Thursday, October 11, 2007

Is the Pope in town?

Whenever I tire of my own news puddle and yearn for the larger market, I check in on my buddy beFrank and am instantly cured. Exhibit A: the above photo. In it, an unthinkable camera clusters around K-Fed’s lawyer. That’s right, the attorney for Britney Spear’s ex-husband commands the kind of coverage once reserved for heads of state. Perhaps he’s got a plan for brokering peace in the Middle East. Ooh - or even better - 8 by 10 glossy photographs of the pop princess brushing her teeth with designer eyeliner. Otherwise, this king sized scrum is just a waste of perfectly good television equipment. I mean, it ain’t like Paris Hilton got in a fender-bender or somethin’. Now that would be news...

ConvergeSouth: A Week Away...

DSCF0781With ConvergeSouth only a week away, it’s probably time to start thinking about the topic I’ll be tackling during my Saturday session. Problem is - I’m a photog. We don’t plan ahead; we race to calamity’s edge at the last possible second, push past the looky-loo’s and complain about why this thing is taking so damn long. It’s a great strategy for covering bake sales and house fires, but addressing the kind of hyper-smart folk that are attending ConvergeSouth … not so much. Thus, I’ve finally committed to a subject I feel qualified to speak on - which incidentally is what organizer Sue Polinsky suggested to me a year ago...

Blog to Book

No, I can’t pass out autographed hardback copies of ’Viewfinder Blues’ (not yet anyway), but I can share with others the resources, pitfalls and ecstasy of turning one’s cyber-ramblings into something worthy of a Barnes and Nobles discount bin. There are, of course, a variety of approaches; vanity press, book proposal, midnight runs to your neighborhood Kinko’s - all of which can place a reasonable facsimile of your life’s masterwork in your grubby little blogger paws. Me - I’m slingin' for the fences. If I wanted this (first) book to merely be a ‘Best of the Blog’, I’d buy some fancy paper for the printer and be done in about an hour. But alas, it can be so much more...

I really believe that - and I don’t believe in much of anything. But nearly three years of constant blogging has infused me with the kind of self-loathing confidence normally found only outside Methadone clinics. After all, if my late night diatribes were totally without merit, would tens - nay, dozens - of readers check it out every single day? I think not. Obviously, I’m destined for greatness - that special brands of renown that involves blazers with elbow patches and 46 hard copies roiling around the bed of my pick-up truck. Yep - I can see the BookTV segment now: I’ll puff on a pipe and drop pearls of blather as the C-Span photog wishes he were me. It’ll be, how do you say...

...fantasy. If I don’t get off my haunches and put in some serious re-write time, I’ll still be talkin’ this same smack next year - one more blogger spouting delusions of soon-to-be-published glory. Luckily, I got a couple of ringers in my corner. Who exactly I ain’t sayin’ - but they’re real learned types who’ve challenged me to put my best where the pixels never roam. I’m on it, ladies. For now, though allow me an hour to share with those who care what I’ve picked up along the way. After all, I can’t be the only blogger who dreams of forewords, acknowledgements and maybe even a bar code or two … can I? On second thought, don’t answer that. Just be at NC State A&T University next Saturday. Where else can you hear newspaper folk give tips on video while a TV news schlub laments the power of the written word.

You won’t find that on C-Span. Yet.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Phil's New Filly

Phil Morgan wins MustangSome folks just seem to have life dialed in. Take Phil Morgan - master potter, savvy merchant, licensed wise-ass. He's grinnin' every time I see him - hunkered over his wood kiln, holding court at some weekend crafts fair, or selling his famous crystalline pieces for w-a-y more than I thought people spent on glazed earthenware. No wonder he's the unelected Mayor of Seagrove! More surprising is his latest excuse for garnering my lens' attention: dude won a car. Not just any car either, but one of those tricked-out new Mustangs the Lottery is foisting upon the ticket-buying populace.

Now, I'm no fan of the North Carolina Education Lottery. Sure, some of the money goes to public schools, but the people I see playing the lottery in area stores would do alot better by their children if they'd put down that scratch-card and pick up a gallon of milk. But Phil's kids (if he has any) are probably grown and with his high-dollar pots spotlit in far-flung museums, I'm not too worried about his financial situation. Quite the opposite. Phil's works that hillbilly schtick for all its worth. With his ever-present bib overalls and gee-whiz demeanor, he comes across as Gomer Pyle's lumpkin uncle. Untrue. Phil's hayseed act is as calculated as it is genuine and he's crazy like an unwashed fox. When he took the keys from the lottery wonk and turned hs good fortune into another commercial for his hometown of Seagrove, I had to laugh, wondering if the folks in Raleigh knew what they were getting into when they pulled his name. Oh yeah, the car was nice too.

(Photo by Paul Church of the Asheboro Courier-Tribune.)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A Hard Day's Night Shift

Blue Light NightSome photogs come to the craft for the love of a good TV camera, others lose themselves in seventeen levels of non-linear Zen. Me - I’m in it for the irony. So too, it seems, is Rick Portier, the Baton Rouge photog who gives me a run for my blogging money every damn time he logs in as TurdPolisher. His latest offering, Black Ties and Yellow Tape, examines the intoxicating dichotomy of an average evening newscast without dropping any ten dollar words on ya. Seems our vaguely Cajun cameraman couldn’t get Pookie and Ray-Ray off his mind - even as he prowled the edges of a swanky charity affair. That tingling sensation ain’t your Superhuman Spidey Sense - it’s the hard-earned intuition of a veteran newsgatherer. It’s also why Rick wasn’t the least bit surprised when he finished said nightshift swaddled in bouncingblue lights. I just wish dude would slow down on the mini-masterpieces. He’s getting to be stiff competition…

Lakebed Rhetoric

“Think working in this business has, ya know, makes us weird?” Whitey asked as we tiptoed across the floor of what used to be Lake Brandt. It was the same route I’d taken back in 2002, when a similar drought turned the same lakebed into a craggy moonscape. With my tripod slung over his shoulder, Whitey chose his steps carefully as I followed him out onto the sandy carcass of Greensboro’s primary watershed. Nearby, a steady procession of cars and trucks passed over a bridge, with only a few passengers noticing the distant figures on the sandbar. Perhaps the farsighted even noticed the man in front was wearing a tie; his businessman’s silhouette looking weirdly out of place out there in the stumps and the muck. Behind him, the other man paused and shifted his low-slung load.

“What do you mean, exactly?. I asked, switching the camera strap from one sore shoulder to the next. Whitey kept walking, a bit gingerly when the ground grew spongy. “I dunno - would we be the people we are today if we sold stereos for a living?”

I considered the thought as we reached our destination: a bone-dry shale that’s normally several feet under water. Whitey handed me my sticks and I wrestled them into possession before hefting the camera atop the tripod’s locking-plate. Ten seconds later, I leaned into the eyecup and white-balanced on my partner-of-the day’s dress shirt. He ignored me as I did, muttering lines to himself and looking for a place to squat. In the blue haze of the viewfinder, I kept Whitey center-screen and thought about his question. Eric White’s been with El Ocho for four years now. In that time we’ve worked numerous scenes: tension-filled stand-offs, city council stalemates, inner-city living rooms. Of all the silly backdrops that popped in my head, I couldn’t for the life of me imagine Whitey prowling some hi-fi showroom, looking to move a few more units to make his monthly quota.

“Yoooooo whasssup bitches?” The voice sounded twelve, but was punctuated by the throaty rumble of a muscle car. Looking over my shoulder, I caught sight of arms flailing from the open window of an old souped-up Nova. Once the arms’ owner saw my head turn, he (or she) let loose with a rebel yell that sounded like a hyena with a lawn dart stuck in his throat.. Turning back, I saw Whitey’s face on the tiny screen, his eyebrows scrunched together, his mouth hung slightly ajar. As the sound of the revving engine and redneck’s yell bounced off the dry lakebed, I hit the ’Record’ button and gave him my answer.

"Compared to some, we're damn near normal."

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Dillingham Diptych

As one who learned to shoot in The Age of COPS, I know a few things about chasing the PO-lice. Mainly, it ain't as easy as it looks on tee-vee. See, for every truncated rundown you chortle over from the safety of your sofa, a thousand fruitless goose chases never escape the edit bay. The same goes for newspaper photogs - who have to summarize their scenarios in a single shot. The very best of that breed possess the mystical ability to repeatedly be at the right place at the right time. (I'd name names here, but Jerry Wolford's cocky enough as it is.) More times than not, we rat patrols of the Fourth Estate roll up just after the shizzle hits the fan. It's frustrating, but you learn to accept it.

Unless you're Russ Dillingham. Just the other day, the veteran Sun Times photographer was in hot pursuit of officers as they tried to flush a fugitive out of an apartment building. Experience, luck, karmic mojo; something told Russ to stay put below as cops bum-rushed a third story balcony. His patience apparently pleased the News Gods, for they rewarded him with a spectacular shot of Norman Thompson launching himself into the ether. Thompson of course, cannot fly and when he landed almost at Dilligham's feet, the 25 year veteran did something many lenslingers wouldn't have the grapes to do: He tackled him.

Sure, the cops were bellowing for help from above, but it was Russ who body-checked the wingless dodger, then sat on him until help arrived. When it did, our photo picked up the camera he'd ditched in mid-lunge and fired off a few frames of the bad guy eating grass. That, to risk rhyming, is bad-ass. Say what you want about remaining objective, Dillingham did what young male newsgatherers have fantasized about since the first press pass was issued: He played hero, and still got the shot. Not bad for a print guy...

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Slingin' in the Rain

Brellacam"Next up on the runway, we welcome Gary - one cameraman ready to brave the elements on style! Whether he's babysitting a sleepy telethon or a chasing after some cross-county pursuit, our dashing newsgatherer will slay deadlines with panache - thanks to his smartly tailored fleece and high-tech headsets! But not even a sudden downpour can dampen the fun! This interloper's more than ready to keep his wideshots dry and turn heads with a jaunty bumbershoot perched atop his man-cam. Accented in oversized logosthis ensemble screams comfort and credibility, with nary a gravy stain in sight! Yes, with a photog this fashionable, who needs a bad actor in a trenchcoat?"

Okay, so I don't know Gary (hope he's got a sense of humor), but I couldn't help using his impromptu glamour-shot to bring your attention to the photo gallery of one World Wide Murman. Seems those crazy Canadians threw one mother of a remote for something called the Nanimo Show. I have no idea what that is, but from the looks of Murman's shots, a swell time was had by all. Now give us a spin...