Thursday, October 29, 2009

Welcome to New Mexico

Some of the names in this blog have been changed to protect the innocent, ambivalent and or righteous.

So, the wife (Diane) and I went to Albuquerque and stayed with some old friends. With the hubby at work and the little one in school, my buddy... let's call her Mary, was freed up to show us around! One of our excursions involved heading to a scenic area in the Jemez Mountains.

Mary was driving since she knew the area… and has always been a little leery of my driving. You see, she was my reporter and I her photog back in the days when we ran the Investigative Unit for the TV station we both worked at. She usually drove so I was the one that would be hanging on white knuckled as she would say… “Watch this… here’s a little sumpthin’ my ex taught me…” or.. “I saw this in a cartoon once!”

So there we were in mine and the wife’s rental… Shortly after we turned from the main road to another not so main road, we came upon ten or so cars stopped in traffic. This came as a surprise since although we had seen a few signs that said “Congested Area” and “Drink Carefully!” this was the first time we had actually seen any traffic during this particular trip.

Priscilla… oops! My bad! I mean Mary decided she did not want to wait for the traffic to clear so she started to ride along on the narrow shoulder as I kept reminding her “Rental! Rental!” When we got around the other cars we could finally see what the hold up was. A pick-up truck had turned over on its side and its load of split wood was spread out all over the road. There were a couple of people out in the middle of the mess appearing to be trying to clear the way. I got out to help as well, figuring the faster we cleared the way, the faster we would be on our way.

After finding out no one had been hurt, I noticed one of the wood clearers was not doing a particularly good job. This was apparently the driver and he was shit-faced. Lets call him Cletis. His condition was quite understandable since it was shortly after the noon hour and hey, that’s hard work hauling wood! Anyway, Cletis would pick up a piece of wood and throw it anywhere. Half the time, back in to the pile he was trying to clear. He was also doing a lot of swearing and belly-aching and stumbling, when the other guy, a big bruiser that we’ll call Duke, made a comment that maybe this wouldn’t have happened if Cletis wasn’t so plastered.

Cletis looked up. You could barely see his eyes because they were half shut and very red. He squints in our general direction and says something rather disparaging concerning sexual preferences. I turned to Duke and said that I thought one of us had been insulted. Duke said he was pretty sure it was him. Now looking at Duke, he was about the last guy you would want to call an Effing Fa---t! Duke looked like he could crush Cletis like a tin can.

Cletis was now swearing and raving and making semi threatening gestures as he was holding his piece of wood like a club. I suggested to Duke that maybe we shouldn’t get him riled up while he had a potential weapon (though he probably would have fallen over if he had attempted to use it). At Duke’s mention of the police, Cletis dropped the wood and started looking for cover. He walked up to what looked like abandoned or run down houses as he looked for refuge. Duke asked me to keep an eye out for the cops as he kept an eye on Cletis and followed him around as we stumbled on a rickety porch attached to an old house that did not face the road.

I went back to the car and Pris, I mean Mary said, “C’mon! Let’s get going!” I explained that it was my duty to wait for the cops and assist Duke in apprehending this ne'er-do-well. Pris said that they were already here and waved her hand vaguely in some nondescript direction. I looked around but didn’t see any cops. I made sure that Duke and Cletis were still in my sites and I looked up and down the road for the police. Most folks were still in there cars. There did appear to be a couple of paramedic types, but they were just leaning against their vehicle enjoying the show.

I went back to the car and was again assured by Pris that they were here. This time she kind of pointed in front of her. Again, I saw nothing. I rolled my eyes, got in the car and hoped my new best friend, Duke, could handle the situation. A few minutes later we saw two cop cars whiz by us. “See, there they are!” Pris exclaimed.

For the rest of the day, I told Pris that I was disappointed in her and that Justice was my middle name. Of course that is not my real middle name since it had been changed to protect the righteous!

Anyhow, we did manage to see some beautiful sights and were back home just in time to pick up Pris’s (ok, I gave up on Mary) daughter from school. I’m sure Duke would understand.

Pix from the trip should be up soon at...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Balloon Fiesta Bash!

Well, after the disappointing experience at the Adirondack Balloon Fest last month, the second time turned out to be the charm! This time we did it right... Headed down to Albuquerque for their annual Balloon Fiesta and had a great time. The weather was perfect (though a little chilly at 5am!) and we were treated to some amazing sights. Hundreds of hot air balloons took to the skies in what is known as the biggest balloon event in the world! It was very eerie being there at 5:30 in the morning, in complete darkness, with thousands of other folks. On Saturday (the busier of the two days we went) it was like the population of a small city as folks set up their lawn chairs and ate breakfast burritos from one of the many vendors that were up and running. One of the big highlights was the "Special Shapes Rodeo" where balloons came in all shapes and sizes. One of the most popular was a big giant Darth Vader head! News reports had stated that Darth made it to the Fiesta just in time after being held up in some shipping debacle in China!

Our only concern was that traffic was so heavy getting out of there on Saturday morning, that we were worried we would miss our flight back home! As we were sitting there stopped dead in the parking lot, I looked longingly at the balloons still in the sky, unencumbered by traffic jams! Of course they have to go where the wind takes them.

We also toured around some other places in and around Albuquerque and I'll have plenty of new shots on the website shortly. In the meantime, if you are on Facebook, you can check out some of the pix of the Balloon Fiesta right here! I'll be back soon with another story or two of the trip. For now... vacation is over and its back to work tomorrow. Ugh!

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!