Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sheriff Watch '07 (update)

I'm as surprised as anyone that I'm still out here. We expect the Sheriff anytime now.

Yup, anytime now.

At least the local merchants have been kind.

(UPDATE:UPDATE - I had to stop mid-post to do a liveshot. The Sheriff came out just before we went live. I had a good shot of him in my camera before he got lost in the crowd. Bottom line? He's gone and I get to go home. Yippee!)
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Sheriff Watch '07 (update)

Bored, bored, bored, bored and again, I'm still here.

There's food nearby, but nothing I feel like paying too much for.

If I'm lucky, this should wrap up around 3:00pm. Swell. I'll be just in time for the traffic.
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Sheriff Watch '07

Still here.

I'm getting hungry.
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Court Stakeout. . .

. . .in the O.C. (early).

Right now I'm standing in front of the Federal courthouse in Santa Ana. I'm not alone. There's about 15 other photogs covering the building.

We're out here looking for the O.C. Sheriff or any of the primary people involved in his corruption indictment.

I hate stakeouts.

Maybe I'd feel different if I was better at them, but I gotta be honest.

I suck at this.

If I'm covering door "A", then sure as heck they're coming out of door "B" (or any other open door or window).

I'll do my best, but don't be surprised if you don't see the guy. . .or his wife. . .or his mistress.
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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

So it goes, indeed.

I was reading the daily comics and got a huge kick out of the "Frazz" strip today (10/30).

Sure, what I don't know is always going to fill a larger book, but I want my full literary geek points for knowing the reference before I googled it (heh-heh, just double checking).

Half points to anyone who read my post title and immediately went with Linda Ellerbee.

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Putting People on TV

With only a few days before sweeps, I'm off the fire coverage front line and back doing the training thing.  We still have a handful of photographers who haven't had more than a few hours with me out in the field.

I'm working a late shift during sweeps and I'm hoping the later shift will put me behind a news camera more often than it has for the better part of this year.

It's a lot of pressure, but I miss the challenge of shooting, cutting and getting the story on the air.  I still get some of that, but after a steady diet of breakers and big news for over a decade, it's not the same.

Take last Friday for example.  At about 3:00pm we were told to break down our liveshot location and travel from the Running Springs area over to the Rim of the World High School for a 4:00pm press conference.  The station wanted to take the presser live.


I broke down the gear, packed it away and drove to the new location.  It took me just over thirty minutes to get there.  I lucked into a good parking spot for the sat truck, popped the satellite dish and had us back on the bird in less than ten minutes after arriving.

There was nothing happening and no sign of a press conference.

The officials had decided to change the presser time (lets call it 4:30pm) and location to one of the Lake Arrowhead areas where homes had been damaged by the fire.  We'd have to move, but they didn't have an exact location.


I fed a standup close for the reporter's edited package from earlier, stowed the dish and drove to the area.  We eventually found some of the workers setting up the press conference.  They weren't sure what would work best for us, so they were waiting until we got there before they settled on anything.

Gee, how about right here where we're standing?  That works for us.

It was 4:55pm and the station had just called to see if we could get set for a liveshot for the top of the 5:00pm newscast.


I got the truck in position and had us on the bird just as the newscast was starting.  I could hear the booth calling for the reporter and a mic check over the IFB.  The camera was being connected and the reporter was standing in front of the lens as the anchors were tossing to the package that had been fed in earlier.  We would have been the second liveshot in the show. 

Nobody was mad.  We'd tried our best under difficult circumstances and missed the target by seconds.


It doesn't happen often that anything gets to me, but I was mad.   We'd missed slot by seconds?  Well, I could point fingers or blame myself.  Even if I know where we could have easily made up the time (of course I do), it doesn't really matter.  We'd been under the gun all week and made it on air every time we intended to be on.  We covered the press conference (it didn't start until almost 6:00pm) and did a live satellite shot for CBS affiliate KPIX.  People were fried.

Thankfully, the shot for KPIX was the last shot of the day.  We packed everything up and were cleared to head for home.

Most people don't understand.  I don't have nearly the same pressure when I'm coaching an edit system trainee.  What I'm doing is vital for our operation (and it has been appreciated), but for me, the work isn't nearly as physically or mentally demanding.  I'm just doing what I can, but there's no comparison.  If I had my preference, I'd just be shooting and editing and doing the things that I've always done.

That would be my part in putting people and the story on TV.

Have a good Tuesday.  I "get" to go to work now.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Wicked Cool

Shhh, I'm listening.

The sound of my house late at night is just one of a lot of things I miss when I'm out on the road.  It was a difficult week at work covering the fires.  Now that it's over and I can take a moment to breathe (relatively clean air), I can relax.  I can think.

First, before anything else, I can give thanks for this blessed life of mine.

I'm home safe with my lovely wife.  I know where my children are.  All around me, I have enough of the things that make me happy and that includes goals and ambitions for things that don't come easy.

There are things I have to work towards.  For now, it's all good just to be able to enjoy a chance to breathe easy and have a nice Wicked evening out.

Until late Thursday night, I was worried the Wicked evening out we had planned might be sunk by my being away from home.

This was either going to be the second time I missed seeing the show (I was covering the Academy Awards last time) or maybe the second time Dellis has gotten to see it (she wasn't covering the Academy Awards).

I'm happy our Wicked attendance score is now Bryan-1 and Dellis-2.

When I couldn't make it last time, Dellis took our visiting middle child (Dania-1).  They both raved about it (it was good, I got it).  They both really seemed to have had a good time.

That certainly built up my expectations.

I had to go all Keaneau Reeves, woah.  The last thing that I want is to build up an unreasonable expectation.  Yeah, it could be the "Matrix" sequels all over again (only in a classy musical theater kind of way).

No worries.  The show was great.

A very special "thank you, thankyouthankyouthankyou" to the our friends the Mackies for the hook-up on the tickets.  You guys were right, the seats were awesome.

Perfect for illicit photography.

It was kind of fun trying to sneak a quick (and totally unauthorized) picture from inside the theater.  I wasn't the only one sneaking a shot, but I did turn off the flash on my camera.  Lucky for me others didn't.  The ushers were busy racing to scold the people they could catch because of their camera flashes.


Any worries about the evening not living up to expectations were squashed early.  I already have a fondness for the Pantages Theater after having covered the renovations a few years back.

We got there early enough to have a drink at the Frolic Room next door to the theater.

From my pre-show Stella Atois to the final self-photo portrait (with our green Wicked souvenir sunglasses) it was a great night out.  We had fun.  It really took my mind off the long week at work.

I'm glad it's the weekend.  There's a lot I missed this week (bills, yardwork, yadda-yadda) and I need to catch up on as much of it as I can.  The real danger now, is that I try to do too much and not get a chance to relax before the next big story that takes me away from home.

That would be Wicked, but not in the good way.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007


Lots of smoke yesterday.  I'll need a good airing out when I get off this mountain.

Even though I approach my job with a lot of enthusiasm and even though there's nothing else that I'd rather do for a living.

This part isn't fun.  It might have been on the first day, but now I'm into the fourth day of fire coverage.

I haven't been home since Tuesday and I've worked a double shift every day this week.

I'm in it until the station tells me to come on home and of course I'll keep making good use of the opportunity.  At the end of the day, I hope we've accomplished something.  For me, there's no objective way of judging how we're doing.  Reporters are getting on TV when they're supposed to be on.  We're sending back the most accurate information and most compelling visuals we can find.

Is anybody watching?

Sometimes it becomes difficult to see the forest, you know?

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Smoked Out.

The wind has died down, so the smoke is just sitting over the area like a fog.  It was a lot easier yesterday when the fire was still below us and downwind.  We had great mountain air to breathe.

This probably isn't good for my asthma, but I've complained quite a bit this year about not seeing any action.  Karmic payback I suppose, but I'm loving it all anyway.

These shots were taken from the same location where we were going live yesterday.

Not a good spot for continuing coverage.  You can feel the heat even from where I snapped the picture.

This called for a plan "b".

Plan "b" in these situations always include moving to somewhere safe.  Sometimes it also requires screaming like a cheerleader, but it didn't get to that point.

We managed to move about fifty yards away and did our first live shot today with our prior location smoldering in the background.

Life has taken a big turn back towards "less ordinary" and while I would have settled for "more interesting" it just really feel better to be back out in the field.

I'm putting Greg Mills on TV today for our dayside shows.  Still undetermined who's coming out tonight.

If I can, I'll keep you posted.

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The thick of it (almost).

Wow. I've got maybe ten minutes to give an update on what's been happening since I last posted from my Blackberry yesterday.

That's not nearly enough time to do justice to all the events of the last twelve hours.

I'm not in any danger, but there's people who might disagree if they were driving with me through the fire area up near Running Springs. You can see the small fires burning along the road. The wind was helping me out along this stretch, but further along there were points when the visibility was zero.

I could see the road directly in front of me, but not much more than that. In the middle of the day, that's scary.

It had gotten worse after the sun went down. I traveled the same route when I had to gas up the satellite truck. Both at day and night, you could see open flames all around, glowing embers floating in the air and a lot of smoldering burned area.

Shooting a fire (stills and video) is exciting. Being able to get up close to the stories we cover can be pretty intense, but it's difficult to talk about the rush of being out here. I have to remind myself there's a lot being lost and I don't want to be insensitive. These fires are destroying lives and that's a truth you can't always see clearly.

I'd rather not see people hurt by the story I'm covering. As much as I wish for nothing bad to happen, that's not something I control.

I'd rather know the truth of what's happening and I enjoy having a job that allows me see it for myself.

Yeah, I know there's a lot more to be said on this, but it'll have to wait. I'm running late and I've got to go to work.

I'm not sure how far the fire has gotten since I went to bed. Gee, I got about five hours of sleep and I'm thinking that's probably more than a lot of people got last night. It actually would have been more, but one of our microwave trucks had a flat tire and we had to get it out of the fire area before it could be changed.

You can't call AAA when the roads are blocked.

I'll check in later if I can.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Gee, that fire looks pretty close.

I shouldn't be clowning the fire, but it's easy to do when it's so far away.

I'm hanging out with Marc Coogan and Carl Stein up here near Running Springs.

Nothing is open in the town, so I go hungry again. Well, not completely hungry. I'm surviving on Power Bars and granola.
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The Grand Tour

I'm on my way up to Running Springs. Who am I working with?

I dunno. I'll find out when I get there.

Safe bet I'll be covering a fire.
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Fire Coverage

I'm trying to beat some of the morning rush hour traffic, so I don't have time to explain what you're looking at in these pictures.

Photo by Ken Koeller

Of course it might be pretty easy to figure it out.

I was out covering the fires yesterday. Mostly in the Castaic area.

My day started at 6:30am, but I was lucky. The station sent out a nightside SNG operator and cut me loose around 7:00pm.

After a long day of breathing in smoke and ash, it wasn't too bad to be sent home after only thirteen hours.

I'm heading back in to face more of the same as yesterday. I'm not a conspiracy nut, but I've heard more than a few people comment on how strange it is for these fires to be happening all at once.

It makes the weirdness of what we do seem just a little more odd.

Thanks to everyone who offered words of caution to me. I promise I'll try to be careful.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Where there's smoke. . .

I guess I'll be there too. Plus, my vacation is over. I have to get back to work.

I'll be running SNG for the fire coverage in the Santa Clarita area.

(Sniff-sniff) I smell smoke.

Gotta go.
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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Well, I was kind of resting.

Maybe I should have just gone ahead and left town with Dellis on Thursday like I planned. It just seemed like a lot of effort and money for a get away that neither of us really wanted. Good thing we have a home that we enjoy.

Plus we both have projects that we couldn't exactly take on the road with us. For me, it was peaceful and nice to invest a few hours on the projects that I really felt like spending my time on while taking a few vacation days.

This is actually going to be a water feature for our pond. It's going to be a suspended stream that should stretch about 16' (give or take). I'm planning to paint it blue (or maybe red, I'm still kicking it around) and hang it from chains about two feet off the ground.

I still have to line the water path and lay the pipe that will feed it. If there's an engineering reason why this won't work, don't tell me. I think I'd rather live in denial.

A couple of weeks ago, Dellis and I cleared out the old stream and cut back a ton of the plants that had grown in. It looks a mess right now, but I have a pretty clear vision of what it should look like when I'm done.

It's gonna be cool when I finally get it finished.

Just a little more time, that's all I need. Shucks, I can barely find the time to keep up with the maintenance of everything around the house now, but it feels good when I go outside and I'm surprised by some of the simple things I enjoy about our home.

It's tough to balance everything I'd like to do and the all the things I need to do. The entire yard has suffered a lot this year from my erratic work schedule. Plus, I'm shifting a lot of my attention to focus on some of my more literary goals.

The few days off I had did some good. I'm rested and ready to get back to work. That's probably a good thing. With all the fires burning tonight, I can't help but feel like I'm missing out on the events of the day. I'd be just dandy if things settled down, but I know that's not likely.

It might be just another day at the office, but I'm heading out early in the morning to cover the fire.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Pretty Good Scare (not great).

Rest and relaxation is stomping the crap out of productivity right now. It's not easy for me to relax when I know there's work to be done at home (and back at the office).

Well, since I really can't be in two places at once, I'm going to continue to enjoy my days off.

If you've been reading, then you know that my lovely wife and I last night caught the midnight opening night of "30 Days of Night".

(heh-heh, nighty, night, night)

It was just a bit unusual for us, because we never go to the movies over at the Bridge theaters in (near?) Culver City.

We love the quirky peaceful solitude of the Laemmle downtown way too much. Anything else just seems weird for us these days.

I bought the tickets online and we left home a couple hours early with the idea to grab a late dinner before the show. When we got to the theater most of the shopping and food joints were closed or closing.

Luckily "Kabuki" was still serving and we had a nice light meal (sushi, sashimi, salad, miso soup).

Okay, I also had a beer with my California roll, but I'm guessing that shouldn't come as any big surprise. Not exactly on my diet, but I think I already covered this. Hellooo, I'm on vacation.

Anyway, I just really wanted to let everyone know what I thought about the movie.

Fun movie. I was looking forward to it because it seemed like an original idea. If not exactly original, then at least a relatively original take on a pretty played out idea.


I cover the news and I haven't seen anything fictionalized types like Vlad, Drac, The Night Stalker (70's TV movie version), Buffy's Angel (uh, Angelus), or The Midnight Flyer could teach monsters like Richard Ramirez, Scott Peterson or Chester Stiles-- oh, and don't get me started on some politicians or some of the clergy.

It was a pretty good movie. I enjoyed the evening out, but imaginary violence and horror is never going to be a favorite form of entertainment for me. Working in news and knowing what's out there in the real world is a lot more scary.

Gotta run (literally), then I'm going out to have some fun. Let me know if I'm missing anything.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

30 Days of Night at 12:01AM

You know when the vacationing Bryan Frank has to get up in the morning? Go ahead and guess.

Anytime I feel like it, baby!

The reality is that I'm due in bright and early on Monday, but until then we're just enjoying life.

We've managed to be pretty good with that so far.

Late night sushi at kabuki and now we're watching the Transformers movie promo
(seventeenth time-- continuous loop, thank you) while waiting for the midnight opening show to let in.

If I manage to stay awake, I'll let you know if it was worth it.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Out and About

No news for me. It's kind of nice to decompress a bit. I'm sitting in the 333 Bar at the Marriott hotel in downtown Los Angeles. I'd be sitting in a movie at the Laemmle theater, but there's nothing playing that I'm willing to sleep through.

Dellis has a meeting at the LAUSD district office and I spent some time just wandering around downtown with my camera and my laptop. I wouldn't recommend it for everyone, but it works for me.

Check out the Bradbury Building in the slideshow. I walked from there to the Marriott and had a snack (fried shrimp and calamari with a cold beer) while I waited for Dellis.

First day went well. I'm on roll.

Mmmmmm, simple pleasures.

Overall I'm pretty happy.  World peace is still a long term project (Come on, guys.  We can do this thing), but of more immediate concern are my diet and fitness goals.

I've been pretty good lately.  Not perfect, but really, really pretty awful darn good.

(sigh) Yeah, I could do better.

Last night was my Friday (yay!) and I'm taking a few days off to relax and enjoy the life I've worked so many long hours recently to afford.

Heh-heh, I've already paid for it with a run this morning, but last night I opted for the anti-health and fitness program.

It's not for everybody, but there's nothing like a post midnight run for a Tommy's double cheeseburger.  God bless America.  I brought it home, had it with a frosty cold Fat Tire beer and a little late night TIVO catch up action.

Two observations:  "Heroes" is an overrated show and the British series "Five Days" is almost as good as the critics think it is.  I don't usually throw down like that, but I've been straddling the fence on my fiction writing.  That's changing and I intend to come out swinging.

Anyway, I'm off until Monday and I'm looking to have some fun.

Life is exactly as long as it needs to be if you live without regret.  If I do manage to live a little less ordinary, I'll keep you posted.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Out in the cold.

You're looking South from a hill overlooking the 5 freeway. Just past the Los Angeles sign is where we were doing our satellite live shots on the closed North bound lanes on Saturday night. With the freeway open, it would have been a little more difficult to do the same thing last night.

Traffic was light yesterday. I guess folks weren't willing to chance the same kind of gridlock nightmare from over the weekend.

Did I mention it was cold?

No trainee and just a regular night shift for me. Wow, those have been pretty rare this year.

For a story that contained a huge amount of tragedy and sadness, I felt pretty far removed from the emotional elements. I didn't have to interview any of the family members who lost anyone in the accident and really, from where we were able to set up for our liveshot, we really couldn't even see much of the tunnel.

That made me feel just a bit left out.

My job for the evening and all I really did was cut the story from interviews shot by other photographers. I did spend a little time driving around trying to find a spot to get a view of the tunnel, but that didn't work out. I would have had to park the microwave truck and hike along the freeway to get the shot.

Emotionally I don't know if how I was feeling is actually good or bad. It's almost automatic that I say a prayer in my mind when I cover a story where someone is hurt. Last night that was about all the thought I gave the story.

We were done and heading back to the station and it just felt like the day had gone by very quickly.

Every year, there's usually a first really cold night out in the field where I'm caught without enough to keep me warm. That's when I start packing the thermals, gloves and heavy coat.

I had everything I needed last night. I was warm out in the cold, but still I felt like I was missing something.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Hellooooo, Dali!

Whoops, wrong Dolly.

After having worked a double shift+ on my day off on Saturday, it only seemed fair to spend some quality time with my lovely wife on Sunday.  By the way, I'm not really done with the events of that long Saturday at work, but I need to chew on it for a bit first.

Action-Wife and I went to see the Salvador Dali exhibit at LACMA last night.

Let me be frank (heh), I'm not a Salvador Dali fan.  Nothing against him personally, but I simply love the work of other artists more.  Eyeballs and flaming giraffes are all well and good, but respect and appreciation for an artist isn't the same as a personal preference or inclination.

I look at it like this; I like brussel sprouts.  Everybody doesn't like brussel sprouts.  Some people freaking hate brussel sprouts.  That's their preference.  There's nothing wrong with brussel sprouts.

You see where I'm going?

I don't hate Dali and I certainly don't hate art.  I love the work of a lot of different artists.  I'm head over heels in love with one artist in particular (and even then, I have my favorites out of her works).

I'll give you half points if you thought I was talking about Anca Ionescu.   She's actually my second favorite if anyone is keeping track.

Dellis is first.

If you get a chance to see the Dali exhibit at LACMA, I hope you enjoy it.  Dellis and I had a nice romantic evening and it helped chase away some of the lingering blues from the previous day at work.

As a matter of fact, even though I won't be joining the Dali fan club, I'll admit his work has now inspired and influenced my own artistic ambitions in photography.

I call this photo "man's inhumanity to man" and I'm and asking $100,000.00 for it.  I figure if I sell it, I can pay off some bills, get that Porsche I want and maybe not work so much overtime on the weekend.

Keep hope alive.

Happy Monday.  I'm going to work.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Five Ax Pictures

Not five pictures of the bad accident that took place Friday night up on the 5/14 freeway interchange.

My phone rang and woke me up at 9:00am. Can I come in to work?

I thought about.


It turned into a long day that didn't end until almost 2:00am. I'm going to spend the day with Dellis and try to not do much of anything else important.

Unless the phone rings and they want me to go to work.

Freeway Ax

Stand by. I've got pictures coming. I have a minute to breathe while we gear up for the next liveshot.

I'm hungry.
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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Just say, NO!

Yesterday wasn't bad. I was out along the 405 training a new per diem. With Dave Malkoff reporting, we were covering the proposed construction of an animal crossing that would connect the two sides of the Sepulveda Pass.

It's a big ticket item costing in the millions and would be attached to the main freeway improvement construction project.

It's for the animals.

Hmm, I'm not quite sure how I feel about this.


There must be a more pressing (better?) use for that money.

I hope what I said is good enough to squash that insanity. It's upsetting me. I don't want to talk about it anymore.

Besides, I'm typing this post from the satellite truck. I got called in early. Really early.

The IRON CHIEF got me on my cell phone just after I got home last night at 7:00pm (again, because it never gets old, I hate L.A. freeway traffic).

CBS Newspath needed SNG support at the courthouse downtown in the morning. Britney Spears was expected to appear in court for a hearing related to her child custody issues.

NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO! Are you people nuts?

There must be more pressing (better?) use of our news resources. Look, that's not even her in the middle of that mob. It's her ex's lawyer. It's K-Fed's lawyer!

(sigh) I didn't get close enough to get a clear shot of K-Lawyer. My fault. I stayed a little distance away from the crowd. It looked dangerous and I didn't really want to get sucked into the gravitational pull of the cluster f**k.

(Yeah, sometimes that's really what we call it)

It doesn't even seem likely that Britney is going to show at this point. I know people might question why we're out here covering this. I understand. You can probably tell I'm not a Britney fan. I don't really care about her, but shucks, they actually pay me to be here.

Woo-hoo! Now, that's something to be excited about.

As far as Britney goes, it's okay if this isn't a story that you'd watch. Trust me, somebody is watching.

Somebody is watching a lot.

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