Morning Show Photogs - they do more before the sun comes up than most people do all week. I know - I use to work the cursed early bird shift. In fact, I’m a better photog for it. Come to think of it, my ten months running live truck and camera for our colossal 4-hour morning news show was like some kind of wretched broadcast boot camp - minus the push-ups and bunk-beds, of course. Monster cable-pulls, extended handheld, brackish light...the a.m live shot has many perils. Not the least of which is the often bizarre subject matter you encounter as the pendulum swings from unmitigated fluff to stripped-down spot news - often in the same shift.
I remember one cold drizzly pitch-black morning, scrunched up underneath the crawlspace of a house and cramping badly while some home expert prattled on about protecting your pipes during freezing weather. To my right, our perky morning reporter held the microphone and feigned fascination. It was all I could do to maintain consciousness from my accordion position as one live segment bled into another. By the third such hit, I forgot all about shot composition an signal strength, instead focusing on regaining feeling in my legs. To make matters worse, my reporter and the home expert were passing the time between broadcasts by seeing who could be the biggest jackass, and somehow, I was losing.
After three such extended squat-and-talks, I unfolded my aching bones and jelly-legged it back to the truck. The rain had stregthened since I’d entered the crawlspace and as I traced the heavy black cable snaking back to the truck, I could feel cold rain water seep into my shoes. Thinking about the change of socks and dry duck boots stashed in my pick-up miles away, I stared at my soaked shoes in blank denial.
Oh well, I thought as I pulled my rain hood tight around my drenched face, two more of these train wrecks and we'll hit the diner for omelets, coffee and a few morning newspapers...
That's when my cell phone rang.
"Guys! We're ditching your last two lives. There's two big rigs jack-knifed on the interstate and it's backing up traffic for MILES! We need to roll on it so we can go live at the top of the hour!"
Cursing to myself but saying nothing I hung up, grabbed a handful of muddy cable and began heaving it forward. At that moment, Miss Perky emerged from the square hole at the base of the house and stomped through the mud toward me, muttering under her breath all the way. Watching her approach, I knew the news of our impending bug-out was about to un-make her day, and I dreaded the tantrum she’d throw on the way to the interstate. It's not the kid of thing a guy wants to hear when he's barrelling past traffic in the breakdown lane, but what are ya gonna do?
Only half-listening to my voice break the news to her, a rather obvious point suddenly crystallized in my head.
'I HAVE got to get off this wretched morning shift...'
And I did. But not before completing my masters degree in live shot field production. From underground gold mines, to triple-fatal house fires to hot-air balloons in flight, my perky partner and I went LIVE(!) from every spot in the Greater Piedmont Triad Googolplex - twice. In the process, I learned more about pre-dawn lighting, mini-diva management and the limitations of wireless microphones than I can possibly ever summarize here.
Just don't make me do it again...