Monday, June 10, 2013

I've Moved

The blog has now moved to:

I'm going to give Wordpress a try.

Hope to see you there.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Two Front Teeth

Everyone once in a while, usually when in the dentist’s chair, I think of the lyrics to this song by Don Gardner:

All I want for Christmas
is my two front teeth,
my two front teeth,
see my two front teeth!

Gee, if I could only
have my two front teeth,
then I could wish you
"Merry Christmas."

The new dental hygienist noticed my two upper caps.
“Car accident?”

No, nothing that commonplace. My mishap had drama, flair, and a piece of showbiz involving a major golf tournament at the prestigious Southern Hills Country Club. And no, it wasn’t a wayward golf ball. Here’s the story:
This happened back in the day, way back in the day, before satellite television and cell phones. (Yes, I am that old.) My Southwestern Bell crew had the assignment to assist in the broadcast of a PGA Championship golf tournament. This was an undertaking of staggering proportions back then. The work began almost a year before the actual event when trenching machines began laying video cable all over the course. Yep, that’s the way we got short distance TV from point A to point B. Our job was to not only feed the video from the cameras to the various network trucks, but to send the on-air signal to the AT&T Television Operating Center in downtown Tulsa where it was then distributed to millions of viewers. To do that, we had to erect a 60 foot temporary tower very near the final hole and use point-to-point transmission to relay the signal.

At one time during play, via one of the cameras, I could see that Jack Nicklous was approaching the tee nearest my station. I admit to abandoning my post at the microwave transmitter long enough to watch that golfing legend hit the ball. To this day, I can still close my eyes and see him puff up like a big ol' frog and hammer that thing.
Few people ever see what happens after a golf tournament, after the trophy is awarded, and all the players go home. Somebody has to tear all that equipment out and clean up the mess. One of those people was me. Cables were coiled and stored, racks full of electronics were dismantled, and oh yeah, that 60 foot tower had to come down.

Ron, my old drinkin’ buddy, and I were given the job to go to the top and start in. Two other fellas, one a new guy by the name of O’Dell Robertson, were to stay on the ground and work the ropes. The tower was made of heavy aluminum, box-like, about four  foot square if I remember correctly. It was assembled and disassembled in sections, kind of like Tinker Toys. A device called a davit, like what you might see to lower a lifeboat from a ship, was used to lower each section as the locking pins were removed. A long rope, or tag line, reached to the ground  and was used to steady the descending sections to keep them from getting hung up on the remaining part of the tower. There were guy lines of course, to keep the whole thing from falling over in a gust of wind. These lines were disconnected, section by section, as the tower came down.

Things went smooth enough although being that high in the air on such a shaky apparatus wasn’t all that much fun, but we were about done. The men on the ground removed the last of the guy wires. Ron and I hooked up another section to the davit and raised it up and over the side. O’Dell was on the tag line. To this point, O’Dell had been doing a great job of keeping the sections clear of obstructions by putting a fair amount of diagonal pull on the rope. What this collection of brilliant technical minds failed to consider was that without any form of guy line, the force being applied by O’Dell was more than enough to tip the tower over. I heard someone call out, “IT’S FALLING!”

Estimated height of the tower at this crucial moment was in the neighborhood of fifteen to twenty feet, much more survivable than the previous sixty, but still a long way to the ground. I was inside the framework of the tower and did not have a lot of options. I grabbed two round beams, one on either side, and managed to position my body between them. I clearly recall my logic. “If I can just stay between the beams, the whole thing will crash around me. I’ll be fine.”

It worked, up to a point. The problem was, I forgot to release my death grip on the beams as my feet made impact. My legs bent under the weight, forcing my now stationary and upright knees into my face that was still traveling at the approximate speed of Mach One. Goodybe teeth.

Ron managed to ride it down with one arm slung over a beam. He still had his teeth but his shoulder suffered some damage.

We were checked over at the emergency room where x-rays were taken. No broken bones thank goodness, but I still had a stop to make at the dentist office.

I can still remember his words. “Young man, you’ve had a rough day and I know you’re in pain, but I’m about to help you with that.” And bless his heart and his happy gas, he did.

Merry Christmas




Saturday, May 25, 2013

How to Shoot Yourself in the Foot with a Camera

Even before retiring from the telephone company, I had a dream of becoming a professional wildlife photographer. It was only wishful thinking at that point, but I could easily see myself traveling the highways and backroads with my pop-up camper, visiting every national park and wildlife refuge in the country, all the while adding quality images to my files. I would hook up with a photo stock company and make enough sales to supplement my meager pension from Ma Bell, i.e., beer money. I had no illusions of becoming rich and famous, far from it. Photographing wildlife was and always will be my passion; making a profit was simply icing on the cake.  
I stayed on track the first couple of years, visiting and photographing in such places as Yellowstone, Glacier, and Arches N.P. to name a few. I hit wildlife refuges from Maine to New Mexico. I submitted to and was accepted by two stock agencies.  All was roses.

Another year passes. Total image sales? About 4. Profit/loss? We won’t go there. One of many unforeseen factors was the amazing technologies going into the new cameras; auto focus, auto exposure, auto flash, more frames per second, and then came digital. Suddenly, those once in a lifetime captures were becoming common place. The grizzly bear catching a salmon in midair was now ho-hum. An eagle swooping in for a fish had become dime-a-dozen. The pros had gone from selling photos to leading tours and workshops to make a living.
Oh, I had my moments. I sold to a few magazines, a postcard company, a couple of book publishers. And once every blue moon, I would get a check for a hundred bucks or so from the stock agency. The problem was, I was getting more and more requests for free photos, donations, giveaways. “We don’t have the budget to pay you, but you will get a credit under your photo.” And yeah, that was kind of fun. Seeing your photo with your name blazoned across half a page of a glossy publication, a recognition of sorts. Made me smile.

But at one point–my dreams of becoming a pro now only a fond memory– I was shocked to get a late evening call from the photo editor of National Wildlife magazine. NATIONAL WILDLIFE BABY! Woo Hoo. Big time mag. Major player. How he got my name and number I don’t know, but he told me he needed some photos of Oklahoma’s Tishamingo National Wildlife Refuge and he needed them in a hurry. I was packing my bag and gear and headed south before the phone line got cold. Bright and early the next morning, I was shooting away at some snow geese (about the only actual wildlife I could find on short notice) but took several landscape shots. Made the 3 hour drive back home, transferred the shots to a CD, sent it Priority Mail, sat back and waited for the big bucks to roll in.
Didn’t happen. In fact, nothing happened. No thanks for your submission, no better luck next time, no close but no cigar. Well, crap.

A year or so later, I receive an e-mail informing me that National Wildlife has seen one of my photos on a web site somewhere and was wondering if I would donate it. I couldn’t resist, even though I was still pissed. It was, after all, national exposure and I granted permission.
Then, a week ago, it happened again, another request for a free photo. My reply:

 I am honored that such a prestigious magazine as National Wildlife would feel that one of my images was of such quality to be featured in one of your upcoming publications.
 I should have stopped there...but no.

 However, I would be even more honored if National Wildlife could find a few bucks in their deep pockets to pay for the damn thing. I doubt that you work for free, lady, and I don’t either.

And that my friends, is how you close out a career as a professional wildlife photographer.