Friday, May 29, 2009

He's Out There.

Some time back, I believe I was actually there at Parker Center for the press conference that tied together the dozen victims of the South Los Angeles murderer now being called "The Grim Sleeper."



Yesterday I was at Parker Center to cover a press conference/protest related to the same case.

The group of people holding the press conference were up in arms over the state of the investigation.



They blasted the media and the LAPD for not doing enough to protect the community.  They blasted us both also for not doing enough to solve this case.



This is a horrible crime.  The idea that a serial killer is walking the streets of Los Angeles is something I'm sure most people don't even want to consider.

I hope they catch the person responsible.  We covered the story yesterday, but I'll likely be assigned to something else today.

It's been a rough couple of weeks.  I'm glad it's Friday.

Hey, ACTIVISTS--

Wait. . .no, don't get me started.  Everybody just enjoy the weekend.
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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Better Day

This brightened my mood after a rough start today.
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Saturday, May 23, 2009

JLOP: Hollywood After Midnight!

Even though I thought it was just a joke at first, I'm becoming increasingly suspicious of my station's intentions. After the trip to DC and the two days I spent running the satellite truck on the Faria Beach triple homicide, holy crap, I'm convinced they really do want to kill me.

It's been quite a while since I last worked so many hours of overtime in one week. By Friday evening I was completely zombie-fried and typically would be looking forward to a night on the comfy couch with maybe a tasty beverage and my lovely wife to keep me company.

Just one tiny problem.



I'd already put out the call for a Justice League of Photographers meet up in Hollywood for Friday night.

Yeah, any sane person would have blown it off or canceled it altogether. I didn't do either. That must speak pretty clearly to my level of sanity. Ha-ha-ha (sinister laughter).



Working so hard during the week just made me desperately want to be free to do something completely for the art of it.

I'm so glad I made the effort.



Including me, five guys showed up. We were very much rewarded for our brave and total mule headed stubborn dedication to capturing the moments a lot of people never get to see for themselves.



The shots in the "red alley" alone made the entire trip worthwhile and would likely never have been captured by any one of us on our own. Even though the area seemed relatively safe, there was a good sense of security in numbers even in our smaller turn out for the evening.

I can't imagine what kind of shenanigans we might get into if the bulk of our group (we are NOT a club) were to show up. Also, I can't imagine how Erik didn't get punched out for at least two of his shots (he can guess which ones).

Maybe next time.



Working in news, I admit I've developed a taste for the grittier side of the urban landscape. The sights and sounds and smells are just completely different from what I experience in the day to day of my adult life.



You know, I can only speak for myself and your opinion of who you are (or who I am, for that matter) might be a bit different, but I think the existence I've carved out of life for myself just kicks ass.

I'm not particularly envious of the people I meet, but having the ability to capture a mood or a moment and share it or preserve it makes me want to put myself in the middle of interesting things.



I can't have it all, but I have enough for me, so I'm content to witness. I'm content and actually pretty happy to have the opportunity to document the parts of the world that don't take place in the comfort of home or just outside our front door.



I don't know that I'll ever do anything more with the pictures I take. I don't know that I won't, it just becomes more and more obvious to me (and apparently to everyone who knows me) as time passes that this is seriously more than just a hobby.

It fills large chunks of my time and it does very much consume me.



It's okay, because I do enjoy it.

The effort and expense I put into the "work" of still photography is extremely rewarding for me. The possibility of ever being "good" enough to support my life through a lens, I'll also admit is very very intriguing.



I'm not sure that I have to "do" anything more. I make the small steps as I move forward. I learn from every photo I take. I benefit from the knowledge of all my friends.

I just try to take advantage of opportunity whenever and wherever I hear the knock.

Had a blast last night. Sorry if you wanted to be there and couldn't make it. Don't worry, we'll be having another meet up next month. Just be ready to heed the call and remember, we are not a club.

Good job, guys. The Justice League of Photographers strikes again!
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Thursday, May 21, 2009

The DC Trip.

Let's see how much I can get done quickly, because I really need to get ready for work. Fair warning. I'm going to write for ten minutes (or so) and let you see some shots from my DC trip, but I'm going to have to cut it short and will have to come back later today to finish the tale.

Really, this trip deserves more words than I have time to wring out of my travel addled brain, but I figure you hang out here to see what I'm up to, so the least I can do is bombard you with pictures when I have the opportunity.



Opportunity?

That being said, this week's totally unexpected out of town trip to Washington DC was a heck of an opportunity. This was my third visit to DC (my second for my job) and one of the toughest road trips I've ever had to make.

I'm not complaining (we know how much good that'll do), I'm just saying.

The picture above is in the White House Rose Garden. I've seen press conferences from the Rose Garden on TV, but the feeling was incredibly surreal to actually be there in person.



I also found myself hanging out in the Press Room where Hilary Clinton made an appearance. That was cool, but just completely mind blowing that she wasn't even the story we were there to cover.



Even Obama only made a brief appearance in the package we cut for the newscast. Barack (freaking) Obama, the Preident of these United States was not the top story.



Nope. Our reason for flying across the country (other than being obviously "sweeps" related) was to follow our own State of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as he did his best to cut and run from the predicted results of the voting done on Tuesday.

Right after Obama had his press briefing in the White House Rose Garden, Arnold held his own appearance in the driveway near the White House Press Room.

Time!

Darn. Got to cut it short, folks. I hate to say it, but, well, "I'll be back."



There. I'm back.

Yesterday didn't seem like it was going to be difficult, but I found myself getting home late in the evening after being on SNG duty in Faria (between Ventura and Santa Barbara on the coast) on the story of a triple murder.

I'm not sure, but it sort of puts the big trip to DC into a weird perspective. So sad. Well, I'm back. Let me finish telling you about the trip.




We were all over the White House press room. I even bumped into Helen Thomas. That was a rock star moment for anyone with even a passing interest in journalism. I was on my way to buy a couple of bottles of water from the White House Press Room vending machine ($2.00 each) and she was just sitting at a small desk next to the window there. I introduced myself and asked if she'd mind if I took her picture. She didn't mind and I quickly snapped a couple of shots.

Having a camera sometimes saves me from the embarrassment of asking for an autograph.

If I wasn't so pressed for time, I'm sure I would have tried to get her to do a "jump shot" photo for me. That'd been cool.



Uncool was later in the day how much it took to get us into this Congressman's office. We were under the gun to get reactions to Arnold's appearances and press conference.

I'm completely traumatized by the DC automobile parking situation. All my overtime money is going towards couch time with a good therapist.



We were trying to put together the elements for a package to run in the 10pm and 11pm newscasts and we still had to get back to the White House to do 4pm and 5pm liveshots. Try to keep in mind that we were still on the clock from 4:30pm the previous day.

It was about 3:00pm West coast time. We inhaled a burger from McDonalds then got stuck on the street outside of the White House because of a security lock down. These things happen when important people are on the move. Might have been President Obama or the First Family, but I don't know exactly who was coming or going from the White House.



They couldn't tell us for security reasons. We sat for twenty minutes waiting for the lock down to finish. Worried the whole time that we weren't going to make the live shot, but I think it was too many hours on the go at that point for us to have the energy to freak out about it.

It was either going to happen or it wasn't.



We finally got in.

Two live shots later and we were back at the hotel where we were able to actually check in and get the equipment set up in order to edit.

The hotel was a stylish place a block away from the Capitol.



I made good use of the flat screen TV in the room, incorporating it into the on-the-road edit suite.

Dinner was room service while we cut the package (ahhh, TAPE!) for the later shows. I actually nodded off for a couple of minutes in the time while Dave Bryan logged and wrote the package, but after 28 hours on the clock, I wouldn't call that rest.

I had spinach raviolli and Dave had roasted chicken for dinner. Dessert was chocolate pecan pie with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.

The meal cost $375.00 not including the tip.



Just kidding. The tip was included.

I'm jumping forward because we made the 10pm and 11pm live shots with no problem. The CBS Newspath office is arund the corner from the hotel where we were staying, so we walked the tape over, fed it back to our station and Dave did the two live shots.

I finally clocked out at 11:30pm. Thirty hours continuous duty. You can say, ka-ching if you want, but I'd still rather have gotten some real sleep somewhere in there.

A little over five hours later, I was up and we hit the ground running. I packed away what I could and tried to orgnanize the gear for a quick get away. We had a press conference with Arnold to cover and would have to chase down reactions from elected officials, edit a piece for a noon (West Coast) live shot, check out of the hotel and make it to the airport (Dulles) for our flight out.



Arnold spoke.



We ran and got our needed sound bites.



We cut a piece and did the live shots.

Whew.

No time for sightseeing, except what we could see from the rental car as we drove likes bats out of, well, Washington. I dropped Dave Bryan and the gear off curbside, then returned the rental car. We cut it close. Dave was in his seat on the plane while I was in line to get through security.

I know this because he called me on his cell phone with updates.

He'd also gotten me a turkey sandwich.

The Dulles airport security line extends from one end to almost the complete length of the terminal. At one point I was last in line and I thought I wouldn't make it. Remember I said, Dave had gotten me a sandwich?

There was no way that sandwich was leaving DC without me.

I actually made the flight with maybe 10 minutes to spare.

Yay, me.

Yay, Dave (for a great trip and everything, but especially for the sandwich).

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Halls of Congress

In Dana Rohrbacher's office. He's the Congressman for the 46th District.


Tick-tock.
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DC Cap

Yup, still here.
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Still In DC

I worked a whopper of a day on Monday. . . Uh, Tuesday. Still chasing the Governator. Might catch him this morning.


I'm too tired to tie my shoe. I'll just leave it here in my room.
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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Update

That's our live shot view of the White House. It's pretty cool just to be here, but I'm starting to feel a bit faint from lack of food.
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Rose Garden

Just before the sweep.
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White House Press Room

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Monday, May 18, 2009

DC bound

Funny thing happened at work.
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Titanic Opera.

Sorry.  Not Titanic the boat.  Titanic as in super, stupendous, awesome and way cool.  My lovely wife Dellis and I were invited to see one the last performances of the Long Beach Opera season by fellow blogger and suspected renegade angel, FlutePrayer.



There's a part of me that lives for experiencing all things cultural.  That part fights on occasion with the parts that enjoy laying about while enjoying a tasty cold beverage.

My adventuresome side won this time.



That's how we found ourselves hanging out on the Queen Mary.

FlutePrayer offered us a couple of tickets to see the early Sunday afternoon performance of "The Emperor of Atlantis" and "The Clever One" being performed on board.



I'm not exactly an opera aficionado.  I just have an interest in experiencing art and culture that's outside of my comfort zone.

Sometimes that can be difficult.  My comfort zone extends about two and a half feet from my couch.  Sometimes I can just stand up to stretch and I feel like I'm pushing the envelope.



Having suffered through opera performances in the affordable nosebleed sections of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, we felt like royalty in the second row.  By the way, just so you know, It was a full house, I snapped this shot during intermission.



Dellis and I had seen the performance of "Grendel" in Los Angeles a couple of years back.  They can have all the flash and technical shammery.  I thought the much better production was the one with the shoestring budget performed below water level in the belly of the boat.



It was a great performance that we really enjoyed.  I got the impression that the Long Beach Opera makes up for a lack of funding by staging productions that you might not see performed by other companies (in venues sometimes just shy of the beaten path).

I'm still reading up on the material from this past weekend's performance.  Quirky and often dark in tone, but way more enjoyable than most of what we've gone out to see performed by the bigger budgeted company in LA.



Hmm, probably too many words to just say, thanks.  We had a good time and we'll be looking forward to the season next year.

Bravo.
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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Me and The Quake.

Shake, rattle and roll.

A small earthquake shook it up this afternoon. It was enough to interrupt my siesta and get me off the couch, but not enough to make me want to pull up stakes and head for the Carolinas. North Carolina is our fall back home base in case of natual disasters on a biblical scale, attacks by mutated gargantuan insects, or alien invasion.

In the event of simultaneous occurrences or a combo hit that affects both Hawthorne and Durham, we'll try to make our way to Hawaii.

Stand down for now. It looks like the quake was slightly smaller than originally reported. If you were already working on the human race repopulation plan, by all means, enjoy.

It's a good day for a run through.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Buzz on "The Eight Fingered Criminal's Son"

William R. (Bill) Snyder is a writer I read. I'd read his work even if he wasn't a good friend of mine. I'd read his work even if I had to pay for it.

Yeah, I know, but that's just how good he is.



Before writing, he was also known as a graphic artist who developed "The Griggit" character. This doesn't have anything really to do with his writing. I just wanted to show him that I still have the Griggit mug he gave me twenty years ago.

Back to the writing.

Bill Snyder has a blog. "W.Z. Snyder, #167 Dad" is what he calls it. On his blog he's posting a couple of the short stories from his collection of short stories, "The Eight Fingered Criminal's Son" and he'd like people to read them.

Back when I first started blogging (May 16th, five years ago, happy bloggerversary me! Yay!) someone said of my writing that it was "earnest."

Earnest?

Unless that's someone whom I'm being confused with (sorry, Ernie), I think I know what was meant by that. I appreciated it and took it as a very high compliment.

There's something about Bill Snyder's writing that I find to be earnest also. I think a lot of people might agree and would like his writing. I tell him that often. Not sure if he really believes me.

Help me out here. If I'm the kind of guy you think might be cool to hang out with and maybe grab a beer with and maybe poke fun at all the loosers NOT drinking beer, then give Bill Snyder's stories a read.

I think he's cool. I just think you might agree.

You can find him at http://griggits.blogspot.com/
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Friday, May 15, 2009

Juan Fernandez: JUMP SHOT!

We're not quite there yet, but I can see where there will come a time when reporters will not feel like they've hit the "big time" until they've posed for a jump shot for my blog.



I can dream can't I?
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Downtown to Chinatown to El Monte (heh-heh, El Monte-town) and a Sandwhich.

So, let me explain. I posted this yesterday, but while on my way to work I hear through the grapevine (okay, Facebook) that one of the photos I'd taken of "The Fabulous Leyna Nguyen" might not have been up to my usual standards of fine art portraiture. I denied the possibility. My brain couldn't wrap itself around the concept. I checked the picture when I got to work.

Woof. Not my best work.

No problem. I pulled te post with the intention of replacing the shot with an artist's rendering, but scratched the idea. Look, I really don't want to create a problem for myself. My artist's rendering of Leyna all came out looking pretty racist and sexist. The sexist part I think we could all live with, but nobody wants to see my artist's rendering of an asian female (think WWII comic books).

I'm going with the quick and dirty fix and I've cropped Leyna out of the photo. I mainly wanted to show the fan who posed with her anyway. 'm worried that her adoring fan will somehow track me down and demand that I do something about his photo.

Sorry for the delay.


I'm feeling a little blog noir today. If I smoked, I'm sure I'd have a cigarette hanging from my lips, a full ashtray in front of me and my feet up on a heavy wooden desk. A bottle of Jack nearby to refill my glass and all within "reachin' distance".

As it is, the reality is I just came in from walking the dog and I'm backing away from booze and coffee having spent the last week and a half fully caffeinated and occasionally inebriated. I make no apologies for my relatively modest beer drinking ways, but the coffee has proven to be less than healthy for me. I've spent quite a few months on the wagon from Starbucks.

At least I can still look out my window and reminisce about the better day I was having on Wednesday.



It wasn't a great story, but it was fun to be working with Leyna Nguyen. She and I had shot a story on the increase of invasion style robberies in the Los Angeles area.

Not a bad day at all.

The Detectives of Central Division on 6th near Spring Street were cool, even if they work in one of the grittier parts of downtown. He gave us some great surveillance video and a couple of soveneir coins from the LAPD Media Relations Division office. LAPD swag. Cool.

Also, it's worth mentioning (even if I didn't I didn't get his picture), that we both found the homeless guy standing out front who was softly singing to himself and grooving to his own tune was also very very cool.



All this was South of downtown, but somehow that day, we also found ourselves standing just North of City Hall in Chinatown. We near a swap meet style market that was closing up shop for the day.

No time for bargain hunting anyway. We had a package to put together and a standup to shoot.



As we stood on the street near the newsvan, we considered busting up the illegal pet turtle trade that we noticed still taking place in the Chinatown flea markets. It was interesting to see the few small turtles in their plastic cages. Everybody knows the pet turtle trade isn't anywhere near as common as it was in the late 70's, but it's still there. Crime never really goes away completely.

We considered getting involved, but let it go. Reminding ourselves where we were.

Chinatown.

Plus, they were just so darned cute. By the way, you can tell when I'm embellishing stuff up, right?

Leyna sprung for Korean(?) coffee for me (thanks again) and a sandwhich for herself. We managed to keep a low profile while we waited for a call from our assignment desk.

Did I say, low profile? I meant that other thing. That other complete opposite of "low profile" thing.



It wasn't long before some of the locals found their courage and approached us. That's funny. By "us", I mean, of course, Leyna.

Fortunately, I sometimes carry a small camera with me. It comes in handy when fans of our newscast come over and greet us.

Sometimes they'll drop by the blog and I can show them that I'm really not some weirdo with a camera looking to do evil things with the photographs I take.



Sure, we can debate the "weirdo" part, but I take the second part pretty serious. I never want people to feel uncomfortable about the fate of their image when I snap a photograph.

I'm probably as serious about that as Leyna was about that sandwhich. Somebody remind me to ask what kind it was.



It was getting late in the afternoon. I'd like to tell you that the rest of the evening was spent with Leyna just wrapping up that sandwhich and the two of us putting together the one story, then making slot with a couple of live shots. With maybe a nifty downtown skyline in the background.

Sadly, it wasn't meant to be.

We got our skyline, but instead of downtown LA, it was from downtown El Monte.

The next call from the desk reassigned us to a story out of El Monte. We were sent to cover a story of suspected abuse by officers of the El Monte Police Depatment.

Also, since it was not going to be a lunchable workday. I'd be handing off the reporter and the story to another photographer.



I managed to snap a few still shots on my way back to the freeway for the solitary trip back to the station.

That was a good thing, because now I can reflect on a small bit of business that I've been chewing on since that day.

The alleged abuse was caught on video by a local chopper. The alleged victim was a suspect being chased in a vehicle by the El Monte Police department.



El Monte? Do you know, El Monte? Yeah, because I know a little bit about El Monte. In younger days, I spent five years working for the City of El Monte and the local cable franchisee, then known as Group W Cable.



You might say that's one of the places where I got my start. I spent many a Friday night in that production van covering local high school sports.

That was a lot of years ago. Further back than I care to remember.

Since then, I've seen some stuff and been through some stuff and I know if I were ever given the chance to change anything, there might be one or two decisions I made that upon careful thought, I might (just might) reconsider.

Except sometimes our decisions might make small differences in who become. I like to think I'm the sum total of my experience. Good or bad, faults and all, I sort of like me. You just nevery know when some small decision, say, turning left when I could have turned right, might have changed my life completely.



Looking at the booking photos the El Monte PD shared with us on Wednesday, I can't help but wonder if any of the suspects who were in the car and arrested at the conclusion of the high speed chase, if asked about it or given the opportunity to affect the outcome, might have told the first or second suspect to really think twice about the tattoos.

Come on, looking back, was it really a good idea?

Really?
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