Saturday, November 05, 2005

Across the Photograsphere

Those with too much time on their hands will notice I've jiggered with my right-hand margin, pushing the 'Photogs Who Blog' section way up high. I'm doing so in hopes my half-dozen readers (thanks, fellas!) will visit these sites and tell their friends. Beyond my primary mission of pimping out my own drivel, I wish to explore every world of this burgeoning galaxy. Besides, I need my co-pilots to prop up my own warbling orbit as of late. So strap on your crash helmet, burn your press pass and hold on as we throw the old news rocket into Warp Speed and pierce the very heart of the Photograsphere....

Whether he's jetting across the globe on special assignment or staring into the empty bedrooms of his empty-nester's house in L.A, beFrank is always working on his own personal state of Zen. Introspective and outward bound, he is a Master of the Form.

Over on this coast, a quirky communicator who goes by name Little Lost Robot is as giggle-inducing as beFrank is intense. With a mercurial wit and advanced PhotoShop skills, LLR can make you spit soda through your nose in any format. Best of all, chicks dig him!

Here at El Ocho, veteran photog Chris Weaver takes a regular break from kickin' my arse to do a little blogging of his own. My personal tech-guru, this McGyver type is at his best when taking his readers to the Pits, where no one covers the Nascar circuit like da Weave.

Known only as Smitty, there's a hulking Kentuckian who likes to get his blog on. Though we only shared a logo for a little while, I love to catch up on Smitty's home state, shop and growing family. Plus, he features area photogs on his growing site. Give that man a blue ribbon!

Last seen hanging with a certain furry photog at Hurricane Camp, Colonel Corn continues to log his adventures. Now headquartered in Charlotte, this veteran lenser has pulled more than a few tours of duty. And unlike me, he suffers over every word of his most worthy blog.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas - unless you're the irreverent Ewink, a Libertian by way of Springfield who likes parking garages, all things animation and the rest of the funky kicks goin' down in Sin City. Just don't get him started on President Bush. You ain't got the time.

He drives around Hippieville in a pimped-out news unit drenched in sarcasm. If I were you I'd get my white-boy dredlocks off the street, for the driver's name is Mr. Guapo and he may be the most dangerous cat on the photog block. Check out his site and see what its like to be Jorge-for-a-Day. Just don't get any on ya.

Finally (for now), a new arrival with the priceless moniker of Turd Polisher. If you don't know what that means, then you've obviously never milked a twenty second photo-op for a two minute retrospective. Turd has, and he blogs about it in a way that almost makes you want to give it a go. Almost.

Sadly, all is NOT well in the photograsphere. Too many well-meaning shooters have set up sites only to let them die on the vine. PhotogTony went to sleep with the fishes, Pixel Wrangler put down the lasso and Screen Left, well...left. What's up with that?

Lovin' Every Minute of It

Look closely and you'll spot sports guy Danny Harnden in the black t-shirt and wireless microphone, going LIVE(!) from a bleacher full of amped-up teenagers on Friday morning. Jocks, Braniacs, Goths and Losers; representatives from every level of the Great American High School Caste System showed up to get their Bulldog on bright and early. It was more than enough to bring my own latter day adolescence to mind, a period of my life I normally don't recollect without a court-order. Rather than bore you with the details, I'll drop his simple fact. Somewhere out there an old betamax videotape of Scott Goodwin, Jon Dubose and yours truly ripping through a pep-rally air-band version of some pretty pathetic mid-eighties Loverboy. I'd tell you more, but I don't like to talk about my flair...

Schmuck Watch: Mike Celizik

Move over Kenny Rogers, the Photog Nation has a NEW Public Enemy # 1...Welcome sports writer Mike Celizik to the Viewfinder BLUES home studios! This arbiter of old school fashion has rightfully earned his place in our Spotlight of Derision with a spectacularly sweeping passage in his latest column, a rather pithy dispatch published on something called MSNBC. Here's some background:

Green Bay Packers coach Mike Sherman, forlorn and constipated after a dreadful season, called his bloated presser to a halt after an annoying ringtone emanating from the press pack went unclaimed and unsilenced. Oopsie! Now, press conferences and cell phones are like peas and carrots, though not as tasty. Some organizations ban these vile devices and their alarming shrills from media summits, as is their every right. But to berate a crowd that's hanging on your every word and then storm out of the room just makes you look silly, Coach. Look, I love Favre and the boys as much as any other casual fan of 'Something About Mary', but that big G on your tit doesn't give you the the right to act like some third-world despot. Heck, maybe it does - I've smelled some locker rooms that reminded me of undeveloped countries. But I come here not to analyze the ravings of of a hothead, but rather to spotlight the scribblings of a weasel. Enter Mike Celizik, who brings his psychic abilities and outdated headwear to the fray with the following observation:
'Wednesday, the phone belonged to a cameraman, a species of media worker known for their disdain for most rules of civilized behavior. No subgroup within our industry is more likely to dress sloppily, make rude noises, literally run over anyone in their way and generally behave as if the rules do not apply to them. As with all groups, the worst behavior is concentrated in a few individuals, with the others sharing in the blame through no fault of their own other than association. But it’s no surprise that a cameraman was the guilty party.'

Wow - a sportswriter lecturing me on proper etiquette. I'd just as soon take grooming tips from Osama Bin Laden. How exactly Celizik knows the offending party to be a lenser is unclear; later reports cite a reporter from Milwaukee as the source of the unwanted sound. As for Celezik, I've never heard of him before, but others sure have. If that hate-blog isn't enough the chapeau'd internet scribe is winning new legions of anti-admirers among the teeming denizens of The thread is worth your visit if only for Grangeway's hilarious theory on why Celizik dresses so formally. Personally, I'm just looking forward to hearing how he enjoys his locker room camera-orgy. Schmuck!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Payback on the Interstate

DSCF0214With the November Ratings War raging, it was only a matter of time before I got temporarily re-assigned to Dawn Patrol. Blame it on my mastery of the Dark Arts, a groggy broadcast discipline involving endless live shots, half-mile cable-pulls and forever-dying camera batteries. Like the Marines, early morning photogs do more before breakfast than most people do all day. It’s one of the reasons I steadfastly avoid the shift, that and my overall disdain for sleep deprivation. But sometimes a four hour morning show needs more than one live remote. Foul weather, midnight drive-by, hastily-planned protest; infinite factors can cause a second live truck to roll out before dawn. Far too often, I’m the schlub behind the wheel. Take today, for instance:

DSCF0193Try as I might, I could not understand why the alarm clock was screaming its head off at four a.m. But scream it did, until a well placed swipe silenced it for twenty-four hours more. Lying back in bed, I almost shrugged it off, until a certain synapses fired in my head and I realized I was due on the interstate lickety split. With a grumble and a sigh I arose, causing the wrapped-up lump that was my wife to utter those five words every husband loves to hear...Don’t let the cat out... No problem, I thought, rubbing sleep from my eyes and stumbling to my lair. With only minutes allotted for pre-news preparation, I had neither the time or desire to engage the object of my bride’s affection. Of course I did take a moment to check my e-mail. There’s always time for THAT.

DSCF0190Ninety minutes later, all vestiges of sleep left my body. That’ll happen when you drive the wrong way down the interstate. Sure it was closed to traffic, but it still feels wrong nonetheless. Tom Britt and I giggled like nervous schoolgirls as we followed the D.O.T. truck through a concrete corridor flanked by screaming traffic. When the hardhat in front slowed to a stop, I parked my lumbering news beast beside is bright yellow truck. When we hopped out, a dry, cold wind caught us both by surprise. Tom hunched his shoulders and buried his nose in the upturned collar of his heavily-logo’d coat. The scene brought feelings of déjà vu, but that’s to be expected as we’ve both logged serious time in the breakdown lane together. More than anything, the sight of Tom Britt bracing from the cold reminds of wet feet - an ingrained sensation borne of too many long mornings on the icy overpass of life.

DSCF0212But if you have to loiter around frozen roadways, there’s no better partner than ole Tom. A journeyman broadcaster, fellow Down Easter and traffic aficionado, the vaguely avuncular and acutely affable Mr. Britt is as easy to get along with as anyone can be at such ungodly hours. Actually, today wasn’t so bad. Once we got used to the seasonably(?) cold weather, we passed the time between live shots with the usual chitchat, stopping in mid conversation to cock our heads to the side and listen to the crackling voices in our earpieces. All around our pocket of small talk, roaring rivers of motor and metal flowed East and West. Day laborers, vice presidents and housewives leaned into their steering wheels, looking away from the license plates in front of them to steal a glance at the news crew playing grab-ass on the other side of the Jersey wall. Most quickly returned to their windshields, but a surprisingly number took the time to blow their horns, or even shout. And I think I know why...

DSCF0218They’re punishing me. Whether they know it or not, they’re paying back some sort of cosmic debt I incurred twenty five years back... Goldsboro, 1980. Minutes after watching the credits roll on ’The Empire Strikes Back’, my older brother and I piled into his car, double-pumped at having just watched the best installment of the Star Wars saga. If that weren’t exciting enough, I spotted my first real life news crew setting up on the edge of the parking lot. Momentarily mind-boggled by the logo sighting, my brother and I bounced off the Chevy Nova’s interior as he floored it toward the news team. The Photog never looked up, instead focusing on the Reporter as she tried to finish her stand-up. At the last possible moment, my brother threw the car into a hard left turn as I leaned out of the window and expressed my admiration with a blood curdling hillbilly scream, “YEEEEEEE” ---

--- “HAAAAAAW!” As the SUV raced past and the screams died away, Tom continued his on-camera summary, never once acknowledging the sound. I, however winced a little inside the viewfinder, knowing that right or wrong, East or West, a.m. or p.m., I probably had that coming.

Next Time: Pep Rally!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Sweet Tea and Chicken Poop

Chicken House
A pox on me for not writing in the past forty-eight hours, but November IS a sweeps month after all, that special time of year when the Nielsen people measure our audience and the newsroom suits hyperventilate. I don't want to say we live by ratings in my business, but I sometimes think oxygen masks should be provided with every copy of the 'overnight numbers'. Me, I don't focus too much on the digits. I'm far too busy following my lens from one absurd location to another. Sometimes, I even get souveniers! Why, just yesterday I exited this chicken coop with a thick layer of manure, mud and hay stuck to the bottom of my boots. I can't tell you what a delightful texture it left in the bottom of my news unit, a chunky meringue of straw and fecal matter made all the stickier by the thirty-six ounces of spilled Sweet Tea I inadvertently left congealing in the floorboard. It's a floor wax! It's a dessert topping! It's...time to shampoo the interior of Unit Four. Stupid chickens...

Monday, October 31, 2005

Dr. UnDead's FrightFest

If you saw a deranged milkman stuffing bodies into his truck last night, no, it's not time to cut back on the meds; you simply caught a glimpse of a horror flick currently being filmed by those clever students of North Carolina's School of the Arts. Student producer Melissa Lawler welcomed me onto her set at an undislosed Winston-Salem neighborhood without so much as a second glance of my broadcast camera. Unlike some cinema-helmer's I've delt with in the past, the fourth year film student gave me full access to the cast, crew and coffee supply of 'Dr. Undead's Frightfest'.

Movie making is a slow, plodding process. For every twenty seconds of film they roll, technicians spend hours on lighting, props and lens placement. Thus, watching a set in action is a little like waiting for a bus, one in which the bus-stop crowd dresses all in black and speaks in arcane movie references. No prob, I can talk the talk. In fact, I had the most interesting conversation with Win Craft, head of production at NC School of the Arts. The veteran film tech made quiet suggestions to his student crew - when he wasn't being dragged across the lawn by a homicidal dairy deliverer. Seems the journeyman instructor isn't above appearing onscreen, as long as he's treated with respect. Hey, are they supposed to push his face in the grass like that?

Now, back to the action. 'Dr. UnDead's FrightFest', a future masterpiece that takes itself about as seriously as the title suggests, is the story of a milkman who decides to poison his lactose supply, thus offing every housewife and husband along his route. All goes well until a crafty granny spins the bottle on him and unleashes a calcium-rich armageddon the likes of which the Dairy Board probably won't approve of. While it's still unclear how a tainted dairy supply leads to severed humans, there was a milk-crate full of fake body parts that I'm told plays a pivotal role. It's the feel-good hit of the year! Or not. Whatever the case, the fifteen minute feature will eventually make the college film festival circuit, hopefully winning acclaim and trophies for all involved.

Before I left the set(er...cul de sac), I bagged some great shots, scored some good sound and made a few new friends along the way. From the multi-tasking Melissa to the grass stained Craft to the deservedly distracted director Adam Tate, everyone was uncharacteristically open to my electronic interloping. Thanks, guys - the access and kindness will translate onto the (small) screen and I look forward to covering 'Dr. Undead' when it sweeps all those overwrought award ceremonies. Heck, I even chatted up David Joy, who plays the maniacal milkman to a tee. Judging from the expression on my face, he creeped me out even when not in character. Either that, or it was just a bad case of gas. I can't remember - it was a long night...