Friday, November 28, 2003

Cool toys of the job

Mark M. Hancock / © The Dallas Morning News
Large lenses like the one on this Nikon D1 digital camera need a tripod to prevent camera shake and photographer fatigue.
Ironically, I was using a D1H on a newer tripod to make this image. It really confused security at Fair Park in Dallas.

I have a cool job. One cool part of the job is the toys.


Yes. I have some of the coolest toys on the planet. Other people call them tools. To me, they are my toys, and I get to play with them daily.

I have a cell phone, two high-end Nikon digital cameras and a Mac laptop with a WiFi card. In real terms, I can shoot, remove the microdrive or flashcard, pop it into the laptop, edit and color correct my images in Photoshop, write a caption and then wirelessly transmit images around the globe at lightning fast speeds.

It's cool.

I feel like James Bond sometimes. The down side is the rare immediate deadline (shoot anything and transmit it, then try to get something meaningful). Those moments could make me feel like a remote-control monkey, but they are extremely rare and normally involve dead people just before the Metro deadline.

My big fear is to one day have a live feed from the camera to the editor. If this ever happens, I fear the value of the individual photojournalist could be lost. We might become nothing but photo monkeys with an ear piece to do whatever the desk says at the second it dictates. Yuck.

I really shouldn't worry about it too much because when the desk would be most inclined to do any hands-on instructions, we are normally out of touch.

I was covering a tornado in Fort Worth a year or two ago. I got into the middle of the aftermath while people were still digging out of the mess (before the police and all else arrived). I was getting frantic pager notices to call the office.

I couldn't because the tornado had destroyed all the cell towers and land lines in the area. The pager worked, but it was a one-way communication and the desk didn't know if I was actually receiving the notices (or alive).

If I was just some remote-controlled camera operator, then I might have simply stood there and tried to make contact with the office rather than doing what I am trained to do.

I can write more about my concerns some other day. Today, I am just happy I have my job and my toys.

Enough for now,


Anonymous said...

My professor once told us that the still photograph in photojournalism is a dying beast. He claims that media sources are relying more on digital video and sound manipulation as time progresses. Do you feel his assumption is true?

Mark M. Hancock said...

Yup. I've written about it several times, said it on the podcast and interviewed David Leeson about it so far. I even have the equipment listed in the PJ Candy Store. I don't know what else I could say.
However, it's not going to happen overnight. There are still newspapers that shoot and print B&W film.