Saturday, February 10, 2007

Life on the Risers

Jet and Pony ShowWe knew by Thursday night Greensboro had landed the new Honda Jet plant, but that didn’t stop us from acting all surprised the following morning. In fact, for only bringing an initial 300 jobs to the region, Honda got one hell of a welcome to its corporate headquarters’ new home. More than two dozen news lenses jockeyed for space in the private aircraft maker’s gleaming hangar Friday, all tradin’ paint with a shiny fleet of beaming politicos, countless muckety-mucks and one dill-weed of a still photog. More on him later. For now though, just know that this kind of ee-lectronic corporate theater doesn’t go down without a few sparks flyin’. Just ask the fellas packed onto the camera platform - the ones with the podium microphone’s every warble ringing in one ear, and the heated laminations of Judge Judy blaring in the other. They‘ll tell you the same as me: it’s a sixty million dollar boost to the local economy - not a moon landing.

Your Author's Favorite CanadianStill, I wasn’t the only schlub broadcasting across multiple platforms. All around me, fellow lens-jockeys hung frozen in contorted positions, swathed in wires, cynicism and sweat. Thanks to the hundreds of feet of heavy cable trusty Canadian Tim Bateson and I drug in from the truck, the picture in my lens was beaming back live to the studio, where a co-worker with cleaner fingernails than mine routed it straight to our station’s websites (where I‘m certain at least six people were watching). Also, the studio goobs were recording my direct feed onto one of the station’s many hard-drives for later use - just as I was committing the audio-enhanced imagery to my camera’s optical disc. If that wasn’t enough, I was popping off snapshots with my banged-up digi-cam - when I wasn’t guessing what flavor of menthol cigarette the shooter wedged next to me had just enjoyed out back. A half-stale Newport, I think.

Two Earpieces, No WaitingBut I didn’t log in to talk fine tobaccos. I came to share with you what it’s like to be the eternal messenger. Sure, today’s elevated gang-bang is all because of a personal jet factory. A few days ago it was a gun-wielding grandmother’s video arraignment. Next week it may very well be a Valentine’s Day Boat Show. After a few such hundred camera conventions, the subject matter melds into the background. Far more important is the room’s overall light temperature, the location of the microphone mult-box and what kind of danish will still be available once when you finally get around to crashing the refreshment table. But that’s still a long way off. First, you deal with the have to deal with inevitable hum of the in-house audio system. Speaking of which, is there anything more annoying than a pasty soundboard tech with a gassy attitude? Yeah, there’s that guy. (NOT pictured)

Plugged InHim...the out of town stills-shooter with too many zoom lenses and the big city sneer. Unlike the Fuji TV crew with their delightful accents, this cat goes out of his way to offend. Arriving early (as to tape his business card dead-center on the all too tiny camera stand), he hovered by his intended spot and announced to every new crew that his half-foot of platform was indeed, holy ground. We locals rolled our eyes at his continual proclamations, but gave him the benefit of an extra inch or two. That is until he insisted on jumping on and off the platform repeatedly, jostling everyone’s shot and sparking a righteous chorus of indignant ’Dude!‘s. Sure, the stranger got his shots, but he proved himself a insufferable prick in the process. While it’s certainly no skin off this frequent-flyer’s lip, it’s the exact kind of bad camera karma we local lenslingers work hard to avoid. Now you know.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Schmuck Alert: Permission Denied!

Via Newshutr, word of an off-duty Cleveland police officer acting like a rookie Rent A Cop. What is it about shoppping malls that sends certain law enforcement types into a lens-hating frenzy? Is it the brackish lighting? The snotty Goth kids? Those haughty mannequins? Whatever the cause, something is overstimulating sworn officers to the point of parody. Take this clown. Inexplicably upset that WKYC photog Craig Roberson videotaped his fellow officers as part of a story on rowdy kids and mall security, Sargeant Hard-Ass claims dominion over space and time before pushing KYC's camera to the ground. Who does this guy think he is - some overpaid infantile mutant? Not hardly. Photog Roberson, who had full permission to be in the store at the time of the attack, was treated soon after for injuries to the arm. Here's hoping the city of Cleveland will educate the uniformed goon in question as to where his jurisdiction ends and his inexcusable boorishness begins. Schmuck...

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Interstate Alibi

With Unit 4's steering wheel in one hand and a newly-purchased chicken sandwich in the other, it was only fitting that my cell phone began to buzz.

"Stewart - we got a cop shot...WHERE ARE YOU?"

If I hadn't known better, I'd have thought the assignment manager suspected ME of winging said lawman in the leg. But the crackle of scanner traffic and panicky voices in the background told me I wasn't being framed for opening fire on a police officer. Quite clearly, shit was hitting the fan in Guilford County and for once, I was in the clear.

"We're already past Burlington" I said as the Haw River exit strobed by at 70 plus.

Guttural noises poured from the receiver, followed by a tersely-worded command.

"Fine, keep going." --CLICK--

Dropping the phone in my lap, I turned my attention back to my sandwich. Beside me, intrepid reporter Eric White looked up from his own drive-thru entree.

"What was that all about?"

"Nothin'", I said through a mouthful of lettuce, mayo and chicken. "Murray thinks I shot some cop..."

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Colonel Corn's Retreat

One of the few things most push-button publishers can agree upon is this: Don't blog about work. It's sound advice for sure, but as a TV news photogra-blogger, it's virtually impossible. I blame beFrank. Since May of 2004, the L.A. news shooter has filed ceaseless reports from his many twisted gigs - proving you could blog about The Job without finding yourself shaking a tin cup full of chewed pencils down by the bus station. Inspired by his continuous Zen, many a TV geek launched their own sites - including Yours Truly. Soon the blogosphere was crackling with off-camera voices: many wry, some goofy and one or two that were completely unhinged. Individual afflictions aside, all sought to share what it was like to trudge through life with a deadline and a lens - all without cheesing off the boss in the process.

I always thought Ken Corn pulled that off particularly well. Unlike, say - yours truly - his sober accounts of the televised chase never delved too far into industry critique. Mostly, his weekly missives centered around his journeyman's pursuit of fairness in a business that's f-a-r from balanced. What could be offensive about that? Well, apparently something, for the good Colonel has shuttered his site without so much as a parting shot. Troubling, indeed. Details are sketchy, but after considerable counsel with the Charlotte shooter, I've come away convinced he's serious about this early retirement. Personally, that's a real drag - for I always learned from and enjoyed his weekly work. 'Tis a shame he feels so pressured to quit blogging - regardless of whatever bloated ego he apparently poked.

Our only solace is the hope he'll someday return. After all, Ken's a writer to the core. I'm sure he'll find a new muse before even he knows it. This time though, perhaps he'll pick safer subject matter, like whose religion is better or the exact location of our nation's nuclear football. Sheesh...

Monday, February 05, 2007

Stretching the Reflections

No thesis tonight in your coffee, no thesis tonight. Instead you’ll have to settle for a quick traipse through some of the pre-dawn thoughts found in the Sore-Hand Companion. While I can provide no real context for these midnight rejoinders, I can assure you you’ll wish you’d paid attention when I pass out sheets at the end of the tour. Now if you’ll follow me, we have some non sequiturs to flesh out. And please - no wandering away from the group.

Pomp and Squalor
Pageantry's EdgeI admit it - the dichotomy gets me off. My inner contrast junkie just can’t help it. There’s nothing I enjoy more than wandering from the enclave of self-afflicted pageantry to the scene of some sordid exploit on the smelly side of town - then back again. Still don’t get it? Bet you’ve never reached for a microphone you attached to that wino an hour earlier and pinned it on some smarmy blowhard’s silky lapel. Therapy for the working man, if you will.

Tripping on the Cinders
Yellow Tape ShuffleAnother moment of recorder’s bliss occurs whenever certain incongruent elements conspire to inspire. Litter skittering across the gravel lot of a burned-out restaurant, the crunch of shovel digging into a shady grave, late-day sun silhouetting the carcass of an 18 wheeler, dashboard blue lights throwing crackle and strobes as the crime tape billows…if think all fatalities have to be ugly, might I recommend the night shift? I've seen structure fires prettier than paintings.

Pot Pulls, Cadaver Dogs and Mud Slides
DIshes UpWhat do the three have in common? No, they’re not individual events in the Redneck Games. They’re three assignments I remember getting absolutely filthy on. The first was an early marijuana excavation, which is a fancy name for a two mile hike into quicksand for six spindly reefer plants. Oh, and watch out above for the chopper wash. While you’re at it, be sure and dodge that steamer ole Rex just left in his wake. That shit can really take the shine off a news unit’s interior.

Ditch-Bank Rendezvous
Out of Van ExperienceWhatever the zip code, a tattered platoon of first, second and third responders considers your turf their beat. Paramedics, tow trucks drivers, cops and photogs - we come a runnin’ whenever enough sheet-metal is bent and act like we knew it was going to happen. Given any amount of downtime, we shuffle among the rubble and continue stories we last trouted out at that plant fire, the train-wreck or those lake drownings. You remember...

Pilots, Surgeons and Sax Players
Mark Miller, RightThere’s a certain protocol to documenting gross concentration - one that requires patience and subservient lens. It’s hard to put a trigger-finger on, but the same unmistakable aura emits from the hunched sculptor, the squinting physician, the sweaty welder, and the tipsy recording engineer. Remain quiet and still and you’ll soon slink away with potent imagery. Meanwhile, try not to unplug anything. People with power tools hate that.

To Nod or Not
Carmany at LargeMuch of the above centers around spot news: unplanned calamities ripe for the evening news. But a lot of what I broadcast features regular appearances by the Talking Heads. No, not the geniuses behind that song ’Psycho Killer’, but the revolving stable of experts and charlatans we so eagerly cut to every fifteen seconds. But for every sound-bite that airs, a shooter drags his gear in place and rolls - often by his or her lonesome. Thus I regularly find myself feigning comprehension of some lofty ideal being expressed while wondering if I pushed ’Record’ or not.

You know, I could go on all night with the broken prose - but since we both gotta work in the morning, I’ll try and wrap it up. Since it’s late, I’ll skip the quiz - but do me a favor would ya? The next time you’re forced to watch the news, think about all you don’t see - for there in the heavily-edited margins you’ll see the greasy cheeseburger fingerprint of the master photog. Ever since local station stopped airing credits, it’s all we got...

Shot of the Night

Hi-def cameras, driving rain, unforgiving inertia...What's NOT to love about the Super Bowl? (I hear they even keep score...)