Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Table for Two

Taking over the Judge's table.

You know, when I'm not shooting news stories or penning late-night fables, there's nothing I enjoy more than spreading delusions among our young people...

You there - with the faux-hawk and and facial tats - what are YOU doing still living in your parents' basement? With a voice like that you could be cutting records, filling stadiums, or at the very least, headlining a laundromat grand opening! You were right to drive across three states for some time in our spotlight! What's that? School? Who needs school when you got pipes like yours? No, what you need, young man, is a good spray tan! That and perhaps some skinny jeans. What you DON'T need to do is change your vocal style. Why, with your crazy stare and my connections we could corner the market on death-metal yodeling! Just don't listen to those other judges. They're jealous of my dressing room! Why, just the other day I caught the pink-haired one rifling through my pills. She doesn't even HAVE psoriasis!

Hmm? I've NOT been chosen as a celebrity judge? What will I do with all this body-glitter? On second thought, forget I mentioned it. Clearly, I've let my imagination get the better of my blog. That's what happens when you rise before dawn, hydroplane down the interstate and openly consort with ingenues and warblers. Yep, it's another audition stop for American Idol, the show that unleashed the likes of Clay Aiken ona an unsuspecting nation. This time, the show's producers have taken over the Charlotte Motor Speedway - a place I never once visited before today. And what a day! From interviewing hopefuls to staving off starvation to pretending to understand what Randy Jackson was saying, I haven't had this much fun since the last time I edged my driveway! There was, however, one bright spot...

Midway through the day, Shannon and I were ushered up the the fifth floor to get a look at the new set. We tried our best to act professional, but as soon as the production crew turned their back, we wiggled our way behind the judge's table. It was hella-fun, until that one lighting tech broke out his Taser.

You wouldn't think a guy with that many tools hanging off him could move so fast...

Sunday, September 30, 2012

What Fries Beneath

Billy Dry
Chance may favor the prepared mind, but sometimes you gotta plunge headlong into The Suck. Okay, you don't have to, but if there's a certain groove in your shoulder, you probably will. Just ask Billy Dry. That's him in the cargo shorts, looking strangely out of place amid a forest of turn-out gear. Is it proper attire? Depends on who you ask. Some news shooters I know won't so much as sit in the sun without a Nomex Snuggie. Others chase hurricanes in flip-flops. Me, I'm somewhere in between. I got hip-waders in the car in case of flash-flooding, but I once covered a mud-slide in deck shoes and Dockers. I'm kidding, I don't wear deck shoes and Dockers. As far as you know, anyway. But, hey, this isn't about me! It's about Billy Dry and how he ended up at a forest fire dressed like a third-grader...
As any photog would do I was following the action, this shot led to the next, to the next and next thing I knew I was in the middle of some of the hardest working volunteer fire fighters. I really wanted to show folks at home what these guys did and how they did it because no one EVER sees what goes on inside a grass fire. They see the helicopters dropping water, they see the pumper trucks going in...but inside that wall of brush and thorns, is the story...
See what I mean: passion over planning. It's that kind of fire in the belly that can lead to indigestion, not to mention a life devoid of leg hair. There are worse things, I guess - provide you get the shot. Billy did, as evidenced by the outstanding clip he enclosed. I don't know about you, but from where I safely sit, that shot at 1:15 is worth a singed shinbone or two... 

Provided they're not mine, of course.

X Marks the Shot

Tough Room
Now that The X Factor has aired all its audition episodes, I can share you with the exciting news: Simon hates my singing! Okay, so I didn't launch into song the last time I saw the t-shirted titan - but only because his bodyguard looked like he wanted to eat me. I was a little ill at ease without a camera in my hand, but the show's producers insisted we local TV types set our gear aside as soon as we entered the 'Celebrity Judge's Green Room'. We were there to quiz Simon, Demi, L.A. and Britney about the Arab Spring exciting new season of The X Factor. For three days, Shannon Smith and I scoured every crevice of the Greensboro Coliseum, haranguing hopefuls, elbowing extras, fending off the fanatics. Such is the slog at a reality show audition and we were both glad to be near the end of it. In fact, there was only assignment left: interview the judges.

So when the hipster with the headset motioned for me to put my camera down, I did so with some hesitation. I've been on Paula Abdul Time before, once doubling my beard length while she pouted outside in her limo. But this was no Idol production. It was a Simon Cowell joint and the man who swaddles his pecs in too tight cotton twists a mighty tight one. Soon the man himself entered the room, followed by the other judges. Suddenly, the lighting warmed, the air conditioning whispered and ice cubes ceased their clinking. Then again, that PBJ I'd just hoarked down inside the live truck had been sitting in the heat all day. Either I was swooning for the glare of white hot celebrity or I was simply about to upchuck. Either way, I was determined to do it with a smile, especially when the judges began extolling the virtues of a certain frothy beverage.

And that Virginia, is how I came to appear in a Pepsi commercial of sorts. If you're still confused, you're not alone. My fifteen year old daughter saw it and she still can't decide whether it was A) pretty cool or B) reason enough for her to request a school transfer.

I can't decide, myself.

Don't Look Back

Though most can't tell you what they shot last week, one in one hundred TV News Photographers suffers from a different affliction:

They can not forget

Sinkhole, barn fire, inner-city cheese give-away: the news shooter dealing with E.R.S. (Excessively Reflective Syndrome) has trouble letting go of even the most trifling item. The signs are everywhere: Pensiveness Irritability. Flatulence. No matter which symptom the lenslinger in your life exhibits, does he (or she) ever want to be 'alone with their gear'? Are their signs of excessive knob-polishing? Can he look you in the eye when a newscast is on in the adjoining room? Or is she left reeling from the emotional impact of a single ribbon-cutting? Does he interrupt dinner parties with boastful claims of street cred? Claim they no longer need GPS? Has he ever compared the cost of carrot sticks to that one time he was hemmed in by an enemy's live truck? Do mail carriers avoid your home, for fear your troubled photog will accost them with tales of their own torturous treks? Does he drape himself in station logo-wear on his only day off? Is she still gloating over that trophy she bought? Have you ever caught him sucking-face with the business end of a zoom lens? 

There IS hope. 

We here at The Lenslinger Institute know a thing or two about stewing in minutia and the tragic effects it can on even casual conversation. Thus, we've developed an intensive six week regiment of sleep deprivation and eyelid removal that should have your street-level cinematographer back to a lobotomized state in no time. Not only will he or she not be able to explain why their tripod smells like pimento cheese, neither of them will even care! No more suffering the slings and arrows of their day: you'll be lucky they find their way home! Awww, Sweet Catatonia... Hmm? Yes, where were we? Oh yeah, the end of E.R.S! Just call 1-800-Shut-Up-Already and bring peace and harmony back to your home! Order now and get a virtual t-shirt! Just do it...

...because a walking tour of the local waste-water treatment plant is a terrible thing to prattle on about.