Monday, May 17, 2004

Paintball is good training for combat PJs

I finally found a hobby other than photography. Photography is a miserable hobby for professional photojournalists (PJs). I ask myself why I am working on a day off or playing when I should be working. It gets confusing.

I played paintball for the first time on Saturday and had a blast. I’m hooked.

Louis DeLuca, William Snyder and I were on one team against six punks (their teenage kids and friends). Louis had played before, but this was a first for William and me. Even though we were old and fat (a consensus), we kept kicking their butts in the jungle.

William and Louis eliminated attackers while I was able to sneak to their fort for the flag. I think if we could have seen through the goggles, we could have done better in the “Speedball” phase (short-range, rapid-fire area with tires and barrels for shields).

I wonder why PJs would be good at aiming, shooting and dodging gunfire? Hmmm...
Anyway, I also got to use all the old Army training. It felt good to sneak up on people and kill them again. He he he...

I had to leave early for my shoots, but it was great while I was there. I did twist a knee and had a bit of a limp for the rest of the day, so it might not be a wise decision for others to try this on a workday.

Some of the other photo staffers expressed an interest in playing, but they had to cover the Byron Nelson golf tournament, the Fort Worth Air Show and other assignments on Saturday.
If our department ever gets a team together, I think it would be a dangerous team. It would be fun to take on the other Belo groups. I can see the photo department destroying the reporters, management, advertising department, circulation, etc.

It would also be fun to challenge the “beautiful people” on campus (WFAA News 8, and TXCN). I doubt the on-airs would be willing to play though (the bruises look pretty nasty). It would still be fun for our photo department to take on the cameramen from the two stations though. Possibly other media groups might want to challenge our department as well.

I keep thinking about the training potential for photojournalists. I think anyone considering going to a hot spot should try to photograph a few paintball games.

Each paintball game (where we were) is timed to 15 minutes. Consequently it is not too boring for the people who are eliminated early in a round. This allows PJs to try several levels of difficulty.

Until the PJ gets accustomed to the idea, the combating teams could agree not to deliberately shoot the PJ. Although everyone agrees not to shoot the PJ, it doesn’t mean the s/he is safe from stray rounds and mistaken identity. It is still a difficult environment to concentrate on proper exposure, composition and timing.

Although the PJ is avoiding incoming fire, s/he must remember the story and images are about the people who are being shot and how they react. It’s too easy to photograph the people shooting, or those who have been "killed." But those images don’t tell the story. The story is the second of impact and possibly the 10 seconds of immediate reaction time while people writhe on the ground and scream, “Stop! I’m dead!”

If the PJs are really paranoid on the first outing, they can wear an orange hunting vest. The belligerents may still get the PJ with stray rounds, but the odds of a mistake are minimized since the officials are wearing orange vests.

If the PJ makes it through the first test, s/he can then pick a team and be “embedded.” The objective could be as simple as staying alive and getting some images, or as complicated as moving up to photograph the opponent’s fort. Watch out for friendly fire though.

This challenge should be enough for anyone. However, if a PJ is preparing to go to an actual hot spot, it would be most accurate to play “dragon.” In other words, the PJ is neutral and a legitimate target for both sides.

I honestly don’t think there will ever be another “civilized” war where journalists are allowed to work without being a target for one or both sides. In many of the latest conflicts, both sides take more pride in killing journalists than opposing soldiers. Therefore this would be the best real-world challenge for a PJ.

If anyone can emerge from the woods with great images while both sides were aiming for a kill, they are almost ready to go into the real heat (nobody is ever ready to go into the real stuff – it sucks).

Enough for now,

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