couple of data storage devices and a note pad. Most often, he says, he finds them hooked on one of his fingers hidden by some piece of equipment. In a contracted industry with dwindling employee numbers, Mr. Smith, 54, has become a jack-of-all trades, shooting video and still photography along with his radio material. Sitting on a stone wall at the entrance to the Vineyard Golf Club between recording voice tracks to be used in an AP video segment on Thursday, Mr. Smith said for him the change is both good and bad.

“There’s much more control,” he offered, “What I do here, my edits, is the final product. There’s someone listening for libel at the other end, but if an editor wants something changed it comes back to me to do here. That’s beautiful. But then, there’s no support.”

In the past, he said, a photographer would hand a finished roll to a courier, who would deliver the film to a developer, and then on to a photo editor. Eventually the photographs would appear somewhere in print.

In contrast, when on Thursday the pool gets an opportunity to snap Mr. Obama at the Gay Head Light in Aquinnah, Reuters photographer Jason Reed edits, captions, crops and transmits his photographs from a laptop in the first few minutes of the trip back to Chilmark. Minutes later, he is inspecting the results on Yahoo news.

When the transmission of information is instant, deadline pressures become far heavier, said Mr. Smith. Following a press conference during a trip to Mexico earlier in the month, he managed to file two radio spots and e-mailed details of the trip for use in a fellow AP reporter’s story during a breakneck motorcade and helicopter trip of less than half an hour to Air Force One.

And matters are not helped by the efficiency of movement of the past two presidents.

“Mexico was typical if you’re in the pool,” he said. “Clinton liked schmoozing and he would know the pool would be filing, but Bush hated standing around, so that filing time disappeared. And Obama seems to be the same. He makes the news and then gets moving.”

Necessarily, the timetable of the President informs the schedule of the press.

“If he decides in the morning to hold an evening news conference, then I have a late night,” he said. “I work a theoretical 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. but literally can’t remember when that happened and it’s the same for everyone else.”

Corralled by handlers whose every comment is officially off the record (it is a technical breach of the rule to even report that), the news hungry press corps is on hand to record the President’s movements, while, on the Vineyard at least, their own are severely restricted.

Reporters are assigned each day to file accounts of the action (or lack thereof) which are then sent out through the White House to members of the general press for their information.

A typical report by Nia-Malika Henderson of the Web site Politico after the President has played a round of golf at Farm Neck Golf Club gives the sense of just how little access the pool is given to a president on holiday. (Note: Potus stands for President of the United States, and a lid, in this case, means that there will no further activity from Mr. Obama for the day).

“The excursion clocked in at about five hours . . . Seen along the way: horses, ponds, lots of greenery, one sign welcoming Obama family, and a gallon of gas for $3.27. After an uneventful drive, Potus arrived at Chilmark estate at 6:23. We have a lid.”

But Mr. Smith pointed out the lack of access is not unusual in the presidents he has covered.

“None qualify as available,” he said. “Some hold more press conferences, do more photo ops. Reagan didn’t like being shouted at by the press, Bush didn’t, but he got used to it to a certain extent. Obama is okay, but there are fewer occasions.”

If it sounds like a thankless task, there certainly tends to be little coming from the people they are covering, in the experience of Mr. Smith, who has been yelled at by his share of administration officials.

“If I didn’t have battle scars I wouldn’t be doing my job,” he said. “I’ve never been intentionally rude, I just ask the questions I think the American people want to hear.”

Presidents themselves end up resenting the press corps, he said.

“They expect things to go one way in their presidency and when they don’t they blame nagging reporters. They just think we’re working at cross-purposes,” he said.

“Each is different from the next, but they all come to dislike us intensely in the end.”