Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The Colonel takes Miami

Ken at TruckFriend of the blog Ken "Colonel" Corn is spending the week in Miami as the sports media community falls all over itself fawning over pampered millionaires at the Super Bowl. When the good Colonel isn't battling the elements, dodging nutbags or teaching his pet starfish how to dry out in the sun, he's agreed to keep of us abreast of all the festivities. Say Hello, Class...

DAY 1 -- The Weather ...

This is special correspondent Colonel Corn coming to you LIVE (well as live as you can get here at Viewfinder Blues) with the latest on Super Bowl XLIV from sunny Miami, Florida. Only it ain’t sunny here today. It has been a toad frog strangler (that means rain’in like hell in Southern) all darn day. It rained so much that the teams had to practice on an inside field at the Dolphin’s training facility instead at the University of Miami where they were scheduled to practice today.

But who cares about what the teams did on this rainy Monday? The Blues readers want to know about TV stuff. Well, I got one word that will strike fear into every photog’s heart, HUMIDITY. Yea, it wreaked havoc on me today. The first time I fired up the tape machines in my satellite truck this morning, they refused to work. Both editors gave me an ERROR-1 HUMIDITY. I had to run the A/C for an hour with the decks open before they would cut tape.

Next was the blasted camera. Because I ran the A/C so hard, when I took my camera out for a live shot, it rolled over and died. The lens is full of fog and the tape will not roll. I got it to do the live shot, but other than that, it’s just a fancy boat anchor. So I had to have the A/C cranked for the decks, but it screwed my camera. I can’t win. I should put my camera in the cab of the truck from now on to keep it acclimated.

Speaking of the satellite truck, well, without getting too technical, let’s just say I had a few problems there as well. But, all my shots made air, even if one of them was the wrong aspect ratio. Isn’t everyone 16 x 9 now? I thought the sports guy looked like he lost a lot of weight.

I know I am rambling on, but I have one more thing I have to share with you. The News business is a small world. To illustrate this, I have a little story to tell. After checking into the hotel, I set out on foot to find a bite to eat. I walked because a thirty foot big box truck is kinda hard to maneuver around most parking lots. I found this Cuban joint next to the hotel. When in Miami, eat Cuban. Inside I found a fella sitting by himself with a WWL hat on his head. I introduced myself as being from WWL’s sister station in Charlotte. I sat down and told him I was on loan to WWL for the Super Bowl.

“I am too,” he said, “I actually work for channel 9 in Baton Rouge.”

“Channel 9,” I said, “you must know the Turdpolisher!”

His lower face cracked open in a big smile and I knew the answer.

So here is a shout out from Bob May to Rick: Bob said to tell you, you are a short little f@#$%&r.

LIVE from Miami, I’m Colonel Corn for Viewfinder Blues.

DAY 2 -- The Whack-Jobs ...

This is Special Correspondent Colonel Corn reporting from Miami (well, actually I’m in a town called Miami Gardens, but we wouldn’t let that like fact get in the way of making my intro sound good) where it is Media Day at Dolphin’s stadium. For those of you not familiar with Media Day, here is a brief explainer. Media types like me get to mingle with the players. Some players have their own booth as if they are on display at a convention or something. The “lesser known players” (yea, I heard a reporter actually call them that in a live shot) just walk around hoping for a cameraman to stick his glass in their face.

So, did I get to meet Payton or Drew? No. I was out in the parking lot setting up the satellite truck. Truck operators don’t actually get to participate in the events they cover. Instead of hob-knobbing with famous NFL stars, I walked over to the Wal-Mart next door and found a killer deal on Hawaiian shirts. Slinger will be proud of the orange shirt with yellow flowers I picked up for eight bucks!

I get back to the truck about the time my crew started screening tape. I expected to see video of a ton of players I would have loved to have met. But, no, they didn’t shoot players. They shot some guy from the Daily Show wetting his shirt and hair with a spray bottle. He was joking about the humidity here in Florida but what the hell does he have to do with the Super Bowl? They also shot video of a Telemundo reporter with a halo over her head. Her name was Angel, get it? She interviewed players then we interviewed her. What is wrong with that picture? Maybe I’m working for that cable network with the slogan: “Characters Welcome.”

Also, I’ve got to tell you about the Media Party the NFL put on out at Miami Beach (also a city not part of the metropolitan area of Miami) late in the evening. The party was on the beach! They had a live band with dancers dressed up like cheerleaders. They provided free food and free booze. The NFL puts on a kicking party. The dancers/cheerleaders started a line dance and we all joined in. Later, I saw my co-workers walking away from the bar with a beer in each hand and two more tucked up under their arm pits. Yee Haw!

Parking for this event was non-existent. So we had to park several blocks away and hoof it to the beach. This turned out to be a wonderful hike. I do have one question for all the women in Miami Beach. Do shoe stores only sell flip-flops or striper shoes? Every woman I saw either wore those cheap flip-flops you find in the surf shops or platform high heels so tall they made ballet slippers look more comfortable to wear. Nothing in between. Sunbathing on the beach by day, dancing at clubs by night. What a life. Here’s to you ladies of Miami Beach.

This is Colonel Corn trying to catch my breath in whatever town that is not Miami for Viewfinder Blues.

DAY 3 -- The “Who-Dat” Nation ...

This is very special correspondent (I’m very special because I’m working for free) Colonel Corn reporting from Fort Lauderdale Beach, Florida. The Fort is only a stone’s throw away from Dolphin’s stadium. In fact, the Colts management got the golden boys a hotel right on the beach. The Saints are in downtown Miami. I think I would rather wake up in the morning to a colorful sunrise over the ocean than to pillars of cold concrete and tinted glass. But, I have no room to talk. I out by the airport in a motel painted bright orange. My view is of a McDonald’s parking lot and a Denny’s. And, I’m sharing a room with an engineer from Arizona. Oh, how far television news has fallen.

Today the “Who-Dat” nation arrived at the Fort Lauderdale airport decked out in black and gold. The first fan off the plane (because you know he was riding in first class) was none other than CNN’s political guru James Carville. That’s right. He waltzed into baggage claim with his Marti Gras shirt on and a smile so wide the glare from his teeth was brighter than the usual glare from his head. Our camera was drawn to his grin like moths are drawn to light.

The chanting fans quickly took back the spot light from Carville. All the photog and reporter had to do was stand there and let the story come to them. No shortage of camera hogs in Florida today. I saw one guy rip open his jacket in striptease fashion to expose his NFC Champions t-shirt to the lens. How disturbing.

After the parade of “Who-Dats”, we pulled up stakes and headed for the beach. Archie Manning waited to re-live the good old days for any news crew that would listen. Once we had his face on tape, it was out to the beach for LIVEs.

Once the six came and went, my crew jumped in their news unit and split. Off to shoot another story after shooting two already today. Somebody has to collect enough video tape to fill the five hour pre-game show on Sunday. Five hours? Hurricanes don’t even command that much air time.

I was off the clock. Go back to the motel and watch CSI reruns? No way. I’m standing on the sand watching the huge container ships floating around out on the horizon and smelling the salty air. I didn’t leave the beach until midnight. What did I do for five hours in Fort Lauderdale? I’ll never tell.

This is Colonel Corn reporting with sand between his toes in Fort Lauderdale Beach, Florida.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

About the Author

vest! 015 Upon stumbling into his first TV station in 1989, Stewart Pittman began his journey to the Fifth Estate. A quick mastery of studio production skills at WNCT-TV left him sleepy and bored, so he wormed his way into a Creative Services gig and began shooting desperately bad local commercials. There he would have remained had it not been for an unlikely hostage incident - a prolonged stand-off that Pittman watched through the lens of his very first betacam. A junkie was born.

Cranking out commercial dreck for finicky management didn't set well with a guy used to loitering at the edge of calamity. Stewart Pittman realized he had to get back into a news unit, pronto. No longer concerned with being on-air, he embraced his auteur aspirations and took a position as a photojournalist with WGHP-TV. There he took his journeyman skills to another level, working with anchors and reporters on every assignment imaginable while producing a steady strieam of his trademark solo work. As he mastered his own broadcast craft, the now-veteran photog sensed the implications of emerging media. Stewart thought he might have something to say about it. Enter Lenslinger.

In mid-2004, Stewart launched a humble blog, Viewfinder Blues. Soon he was gaining a small but loyal readership. Since that time, Pittman has web-published picture-heavy diatribes, from critiques to essays, missives to memoir rants to reflections. Today he enjoys a reputation that he could never have fostered without cyber-izing his every other thought. A voracious reader of blogs and a tangential member of the thriving Greensboro blogosphere, Stewart can be currently be found noodling with his site, walking in the woods or putting off work on his first book.


"Through the lens of his TV camera, Lenslinger bears witness to the funny, the tragic, the inane, the incomprehensible. On a good day, it must be like being a rock star. On bad days, it must be like being the tax collector. On days like this, I am glad that he's there. Not because he's acquiring the footage, but because he reminds me that there is still such a thing as journalistic ethics, and for that, I'm really grateful." -- Chewie World Order

"Stewart Pittman at Viewfinder Blues is an oddity: a lensman who can write. And his latest report from the frontlines of journalism is a gem. It’s another great piece, written by a guy who (despite a certain surface cynicism) clearly loves what he’s doing." -- Mark on Media

"He writes like no one else I've ever read." -- Natural Born Stringer of

"There are hundreds of bloggers in Greensboro, but this guy’s site is in a class by itself. Lenslinger’s been a camera jockey for television news since 1989 and currently shoots for FOX 8, but he’s a writer at heart and he uses this blog to feed that particular jones. He posts media critiques, reflections on entering middle age (with pictures) and inside tales from his very specialized gig." -- Brian Clarey of Yes! Weekly

"Stewart is a contemporary news photographer who understands what's taking place in the media world. Go read him." -- Terry Heaton of Pomoblog

"I see his work on the nightly news all the time, but reading the stories behind the stories is far more interesting than the six o'clock news will ever be. If this man isn't signing me a copy of a newly published book in less than a year (I know for a fact he's writing one.) then the entire publishing industry is no more than a lost cause destined to rot until the stench is more than we can bear." -- Billy the Blogging Poet

"The way this guy writes, I'm surprised that he hasn't already made a jump to a more fulfilling career." -- Jamey Tucker of Blogsquat

"Stew, the way you just described this man's story in your own words was more intresting and meaningful than any twenty second vosot could be. My friend you are much more than just a lenslinger, you are a journalist. Edward R. would be proud." -- Ken Corn

"Come to B-roll, tender a request, and you shall learn from one that has traversed the cosmos from beginning to end. From a cosmic being of such unimaginable complexity, that both his corporeal form and his consciousness sit astride twelve dimensions at once! From Lenslinger...who has bathed in the spectral ethers which swirl beyond time. Ask and learn, young tog." -- Low Lt. of

"There are few bloggers out there who capture some of the day-to-day challenges of journalism (and the effect it has on your soul), whether he’s writing about the humour of covering news...If you want to know about journalism, as it is practiced, read Stewart. Daily." -- Mark on Media

"Viewfinder BLUES is a blog by a cameraman who can write like a ******f****r . My blog is by a writer and editor who can't photograph his way out of a paper bag. I am not worthy." -- Colin Brayton

"You have a multi-layered, sophisticated ambivalence toward your profession that cries out to be the subject of its own story, and you can be onscreen." -- Melinama at Pratie Place

"...the King of the Photog Blog." -- Smitty

More love for Lenslinger at RosenblumTV, R.F. Burns, Xark!, Mastering Multimedia, Blogging Poet, Media Buzz, VideoJournalism, Live Apartment Fire, Lost Remote,, Bob Stepno, Buzz Machine, Corante

Saturday, September 27, 2008

David R. Busse: Behind the Shot

AP Photo by Reed Saxon.

July, 1982, covering a flood for several weeks on the Colorado River near Parker, AZ. We're riding with La Paz County (AZ) Sheriff's River Patrol. Reporter on left is Bill Van Amburg, now out of the biz; sound guy on right is Tom Morris, now freelancing in Seattle.

It was July, 1982 and the United States Bureau of Reclamation, operator of most western US water projects, had miscalculated the snow pack in the Rocky Mountains, which meant more snow than expected melted and flowed into the Colorado River watershed. So much water flowed into Lake Powell that they had to open the gates a wee bit more at Glen Canyon Dam…then downstream at Hoover Dam, then Davis Dam, Parker Dam and so on.

It was great news for boaters on the lakes behind those dams, but it played havoc on the rivers below them. The BofR had done such a good job over the years stabilizing flow of the Colorado River that people started to assume that the Colorado would never flood again. So recreationists, commercial interests and some developers began building like crazy along certain sections of the Colorado, and specifically, the area just south of Parker Dam and it’s Lake Havasu impoundment became known as the “Parker Strip”—a sort of redneck Riviera largely settled by Californians from as far away as Orange County.

Development? Well, there never was a Ritz-Carlton planned for the area, and many of the settlers came here with big, loud boats and a “Gas-Grass-Ass/Nobody Rides For Free” attitude. Lets just say, by 1982, the Parker strip was a mish-mosh of riverfront homes, trailer parks, boat landings and bars…some of the latter including drive-up service for bikers on one side and boat-up service on the other. Again, none of it would be mistaken for a five star resort, but the development represented a sizeable investment--for somebody.

People who made “The River” their way of life never seemed to have the word “flood” in their vocabulary.

So, when this little, um, miscalculation happened, the Reclamation folks let everybody know that the gates would open just a pinch and the river might rise an inch or two.

More like 12 inches…nothing, really, for those of us who grew up along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, but when folks have built right up to a water line expecting it to NEVER change, 12 more inches of water might as well be 12 feet.

Which brings us to the subject of this photo.

Our assignment desk in Los Angeles had some vague idea of where the Colorado River was, and a nice United States Department of Interior-Bureau of Reclamation news release telling them about this leetle water problem that we might want to warn viewers about. Whether we actually did or not, I can’t recall…but we came into our Inland Empire Bureau in Riverside one Monday morning to a literal barrage of phone calls from angry river rats complaining of water in their vacation homes and businesses, ruined vacations and a tourist economy in shambles. The River was in our bureau coverage area…about 250 miles out the back door of our office…but that’s one of the challenges of bureau work covering two of the largest counties in the United States.

Our desk told us to check out this flood.

We had no microwave capability there, and satellite uplink trucks were (for us) a few years away.

So, we did what we always did when we smelled a good story out in the sticks and wanted to get it on the air the same day. We chartered airplanes, flew to the story, shot for three or four hours, flew home, and fed from the airport…sometimes breathlessly doing “this just in…” live shots next to the chartered King Air, Jet Commander, or whatever we happened to use that day.

I say “that day” because our desk in LA kept sending us out there on “one day” turns, thinking they would lose interest in the story. So we were never overnighted at the scene—we always flew home that same afternoon.

This pattern continued for three solid weeks.

One day we were in a small plane cruising along at something like 12,000 feet when the controller called the pilot and asked if we had cameras on board. “Yes, we have an ABC TV crew heading to the Colorado River flood…” pilot Clair Merryweather told LA Center.

“Tell then to get their cameras ready, and about 30 seconds from now, look out the window at your five-o-clock…”

We grabbed cameras and craned our necks in time to see the NASA 747, with Space Shuttle “Atlantis” on her back about a quarter mile off our wing, slowly climbing out of California enroute Florida.

That was fun. Most of our other memories of those trips were 115-degree heat, horse flies the size of canned hams, and interactions with increasingly irritated property owners becoming even more irritated as they drank more cold beer to slake both thirst and anger.

Local cops on the river were, of course, happy to take us for “guided tours” of the flood area for the first week or so, and those times on the water became our salvation from the hellish heat. The boat rides became so common, that we almost used them as scheduled respite from the midday heat. After a couple days of this flood duty, I dispensed with any sort of dress code and decided that cut off jeans and tee shirts were the way to go. This made me look like a local and simplified the “afternoon swim” that also became part of our flood-coverage ritual.

Keep in mind that another ritual of this coverage was my daily battle with the air sick bag on the flight home. Dawn flights into the desert are no problem, but mid-day flights across the Mojave are buffeted by thermals generated from the superheated air churning off the parched ground below, and the effect on a small twin-engine airplane or jet is profound. I had been taught at a young age to drink (or at least abscond with) all the liquor in the cabinet of any chartered aircraft, but most of the flights I didn’t even dare enquire of the brands of beer or quality of Scotch offered. It was enough to buckle up, keep firm eye on the horizon, maintain stiff upper lip and have supply of white sick bags at the ready. No, I never had to use one of those bags, but as they often say on the ferry trip to Catalina Island, the only thing worse than throwing up for a few minutes is feeling like you’re about to throw up for two hours.

You’ll note the camera in this picture is my good old Ikegami HL79A, with my ever-present wide-angle lens and trusty pistol-grip. Sound man Tom Morris is using one of those old Sony BVU-110s, better known as a “One-Ton.” We had this setup in the for almost seven more years, when we switched to Betacam tape format. Shortly before I left the bureau in December, 1989, we switched to one-man Betacams.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Best of Viewfinder BLUES

Through a Lens, Darkly Some shots never fade.

A Photog Turns 40 Roll your eyes as I wax pathetic

Jasmine at the Tragic Factory
Her real name was Ariel.

She Were Soldiers Cookies and tea with a Saint .

Hurricane Stew
Whadaya know? Fancy-cams don't float!

Journey of Hope When a feel-good kicker goes bad.

Bovine Castaways God thins the herd.

Dr. Tom and the Chili Peppers More than a record review.

Tears for Fears War IS Hell for some families.

Why I Ditched the LogoWear It's itchy?


Birth of a Photog Animal Lives!

The Roy Park School of Broadcasting Where I earned my Doctorate.

Adventures in Radio Over cologned and mostly sober.

The AppleBee's Incident The stand-off that started it all.

Baptized by Glass The First White-Balance.

Of Floaters and Feelings My initial victims.

Confessions of a Commercial Hack Life as a nimrod.

Early TV: The Stupid Years In all its ugliness.

Making the MarVan I see it in my dreams.

Seven Feet of Hell The cheesiest contest of alL.

The Legend of Vance Speight Williams is a pansy.

New Car Smell And the flashback it triggers.


Operation: Idol Clay Aiken? WHO'S Clay Aiken?

Fear & Loathing at Fantasia-Land Run for you lives!

Supplicants to Fame Bring on the Body Glitter.

Introducing Chris Daughtry This bald dude can wail.

Caged Birds, Singing AI audition up close

So Nice, that Bo Bice And polite, too!

The Final 24 American Idol hopefuls in L.A.

Last Day at the Cheese Factory I think Paula likes me.

Life After Idol Hangin' with our pal Bucky Covington

Remnants of Hipness Chris Daughtry comes home.


Fire on Vine Captain Lynch is lookin' for ya.

Once More Up the Widow's Porch A Trip I Know Well.

Hillbilly HoeDown Morning Jam Starts light, ends dark.

The Scrum and The Numb Doing Time at Va. Tech.

Up the River with Ed I can still smell it.

Looking for Lost Boys And then finding them.

The One Word That can make me vanish.

Confessions of a Video Vulture Yeah I got feelings...somewhere.

Bruised Fruit of the Pursuit
Hey, that rhymes!


Ten Things I'd Teach TV Reporters
IF I thought they'd listen.

Thrift Store Reconnaissance Ewing and I go deep.

Shotgun with the Man WhatchaGonnaDoWhenTheyComeForYou?

Granny Crackpipe and Cousin Spit Back and to the left.

Anatomy of a Live Shot Breaking down the Set-up

Things Isabel Taught Me In a Convenient List.

Furniture Inferno Is there ever a good time for spot news?

Headset Perry The Peter Principle in Action.

The Lost VoSot Patrol Never leave a man behind.

Lords of the Underpass And the women who love them.

A Day in the Strife Life as I know it.


Skate-Ray and Tall Dad Go on vacation, already.

O Brother Where Art Thou? Big Ups to Richard.

Faro's Broken Arrow The disaster that almost was.

Remembering Richard Pryor I was born a poor black child.

My Life With Motley Crue Shout at the devil.

Crazy on a Ship of Tools Haze Gray Underway.

Rebel in the Wind Killing my very first car.

Rocks in His Pocket A geezer kicks it.

Flirtin' With Disaster On the road in The Rebel.

Room to Write A peek at my inner sanctum.

The Pot Shack You're in the jungle, baby.


MoonRock Madness Dumber than Fiction

Snowblind on the Overpass Don't try this at home.

The Stupid and the Doomed They're often interchangeable.

Into the Wild Spot News Urination Epic.

County Commission Theater Morons in Motion.

The Coolest Thing I can think of right now.

The Reno Epiphany The day my junkie died.

Prison Yard Litmus Test I hate wardens.

Running Down Dubya Look-alike, Schmook-alike.


Tomorrow Doesn't Exist Or does it?

Birth of the Personal Journalist The Gurus loved this one.

And the Winner Ain't... The print guys with the lens cap on..

Perils of E.N.G. Eulogy for fallen comrades.

The Social Fabric of Firefighting Got smoke?

Pixelator's Twitch I didn't sleep at all last night.

Ribbon Cuttings, Ride-Alongs and Rage Three of my favorite things.

The Impending Schism Thoughts on the Horizon.

The Media and the Miner's Plight
Thoughts on Sago.


Inside Ophelia Multi-Part Saga of marquee'd rainmaker.

PayBack on the Interstate Some things take awhile.

Dr.UnDead's Fright Fest Behind the scenes of a no-budget slasher.

Vistas of Demolition
Can I keep the hardhat?

Food Court Theatrics Excuse me, miss...

The Art of of the Grab Crashing a live shot.

Crew-Call at Camp Ophelia Me and the boys slum by the shore.

Fumes at Eleven Low, low, low on petrol.

Walkdowns, Round Ups, Ride-Alongs
Three roads to exhaustion.

Fear and Loathing at Final Approach Alert 2! Alert 2!

The Amazing Pace Minus the million.


It's What I Do Drudgery in 3 easy steps.

Mad Skills of a Master Photog Do you have what it takes?

Careful What You Wish For
You just might get it.

Ways to Improve Hurricane Remotes Funny before Katrina.

Stressing the Edit It's why my hair's so thin.

Chances Are You're a Photog... A safe and easy test.

Truisms of Newsgathering This I know.

Signs Your Presser Isn't Going Well You're all alone.

No Business Being a Photog Doing Foxworthy proud.

Trust Your Gut Look where it got me.

The Right to Play Dumb And when to exercise it..


One March Morning A toy gun changed my life.

Sometimes They Die Early morning death spectacle.

My Favorite Mistake There's alot more where this came from.

When Soundbites Echo Earworms from the ghetto.

The Handcuffed Hippie
A robber goes down.

Have Mullet, Will Travel
Check out the wrestler hair.

My Time on the Dark Side How it almost robbed my soul.

Bad Boys, Bad Boys Life in the age of COPS.

Logos in the Wind
Whadaya mean I can't speed, occifer?


G. Lee Goes to Court And lives to tell about it.

The Body and the Beauty Queen
Take your prick.

Perfecting the Improbable Seen from afar.

This Ain't Baseball G. Lee works a nightshift.


Asleep at the Wheel Dreaming of C-Span glory

Doppelgangers in Motion Is that me comin' through the door?

Mojo Denied It was right here in my fannypack.

Photog Feng Shui That doesn't go there.

More Than Caddies My crew gets props.

Rethinking Jesse Jackson Still an asshole.

Bones of Calamity School bus wreck epistle.

From Crisis to Commodity In less than twenty minutes.

Street Corner Specter Spooky interlude in the 'hood

Pavlov's Cell Phone Is that my spleen ringing?

Fishing for Sound And getting pulled in.

"I'll Log in the Car..."
You drive like a fireman.

Dull Day Dissected More exciting than it sounds.

Strung Out on the Access But burned out by the rub.

The Places I've Been Eat your heart out, Johnny Cash.

Life on the Risers Wiggle this platform at your own peril.