Thursday, May 21, 2009

Fool by the Pool

Dr. Von Dark's Tunnel of Terror 3So the local water park blew some coin on a sick new ride and the suits in the room thought it might look good on television. Clearly, this is a job for Lenslinger. Actually, Weaver was scheduled to unveil Wet and Wild's new pitch-black plummet, but a whiff of aviation fuel lured him to the hills of Wilkes County - where, being Weaver, he conjured up a manhunt. All of which goes to explain why Nicole Ferguson I spent the morning of the Photog Equinox poolside, as two members of the park's management team hurled themselves into a watery void. It's a living.

Wet 'n Wild Emerald Pointe.Doctor Von Dark's Tunnel of Terror. THAT'S what they named the damn thing. Guess Captain Flatulence's Angry Intestine was taken, probably by some water park up in Flushings. Heh-heh, Flushings. Actually, Lawn GUY-land is the only other place you'll find a similar structure - a contorted stack of tubes featuring a forty foot drop in complete darkness. Think of it as Paul Bunyan's turlet tank! Or don't. It's not like I ain't gonna push you down a pipe just for being disagreeable.

Dr. Von Dark's Tunnel of Terror 1Not when I have such willing victims as Kathy and Kerry. Officially, they're part of Wet and Wild's crack sales force, but a clause in their contracts allows them to act as turds in the punchbowl whenever a news crew comes a callin'. Around here that's pretty often, as W&W is known far and wide for its ample camera fodder. Don't believe me? Drag a fancycam past the Lazee River one summer day. You'll see more farmer's tans, open beer guts and leaky Speedos than can be found in a fortnight at Myrtle Beach. And that's saying something...

Dr. Von Dark's Tunnel of Terror 5Today however, the Carolina's largest water park was damn near empty, mostly because it's yet to open for the season. Only plumbing ninjas and landscapers roamed about, punctuated by a small legion of teenage lifeguards twirling whistles this way and that. I suppose they're training for when little Pugslie gets stuck in the drain at the bottom of the wave pool. That, or the food court fry cook runs out of chicken nuggets and bands of adolescents stage an insurrection outside Pirate's Cove. Maybe they should give those lifeguards tasers, too.

Waterproof camera bagSpeaking of weapons, I rolled up with a few of my own. In addition to my fancyam, sidearm digital and rainbow collection of half-dead batteries, I brought the station's camcorder and underwater housing. It's not the kind of thing I normally eff with, but knowing Weaver would have arrived in full scuba gear, I opted to engorge my own McGyver. It's not exactly my wheelhouse, but rough waters call for extra vigilance. Besides, what's more comforting than twisting a ziplock bag around a handycam you don't own and handing it to a total stranger in a bikini. All I asked is she not pop out the other end of the tube withOUT my camera and its condom.

Dr. Von Dark's Tunnel of Terror 4She didn't. In fact, we may have awakened the inner cinematographer in our waterpark mouthpiece, for Kathy and Kerry giggled a bit harder each time we sent them down the drink with contraption in hand. I only wish I'd thought to make sure the damn thing was zoomed OUT, for undefined frames of bubbles and swish do but so much for a finished piece. In the end, we got some decent footage, but considering the word DARK is in the ride's name, we didn't rewrite any new paradigms. Only Nicole distinguished herself with a lens, popping off these shots while managing not to drop the camera or her Crackberry in the Urination Station kiddie pool.

All that and looks too.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Need to Know

Rueing the day he learned to shootThere is no ONE PATH to becoming a TV News Photog; no series of checklists, no governing body, no filigreed sheepskin proclaiming you Doctor of Cameraman Thropology. Sure, you can study broadcasting in college or send your checks to NPPA, but you’re not truly a photog until you’ve worn a groove in your right shoulder, backpedaled before shackled madmen or sat through a month’s worth of fruitless city council meetings. Yes, as a field of discipline it’s wonderfully disciplined, one of the few remaining professions through on the job training. I myself only began mastering the craft after failing at other professional endeavor, a career path I wouldn’t suggest to those fond of paying their bills on time. But lucky as I was to find my special purpose, I know that, compared to some, I’m barely a cameraman at all.

That’s because I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the innards of my many gizmos. Yeah, I know which model of fancycam I drag across the Piedmont each day and I grasp the limitations of my wireless microphone, but I harbor no flowcharts in my pea sized brain and not once have I EVER referred to an audio cable as an X-L-R. There are those who do, of course, mostly freelancers who know more about their gear ’cause they’re the ones who bought it. Some station staffers can also be counted on to know every inch of their glass and plastic, but I think it’s safe to assume most photogs out there know a lot more about story execution than internal schematics. In my not so humble opinion, that’s as it should be, though there are legions of lenslingers who’d like to hang me by the tripod for peddling such heresy.

Take the crowd over at, the on-line watering hole for those of us with camera batteries on porta-bake. Smart folks, they are: from the newsroom neophyte to the terminal burnout to the sore shouldered sage - each group slathers passion and piss over a living compendium of issues and opinions. This latest conundrum should be a fun one, but already gifted lensers are getting their panties in a wad because someone or another told them the world was not as they see it. It’s kind of pathetic really, like watching buggy-whip makers argue over who sports the best leather while Henry Ford rolls new Model T’s off assembly lines in the background. But I didn’t log in to denigrate the b-roll army. I just wanted to move that latest mullet photo a little lower down the page. But while I’m at it…

I DO think it’s important for anyone with a lens in their life to understand all that it will do. That said, I’m not sure what good it does to spout serial numbers by heart- unless you‘re trying out for the role of C3-PO in your community theater. I’d much rather you know how to work a room full of pissed off officials, how to pretend you’re not shooting when you are, how to tell the suits your mast won’t stay up when thunder falls on your live truck. Master that and you’ll be in demand long after the techno-tog has fallen out of fashion, for the era of the specialist is coming to a close. I’m not saying it’s right, but fancycams are about to come with candy-colored buttons. If you thought the rise of video over film dumbed down the craft, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Now move out of the way, would ya? I want to point this shiny thing on my shoulder at that bent sheet metal over there...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Swagger to the Max

Us, late Eighties
It was the end of the 80's and I was not known for my wise decisions. But even my heftiest of skeptic had to marvel at what I'd brought back from my military stint: a beautiful, brilliant, beaming girlfriend. 'What could SHE see in HIM?' they wondered. I knew better than to ask. Instead, I quietly thanked God for doing me a solid when he ushered this beguiling creature into my life. It was no less than a cosmic upgrade, for suddenly I found myself a civilian again, with a hot blonde on my arm. It's amazing what that will do for a young man's swagger. Yes, with her by my side, I wasn't even troubled bu the fact that my man-do would make Conway Twitty twinge. I credit the presence of this pretty woman with convincing me I had something to contribute to this globe; imagine her chagrin when I decided it would be (gulp!) local television. Still, that didn't scare her off. She pursued nursing, I learned to zoom with my feet and before you know it a wedding date was set. That was nineteen years ago today and even to my surprise, we're still going strong. Somewhere along the way, my lovely wife replicated herself; now I'm the father of two beautiful girls who I pray will hold off a bit before bringing home some lucky schlub like the one pictured above. When they do, I'll damn sure give him the business, for no one knows better than I the residual benefits of a good woman. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go take out the trash. Life ain't ALL romance, ya know...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Turd at Rest

No bloated prose goes here; just a simple shout-out to my friend Rick Portier, that Louisiana lenslinger who keeps the mean streets of Baton Rouge safely awash in piss and vinegar. A potent scribe in his own right, the artist known as Turdpolisher doesn't blog as much as he used to; instead he toils away on an off-line project, a novel of sorts he once promised to let me read. It just goes to show ya: there's more going on inside your average photog's head than wondering when he last white-balanced. As for me, I'm looking forward to NAB 10, where I hope to join Rick and quite a few others for the kind of monastic reflection one can only get in Vegas. Party on, Turd...