Editors Note:


EDITOR'S NOTE: Fresh off a three year managerial stint, your friendly neighborhood lenslinger is back on the street and under heavy deadline. As the numbing effects of his self-imposed containment wear off, vexing reflections and pithy epistles are sure to follow...

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Latest from the Newsbreakers

While I scribble off screen, check out the latest couple of videos from the Newsbreakers...


In Buffalo, a delusional print reporter named Jiminy Diz crashes a WKBW live shot to protest the station's uncredited recycling of HIS headlines. Nice suit...


Speaking of suits, our favorite nearly-naked protester popped up in the backdrop ofg a Boston Marathon live shot and got a wee roughed up for his troubles. Someone get that man an overcoat.

I've covered this group of lunatics before. While they may look like escapees from the local asylum, they're actually a nonpartisan media watchdog group using parody to get their message of media-reform across to the public. At first I was critical, but their salient points and hilarious videos are wearing down my resolve. Plus, their new blog is quicky turning into a repository of serious thought on the media and its many warts. These Newsbreakers aren't COMPLETELY nutty. Well, maybe that guy in the Invisible Suit...

Friday, May 13, 2005

Weaver Gets High

I simply MUST lock myself in my upstairs lair and finish a non-blogging writing obligation. But while I'm gone, feel free to amuse yourself over at tvphotogblog. Luckily for us, my in-house cohort Chris Weaver has made good on a promise to post more video on his site. This time, he's sharing footage of the time he pulled 9 G's courtesy of the Air Force Thunderbirds. Give it a click , strap in and wait for your cheeks to start rippling. Barf Bag not included.

The Big Link

This week on The Big Link, a blogger who spends his valuable keyboard-time weighing in on the heavy issues of the day, while I burn six paragraphs on 'what's in my car'. Check him out - but bring your brain cells. You'll need 'em...

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Photog Bloggers Unite!

We TV news photogs are an expressive bunch. Be it in the live truck or edit bay, we swap stories with a gusto and verve not found in Accounting. Since our working lives are centered around storytelling devices, it should be no surprise that we've flocked to the blogosphere in numbers. And have we. From New Zealand to L.A. to Charlotte, camera jockeys of every stripe are launching blogs and filling them with their own special blend of venom and wit. Like the lensers behind them, no two photogs-blogs are alike. However they're all entertaining. It's like hanging out at the crime tape, without all the pacing and scratching.

So its with particular delight that I bring you my small part of a larger movement, the first ever Photog/Blogger Crossover Post. At the behest of insatiable communicator Little Lost Robot, all of the news shooters listed below have posted their own thoughts and evidence on a particular subject within the past twelve hours. We start with the basics: The Gear...

It's been said that a cameraman without a camera is just a man. That's no small statement, as these magical gadgets are more than recording devices - they are portals to worlds off-limits to mere civilians. Thus, we take very good care of these valuable tools and seek to know everything about them. I know guys who can recite serial numbers of hidden circuit boards, but I'm less of a gearhead myself. Still, I can tell you that my weapon of choice is this Sony XDCam, the first generation of TV news camera to record on optical disk. In the world of broadcast cameras, it is a shiny new Corvette. Too bad I park it on such an ancient tripod.

Of course you can't be an action figure without a tricked-out ride. For me, its this 2000 Ford Explorer Sport, complete with garish logos and center console condiment pack. But this is more than a battered news unit pushing a hundred thousand miles; it is noble steed, proud peacock and mobile home. Since I first climbed behind the wheel, I've steered this two-door vessel through hurricane, blizzard, heatwave and a thousand ribbon-cuttings along the way. Legions of law enforcers have waived this lowly SUV through acres of barricades and more fast food workers than I care to mention have shoved bags of grease through its driver-side window. The assignment desk calls it Unit Four, but to me its a magic carpet - one that draws stares at stoplights and gets to park where mortal men fear to tread.

A quick glance inside my chariot reveals the many tools of my trade. From batteries of every denomination to a light kit pre-dating color television, I pack a pretty mean bag. You would too if you're job required the occasional train wreck camp-out, the icy overpass excursion and the constant threat of a sudden road trip. Luckily my bosses equip me with much of what I need to stock my mobile studio. The rest I've fashioned out of bearskins and assorted animal bones. Though it may look like a jumbled mess, rest asssured I could locate any item with my eyes shut. Like alot of photogs, I'm pretty anal about my stuff. Get caught poking through it and you'll incur the wrath of one badly aging lenslinger. Don't laugh. I'm a wanted man in seven news markets.

Since my daily diet of driving and shooting is usually topped off with a healthy heap of late-day writing, I feel compelled to show you where that takes place as well. It is at this desk that I squat every afternoon, trying to block out the boisterous voices of the open newsroom and concentrate on the unwritten story at hand. It ain't always easy, especially when there's a chorus of idling shooters trading knock-knock jokes over your shoulder. Luckily I have my collection of cast-off characters to help hone my focus; plastic talismans culled from eight years of news-crew Happy Meals. One morning I arrived at my desk to find some nefarious co-worker had rearranged my toys in a horrid display of cartoon carnal knowledge. I'd get specific, but this IS a family blog.

Well there you have it: a quick rundown of just a few of the devices in my modern newsgathering life. Check out the other photog-blog offerings linked below and you'll get more than extended inventories. You'll meet wizards and busybodies, pirates and nerds - all with more tall tales, gizmos and street cred than any other profession I know. Don't say I didn't warn you.

tv photog blog

newshutr's views

beFrank

kazz's world

little lost robot

smitty

erin winking

colonel corn

The Great American Geetar Chase

My job is a lot like The Amazing Race. I race from one random location to the next with cameras rolling, chasing staggered deadlines as hardened competitors try to get there before me. Yes Sir, take away much of the fun, all the exotic travel and any chance of winning a million dollars at the end, and you got my career in a nutshell. Take today for instance …

It became apparent early that I wouldn’t be allowed to leave for the day until I procured imagery of a 9/11 edition Gibson Les Paul guitar, one of only 30 Stars-and-Stripes models manufactured in the days following the attack. Luckily, I knew where one was. According to the crumpled e-mail on my desk, the Loaves and Fishes Christian Food Ministries in Burlington harbored one such axe, courtesy of a local donor‘s generosity. Apparently area native Frank Pyrtle is a music fan of some resource. His recent donation of this sought-after Les Paul would feed the Ministries’ clients for a year. Knowing good TV when I read it, I straightened out the paper and dialed my long distance code.

The lady on the line sounded busy, but when I mentioned my station’s call letters she found time to talk to me. Yes, she confirmed, said guitar was in her possession and publicity was welcome. When she let it slip that another TV station was due there at noon, I weaseled my way into her 11:30 timeslot. Soon after, I loaded up and hit the interstate, tired of talking about the celebrated instrument and eager to lay a lens on it.

When I arrived at Loaves and Fishes Food Ministries, smiling volunteers unloaded a delivery truck at breakneck speed. By the time I leveled my weapon they were almost through, but by that time Brenda Ingler and her assistant Shannon were there to greet me. A ew seconds later I found myself squeezing through a maze of cardboard boxes and packaged produce, following my most gracious hostesses to a back room where the much ballyhooed guitar lay in state.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” Brenda asked as she cracked open the case. It was. Staring through my viewfinder at it’s red white and blue paint scheme, I thought I heard Jimi Hendrix blistering the Star Spangled Banner in the not too far-off distance. But there was no time to be lulled into complacency by my delusions of Woodstock - not with other news gatherers racing toward my find. So before they could mar my unfettered canvas, I got busy, shooting the guitar from every possible angle and quizzing Brenda along the way.

As she told me about the history of this instrument and its jingoistic paint scheme, I realized it was even more valuable than I first assumed. Number 22 of only 30 made, this Les Paul was popular among jet setting musicians. Joe Perry of Aerosmith owns the prototype and Kid Rock had one before it was stolen on tour. Now, organizers hope the scrawny rap-rocker from Motor City will get on-line and buy this one. Of course if you want to beat him to it, check out Ebay on Monday. Bidding starts at a hundred thousand dollars.

As much as I enjoyed staring at the mercurial musical tool, I could almost hear my competitors rolling up outside. So I did what any good news man/ reality show contestant would do: I gathered my things and scampered off, already focused on the deadline down the road. As I was leaving the parking lot a few minutes later, a fellow photog from another station ambled up with an armful of camera and tripod,

“I thought we were supposed to be here at noon?”, he asked with no small amount of annoyance in his voice.

“Uh yeah, they’re right in there.” I said, pointing the way. When he turned to enter the building I high-tailed it to my waiting news unit and sped off, chuckling to myself at my own cleverness. Two miles down the road, my grin faded as I realized I’d left my wireless microphone back at the Loaves and Fishes Ministries. Screeching out a curse, I whipped my news unit into a tight U-turn and sped back toward the building I’d just skulked away from. As I did I couldn’t help but punch the steering wheel in low-level frustration.

I’ll never win a million dollars this way…

Monday, May 09, 2005

Searching for Absurdity

As the speaker expounded on the promise of hydroelectricity, I brushed up on my thousand yard stare. Its not that I was uninterested in renewable energy, I just didn’t want to hear about it from behind a podium. I’d much rather illustrate the story I drove an hour for with footage of the roaring dam in the distance. For decades the age-old structure and its adjoining plant had harnessed moving water into electricity for local mills. All that industry eventually dried up, but the Haw River kept flowing. Now NCGreenPower was rejuvenating the old plant, turning an aging riverside relic into a source of clean energy. Not the sexiest story on a Monday morning, but what are you gonna do?

I’ll tell you what you’re gonna do: You’re gonna wait. After popping off the few shots you need of said dog and pony show, you’re gonna stare at the water and not make too much noise as these nice people get their press conference on. It doesn’t matter that none of this footage will ever see the light of day, doesn’t matter that every carefully groomed sentence plucked from their list of talking points will end up on the proverbial cutting room floor. It doesn’t even matter that some schlub showed up to a perfectly good media event wearing flip-flops, thus subjecting all to fleshy flashes of his most unattractive toe knuckles. No, what matters this fine May morning is finding an interesting way to tell the Piedmont about hydroelectricity - without using too many clich├ęs about Mother Nature keeping the lights turned on.

But as the speaker droned on and my eyes glazed over, I realized I had another challenge. What the hell would I blog about tonight? Fancy dams and unfortunate footwear might be fine while the P.A. crackles, but that kind of pedestrian fare just won’t cut it in cyberspace. For proper blog-fodder, I need something unexpected, something out of context, something, shall I say, ludicrous. But looking around the tent full of conservation wonks, I worried about my chances of finding anything to blog about. Maybe I could rifle through my photo archives, I thought as I absent-mindedly tapped the Zoom button, you know - find a few rusty images to hang some shiny new thoughts on. I’d done it before without irking too many of my half dozen readers; perhaps I’ll re-visit the photo-well just one more time. Whatever I came up with would certainly beat anything I’d find out here...

That’s when a diminutive figure took the podium, produced an acoustic guitar and began warbling a lilting ode to the life-giving renewable energy. As he searched for just the right word to rhyme with ‘kilowatt’, I triggered the ’Record’ button on my Sony and fished my digital out of a pocket. Who needs to raid the old photo-stash when you have environmental scientists singing folk songs about fossil fuel alternatives? Hollywood pays legions of latte-swilling screenwriters righteous tender to make up stuff like this. Me - I get it for free. Now, thanks to push-button publishing, so do you...

Every Photog Has a Mom

I know, I know - you come here for churlish commentary on local TV news and I hit you with a Mothers Day post. But indulge me for just this once, won’t you? It’s a gorgeous Sunday afternoon and the fruitless pursuit of drama and deadlines is the farthest thing from my mind. So as I sit here and watch my kids turn a brand new Slip -N-Slide into a wet wilted bladder of plastic and grass, lemme throw a shout-out to all the matriarchs in the house…

We’ll start with MY Mom. It’s easier that way, since I don’t know yours. Besides, Brenda Pittman taught me better manners than to prattle on about someone’s mother in cyberspace, even if she never quite put it that way. But being polite is just one small tenet of the Southern Fried Christian ideals my dear Mother fought so hard to impress on Yours Truly. With the help of my Dad Garlon, she raised three rambunctious hoodlums to be upstanding taxpayers. She did it with a limited budget and in tight quarters, all while working a forty hour week as a pediatrics nurse. Of course we boys didn’t make it easy for her, instead we tortured each other, ran the back roads of Saulston Proper and tested the limits of this dear woman’s patience. I alone was a turbulent middle kid brimming with smart-ass comebacks and a dozen other issues. Somehow, Mom never strangled me. For that, I thank her and have worked to repay her with birthday granddaughter visits like the one pictured above. it’s the least I can do.

Another Mother I’d deeply in debt to is my own lovely bride. I must say, when Shelly sashayed into my life back in ‘86, what kind of mother she’d make was not on my mind. But lo and behold that five feet of fireball I married 15 years ago has morphed into the World’s Most Perfect Mom - at least in my house, anyway. The true benefactors of her gift are of course my girls, who have yet to grasp that not EVERY Mom can make designer cakes, play classical piano, paint six rooms and re-caulk the tub before Daddy rolls in his clown-act every evening. I’ve known for years Shelly was Superwoman: one day the girls will figure it out. Maybe they’ll find her cape. Or maybe it’ll hit ‘em when Mommy’s away at her E.R. gig. Surely the sensation of this grumpy lenslinger trying to braid your hair into something passable for public appearance is enough to make one pine for a Mother’s touch. It sure does for me. So before I have to quell another backyard insurrection, let me salute all the Moms out there, for the best of you are indeed national treasures.

Next Time: More TV News Crap...