Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Joe Cool, Camera Pimp
(2006) Rated R 88 min. In the little seen fourth Austin Powers movie, even the International Man of Mystery is skeeved out by his lenslinging nemesis, Pervy White-Balance. Decked out in a bushy Van Dyke and thick Russian accent, Mike Myers tried to invigorate the once thriving franchise with his Communist cameraman character, a leering swinger slash spy known for his swanky threads and inappropriate save-tapes. Despite elaborate dance sequences, buxom co-stars and laser shooting robo-cams, the - ahem - film, failed to win over critics or crowds. Its dismal box office is thought to have led Myers to the even more disastrous ‘The Love Guru’. No Stars.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Six Degrees of Sharpton

Look Sharpton!
For every celebrity you meet in this business, you buzz a dozen more. Just ask Kyle DuBreuil. The Burlington, Vermont news shooter recently swooped in on Al Sharpton, a semi-intimate encounter that didn’t happen by accident.
When I saw he was exiting I ran up the aisle on the right side of the church to get a close up of him shaking hands with the hosts of the event. This photo was taken maybe only a second after I had shouldered my camera.
Now, I’ve never side-stepped around the good Rev’rend, but I’ve danced with his partner a time or ten. It’s that tenuous connection that, I’m convinced, holds the universe together. It certainly makes the world feel a lot smaller. Then again, maybe I’ve just been locked in the scrum too long, racing crosstown rivals to fleeting sweet spots, all for a lasting glance at the dignitary of the day. At times, it can feel quite silly. But when you’re poorly paid to waltz alongside the rich and infamous, you rarely stop to name-drop. Sure, you work phrases like “Hey, remember that time I chased Nikki Sixx through an underground parking garage!” into polite conservation, or blurt out “Bill Clinton smells of elderberries!” during fast-food orders, but eventually you learn to look past the marquee.

By treating the fleeting encounters with VIP’s as just another day-shift, you’ll not only become easier to be around, but you’ll grow exponentially as a PHO-tog. That windbag who shows up at every school board meeting to rail against segregation in the lunch room’s chocolate milk cooler? He deserves every bit of focus you’d lay on Miss Hawaiian Tropic, should you choose to point a camera his way. And the homeless man you’re about to turn into an internet sensation - isn’t he entitled to the same crisp, clean audio you’d insist upon should Bono bum-rush through the local orphanage?

No, it’s not as much fun to brag about the backlight you laid on some jittery tax accountant as it to dissect ever inch of your forty second slow-dance with Janet Reno. But by approaching every assignment with the same cockpit concentration, you’ll elevate your rep, spread information across the land and not look like an utter putz just because some C-Lister entered the room. Hey that reminds me - did I ever tell you about the time I fought to the death for a clearer shot of Clay Aiken? It was a mosh-pit of galactic consequence, my friend...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Grace Under Fire

View more news videos at:

What's worse than witnessing a deadly explosion? Having a fancycam by your side and NOT capturing the blast. It's easier than you might think - missing the shot, that is. Lenses don't affix themselves to the action; they're schlepped, aimed and activated by folks who do a lot more than loiter under glass. Just ask Geoff Nichols. The NBC10 photojournalist was on the scene of a damaged gas main in the Tacony Section of Philadelphia Tuesday Night when the sky turned to fire.
"I had my hand on the camera and it almost threw me back."
But Geoff managed to hold on and using instincts honed by experience, he reflexively zoomed OUT. It may not sound like much, but when a giant plume of exploding gas appears before you, the right finger-twitch is a monumental movement. I know next to nothing about Geoff Nichols, but judging from his performance, I can tell you this wasn't his first gas leak. Tragically, it WAS a 19 year old PGW employee's last such encounter. His body was found after the fire was brought under control. Four other employees and a firefighter were also hospitalized.
"Those guys are really unsung heroes ... they deal with a lot of dangerous stuff all the time."
That's Geoff Nichols again, describing victims of the blast during his obligatory live shot. Those of us lift lenses for a living do so because we like it there. Stepping in front of the camera to talk about the last moment of another person's life isn't something we volunteer for - if only because we know how badly it can go. But Geoff did his beleaguered breed proud, adopting just the right tone to depict the blast recorded in an instant without further wounding those who will forever suffer its aftermath. That's more than jabbing at a button. It's retaining your humanity.

We should all be so nimble.