Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Monday was one heck of a day... After leaving the station to go shoot our story for the day, when my reporter and I got a call from the desk to head towards Driver, as a Tornado Warning had just been issued, and the storm was supposed to be there around 4:15pm.

We drove out past driver on King's Highway, and after we past Driver, the skies opened up. Pouring rain, pea sized hail, crazy winds... We got to the old bridge and turned around, and the rain let up a bit. Across a clearing, we see a mass of dark clouds. Including a funnel cloud. Over the scanner we hear reports of a tornado hitting the area near Obici Hospital (The Burnett's Mill/Freedom Plaza area). Pulled out my MiniDV camcorder and rolled on the tornado. As the twister made it's way a bit closer, we got the heck out of there... At this point another call from the desk telling us to head to Burnett's Mill, one of the station's employees has a sister that lives in that neighborhood, giving us reports of the devastating damage.

We paused at Nansemond River High School to watch the tornado throw debris up in the area from the Hill Point Farms area on it's way to Driver, then continue towards Burnett's Mill, where we waited with crews from both competing stations in traffic that can only be described as a parking lot. Trees were down on the off ramp, and Police are having a hard time getting to where they need to get because of the damage as well.

Once we get to what I can only call 'ground zero,' The damage was too intense for words... Destruction was everywhere... There was literally so much I had no idea what to shoot first, so I just started rolling on anything and everything, including a very shocked and bewildered family of three trudging through the rubble of their neighbors' homes with suitcases in hand...

I can never hope to comprehend what these people are going through with the loss of almost everything they had... But the true miracle in all of this is the lack of deaths in such a natural disaster... Especially in an area not accustomed to getting hit by tornadoes. My thoughts and prayers, as I'm sure ALL of my colleagues' are, are with every victim.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

So Friday I was notified that I would be part of the 13News contingent to make the trek to the beautiful Outer Banks of North Cackalacky... Naturally as a relatively green photog, I was thrilled. A chance to be near the center of a tropical storm (or at that point, a SUB-Tropical Storm).

After getting called out TWICE (Once at midnight, then again at 7am), I showed up at the station to pick up my reporter, and head on down. Our first stop? The Visitor's Center in Kitty Hawk. Talked to a bunch of people, started getting the word that people are anything but worried about this storm. Checking with hotels & realty companies only confirms this. At this point, we get word from Norfolk that they want us to make our way towards Hatteras to do our 11pm live shot there... We piece together a little somethin' somethin' and feed it back from Avon Pier on Hatteras Island, do 6pm hits for our station, our company's station in Charlotte and a look live for The Weather Channel (which would air an hour later). Pack up to continue to Hatteras.

We stop in Buxton to grab a bite at the Sandbar & Grille... great eats... but here's where the fun begins. My reporter wants video of the surf before the sun goes down (which is was in the process of doing)... we turn down a packed dirt road to try and get to the closest beach. We couldn't have been more than a few hundred yards from said beach when my truck stops. The wheels start spinning. We're stuck. Great. I try fruitlessly to get myself out of this ONLY spot of soft sand on the road (so said the 4x4 who would later pull me out).

My reporter, realizing that we were screwed, calls our sat truck operator to wait at the end of said dirt road for her to walk out. I stay with the truck and wait for AAA, who said they'd be there by 10pm (CRAP!). About 45 minutes later, my reporter calls (despite the fact my phone has no bars of signal, I can make and receive calls just fine) and informs me a local with a 4x4 will be there in 10 minutes. Salvation! Thank god. In the mean time, she & the sat truck operator are going to shoot the 11pm piece at the restaurant we just ate at. The 4x4 shows up, pulls me out, and I'm on my way back to Avon. (At this point we had no intention of finishing the trek to Hatteras). Track, edit and make slot by a mile. I think back on the events of the past couple of hours and start to realize in the end, it was pretty funny, knowing I'm not the only poor photog who has gotten stuck in the sand somewhere on a story much like this one.

After the 11pm hits for Charlotte & Norfolk, I take my reporter back to Norfolk only to come back the next day and take a different reporter back down there. This time, we camp out at the tried & true Comfort Inn in South Nags Head. Luckily my reporter had the foresight to book us the last two rooms in the place the day before while I was busy being stuck in a sand pit.

We get back to OBX and it's as sunny as any other beautiful summer day, just a bit windier than usual. At this point, the storm was making landfall far to the south, and we decided the focus of our story would be that folks aren't worried about the storm at all. First three words in the package are "NO... BIG... DEAL..." Which is just what it turned out to be. Two major rain bands past through between the time we got there and midnight, the second of which soaked us of course while we stood there waiting to go live... all the while soaking the audio connector for my mic. But weather issues are far from new on a story such as this, I don't think any crew from WVEC or WTKR escaped this... and I'm sure many others up and down OBX had similar problems.

All in all, despite a coating of sand on the floorboards of my truck & sat truck, soaked rain covers & sandbags, I had a blast down there. Would I do it again? You bet. In a heartbeat, no questions asked.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

I had an interesting experience recently... I decided to attempt to get more into the christmas spirit by listening to Christmas musci while driving in my work vehicle. SUV, Live truck, solo or with a reporter, it doesn't matter.

What I will say is this... try listening to some cheerful holiday music like "Most Wonderful Time of the Year" while driving to the random house fire, or shooting, or other mundane story. It's almost surreal in a way. A happy place maybe? Who knows.

Another random observation about this: Your reporter may even be mroe cheerful than usual with said music on the radio... I guess the season brings out the best in people.

On that note, I wish EVERYONE a VERY merry Christmas, and a SAFE and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Well, Ernesto has come and gone... Although I wasn't in the thick of things and getting drenched, it was an interesting day none the less... Here's just a little rundown of my Friday...

9am - Show up at the station, as I walk in the door I'm handed 4 tapes fed in from the field. "File these" The AM editor says to me. I grab some file tapes and head off to an edit bay. Obviously this footage is going to be used ad nauseum for some time to come. Some will be fed to the network & The Weather Channel. The car floating down the street in Norfolk? That happened a few blacks from here...

10am - Relieve the AM editor in SkyCenter who has been rolling (or not rolling since most of the content was live) tapes all morning since 4:30am. Stand in SkyCenter and wonder when the pizza is going to get here. Press play on a VTR every few minutes or so.

11am - Still no food. I'm starving as is most everyone else. The masses are growing restless. Someone jokes that the little red car we saw floating down the street contained our Pizza.

11:30 - Pizza arrives. 12 large pizzas are scarfed down within 30 minutes. I myself have 4 slices.

Noon - Quickly glance at the rundown for the noon show. Realize that most if not all of it is going out the window.

12:30pm - Realizing the storm is winding down, toss back to network so little old ladies can watch their "stories." Continue wall-to-wall coverage on our website until the Governor is finished with his press conference from Richmond. Breathe for 2 seconds.

1pm - Photogs are coming in to dry out their gear. It sounds like a salon in here with all the hairdryers. Show at least 2 photogs how to break down their cameras to help speed up the drying process. Body count: 4 station cell phones. 1 inoperable (but still powers on) camera, and one camera that records when it feels like it, not when you want it to.

2pm - Wonder what the heck is going to happen for the 5. Go outside and gawk at the flooded street and intersection that separates me from both local convenience stores.

3pm - Gather up file video and start stacking the 5pm show. So far this is as normal as it's been all day. The pace as slowed somewhat from a frenzy to a run. Joke with colleagues about idiots that drive into floodwaters and wonder why their cars die.

4pm - Show's essentially done. Sit back, relax for a bit and wait for packages to feed in from the field.

5pm - Roll the show. Thank god that the day is almost over. Realize that I have to be back in at 1:30 am Saturday & Sunday to cover for a vacationing editor. Think to self, "That must be nice..."

6pm - Hit the door and head home. Avoid the floodwaters that seemingly surround the station. Zonk as soon as head hits the pillow. Realize I'm now almost halfway through a 10 day work week.

Monday, June 05, 2006

I recently had the joy of reading blogs by Lenslinger... I I've now been inspired.. his look back at the start of his career in this wacky business we call "television" was eerily similar to my own... so he I will share my random thoughts and observations as I forge ahead in this business.

I guess you could say what really got me into this whole mess to begin with was working in the theatre in High School (thanks to my sister on that one...) My childhoos love of switches and buttons and lighst that flash and chaneg colors had me mezmorized the first time I walked in on a pre-show light check.

I walked into my first TV station when I was only 15... It was only a community cable, all-volunteer joint. They put me on camera my first night, and at that moment, I was hooked. THIS was what I was looking for all my oh-so-short life to do. I quickly progressed onto other things such as audio, editing and directing. But that's not what did me in...

A friend of my Dad's was an engineer at WUSA, and had arranged a group tour for him and his buddies. They had just moved into their new Broadcast House a year or so before, so you could still smell the fresh paint on the walls. Going past the security desk with my adhesive "Visitor" badge, that smell of fresh paint mixed with the smell of sweat. I was stoked! You could just feel the energy oozing out of every surface in the newsroom. From moment one my jaw was on the floor. As the tour progressed, going through the studios, engineering, the tape room, production facilities (If my could've dropped any lower, it would've been in the basement!) & Art department, my fate wa sealed. Not only did I like working in television, but the pros had MUCH cooler toys to play with.

I went to school and majored in Communications with a concentration in Broadcasting. Long story short, I didn't finish (yet). I even taught my TV Production professor the finer points of non-linear editing. After an unsuccessful attempt at actually graduating, I ended up here in Hampton Roads.

After hawking cars for about a year, I decided to finally do what I wanted to do, and got my start as a Part Time Production Tech at WTKR. I had one foot in the door, but I was still unsure of exactly what I wanted to do. I quickly befriended many of my coworkers and many of the people in News. After countless Fridays at the local media hangout (read: bar), I quickly figured out that above all else, I wanted to shoot.

Now, I wasn't going to let my lack of experience hold me back. Fortunately for me, HS football season was fast approaching, and they needed people to step up and shoot (on a freelance basis) some games. I practically raced to the newsroom & volunteered. Having shot some games in high school was really going to come in handy. The first footage I brough back quickly caught our sports director's eye and as he cut the VO, gave me pointers on how I could make it even better. By the end of the season I was editing my own footage with ease, and even garnered a few "3 to See" nominations. At season's end I was named "Rookie of the Year" by the Sports director & producer.

The next year I was not only holding down my production duties, but freelancing with news as an editor. I edited a few shows here and there, and as soon as a full-time Photog/Editor position came open, I jumped at the chance. Of course I got the job, or I wouldn't be writing this.

Since then I have gotten to know the dreaded VOSOT patrol, the dreaded MOS's and uncooperative producers (as well as some really darned good ones). As crazy, trying and frustrating as this busness can be, I couldn't be happier. Not only do I now get to the "cool toys" I drooled over as a kid, but the comraderie can't be beat. Having your hobby become your job ain't so bad...