Monday, September 11, 2006

The Hardships of Handheld

Joe PhotogOf all the things a TV news photog must learn to do with a camera, one of the hardest is holding it still. If that surprises you, then you’ve never counted the beads of sweat trickling down your under-carriage as some blowhard in a clip-on tie yammers on about the finer points of wastewater management. Do that a few times and you’ll surely experience the no-grip shoulder wobble, the three minute knee knock, and if you’re really hemmed-in, a recurring case of Carpa-Telethon Syndrome. That’s when you drop to the rug the moment the red tally light goes off, quivering on the floor with a twisted bladder and a pair of screaming knees - all because you insisted on shooting the ghetto preacher handheld. Who could guess a guy with gold teeth knew so many three syllable words? Next time you’ll grab your sticks and doze off like a pro. Until then, check out these helpful hints, with a little help from the sore-shoulder specialists at

Relax, Breathe, Pass Gas if you Have To

Sure, your buddies in the scrum may gripe but so will your bosses back at the shop if you’re footage looks like it was shot by a crackhead with hiccups. Loosen your limbs, push out your hips, cop a mental squat and for Nat Sound’s sake don’t hold your breath. All will be well for a bit when your lungs do give out your lens will shiver so violently, TV dinners will be upended throughout the tri-city region. Stay loose, Johnny, stay loose.

Make the World your Tripod

Just because your sticks are back by the podium doesn’t mean you gotta take the tour sans support. Find a wall, a wishing well, even a wino to lean against. Any foundation will help you score better static shots, be it ground level wide-shots of striking mill workers, medium range footage of a portly ribbon-cutter or a far-off frame of some squirrel getting’ his nut on. Just brush off when you’re done, Red ants and Ripple don’t go well back at the shop.

Curb the Caffeine

Sad but true - that hefty vessel of steaming java can come wiggle your lens in the most infuriating ways. It’s one of the three reasons I don’t indulge in my cherished Guatemalan Velvet Roast before work in the morning. (You don’t want to know the other two.) Just understand that what you put down your pipe greatly affects your inner camera pedestal. For that matter, those driver seat cardiac burgers you wolf down every six assignments ain’t good for the dexterity fairy, know what I’m sayin?

Be at One with the Lens

This one sounds like some NPPA mantra, but it’s solid advice that bears repeating. The same inner mojo that allows you to navigate a crowded bar without spilling your big-headed pilsner can also allow you inner lens serenity. Stare at the edges of your frame, affix your vision on the crux of your crosshairs, tweak your knobs with a lover’s touch. Whatever approach you take, there are effective relaxation techniques for every photog, from the puffed-up sports shooter to the beer-bellied burnout to that new skinny loner in the death metal t-shirt. So pick one, but hurry up, would you? Half the viewers are seizing up every time they take your shot and the rest are looking pretty glassy-eyed. Next time: When to Call 911.


Weaver said...

An expert in action with the world being his tripod....

Click to see How. ;-)

Brad Weaver, BC Instructor said...

I'm sending the link to this entry to my video production students. Thanks!