Sunday, September 27, 2009

Balloon Fest Bust!

Headed up to the Adirondack Balloon Fest in Glens Falls, NY with the wife early Saturday morning. By early, I mean we left the house at 5am with expectations of getting there between 6 -6:30 (based on how long it took me last year with traffic). We made great time on the Northway, and arrived at the exit just before 6. Then, we hit the traffic. It took us over an hour to move less than half a mile.

It really was an unbearable situation. We did not see any cops directing the traffic until we got to the entrance to the airport. They really needed to get some help out there in the morning to manage the traffic. Folks were inventing their own lanes, cutting in front of others... it was mayhem. Our only thoughts as to why it was so much worse than when I came up the year before, was that Sunday it was expected to rain. So Saturday was really going to be the only shot.

Finally, we scrapped the official directions and improvised a shortcut using side roads, that we weren't sure were going to lead us where we needed to be (no map or GPS!). Anyway, after being able to cut ahead of much of the traffic that was in front of us, the sun was now up and every once in awhile we could see a glimpse, through the trees, of some of the balloons taking to the air as we approached the Glens Falls Airport. Some of them could be seen risinig out of the golden mist. It would have made a great picture, if I wasn't still stranded in the car. As we got to the airport we could see that folks were already leaving. Not a good sign!

We finally parked our car at 7:30 and there were many balloons still on the ground, or to be more specific, grounded. The mist had turned into a very heavy fog and the balloonists didn't have enough sight distance to launch. It was cold (in the '30s) and you couldn't see much through the fog, so we decided to have breakfast in the hangar and wait for the fog to lift. Well after breakfast, the fog was still there, but the balloons weren't. They deflated and packed it in, presumably to have better luck with a launch in the evening.

We left and headed up north to check out some of the scenery. While there were some Fall colors, we were still at least a week away from peak. Still, we had a nice day taking the gondola to the top of Gore Mountain, driving around and exploring. I managed to take a few pix. We made a short stop in Saratoga to drop off a print to be matted and then headed home, too tired to head back up to Glens Falls and deal with the traffic again for the evening's activities which were still a few hours away.

We got back to the house about 11 hours after we left it, ready for a nap. Hopefully we won't have as much bad luck at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico, next week. Looks like we just may have to get up earlier!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Covering the Prez!

It felt like a half season of "24" And like Jack Bauer, my long day even involved the POTUS (President of the United States). He was to arrive in Albany at approximately 11:00 am and arrive at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy at about 11:30.

Cue the ticking clock...

2:00 am:
The day started when I got up after managing to get 3 hours sleep.

3:00 am:
Entered the station and loaded up the LIVE Truck. The morning producer told me he was gonna want some nice bump shots like they had last night at 11:00, where from outside the automotive tech center you could see into the building from the raised overhead door. That meant I wasn't going to be able to park right next to the side of the building near the media access door. Oh well.

3:32 am:
As my reporter Mark O'Brien and I rode in the LIVE truck, Art, an engineer also followed in the Satellite Truck. We weren't quite sure why we had both, but ya gotta be prepared!

3:45 am:
First road block... Barriers were set up at the entrance. Two big LIVE trucks circled the area, trying to find a way in.

3:55 am:
After discovering other closed areas, I got out of the truck, moved the barriers and let both our trucks in. We saw that the big overhead door was still open and you could see a huge American Flag hanging inside. We decided to set up so there was a good view of the doorway.

4:35 am:
Received a call from the Assignment Editor who got in at around 4. "You can't be in front of the building, you have to move to the side!" With 20 minutes to go before the morning show would start, we had to break down the truck, move it, raise the mast again, re-tune in the shot, and set up the camera again. Fortunately, Chief Photographer Bob Edwards had arrived shortly before and assisted!

4:52 am:
Gained access to the side door. If we hurried our asses we could go live from inside.

5:00 am:
LIVE! News 10 in the Morning! Mark does his first cut-in, then I get a beauty shot of the room for the bump shot coming out of the first block. Things go smoothly as Bob and Art set up for that main event on the risers, getting the second camera hooked up. Everything is fine until...

5:44 am:
Mark and I get told by the Secret Service that we have to shut the camera off as they begin a sweep of the room. This takes place 90 seconds before we're supposed to go LIVE again. Mark ends up doing a "phoner." The SS say that we should be able to power up again soon.

6:34 am:
After phoning it in a few more times, the Secret Service now says we have top break down the camera and leave the building. Um... ok. It's now gettin' a little chilly outside! The sun should be up soon!

6:40 am:
More photogs and reporters and LIVE trucks from other stations show up. I eat a baloney sandwich and a banana.

7:00 am:
Everyone scrambles trying to get their cameras set up on the risers, before we get kicked out again for yet another sweep. My second camera (for cut-aways) is set up behind the main camera. Things get a little cramped on the riser! Tempers flare! Not really... we're too tired.

7:30 am:
We are all booted out again for the final sweeps. Release the hounds!

7:55 am:
I open up all the doors and hood of my truck so the sniffers can snif. I hand off my reporter to another photog. They will do some story on the "outside." The waiting game begins.

9:15 am:
Pick up my official credentials. Re-enter the building and wait some more.

Shortly after 11:00:
Lydia starts co-anchoring from the site, waiting for the POTUS to arrive. This is her first day on air at out station after working at one of our competitors for years. Nice way to start!

OBAMA in the house! Bob shoots the speach. I take the wide-shots and cutaways and manage to snap off a few pix with my SLR.

12:30 pm-ish:
That's all folks... well not really, but the Prez makes a quick getaway. I get a bunch of reaction interviews with reporter John McLoughlin, then shoot some more for Lydia.

2:00 pm:
Regroup with everyone at the truck.

2:40 pm:
I bid the rest of those suckers farewell as I head back to the station, then finally home (Hey, I got there first!)

4:00 pm:
Enjoy the debut of News 10 at Four from the comfort of my own home.

Cue "24" ticking clock sound... tick-boom--tick-boom--tick-boom...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I would like to thank my enlarged prostate...

I've always heard that the best time to take pictures is in the late evening or early morning when the light reaches that "magic hour." The evenings were never a problem, but gettin' up for shoots at the crack of dawn always seemed like a good idea the night before, not so much as the morning approached, though. I had been meaning to get up to the track for an early morning shoot for a couple of years now, and this past season I finally did it... more that once.

And it's all thanks to a little something that ain't so little anymore. Lately, I have been getting up on the average of about 5 times a night to go to the bathroom. Since a good nights sleep had become a thing of the past (if I wasn't getting up to go, I was dreaming about going), I figured why not take advantage of the situation and get those morning shots I had always been thinking about. So, without even the help of an alarm clock, I was off to the track a couple of times and was also able to get some great pre-dawn shots during our recent visit to Bar Harbor. With another Balloon fest or two around the corner, I think I should be in pretty good shape.

Hopefully the quality of my photos won't take a giant hit when I have a procedure to shrink my prostate in mid October. Maybe I'll finally have to invest in a new alarm clock and discover the wonders of drinking coffee. In the meantime, I'd just like to say, thanks again, Prostate. You went above and beyond.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Welcome to the RixFotos Blog!

Some of the posts in this blog will talk about specific photographs or picture taking trips. Others may focus on my adventures as a Video News-Photographer at the local TV station where I work. I'm thinking of this as a kind of photographer's diary. For this first post, I'd like to talk about one of my favorite shots!

This photo is from our recent vacation to Bar Harbor, ME. We were visiting my wife's sister and her family. We had been to Bar Harbor a bunch of times, but this time I thought I would try to get some images I hadn't captured before... That meant getting up really early! Three times I got up before sunrise to try to get some early morning shots. I was rewarded each morning with different conditions. The first two times I headed up Cadillac Mountain. The first morning was pretty fogged in but I did manage to get some sunrise shots through the fog. Second morning was clear and I got a great shot of the Islands off the coast. The top of the mountain was packed with visitors at 5am! There were even a couple of lunatics that had ridden their bikes to the top! On the third and final morning, I decided to try another location. So I headed to the Bar Harbor Yacht Club, set my tripod up on the dock and took some long exposures before the sun rose. These sailboats resting on the peaceful water was my favorite of the bunch. Shutter was open for about 8 seconds and I used my flashlight to "Paint the light" over the dock, so that it would stand out a bit. I loved the stillness and the light of the early morning out there. The only thing that broke the mood was the fact that I was getting eaten alive by mosquitoes!

There was some slight Photoshop tweaking done to the image. Mostly adjusting the levels slightly so that the printed version would display well. I also cloned out a paint blotch in the dock near the bottom that I found somewhat distracting. There's another one further up the dock that I left alone.

The unaltered version won the 14th Facebook Photo Shootout! It's basically a contest for fun where photogs are given a secret ingredient (a word or phrase) that has to be incorporated into the photo and a time limit in which to take the photo (usually 2 or 3 days). The secret ingredient for this particular contest was "Beauty." There were a ton of great shots, but somehow this one was able to squeak by the rest!

Anyway, that's it for the first post. Comments are always welcome! Oh, and if for some reason you haven't discovered the actual site, its at!