Tuesday, December 29, 2009

An Ode to Gear

After months of playing the field, I'm finally going steady with Unit 3.

Some people work from home, others have a cubicle. Photogs have an office with a 360-degree view. Our news units are more than a conveyance from calamity to catastrophe. They also serve as our shelter from the elements, a mobile dining room, and a quick place to catch a cat-nap while the scanner mutters sweet nothings in our ears.

For the last several weeks I've been assigned Unit 3 for my entire work week, which makes it officially my responsibility. Poor Unit 3, she's one of the oldest steeds in the fleet. It's a dirt-brown Chevy Blazer with bits of door-seals flapping like streamers in the breeze - a breeze that becomes a roar at highway speeds. Until I got her, she'd been worked hard and treated even harder. The floor was covered in a layer of dirt that I'm sure would have produced fossils if one were to look, and one reporter even remarked that she felt the need for a bath every time she got in the vehicle.

That was it. Unit 3 might be a broken-down piece of crap, but it's my piece of crap, and its condition is a reflection on me. Now she's been through the carwash for the first time since before I started here in April, and I can actually see the carpet. Who knew there was a hole worn in the driver's-side floor mat?

Along with the car comes the camera, mics, tripod and other assorted gear. All of it is in relatively good condition, since no one really wanted to use it. I even have a dream light kit that I don't even have time to look at, except when I'm beginning my shift. With a little time I'll get it all into shape, except for that dead pixel on the camera's imaging block. It only shows up in darker scenes, looking like a lone star in an overcast sky.

I guess you could call it the bright spot in my nights.

A Man Named Suh

A couple of weeks ago I got to work the dayshift for three straight days.

It was a time filled with wonder and amazement. I had heard that other news crews worked in this city, but I rarely saw them, and so began to think they were an endangered species. In those 24-plus hours on the clock, I saw many of them twice or more! It was a familiar feeling, being able to talk to someone and continue a conversation from the day before, instead of not seeing them for weeks, or even months, at a time.

The first day found me at a YMCA, locked, loaded, and stalking Ndomukong Suh, who was there with three other nominees for the Lombardi award. They were there to run some local kids through some drills. All four of these guys seemed genuinely happy to be there and enjoying themselves. I interviewed all four, and managed to get some good stuff from each of them, specific to each man. A casual observer might think I actually knew something about college football, but these guys were all great interviews.

My 6'1" frame usually means that I have to lower my camera and hunch over my viewfinder while interviewing, but I found myself actually stretching my Sachtler to meet the eye-level of this football player, who easily topped me by several inches. One look at him and I felt sympathy for the poor guys who've had to line up against him all season. They never stood a chance.

After bagging my bites and b-roll, I left with an honest feeling of joy. Each nominee seemed to have their heads on straight, and all of them seemed like they could go on to be good leaders of their communities.

The next day found me at a plant fire where no one was seriously injured, and the last day I got to interview a French sculptor, Bernar Venet. I'd have never guessed his true age (70), because he's got a light in his eyes that rivals my two-year-old daughter's. Throw in a free lunch at Reliant Stadium while waiting to interview the Texans, and I'd say it's the most fun work-week I've had in quite some time.