Friday, May 30, 2008

Jake at the Lake

Weaver on PointSince the lousiest assignments make for the best anecdotes, I’m a little worried about tonight’s dispatch. But as soon as The Suits told me they wanted a preview of this weekend's boat races, I ran from the room, shrieking like a little girl. I ain’t skeered of boats, but I was terrified they’d change their mind before I could take to the lake. All morning long I worried some school board member would claim the salt and pepper shaker arrangement in the Teacher’s Lounge was a racist conspiracy and I’d be pulled off my little feature.. By noon however nary an imbroglio had surfaced, so I headed to the body of water in question, hoping only to reach the beach before some spot defibrillator training class broke out at the armory and I was redirected. Think I‘m kidding? You‘ve never processed happenstance for a daily wage, I take it. If you had, you‘d know why I was beaming like a lobotomy patient as I pulled up to the water’s edge. To my left a long line of highly festooned boat haulers sat glinting in the midday sun. To my right a half dozen firemen loitered under a lakeside picnic shelter, watching as two Hooter girls unpacked complimentary sandwiches from an orange cooler. It was then I realized I needed back-up.

Still Interviewing RacerChris Weaver arrived six minutes later. Not so much to ogle the co-eds, mind you - but to provide some technical assistance. See, Weaver's something of a gadget nut. For every overripe bromide I slather on-line every night, he's got an adaptor, a cable or thumbdrive to make it better. That comes in damn handy - as I am the most technically deficient cameramen you'll ever meet. Sure, I talk a mean game - but when it comes to calibrating frame-syncs I ain't your guy. No, for that real world manly stuff you're gonna want someone like The Mighty Weave - who can field-strip a live truck in less time than it takes me to pass gas inside of it and blame the reporter. Was that too much information? Mayhaps, but I just wanted you to understand the kind of relationship Weaver and I have: He's the overly-stoked McGyver type who's never met a competitor he couldn't crush. I, however am of the absent-minded professor strain - far more into faking a state of Zen than tuning in some finicky signal. But this particular post isn't about the Man-Love me and the Weave share. It's about boats - really little, fast ones.

Weaver the Pit Crew BossSorry, 'SuperStock Tunnel Boats'. Whatever you call them, they more resemble Jet-Ski's with cockpits than any craft you'd dignify with the term 'boat'. Hell, my bathtub is bigger - and it displaces more water! I couldn't help but think of Evel Knievel's ill-fated canyon-jumping vessel as I walked through a forest of gaily-lacquered projectiles, water missiles and soggy crotch-rockets. Weaver on the other hand was getting down to brass tactics; identifying with of the three boats were about to favor us with some demonstration laps, picking out the prettiest and adorning its interior with a lipstick cam. Across the way, I looked up from the official I was interviewing, spotted my cohort conning his way into a cockpit and smiled quietly. With Weaver as my crew chief, I just may win the race! Or atthe very least fill my ninety seconds of newscast with action, irony and some really wicked first-person footage. I love it when a plan comes together!

Interviewing RacerFirst though, I had to bag all my sound. It may seem silly to conduct multiple, extended interviews for a report than last little more than a buck-thirty on-screen but such is the nature of distilling emotions. All the trick shots in the world won't help a piece if the viewer doesn't care about the outcome. While I can't say I tapped into any deeper truths, I did excise a few good bites from my on-camera chats. Luckily for me, everyone I spoke with was an old salt; veterans of the boat show circuit who knew how to talk up a camera or two. That was fine by me, as I wasn't exactly launching a hidden-lens investigation. Rather, I was sleepwalking my way through a delighfully subdued Friday afternoon. Only when the boats fired up their engines did my pulse race, but only for as long as it took the two tiny crafts to sling a few nasties. With a roar and a sputter both vessels returned to their berths, but not before I'd shot their skittering path every way I knew how. In the end, it was more about the experience than the TV news story that aired a couple of hours later. As for Weaver and me - we had such a good time, we thought about having t-shirts printed to mark the occasion.

Maybe next year...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Schmuck Alert: Albuquerque's Finest!

Albuquerque's FinestSome folks are camera-shy. Others are just assholes. Clearly, this officer belongs to the latter group - as for no real good reason, he went all Kimbo Slice on KOB-TV photographer Rick Foley. Exactly why isn't certain - but judging from the footage, the unidentified officer didn't like the cut of Foley's jib, for without so much as a ceremonial bow, Albuquerque's Finest declared a spontaneous cage-match, Pay-Per-View audience not included. Ah, but Foley - a 25 year veteran - did manage to press 'Record', thereby documenting all that hapless grappling. But it didn't end there! Officer Hostile here cuffed and stuffed Foley, searched his car and refused to divulge his badge number. But why, officer? 'Cause Foley's got a cooler gig than you? Tell you what, with a little cross-training you too can join our ranks and suffer the wrath of the occasional despot in blue polyester. Simply report to admissions desk at the Lenslinger Institute and leave your name: Schmuck! (Don' t worry; they'll know how to spell it...)

Addendum: Upon review of extended video, I'm issuing a reluctant Photog Putz Penalty. Foley didn't deserve to be tackled but his dripping smarm at the top of the clip only cranked up the Stupid. Remember: When dealing with cops at 3 in the morning, it rarely pays to be so lippy...

THWONK! (The Director's Cut)

So there I was, conducting a little curbside interview when the traffic light went all green-like. Billy Joe Pick-Up kept talking of course, but as a conscientious cameraman I simply nodded and backed off - lest I spark any road rage that would get my arse run over. It was then a most unscrupulous phone pole jumped its anchor and attacked me from my behind, coming into such inglorious contact with the back of my Sony that I spoke fluent Japanese for about three minutes. Whereas normally I would excise this clip from the permanent record, I'm happy to share it with you dear reader - if only to show you what kind of detritus can be found on the cutting room floor. What you didn't see: the ensuing mockery from the lunch-rush pedestrians who witnessed the attack. Hey, I gotta hold something back.

Shooter Ruins Shower

Via Photog’s Lounge, shocking reports of a TV News shooter turned human! Local 6 News photog Tee Taylor was driving through an Orlando neighborhood Wednesday morning when he spotted a troublesome plume. No stranger to chasing smoke towers, the 37 year veteran headed straight for the base of the spiral and a found a duplex cloaked in smoke. It was then Taylor separated himself from lesser life forms, rushing the structure and banging on doors. Bruce Gillis was in an upstairs shower at the time. Taylor’s shouts and a general feeling of ‘What the Fudge?’ caused the resident to skip the rinse cycle, locate his three dogs and get the hell out. Only when the building was empty did Taylor obey his own DNA, grabbing his camera and shooting some most righteous video of flames swallowing the edifice. Fire investigators credited the local photog with saving the man’s life and even viewed his video to see if the cause looked sketchy. Let’s hope Tee was able to make an easy day of the mid-morning blaze. To no one’s surprise, his station made great hay of the story behind Taylor’s tape, though they wisely held off on any hand-puppet re-enactments.. Me - I’m just amazed anyone who’s spent 37 years behind the lens still bothers to look up, let alone jumps into action when it matters the most. Until my long-overdue shipment of virtual Viewfinder BLUES t-shirts come in, I’ll simply have to dip my lens in a southerly direction and thank Tee Taylor for bringing my ilk up a notch or two. RUH-Spect!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Ringtones at 11

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a ... camera-phone attached to a C-Clamp. If this very sight causes your chest to hitch, chances are you work in television. On the other hand, if this cell-phone on a stick fills you with visions of a blazing new paradigm, it's fairly certain a newspaper signs your paycheck. Me - I'm somewhere in the middle - at once impressed with how far technology has come and yet repulsed at the idea of using such a diminutive lens. Not Don Himsel. No, the veteran stills shooter and multimedia guru for new Hampshire's Nashua Telegraph was more than happy to twist this rig into existence - if only to prove it could actually be done. So far Himsel and company have dickered around with this thing at breaking news events and they feel their abomination - er, I mean innovation can really come into play someday - once they figure out how to hold the silly thing still. Me, I'd give it a go if Osama popped out of his hidey-hole on my lunchbreak, but I'd rather shoot news with a booger-encrusted Etch-A-Sketch than wade into battle armed only with hope and a Nokia. Still, this thing has got to have some kind of suitable application, be it undercover hostage cam or simply a new way to download ringtones on the fly. Just don't make me shoot one of the Babara Walters profiles with it. There's only so much Vaseline that lens can take...

A Turd Emerges

Pookey Skreet While I was busy brooding in my cryogenic chamber, Rick Portier decided to come out of seclusion. It was but a month or so ago the Baton Rouge raconteur pulled his popular Turdpolisher blog, depriving his regular readers and sending your own lenslinger into something of a storytelling tailspin. Thanks, fella! Ever since you closed down shop, I been questioning my every other word - a very bad habit which makes finishing a sentence virtually impossible when you sit down to consider how such a notion would ever seem the least bit troublesome in the first place. See what I mean? But enough about me. This is about Turd’s triumphant return to the blogosphere. In his initial post, Rick explains how a sudden corporate interest in his off-hour missives left his muse feeling shackled. Fearing his archives would be further plundered by his higher-ups, the veteran photog and family man dismantled his site and sought the proper penance. Now, he’s back - promising wiser fare and a kinder, gentler blowtorch. Best of all, he’s named his new site FIL-TURD, a moniker so fitting I only wish I’d thought of it. Glad to have you back, Rick. As I told you over the phone, you’re a talented enough writer to flex your voice without puttin' your genitals in a vice. In a perfect world you shouldn’t have to censor yourself, but we’ve both spent enough time squinting through a lens to know which end of the optical tubing to press one’s cornea firmly against …Damn, I’m doing it again! Hopefully, Rick’s return will align the Cosmos. I’ll read his stuff, wish I’d though of it and conjure up something in return. After all, a little competition can be a generally pleasant set of conditions under which to find one’s self in. ACK!!!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Every Penny Earned...

Thomasville Parade
Despite my advanced degrees in Cameranthropology, I still gotta work the occasional holiday. Come to think of it, maybe it’s because of my Doctorate in ENG that I’m constantly called upon to make television on days when most people assiduously avoid watching it. Whatever the reason, I observed Memorial Day the way I do most every day - with a fancycam jammed in my face. Memorial services, parades, politicians; all passed through my lens with lessening degrees of dignity. That’s fine by me, as a stiff pay differential was placating my every other effort. That extra cash must have come from the producer’s own pockets however, for they demanded Nicole Ferguson and I turn two (2) stories on our subject; a reasonable enough requirement until you consider we were covering Thomasville’s Memorial Day Parade. Oh well, if that’s what it takes to end my day, strike up the band. I’ll still go home and wring the experience for meaning; for your above average lenslinger isn’t just satisfied with double-time pay, he needs to squeeze it for a blog post as well. How else is he ever gonna stop referring to himself in third person?

It’s Memorial Day and the good folk of Davidson County turned out in force to cheer on young and old alike in the Thomasville Memorial Day Parade. That’s an awful lot of good will, but stand in between your average Mee-Maw and the float carrying her grandbaby’s cub scout pack and you too will feel the smite of a leather-clad bible to the back of the head. Now hold this while I staunch the bleeding.

Summer‘s here. Sure, we’re still weeks away from the ungodly humidity that makes this part of the country one sweltering pit-stain for three months a year, but today as I waited for Senator Elizabeth Dole to polish off a rubber chicken plate, the rivulets of sweat running down the crack of my fanny pack reminded me just how very much I hate summer in the Carolinas. That, and politicians.

A heavily-logo'd TV news camera can do more than record audio and video. It can reveal character, incite riots and spark the most unexpected of reactions. I was reminded of this today when a Vietnam Veteran drenched in leather, metal and spikes got right up in my FACE - and tearfully thanked me for covering this particular wreath laying. Dude, Thank You.

If you have only ten minutes to set up a live shot, it will take nine minutes and fifty-six seconds to do so. I pulled up to our live location well past 4:50 PM, quickly raised the mast, set up the camera in seconds - then spent the rest of the time dickering with the transmitter dish. We were there of course when they punched up our shot - as was the screaming freight train that appeared out of nowhere to obliterate whatever Nicole had to say.

Did I mention it was double-time?