Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Eagle Has Landed

Some days this job feels like a raptor on your back. No, really! When you hoist glass for a daily wage, getting torn to shreds by an apex predator ain't beyond the realm of possibility. Just ask this guy. But let me know what he says, would ya? Every since this mysterious frame surfaced on-line, shooters the world over have held forth on its origin... Is it a wildlife shoot gone awry? A pointless case of PhotoShop? A publicity still for the next Stephen King movie? Did the camera capture its very own demise as the Eagle(?) swooped in and snapped its neck? Or did it only capture the sound like in Grizzly Man? And how much for the bird to rip the eyelids off that rent-a cop? Okay, forget that last one. Just know that a(ny) lenslinger getting his clock cleaned by Mother Nature greatly pains me both personally and professionally. As self-appointed guardian of the photog nation, I'm duty bound - if not deluded - to uphold, protect and whitewash any unsavory incident involving my fellow cameraman. While the particulars of the above assault remain hazy, I'm tempted to issue a stern Schmuck Alert(!) to the entire animal kingdom - had that recent subcommittee not limited my dominion over reptiles, crossing guards and birds of prey. Oh well, I'll be under my bed if you need me...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Snowpocalypse NOW!

Snowstruck FourOne Man Snowy StandupNews VanThe Final Run(?)
With the first flake yet to fall, newsrooms South of the Mason-Dixon line are already preparing to lose their shit. I know; I've been a hostile accomplice to these crimes against natures since Frosty was a frontal system. It's not our finest hour. Or is it? TV stations throw an awful lot of energy at snowstorms - even when there are blades of grass poking up through the open tundra. I myself have lit vaguely glazed parking lots like they were Rockefeller Plaza, thrust toothy coworkers on icy ledges and hitched more than one ride on the salt truck parade... It hasn't ALL been drudgery. Crystallized precipitation is a blast to shoot; so are the kind of ghetto beatdown snowball fights you can spark just by breaking the camera out in certain parts of town. I even like the way the passing cars lose traction and slide toward my live shot! But if it's okay with you and Snow Miser, I'd just as soon sit this blizzard out.

Hmm? What's that? How could I stand to miss the biggest weather story to come this way since that heatwave wilted all the dirtweed in Cannabis County? Oh, I'd find a way. I'd sit home and stir the wife's hot chocolate as the dog flipped out on his very first snowfall. I'd flip the switch the flip on the fireplace and bask in the memories of assignments past... all the riots I'm responsible for on the bread and milk aisle... the seven hours I spent on that overpass watching a junior colleague repeat herself every fifteen minutes, the time I urinated the station logo on that unfortunate snowbank... Yeah, I've gone snow-blind time and time again - without ever putting Unit 4 in the ditch. That's quite the accomplishment for a Southern-bred flatlander with a genetically bred lead foot. So I beg of you Zuess: grant me this one storm to stay at home and scrape the wife's windshield. Apollo knows I've earned it and besides, I'm officially off today! There's really only one problem... I'm ON %@&$* CALL all weekend.

See you out there...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Strange Thing to be Good At

Wookie MulletNever exactly a model student, it's no surprise I ended up slingin' lenses for a living. After all, you only need three things to be a tee-vee stevedore: a keen eye, a firm grip and a glaring lack of career options. I possessed each and every one of those traits when I staggered into WNCT-TV in the fall of '89; maybe that's why Lori Scott looked past my dearth of real world experience and signed me up for an exciting career in broadcasting. Chances are she was just looking for a warm body to show up at four in the morning and dry-hump a studio camera. Either way, I was more than happy to be that schlub. Before better judgment could take hold, I told my car selling boss where he could shove his beamer and committed myself to the study of street-level camera management. It was such a rush. The magical gadgets, the access, those plastic jackets with the logo on it...I. Was. Hooked. Never before had I found a field of interest I couldn't royally eff up and while I blaze new paths in mediocrity at first, no one ever demanded I cough up my keys to the camera closet.

Good thing. I had no place to go.

Kneecap InterviewFast forward twenty years. Still in servitude to a licensed broadcast affiliate, I fill time for a daily wage. Two minutes. That's the average chunk of newscast I'm responsible for - five days of week. If I possessed the math skills of a community college student, I'd figure out how much that's added up to over the years. Then again, if I had a better grasp of mathematics I'd have no business driving around with tools in my trunk. As it is, I'm well suited for this distillation of misery, this processing of gossip, this truncating of tripe. Sure, there's something about afflicting the comfortable in there, but mostly I skim the list of morning story ideas for something visual. Normally I find it and without so much as scintilla of an agenda, I bag it, tag it and serve it up somewhere between the furrowed brows of tonight's tragedy and the frothy anchor crosstalk. For an undereducated yet fairly erudite slacker with a lot of pent up energy and the attention span of a junkie, it's an ideal way to while away a lifetime.

But it's a young man's game.

Video HenchmenAnd while I'm not exactly a senior citizen, I'm well past the age when most photog-types seek more fulfilling employ. Yes, I've lost a ton of buddies to corporate video, fledgling freelance or pursuits more noble than news, like, say... strip club management. When each of them went, I died a little inside - not just over the loss of a friend, but because every departure reminded me of the deal I signed with the devil in the closing days of the '80's... 'Teach me how to make Tee-Vee and I'll do it 'til I'm bloated and floating down the river Styx.' I know, I know" I should have held out for some chance of advancement, but when you're rockin' an acid-washed jean jacket and a mild buzz, long range planning doesn't figure into the equation. A rush does, though. Knowing I'd have a backstage pass to life molded to my shoulder and keys to news cars of varying vintage, I plunged headfirst into a pretty shallow line of work. Do I regret it? On occasion. I have a right elbow that throbs 'round the clock and the respect of my superiors - as long I bring em something fresh every twenty four hours...

Oh - and I got stories.

I do a LOT of WaitingTons of 'em - even more than I've shared over five years of blogging. Every news shooter does. That's what keeps us coming back. It damn sure ain't the pay. No, what the hooks the average photog is unfettered access to tripe, tragedy and triumph. We're not ghouls, mind you. We just get used to being ushered in past the crowd, be they screaming teens at a boy-band concert or addled crackheads at a prostitution sting. Live that life long enough, an eternal outsider with an inside hook-up and the very idea of videotaping widgets or capturing commencements for a living turns your blood to sludge. Not that there's any shame in the private sector. No if reasonable workloads and every holiday off is your idea of a vacation, there's a rhubarb processing plant in dire need of video guru. Just don't call me. I'll be busy out in the field, chasing fresh felons, dozing off at groundbreakings, or holding court at some sat truck encampment as twenty-something news shooters roll their eyes at the ramblings of the badly aging gas-bag. I can live with that.

Can you?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Yer Cheatin' Part

Cheated SlingerIt came to light the way many dalliances do these days: Facebook. Someone attached my name to a photograph, I saw it and noticed it wasn't me. Well, that's a lie. Truth is i took one look at that photo and froze - for there was my baby in the arms of another. I...I knew it was possible. After all, I've been working short weeks lately. Perhaps I've even been a little inattentive. But to see some young punk poke my honey in a homeless woman's tent; well, it's just about more than this cameraman can stand.

Understand, we've been through a lot. Hurricanes, Hollywood, homicides. I've dragged her chassis through blizzards, floodzones and a couple of Southern jungles. I've pushed per past security, into the face of felons and through a burned-out window or two. Together we've scrambled down ditchbanks, run up training tower stairwells, even loitered just beyond the body-drop. Through it all, we bonded like only a fool and his tool could. I've fondled her in cockpits, took her on a submarine once and banged her into more doorjambs than either of us care to admit. Once we were following a bunch of Boy Scouts through their campsite. I twisted my ankle on a not so steady stepping stone and sprawled ass over kettle. She slipped from my grip that day and we lay there together in the mid morning dew laughing at our misfortune... And now this.

Some would say I'm overreacting. They'd point to the many shops where gear is shared among many; like some weirdo religious sect. They'd remind me that fancycam is no -more mine than Boris Yeltsin's (which is a odd-ass reference, by the way). But no matter what exhortations they picked, for logic has no power over the broken-hearted. So put a sock in it, Dear Abbies, for the truly jilted have no time for platitudes. I just want things back the way they were, before high school football kicked me to the curb every Friday night and lesser lenslingers tickled and pawed my soulmate. Hey, I realize it's gonna happen. I can't be on call all the time; there's goona be a day when another man whisks her away on his own beefy shoulders. But we're going to have to have a frank discussion, Sony and I. Otherwise, I'll never be able to look straight and true through her lovely lens again...

Which could really make shooting news a bitch.