Saturday, April 25, 2009

Our Man in Iraq

Jim Long, NBC News
Handlers, heretics and heroes alike will all know that Style Has Arrived when this dashing photog touches down in beautiful Baghdad! Yes, from those clever frames to that wallet in his pocket, no one sports Kevlar and khakis like Jim "I'm a Dancer" Long, the NBC cameraman known across the planet for his jaunty stance and gleeful spree of Tweets. You've heard me yammer about him... You've seen him on The Today Show! Soon you can even enjoy this goofy news shooter on The Apprentice: Ehhhh...THAT Guy! For now, you'll have to dig the cut of his jib from afar, as he's busy trailing Secretary of State Clinton through the middle of Iraq. Or maybe he's back by now. Hell, with panache like that, the world's your runway. Now, Vogue-Vogue-Vogue-Vogue....

Friday, April 24, 2009

Pining for Myrtle

Myrtle mess
Scrum Envy: I’ve wrestled with it the better part of this week as screens all around me showed Myrtle Beach burning. It’s not that I mind sleeping in my bed, but that plume of smoke rising off the Grand Strand is a black, twisting beacon for schlubs like me… I don’t wanna hinder any heroes, mind you - but a little glass time around the edges would be good for the soul. Third Responder’s Curse, if you will. Nobody wants localized apocalypse, but if the shithouse is gonna go up in flames, I’d at least like to get the smell of it on me. Don’t ask me to explain why. It’s just … my newsmaker’s DNA, a deeply embedded code that gets my hackles up every time a sat truck gathering of a certain size forms in the Carolinas. Granted, I’m the guy who avoids local remotes like the plague. But I’ve raised that mast and watched traffic pass a thousand times… I’ve yet to see the neon jewel of Horry County scorched. Must I now do so through a curtain of pixels?

Apparently, YES.

Which I why I walked the dog three times this week while a lot of lenslingers caught the last train for the coast. One satellite encampment far from the action boasted a sizable fleet. Local, state and regional crews mingled with the network set amid endless live shots, bartering between broadcasts and trading favors; a loose-knit economy of charger squatting and restaurant directions, the Currency of the Camera-Yard Don’t know what I mean? Obviously, you’ve never knocked on the door of an out-of-state TV truck and tried to convince the strangers inside your bosses know each other...
“Hey, I know you’re booked on both paths with three crews of your own but we’re from THE Lower Upcountry’s Dedicated News Channel, a-a-a-n-d were wondering if we could squeeze in a look-live? No? Okay, I’ll be sitting over there in that day-glow station wagon if you change your mind… in the backseat, brushing my teeth with this rusty Leatherman…”
Okay, so it's not a love-in, but there is some haggling behind that continuing team smotherage. Especially in the current economic blight. Stations are spending less than ever to fill the same amount of newscasts, fewer bodies turning just as many stories. What has always been a bare-bones operation is often being operated by a skeleton crew. Just ask that guy, the zombie ’tog from three hours away who hasn’t slept in almost as many days. If you’d ever get him to stop talkin’ to that tree, he’d tell you a story about a last minute voyage with a fiery end, of thundering scrums and gas station bathrooms, of screaming shoulders and twittering witticisms. Then, he’d ask you for a cigarette, despite the fact neither of you smoke. Waterboarding my arse! Sleep deprivation, a viewfinder glued to your face and enough Red Bull to drop a longhorn should uncover any secrets our enemies have, let alone rattle the gourd of your above average photog…

Now that I think about it, I’m glad I stayed home.

(Thanks to NBCNewsCrew and Joey Flash for pictures and inspiration.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Overheard on the Hunt...

Carolina Raptor Center Shoot
"Sooo, if you'll just push that button there on the top, that'd be cool ... preferably before Dumbledore here decides to rip my lips off. Yeah, I know he's attached to his keeper, but if she's pushin' 90 pounds I'm Quentin Tarantino. I've seen heftier security guards at Easter Egg hunts - and those Sunday School ladies don't play. One of 'em once marched me off the playground for teaching her nine year old a word she didn't like... Hmm? Naah, I don't remember which word exactly, but if you'll just snap that picture, I'll make up some new ones. What's that? 'What's it for?' Well, I got this website, see ... more of a blog really. I post pictures and stories from my many adventures. Two days ago I was at a seafood restaurant re-opening. No real photos-ops there, but I did dig on some righteous popcorn shrimp. Last week it was the zoo. By the way, you guys ever think about making one of those paper-mache first graders and filling it with wild bird food? Crowds love that stuff. I once saw a busload full of Shriners give one keeper a Standing O 'cause she sic'd a sea lion on a cardboard cut-out of Miley Cyrus. No joke - I'll send you a dub! Say again? ... No, I don't have Leah Beno's phone number... Tell ya what though, I'll see if I can send you an 8 by 10 glossy if you'll j-u-s-t push that but-ton..."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Schmuck Alert: Aso in El Paso

It's hard to know what set off this Texas lawman: his midday assignment, that glowing orb in the sky, the troublesome chafe of his polyester tunic. Whatever it was, it caused the veteran cop to lose his freakin' mind. Press PLAY on the video above and see a constable unglued... he jumps over a barrier, demands an ABC-7 news crew leave public property and eventually detains the two for boldly refusing to resist. I don't get it - and judging from the reaction of reporter Darren Hunt and photojournalist Ric Dupont - neither do they. That's probably because they're used to covering news in the U.S. of A., where members of the media can go where looky-loos do and flipped-over semi-trucks DON'T cause seemingly rational police sergeants to come out of their skin. Big ups to the the shinier badges at the El Paso Police Department; they released the unoffensive news crew minutes after Sergeant Neck-Vain hauled them into the Westside Regional Command Center. Thus, we exclude much of the law enforcement community down there in the Lone Star State when we level the following charge... Schmuck!

Sparky's Machine

Ron Mounts, 80's photog

Burt Reynolds moustache...Check. VCR in a bag...Check. 750 yard stare...Check. Apollo-era monopod...Check. Unironic trucker hat...Check. Cock-eyed toplight. Check. Totally kick-ass station windbreaker...CHIGGITY-CHECK!

Sure, it's easy to make fun of Ron Mounts now, but had I seen this cat back in 1983 I'd have followed him around until he let me fondle his microphone cube, or at the very least rub his shiny jacket. Alas, that opportunity is lost. Thank God there's North East Ohio TV Memories, a living compendium of news station photographs from around the Buckeye State. I only wish there was an equally worthy shrine from my neck of the homeland. Now if you'll excuse me, there's a few Polaroids I have to destroy...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Of Fealty and Fish Plates

What with my penchant for profiling troubled merchants, I've been rightly called the Grim Reaper of Retail. It's simple: if you look up from your cash drawer to see me and my tripod wandering around the parking lot, your ledger is red. 'Why's that?' you ask... I'll tell you. Because the suits don't send me to check on businesses operating in the black. Rather, they dispatch me to the brink of ruin. By the time that I arrive, registers are wrung dry, regulars are dropping by with sympathy cards and soemone's always sleeping up. Yep, I've stumbled into more Mom and Pop shops on their very last day of existence than most inventory liquidation teams...

Which is why today was such a pleasure. Instead of picking clean the bones of a failed business plan, I got to bask in the glow of hope, promises and hush-puppies. See, Mayflower Seafood may have been down, but they were never out. Three years ago, news crews from every outlet turned out to watch the restaurant chain's original location spit fire into the sky. Today, when they flung open their doors to slather the Piedmont in popcorn shrimp, only one electronic lenslinger had the decency to wipe his feet. When I did, I found a sprawling Greek family with names impossible to pronounce. Rather than try, I rambled around like I owned the place, sticking my lens into kitchen, waitress station, even the Men's Room once the sweet tea got to me. Along the way I scored plenty of shots of people chewing; a neat feet considering most folk don't wanna be pictured masticating. No bother, I was too busy envisioning a giant breaded trout rising from the ashes of the old Mayflower site before taking flight over that city locals simply call 'Winston'...

Perhaps it was something I ate.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

What Lies Beneath

Tape StashOkay, so it's NOT the Lost Ark of the Covenant, but I DID just crack open a crypt without a single eyeball sliding down my face. WHEW! This might just be a box of rotting videotape to you, but to me it's a time-capsule stuffed with dust from The Stupid Years, a trunk-load of broadcast talismans once believed to no longer exist. Okay, so it IS just a crate full of tapes, but within this haphazard collection lies the beginning of an accidental career. That and at least a half dozen used car commercials so bad a single viewing could get me kicked out of the Lenslinger Institute - and I've already paid my dues this year! Thus, I view my latest discovery with just a hint of trepidation, for I squint my eyes and read the tape labels just right, a flood of emotion drowns my senses and suddenly I'm rockin' a pair of acid washed jeans as I try to figure out how to white-balance in dying sunlight. Been there. Got the sweaty station t-shirt.

Of course all my speculation on what lies beneath this pile is probably pointless, as I haven't exactly been keeping them in a cryogenic chamber. Instead they've been shuffled from closet to closet, sometimes in air-conditioned spaces - other times not. For all I know the only thing I'll see when I find a three-quarter inch or beta-machine to stick 'em in is static and snow - hard evidence that the embryo of my ambition is forever lost to science. Then again, these incriminating cartridges could contain proof of camera-mismanagement, gross misconduct and enough dated fashion to fuel a couple dozen episodes of My Two Dads. Therefore, I reserve the right to screen these vintage clips in my secret laboratory, far from the likes of the mullet-loving public and their YouTube trigger-fingers.

But silly hairstyles aside, there is much to be gleaned from this musty pile of pixels. If the labeling proves correct, this particular strain of tape covers my transition from local commercial hack to news unit neophyte. Thus, a reel of thirty second spots for fat lady dress shops share real estate with the recording of a head-on collision I felt compelled to hold on to for some unknown reason. Throw in my little brother's wedding master, some early attempts at one-man-banding, a cheesy campaign I once did for a waterbed emporium, my thought-to-be-lost skydiving piece, drunken stuntman buffoonery with a particularly troubling tape labeled 'Mondo Metal Madness' and you got a pretty good idea why I won't be leaving this particular treasure trove unattended at El Ocho.

I will however, gentle visitor, share some choice highlights with YOU - the moment I run across something the least bit aggrandizing. Count on it...

Riley Wrangles Wrenn

wrenn walk 2
...And there was much rejoicing in the El Ocho village two of its favorite citizens joined together in blessed matrimony. Yup, Angie Riley and Kevin Wrenn got hitched. It's a union many friends of the longtime couple thought might never happen, but in the end Wrenn Dawg did Siler City proud, choosing for his bride the one woman most photogs I know adore, report to and fear - should they skip out of work without cutting their bumps. The nuptials themselves were delightful; an afternoon ceremony attended by far-flung friends, foxhole buddies and more than a few local icons. All in all, it was the most fun I've had in Gibsonville since my last visit to the county's prison farm and the greatest intra-station wedding reception I've attended since Carolyn and Vernon jumped over the broom.

Congratulations Kevin and Angie!

NAB: Here We Ain't!

Awww yes, on this misty Sunday afternoon there's no place I'd rather be than lazing about my chalet. Except maybe Vegas. Okay, definitely Vegas - for as I sit here watching the dog chew something unsanctioned, broadcast prophets, gadget-happy madmen and assorted TV sleaze are descending on that glittering scab in the desert. Yes, NAB '09 is upon us and no, Team Slinger won't be in attendance. Last year of course the Mighty Weave and I rendezvoused with a certain Turd for a contemplative stroll through the globe's largest Electronic Media Show. Shots were hoisted, gizmos ogled, a treasure trove of tall tales traded and a number of doofy videos were made. It was a large time and if money grew on tripods, I'd be shaking off jet-lag right now as the Benefactor signaled the nearest cocktail waitress. Instead, I'll probably hit the hay early, then - you know, wake up and shoot an anchor package. Meh...

Still, not ALL is lost. Thanks to polymer technology and the always tall Kevin Johnson, I'll roam the floor from afar. The b-roll founder, along with dandy Andy Grossman can ALWAYS be counted on to ricochet from booth to booth, dodging the windier exhibitors and sticking a lens in whatever else finds their fancy. This year they won't have a blowhard like me hoggin' the glass, so look for some in-depth reportage and even a few outbursts from this thing the kids call Twitter. Why it'll be like being there without all the foot pain! I'm just sorry I'll miss the B-Roll Bash, for both times I've disgraced that particular gathering I've come away the better - minus the bed-spins. Oh well, there's always next year. In fact, more than a few of us have already vowed to share some air at NAB 10. You know, provided there's still some form of tee-vee being practiced then.