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March 21 2011


Sometimes complaining pays off…

…as I discovered recently.

As I ease into retirement and (hopefully) back into shooting the occasional video gig, I’ve been updating my resources. Got the thinknews site up with my info for potential clients seeking my services. Working on my linkedin page and other connection sites. And moseyed on over to NPPA to make sure my information was current on their Find a Photographer site, when I noticed the following:

Now I’d obviously been to this page before, but a continuing discussion on b-roll about whether NPPA adequately serves it broadcast members made me pause and really look at the wording on this page.

It is generally accepted that a photographer is a still shooter (even though a photographer is “one who draws with light). That was pause #1.

When I read the next section I nearly choked laughing. What the heck is “video photography”?!! Video shot by a still photographer of course. Which explains why they put in “video editing.”

Once I had my breath back, I moved down to “Who specializes in a particular area of photojournalism.” Hmmm…no mention of VIDEOjournalism.

Now what you can’t see, unless you are a member signing onto your account is the section for photographic specialities, which specifies “leave blank if you are not a photographer.”

This went from funny to WHOA in a split second.

So it was back to b-roll to air my complaint. Yeah…we all do that when frustrated, but rarely does it get beyond the steam blowing stage. I didn’t expect a fast response from one of NPPA’s finest, Vice-President Michael Borland. He held me accountable for my remarks and even asked for input on how to rework and reword the “Find a Photographer” section. So a brief flurry of electronic exchanges ensued and it looks as if changes may be in the air. The only point of dispute may be what the heck to call a very diverse group of folks who sling an equally diverse batch of cameras…everything from consumer to broadcast quality video gear and state of the art still equipment. I tossed out “visual journalist” as a starting point…it’s gonna be fun watching the process and finding out what the consensus is.

I knew there was a reason for being in NPPA…monoliths have ears and actually listen.

February 14 2011


Pondering predictions…

…in this case, one I made more than a decade ago. The Internet was young and fanciful thoughts about what might happen to news were being bandied about when I came up with my wild concept.

Imagine a news organization that only employed a few anchors and reporters, but a ton of writers and producers. Imagine a breaking story…a plane crash. Rather than sending a team out, a producer does an Internet search (not even sure if Google was around at this point) and manages to locate a home across the street from the crash. Makes a phone call and tells the person who answers to hook up their video camera to their computer, point it out the window, and describe what they see. Almost unimaginable.

So what do we have today? Skype. Live streaming sites. Uh…it has happened, just not yet completely the way I guessed it might.

All this brought about by a discussion on b-roll.

What began as a discussion of the National Press Photographers Association contest and magazine has evolved into a discussion of the place of broadcast (read TV) members in the organization, how they are being served by NPPA (or not), and how the quality of broadcast has gone downhill – in terms of production values and equipment.

Sigh. There are a lot of anguished folks out there…who remember the “good ole days,” when a camera(wo)man could feel good about what they produced at the end of the day.

But financial hard times are a reality and we don’t always get what we want.

One of the lessons to be learned is from a very old, very tiny camera – the 35mm camera. For more details, check out the information on photo.net.

1914: Oscar Barnack, employed by German microscope manufacturer Leitz, develops camera using the modern 24x36mm frame and sprocketed 35mm movie film.

THAT was just the beginning. The camera became commercially available in 1924 (Leica) and took off in the years just before WWII. By the 1960s it had pushed the standard high quality cameras into the background and for forty plus years became the standard in print news photography – and there it reigned until the advent of digital.

We seem to be poised on the cusp of another change in standards…whether broadcast shooters like it or not. While there will always be room for big bucks, high end, expensive cameras, I am convinced that the news broadcast standard is the 1/3 inch three chip pro-sumer camera…with of course, the requisite bells and whistles. XLR, manual controls, shoulder mount, good glass.

The audience may love high-end high-quality in their movies. But I suspect they will settle for excellent quality video in news and general programs. I just hope they also demand the highest production standards to go with it.

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