Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Been there and done that

I got something cooking on the job that's keeping me pretty busy this week. Since I haven't had the time to snap new pictures, I decided to dip into the beFrank photo archives and share a few shots that I thought everyone might like.

As bad as things are on the Jackson trial right now, it was worse last year when we were still staking out the road outside the gates of his Neverland Ranch.

Sorry about the blood, but this is the ugly part of my job. It's not the part that people see on TV and this isn't even the worst I've ever seen. A drive-by shooting on a Sunday Morning a year or so back. I don't know if anyone was ever brought to justice on this case. There's not much I can do.

I just move on.

They tell me this is Orlando Bloom. I snapped his picture at the "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" premiere in Westwood, California. Most of the stars were there, but this is the shot that got the most attention when I showed the photos.

About two years ago, the Treasure Island casino in Las Vegas revamped their sign and changed their outdoor show. I helped cover the media preview.

We get bashed pretty often for sometimes covering these events. As a very serious news photographer who has to cover these bloody crime scenes, I'm shocked and outraged at. . .aw, heck. I can't even type it with a straight face. I went to Vegas for two days. Was it fun? Yeah.

Would I go again? What am I, crazy?

This is the view near the Salt Lake City home of Elizabeth Smart. Remember her? The little girl kidnapped by a nutcase, but found over a year later. I like the fact that I get to travel all over the place for my job. That's the best part.

The downside is that I travel all over the place. Mostly to places where tragedy has happened.

The picture above was taken in Texas a couple of days after the Columbia Shuttle crash. Every story I cover isn't Vegas. For me to maintain any kind of positive mental state, every now and then I need to cover a story that's just for fun. . .

. . .or features the occasional interview with a celebrity like Christina Aguilera. . .

. . .it's fun to cover these stories, but I like to think I know where to draw the line.

It's just that when I go out looking for the truth, the biggest truth for me is that I cover whatever it is that I'm assigned to cover.

Okay, this was gratuitous, but it was sweeps and darn, I've forgotten where I was going with this post. Now is probably a good time to wrap it up.

I've got an early call tomorrow and it's not for a shoot with anyone interesting or a trip to anywhere exciting. At least it's not at this point. By the time I get to work, my story may have changed.

That's really what makes it exciting for me. No matter where you are tomorrow, just beSafe and beCareful. I'd hate to miss a trip to Vegas because of a tragedy.

Monday, March 28, 2005

The sun sets and the sun rises

I'm glad that I can actually look forward to everything in between.

Just a short post. I go into a wicked withdrawal if I'm not sitting here in front of the computer a few hours a day. I'm jonesing something fierce here.

With our kids grown up or pretty close to it, we didn't color eggs this year. Neither fried, scrambled, nor benedict(ed?), I didn't even have eggs for breakfast over the weekend. Even so, I really did have a great Easter weekend and I'm looking forward to a new week at work.

Last week ended on a quiet note and I spent a good part of the weekend just washing our cars with Scooter and catching up on TiVo'd shows and watching DVD's with Action-Wife ("Big Fish" and "The Grudge"). I hope everyone is looking forward to their week, but I completely understand if your Monday morning isn't approached with my level of enthusiasm.

I feel very lucky right now to be in a position to look forward to the work week, but when it comes to dreading the Monday morning blues, I've been there too. We'll get through it.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

I'll trade you a smile for a towel

Sometimes I think I'm a pretty hard person to understand. It's not that I'm a deep thinker or complicated in my philosophical outlook. I guess it's just the things that seem to motivate me that I find hard to explain.

I always had a pretty good amount of ambition, but I've never looked at success or happiness and having material wealth as being one and the same. This past Tuesday found me standing in the rain shooting a story that wasn't going to make me rich or win me any awards.

The wet stuff was just pounding the ground as it hit. This was a job for Action-Man, but even though I was covered in multiple layers of rain gear, five minutes in and I was soaked through from head to toe. We didn't have a specific story. We were just out to see how people were dealing with the weather.

It was cold, but I had a tripod and camera to carry, so I was working up a pretty good sweat. We got pulled from the central location we were in and told to head over to Santa Monica because of flooding in the tunnel that leads from the 10 Freeway to Pacific Coast Highway. We fought traffic, but still thought we might not make it to the tunnel in time to make slot for our live-shot. I think this was the first time anyone let us know we were the lead.

When it rains, it pours. After a way-too-long cross town drive in weather traffic, I go to shoot some b-roll and discover that my viewfinder has stopped working. Now, I'm standing out in the rain trying to troubleshoot my camera and wishing I had called for a second man earlier in the evening.

We advised the station of our situation and they were set to count us out (by the way, the "us" I refer to being Reporter Joel Connabel and myself), but it was just one of those times where I'd rather go down swinging than just roll over and be counted out. So it was all, bring it on Mother Nature. Let me see what you got.

I set up the live-shot. We cut a package and fed it back. I connected a video monitor to my camera. That let me frame up and focus my shot. The rain let up and we went on TV to report the closure and they ran our package.

I don't know why that night and that story meant as much as it did to me. I honestly don't remember if anyone gave us a pat on the back for making it happen. It doesn't really matter. We did the shot because we wanted to come through when the odds and even nature seemed against us. More than the paycheck at the end of the week (although I'm damned sure going to keep the money), it just felt like we were being challenged. We were only doing our jobs, but we had an opportunity to quit or rise to the occasion. Rain soaked and cold, but far from miserable. We did the job.

I don't know many rich people who might stand out in the rain with a smile on their face, just happy because they get to go to work and do their job. If they were out there on Tuesday night, I didn't see them.

I wonder if they know what they were missing.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Ghost Ship?

It's difficult to come across something that I've never seen before. Monday night I was scratching my head and looking out at a modern replica of an 18th Century Windjammer tall mast ship that had gone aground (hey Salty, check out the nautical talk) near the Channel Islands Harbor.

Lots of people came out to see the ship. I probably wouldn't have gone so far out of my way on my own to see it, but they actually pay me to go where stuff happens.

It was kind of sad to see it flopping around in the water. One minute it would be sitting almost straight up, then a wave would wash over it and the thing would go bobbing like a toy boat in the bath tub.

All the people who had been on the boat were taken off and I was told the Red Cross put them up in a hotel. We can sometimes figure out the name of the hotel, but not this time. Anyone on the scene who might have known wasn't sharing that information with us.

I may be a bit biased, but I'm not a fan of keeping information from the news media. I guess I feel like I'm always made to suffer for the mistakes of others in my profession. We suffer a backlash not just for actual bad behavior, but also from the public's perception of what we do.

People who have never had any contact with an actual news reporter or photographer are sometimes the most belligerent towards us. We become scapegoats and end up having a more difficult job to do. Sometimes when the job doesn't need to be more difficult.

In my experience, it's often felt like more of a control issue for the person handling access to the people involved in the story. I wouldn't ever find it acceptable, but at times it's understandable. I'm always just more inclined to let adults speak for themselves.

Anyway, I had to drive all the way from Hollywood to Oxnard (hi, Terri!) in a SAT truck. That was actually okay. Before the boat assignment came up, I was shooting video off a computer screen for a Megan's Law story. At least this got me out of the building. . .

. . .and I got to hang out with Tim Kimball for a little while. He's the only photographer that every now and then, comes to work happier than me.

Tim was editing and running the microwave truck when I got on the scene. I handed off a tape of aerial footage of the boat and helped out a bit. There wasn't a lot for me to do since they didn't need a satellite uplink.

At least Tim was willing to talk to me.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Where's my apple?

Took a break from the mayhem and destruction of broadcast news recently. Dellis (Action-Wife) somehow conned me into going on a school field trip with her.

I know it's tough being a school teacher these days. I've never been a school teacher myself, but it's easy for me to believe what Action-Wife tells me about her job. She tells me it's difficult.

For the field trip we'd be going to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) for a tour and lunch afterwards.

I don't know if raising kids has ever been easy. I know that much of the difficulty in teaching stems from behavior the students develop outside of the classroom. School administration bureaucracy also adds to the difficulties faced by teachers.

With all that being said, let me add I had a blast. The kids were kids. Meaning they weren't bad, but they weren't so well behaved that they were dull.

I've gotten glimpses of what it is to be a teacher in Los Angeles. Heck, I've covered stories outside of Los Angeles schools. I don't have a problem trying to make life easier for Dellis. Footrubs, the car of her dreams, nice dinners out, whatever she wants. I'm happy to take care of my Action-Wife. She takes care of the kids who will be our neighbors and leaders somewhere down the road.

I love the job that I do. On a good day, I can see where someone could learn from our coverage and that might improve someone's life. That's on a good day. Teachers work hard to make sure kids like these have the skills they need every single day in life.

I don't know if it's true, but I suspect that just her being there in the classroom every day and setting a consistent example of what it is to work and be disciplined and still be able to smile and be happy changes more lives for the better than what I do in news.

I spent one day with her class and I had a lot of fun. They behaved well (for a large group of teenagers). Towards the end of the day, I said something quietly to myself.

"I think I could be a teacher."

She looked up from across the room. The students standing to either side of me scattered. The room got really quiet.

"Did you say something?" she asked.

I looked around, but there was nowhere to hide.

"No, Mrs. Frank."

She gave me a raised eyebrow and let it go. The room exhaled and I quickly reconsidered what I had been thinking.

It was nice to help out on the field trip, but a man has got to know his limitations.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Stop killing.

Rushing out, but I thought I'd try to get in a quick post. I'll finish it later if I have to go.

Caught a breaker yesterday. A 15 year old girl was shot by a suspected gang member outside of Locke High School in Los Angeles.

Violent neighborhood. Not the first time a shooting has happened in this area.

It's sad to see someone so young become a victim because of someone else's lack of morality. It happens often. That just doesn't make it any easier to deal with.

I found it strange that the adults in the neighborhood claimed shootings didn't happen often in their area. The kids we talked to said it was an almost daily thing to hear guns being fired.

We cut a package and did our liveshot from a parking lot across from the hospital where the girl was taken. The family didn't care to talk to us at first, but made a brief statement later in the evening. It felt as if they blamed the media for not getting the story right in our early reports. We did what we could and only reported what the police and hospital could tell us.

I'm sorry for the pain the family is suffering. I think I know how I would probably feel if I were in their position. I hope things will be okay and the girl lives. It didn't look like she'd make it was the last thing I heard.

Today is another day. I might follow up on this story or I might move on to something else. Either way, I'll "be" okay. My job still has to be done and as cold as it might sound, I'm going to do it. Her story isn't over. The reality is that for me and everyone who only knows her though our news coverage and maybe this post, it probably is over.

We should have the human decency in us to feel for the girl and her family. I wouldn't put a limit on it, but don't spend too much time feeling bad. As long as we're alive, we're supposed to keep moving forward. Keep living. If it moves you to action, help make changes when and where you can, but don't let the event become your life.

That's how I look at it. Now, I have to go.

So do you.

Halo? Can you hear me?

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Where's Arnold?

There were a lot of people on the street in front of the Century Plaza hotel in Century City yesterday. Our Governor the Barbarian was inside at a $5,000.00 a plate fundraising dinner. Outside we had half a block full of protestors.

A lot of the public employee unions aren't too happy with the guy they helped put in office. Seems the Governor thinks unions are special interest groups.

Covering a protest is like shooting fish in a barrel.

There's plenty of sound and visually interesting things to shoot. I could almost put the camera on the tripod and lock it down while they marched past and come up with a minute and a half package. I'm glad I didn't do that. We ended up cutting a three minute package for our 9:28 liveshot. That wasn't too stressful. Our political reporter is a class act who knows how to get the job done. The re-cut for 10:00 put a little more pressure on us, but the final 11:00 re-cut was a breeze.

People who do this for a living might appreciate the time frame more, but everyone else should just know that this is where I earn my money. I believe the karmic tab for the Jackson photos was paid in full.

We never got to see the Governator in person last night. We made it inside the lobby and hotel security was very nice about it, but they gave us the boot. No media allowed inside, no video shooting on the property.

I had a small bag of popcorn, trail-mix, and water for dinner. It only cost me about $7.00 in the hotel gift shop. I don't know what the people who paid $4,993.00 more got. It's hard for me to imagine any meal that could be worth that much. Unless they had chocolate cake for dessert. I like chocolate cake. For that much, they better have gotten a scoop of vanilla ice-cream too.


Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The jury is still out? Why?

Might as well start with the money shot. Look at who I happened to run into while at work in Santa Maria yesterday.

You know what I couldn't get out of my head the whole time, as corny as it sounds? Whoop, there he is!

It was a great day for me to sneak into the still photo area and take a few still shots (I wasn't the only one. Hi, Sandra!). My station had our reporter going live through CBS Newspath again. So, all I had to do all day was record the pool feeds and just help make sure everything ran smoothly. We only had one video camera and it was in the capable hands of another one of our photogs.

I had the perfect opportunity to get a front row seat when Jackson and his entourage left the courthouse.

As jaded as I am when it comes to celebrities, it was pretty interesting. I got to see things that I hadn't seen before.

Like the picnic basket guy.

Once Jackson enters the court building, it's my understanding that he rarely (if ever) leaves. Every day there's a picnic basket brought in for his meals. This is the guy who brought it in yesterday. I don't know if he's the regular picnic basket guy or if the staff rotates doing it.

That's got to be a hell of a thing for your resume.

We got the signal that Jackson was coming out of the building by a wave of the hat from this gentleman. I'm under the impression that this hat wave has become standard procedure. It's interesting how all this is now part of the daily routine.

Getting pictures of the walk to the car (I've probably seen it a dozen times on video) actually made me just a little bit nervous. I had the kind of butterflies in my stomach that I used to get when I was concerned about possibly missing a shot. I haven't had THAT feeling in a while.

It made me laugh after it was over. Shucks, I wouldn't have been anxious at all if I were shooting video. It was probably more to do with not wanting to disappoint my blogging friends.

That's part of the nature of those one-in-a-million/once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunities.

If you miss one, you can try again on the next one.

By the way, I also hear there's no "cure" for being a pedophile. Gee, if Michael Jackson isn't convicted this time (I have to remember, that's innocent until proven guilty), I can probably get a shot of him at his next trial.

Everybody help me remember. Innocent until PROVEN guilty.

Now smile. . .oh, and say, cheese.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Mardi Gras, Cirque du Soleil, Ringling Brothers, and Spring Break all rolled into one. Not every day and not round the clock, but a little bit of each at different times.

That's what my life in Santa Maria is like these days. Don't get me wrong, I like covering big court cases. Honestly though, I have to admit even with the best sideshow attraction, my attention span has never been my best trait.

We had Jackson fans on the other side of the fence, but the number of fans was quite a bit less than the first days of the trial. They'll probably bus a bunch in for the final days.

I just don't get how they can show up at all. Let alone bring their kids out for this. The adults I've talked to seem fairly sane. The younger fans, I stopped trying to converse with them. They have their minds made up and won't even look at Michael Jackson with anything other than adoring eyes.

Many of the smallest kids, if they care, just seem to want to be seen on TV.

I didn't want to bother him, but Gary Coleman (Whatchu' talkin' 'bout, Willis?) was there doing a piece (bit) for Comedy Central. That adds an even more surreal quality to the proceedings.

Our liveshot location got switched over to the CBS Newspath trailer/studio. Newspath is the CBS Network satellite news service.

Doing our liveshots through Newspath makes it easier in the evening for us, but it doesn't make the day any shorter. We had a long break between liveshots last night and managed to get a proper meal break. Red Lobster, in case you were wondering.

Unless something interesting happens, I leave tomorrow. It'll be nice if I can get put on something else and I can stay home for a couple of weeks. It's getting to be big gardening season and my yard is a mess after the all the rain we had.

For the closing arguments and the verdict, I'd come up if they need me. I just wouldn't shed a tear if they sent a different clown to this particular media circus.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas?


I see myself as being just your average blue collar, beer drinking kind of guy. To be honest, it's been quite a number of years since a Sunday morning hangover has been a part of my life.

I enjoy a good beer, but I try not to drink when I know I have to work. (That's more of a guideline than a rule.) Since I'm working pretty much most of the time, I don't drink a lot.

On Saturday, Dellis had a conference to attend and Scooter was off to her school's senior retreat. With nothing to do and a lot of time on my hands, I got together with some friends that I've known since college (heck, one of them since grade school).

Not all of us are drinkers, but we all enjoy a good laugh.

We get together every year or so and catch up on each other's lives. We try not to do anything illegal or incriminating (sorry, Curtis) and mainly just drink a few beers and share a good meal.

We did exactly what we intended to do. We hung out, laughed, and enjoyed the day. The two guys in the first picture and I went out to The Comedy Store on Sunset. We hadn't done that in about twenty years.

It was just a good time with friends. None of us were trying to get away from anything. We weren't trying to relive glory days of the past. The idea of just hanging together and laughing with friends I don't often get to see was enough.

There's plenty of people in the world who might need more. It seems like it's always a part of the stories that I cover that someone wanted more. For pleasure or profit, the greed that drives much of the harm that's done in our world might be avoided if it was okay to want a little bit less. Even better, to just be happy with what you have.

I think people might look down on what I felt was a good time. That's okay. Go right ahead and enjoy your life however you want. While you're doing your thing, I'm happy to sit here and smile to myself about the hangover that's keeping me company and a group of average guys who are doing no harm.

Friday, March 11, 2005

What you don't see

You probably don't think about it, but pretty often as you sit watching whatever guilty pleasure is currently striking your fancy (I'm a "Lost" man myself), we're working to put the news on TV.

Wednesday this week, I was sent up to Santa Maria to cover the Michael Jackson trial. We expected to get there early in the evening, set up for the next morning, and break for a nice per diem funded meal. Well, that didn't happen. We got a breaker and had to drive through a pretty foggy evening to Santa Barbara.

The breaking news was the capture of Jesse James Hollywood. I actually blogged about an interview I shot with the mother of the young man Jesse is accused of having killed.

Let's see if I can get the link to behave.

The post: Don't-even-try-to-imagine-the-pain is back from in November. I could (and may) do another whole post about how we often don't get to see how stories we cover turn out.

I wanted to stay on this story, but that wasn't going to happen.

We do one LIVE shot and drive back through even thicker fog to Santa Maria. The night is not quite over. I still have to put the SAT truck back into position at the Michael Jackson court location. It's late and I crash at the hotel.

The mini-drama of him not showing up on time Thursday morning gets me out of bed early and on the clock. I didn't mind the early call, it just made for a really long day.

For all the running around, the trip was pretty uneventful. I got back into town late last night. My stomach was in an unforgiving mood, because it was McDonalds on the road for dinner. Sorry, I didn't realize that I hadn't really eaten all day.

My only thought as I pulled onto the lot was of getting home, but wait, somebody was parked in the SAT truck parking space. More delays as I had to track that person down.

The day just seemed to get longer the closer I got to the end.

Before I finally left the station, I found that the Operations Manager had jotted me a note and left it in my mailbox. I think a few people had mentioned to him how hard I had been hustling this week to put the news on TV. That was a nice pat on the back to get at the end of a long day.

My back and every muscle in my body was sore and screaming at me as I drove home from the station.

Dellis had candles lit and a sexy greeting waiting for me. Five steps into my house, I dropped my bags and collapsed on the floor. I asked for a blanket and a funnel of beer. No doubt about it, the week had just caught up with me. I skipped the beer and after a backrub, I'd recuperated enough to make it upstairs.

This week has gone by quickly, but I'm feeling every waking minute of it still and that's putting me into a bit of a rambling mood. I'm glad they caught Jesse James Hollywood. I wish the world was less interested in Michael Jackson. Please don't park in the SAT truck parking space. Dellis, you looked great (I want that greeting every night). The next time you're watching a one minute and thirty second news story, you can "be" sure there are times that more has gone into it than you might imagine.