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.