Friday, May 31, 2013

Springs Fire: Part Two

It was a very long day on the Springs fire.

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I started out working with a reporter and eventually got shifted over into a satellite truck. We always have more photographers than SNG operators, so on big stories I often end up with SNG duties.

It's nice to be needed.

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But it doesn't matter how good I am, if I can't get to the reporter that needs to get on the air.

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I was more inland in the Newbury Park area, but the fire had burned all the way to the coast.

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Two of our best guys (Joel Fallon and Carl Stein) were there with Reporter Randy Paige, but the terrain was less than microwave friendly.

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They wanted Randy on TV for the top of the 10pm newscast and it was already after 9:00pm.  With help from Photographer John Vincent, I broke down the shot we were running for Reporter Jeff Nguyen, stowed the dish and started racing towards the coast.

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It's night.  The roads are mostly closed and I'm trying to rush without being unsafe.  Twice I had to stop for road closures and to explain to law enforcement where the hell I think I'm going.

It didn't help that I wasn't so sure myself.

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With my iPhone GPS leading the way (and also being a constant reminder that I wasn't going to make the top of the ten), I did the best I could and managed to land the truck right in the middle of an active fire area.

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Randy and Joel had driven South to a point where they could feed back video, but decided to take the chance that I'd be set up and ready by the time they drove back.

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Carl and I managed to place our trucks in a relatively safe spot for the live shot.  I popped the dish and found the bird while Carl connected cables and established IFB.

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Smoke and ash filled the air.  It stung my eyes and made it difficult to work and breathe (so I just worked and tried not to breathe).

Joel and Randy got back to where we were setting up.  Randy stood in front of the camera and we went live.

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The fire burned on, we went live a couple of times and tweaked the shot a bit between hits.

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We were finally done for the night, but still stopped along PCH to shoot video for the morning crews.  I can't tell you how much driving by the open flames on the empty road is a totally surreal experience.

Let me also mention it really felt great to finally clear the smoke and haze and breathe again.

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We drove back along the coast and at one point I could see the fire blazing on the hillside and the surf crashing onto the beach.

That's something you don't see every day.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Springs Fire: Part One

I'm clearing out as many of the draft posts as I can before the end of May (which is pretty close).

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Out in the Oxnard/Camarillo/Ventura area with a microwave truck and a reporter.  We wound up all over the place, including this chemical fire that was a part of the original blaze.

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Lots of waiting and wandering around.

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Not a lot of options to get microwave signals established in this area and we were overcrowded with crews trying to get somewhere safe to set up for live shots.

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Even Josh Rubenstein and the Mobile Weather Lab were in the area covering the fire.

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The Twitter Queen, Suraya Fadel, was also part of the group of news people working to get the fire coverage actually on the air.

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I eventually wound up in a neighborhood where I could get a microwave signal established.

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We had plenty of company from the other stations who were in pretty much the same boat as us.

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The fire got pretty close to homes and I watched from a safe distance.  We would have gotten closer, but the fire fighters did not want our vehicles blocking their access.

I can understand that.

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The last thing I want to do is try to explain to my bosses why someone's home burned down and our vehicles somehow managed to prevent the fire fighters from doing their jobs.

It might look like we were missing the best shots, but things heated up even more for me after the sun went down.

"Springs Fire: Part Two" is coming up.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Paris Photo Los Angeles 2013

Sometimes it's cool to do things that you don't normally do.   My lovely wife (Dellis) and I try to get out and see art gallery shows when we get the chance.  Most times I'm a willing participant, but sometimes I'm kicking and screaming because I really just prefer photography installations.

Go figure.

A few weeks back, we managed to get out and see the 2013 Paris Photo Los Angeles art show.

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In their own words, Paris Photo was created in 1996 and is the most prestigious art fair dedicated to historical and contemporary photography.

Yeah, sounds kind of pretentious, but it was still worth checking out.

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I don't think I'd been on the Paramount lot since KCAL moved in with CBS2 back near the middle of the 2000's.

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Our duopoly station is still on a working studio lot, but now we're in Studio City on the CBS lot where classics like "Gilligan's Island" and "Gunsmoke" were made.

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It doesn't really relate to this, but CBS just cancelled "CSI:New York" and the empty sound stage is probably big enough to hold a gallery show.

Next time I bump into the big boss, I'll ask him if we can take it over for a weekend.

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We won't likely get any of the talented and famous artists like, say, Leonard Nimoy (that's one of his pieces in the center in the picture above). . .

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. . .or a work like "Today's Levitation" by Natsumi Hayashi.

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We'll just have to do the best we can with the local talent (you should think about snapping up a couple of pieces by this guy, I got good sources say he's awesome and on the verge of hitting it big).

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Even if international fame and fortune continue to elude me (hey, I'm not in this for the money), there's always hope.

Seeing these works did inspire me and I actually overheard someone say out loud what I was thinking.

"Somebody is going to pay that much for this piece of crap?  Hell, I can shoot better than that."

Hey, it's not really me, but If somebody offered me money for my work, I'd probably take it.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Banning Fire

The guy who lived here lost everything in the fire.

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A month earlier, his mother passed away.

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I felt sad for him at the time.

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Later I realized how much I should have just admired him.

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In the interview he did for our station, he put everything in perspective.

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After losing his mother, he really felt lucky that nobody was hurt in the fire.

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The things that burned were just things.

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He had his family and friends.

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He was safe.

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You hear stories like this and sometimes the emotions go the other way.  Where the people who have lost everything are devastated.

If I ever lose everything, I hope I can remember the better definition of everything.

Not My Mayor

(I live in Hawthorne.  We have our own damn Mayor.)

Right now I wish somebody named Bob Smith was running for Mayor of Los Angeles because I just don't feel like looking up how to spell Wendy Greuel or Eric Garcetti correctly.

I think I got Greuel right, but only because I have a shot of her signs that decorated her election night headquarters.

At this point, I think I better make sure I can spell Garcetti.

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That's where I was in the trendiest heart of downtown Los Angeles.

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Yeah, well, parked in a dirty stinking alley, but still, one of the trendiest dirty stinky alleys in LA.

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Our cable run (fiber, BOO-YAA!) was down the alley, up three flights, down a hallway and across to the front of the building, then dropped down to the overcrowded camera platform.

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It was a relatively easy run.

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I questioned the choice of speaker placement, but these kind of things happen to us all the time.

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We were only a two man crew and worked with Serene Branson.  Our day started at 11am and finished out at 1:15am.

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Could have been worse.

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I did my regular SNG duty and also a little light editing.  The folks who were on the media platform were there from our first hit at 4pm through every show up to and including the 11pm newscast.

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An assignment like this has a built in air of excitement, but I wasn't expecting Wendy Greuel to win.

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Covering the losing side in an election is never quite as exciting.

Plus, they never feed the media.

To be fair, it's worse when food is made available to the media for sale.  That just feels like they're adding insult to injury.

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Just one other quick observation.  The venue was near the hotel where a murdered woman's body was found in the hotel's water supply.

Hip and trendy residents of the area kept asking why so many media trucks were in the alley.

"Did they find another body?"

With all seriousness, I was absolutely obligated to tell them.

"Yes.  Yes they did."

Yeah, I love my job.