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.

Non-Talking Heads

During my career I shot thousands of Talking Heads. With my eye in a viewfinder or watching monitors I saw moments where character was revealed on top of features. Usually it was as subjects listened so it rarely made the edit. Some video/film works paint a picture of people well. However, the portrait is a genre of stills. Portraiture is a significant goal of my upcoming photo essay.

During my career I shot thousands of Talking Heads. With my eye in a viewfinder or watching monitors I saw moments where character was revealed on top of features. Usually it was as subjects listened so it rarely made the edit. Some video/film works paint a picture of people well. However, the portrait is a genre of stills. Portraiture is a significant goal of my upcoming photo essay.

001

Some portraits will always convey personal memories & relationship. On the deck of The Harp & Fiddle Jerry Hughes returned my Ike 55 I loaned as back-up about 10 years ago. Since the early 80’s we have worked alongside each other in a spectrum of capacities. His professional attitude & personal friendship are traits I see in his wise eyes. A Chicagoan by birth he came to Pittsburgh via ND & LA. Thanks for everything!

0001

This docent/guide at Ft. Niagara had the perfect face of a young soldier. The soft reflective light bouncing off the deep walls of the fortress window was about perfect. I’m trying to engage interesting people to get more intimate photos. I did direct him where to look for the best light/shadows. The expression in his eyes of a young mans apprehension in a far away land clutching his weapon was his own contribution.

02

I believe people at work exhibit a glimpse of their character. Especially people engaged with tools. This craftsman in Copper Alley Sarajevo focuses on a detail of a small object. Surrounded by his work, the old eyes guide his hands as they have thousands of times. People in the books of Studs Terkel have inspired me. Working, his 74 oral history classic, heightened my interest in the stories of the individual at work.

0003

A Power of the portrait are details giving a taste of personality. The eyes & the subdue smile framed by his goatee show a friendly person. Adding his hand into the shot emphasizes strength. I worked with Slappy & I can affirm he is the type of person you enjoy working with & being around. The non-studio staged portrait provides challenges. By having him tilt his head & cropping the image very tight I was able to fill the frame almost completely avoiding BG distractions.

04

I like people in candid moments. Even without the full face I consider this a portrait. It shows emotions in a moment of waiting. Holding herself tight we get a glimpse of her anxious face in profile. The tree is a barrier she looks beyond. The umbrella adds weight to the moment. I like how the visual elements come together. Rain provides opportunities that you need to look for. The work of Philippe Halsman can be credited for breaking the constrains of traditional studio 3 point lighting portraits. Some of his work with Salvador Dali is amazing. Currently, the images of Annie Leibovitz are some of the most inspiring portraiture I see.

 05

Some people smile using all parts of their face. On a rainy day this parking attendant had a smile for everybody. The pith hat is a perfect “topper” to the beard, nose, cheeks, &  the squinting eyes. His face toughened by the weather dominates even though he is wearing a neon safety vest. This portrait shows how all our features display emotion.

06

Andy I’s deep-set eyes in shadow are a drawing feature. Shadows on his cheek etch strong facial structure & the reserved smile defines his personality. Headsets literally tie him to his craft. He is one of many top quality sports camera ops I was privileged to work with during my career. As a replay operator, aka slomologist, I watched thousands of hours of events thru the eyes of dedicated professionals like Andy. Watching, looking & examining the work of others is a tremendous motivator.

08

Some say out of the mouths of children come honesty. I believe innocent eyes are where you find honest emotion. These 2 lived on a farm near The Jungle Dome in Central Belize. I prefer being ignored & become a fly on the wall taking pictures. In this shot these 2 toddlers were intrigued by my every move. The eyes define curious. I try to be respectful of parents wishes when taking photographs of children.

10

Randy Gilson is described as a master in the art of making something worthwhile out of what is seen as worthless. Somehow I never heard of RandyLand but when I heard the basic description of eclectic re purposed art it was enough of a hook to get me to visit. I won’t try to describe what he has done to a corner setting in the North Side of Pittsburgh other than with this portrait of him. He is one-of-a-kind with a mission that can be infectious.

Inspired by Humans of New York, photos like these are a goal for a 2-week trip to a country in the tropic of Cancer. I am practicing this genre to improve my approach & techniques with the goal of documenting people & stories of their lives. Suggestions welcomed as well as critique.  Coming up in my next post I look at 2 spirited sisters.

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