Friday, December 30, 2011

That's a Wrap

Browning Sunset
2011 is almost over and I've yet to work up the obligatory Year in Review post. Oh well, what better way to wiggle out of all that reflection than to share one of Sean Browning's Go-Pro masterpieces! In his latest submission we see not some frazzled photog staring into the abyss, but rather a bugs-eye view of a live shot at dusk. Funny, I don't remember my least favorite part of the day being so beautiful. Then again, life's all about how you perceive it. Whereas many lenslingers see only knotted drop cords drenched in generator fumes, others aren't afraid to simply gape at the heavens. I rather like the latter and in the coming year I vow to look up (and live) a little more often. So while I can't promise to be as sunny as my West Coast brethren, I'll try my best to turn down the Sturm und Drang. Now if you'll excuse me, I have half a mile of orange cord to untangle and this lousy daylight is dying fast.

Happy New Year...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

News You Can Lose

PhoneIt hasn't just been slow this week. It's been inert. That's to be expected, for during this week after Christmas, a good percentage of the hemisphere stays home. Not us newsies. We've got a show to put on - even if it means filling our broadcasts with a complete lack of happenings. You'd think it would make for an easy week. You'd be wrong. Me, I'd rather race from turnstile to rubble pile to live truck dial than try to make news out of nothing at all. Take the past few days - please! I've played more phone tag than a telemarketer with Tourettes, left quizzical missives with executive assistants, drooled over the kind of press releases I'd usually use for spitballs...
Yes, Public Works? Nigel from Channel X here. We just got word you guys were waxing speed bumps this week and we wanted to know if we could send a crew over? Excuse me? You don't see WHY this is newsworthy? Look pal, you're the one who sent the press release! I'm just keeping my place in the food chain. You know what a slow news week it is? My assignment editor had to breathe into a paper bag before your fax ever made it through the machine. She's laying down right now! So before you go changing your mind, you should know my satellite truck is circling your block. Inside are two separate news crews, one to cover 'nuts and bolts', the other in search of a sidebar. I got my best graphics guy cooking up an over the shoulder as we speak and I'm thinking about sending my main anchor over to break out the gravitas. So unless you wanna tell the entire Upper Valley Homeland Crescent why you're wasting valuable fax paper, I suggest you get the fellas out there and out there NOW! Otherwise, we're going straight-up investigative on your ass and YOU'LL be the one explaining why a half dozen city workers were caught on tape getting high by the salt pile! Hmmm? What's that???

Yeah, I can call back tomorrow.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Terminal Viscocity

DSCF0107After eleven days off, I wasn't sure I'd remember how to push minutia through a tube. But mere minutes after planting my camera outside a busy department store, I realized - like dirty looks from women who didn't do their hair before venturing out to return those oven mitts - those news-gathering callouses weren't gonna fade any time soon. For instance...

I can still profile with extreme prejudice. You would too if persuading strangers to yammer on camera were part of your daily duties. So if I accost you in a crowded parking lot, be honored! I let the last weirdos pass without so much as a game of slap and tickle! Now tell me, what brings you to the syphilis clinic, Senator?

I can still think on my feet. Today, certified gajillionaire Jerry Neal escorted me around his palatial estate. It was awkward at first, until we realized we both knew Jerry Bledsoe and Phil Morgan. From there, we gabbed like old friends, despite our differences in age and income. Maybe he'll come mountain biking with us!

I can still remember when crossing county lines felt like a lo-o-ong way to go to fill forty seconds of airtime. Now I'll crisscross the entire region six times for one close-up of an eggplant that resembles Martin Van Buren. Make that seven if the lady who grew it speaks with an odd accent. Throw in a funny wig and I'll go well past eight.  

I can still tell who used my gear while I was gone simply by examining the physical evidence. Viewfinder out of whack? Must be that shortsighted sports shooter down the hall. Shutter speed cranked to the high heavens? Film school student at twelve o clock. The faint smell of Egg McMuffins and desperation? I'm lookin' at you, morning crew!    

I can still recall a time when chasing scanner blather felt like a really important thing to do. It was the dawn of the nineties and I was high on acid wash jeans and Jane's Addiction. These days, everything has changed except my musical tastes and while the siren's song doesn't thrill me like it used to, I still can't meet a screaming fire engine on the street without mumbling curses and giving chase.

But I'm working on it..

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Sling, Slank, Slunk!

Camera Grinch
Contrary to what my wife may tell you, that ain't me. In fact, on this not so brisk Christmas morning, I couldn't be merrier. Much of that has to do with the fact that I've been on vacation for going on ten days now. That will change tomorrow, when I skulk back to El Ocho with a bag full of jacked-up toys slung over my one good shoulder. I'm expecting a hectic week: one filled with live shots, handheld soundbites and not a lot of news to go around. Whatever (doesn't) happen, I'll try not to complain, for who wants to hear the grumblings of a wordy camera nerd with garlic in his soul? Not me. For while my heart may be full of unwashed socks, my head is back in the game. 2011, with its bouts of doubt and toadstool sandwiches, is nearly a thing of the past. I'm looking more than forward to Twenty Twelve, if for no other reason it reminds me of a Rush album I dug in middle school. That and the world's gonna end when this new calendar runs out. What better reason to get off my felt green ass and commence with the sentences? None that I can think of, so if you try not to roll your beady little eyes so much, I'll try and do better by these pages in 2012 - even if I have to pillage the entire Piedmont Triad Googolplex to do it.

Merry Christmas.

Gold in Them Thar Reels

Gold Rush
If you're like me, you've not watched a single frame of Discovery's Gold Rush. But that's about to change now that the show's producers have unleashed a wicked new Behind the Scenes episode. It ain't news, but one look at what the production crew has to go through up there in the Klondike will make anyone with a camera groove in their shoulder wince in solidarity. Killer mud, pissed off prospectors, rogue excavators! Reminds of a few groundbreakings I've attended. Then again, nothing I've seen on the golden shovel patrol can compare to what folks like Nick O'Mealley experienced while living for months in the middle of untamed Alaska. Don't believe me? See for yourself - just don't go around trashing those 'pampered' production crews. After all, when's the last time a hungry bear bum-rushed your ribbon-cutting?

Been at least a couple of months for me...

Master of the Grab

John Creel, III
You can keep your Chet McChindimples and vaguely ethnic Barbies. I need a real man for the mission at hand, one who isn't afraid to wear a connector necklace, sensible shoes and a bright red fanny pack. Such a person is John P. Creel, III, otherwise known as JPC-3PO. I myself have never met the man, but Richard Adkins has. And to hear RAD tell it, Creel doesn't just commit television news, he embodies it...
John Creel didn’t teach me how to shoot, he didn’t teach me how to edit. What John Creel taught me was Survival in the world of TV News Photography. What John Creel knew that so many in the business missed, is that a good News Photographer has to be part Journalist, part Boy Scout, part artist and part asshole. All while being a good person.

John is an early adapter of technology, while others were still playing Pong, John had a home computer. Before cell phones were small enough to fit on your glove-box, you could always talk to John via his Mobile Radio Phone. And John taught me how to fix what broke, at least good enough to limp through the next live shot.

Creel is that guy who you never catch off-guard… stuck on a stake out at the scene all night? Creel will bring out a box of food stashed away in his truck. Rain? He’s got you covered… literally. Every gadget, every adapter, every thing you need… John can pull out of his pocket in an instant.

After working with John for about five years, I ran in to him later on assignment. I’ll never forget that night at the Great New Madrid Earthquake… a zillion Sat trucks lined the levies of the river, a long day, a long night… and while everyone was tired, folding up lights and rolling up cables after the last live shot, we all caught the smell of freshly popped popcorn… we looked around there was John, offing up hot popcorn from the microwave in his rig… and I just may have imagined this part… but I’m pretty sure there a cooler of cold beer with arms reach!
Adapters...popcorn...BEER? What say we clone this Creel fellow and improve television tenfold!