Monday, February 28, 2005

. . .and the Oscar goes to. . .

This past Friday there wasn't a star to be seen on the red carpet. The Oscars were still two days away and I was tagged to help set up our camera positions for the weekend's festivities.

I use the word surreal a lot when I describe my life. There might be a better word for it, but I'm too busy most days to look it up. I've covered awards shows enough to know that the only thing I'll be missing for not being there, is a sore shoulder and back from shooting for two or three hours straight.

Most of the other crews were done bleeding (or faxing) their lines. That's just photog speak for testing the cables.

I never try to imagine what it must feel like for the stars to walk on this side of the carpet. I've never attended anything like the Oscars outside of my job.

Maybe if my curiosity (or even envy) for how the rich and famous live were greater, I might want to push myself to have or "be" more than I am.

I'm sure my wife and kids would appreciate it. I don't suffer from a lack of ambition. I'm just extremely lucky to have the things in life that I think are important.

I have a life that suits me (at least for now, I do). Somewhere down the line I might decide that I want to climb a mountain (speaking purely figuratively) or shoot for the stars.

In the meantime, I will be content. I like who I'm turning out to "be".

There's a chance a celebrity might find my life interesting, but I come up short on the rich and the famous. Being a man of modest ambitions I just have to say, that's okay.

Living and breathing and being me is still all the award I'll ever need.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Another colorful day

I've started this post every night since Wednesday. Every night I've fallen asleep in my chair.

I'm falling way behind, but since I'm on a new kick of accepting little or no personal responsibility for my actions, I'm going to blame my job. If only they would send me on assignments that are conveniently close to the station. Good lord, don't get me started on the five day work week and what's up with those eight hour shifts? Man, this working for a living is just getting in the way.

Meanwhile, back in reality, I spent some time on Pacific Coast Highway this week.

You might have heard about the big boulder that was menacing the poor oceanfront homeowners in Malibu. The "boulder of unusual size" was perched precariously over PCH and I did not get one picture of it that night.

The reason I didn't get a still shot? We blew right past the boulder because we'd gotten called off for a breaker. Our assignment desk was pulling us from the boulder story.

We were now heading for a horse rescue going on in the Malibu hills. I'd like to say that it was an exciting story, but I can't. The horse rescue story was done by the time we got there and the owners didn't feel like being bothered to give an interview. There was nothing to shoot, but the station had our helicopter over the rescue.

While we drove out of the hills to a good liveshot location, the station was sending out to us the aerial footage.

We put the story together and went on TV. I got back to the station after midnight and mad it home a little before 1:00am. I kissed my sleeping wife and tried to blog. It didn't work out too well. I nodded off.

I had fun trying to make it to the scene of the horse rescue. That's the excitment of working in news. We didn't make it, but I have to admit, we tried. Even with all the support from the station, we didn't have a chance. We were too far from the story when it broke. We tried.

What I wrote earlier about personal responsibility? I was really just kidding. It's just that on the subject of missing the horse story, I don't think it was our fault.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Snow kidding. . .wait, didn't I just use that one?

I was scratching my head and wondering if I'd woke up in a "Groundhog's Day" situation. I was pretty sure it was a different day, but here we were in Frazier Park again looking for snow.

I'm still running on too little sleep, but I don't want to fall behind in posting. I guess my lack of sleep would be a problem, but the stories I've been getting assigned haven't exactly been working out.

Here's a quick recap. Weather in the SoCal area has been pretty rough this week. We watch out for snow in the Frazier Park area because when the road gets shut down, it affects a lot of folks.

We got a report of snow possibly coming down and that's all it took.

I'm locked and loaded.

There was no snow to be found. We spent a good part of the evening at a coffee shop and later at the Flying "J" truck stop. I hear there's a lot of problems caused by the weather, but I'm not seeing much of it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Snow kidding

The sky over downtown Los Angeles looked ugly on my way in on Monday. I knew it was bad out. All you had to do was look out the window to see that.

It got worse after I actually got into work. There was a possibility of snow up near Frasier Park. That's a major route for anyone coming or going out of Los Angeles County.

Everybody knows I'm always happy to run a SAT shot. I've just been getting a teensy bit antsy from getting way less shooting time than what I'm used to. Withdrawl is setting in. Plus it was cold. Snow? Nope, no snow here. Just rain and cold.

It's getting late and I'm sinking further. After driving in the rain and traffic to get to Frazier Park, the lack of snow got us bumped from both shows. I didn't even get to push buttons. I love pushing buttons.

After the sun went down, it was too dark to see if there might be a rainbow after the rains. No big story for me today. The world will just have to change itself. There's not much for me to do now, but go to bed. I'll get up in the morning and have breakfast with my wife. At some point I'll hop in my Jeep and drive back in to work again. Such a vicious cycle.

Maybe it'll stop raining and I'll get to shoot a story.

May"be" I need to stop trying to post while half asleep.

Monday, February 21, 2005

A river runs through it

A mobile home park is no place for fishing.

The rain was coming down hard last night. I'm not a heavy drinker, but I had a shot of Jack Daniels last night. We had all the computers off and Dellis had lit candles all over the house. It was dark through most of the day and it just felt like the thing to do.

Friday afternoon and night my camera, reporter, and I were in the rain covering a river. . .well, actually it was a driveway leading to a mobile home park. The rains had temporarily turned it into a river.

We hitched a ride in the back of a pickup truck to get across. One of my SAT truck trainees ran the SAT truck for us. It feels good to be behind the lens again.

The people in the mobile home park were the only ones affected and like a lot of our news assignments, we may never know the outcome. Things may go back to normal after the rain lets up. Somebody may figure out a way to get the rain run-off to stop being a problem.

The folks who live here will continue on with their lives, mostly unchanged by our coverage of the story. I'm not saying that's good or bad. I'm just being realistic.

As I type this, it's a cold grey morning and the rain is still coming down. I'd rather stay home (I understand it's some sort of holiday) and spend time with my family. That's what I feel like doing today.

What I will do, is get my rain gear together and go to work.

I have a job to do and crazy as it is, I still get a kick out of it. While I stand out in the cold and wipe the rainwater from my lens, I'll have a smile on my face. Chances are whatever I cover today won't be changing the world. I'll just do my job and "be" looking forward to tomorrow.

The rain's gotta stop sometime.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Trains and Rains

Another rainy day in Los Angeles. Remember the guy who tried to commit suicide by train? He parked his car on train tracks and chickened out, but managed to kill like 11 people in the process.

Well, "chickened out" may not be the right words for what he did. I covered a Glendale Police Department press conference and they're claiming they believe he was trying to get attention for himself by killing as many people as possible.

It's difficult not to react out of outrage before anything is proven. I have to keep reminding myself, he'll get his day in court.

I hope justice is done, but I'm still pissed.

We set up to edit and do our liveshots near the spot where he left his car.

I stood close to the tracks and got to see how fast the trains zip by. It really surprised me how fast they actually go through the crossing. The thought of the train hitting the car is a little frightening.

See that? Yeah, the train in real life was moving just as fast as it looks in the picture.

It was still raining off and on through the evening. The air was crisp and I sloshed around in mud puddles between liveshots. I don't ever expect to understand why anyone would choose to deliberately do something like this.

His mental state is going to be argued, but we will probably never know for sure what his real intentions were.

Like most people, I've know pain and loss in my life. I will just never understand how someone could possibly want or hope to make their life better by destroying the life of someone else.

I've got to go to work.

Have a good weekend and don't forget to hug somebody.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The old "call a press conference in the front". . .

. . .and sneak the celebrity out through the back trick.

Oh my gosh, and we fell for it. That's how Michael Jackson got out of the hospital yesterday. I don't think many (if any) cameras got it on tape. Another lovely day at the office.

I got in late (yaaaawn) last night. After the three+ hour drive from Santa Maria, I really needed to get some rest, so I'm posting later today than normal for me.

My good friend William "Buzz" Snyder emailed me and let me know that his day was off kilter without a new post this morning. I hope I can help get him back on kilter. My little web log has become a daily ritual/obsession/addiction for me too. I feel pretty off kilter myself when I don't get something posted.

It's not that big of a deal, but I never even got a chance to see Michael Jackson for myself yesterday. I feel cheated and it takes a bunch of the glamour out of what I do.

I was too busy shooting video of Jermaine and their dad when they left the hospital. No time to snap any digital still pictures. These things happen pretty quick and I can't risk missing anything. I did get a nice shot of how green everything was in the hills around Santa Maria.

I know, poor freaking substitute for a celebrity picture.

The picture below, I snapped moments before the 11:00am liveshot. The early morning crew didn't get a Jackson sighting either as far I know. He waved from the window of his room a couple of times. I jumped through hoops to get a dub of that footage to use, but it doesn't feel the same as if I had shot it myself.

I know the realities of what I do, but that's one thing I wish could be different. We have to use footage from a lot of different sources. It varies, but some days I'm cutting from my own footage and some days I'm cutting more from stringer, file, or footage from another one of our own photographers.

I shouldn't complain, I get paid the same either way (ka-ching). There's just a little extra boost to see a story come together from beginning to end based on the images I've shot.

While I'm on the subject of shooting, I'm getting the impression people are seeing me as a SAT truck driver and ONLY a SAT truck driver. To be fair, I have been spending a lot of time in the truck lately. I'm happy to be able to do that job. I'm proud of all my humble skills and talents (please, somebody ask me to juggle).

I'd prefer everybody just know that I'm a News Photographer. It's taken some hard work to build up the skill set that I have, but my first love in news is always going to be shooting the story. I love capturing those moments. I'm pretty proud of the fact that I'm a shooter, everything else has been hyphenated or slashed onto that.

I'm not worried that I might be mistaken for something I'm not. I'm just glad for the opportunity to "beFrank".

I'll try to stay on top of the blog updates. It's not just for me, the "kilter" of the world depends on it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

I love the smell of liveshots in the morning

I'm tired and I feel like just ranting a bit.

Do you remember the beginning of "Apocalypse Now"? Martin Sheen was sobering up in a dingy Saigon Motel. It was hot and dirty and his line was a classic.

"Saigon. I can't believe I'm still in Saigon."

I know. I look more like Brando did in the movie, but the feeling is the same. I can't believe I'm sitting in a hotel room in Santa Maria, California. I can't believe I drove three hours to get here this afternoon. I can't believe I have to keep coming up here for the next six months or so.

For anybody just coming out of a year long coma and haven't been following the saga, Michael Jackson was rushed to a local hospital because he felt ill during his court appearance for the jury selection portion of his trial today.

Guess who got to stand in front of the hospital and shoot the story tonight. Yup, I'm all over it.
I'm actually at the place covering the story people all over the world are talking about. It sounds a lot more interesting to hear other people talk about of it.

I don't know how long I'm going to be here. It's going to depend on how long Michael Jackson stays in the hospital.

I know why we're covering the story, but the fact remains. I was at home this morning and I noticed some chatter on other blogs about this story and I thought it might be cool to be there this week.

A little while later the phone rang. I got my assignment. Whoa, that was weird, but here I am.

"Santa Maria. I can't believe I'm still in Santa Maria."

I won't know how long I'm going to be here until tomorrow.

I'll keep you all posted.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

It's like riding a bicycle

That sinking feeling I had yesterday was just empathy for the homeowners in the story I covered in Culver City.

The recent rains weakened a hillside and the walls have come tumbling down (dang, I can't get that song out of my head).

I had to put on my game face because it's been weeks since I last shot a story. I've been busy with SAT truck stuff for over a month. I'm glad to be on the streets again. I like the diversity in my job, but I enjoy being a news photog and there's nothing like shooting and crashing a package.

Hey, "crashing a package" is news lingo for editing a story in a very limited amount of time. That wasn't really the case last night. We had plenty of time to put the piece together, but I loves me some news lingo.


For a first night back in the saddle, it was pretty mellow. No breaking news, no long drive and only two liveshots. If it weren't for the terrible unfortunate circumstances of the people whose homes might come crashing down in an avalanche of devastation, I'd have felt completely great about last night.

I won't beat myself up for knowing I'm not going to lie awake worrying about other people's problems. Being realistic, the only people I'm 100% certain will care are the people who own one of the five homes affected.

It's a heavy concept, but I think we all have a reason to care about this story and stories like it. Watching the news should helps us maintain a level of connection with society. We provide information and we leave it up to the viewers to decide if they care. I guess I get the impression that people stop caring when they can't see the immediate connection to themselves.

I'm not proposing that you take up a cause or a collection for every story you see in the news. Just be aware while you're being informed. That "thing" happening to someone else? That could easily happen to me or you. I'd rather not shut myself off from others, because the whole, "no man is an island" thing is true. We live in a society and we should support the society we live in.

Sorry. I feel like I'm "crashing" a point to all this.

It's just something to think about the next time you reach for the remote.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Our Valentines Day Adventure

Action-Wife (Dellis) and I didn't have any big plans for Valentines day. Scooter was going to be visiting some friends from school and I thought it might be nice for us just to take a walk along the channel that leads into Marina Del Rey.

We've had the chance to spend time together recently, so it was just a nice day for not doing anything other than being together.

The sun played peek-a-boo from behind the clouds. Across the channel, the abandoned boats from a story I covered recently were still beached where I had last seen them.

Dellis (Action-Wife) helped me get some nice pictures by spotting birds gliding along the channel.

It was a beautiful day and we were having a great time just quietly being together.

It all came to a screeching halt when my cell phone rang.

It was the job calling.

Plans were changed at the last minute for the staging of the Grammy Party being held at Spago's Restaurant in Beverly Hills. A microwave liveshot had been planned, but the changes were making a microwave liveshot impossible. They needed a SAT truck and that meant they needed a SAT truck operator. They needed me. Could I come in?

There was a chance I wouldn't have to stay. A better microwave truck was being sent out and, uh. . .hey, you know what? I'm sorry, this story is starting to drag. I'm cutting it short.

We hopped in the car and drove from the beach to Hollywood. With the better truck, the crew at Spago's managed to get a microwave shot set up. I was free again for the evening and plus I still got paid for going in.

Action-Wife and I blew the unexpected windfall at a great ($$$) restaurant.

No moral here. I still didn't get any celebrity pictures from Grammy night. My wife and I just had a little adventure, a little romance, and a quiet evening sharing a bit of my average day at the office.

You can call it lucky or blessed depending on how spiritual you are. I'm thankful for the good in my life when my life is good. When it's not so good, I have faith that what's bad will pass.

I'm just happy to be here and to beFrank.

Happy Valentines Day !

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Grammy, schmammy. I'm off this weekend

I know a lot of people might like to see some celeb pics from the Grammy Awards this Sunday. I did most of the awards shows last year and I haven't felt a strong urge to volunteer this year. Sorry if I disappoint. Since I'm off this weekend, it'd take an act of God to get me to go into work.

No, really, I mean like an actual act of God. You know, an earthquake or flood or something else of biblical proportions. (Speaking of which, my bag is still packed. How's the Pope doing?)

This is the arrival area for the Grammy Awards two days from showtime.

As it turns out, the closest I'm going to get to the awards this weekend is pitching in on the cabling for our camera position along the red-- uh, green carpet.

That's Joel Fallon, he's the Chief Photographer for our station and often the mastermind behind all things artistic and elaborate in putting people on television. Among his many many accomplishments in the field of TV news, he's the guy who trained me to run a satellite truck.

Speaking of which, it was still a training week. My trainee and I had an actual SAT shot assignment that put us over at Staples. We were helping KEYE, the CBS affiliate out of Austin, Texas. They were nice folks and I'm glad we were able to do the job for them.

I know what it's like to drop into an unfamiliar town to cover a story and have to depend on the kindness of strangers.

The trainee got one step closer to getting his wings yesterday. Mr. Scott Mackie managed to put them on TV with very little help from me.

I'm happy for Scott. He's a true trooper, because I know how scary that first time can be when you're the pushing the buttons. I remember what it was like to be in his shoes.

The chief knows what it was like for me, because he was the one looking over my shoulder.

When he came to me and asked if I'd be willing to be one of the trainers, I didn't hesitate. The idea of giving something back isn't just an abstract concept for me. I've seen how my actions in teaching other people can change lives.

I've seen firsthand how much better off a person can be when given a simple opportunity to learn. I don't know if the many people who have helped me along the way had the big picture in mind.

By teaching one person, it started a chain reaction. I don't mean to be so preachy on a weekend day, but I'm feeling pretty good right now. If anybody who has ever taught me anything reads this, I hope they understand something. It may not have seemed like much at the time, but it was something that meant a lot to me. I hope Scott and the next guy to learn something from Scott understand something also.

This is one way to change the world. One person at a time.

Friday, February 11, 2005

I'm missing the Big Easy

I think I got cheated. My family moved to California before I was born. I still claim Louisiana as "home" because that's where my folks and most of my relatives live.

I started feeling a little homesick when I saw some photos of New Orleans "true willow" posted on her blog, The Sum Total of Me (recently beFriended).

I've only been to the city twice, but I love the place. Dellis visited there with me last year and we made some great memories.

My people are from the Northern part of Louisiana and it wasn't until a couple of years ago that I actually made it a point to visit New Orleans itself.

It was either raining or was cloudy and had recently rained during both my visits.

The food was good, the music was cool, and I swear I saw this cat turn into a naked woman. Maybe I had too many mango daiquiris, but I saw "Cat People" and I'm sticking with my story.

It's been on my mind lately with Mardi Gras and all this month.

I hope I can get back there again. There's so much to do and see in the world, it's tough to resist just sticking with what worked.

As I type this, it's raining here and that's just adding to my mellow mood. Once again, I'm looking forward to the weekend and spending time with Dellis. Candles and a bottle of wine to go with some soft music on the record player (yes, records). I still have some Boudin and Meat Pies in the freezer and I have a lot of other photos to look through.

I wouldn't trade where I am for anything in the world, but I love being connected to Louisiana. There's no telling where I'll go, but it's always going to be where I'm from.

Life is good and I hope everyone has a great Valentine weekend.