Thursday, February 28, 2013

To Serve Man

Ever wonder what it's like to be an 'Executive Chef'? Me neither, but when the suits insisted that I find out, I ran from the newsroom before they could changed their minds. After all, they could have said 'Toenail Curator',  or 'Llama Jockey' or 'Septic Tank Specialist'. That would really sucked, as the bosses wanted me to wrap an entire reality show around said profession. Okay, so 'reality show' may be a stretch, but a fifteen minute chunk of reporter-free TV was going to take a lot more focus than the kind of slapdash minute and a half I usually fill. Luckily, the grown-ups found a most excellent specimen in one Leigh Hesling. A culinary journeyman with down-under roots , Chef Hesling came complete with an army of underlings, his very own catch-phrase ("Loife changing stuff!") and two of the most tricked-out kitchens in the Greater Piedmont Googolpex.

When it comes to photog-friendly environments, I'd rank restaurant kitchens somewhere between daycare playground and helicopter cockpit. They're just too many sharp edges and slippery floors, not to mention a platoon of beefy dudes in funny hats who will gladly body-check you into the nearest fry vat, should you get between them and their tub of mushroom truffles. Speaking of scalding cauldrons, I'd rather soak my frontal lobe in a red hot crock-pot than ingest one more frame of culinary wonderment. Maybe that's because I've spent so much time locked in an antechamber, stewing in my own juices as visions of twice baked souffles danced across multiple screens. The resulting piece ain't exactly news, but neither were the past six imperiled animal epics I slammed together. At least THIS shoot came with a handful of jumbo shrimp!

(Wrapped in bacon, no less.)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Doom with a View

Race Cam
All that I know about NASCAR can best be summed up with the words "Boogity Boogity", but one need not be a racing fan to have seen the horrific crash at Daytona this weekend. Me, I've only been to one such race and it was only because my bosses were paying me to be there. Which is why I so identify with one particular person in the above frightening frame. There, just left of center, a figure trying desperately to get away from the point of impact does so under heavy glass...

Closer CamOkay, so it's no surprise a dude with a fancycam would be at the right place at the wrong time. In this case it's an ESPN cameraman named Craig. I don't know Craig, of course, but I'd like to buy him several rounds of his favorite drink and listen to what he has to say. Chances are he'd tell me it all happened too quickly to process. And while you don't have to have a face full of viewfinder to be overwhelmed by inertia and debris, it does provide an additional degree of disbelief.

Some blame the tiny black and white screen shimmering in the middle distance. Stare at it long enough and you begin to feel you're watching television, not making it. These days, however, those screens are bigger, closer and drenched in every hue under the sun. You'd think that kind of color and clarity would remind the operator that what they're seeing is all too real. You'd be wrong.

Crash CamTwice in my life big things have tried to kill me and the camera on my shoulder. I'd be lying if I didn't tell you I'm always on the lookout for number 3. And while that kind of vigilance comes with middle age, I'm as susceptible to the lure of flickering pixels as I've ever been. See, there's a real kick to watching life through a tube. The laminated ID around our necks affords us unparalleled access. The cameras we so cradle take us even closer. As a result, we photogs feel like a part of the scenery - be it a flimsy fence surrounding a racetrack or a ribbon of yellow tape enveloping a crime scene...

What's my point? Don't know that I have one. But what I'm sure that I possess is a similar world view to that Craig the cameraman. Some folk might seek therapy after such a grisly incident. Most photogs, however, wear that kind of trauma like a badge of honor, a notch on their camera strap that bleeds street cred and chafes when no one's looking. I'm guilty of it myself, but the older I get, the older I want to get.

So do me a favor. The next time you're incredibly close to something sketchy, enjoy the view. But if that little voice in the back of your head begins screaming, do heed its plea. It's only your common sense, telling you to exit, stage whatever. Do so, for no piece of video is worth your name on a grave. Sure, people might marvel over what you captured there at the end of your life. Hell, they'll remember that shot forever. But make no mistake...

They'll forget YOU.