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.

Distilled Goals for Cuba

On The Road with Charles Kuralt is an example of how a simple well told story could be inspiring. In the CBS Lillehammer Olympic phone book my name was listed above his in a humbling alphabetic honor. During an all-to-brief conversation he told me how rewarding it was to go to small towns & hear the stories people would share with him. My trip to Cuba is an attempt of emulating his examination of the simple things in life. The work of others can be a strong motivation to push personal limits.


On The Road with Charles Kuralt is an example of how a simple well told story can be inspiring. In the CBS Lillehammer Olympic phone book my name was listed above his in a humbling alphabetic honor. During an all-to-brief conversation he told me how rewarding it was to go to small towns & hear the stories people would share with him. My trip to Cuba is an attempt of emulating his examination of the simple things in life. The work of others can be a strong motivation.

My goals for my Photo Essay are focused on people. I hope to turn my lack of Spanish into an asset via my guide/interpreter. I’ve worked on interviews via interpreter & they slow the exchange giving time for reflection.

I’m anticipating the camera will become a conduit to get involved with persons I meet. My wide-angle ambition is to document individuals in their daily lives & interview them. As much as possible I want to observe objectively without preconceived judgment.

My photography goals are to get formal portraits in natural settings & candid shots of their routines. I also want to get unguarded images of daily activities that reflect life in their communities.

The interviews will deal with family/history, inspiration, school, happy/sad memories, & day to day activities . I’m looking to explore subjects common in most cultures. I will also inquire about the future. Since the Internet is not a dominant part of their society, I want to discuss their perspective on how it will impact their lives.

Originally I was planning on departing on 11/30. By the time I was ready to book the flights those dates were no longer available. Initially, I was disappointed. In hindsight I’m glad it was postponed. If I had arrived as per my original plan it would have been 4 days after the death of Fidel & it would likely have dominated conversations. Hopefully, now that 2 months have past, other topics I am curious about can be discussed.

If during our conversations they bring up Fidel I will respectfully listen. If they bring up the history of the US government & its dealings with Cuba I will do the same. If they ask about the new US administration…I don’t know what the fuck I will say. I don’t want to dwell on politics. Individuals aren’t defined solely by their government or their leaders.

As is my nature, I like to go places off the beaten path so I will not be going to Havana. With no disrespect to the city or people, I want to experience smaller cities & towns. I fly into & out of Cienfuegos with stops in Pinar del Rio, Vinales, Santa Clara & Trinidad. Of these Santa Clara, with a population of 250 K, is the largest.

Some subjects/locations I will be working with my guide to coordinate are: Farms, cigar rolling, boxing, dancing studios, fishing village, musicians, art, rum, families, dominoes, religion & a barber shop. These ideas are a starting point & I will leave myself open to unexpected opportunities. Since I am fond of street photography, architecture & the natural world I will be keeping my eye aware for these subjects.

Many photogs have done fantastic work with classic cars & also because I’m not a car guy I won’t be looking for vintage cars. Although, there are some road trips in my itinerary.

The one profession that is my dream interview is a “Reader”. I’m not sure if this job exists outside of Cuba. I will do the Snoopy dance, with a few salsa moves, if I am lucky enough find an individual that has done this.

Another aspect of the trip I’m looking forward to is staying in Casa Particulars. As I understand these places are a cross between a home stay & a B/B. I want to interact on a casual basis with the families I stay with. This is one of the few private business the government allows individual Cubans to operate. I look forward to the challenges my minimalist Spanish will create with my hosts.

I have a philosophical challenge within my motivation. While change is constant, the perceived pace in Cuba is more dramatic & I would like to document that. However, still photography only captures a brief moment & doesn’t represent more than the instant the shutter was snapped.  I hope to be aware enough to capture juxtapositions that show the evolution of everyday people.

A still image captures emotions better than documenting culture. Upcoming posts on this blog will blend multiple images & writing to share my experiences. The stories will not be told in real time. Rather they will evolve in the months ahead on bi-monthly postings.

Thru photography & interacting with people I aim to get a first-hand view of Cuban culture. I now know some history of their struggle for freedom. I’m curious if this fuels their national pride. Since this blog is about motivation I want to tap into their inspiration. I want to get a grasp on how they deal with the challenges of daily life.

To those I meet, I also want to be an example of what a friendly neighbor looks like.