An Anniversary


I don’t associate April 15th as Tax Day. In 1979 it was my last day at WPGH TV & last “Full-Time” job. The date brings memories of my career as an Independent Freelancer.

01a04/15/79 marks the beginning of a journey I look back on with much gratitude. There are hundred’s of people that motivated, influenced & mentored me along the way. However, nobody had the longevity & impact as Jerry Hughes. Since the early 80’s his examples of professionalism taught me things that you can’t learn from a book or a training video. When I bought my 1st camera his example & advice about being an Owner/Operator lead me on a path I never dreamed possible living in Pittsburgh.

01b When I bought this Varicam in I remember a feeling of satisfaction knowing I was the 1st Independent HD Owner/Operator in Western PA. My career began when expansion of video production went beyond the programing for 4 networks & their local affiliates. 25 years later purchasing a camera that hurdled low resolution, & shallow contrast of the previous technology was a wonderful, but expensive, improvement. The end of poor quality video was going bye-bye & I was helping my clients escort it out the door.

02When the project had the proper planning, tools & people I was able to utilize what HD could do. On this documentary, I had explained to the lead horseman I needed his riding party to react in the pool of light. After about a 70-yard slow gallop downstream towards me they stopped on a dime & nailed it! That was a very good day at work. We made lots of nice pictures. Mark Bussler Producer/Director Horses of Gettysburg.

02aGetting the client what they wanted & needed was always my motivation. Sometimes that meant hauling a dolly to the top of a power plant facility. The backdrop was an excellent idea. However, we needed 3 more grips to haul the gear. Today small sliders/rails would give more movement to the shot & only weigh about 25% & cost much less. End Client IBEW International via a production company from Denver.

03In the early 80’s doing instant replay at local live sporting events was about 1/3 of my time. By the end of my career, it became about half. A fortunate connection with CBS Sports in 1986 opened a door that lead to live television opportunities I had dreamed about. Thinking back about doing 30 years of NFL & 13 Super Bowls I still need to pinch myself. Live TV is a unique process with fun tools & talented people. The reward of working with some of the best in the business is when it all comes together as “One Room”. I never knew being a slomologist was a career path. NEP SS CBS mobile unit.

98811_D1339BCrop.jpgI learned early on that all shows are big…some just have a whole lot more people. Crew shots from Super Bowls are like a Where’s Waldo puzzle. I will buy you lunch if you can ID me. While the people in the picture bring back memories, knowing that the photographer was John Filo adds another significant layer. Yea that kid from Western PA who is a fellow Kent State Alumni & won a Pulitzer. 2007 CBS Super Bowl

06 There is a correlation between the size of the show & the amount of cable. From my perspective, all shows are basically the same. Remote TV is a 3 part job. #1 Set it up. #2 Do the job. #3 Tear it down. Not unlike a circus, it’s a traveling roadshow. For big shows, the amount of equipment & wires increases for parts 1 & 2. Glamor & Show Business aren’t words I use together. 05The interconnectivity of multiple TV trucks creates technical opportunities & endless variables of data, audio, video, graphics, communication & monitoring.  Fortunately, connecting this was not my job. Some know the needs of their department. Only a very few know the entire workflow. I would disconnect only after double confirmation we were clear from NY.

07 copyAfter the show is when you find out who is really part of your crew. I believe early in my career I was given opportunities because I was good at wrapping cables. It is a sign of someone willing to do all 3 parts of the job. I had an advantage because at 14 I learned “over & under” when practicing ring buoy toss on my lifeguard test. It seemed like I had wrapped enough cable to make it to the moon. In reality, it is likely closer to the distance from Pittsburgh to Salt Lake City.

09I had a number of “close encounters” but usually wasn’t enticed to engage “talent”. When I heard Charles Kuralt was visiting our venue at the Lillehammer Olympics, I couldn’t resist asking him for a picture. When I told him I was humbled that our last names were together in the CBS phone book he gave a good laugh & remarked I had top billing over him. I am indeed biased but the 2 icons of telling stories on TV during my youth were Walter & Charles. Thanks for setting examples worth watching.

10I loved my work but…the packing, unpacking, set-up, tear-down & repeat of all of this gear took a toll I no longer felt like paying. This is a typical load of gear, minus the camera for an ENG job. Retirement is good. I’m beholding to many, I miss the people but I do not miss my old toys or the travel.

10a Albertville Meribel Olympic Flame 1992I really only have 1 nagging regret from my career. I never traveled with anything more than a mediocre still camera. I strived to be as light-weight as possible in packing & never wanted to carry a SLR. Oh well, I got a few so-so captures but I have amazing memories. Albertville 1992.

Unknown Motivation

Change is indeed inevitable & can have benefits. But we need to notice what has been lost.


This gas station on a busy corner recently shut down. I’m not sure what motivated me to stop & take pictures but felt I should. As I was snapping away my mind swirled in many different directions. Why should I document something which is no longer there?


Having been an “Independent Freelancer” for 36 years I feel an affinity with self-reliant entrepreneurs. I try my best to support “owner-operated” business but I drove by by this business thousands of times without stopping as I witnessed the slow decay.  I felt sad for the final outcome of all the hours & hard work put into it. Nothing lasts forever but decades of dedication & sweat are not seen in these photographs.


My emotions were varied as I snapped the shutter. This Texaco station has been here since just after I was born. It’s age mirrored mine. Progress & time have had an impact on this enterprise. I have also experienced the aging process of time but fortunately do not feel as worn down as this place & feel I still have something left to offer.


One of the few positive thoughts that came into my mind were that society is entering an age where gas station are becoming relics of the past as we evolve to electric powered cars. Might this someday be as obsolete as a hitching post?


I’m somber but recognized the many factors leading to its demise. The trend now is for corporate owned facilities with dozens or fueling pumps. The owners, who function as CEO’s of businesses with hundreds of stations, are almost completely removed from contact with their customers. There is indeed value in big operations. However, by forcing mom & pop places to close the benefits of large businesses is soured.


These types of businesses used to be a one-stop-shop for your automotive needs. Service on cars has evolved with specialty fast oil changes becoming the place for limited maintenance. Meanwhile “service needed” indicators in cars prompt owners to seek out dealers’ service centers. The 2 bay service garage has a very hard time competing.07

They tried emulating the large facilities by selling cigarettes, lottery tickets, propane & candy. However, mega stations with numerous pumps are like mini-markets & have fast food. The Full Service this place offered was for the car not the person driving.


The local auto repair shop was part of the community. The owner of the place we had our family car serviced at went to High School with my father. When I bought my 1st car guess where I took it for service. The local mechanic also provided experienced opinions when buying a used or new vehicle. While efficiency and productivity may be worthy goals I feel they often come at the cost of personal interaction. Change is indeed inevitable & can have benefits. But we need to notice what has been lost.


These photos are not my best. The rambling of this blog is a result of not understanding a clear motivation to make this a subject. However, I do recognizing the value of documenting change in the world I live in via my photography & my thoughts.