Tuesday, February 28, 2006

L.A. Society

Not a bad week. Going places and seeing things that I haven't seen before always make for a better day on the job.

On Friday (yeah, I know. I'm still catching up from last week), I covered a City Gala for Black History Month. These things can be boring, but there were lots of recognizable faces in the crowd.

Chief. . .uh. . .Councilman Bernard Parks was there.

I wish I knew more about the behind the scenes politics of Los Angeles. A lot spilled out while he was the Chief of Police, but I'd be willing to bet there must be a book or two of drama that we don't know about.

The current Chief of Police, was also there. I've interviewed current Chief a couple of times and I like the fact that he seems to want to make the City safe for everyone.

It can't be an easy job. Here's another situation where I wish I knew more about what happens behind the closed doors.

"Magic" was there and I got to toss him a question. I can still remember back early in my Photog days in Los Angeles when KCAL was still operating on the lot at Paramount Studios. Magic was trying his hand at being a host of a late night Talk Show and I'd see him every now and then on the lot.

That didn't last long, but I always thought it was a cool thing to see him standing around.

This might have been before I started carrying a digital camera around with me, but there were rules against taking pictures and asking for autographs. I was probably too new to break rules back then.

Of course, I'd never do that now.

Hey, I remember her from the Grammy Awards.

You know, I'm sure she's proud of her accomplishment and I know it's part of the deal for pageants, but the sash thing seems kind of goofy to me. On a float in a parade, I can see it.

Here? It just seems wrong.

It seemed like fun for the people attending. I hope my observations didn't sound mean. I know some people go to these things and just spend their time gossiping and bashing other people. I'm just being honest, it's not my thing and I don't think I'd ever really enjoy this kind of social function.

It's just interesting to be able to take a peek behind the curtains and get a glimpse of things that go on while most of the City is at home watching television. I guess if I want to know what goes on behind the political scene, I have to get off the couch and start attending a Gala or two.

Shucks, I wish someone would just make it a TV series. Maybe the "West Wing" guy could throw something together.

Still, not a bad week at all.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Nascar Dreams

Growing up in Los Angeles, I was denied the up close and personal introduction to Nascar Racing that many of my fellow photogs probably enjoyed in their youth.

The closest I can get to a shared experience that relates to the racing mania of my fellow blogging photographers were the black and white "Speed Racer" cartoons of my youth.

That changed last Thursday night.

Sent with a reporter to the California Speedway in Fontana, our goal was to do a package on the race this weekend.

Yeah, baby! I got to sink my teeth into a story that was two rungs above "sweet" on the ladder of plum assignments.

I've never been to the California Speedway and before Thursday, I thought I'd seen every impressive sight to be seen in the Southern California news market. The scale of this raceway was mind blowing and "wow" was the reaction from me when I looked out at the track.

The activity for the evening was centered around a Nascar appreciation night and took place mainly in the parking lot outside of the track. "The Richard Petty Experience" was set up to sell rides around the track for charity.

We were crunched for time and the reporter taking a ride in one of the cars naturally became the center piece of the story. We snagged a couple of interviews while in line waiting for the reporter's turn. I shot b-roll of cars zipping past and there was no shortage of roaring engine nat sound.

It had taken us a while to get ther through the traffic and negotiating our way onto the Speedway property was a little dicey. Short version? We weren't crashing, but we were slightly pressed for time when it came down to setting up the liveshot and cutting the piece. No time for a break, but we managed to cut a piece and did a liveshot.

The cars had stopped making runs while we were cutting, but at least the lights were still on during the liveshot.

By the time we were wrapped, the lights were shutting down and if there had been any possibility of me getting a ride around the track, it faded with the lights.

I was a little disappointed, but I don't have to regret missing an opportunity or two. In the course of my career, I've rode shotgun with a camera in quite a few cars, boats, and planes. My job is full of these types of fantasy adventures.

If I didn't make it around the track on this story, there's a good chance I'll have the opportunity again someday.

Besides, the real thrill I had in mind wasn't to ride as a passenger around the speedway. Heck, it wasn't even to slip behind the wheel and gun it around myself.

From the minute I saw the track, the only thought bouncing off the walls inside my head? Wouldn't it be cool if they let me open this baby up? Just once around and please, somebody get a picture of me letting out a big ol' "Dukes of Hazzard" yell.

That would have been a dream come true.

Yeah, Go Speed Racer. Go Speed Racer, Go.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Caught a breaker

Pretty often my day will start with a phone call. When I hear it ring and it's getting near the time I usually leave for work, it might mean that I'm not heading up to Hollywood. I'm going straight to my assignment.

That's how it was on Wednesday.

"Bryan, we want you to head over to Crenshaw High School. A reporter and another photographer will meet you there, but you'll probably get there first."

Okay, time to rock and roll. I'm on the clock and every second I'm not there, I might be missing something important. You know I've been sitting on the sidelines a lot lately and I that's not how I like spending my time at work.

It's tough to balance the desire to work hard and keep a good thought in mind that nobody is getting hurt ( just so I can have something to do).

I'm in contact with the assignment desk, our chopper, and the crew heading over to meet me. In Los Angeles, we're not strangers to violence in our schools. Law enforcement takes it seriously and so do we.

When I arrive on scene there's plenty of activity, but nothing critical that needs to be shot. I check with the other crew to see if they'd rather I shoot ground footage or establish a microwave signal back to the station.

They're close and think I should work on the liveshot.

Okay, I fire up the generator, raise the mast and call the station so a technician in our RF room can coordinate with me to tune the signal.

My heart's pumping and I'm working up a sweat.

I am by myself until the other crew arrives. That can be scary, but there's no immediate threat to my safety. Cops are on one side of the yellow crime scene tape and I'm on the other.

The people around me aren't real happy to have me on the scene. Some walk up to me and ask me questions while I'm frantically working. . .wait, I don't want to say frantic, because that makes it sound like the situation is out of control. I'm rushing and I'm pressed for time, but the cables get laid out. Connectors are connected and plugs go into sockets. I could do this part in my sleep.

I just have to be careful in how I deal with the public. It's important to me that I try to accommodate their questions, but I'm working and I have a reporter to put on TV.

We did one liveshot, broke down the gear and moved to a better location closer to the command center. Officials for the school district and law enforcement representatives gave us statement and we did two more liveshots.

Two suspects had gotten onto the campus and got involved in a fight with a campus security guard. The security guard (they may be called School Police) suffered a broken nose and called for backup. Students may have begun to get involved in the altercation and a full scale response to the situation was put into effect.

The school was put on lockdown and the two suspects were arrested.

Confused parents arrived. Students were let out of school about two hours after the incident began.

Of course the students tried to screw with our liveshot. I'm reaping the karma of my mildly misspent youth. I'm sure I might have done the same when I was at that age.

The only reported injury was suffered by the security guard with the broken nose.

I'm glad it didn't turn out to be any more serious than it was. The two suspects I'm told weren't even students at Crenshaw High School.

That was about four hours of my shift. It amazes me, but once we did our last liveshot and stowed the gear, I was ready to move on to another story. Other stories happened and assignments were made, but I didn't get anything else that day. I've got no complaints. At least I had a major hand in getting this story on TV.

That was Wednesday and you know, I'm still gonna need something to do today.

I think I better be careful. It's kind of sick, but I caught myself grinning when I was out there throwing the liveshot together.

Sorry, I just enjoy what I do.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Like father, like daughter('s assistant?)

I got a surprise from my older daughter this week. She emailed me pictures of the media activity near where she works in Boston.

Photo by Marie MacIsaac

She had her assistant lean out the window of the car and snap these shots of the truck farm that's growing in the courthouse area. I can almost smell the exaust fumes and hear the roar of the generators. I'm told that the court proceedings of Neil Entwhistle is the reason for the media circus.

I love the photos, but then who wouldn't? Come on, doesn't everybody love the circus?

Photo by Marie MacIsaac

You know I have a passion for taking pictures. There's something about capturing little moments of everyday life that appeals to me. I always look at shots like these and I treasure them. Not only for what they are now, but for what they'll become over time.

I admit to "pushing" my kids towards photography and it just does my heart good to see one of them following in my footsteps.

Photo by Marie MacIsaac

Yeah, Dania's not taking pictures. She's pushing someone else to take pictures and gosh darn, that's just like her dear old dad. Heck, just between us, let's just hope the labor board finds it as touching as I do.

Thank you, Marie. The pictures will help keep a smile on my face even as I'm quietly freaking out over the concept of my daughter having an assistant.

It's okay. Freaking out? Yeah, I've gotten used to it at this point.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Not fit for TV news

It doesn't bother me too much when I get a string of slow days. . .okay, really I'm climbing the walls. Is anyone interested in reading or talking about this stuff I've covered lately?

Last week, I was out with a reporter on a dog mauling story.

It turned out that a dog bit a kid. The cop taking the report had a look on his face that said what we were all thinking. That ain't news. Turned out the kid was fine and it was a lot less of a mauling (like, not at all) than we had been led to believe. We moved on (to lunch).

After lunch (and shopping), we got sent out to the Northridge area because of a reported carjacking and kidnapping.

Don't freak out, that's just ketchup and the carjacking was skeptically either partially gang related or completely fabricated by a young girl who may have been trying to cover up an auto accident. Lots of speculation.

Guess what? Nobody was willing to speculate on the air.

Strike two and I was done for the day.

The next day I think (gee, they're all starting to look the same), sitting on the lot waiting for a breaker. I've been doing too much of this lately. Might be time to consider investing in Starbucks. Woo, or just buying a coffee maker for the van.

The only good thing about all this? I still get paid.

Okay, then we have the Mayor's talkback. You know, regular weekly segment and I get this assignment every few weeks. Been there/done that, but not something I'd complain about. The Mayor is cool and plus, this one was held in the Leimert Park area. Interesting and culturally significant part of the Los Angeles Black Community.

I also got to drive straight home after this was done, so I'm not complaining. I'm just saying, is all.

Friday, big BIG story. Catholic Priest Child molestation case verdicts to be read with very little notice to the media. I race downtown with Reporter Juan Fernandez to the Criminal Courts building.

BTW, did you know that the designated media parking for that courthouse is on the sidewalk one block North on the Main Street side of the building? Gee, I love parking on the sidewalk. If I'm ever rich beyond my wildest dreams, I'm going to be a nice guy, but my one Howard Hughes quirk is that I'm going to park on the sidewalk.

The story fell through, because the verdicts were held pending additional deliberation. We drove back to the station (yawn!).

This week has started out about the same. Mega Millions Jackpot b-roll for a VOSOT (video over, sound on tape) at a nearby liquor store. I bought two tickets while there.

Nope, I did not win.

At least not the lottery.

I won the 2nd man at LAX competition (I want to thank the main crew). Here's a tidbit that I hope doesn't compromise homeland security, we always assign two photogs when we we go to LAX. One photog has to remain with the vans at all times while the other photog shoots the story.

I live maybe five to ten minutes from LAX.

Seems like I keep ending up closer to home. At this rate, I'm going to start just waiting for an assignment parked in my driveway.

Capping it all off, yesterday I drove down to San Diego to run the SAT truck for a story involving a baby left in the parking lot of the Scripps Medical Center.

If you're going to abandon a baby at a hospital, please go the extra distance and actually bring the baby inside. Please.

The crew covering the story was actually able to get a microwave shot out of the Emergency Room parking lot. I downlinked some video for them, but didn't have much else to do. I took a lunch and drove home. The return trip put me back at the station not even an hour past the end of my shift.

So, there you have it. If things have been a little slow on the blog lately, don't blame me. I go to work each day and hope for something interesting to do. I really don't wish a natural disaster or pain and suffering on anyone, but that's what drives an interesting day in my world.

All I'm looking for is something to blog about.

Is that too much to ask?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Going for the GOLD!

My love/hate relationship with my yard continues. It's been weeks since I had the time to roll up my sleeves and dig in (literally) to the major winter projects.

Being the disciplined gardener that I am, I blew off all the yard work on Saturday and spent the day hanging out indoors with Action-wife. She had teacher work to keep her busy, but I haven't had a lot of time to spend with her this week.

I did want to mention that it is not my yard on the cover of the January/February issue of Garden Design magazine.

Maybe I should also mention that I didn't steal the concrete slab idea. Mine have been in for a couple of years now. I'm digging out the groundcover growing between the slabs and filling the gaps with stones. Our dogs trample anything green that we've tried to grow in there.

I just thought it was cool that the garden in the cover shot looks something like mine.

You're probably wondering how this shot plays into the whole sunny day in the garden thing.

See, I had every intention to stick to the plan and put a lot of hard work into the garden on Sunday morning. Yeah, the Sunday morning in the garden thing was working out great for me, except for the phone call.

Phone call? About thirty minutes into the job at hand I take a call from our Operations Manager Doug Dougherty and. . .well, you can see I'm no longer in my garden.


(heh-heh) No, I'm not. The station needed a SAT shot from in the snow up at Big Bear, California and I agreed to come in on my day off.

I'm a little bummed that my yard work has to get pushed further back, but I'm even happier that I blew off the yard work on Saturday. It was nice to spend the time with Dellis. Plus, it made it easier for her to let me go play in the snow.

If you're wondering, heck yeah, it's cold up here. Cell phone service is spotty, so no Verizon card connectivity. Lucky me, though, I'm leaching an internet connection from the ski resort and spending most of my time huddled in the van.

The resort closes about 9:00pm and the food services started shutting down about the same time that I went inside to order up a snack.

It's going to be a long week, but at least I got a taste of adventure to start it off.

I wouldn't have minded a taste of one of the burgers off the grill, but I'll be okay. A little of the overtime cash from working today can go towards a nice dinner out for Dellis and myself.

It doesn't matter how cold it is out here, that thought is going to be keeping me pretty warm.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The 2000 DNC (yup, a beFrank Classic)

Wow, I made it to Friday and didn't call in sick. I know it's not much of an accomplishment, but it's been a slow week for the most part and I have tons of work around my house that I'm having trouble squeezing into the weekend. Nothing I'd consider blogworthy happened yesterday. We're still in the middle of sweeps and I waited for breaking news that never materialized.

I don't want to go the day without letting folks know I'm still alive, so here's a few cool shots and a couple of observations from around Los Angeles during the 2000 Democratic National Convention.

I didn't remember how hot it was that week until I started looking through these pictures. We were carrying camelbaks in the field because we were seriously concerned about passing out from the heat.

Photo by John Vincent

Some of my best advice to anyone who might be inclined to take pictures? Don't let the quality of your camera stop you from getting shots and holding onto them. I'll always be glad that I started taking digital pictures out in the field. I just wish I had started earlier.

I took these with my trusty Olympus point and shoot camera. It probably had a one megapixel sensor, but at least it fit easily into my pocket.

I'd really have to dig deep for information on this protest in front of Parker Center. It was somewhat tense, but we had complete freedom of movement between the LAPD and the people demonstrating.

I was part of a crew that had portable microwave equipment and over the course of the week, we were in the middle of several protests.

That's Photographer John Vincent in the middle. All around great guy to work with (sorry, I tend not to show the bastards).

I can't remember his name, but the gentleman to the left is one of the bodyguards hired by the station to help keep us out of trouble. I believe he was an off-duty Sheriff's Deputy and even though we didn't run into anything immediately life threatening, it was great to have guys like him around.

John and I traded running the camera and the portable microwave transmitter on alternating days. It was frustrating to not have the camera when something big was happening, but I think we both got memorable time behind the lens.

For instance, he had the camera when we got chased by horse mounted LAPD officers after the "Rage AGAINST the Machine" concert early in the week (Thanks Allen).

Yeah, good times.

My favorite moment came on the last day, I had the camera in the middle of the negotiations on the street outside of Men's Central Jail between protestors and law enforcement officials. A big protest and march had ended there and it could have gotten ugly. It was tense, but the police and the protestors managed to disburse without a riot.

Cooler heads sometimes do prevail.

It's amazing to me how we can be witnesses to events like this and never know when the next huge event will come along. I've covered a few stories since then that I'd consider bigger in scope.

But nothing comes to mind in terms of organized events where my safety was more at risk.

I can still remember feeling caught in the middle between the protestors and the police. I believe the Rampart Division scandal was still fresh in everyone's mind and nobody was particularly inclined to trust the police (or the media).

I can remember talking to cops in full riot gear on the front lines of some of these demonstrations. The street around Staples Center was littered with rocks (actual chunks of concrete), broken bottles, and cans. It's very difficult to carry on a conversation with someone under those conditions.

You really don't want to distract them and you kind of have to be on guard yourself.

There's always going to be a debate on how much force the police should use in these situations. People will argue that they have a right to protest and the violence breaks out when the people who are supposed to uphold the law tries to restrict the rights of citizens gather and voice their opinions.

I've seen bad (illegal) behavior from both sides during these types of conflicts. People might be down on the government right now and disillusioned with our politicians. I'm still happy to be here and even with its' problems, I like the world we live in. You want to know why?

I just said it.

"There's always going to be a debate."

See, it might not always be true, but it's true more often than not and it's a big part of what keeps me going. We get to have the debate. I think that's a great place to start.

Thanks for stopping by and indulging me in my reminiscing.

Have a good weekend.