Thursday, February 01, 2007

Hard Hats, Sore Shoulder

5th Floor Demolition
Never knowing where I'll spend each day is the single biggest reason I still sling a lens. That, and I'm w-a-y too absent-minded to become an astronaut, sell life insurance or orchestrate a tri-state crime spree. But that fractured focus serves me well in an occupation that regards tunnel vision as an artform. Take yesterday for instance. Ater whipping the region into a snowpocalyptic frenzy, the suits demanded I go capture the chaos sparked by our dire predictions. Which is how I soon found myself stalking hardhats six stories above Greensboro. It was Jeff Varner's idea to hone in on the unfortunate louts forced to toil in this alledged snowstorm. I protested at first, reminding my weekly partner that we were unfortunate louts forced to toil in the alledged snowstorm and no flights of fancy were needed for our breathless report. He won, of course. Mere minutes after our dashboard debate, I was chatting up developer Roy Carroll as we all shot slowly upward in a rickety, pitch-black elevator. Once atop the fifth floor, I marveled at how the entire 16 story structure jimmied and shook under the punish of multiple jackhammers. Varner did his best to make it up to me - popping off a couple of snapshot for the blog (a sure-fire shortcut to my narcissistic heart). As for where my tripod is in the above frame - relax, my photog purists. It's standing just off screen, but with the floor joists shimmying with every hammer's strike, it proved just as useless as when it tries to walk on its own accord. Wonder where I'll drag my sticks today?

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Meet Jamie Lynn Ward

Jamie Lynn WardConsider the following an insurance policy on a hunch - for while I'm not claiming to have found the next American Idol, there is a young lady you need to meet. Or perhaps you already have. Last night, Piedmont teenager Jamie Lynn Ward sashayed before Simon and the gang and unspooled a Jerry Springer-esque backstory before belting out a Christine Aguilera tune. As she did, I looked up from my laptop and realized the 'girl from Reidsville' I'd heard whispers of the past few months really did exist. By the time she bounded off-screen with a golden ticket, my cell phone was overheating. Hoo Boy, here we go...again?

Naaah. No way another hopeful vocalist from the Tarheel State could dominate the global juggernaut that is American Idol. At least that's what I told myself this morning as I noticed the cell phone blinking from beneath the surgical scrubs I was wearing. I couldn't do much about it at the time, but as soon as the robotic prostate procedure I was shooting ended, I ditched the bunny suit and returned the call. Fifteen minutes later, I wolfed down a steering wheel cheeseburger as I raced due North, late for a date with a blue eyed bombshell. Tough gig, eh?

Well, it ain't as easy as ya might think. When I arrived at Rockingham County High School, I had to fight through a thicket of hyped-up classmates, grinning faculty members and a couple of backup dancers before I could chat with young Jamie Lynn. Or more like listen. This child can tawlk - with a backwoods twang that can best be described as Jaime Pressley channeling Ellie May Clampett. That's no slam, either. In fact, where I come from it's the loftiest of accolades. But one gets the feeling young Miss Ward is used to that level of praise. After all she's homecoming queen, sings like a southern-fried Truck Stop Angel and holds mysterious Jedi-like mind powers over every boy in school. Is that enough to get her past the rampant dismissals of Idol's Hollywood week? Ya got me. All I know is the show's producers would be positively deranged to kick her off before she gets to gleam, preen and drop a few one-liners. Just remember, you heard it here first.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

High Atop Manure Run

Having stalked a Teacher of the Year all morning, I spent a bit of my afternoon hunkered on the tundra of a Forsyth County hillside. Nothing odd there - until you consider it hasn't snowed around here in well over two weeks. That's where SuperDad Chris Guyer comes in. The same man who once held a certain Emmy winner enraptured with plummeting pumpkins, Guyer is once again jumpstarting seasons. This time he's making snow, using knowledge found on the internet and more than a few spare parts found in his rambling backyard. The result - a 100 foot swath of artificial snow, complete with a homemade slope constructed atop a rusting pick-up. It's enough to make neighborhood kids (and a certain cameramanthropologist) clamor at the gate: bundled-up, weighed down and ready to get their gravity on. It was a hillbilly hoot. In fact, the only downside was the occasional third grade projectile. That, and the horseshit I stepped in whenever I wandered off slope. Still, it was a marvelous way to while away an hour; sixty raucous minutes that would translate into oh, about ninety seconds of chuckle-inducing footage on the evening news. What can I say? Some days this gig is better than others. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to pick some more equestrian snow-manure out of my teeth...

Scorchy Tawes, RIP

I knew not of Scorchy Tawes before today, but according to widespread reports, a Master has passed. Consider the evidence: a brush with the lens during World War II, nearly 30 years in the TV trenches, 2,000 stories on the evening news - most centering around everyday folk in the great outdoors. Yes Sir, this Delmarva native with an eye for the poetic and the quirky lived a life well worth remembering. Which is what an awful alot of people on the Eastern Shore are doing - now that Scorchy is gone. From founder Kevin Johnson, who had the honor of working with the local legend early in his career.
"It was an amazing opportunity for a young photog like me to be able to shoot stories with such a storyteller. He taught me how to look and listen. Follow the people and their faces, and you’ll find the story, he explained."
Sage advice from someone who knew. Described as a cross between Robert Frost and Charles Kuralt, C. Norris "Scorchy" Tawes was considered by many as the bard of the Eastern Shore. For more than a quarter of a century at WBOC, he did the finest thing a local television journalist can do: reflect the people and the region that surrounds your station. Tawes did just that and he came to embody his beloved beat. A talented writer, photog and editor who inspired more people than he eventually covered in his long and storied TV career, Scorchy left his impressions on the minds of millions. Not bad for a local fellow who could have very well perished in the Battle of the Bulge. Rest In Peace.

Thanks, Fellas

While Weaver was picking up something shiny for his mantle Saturday night, I was enjoying a most delightful birthday gathering in the Queen City. Whisked away by the Old Goat, we held up in a smoky Blues bar in hopes that Blind Chitlin' Somebody would soon make his gee-tar cry and sing. It was not to be. Instead, a thrash metal combo poured on the testosterone in a display of off-key angst I probably would have found fetching twenty years ago. No matter - as the company was Top Shelf. From Greenville, South Carolina came reformed Portlander JL Watkins - mercurial goofball of Little Lost Robot. Far more complex than his on-line persona would have you believe, JL's got a brain I always love to pick. Equally intriguing is Colonel Ken Corn - whose broadcast chops and love for writing makes him nothing short of a blood brother to your not so humble lenslinger. A photog-blogger I'm less familiar with is Adam of This Blog May or May Not Suck - a hilarious Charlotte native who's bound to brighten any crime tape he babysits. (Think Jim Breuer meets Doogie Howser). Together we dined on the finest chops, guzzled lots of hops and probably talked to much shop. All in all, it was a highly restorative weekend and I thank you all. Mostly though, I'd like to thank the instigator of this event, Dick Carney - a man whose very presence I yearned for as a kid and still savor as an adult. Let's do it again - soon...

Shock and Awe

Shock and Awe: it’s more than the early buzzword of a failed war policy. It’s a tactic employed by camera crews the world over - whether they realize it or not. Allow me to ’splain:

Today reporter/meteorologist Charles Ewing and I were dispatched 70 miles West by producers who were convinced none other than George Clooney was lurking within Statesville’s city limits. Seems the actor is scouting locations in our fair state for his new movie ’Leatherheads’ and after scouring a few blogs, the good folks who never leave the newsroom were certain we could easily catch up with the ’Ocean’s 11’ star. Equally sure we wouldn’t but resigned to trying, Charles and I hit the interstate and formulated a plan to turn the story without the help of The Sexiest Man Alive.

How? Good ole M.O.S’s - that time honored tradition of interviewing total strangers on the most tangential of subjects. Today’s query would be Clooney-based of course: “Have you seen him? What was he wearing? Did you demand your 8 bucks back for the travesty that was A Perfect Storm?” Smarmy questions aside, we were nowhere without some good citizens to harass. So once we reached Statesville, Charles and I headed straight for its quaint downtown and cruised the streets looking for sidewalk prey -something of a challenge considering it was Monday morning and the temperature was hovering in the low 30’s.

But that didn’t stop us. With a cabal of show producers already penning George Clooney promos back at the shop, surrender was not an option. So, being good news soldiers, we stepped up our reconnaissance. A clutch of housewives here, a huddle of community college kids there, farmers outside the feed store, waitresses through a diner window. Without ever asking we interviewed them all, swooping in with a grin, a lens and a microphone - asking silly questions about a movie star’s mythical visit and not once being turned away by a populace even pretending to be camera-shy.

Well, there was one minor incident. Passing by a bevy of older blonde ladies gathered by a pick-up truck, I nearly flipped Unit 4 in my fifteenth u-turn of the morning. As we materialized from around a corner, the ladies froze in mild shock at the sudden appearance of a ravenous camera crew. “Hey, seen George anywhere?” Charles asked as I leveled my lens and began to roll. Nervous giggles rippled through the small crowd as The Ladies exchanged looks with one another. Through my viewfinder, I sensed something was amiss. The blondes seemed to want to talk but an underlying current was holding them back. After a few awkward seconds, one offered an explanation for their reticence.

“I’m sorry,” one of them whispered, “ but Gladys’ husband just passed and this isn’t a good time.” With that two of the ladies peeled off from the group and walked away. Charles and I meanwhile rocked back and forth on our heels, instantly struck agog at the impropriety of our inquisition. ’Sorry’ we mouthed, backing away and noticing for the first time we were standing in a funeral home parking lot. As we half-bowed in apology though, a fairly predictable thing happened. A mild argument broke out among The Ladies. Two of them really wanted to chat on-cam and as the remainder of them squabbled amongst themselves, Charles and I slunk away, feeling sufficiently skeevy for our heavy-handed tactics.

Shock and Awe, indeed.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Ice-Breaker LIVE!

Just when I thought I'd seen TV live trucks destroyed in every possible way, a CBS 58 photog submerges her van in Milwaukee's Big Muskego Lake. According to reports, the truck drove off a boat launch and about 150 yards out onto an iced over channel leading to the lake when the ice suddenly gave way. Yikes! The photog managed to escape unharmed, but no doubt she's weathering a storm of unwanted publicity after dipping her equipment into The Drink. Boy, have I been there! Which is why I'm sympathetic to this particular photog's fate and hope that her bosses will go easy on the ribbing and retaliation. After all, if you clamor on the edge of calamity for long enough, you're bound to get some on ya. Now DIVE! DIVE! DIVE!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Weaver's Well-Earned Win

While I'm congratulating colleagues, let me extend Big Ups to my cohort Chris Weaver, who just won his first of what will no doubt be many Emmy Awards. Now, I've never been the biggest fan of the TV News accolade circuit, but if anyone deserves recognition for enthusiastic newsgathering, it is The Mighty Weave. Whereas I skulk about news scenes ensconced in melancholy, Chris dives in with a vigor and passion that would grow tiresome, were it not so incredibly genuine. So give it up for tvphotogblog himself, who freshly-bagged talisman represents an awful lot of thought, effort and good ole fashioned photog sweat. As for what he'll do with his new trophy - we're still taking bets at the office. My guess is it's already welded to the front of Unit 15, where it will fly through the Piedmont as one shiny-ass hood ornament. Look for it in a rearview mirror near you.