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.

Cuba Photo Essay a Motivational Journey

To begin 2017 my blog will deal with my motivations to photograph people & culture in Cuba. I will post weekly with text instead of twice a month with pictures. My inspiration has evolved & taken some unexpected twists. If you know somebody that might enjoy a creative exploration…please share my blog.

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To begin 2017 my blog will deal with motivations to photograph people & culture in Cuba. I will post weekly with text instead of twice a month with pictures. My inspiration has evolved & taken some unexpected twists. If you know somebody that might enjoy a creative exploration…please share my blog.

All stories have a beginning, middle & an end. This post begins in the middle.

I sit here on 11/26 starting my journal. I’ve been planning for 9 months & departure is 2 months away. A strange time to begin but I awoke to learn Fidel Castro died. I don’t understand why this sparked me to begin. But inspiration doesn’t have an on/off switch.

The seeds of a Cuban Photo Essay began 2 years ago when President Obama restored diplomatic relations. The most logical comment I heard was ”What we had been doing for 50 years wasn’t working. Why not try something different.” I found it intriguing that Pope Francis, originally from Argentina, played a role in easing tensions that existed for most of my life. I also found it reassuring Canada was involved.

My understanding of US Cuba relations was thin even though I enjoy reading about history. Born in 1955 I have zero recollection of the revolution. My knowledge of the Bay of Pigs is because of a memorable name. The missile crisis happened when I was 7 & resulted in air raid drills in elementary school. Years after the assignation of Kennedy I couldn’t make connections to theories of Oswald’s visit the Cuban embassy in Mexico.

As a teenager, the swirl of events around Vietnam, Civil Rights, the riots of 1968, the Generation Gap & assignations of MLK & Bobby Kennedy occupied my developing worldview. These events impacted my life more than anything on a Caribbean island. In youthful ignorance, the iconic image of guerilla fighter Che Guevara was without context of what he represented to older radical baby boomers.

When the TV Docudrama Missiles of October aired & I began to understand the events that took us close to nuclear war. My link between the USSR & Cuba fell into the muddy category of communist & satellite. Very Cold Warish. That program also reinforced my perception of the power of the medium of TV.

My 4 years at Kent State focused on finding a path to my degree & a job. I had exposure to new people & ideas while having a good time. However, connections to history & international events rarely came to mind.

As I began my career in TV production, the host of a show told of trips to Havana when she was younger. “It only cost a quarter each way on a banana boat. We would go there for the weekend & have a great time!”

Around then I went on my 1st Caribbean vacation. Flying to Grand Cayman, I saw a landmass that surprised me. The plane wasn’t a US carrier so it was OK for me to be over  Cuba. OK but strange. I had ignored that Cuba was in route. It was like it didn’t exist.

Santiago in Hemmingway’s Old Man & the Sea was just that…a wonderful old man his boat, the sea & the fish. I humanized him as a man but de-cultured his heritage.

Over the next 2 decades marriage, family & career dominated my life. The topics of my reading were mostly about US & European history. In books I read, little was ever mentioned about Cuba or Latin America. Vacations to the Caribbean were focused on sailing & beaches.

Occasionally events in the news briefly caught my attention.

The Mariel boat-lift resonated as a strange event. Criminals & patients from mental health facilities were exported. The tragedy of Elian Gonzalez evolved as an story more twisted than Shakespeare could write. The conclusion ended with in an iconic image of a federal agent taking a 7 year old child at gunpoint. That image resonates in my mind alongside the May 4th 1970 picture from Kent State of the girl screaming over the body of Jeffrey Miller.

I was further confused about Cuba when Guantanamo Bay became a story-line in the news. Why do we have a military base in a country we have no diplomatic relationships with? HUH!

Living over 1000 miles from Miami with no connections to the people of or expatriates from Cuba, numerous stories of escapes to the US didn’t resonate very deep. I felt empathy about the separation of families. However, I had no perspective of the depth of emotions Cubans in both countries lived with.

Recognizing my ignorance I am motivated to better understand Cuba, its history & the people. Immersing myself in their culture even for a brief period of time I hope to get a better perspective of their lives. I also will attempt to merge the format of Studs Terkel every man interviews with Humans of New York. I will document moments of people’s lives, interview them & write short essays to share on my blog. I want to push my photography & develop a more coherent writing process. I want to be a good neighbor representing the people, of the United States. I am, after all, from Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood.

Conflicting Inspiration

Understanding the roots of inspiration is as necessary as knowing how to use the tools in your toolbox. However, I can’t adequately explain why the work of Frank Lloyd Wright inspires me. What I do know is visiting his work is time well spent & worth attempting to sync my mind to my camera

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Understanding the roots of inspiration is as necessary as knowing how to use the tools in your toolbox. However, I can’t adequately explain why the work of Frank Lloyd Wright inspires me. What I do know is visiting his work is time well spent & worth attempting to sync my mind to my camera.

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The discrepancies began on a Jr. High field trip to Falling Water, which is a signature work of his. Even then I had awe for the natural world & believed I had a responsibility to take care of it. Building a house over a waterfall just didn’t seem right. Yet, when I saw it, I was amazed at how naturally the style, materials & design of a man-made structure blended with nature. As I got older & my own sense of composition & balance developed FLW was there to offer more perplexing influence.

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The Laurel Highlands & the Escarpment of the Colorado Plateau are vastly different. Here FLW uses juxtaposition of materials & design to the environment. Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona AZ is in contrast with the surroundings. But, to my minds eye it is powerful. The sharply angular gray building pulls strength from the random shapes & the hues of red stone mountains. The lines of the cross support the walls & go deep into the earth.

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I must give credit for part of my inspiration of architecture to my roommate at Kent State Pete Locke. Thru osmosis & interesting conversations he showed me new ways to look at buildings. I find it satisfying to examine structures like home & buildings from different perspectives. I also find this type of photography extremely challenging.

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I try to soften corners both in photography & landscaping. I also like working with stone. At Kentuck Knob, near Falling Water, is my favorite home design of FLW. Stone in the structure does not soften angles. It harshly defines separation.  Seemingly random landscape stone somehow creates a balance to the walls. Even with conflict to my preferences I admire his work & those that preserve it. The term I use of “unbalanced symmetry”likely has its roots in FLW.

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For photographers, the lines of his designs offer wonderful choices. At his homestead school in Taliesin WI,  I was initially overwhelmed at how to best capture his work. I quickly realized that with clear skies & powerful Spring light I had to let the sun be the primary motivator.

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The rounded fields at Taliesin gave me insight to the inspiration FLW may have had as a child. A special thanks to the officer that was understanding of the fact that I had left my drivers license in Pittsburgh!

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One disappointing thing about FLW tours is that no photography is allowed inside.  Seeing the ridiculous situations people taking selfies put themselves in I understand. Selfie photographers, before you pull out your phone ask yourself 1 question. What could go wrong?

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For now I leave Frank with his design within design. Obtuse with Acute. The function of airflow incorporated into negative space accents. A small detail in a grand design. Next stop on the FLW journey TBD.  As the last posting in the 1st year of retirement I will share my resolution…I want to be better in 2017.  I wish the same for you! Merry Christmas.

Fall Cliche

In my minds eye transitioning to Fall photography it’s hard to avoid the colors & changing light on the trees. Does that make images cliché? How do you find a unique motivation or perspective? Or do you go with eye-catching drama of the season & capture obvious pallets of colors & subjects? I’m reminded of the 48 Hour Film Festival a decade ago. An organization I asked for support told me they didn’t participate in “gimmicks”. I asked the question…Isn’t all filmmaking & photography a “gimmick”?

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Juxtaposition does grab my eye. There are many variables involved in when the colors burst out on trees. When I saw this red/green combination I dubbed this shot “Leader”. Since I no longer jump around times zones & work long hours, just like the leaves, I’ve taken more notice of the gradually decreasing sun time.

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I just picked up a lens on craiglist & was taking shots with little purpose other than getting familiar with a new field of view…28mm on a 1.6 crop. I looked down & noticed the shade creeping as the sun was rising. The blades of the grass & the leaf are tipped with frost throughout much of the frame. The warmth of the sun had just melted the frost in the lower right portion of the frame. Lots of transitioning happens during the Fall at 40 degrees N latitude.

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The light of evenings golden hour enhances the warmth of natural colors. When the light is lower & the sky is crisp I find my lens attracted to natures complex forms. The diversity of shapes within a narrow spectrum of color is somewhat unique at this time of year. While wide shots can be dramatic, I find the detail of CU to be powerful.

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Got em! All spring & summer this guy avoided my lens. I deleted dozens of terrible attempts. I doubt it had anything to do with Fall but I was patient as well as persistent. I find the cropping tool to be my first choice in determining if a shot can be improved. After re-sizing & re-positioning I slightly enhanced the birds color while reducing what little chroma was in the bark. I believe this improved but didn’t distort the reality of the photo. At a recent pghphoto.org meeting my evasive friend was given the name of White-breasted nuthatch.  I am still appreciative & amazed at what some photogs know & share.

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The light of sunrise on the signature leaves of a Golden Maple  create a dramatic hue. The texture of fog almost hides the lake. Floating vapor blends hills with sky further complimenting the drama of the bright tree. What a way to start my 2nd cup of coffee.

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In the only photography class I took at Kent State, Professor Brill forbid images of graveyards & waterfalls. Was this censorship, or personal opinion? My opinion…long exposure of moving water is a technique that crosses my threshold of the reality my eyes see. Surreal cotton candy water can be beautiful but not something that stimulates me. This image is 1/20th sec at 80mm hand held which pushes the limit of my bad knees on this human bi-pod. The highlights on the water with the ever so slight motion blur assist the compositional flow of the image.

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Fall doesn’t get any more cliché than pumpkins in the field. Various supporting  backgrounds & angles drew my eye to this composition. The sharp focus of random orange globes anchor the base of the image drawing dominant attention. The BG layers & the soft focus of the cow provide context & relationship to the image.