We were setting records for cold temps in Houston last week, so it was perfect weather for an ice sculpting competition.
Yeah, I know you folks from the Dakotas and the other frost-belt states deal with substantially lower temperatures, but for the people of the Gulf Coast, 48 hours below freezing is a big deal. Not many people are prepared for that kind of hard freeze, since the mercury only drops that low a few nights a year. I covered people covering plants, pipes, and themselves to wait out Old Man Winter's kick to the 'nards, but found a group of people kicking back on Saturday.
I got to the station Saturday morning before my reporter, which isn't unusual, but when 9:30 rolled around the desk decided to make a call. Long story short the reporter called in sick, leaving me the sole person responsible for gathering the dayside stories. The three items deemed worthy of our time were all in the same area of downtown, but we now had to decide how much time I should spend at each. The desk and I decided the ice sculpting competition would make the most sense as a nat-sound package, and I could still get the other two as VO-SOTs.
The news director thought otherwise. In addition to the ice story, I would have to shoot the Bridal Extravaganza as an anchor package. The third story got dropped. To say I was thrilled would be inaccurate. I was looking forward to doing the nat-pack, but now I was going to have to shoehorn the time to do it around the other package. Any photog who cares knows that a good nat-pack takes the same time and work as a regular package to put together. Time was ticking away, and it looked like lunch would be the next casualty.
I arrived at Discovery Green around 10:10, and I finally found a parking spot around 10:20. Now it was time to load up and go hunting. Camera, tripod, mics, tapes, and an extra battery added up to an extra 50 pounds I would be lugging around for what turned out to be four hours. At least I have a Beta SX camera, and not the 3/4" camera and record deck the old timers used.
After walking a couple of blocks, I found the artists were just getting started. Rectangular blocks of transluscent frozen water were getting unpacked, and the buzz of electric chainsaws mixed with the thump of the bass line pounding from the DJ's speakers. Seven of "the world's best ice sculptors" were making snow to decide who could make the best use of a ton of ice.
While a respectable number of people were there to see these masters at work, the crowd only got bigger as the five hour competition unfolded, and they tried to guess at what the finished sculpture would be. The crowd, and I, were awestruck as a snarling panther's head was attached to the shoulders of the big cat, which was poised in a downward-facing position, ready to pounce on unseen prey.
Unfortunately I wouldn't get to see the finished works, because I had to trudge over to the George R. Brown Convention Center for the other story. The extra layers that kept me comfortable in the cold were now a burden that I had no way of shedding. Cars, cakes, and a kissing contest were all committed to tape, along with the brides and other vendors at the show. From there I schlepped my gear the three blocks back to the car and headed for the station, where I had to wait for an edit bay to get put back together before I could edit.
Overall I'm pleased with the story. It's only the fourth nat-pack I've done, and I managed to really tie everything together. As for the anchor-pack, it never made air. The producer busted it to a VO-SOT, which means I wasted time on that story I could have used for the nat-pack.