Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Compromising Intergrity

DISCLAIMER: What you're about to read is totally my opinion and not the opinion of anyone else or my employer.

With that said, I'll skip my usual witty introduction and just cut to the chase. 

The publication of this picture is a disgusting example of photojournalism gone incredibly wrong.

If you aren't familiar with the story and need to be brought up to speed, click here.

I'm not going to rant or rave in any direction over this, except to say this: whoever made the ultimate decision to run this photo needs to seriously reevaluate their position as a contributing member of society.

The photographer who took the photo claimed he was firing off his camera flash in an effort to alert the train conductor.  Here's an idea... drop the weapon and give the man a hand.  Pull him to safety perhaps!  The fact that this image was even captured is disturbing.

Being a human v.s. doing your job.  Getting the money shot v.s. witnessing someone die.  Capturing calamity or doing your part when no one better qualified is around to assist.  It's a grind that anyone who yields a camera for a living rides, and we all have our moments.

I had mine on September 22nd of this year when I was headed from one story to the next and came upon this smashed up Corvette on I77.  The guy had hit the concrete wall head on and was bleeding pretty profusely from his face and head.  No one was stopping to check on him and I did. And I waited with him until the EMTs arrived.

Now, at the risk of appearing like a totally self righteous jerk, I offer all of this in an effort to remind anyone who reads this blog, and pushes glass for a living, of one thing:  PEOPLE MATTER.  Never forget it.  Whether it was the publisher, editor, news director, or the actual photographer that chose to run that picture in the NYP, it's basically meaningless.  In my opinion, the guy should have dropped his weapon and organized the looky loos in a collective effort to pull that poor man from the tracks.  And now, publishing the horrific final moments of that guy's life is their burden.  They have to live with it.  I'm not sure if I could.

They could probably use a reminder that Saint Peter doesn't care about your resume, portfolio, or demo reel. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Classified Misstressinformation

If you've been remotely following any of my social media rants within the last 2 weeks, you know that I temporarily had set up residence in the form of a live truck out side the Dilworth home of Paula Broadwell, the suspected mistress of General David Petraeus.

The first night was pretty effortless.  Cut a file video heavy package and make my way to her home for a live shot at 10 and 11.

Little did I know that my world would shift entirely after those couple hours spent on Mt. Vernon Ave.  It's a big story.  It's a talker.  A major player in a sex scandal was living in our own back yard.  Why not sign up indefinitely for it?

Why not indeed?  The following days spent covering this real life scene from Homeland would find me receiving gifts of popcorn from my smoking hot wife as I watched the drama unfold.

"If you're going to watch a soap opera, you might as well have a snack!" she said.

And snack I did.  On popcorn, nerds candy, and more turkey sandwiches than any man should be expected to consume.

I even scored some pizza that was the product of a poorly planned prank on the Broadwell house while the FBI was conducting a search of their home.

(Editors note: as of publishing this blog, the picture of me holding a pizza box has been viewed 37,336 times on the website Buzzfeed.)

What I didn't expect was the unhealthy obsession I had developed with this story.  After all the time I spent covering it, I had to get the money shot.  The 20 seconds many photogs know too well.  The one shot that makes all the time spent standing in the cold, using a styrofoam cup as your toilet, and aimless hours spent pulling cable and repositioning your lights to make the inevitable bump shot of the house look different than the previous 20, worth it.

And get it, I did.  After countless hours waiting outside her drive way and pouncing on the first sign of life outside her white brick abode, we got the word from a family friend.

"The Broadwells will be home in the next 45 minutes or so. They know you're all here.  Just please be respectful..."

My 16 second clip of the Broadwells unloading their car and their children at their home was picked up by ABC World News, CNN Headline News, and a host of other country wide ABC affiliates that desperately wanted a glimpse at the woman who had spent the previous week in seclusion at her brother's home in Washington, DC.

Her return home provided great fodder for any and all who yield a camera to provide for their families.

Myself included.  I racked up more overtime sitting outside this woman's house than I did during the Democratic National Convention that was recently held in our fair city.

To sum up the entire experience briefly, and in keeping with my mantra that people always matter more than anything else, that family needs time.  Time to heal.  Time to sort things out. Time to put their lives back together.

Being a B list celebutante one day, and then being thrust into the international spot light over a personal indiscretion the next, has got be jarring.  I'm not downplaying what it is that she's suspected of doing, but I honestly can't imagine what I would do if the tables were turned.  And that's a question I ask myself all the time.  If something traumatic happened to me and my family that the news gods deemed worthy of providing airtime to, what would I do if a total stranger approached my doorstep and asked me to talk about it?

I legitimately struggled with the amount and type of coverage this story was given.  But as my mentor Richard Adkins pointed out to me, most of the time if we show up at someone's house, there is a reason.

This theory is rooted in a quote from the movie "Gross Pointe Blank".

"If I show up at your door, chances are you did something to bring me there."

And she did supposedly do something.  Supposedly...

The burden of proof now lies on the shoulders of folks who aren't news photographers like myself, and I thank God for that.

I did my job, and I did it well.  I got the shot.  I spent over 80 hours on the sidewalk outside of her home.  I stood next to the spot where "Dad Loves Mom" is scrawled into the pavement by a pressure washer.  I've seen her husband drop an entire bag of groceries and consequently lose a bottle of good red wine, all because his hands were shaking so much at the sight of our media scrum waiting just feet away, he couldn't hold onto them.  I've seen the sincere shame in her face that is a product of being affiliated with this entire ordeal.

Some folks claim that she is remorseful and attempting to rebuild a foundation for her family and her marriage.  Assuming this is true, and I have no reason to believe it isn't... I applaud her.  Did she do some things she shouldn't have? Maybe.  Only time will tell.

However, if you're an advocate for marriage like myself, you cannot help but want for them to work out.  And I hope that once the dust settles, they will.

In the mean time, I'm sure my residency outside the Broadwell home is far from over.  I'm sure that anytime something breaks in this story, we'll be out there again, live from her front porch.

Sometimes that's just the grind you ride to keep lights on.  But it doesn't stop me from cheering for their marriage on the inside.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Different Kind of Thanks

I'm putting the mini drama of covering the Broadwell house that has become my life over the last 10 days aside, and saving it for a later post.  Today I'm talking Thanksgiving.

Most folks are probably making arrangements to travel and see their families and probably cooking something with the the suffix "casserole" tonight.  Not me.  I'm pulling my usual nightshift and bringing it in for a quick turn around to work 9am to 6pm tomorrow.  And for that, I am thankful.  Thankful for the opportunity to spend turkey day (or night) with my wife and to cook a perfectly portioned dinner for just the two of us.

Working in television isn't conducive to seeing your family on most holidays.  I'm working Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years this year.  It's not ideal, but it's the grind you ride in order to keep the lights on.  I'll see my family the weekend before Christmas, and my inlaws the weekend after New Years. I'm thankful for a family that understands the limitations that my chosen profession places on our time together.  If anything, it serves to make the moments we do get together, only more special.

I am thankful for friends that understand my job is much different than theirs, and that it might mean I'll miss your holiday cocktail party.  But it also means that when I do make it to the party, I'll have plenty of outrageous stories to keep the crowd entertained.

I'm thankful for the people I've met through the lens of my camera over the course of the last year.  For the former military man who pulled himself from the depths of addiction and rebuilt his life.  I'm thankful for the beautiful faces that dot the streets and mountains of a small town in Guatemala. 

This year, I have met more people through the lens of a camera that inspire an uprising of hope in me, than ever before in my career.  Usually I go there to tell their story, and end up coming away changed for the better.

I am thankful for the most supportive wife that any man who pushes glass for a living could ask for.  Occasionally she has to ask me to put the weapon down, and remind me to actually experience what it is that I'm capturing.  You can't buy that kind of perspective.

I'm thankful that earlier in the week, our pastor Jim White , gave a message about using your vocation to reach people; to work in such a way that reflects the purpose of your life and to allow your work ethic to be a reflection of a higher calling.  I fall short at that one, but it's something to aspire to in the next year.

If you're reading this, I'm thankful for you.  You've given me an opportunity to chime in on some of the more outlandish things that happen to me in the field, and you've given me a captive audience to share some of the most heartfelt moments I've witnessed.

And in the world we live in, I'm thankful that I have a job.  A place to go each day and do something I truly love.  Do you love what you do?  Are you leveraging your time there as an investment in the people you meet?  Are you thankful for what you have? 

I don't intend that to sound arrogant or pushy, but as a challenge extended to any and all who have made it this far into this blog posting.  I do so because it is my struggle.  It's one I experience every single day.  Some days I miss the mark, and on others, I feel like maybe I got it right. 

Is not being with my family on holidays pleasant? No. Am I a consistent fountain of positivity? No.  Am I always thankful? No.  Thankfulness is a daily decision.  A choice I find myself having to make every time I wake up, and usually several times throughout the day. 

If I can remember I am one of the lucky ones to have a job doing what I love, and remember that the people I meet while doing my job are the real treasure, then that's half the battle. 

People matter.  People inspire thankfulness.  Be them family, friends, or complete strangers.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Horse of a Different Color

Earlier this week I traded in my usual trap clap beat of dead bodies, flashing blue lights, police reports, and body bags for something... a little different.

After being hurried out the door of the ready room at 9:27 for an event that started at 9:30 that was 20 minutes away, I paused for a moment to collect my faculties before merging onto I-77 and decided to welcome this assignment as a breath of fresh air.

You see, there's a little organization here in the metro area called Kids Rein.  Typically these folks employ therapy horses for kids with autism.  While it is a most respectable gig, what they've been doing lately has gone above and beyond the call of duty for a few guys who were injured in the line of duty.  They're providing their services for 2 Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Officers who suffered traumatic injuries while serving our community. 

I won't waste your time with the technical details of how this little gem came to fruition, but let's just suffice it to say that I needed a story like this one last week.  The grind had been wearing on me since I got back from my recent trip to Guatemala, and I needed a little victory to remind me why it is exactly, that I do what I do.

Take a look and see for yourself.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Rest of the Story...

Do me a favor.... before you even read this, watch the story I shot today with Alan Cavanna.

Now that we have that out the way, let me tell you the rest of this story.

We were reporting on an intersection that had seen 13 wrecks in 3 years.  The latest victims from last night, included an elderly couple probably pushing 80 years or more.  After gathering all the elements we needed for this story, we figured we would give the old college try at getting said couple to talk on camera about their experience.

What happened roughly 30 seconds after Alan knocked on their door is something neither of us expected.  As Cavanna descended their front stoop and I waited in the wings with my fancy cam shouldered, an old man in a tattered red sweater came to the front door with a fresh head wound and declared "Help me! I NEED HELP! My wife is on the floor and I can't get her up."

I quickly holstered my camera and Alan and I entered their residence to find this man's wife lying face up on the hardwood floor of their humble home.  She was complaining of back pains and wanted us to help her up. She couldn't remember if she fell or what happened.  We declined, insisting that they call an ambulance. Not knowing our next step, and with their great protest, we decided to find someone more familiar to them to encourage them along. I alerted the neighbors we'd just interviewed, who knew them well and they quickly called 911.

We waited for the Medic to arrive and then departed.

I came away from this situation with a couple of takeaways.  First, I appreciated the fact that Alan and I were on the same page.  As this situation unfolded Alan and I practically finished each other sentences in agreeing that none of this would make air or even be mentioned in our story.  This might seem odd to the unabashed, but when I put my camera away and Alan and I transitioned into our human forms, as opposed to blood thirsty exploiters of the human race, we were able to, albeit in a small form, HELP someone.

I kept asking myself all day: "What if we hadn't bothered to knock on their door?"

It's small and meaningless in most people's eyes but there are news crews out there who shale remain nameless, that would have pimped this situation for all it's worth; making a spectacle of the situation and finding some perverse way to incorporate it into the story.

We didn't do that.  Please excuse this little pat on the back but I'm pretty proud of how the situation turned out.  Neighbors thanked us.  The old man in the tattered sweater thanked us.  Gratitude and thank you's are few and far between in our business.  We were reminded of a mantra I've been preaching the entire time I've been pushing a camera lens, people matter more than anything.

Hat's off to Mr. Cavanna for his professionalism.  He's moving onto his dream job with NASCAR next month, and if he and I don't do another story together, I hope this is the memory he'll carry with him about this tattooed photog.

And if it isn't, I'm sure he'll tell you about the time I held his water bottle hostage for over a month.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Change of Scenery

If you regularly check this blog, or follow me on twitter or facebook, you might have noticed my absence from the world of social media.

All though it was quite welcomed, I'm somewhat happy to be back to the world of technology.

Recently I swapped my usual 50 pound shoulder mount camera for a new toy.

Mrs. Yo! Camerman! and I took a mission trip to Chichicastenango, Guatemala with our old church, Port City Community Church, from Wilmington.  To attempt to sum it all up in a simple blog post would be futile, so just suffice it to say that this entire experience was life changing.  Trust me, you'll learn alot more about yourself by serving others. I highly recommend it.

What I will leave you with are my top 5 favorite photos I captured while down there.  I intend to print a series of these photos entitled "Faces of ChiChi."  Each photograph contains a brief caption & explanation.

"The Orphan"

This little guy wasn't the least bit shy when he saw me draw my new weapon and begin shooting photos of the widows behind him.

Too shy to smile with teeth, this handsome fella stole a piece of my heart on my 3rd day in ChiChi.
"The Jokers"

The two kids fell in love with the lens just as quickly as I did with their humor.

Just prior to this impromptu photo shoot, the guys and I played soccer and they coined my new moniker, "Yo! Gringo!!"
"The Widow"

This vessel of knowledge & humility had been waiting for 8 months for her home to be built.

8 months... It really puts things into perspective.

Long story short: meeting her changed my life and my focus... I am forever grateful. 
"The Sisters"

If these little girls don't melt your heart, you need to check your pulse.

The senorita on the right has a sticker on her nose, and my viewfinder had to dodge a matching one as I photographed these beauties.

"The Teacher & The Student"

I would be remiss if I didn't include at least one picture of the smokin' hot wife from our trip, but this is genuinely, one of my absolute favorites.

The sincerity shown on both their faces is almost overwhelming. 

So that's that... Nothing of the usual... No biting sarcasm.  No brutal words.  I just simply have a heart that is overflowing with gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity to serve the widows and orphans of ChiChi and the hope of opportunity to do it again some day.  Please email me if you'd like the full breakdown of our trip, I'd love to share it with you.

I wrote it once and I will write it again: you'll learn alot more about yourself by serving others.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Four Days in September

Please forgive the tardiness of this DNC postmortem... I'm still recovering after that 91 hour work week.

The city of Charlotte survived, and I've got the t-shirt to prove it.

I've got a fat paycheck coming my way for my efforts, and only a few emotional scars.

I pointed my lens at protestors, politicians, network anchors, and even got a pat down or two from the secret service that I'm pretty sure warranted them buying me a drink or two beforehand.

All in all, it went off without a hitch and was a pretty cool experience.

So, as previously stated, I got to follow the first lady around for a few days. 

Just to be clear, the "lady" pictured to the right is *NOT* Michelle Obama...

But I couldn't resist snapping this photo as the smokin' hot wife and I entered the major scrum of looky loos in center city.

I'm also pretty sure the first lady doesn't have a butterfly tattoo on her upper bicep... I'm pretty sure.

This however is the first lady, addressing the African American caucus.  Surprisingly enough, she delivered the same exact speech, almost word for word verbatim, to the Hispanic caucus and the women's caucus.

Michelle needs some new material.  Never the less, she had them fired up and ready to go.

And then there's Mitt Romney's custom race car, tucked quietly away in the bowels of the NASCAR HOF in an area they refer to as "the war room".

The only thing that I found myself at war with here was the poor lighting, the ambient hum of the house audio feed, and some jackhole reporter from a smaller market who kept calling himself "the shit."

Sorry dude, you're not. But judging by the camera your station sent you here with, I'm willing to bet that your video is in fact, shit.
At the end of it all, I came away with multiple new additions to my press pass collection. 

Probably the most unique, was my first hall pass into the White House Press Pool.

After brushing my junk with the backside of his left hand, one SS agent even took the time to scribble my last name on this little gem.

And finally, on the last day of the convention, I had the distinct pleasure of following a large group of people through the streets of uptown Charlotte as they protested.

That alone was enough to justify my alcohol intake during the week of the DNC.

I treated myself several times to what is quickly becoming my drink of choice... The Old Fashioned (with Jack Daniels).

And no, I've never seen an episode of Mad Men.

I just know that if I ever have to cover a political spectacle like this again... I'll likely turn into a mad man.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

DNC Decompress: Days 1 & 2

Forgive me if these updates are brief and not normally as witty.  Covering this thing is truly exhausting and grating on the nerves.

Day 1:  DNC Kickoff Presser


-75 photogs in the scrum
-Ran into a summer intern whose camera is the size of my battery
-Exchanged heated words with someone from Telemundo after they almost damaged my audio cube
-Impromptu fiber liveshot from the convention center
-Lots of national media folks

Day 2:  Newsmakers Live hosted by Diane Sawyer


-Got to hang out with a guy I met while covering the Edwards trial back in May
-Confirmed a one on one with Diane Sawyer later in the week
-Got some cool upclose video of Diane Sawyer
-Live at noon
-I wasn't covering protestors

Sunday, September 2, 2012

DNC: The Preamble

The fair city of Charlotte is officially ablaze with a prideful fire of all things DNC.

And let me tell you... These folks throw one hell of party.  Last night's media welcoming party was held at the NC Music Factory and it consisted of close to a dozen (open) bars, each serving (free) food that was representative of their respective culture and target audience, and a headlining concert by Chairmen of the Board.

Needless to say, the always smokin' hot wife and I imbibed, heavily...

So it was probably a good thing that today's assignment consisted of covering the initial protest.

I must have walked at least five miles between our 2 live trucks, the podium, the parade field, and everything in between; all while dodging piles of dog crap and fire ants.

Amazingly, we found people who actually had a comprehensive objective, despite being a mob of people with close 100 different grievances with their government.

Stay tuned, I will effort a daily recap of my experiences with this cluster.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friendly Competition

In the dog eat dog world of television news, most people that work in the field know their competition.  Sometimes we let them borrow a spare battery if it's needed.  Occasionally we'll hold their microphone during an interview.  And more often than the average viewer might think, we interbreed.

Case in point: that's my smoking wife and I at the Federal Courthouse in Charlotte today.

We were staking out the same accused convict and anxiously awaiting his perp walk this morning when we paused for this picture together. 

The actual story is interesting, but I won't dive into it here.  What's worth taking a look at is the cameo that each of us made in the others story that aired this evening.

Kristy makes a cameo in my story here, at around the 1:45 mark.  She's trying not to fall down in those 4 inch heels.

Conversely, I'm the green streak sprinting through the background of her story here, about half way through the playout.

And it's not the first time an encounter in the field has occurred since our move to the Queen City.

That sunglasses wearing beauty standing next to Esmeralda Consuela (the name I gave my camera, it's a long story), is the aforementioned smokin' hot wife when she showed up to a press conference I was shooting at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department one lone Saturday Morning.

The wife was pulling a rare Saturday AM tour of the news world.

And a couple of months ago, we both showed up at the scene of a homicide in which a father had shot his son.

It was nice having her there, because those kinds of stories are the hardest to cover.

But as almost anyone who knows us is aware, we weren't always professional competitors.  We met and consequently fell in love while working at the NBC affiliate in Wilmington, NC. 

And we made a pretty good team in fact. 

This is the very last story we worked on together before moving to Charlotte.  It was the 4th of July Battleship Blast on the river front in Wilmington.  It was pretty spectacular in the fact that even though we were working, a large group of our closest friends came out to watch the fireworks with us, and it was a memory I'll always hold onto.

The saying that "behind every great man is a great woman" could never be more true than in the case of my marriage.  My wife is the reason I feel great.  She consistently encouraged me as I made my transition from production assistant, to director, and eventually to photojournalist.

Mrs. Yo! Cameraman! is a rare find indeed. She's the best thing about me.

So when people find out that my wife and I work for competing television stations, the usual first questions are something about "how I feel about it?", or "what it is like?"  And the answer is pretty simple.  I like my competition just fine.  Hell, they even pay half my rent every month.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Think You're a Photog? iThink Not.

This particular rant will probably resonate with many of my peers and readers.  It will also likely alienate a large occult group known as "Apple Users".

I'll skip my usual long winded intro of the subject at hand, and just cut right to the chase:  It makes my skin crawl when I see someone shooting video that is intended for broadcast, on an iPad.  And I'm willing to bet I'm not alone.


Don't get me wrong, the prized brain child of the late Steve Jobs is a revolutionary device that has changed the way people do literally everything. But it is not, nor will it ever be, a suitable replacement for a tv news camera.

In this day and age of the "one man band", a reporter who shoots their own video, the art of visual story telling is already quickly fading.

Toss an overpriced, consumer grade tablet computer into the mix and what you have is a recipe for horrible television.

In an era when just about anyone can get credentialed as "media", the phenomenon of iPad photographers is a growing plight.  Hell, even CNN laid off 50 photojournalists late last year in exchange for its new "iReporter" feature available on their website.  It makes business sense, why pay someone to do a job that others will do for free?

But I'm not a business man.  I'm a camera man, and I'm sorry, but if you buy into that philosophy then you're just sacrificing quality for quantity. 

I had two encounters this past weekend with these types of "videographers".

The first occurred on Saturday as I was given the highly coveted assignment of a ribbon cutting.  This fella with the tropical attire asked me "is this where all the professionals are supposed to stand?"

He then busted out his trusty tablet and began spraying video.  In what could only be an effort to further ignite my disdain, he asked me "so uh, how much b-roll do you think is enough? I'm new at this whole thing."  What? There's no app for that?  You've got to ask a real photog?

The second occurrence that left me (and about 30 other members of the media) fuming was when this particular "photographer" entered the scrum.

We were 3 tiers deep on the risers at the Mitt Romney rally in Mooresville and it was already in full swing.  This guy comes bouncing up the stairs and walks right in front of the lenses of about 5 cameras, including yours truly.

I ignored it at first, as it wasn't an essential frame of video he'd interrupted.  But when he did it again as ol' Mitt was taking the stage, I piped up and gave him a crash course in scrum etiquette.

Suffice it to say that this joke of a journalist promptly began ducking down as he passed in front of the big boy cameras in order to get a better angle for his 20 second video clips that I'm sure are lost somewhere on Youtube by now.

Further abuse of the airwaves can be found here, as a Texas reporter actually shot an entire package on an iPad and opens it with an out of focus stand up apologizing for using the tablet to make tv, but then goes on to call himself an "innovator".  Nope, you're not. You're just a reporter without a photographer.  End of story.

Perhaps the most intelligent use of an iPad for television purposes can be found here as a story is shot using Panasonic's P2 technology (my preferred!) by the reporter's photographer, as she shoots the exact same story here using her iPad.  The entire process actually worked for me as it illustrates that the iPad is actually the inferior technology.

Now, let me be very clear.  I don't hate Steve Jobs.  I don't hate Apple.  I don't hate you if you like Steve Jobs or Apple.  I believe he was a true pioneer of technology and that the iPad is an amazing little gadget.  But that's what it is.  It's a gadget.  A tablet computer.  It's not an instrument with which one should never consider gathering news on.  It's not a TV camera and wielding one around a group of actual photgraphers, won't make you any friends.

Now please excuse me, I've got to wrap this up. I think I have about 9 updates waiting for download on my iPhone.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Calm Before The Storm

In the event that you've been living under a rock for the last 9 months, allow me to enlighten you to a few historical events you might've missed:  Queen Elizabeth celebrated her 60th year as England's crown jewel, Jerry Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of child sex abuse and as a result will spend the rest of his days as a pin cushion for some Bubba in a Pennsylvania Jail, we just landed on Mars... again, and this time next month, the fair city of Charlotte, North Carolina will still be in the earliest stages of recovery from the the biggest political spectacle this city has ever seen... The Democratic National Convention.

Over 35,000 politicians, delegates, constituents, journalists, protestors, celebrities, and even the average looky loo will converge on the city of my birth and nominate Barack Obama as their choice for the Democratic party's presidential candidate.

The locals who are smart are getting the hell out of dodge, and rightfully so, because this thing has all the makings of a classic shit show.

At a presser this morning, attended ONLY by local media, I found myself deep in the throws of the scrum, over 20 cameras deep.  The dreaded pit of camera lenses and make shift mic stands that many photogs refer to as "the suck" is a vile place that I recommend you navigate at your own discretion.

An offense as simple as moving another photog's tripod once it's set, is punishable by water boarding.  One poor soul even found herself ducking beneath my fancy cam and carefully maneuvering between the legs of my sticks to take her post.

 I even came away with a souvenir parking ticket from the city after covering this event.  It would appear that once all the media parking is taken, the sidewalk is not an acceptable overflow area.

And the topic of today's media get together? The Secret Service released the security restrictions and traffic plans for those 4 days in September that will have every news crew from here to Sarah Palin's back yard, turning a 12 hour work day.  Face it: you're going to need some serious credentials to get around uptown and the fuzz is being pretty tight lipped about just exactly where you can "enter the perimeter".

I must admit though, this thing really has been positive for the city of Charlotte.  Roads are being fixed, cracked sidewalks repaired, streets cleaned, construction projects finished ahead of schedule... any type of house keeping you can think of, it's being done and it shows.

The city is starting to look about as sexy as the queen it's named for.

In all sincerity, this is a very exciting time to be in my industry.  We'll have a front row seat for history in the making.  We'll get to rub elbows with the national media folks who blaze down 77 & 85 just in time to set up camp at the intersections of Trade & Tryon.  All things you can appreciate regardless of your political affiliation.  It'll be a time when we can really rack up the overtime, and who doesn't love a little extra money.

And lastly, it will be four days that are a true testament to something I've been saying for a while anytime someone asks "if I'm ready for the DNC?" - Nope, I am ready for the week after.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Mo' Money, Mo' Problems

I don't know about you, but my bills don't pay themselves.  I suppose with the invention of autopay, the argument could be made that they do... but the money has to come from somewhere, right?

I push buttons like "zoom", "white balance", "focus", and everyone's favorite, "record" to make my money.  It's a decent gig and you get to go to cool places and meet cool people sometimes, but it's not always as glamorous as it may seem.

Sometimes you get sent to a house party in the ghetto at 5am that's just ended abruptly with a double shooting.

That was my plight this morning. Now, this wasn't exactly pistols at dawn, but these rough necks had been partying all night and had just enough sauce in them to pop off a couple of shots at each other before the sun came up.  No one would say why, just that they'd had a "disagreement".

Said shooting happened less than a mile from my TV station, and I arrived before the bodies had even hit the floor.

I was on scene and rolling video before the cops had put the caution tape up and as the victims were being loaded in to the ambulances.  I kept a respectful distance and utilized my 250X zoom to make up for not being right on top of the action.

And that's when some ass hat buffoon approached me and asked the one thing I hate being asked when I'm working.


Now the picture is a little grainy, but that's him on the left being questioned by one of Charlotte's finest.  It would appear that this pistol duel took place in his fine abode.  He's the homeowner of the casa where this whole shindig took place.

So it would stand to reason that he wouldn't want his house plastered all over the airwaves as a developing crime scene this morning.  I can get that.  I respect it. But what this jackhole failed to realize is that my camera was no where near his house.

It was focused on the lights of the cop cars and ambulances and was waiting patiently for the individuals with fading pulses to be loaded into the back of aforementioned ambulances.  I wasn't trying to interview anyone and I was a considerable distance from the scene.

Two people just shot each other and seriously injured themselves in your home, don't you have bigger problems than little ol' me?

I ignored his first inquiry, and so he elevated his volume.  Again the brash voice beckoned: "HEY! HEY! DO YOU HAVE TO BE HERE DOING THIS?"

One of the first lessons I learned in cameraman school is that the camera itself is your best insurance policy.  You NEVER stop rolling in situations like this because you never know what could unfold. 

So I did what any seasoned photog would do when being harassed by a looky loo, I pointed the camera right at him and said: "I'm sorry, what's that?"  He tried to dodge my lens and mumbled something again about me being there.

Long story short: I politely replied "Hey man, I'm just doing my job.  Got to keep the lights on somehow."  What I didn't expect was the total change in demeanor big hefty displayed when that soft retort escaped my lips.  I'm used to continued harassment from the masses when I'm in the ghetto, taking in a sunrise over the yellow caution tape. 

So the moral of this story is... whatever your chosen profession, kill them with kindness.  You can view the story here.  That's all.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

High Times

Wednesday is my Monday.  My chosen career path has led me to a job bringing the residents of the greater Charlotte area all the news they can use and then some, Wednesday through Sunday.  My days of rest fall during the traditional working week. 

For all you other working stiffs who pull a 9 to 6, Monday through Friday "normal" job... my hat's off to you.  I'm just not that fortunate right now, and that's ok.  Because my job is full of surprises.

Like when I came into work this morning and got my assignment, I had no idea that my camera lens would lead me to the doorstep of this jackhole.

Today I was charged by the news gods with following a welcoming group of sheriff's deputies while they used a network of resources to track down good ol' Mary Jane. 

That's right: Marijuana. Weed.  Wacky Tobacky.  Cheeba.  Ganja.  Bud.  Hashish.  Panama Red.  Reefer.  Hemp.  Cannabis.  Acapulco Gold.  Herb.  Maui Wowie.  The green stuff... I think you're getting the idea of what I'm saying.

And find it we did!  You can view the story in its entirety here

The aforementioned (and pictured) rare breed of hick, makes his cameo somewhere around the 1:05 mark and claims he has no idea how the pot ended up in the woods behind his house, or why there is a path leading from his back stoop to the serenity garden we discovered.  His explanation just seems half baked if you ask me. (You see what I did there?)

I don't care if it was his stash, or if it wasn't.  I got to shoot some dope today and tell a cool story with my video.  I call that a win.

The best part of my day by far, was getting to spend some time with some of the most humble and trusting law enforcement officers I believe I've ever encountered.  They were just as excited to have us there, as we were to be there. 

The evidence of that can be found in this deputy's enthusiasm to try on my fancy cam and give my version of "shooting" a go. 

These guys are hands down, a class act.  We were offered unprecedented access to police operations during this drug raid and really got a front row seat for the action.

If you actually watched my story, you'll meet Major Charlie Little around the 1:32 mark.  He chauffeured yours truly around the entire day and even fed the rest of our crew when lunch time rolled around.

I remember driving to work this morning and sipping my coffee at a red light and wondering where my camera would take me today, and I got pretty lucky.  I got the cool story today, but more importantly, I met some even cooler people.  And that is ultimately what this job is all about:  The people you meet.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Waves of Three

Waves of weirdness tend to cascade my way in groups of three.  Such was the case today.  Upon receiving our assignment and learning a wide eyed intern would be accompanying us, veteran reporter Mark Becker and myself waxed poetic about the relevance of Tom Waits in modern society and then we were off...

Today's story wasn't very exciting, so I'll spare you the details.  But I did come away with three encounters that should leave you either with tears in your eyes or scratching your head.

1) While gathering some wallpaper video of a store that was robbed last month, I kept hearing this insanely loud crackling coming through my head phones.  This noise was actually spoiling my ambient nats!  I turned around to discover some guy was selling stun guns out of the trunk of his car.  Apparently our presence was cramping his style, because as soon as he realized a news crew was around, he turned to the line of cars waiting to drive up to him, (YES! There was a line of folks waiting to get their boot leg stun guns), and reported to them "Hey people, these shits is the real deal but I can't be doin' this in front of the cameraman... meet me out back."  Then they formed a caravan and drove off behind the store.  I certainly hope I didn't ruin his profit for the day, I admire entrepreneurship. 

2) While searching for what we call MOS sound or, "man on the street", I encountered a man in his mid 70's who felt compelled to tell me every detail of his life.  Including but not limited to where he grew up, where he worked, how he met his wife, and even the sordid details surrounding the circumcision procedure he apparently endured at the ripe age of five.  The old top even used hand gestures with his explanation.  Here's how the conversation went.

Him: "You young folks don't know nothing bout how it used to be.  When I was five years old my mama brought me to that hospital to get my, uh, um, whatcha call it?? (motions to his crotch) You know, the skin down there?"  

Me: "Your foreskin? She brought you here for a circumcision?"

Him: "Yep! Mmhmm, that's right, that's what it was. A-A-uh-A A circumcision.  They cut my foreskin off when I was five.  Damn, I memba that just like it was yesterday.  Bet you was lucky enough to have it done when you was a baby huh?"

Me:  Blinking - Just blinking - 5 or 6 second pause - "Thanks for the interview sir, and thanks for watching."

If this job has taught me anything, it's that some people just want someone to talk to, and they will say ANYTHING if you give them enough time.

3) I'd just wrapped my 6 o'clock live shot and was refueling my live van at the gas station just around the corner from the TV station I work at.  It's pretty common to encounter a beggar at this locale, but today's derelict was craftier than most.  While I'm pumping my gas, this guy limps over to me.  Cane in hand, coughing, the whole 9 yards.  "Hey cameraman, can I get 75 cents, I'm trying to buy myself a cold drink." I told him I didn't have any change and apologized - expecting him to mumble something and limp away with his cane.  What actually happened was this:  The guy stood up straight, cleared his throat, tucked his cane under his arm and said "It's cool cameraman, thanks anyway!" And then he ran off.  You catch that? RAN! That's ambition if I've ever seen it.  If this guy isn't doing anything with his time, he should seek out a local playhouse and audition for a lead role in something.

Now while my story might not have been the most visual or the coolest of the day, I'd still call this work day a win.  How often have you had conversations like these with total strangers?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Slurpee Day!!!!

Few people in this world will whore themselves out quicker for something free than a tv news crew.  Granted, it shouldn't total more than $25 at a time, then it's payola.

That said, today was July 11th... 7/11, and all the 7-Eleven's across the country were offering free 7.11oz Slurpee's to anyone who wanted one.  Reporter Alan Cavanna is the only person at my station that shares the level of enthusiastic appreciation for the Slurpee as I.  Especially the SUGAR FREE ones!

So today, much to our amusement, we were assigned to work together.  It must have been fate!  What made it all the better was that we were given an intern who first asked me if he could join us, to which I replied:

"Look dude, I have 2 goals today... get as many free Slurpee's as possible and make slot for the show.  Don't interfere with that, and you can go anywhere you want with us."

And as if this wasn't enough, said intern then told Alan he'd be accompanying us today to which Alan replied:

"Well, you could go with Becker and learn alot... or you can come with us and get some free Slurpee's."

Are you noticing a theme here? Slurpee's.  Plural.  More than just one.  Meaning multiple...

Our plan was to hit as many 7-Eleven stores as possible while out gathering video for our story, before we had a 2 o'clock deadline.  We hit the the first one over in the ghetto right around 11o'clock just as Free Slurpee Day was beginning.

Shortly after downing this tasty treat and introducing the intern to a world of liquid refreshment he'd never known, we spent well over an hour seeking out MOS sound in the park.

I earnestly turned to Alan and asked if we were going to definitely try for at least one more before returning to camp to log sound.  He assured me we would.

And then the craziest thing happened...  You see, there's a 7-Eleven right near my station.  Only about 2 blocks away.  We didn't hit it first because it seemed too obvious... the easiest choice.  If these things were free then we were going to search the corners of the Queen City in our pursuit.  So, you can imagine my surprise when we pulled into our 7-Eleven.  The one near our station.  On our turf, and saw a live van from the competition.

Something immediately in my gut told me that I knew who it was.... And I was right!

It was my sweet wife who had stumbled into enemy territory and noticed a lone 7-eleven perched between the train tracks and the homeless shelter.

We paused briefly for this picture and to exchange a Slurpee "cheers" before departing and moving on to our daily assignments.

If you missed out on Slurpee day, I hate it for you... but there's always next year.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Lens Therapy

Most professions have a gauge of success, something your industry uses to determine just exactly how good you are at what you do.  In the warped world of tv news photographers, we have a simple saying: "You are only as good as your last story."

As I'm sure you know by now, last weekend I interviewed one of the men who died as a result of the C-130 crash in South Dakota.

Today was my first day back behind the viewfinder since then, and as I was having my morning cup of coffee before heading into work, my phone chimed with the it's signature "email tone" at about 8:30.  It was from my champion assignment editor Ashley Talley.

The subject line simply read: "Feel good story for you to shoot as an anchor pkg today!".  I opened it and immediately, equal feelings of relief & panic came over me.  I was scheduled to interview a retired US Army Captain who had overcome drug addiction with the aid of a local non-profit organization, and had put his life back together.

Instantly the gears in my head began to turn.  "How am I going to light this?" "How much can I ask this guy without digging too deep?" "What's our angle?" "Will he be receptive of me putting my fancy cam right in face and asking him to relive some of the darkest moments of his life?"

What I came away with was a minute and thirty five seconds of television I will never forget.

I initially offered to write this story, but found the anchor I would be collaborating with, Natalie Pasquarella, had a mutual interest in this story because she volunteers with the organization that helped this man get back on his feet.

My good friend Leighton Grant has asked me on multiple occasions, "When's the last time you cried in your viewfinder?"  Well, today it happened.

It was almost as if the news gods had shined upon me, and this story was given favor over anything else I would be doing today.  The man was receptive, well spoken, eloquent, generous, and above all... humble.  He told me of his self described "fall from grace", and how he had initially set out to get clean for his family.  The motivation quickly turned to rebuilding his life and reinventing himself as a man with purpose.

I hope you give this a watch, because it isn't your traditional Independence Day story.  It's a journey of hope and one man's desire to rise about his circumstance, his past transgressions, and his overall need to survive.  The photography isn't anything extraordinary, but the story telling is pretty strong, and the emotion is real.  And that has become my ultimate goal in this job, to consistently make the viewer feel something.

Usually my favorite part of any story is the editing.  I close the door to the edit bay and turn into a machine, searching for the perfect nat pop or three step sequence, and weave my video into a menagerie of pictures and sound.

For this story, my favorite part was a chance run in with this man around 9 o'clock in uptown. My wife and I had walked to the EpiCentre for some frozen yogurt before taking in the holiday fire works, and as we descended the stairs to Trade Street... There he was walking up towards us.  I shouted his name and he immediately bolted in my direction with his friend.

"Did you see it? What did you think?!" I blurted out.  "My phone hasn't stopped ringing from friends and family who saw it..." he replied.  And then he told me something I will never forget, "Thank you for letting me tell my story."

The truth is that I'm more thankful to him for letting me telling it, and if I'm really honest... I needed this story today.  We don't always get to tell good news, but today was one of those days.  It served as a reminder that what I do has purpose, and it affects people.

This one won't likely win me any kind of award, and I'm perfectly ok with that.  Because today I got to tell a good story.  And as long as that is my measuring stick, then I can rest tonight knowing I did my job well.

Monday, July 2, 2012

An Unfitting Obituary

This past Saturday morning, I was assigned to cover a local Air National Guard group as they prepared to depart Charlotte, NC and head to the growing inferno that was once the Rocky Mountains.

I was told to shoot enough of it that we could potentially use it for a long form story known in the news world, as a package, for the 6 o'clock news.  I arrived, set up my tripod, put a mic on my interview subjects, gathered some b roll, and came away with 29 clips of video.

I would learn today, courtesy of one of my favorite assignment editors Ashley Talley, that those 29 clips would be the last time anyone photographed some of these airmen.

The story is still developing, but the long and short of it is this:  the 145th Airlift Wing from Charlotte, NC deployed three C-130 Hercules planes to Colorado to help battle the raging wildfires taking place right now.  From what we're all learning, only 2 of those planes will be coming home when the dust settles.

Here's a link about the story.

So when my iPhone went off this afternoon, alerting me that a new email had arrived from the desk, I opened it and my heart sank.

Now I don't want to appear dramatic, or like I am blowing this whole thing out of proportion, but when I learned some of these airmen had died; specifically Lt Col. Paul Mikeal, a man I'd interviewed less than 48 hours ago... I genuinely had tears in my eyes.  I cried...

And I keep asking myself "why?".  Was it because he was a member of the military?  Was it because he seemed so confident and assured of what he was about to go do? I told my wife this afternoon about this struggle that I had going on inside of me... And as she always does, she helped put it into perspective.

You see, as news photographers, we go to places where people have died all the time, and interview their families, friends, and loved ones and find out about them that way.  We don't meet them before they die.  I believe that's why this story has rocked me to the core.

I met this airman.  I shook his hand.  I looked him in the eye and told him my name.  I saw the confidence and genuine patriotism that he carried himself with.  All before he died.

As this story develops and the names are officially released, I am certain I will experience a range of emotions.  The one question I keep asking myself is "How and why did this happen?".

I am sure we'll learn the cause of the crash once a lengthy investigation takes place, and that all of these men will be laid to rest with military honors.  What I can't seem to shake is the sense of apathy I felt Saturday morning as I was there.

"Get the interviews, get the cutaways, get the b roll, and move out... You've got three other stories to shoot today."  That's what I kept telling myself... I shot 29 clips of video.  29 clips of video that will forever change the way I approach any story, from now on.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Standard Issued Equipment

Every craftsman has his tools, and my old chief photographer once told me: "A good craftsman never blames his tools."  The moral of THAT story is if you screw something up, take credit for it and move on.  I digress...

News photographers can count on at least 3 things to be issued to them upon employment: 1) a camera, 2) a tripod, and 3) a microphone of some sort.  Some may also get a light kit , a lav mic, an audio connector here, a pack of AA batteries there... you get the gist.  They're all tools we use to make TV.

If you're one of the lucky ones like I am, your station will afford you any cool toy you could ever want to make your fancy cam even fancier.  However, the amount of "stuff" used to shoot a news story does not necessarily have a direct correlation on the final product. 

That being said, there is one piece of equipment that I feel is missing in the arsenal of the modern tv news photographer: the kevlar vest!

Case in point:  I work what's called the "day break" shift on Saturday & Sunday as part of my weekly 40 hours committed to bringing the fine people of our DMA all the news they can use.  It's 4:30am to 1:30pm.

I see alot of bad stuff.  I go to alot of bad neighborhoods.  I meet alot of bad people.  I hear alot of bad things.  I'm almost certain that I've managed to survive this long without a bullet proof vest solely because of my witty charm, good looks, and knowledge of early 90's gangsta rap. 

Now while I only enter the roughest parts of Charlotte 2 days a week in the wee hours of the morning, my friend and phellow photog James Capozzi signed up for a news tour that takes him into the seedy belly of the beast, 5 days a week.  He's our new Monday - Friday daybreak photog, and the dude is legit.

So legit in fact, that he can be seen shrugging off fear with little awareness of his potential need for kevlar.  Just read his transcript of a recent interaction with one of our fair city's finest citizens.

A conversation with a dude today in the ghetto as I was reeling in my cable:
-Dude: Ain't you afraid to be in this neighborhood all by yourself??
-Me: No, why would I be?
-Dude: Cuz' people be gettin' hurt up in here. Watch yo back news man!

Watch yo back indeed. Well played James! Now, if you need me I will be off somewhere fashioning a shank out of an old stick mic.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

And so it begins...

If you've somehow made your way here, I'd like to thank you for indulging my experiment with the interwebs.

I can't promise this will always make you laugh... but, I can assure you that as I encounter the fabled "everyman" in the field, I will attempt to promote his (or her!) humor with the same integrity that I bring to telling their stories every night.

TV news has given me many things: a steady job, a decent paycheck, my smokin' hot wife, and now an outlet to showcase the more ridiculous side of what I do for a living.

It is my goal to periodically update this blog with things that happen in the field that I find amusing.  I'll then let you decide if you find them amusing or not.

It is important to make note: anything you'll find here are my views only.