Thursday, January 18, 2007

Achieving Snowgasm

Dirty NewsSure, it was barely an inch of sleet and slush, but that’s more than enough to trigger a snowgasm here in the South. Fact is, my bosses (and my kids) been jonesin’ for a precip-hit since last winter piffled so completely. Of course they don’t have to bundle up and trudge through the muck of a paralyzed Piedmont. No, that’s my job. And it’s a job I often enjoy - despite my habit of belly-achin’ about it on-line. But we’re not here to stare at my belly button again. We’re here to examine the societal impact of regional inclemency - it’s indirect effect on mobilization, attitudes and foodstuffs hoarding. Something like that, anyway.

Love my TailgateBefore the first flake ever wafted downward, the grown-ups back at the shop had worked themselves into a wintry-mix frenzy. Rundowns, line-ups, radar sweeps and snow codes - I’m pretty sure I saw someone erect a parking lot igloo out of half-gallon milk jugs and ghetto bread loaves. Silly house cats. Don’t they know all that continuing team smotherage doesn’t come without a little pain and deprivation? To help themalong a little, I unplugged all the snack machines in the break-room. Okay, so I didn’t. I did think about it though - until the cell phone on my hip began vibrating and I was thrust back out onto the tundra. Stupid cell phone…

Inert Grocery-GetterIt’s difficult to understand just how one seventh of an inch of slushy snow can flip a sport utility vehicle, but I’m here to tell you, it can. Of course this inverted grocery-getter wasn’t the only stranded auto to pass through my lens this morning. It was however, the piece de resistance - an indelible image that - if it wouldn’t change the world - would certainly cause a few head scratches around the Piedmont’s collective coffee table. Even still, viewers would have a hard time fathoming the amount of effort put into a five second shot. To capture this particular frame, I had to double-back three exits down, drive upstream in the breakdown lane and wear a really itchy pair of long underwear. I know, I know - Too Much Information.

Snowball RiotBut fender-benders alone wouldn’t satiate the News Gods. No - they wanted footage of kids playing in the slush - I mean snow. A simple enough request I guess - but considering schools hadn’t been cancelled I wondered where I’d find such blatant truancy. I needn’t have worried. Why not? I got skillz - well honed photog powers of perception that more than make up for my shocking lack of orienteering abilities. Thus, after only about ten minutes of driving around aimlessly, I stumbled into a target-rich environment - an urban playground full of hyped-up city kids. Shouldering my axe, I waded into the crowd and bagged shot after shot of sporadic snowball fights. All went well until I stuck a lens in one kid’s face and sparked a riot of adolescent posturing. Shout-outs I can take, but when the first slushballs came raining down, I tucked away my fancy-cam and ran away like the fresh-faced schoolgirl I never was.

I’m okay with that.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Acrid Plumes and Other Hazards

Whenever I'm feeling uninspired here in the Piedmont, I hit the web and peruse the work of far-flung colleagues. Try it sometime. Whether you're a house painter or a proctologist, chances are others in your field are posting videos, stories and photos of your particular profession. For news dorks like me, it's hard to decide where to start. Blogs, YouTube, Flickr - all boast extensive imagery of broadcasters in action. Lately, I've been scouring this vast material for nuance and meaning, hoping to learn a little bit about myself as well as all those others battered souls behind the lens. While I've yet to stumble across too many revelations, I have made what I feel to be an important observation: We photogs hang out in some pretty stupid places. Chemical spills, structure fires, suspicious package gatherings...if there's a glowing puddle of ooze, a choking smoke-tower or a ticking lunchbox - you can bet there's a news shooter nearby, leaning in for a closer look and cursing his superiors.

Hey, I'm as guilty as the next ex-scanner addict. Sixteen years in the biz I've raced to hurricanes, clamored to stand-offs and weaseled my way into more sticky thickets than alot of self-professed adrenaline junkies. Why? It's what I do. Hell, it's what I've always done. Back in my early twenties, though, I never stopped to think what might happen when hopped-up lawmen drew weapons on low level crack dealers (in hopes I would get their good side). No, back then conical projectiles and burning textile plants never really semed to bother me. I was too busy learning the politics of roadblocks to ever ponder what peril lay beyond the squad car. How come? I was immortal - mentally impervious to shifting winds, deranged gunmen and flying debris. Throw in the glow of a thousand microwaved live shots and it's a wonder I ever had kids - let alone gifted offspring who are already smart enough to be mortified at the feigned breakdance prowess of their goofball father. But I digress...

Since the scanner days, I've slowed my roll considerably. Though I still suffer the whims of the Spot News Gods, I tend to deal in fluffier fare. It's not that I'm skeered, mind you. I just got enough sense to know plenty of danger, boredom and strife will come my way in the normal course of a news year - I ain't gotta go lookin' for it! Besides, your average feature piece packs its own hazards. You ever schlepped a fancy-cam though a Boat Show and endured the sales pitch of a thousand BassMasters? Ever got down on the floor with a pack of pre-schoolers whacked out of their gourds on Skittles and Juicy-Juice? Ever walked a TV camera through a coliseum full of delusional American Idol wannabes? It may not merit combat pay, but suffer the spoils of your typical goat rodeo and see if you don't slink away with a few more mental scars (and a funky smell on your clothes). Why, it's enough to make a weary lenslinger pine for simpler times, when the worst aspect of covering the news was the threat of being shot, poisoned or drowned. At least then I had my youth.

(A dip of the lens to Stuck Behind The Lens, newsphotog6801 and cadencefilm for their excellent shots of news in the making.)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

It's Okay...Really

It's Getting Cold...No, I didn't sell my site to a Beastie Boys fan club, nor have I given up on the idea of blogging altogether. I've merely run out of things to write about. For now. See, for every evening that I rush home with some half-cocked thesis pulsating in my frontal lobe, there comes the occasional stretch when I. Got. Nothin'. That time would be now. A year or two ago such a dry spell would have sent me spiraling into a sullen abyss of self-pity; certain that whatever writing mojo I once possessed had shriveled up to a spent husk - leaving me only with misplaced literary ambitions and a penchant for ten dollar words. No more. If there's anything I've learned from two plus years of blogging is that sometimes it flows and sometimes it don't. So while I kid myself that everything's fine while simultaneously resisting the urge to stare holes in my laptop screen - please carry on as if everything is normal. I'll be back within 24 hours or so, totally convinced I have something extraordinary to share with the world - or at least you half dozen diehards who keep clicking back on this site (Thank You). Meanwhile, enjoy(?) yet another photo of yours truly. I may look constipated, but I'm actually just freezing my tripod off. It happens...