Thursday, September 29, 2005

The REAL Pros of the CCG

Ever wonder what it's like to cover a PGA golf tournament? Me neither, but you gotta check out the calvacade of images my co-worker Chris Weaver brought back from his first trip to the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro. Rather than focus solely on the overdressed out-of-towners, Weaver turned the lens on his fellow camera-schlubs working the circuit. In doing so, he captured the real pros of the C.C.G. For example...

TIMMM-EEEEE! Meet T. Wayne Hawks, a man who could easily be called the patron saint of Piedmont TV sports coverage. Be it a Nascar race, a Final Four game or a Superbowl, you'll find Timmy on the sidelines, peering through his baby and capturing all the action with exactitude and flair. Not only is he the most experienced and gifted sports shooter I know, but Timmy also possesses one of the sunniest dispositions I've ever encountered. Over the years I've tried to emulate this man's bright outlook on life, but my curmudgeonly tendencies always get in the way. So while I may never unearth the cosmic wonders that keep this cat so happy, I really respect his attitude, as well as his camera acumen. Others do too - of all the people I'm asked about while cruising around in a marked news car, Timy Hawks is at the top of the list.

Yo Wrenn-Dawg! Kevin? Yoo-Hoo! Okay, we'll let this seasoned pro finish his edit. While he has a few choice words with an ornery laptop, I'll tell you what I now about this wiry Siler City native. He is the ultimate sports fan, a fierce competitor who's attended every kind of athletic event there is. Twice. Like all sports shooters, Wrenn takes his craft just as seriously as those on the the field - if not more so. All of this makes Wrenn pound-for-pound the strongest shooter I know. He also knows his news, feeling just as at home at a drive-by shooting as he deos on the sidelines of an NFL grudge match. A few years ago, Kevin and I huddled together at the foot a windlashed fishing pier and giggled like school girls as Hurricane Isabel did her best to drive an entire sand dune up our collective nostrils. Good times...

But of course life behind the camera isn't all fun and games. There's also an awful lot of hurrying up and waiting. Here, Chris Weaver demonstrates the proper press room ettiquette, wolfing down a free lunch and dissing the freebies with the competition. Though I wasn't present, I'm fairly certain there was a good amount of idle gossip and half-true war stories being bandied about over the picnic table. In fact, it was just these types of impromptu gatherings that first inspired me to start writing a few of my favorite tall tales down, for nothing is more interesting than chewing the fat with a bunch of battle-hardened lenslingers who've been there and back - even if half the stories are steeped in lies and embellishment. But enough of my babbling, head over to TVPhotogBlog for the real deal...

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Two Guys Named Chris

Hey look - it's two guys named Chris. No, really - it's Two Guys Named Chris, those wacky morning deejays who make listening to stale classic rawk downright bearable at times! If I'm too harsh, forgive me - but having listened to their on-air evolution, as well as pointed a TV camera at them a time or two, I feel entitled to my opinion. Truth is, I'm a P-1 listener (radio talk for a die-hard fan) of Rock 92's popular morning show. It all started back in 1997 when, new to my current station, I was paired up with a big dopey ex-radio guy by the name of Chris Kelly. Kelly admittedly didn't know diddly about TV news, but his endless wit and irreverent on-air antics made him a blast to work with. Our surreal encounter with a jumpsuited Garth Brooks remains one of my favorite twisted showbiz memories. When the big oaf (Kelly - not Garth) fled back to his radio roots, I was truly bummed.

But then he teamed up with the far-more-erudite Chris Demm for a risky venture as a local morning team in a crowded market. At first, the radio they made was less than spectacular, but in recent years they've really hit their stride. With the addition of the insatiable Deidre James (a young lady I once chased through a Kernersville family's home as she bestowed surprise Christmas gifts on them), Two Guys Named Chris have earned a righteous preset on every radio I own. Today when I saw them at the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro's Pro-Am Tournament, I happily snapped this frame before wisely ducking for cover - lest Kelly's infamously uncontrollable backswing take out my high-dollar camera. Hey, a man's gotta eat...

Happy Anniversary, WITN!

Via ENCDTV, news of Eastern Carolina's News Channel's 50th anniversary! This logo may look pretty primitive, but when I was a boy it stirred my imagination and set my soul on fire. I still remember watching the great Lee Kanipe deliver the noon news with paternal authority. Back then Channel 7's signal flickering on my parents set seemed to emanate from some glitzy broadcast center millions of miles away from my rural home. In reality, it originated from a dusty studio just an hour way in little old Chocowinity.

Little did I know then I would one day work for WITN as a photographer, reporter and eventually, Promotions Manager. Shortly after I obtained that not-so-lofty title, I realized I was in fact, a newsman through and through. Needless to say, I ran screaming from the building the first chance I got, swearing to all who would listen I'd never, ever return. Eight years have passed since I left in a huff and in that time my bitterness has faded like an old photograph. Perhaps I should take this opportunity to make amends with my old employer, to beg forgiveness for fleeing Westward in desperation, to apologize for calling the station's hard-charging GM an evil jackhole every chance I got...

NAAAAAH! Why try to rebuild a bridge I so gleefully firebombed long ago? Life's too short for that kind of insincerity. Instead, let me offer my heartfelt congratulations to (most) everyone involved at WITN, with special props to David Cowell, Fred Anderson and Tom Midgette, three class-acts who taught this then-young punk a thing or three about small-market broadcasting. Thanks, fellas!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Return of the Grumman Goose

First produced in the late 30's for wealthy industrialists, the Grumman Goose flew to glory in World War II, delivering generals and supplies to the most remote backwaters under the unfriendliest of skies. With its unique ability to land and take off in a mere three feet of water, these hull-nosed airboats earned a distinctive place in the pantheon of aviation. After the war, 300 of the remaining Gooses (Never Geese!) were absorbed into the civilian market, often working as small passenger airlines in the Caribbean, California and Alaska. But by 1990 only a few Gooses remained...until very recently, when a group of Guilford County businessmen went shopping for a seaplane.

"The goose we found was in Miami, owned by a 96 year old man named Dean Franklin," said V.L. Manuel as he led me around the spotless warehouse. "Franklin had all the parts in the world to a seaplane, he told us he would sell it all to us instead of a plane, so we took it."

I know where they brought it, I thought as I poked around the neatly-lined engines, stacks of sheet metal and rows of rivets. In the center of the cavernous space, two Goose hulks sat on squat, dusty wheels - their trademark rounded hulls far from gleaming. At the far end of the warehouse a half dozen men in orange t-shirts worked in silence, scrubbing metal and bending rubber like the aviation surgeons they were. Despite my bright lights, they barely looked up. Instead they remained laser-focused on the procedure before them, intent on bringing an old bird back to life.

For all the mechanics' reticence, their avuncular CEO was more than happy to chat. With a twinkle in his eye, Mr. Manuel filled me in on-camera and off about every facet of the quirkly aircraft. Halfway through his laidback pitch, I realized my steely newsman's exterior had melted into a big dopey grin. Not one to usually succumb to the lure of mere machinery, I wanted nothing more at that moment than to climb aboard a shiny new Goose and fly it off to some exotic, watery locale. When I told Mr. Manuel of my overwhelming desire, he laughed knowingly and leaned in close.

"They're addictive,' He whispered, as if revealing a delightful secret, "Everyone that comes in here gets all charged up and wants to play on the sea with the airplane."

No doubt. I don't remember getting this pumped by a inanimate object since I first discovered the betacam. By the time I left the Gibsonville headquarters of Antilles Seaplanes, I felt I'd made some new friends - ones who invited me to come back and fly with them once they got the Goose up in the air. You got a DEAL, fellas! I'll bring both my lenses, a half dozen readers and my newfound love for this righteously nautical piece of aviation history. Now, is there an in-flight movie?

Monday, September 26, 2005

On Being Invisible...

Over at Under Exposed, WRAL Chief Photographer Richard Adkins delivers his best post yet with 'Invisible', complete with nifty photo illustration:

'Harry Potter needs a cloak to disappear but I can walk right in front a million people and no one seems to notice me. My invisibility is by design… but also is a double edge sword.'

Go read the whole thing, as it explains how a good photog blends into the background to bag the story only to end up dodging the glory.

I myself love nothing more than lurking on the edges of some big event with my camera, working the crowd with zoom lens and steady tripod. But even if I shoulder the beast and stroll to center stage, the only thing the crowd sees is the brightly-logoed fancycam floating across the stage. It's what I adore about the modern TV news camera. Not only are they magical devices that open any door, but they're great shields to hide behind. While I'm somewhat ill-at-ease during certain social functions, give me my camera and I'll wade into ANY crowd. How else could I explain penetrating a throng of angry protesters at a heated Klan rally, hobknobbing with tuxedo'd politicos at a five hundred dollar dinner, keeping it real with the fellas down on the breadline? Simple, I was...invisible.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A Look Ahead

After a much-needed weekend of delberate decompression, I find myself tidying the Viewfinder BLUES home office in preparation for the flurry of fodder about to come my way. If only Mother Nature would stop hurling malevolent cyclops toward our shores, we all could all get back to the business of our busy fall schedules. I for one am fairly flummoxed at the onslaught of activity on the horizon and wish to tighten ship before the real scupper-washers start breaking over the bow. With a firm promise of no more nautical analogies, I give you the following odds and ends.

Though I've already spent way too much bandwidth on my recent hurricane trip, there is one piece of unfinished business jostling about the sandy floorboards of my still rather gritty news cruiser. Barely an hour into our satellite truck encampement at Carolina Beach, none other than Ken Corn himself walked out from behind a giant logo. The Charlotte shooter and I had a fine time shooting the breeze while the wind blew sheet-metal across the parking lot. Remember that scene in 'Pulp Fiction' where the two grease-ball hitmen lurk outside a future victim's door and idly discuss TV pilot trivia? If so, you have the exact vibe of a couple of hooded lenslingers huddling in a windswept parking lot at four in the morning, trading tips on site meters and other blogging minutiae while hard-target rain drops pockmarked our ponchos. Thirty hours and a Class 1 hurricane later, we paused for a photo before bugging out to our respective destinations. To find out where the good Colonel bivouaced later, check out the first of his debriefs here.

It's fair to say I don't get golf. I get the 'good walk spoiled' bit , but I've always been a bit wary of a sport where the players look like their wives laid their clothes out for them. No, I'd much rather hit the single-track with my brilliantly weird mountain bike buddies than stroll to the next overpriced hole with a bunch of pastel-clad blowhards. If that's too broad a brush - sue me (it's MY blog!), but my blue-collar roots have never allowed me to feel all that comfy on the back-nine. Still, I've ridden in an awful lot of golf carts, usually in hot pursuit of some club-packing celebrity. Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Richard Petty, Richard 'Shaft' Roundtree and that ballroom dancing dude who played Elaine's boss on Seinfeld are just a few of the famous faces that have chatted up my lens while on the links. The celebs at this week's Chrysler Classic of Greensboro will be of the PGA Type, thus rendering themselves virtually invisible to my untrained eye. Nonetheless, I fully expect to be amid the patricians and duffers of Forest Oaks sometime over the coming days and will report in as soon as I wash all that Polo cologne out of my sinal passages.

In less than seven days, a ragged army of talented vocalists, overconfident hopefuls and starry-eyed psychopaths will descend on the Greensboro Coliseum, bathing the area in a white-hot spotlight of off-key ambition and way too much body glitter. When I covered the American Idol auditions in D.C. last year, TWENTY THOUSAND songbirds showed up for a chance at world-stardom, assured humiliation and as many parking lot showtune showdowns as they could warble a Celine Dion ditty at. Somehow the Capitol survived, but not before legions of highly-excitable troubadours roamed the streets and swayed in unison for the better part of a week. Greensboro should count itself lucky at the exposure the auditions will bring; I just hope Coliseum officials are ready. They may have hosted every event under the sun, but they've yet to experience the cut-throat delirium of America Idol up-close. Just wait 'til Simon Cowell rolls into town and there's not a baby blue muscle shirt to be found in Gap Stores for fifty miles. Don't say your friendly neighborhood lenslinger didn't warn ya.

Even before Ryan Seachrest and his squad of stylists jet back to L.A., the biggest names of the blogging world will gather in the Gate City. I'm talking about ConvergeSouth of course, that inaugural summit of push-button publishers scheduled to take place at N.C A&T October 7th-8th. I'm looking forward to the networking and newsgathering possibilities of this esteemed happening, be it through the workaday lens of my TV news camera, the tiny viewfinder of my pocket digital or the distorted reflection of an evening-event adult beverage. Whatever the format, there will be enough fiends and heroes trolling the grounds to foster the kind of in-depth off-key coverage that transcends all platforms - which is kind of what this un-conference is all about. Many thanks to Blogfather Ed Cone as well as Dr. Sue Polinsky for assisting me in maintaining a homefield advantage in image-gathering and analysis of this seminal event. Now where the heck are those extra business cards I stashed somewhere...