So my standing joke today has been about how I cheated death while covering Virginia Tech football yesterday.
I was sent to film (or rather, video, but I find that as a verb ... unpleasant) the final Tech scrimmage. It actually was the first time I'd been sent to cover the football team, and so my first problem on arrival was figuring out where to park, followed by where to go into the stadium and where to stand and shoot. I finally settled down by the sidelines, which has the advantage of providing more dramatic pictures, but the dual disadvantage of requiring one to hand hold the camera and be right next to the action ... which occasionally spills over onto the sidelines.
I give the sports anchor credit: He used the footage well, even to telling a little joke as it happens, but from my point of view at the time, it was one of those classic photographer's moments -- one in which the mind goes from "This looks pretty good" to "Hey, it's headed right my way, great" to "Oh, crap, I'm gonna' die" in a matter of seconds. You see, the quarterback took the ball and faded back to throw, but the rush was too strong and he broke out of the pocket and ... well, he ran right at me.
In that moment when I went from shooting to running for my life (a delicate instant, as the heavy TV camera makes you really top-heavy, and thus off balance from the start), I put out my left hand in a reflexive stiff-arm, to push him away. In retrospect, it was an absurd gesture, like the baseball trying to push the bat away. (Or perhaps a ping pong ball pushing a bat away, to make the proportions of speed and size more accurate, but I had better stop before my metaphors become too tangled.) I'm just glad no one else was filming out there, to get the comedic scene of me, too slow off the mark, rebounding off the armored giant as he plowed through.
Sore from the day's shooting (I am too old for football, I think; three hours of a camera on the shoulder is too long), I drove home to the girls' dance recital: some three hours of mostly small girls (and a few older ones) showing what they've learned through the years in a grand gala.
One can't be too critical of 3 or 7 year-olds, so it's not like I expected the Ballet Russes. Much of the performance of the school-age kids consisted of "What move is next," while the littlest ones engage in what I call "Choreography by committee." In those, the tots do their first move, then pause. There's a moment of consultation among the young dancers, and consensus is reached, and they move on to the next step or two. Often at this point, their teacher has built in a moment of free dance, which can involve just about anything from standing with a puzzled look to gleeful posing to running around in circles. Then there's the sudden recognition of a musical theme by the dancers, calling the committee once again to order. Consensus is again quickly reached, and the dance goes on like so...
As they age, as I said, the steps are more easily memorized, and order of a sort comes from chaos, even if it is an order of Step-two-three, Turn-turn, Pose-two-three. Rigid smiles (on the better performers) mask a fearful concentration to remember what comes next. The lesser performers have looks of fearful concentration. The main break in this comes when it is time for a leap. Then suddenly all fear sloughs away, and girls who went timidly from motion to motion suddenly charge out like eager fullbacks with the goal line in sight, flinging themselves into the air at center stage and careening to a halt just short of crashing into the wings.
I'll have to remember not to film that from the wings, for though the girls may carry less weight than Tech's quarterback, they surely have the speed and all the enthusiasm. I'm not sure who will fend off who there either.
Welcome to my world...