Thursday, April 21, 2011

Let Us Dance ...

Rehearsal at the Lexington School of Dance in anticipation of the recital in April. I really like this -- shot with the Zeiss 21 on my Leica M4-2, using Kodak BW400CN film -- mostly because I think it has a Robert Frank aspect to it.

I loaded the Leica with some old 800 speed color film for the performance. I was backstage because the show included and Father-Daughter dance, an anecdote-filled experience that perhaps I shall tell later. Here, however, we see a tap number some time before mine, viewed from the wings.

Caty's tap number viewed from backstage. She had to rush off from this for a costume change for our Father-Daughter number later. Caty is to the right, in the rear row, or perhaps best described as second from the left.

And, finally, Caty and, in the shadows to the left, Janey reaching out to her sister. Another dancer has caught me making pictures...

Two performances were scheduled, but on the second night the weather closed in with heavy rain and wind triggering tornado warnings and flooding. The lower level of the theater was flooded, eventually flooding the electrical room and forcing a postponement. I proceeded to claim God had decided one performance by the Daddies was enough, but we have been rescheduled for May.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

There Was A Mighty Wind ...

Meteorologist Jay Webb in the weather center at the station. This is one of the very few times I wish I had shot in color; around him are radar displays in bright reds, yellows and greens, indicating dangerous thunderstorms in the area.

Earlier, a line of storms had generated tornadoes to the south, in Pulaski County. The morning after, reporter Chris Hurst and I were dispatched there for a live report from the scene for the morning show.

The aftermath of the storms left the entire valley shrouded in thick fog. We drove for an hour in a blanket of dawn-lit white. The center of Pulaski proper seemed fine. But for the heavy police presence, one might have thought the town escaped unharmed. We set up by a state police roadblock.

After the morning show, we set out to find the scene of the damage. Local police with the aid of state police had thrown up roadblocks to seal the area off, but we knew more or less where the tornado had struck, and found a road that was open. The scene was devastating.

The white stuff (pink and yellow actually) is household insulation, shredded and blown across the neighborhood when roofs and walls were peeled away from houses.

A teddy bear -- just one of an uncounted amounts of personal possessions scattered about. In the news business, there is a certain standardization to this sort of thing, a regularity to the randomness of disaster. You can count on the unbroken window in the only remaining wall of a destroyed building, or the yard chair tidily deposited in the tree branches. But perhaps the cruelest thing of all is the casual smearing about of the flotsam of life, all that stuff either tidily packed away or perhaps thoughtlessly tossed in a drawer. Now it's everywhere, covered in mud, pitted and bent and soaked with rain: a picture of Mom here, a towel there. And there's always a teddy bear.

Unfortunately, even in color, the brown bear didn't really pop against the muddied background, making it hard to figure out what it was in a short look, so the shot didn't make it to TV. I'm not sure that it's that good a still, either, but I cling to it for some reason...

After filming in Pulaski proper, we headed out to Draper, a small town out in the county. Chris had been out there the night before, when the storms were still raging (he was operating on about two hours sleep as we worked). "I want to show you something," he said insistently as we drove out of town. We went to the Draper exit from the interstate, where a hollow (pronounced, as a general rule, "holler," around here) had been hit by the storm. Trees all down the hillside had been sheared and pushed over.

But now it was a tourist attraction, with a constant series of cars pulling up to stare, people parking to climb out, gawk at the scene, and take pictures with their cell phones. Across the highway, a gas station had been utterly destroyed, but it didn't draw the attention of the cutoff trees in the tiny valley.

We parked the car at a sheriff's roadblock and walked in to the scene of a trailer home that had been lifted from its foundations, reduced to its component parts, and then deposited some 20 feet away.

It's hard to wrap your head around a loss at this scale. Fortunately, the owner was out at dinner when the tornado struck, and was left unscratched. But everything he owned, all of his physical life, had been crushed, scattered and soaked.

I often try to put myself in the place of story subjects. I think we all do: How would I have escaped the killer? Where would I have taken shelter from the flood? How could I cope with the loss of ... everything? I don't know. Oddly, it reminds me of the challenge of cleaning an out of control, cluttered room. I often find myself paralyzed by the enormity of the task; where to begin? Where does this guy begin?