Saturday, October 29, 2011

JLOP -vs- Day of the Dead 2011!

I'm not sure we should tempt fate, because there's plenty of signs in pop culture that we're heading towards a zombie apocalypse.

Sure, it could be vampires or some combination of the two, but right now I'm betting on the recently departed coming back to open up a can of rotting flesh whoop-ass.

Tempting fate is exactly what I felt like we were doing by cruising around after dark at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery last weekend.

Dia de Los Muertos was In full swing when we got there last weekend.

Faces were being painted churros were being eaten and I was in the thick of it with my camera.

I'm sure skeletal hands could have reached up from a shallow grave and grabbed a chunk of somebody.

It would not have surprised me.

Visually, this is an overwhelming event. Nearly every where you turn, there's something worth shooting.

My preference is usually to shoot with natural light, but I've found it difficult to capture the images I want without a little flash help.

Either way, it's still like shooting fish in a barrel.

It was my choice, but I would have liked to have a tripod with me, but I know how big the place is.

I wanted to cover more territory this year and the extra weight is always eventually a problem.

So, we walked more this year. Funny, but I don't really feel like I got all that many more shots out of covering the extra ground.

By the end of the night my feet were killing me.

Which I suppose is preferable to some anonymous reanimated corpse doing me in.

This week I think I'd like to go check out the Tim Burton exhibit at LACMA.

As long as I'm exploring the more macabre aspects of my personal tastes, I might as well get the most out of the season.

You see, it's not that I'm embracing the undead and decomposed lifestyle. I'm Looking for weaknesses that I might be able to exploit in order to stay alive.

This is all mostly research.

My Brush With Lilo.

One thing I like about working in news is the fact that I don't do the same thing every day.

Last week I was running our satellite truck at an entirely different courthouse for an entirely different case.

With an entirely different crew? Okay, same crew.

Sure, the differences might be too subtle for the average person to see, but I'm a professional. Trust me.

My break from the Murray trial found me across town running my "Big Blue" satellite truck for the CBS Newspath coverage of the never ending Lindsay Lohan reality show.

I was explaining to someone recently that my ability to snap a picture or two while I'm at work has never been a problem as long as it never ever-ever-EVER takes my attention from doing my job.

Running the SAT truck before anything has actually happened sometimes makes it easy for me to step outside and stretch my legs.

That was the case at Lindsay's most recent (continuing?) brush with the justice system.

I've covered Lindsay before and I was pretty thrilled to see that conditions were perfect for me to maybe get a paparazzi style shot of Lindsay as she entered the court.

Most of the cameras and photogs were lined up to get their money shots. They were in position as Lindsay's SUV was driven up. I staked out a small spot at the end of the line. Not wanting to screw up anybody else's shot and fully prepared to get the heck out of the way to avoid being caught in anyone else's lens if at all possible.

It was a pretty amazing moment. I'm not sure I can describe how it went down and make it sound as cool as I think it was.

The SUV pulls up. A Sheriff's Deputy walks up and talks to the driver at the driver's door. I'm standing at the rear corner of the vehicle on the driver's side. The rear door on the driver's side opens and a guy steps out.

I'm thinking, hey, that ain't her (yes, my powers of observation are firing on all cylinders). It hits me. Oh, crap. She's going to get out on the other side. I can't believe my luck, because at that point I knew she'd likely have to walk around the tail end of the SUV.

RIGHT PAST ME!

I'm not all that impressed with tabloid fodder and celebrity train wrecks like Lindsay spend no time on my radar outside of work.

But this was cool.

I had a 70-200mm lens on my camera because I thought the only shot I would get was going to be from a distance.

She was so close, my 5D mkII had trouble locking focus, I managed to get these shots as she and her entourage zipped past me.

The shots were pretty good. I could be critical and talk about what I'd do different if the opportunity presents itself again.

I chuckled after I wrote that last bit.

Talking about the opportunity to photograph Lindsay Lohan, I wrote "if" the opportunity presents itself again.

We all probably know, that should be a "when".

Thursday, October 27, 2011

More Model Work

Have you been busy. I have. The Conrad Murray Trial has been filling my wallet, but sucking up most of my time. I'm not complaining, I'm happy to have a job that I enjoy and I'm really really thankful to be working (and getting overtime) in this tough economy.

Somehow, even though I generally work nights, for over the past couple of years I've managed to get one Friday night off nearly every month to attend the open house at the D.M. Gremlin Studios in Long Beach.

The studio owner (Hi, Wynnesome!), has been extremely gracious in providing a place where photographers, models and makeup artists with a wide range of skill levels can come in and share their knowledge and skills and just enjoy taking photos for no greater purpose than socializing and capturing images.

If you're wondering what this might have to do with broadcast news, I can tell you, not much. . .well, really, not anything. This is just a part of my life outside of news and I guess somebody needed to explain the pictures in this post.

It's something I do when I'm not covering what's going on in the world. Right now I am sitting in the satellite truck and just trying to stay awake during the down time between live shots.

I could post a couple more shots of the media circus outside of the courthouse, but that's really not going to become impressive until the last days of the trial.

So, if it's okay, I'll share a bit of what I do as a hobby.

Just try not to roll your eyes and point out how far my time and money investment is beyond the hobby level.

I know. People have started still photography careers with less.

At this stage of the game, I've given it a lot of thought and I'm content to keep things simple. Photography is something I enjoy. It's something I can practice at and get hopefully really good.

I probably would't turn it down, but in this money isn't going help.

Having something that I can do that I could make money from, but choose to not turn into a profit motivated enterprise feels pretty good. I make a decent living, so I'm lucky to have the option.

It might not be art yet, but it's a worthwhile aspiration.

I don't want a second job, so let's keep it simple-- and come to think of it, if you wanted to throw money at me, I can't promise anything, but I think I would turn it down.

My thanks to the models (Hourglass, Rebelflowers, Erik and GreenBirdGirl) for participating and really for helping me get better at something I enjoy doing.

Early Conrad Morning.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Eight Dead

My day started at 8:30am. I take home a microwave truck, so I was able to drive straight from my house in Hawthorne to downtown Los Angeles where I've been on my longest stretch ever of straight satellite truck duty covering the Conrad Murray trial.

I enjoy my job shooting news. Heck, I actually love what I do. Shooting and editing is what I consider to be my job, but I don't mind the SNG work. It's a different skill set from my usual day to day as a news photographer. The deadline pressure isn't on me when I run the truck. It's not exactly a break, but I do enjoy the change of pace.

Photo by Karen Brown

I'm usually the first to arrive at the courthouse-- well, at the SNG truck. I've been assigned to this trial for almost a month and I still haven't made it up to our 12th floor workspace.

We're mostly sending up live shots from across the street outside of the courthouse. The camera position is about 680' from the truck.

I know this because the cable reel we use to connect to the camera position is 680' long.

That's a block and a half to regular folk.

As tragic as the death of Michael Jackson was, it seemed like we put that assignment on hold. The day of the shooting down in Seal Beach out of nowhere became the top story of the day.

I'm not trying to compare tragedies, that's just the nature of breaking news.

I was instructed to pack up and move the SAT truck to the Seal Beach crime scene. It took me just over an hour to get there. I was surprised it didn't take longer, Seal Beach is not exactly close to downtown.

Once, there I popped the dish and established an uplink. There were a lot of folks from the area crowding in to get a look or to express their grief (and some rage).

We zipped through a few live shots and then the powers that be wanted to know how I was holding up. They needed me. This was about to get really interesting.

The late live shots would need an SNG operator. The early morning shows originating on the East coast would need an SNG operator. The Conrad Murray trial would need an SNG operator.

There was a time when I'd jump at the opportunity to work around the clock for some of that sweet overtime cash and also for the thrill of doing something that borders on the edge of sanity.

I'd already put in some pretty good overtime hours in the days and weeks prior.

Call me crazy, but I was actually just digging the idea of working around the clock.

It was tough and I admit by morning I was dragging.

McDonald's opened at 5am. It wasn't a healthy breakfast, but I went for the sugar rush with a mango smoothee.

As I write this, it all seems so trivial compared to the story we were covering.

When I think about it, the only way I was able to grab anything from McDonald's was because the coroner had at some point removed the bodies and the Seal Beach police had opened up the parking lot that had been closed off.

You can't help but feel the sadness. It fills the air with the sounds of sobbing, the shock and disbelief is visible in the body language of everyone at the scene.

We might not acknowledge it, but then, we tend to just live with it because it's a part of our job.

I saw the sun rise over the crime scene. We did the remainder of the work booked for us and I packed up the truck.

It was 24 hours on the clock when I left Seal Beach.

I convinced the station to just let me keep working as long as I wasn't feeling sleepy. Diet coke and a 3 Musketeers helped keep me reasonably sharp.

Nothing unusual happened for the rest of that day. I guess my marathon shift was plenty strange enough by itself.

It was 4pm by the time I got back to the station. My time on the clock (maybe let's not call it my total waking hours) was 31.5 hours.

Know what? That's not even my record.

Of course, the last time we were snowed in and didn't have a choice.