Friday, April 24, 2009

Getting Better

I slept in until 4:34 a.m. today. I eventually fell unconscious again until shortly after 6 when awakened by the chirping of a bird outside my bedroom window.

The early bird gets the worm but this early bird wants a mate.

I had to work today covering the state high school weightlifting championships. The event continues tomorrow, starting 90 minutes earlier at 10:30 a.m.

I hope I don't oversleep!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Someone Wondered...

...what happened to John Mcquiston?

A recent visitor landed here from a Yahoo! search for that phrase.

I guess we did have a few viewers. I appreciate the interest.

Little Idle Time

I turned and looked at the clock. 3:24 a.m. The alarm had not gone off but I had waken anyway at the exact time WUSF-FM's overnight jazz program would have jarred me out of my unsettled slumber.

This time, for the first time since last August, a weekday morning in my own bed began with no need to rise at this ungodly hour. I could sleep until 7 like people do. Which I did. After I lay awake for an hour trying to shut my brain back down.

It won't take too long to adjust to normal sleep patterns and to recover from the nearly constant exhaustion that comes from working an early morning shift. Good thing. There's work to do.

Friday and Saturday I cover the high school state weightlifting championships for a state-wide sports network. I have to build a web site for my possibly soon-to-launch photography business and work on another for a friend.

I've already tweaked the homepage at to remove mention of specific jobs in favor of a more overarching statement. I need to drum up story ideas for, though I wonder how much longer that gig is going to last. They've had some layoffs and payments are taking longer to arrive. That's ominous.

And I have to find more clients who can benefit from someone who can tell visual stories whether it's on air or online with video and sound or using cave drawings and smoke signals.

(Smoke signal service will resume once our drought ends and fire danger warnings expire.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Ads by Google

There are some. While messing with the formatting of the blog I noticed a tab that read "Monetize." A few steps later I had the small banner with links to ads. The first group read "Packaging Tampa," "Mail Service Tampa," "Shipping Cost Tampa," "UPS Ground Tampa" and "Pack and Ship Tampa."

I would tell you that these links lead you to fine upstanding companies that deserve your patronage but my terms of service (TOS) agreement specifically forbids me from clicking on them so I have no idea where they go. And I am enormously curious! As curious as my cat when she spies an open closet door. She cannot resist investigating.

But I must.

I would tell you go check them out on my behalf but the TOS also bars me from encouraging people to click on the links. If you happen to click on any of the ad links above, that's fine. I think that's why they're there. In fact, advertising is what makes the world wide web go around. Just know that you click without any urging by me.

Don't misunderstand. I'm not suggesting that you DON'T click on any of the ad links above. Nothing bad will happen to you if you do, at least not to my knowledge. I can't say with certainty what will happen because I have never clicked on one. For all I know, they're not real links and I've polluted my blog for no reason.

I have to trust the fine folks at Google not to do that to me. I was made to understand that if enough people do click on the ad links above — WITHOUT ANY PROMPTING FROM ME — that Google will even pay me. This could just be fantasy on my part. Regardless, don't click an ad link for my sake. According to the TOS, I am expressly prohibited from asking you to support this blog by clicking one of the ad links above.

However, if for totally random reasons, you do click an ad link above, please report back to me what you find. I'll have to double-check the TOS but I think I'm allowed to ask that.

The End at Ch. 10

The station discovered this blog and didn't like it.

That means I don't have to go in and train the new traffic anchor any more. (My temporary on-air stint ended last week. I had been asked to stay and help train the permanent hire.)

While glad not to have to wake at 3:24 a.m., I'm disappointed that someone would find what I write here offensive. That's not my aim. I'm just telling stories; that's what I do. I even withheld some of the better ones to protect the innocent and the only person I have deliberately poked fun at on this blog is its author.

And he's not that bad a guy, other than his occasional penchant for referring to himself in the third person.

On the Road Alone

The radio was nothing but static so I turned it off. Not literal static, just noise I didn't need driving to work. Everything on AM seemed to be screaming at me. WUSF-FM plays jazz overnights but often the kind that John Lennon complained "played too darn fast." I'd take that rock-n-roll music the old Beatle preferred but rock-n-roll stations are playing the same songs they played when Lennon was still listening. I like Led Zeppelin but I don't need to hear "Ramble On" every day.

I rode alone through the dark of the too early morning to the hum of tires on the highway. It was refreshing. With few other cars to contend with, I was free to daydream my way through downtown Tampa and across the Howard Frankland Bridge. I think people are afraid to be left with nothing but their own thoughts to occupy them. We need noises, voices -- anything to entertain us, anything to keep us from being alone.

Humans are social animals but alone-time in small doses is healthy for us.

Danielle is not ready to face doing traffic reports at WTSP alone. When I walked in to the studio control room where she sat in front of the traffic computer, she turned and burst into a big smile as she saw me. "There you are!" She said. "I thought you had stood me up. Just like prom."

I called her on that. "Nobody has ever stood you up," I said. "When you call, people come running."

She looks that good.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


My web stats counter tells me that my web site and this blog have seen many more visitors since my temporary run as WTSP's morning traffic anchor ended last week.

Maybe someone was watching after all. Who knew?

When I got a call last August asking me to fill in "until further notice," I had no idea that the gig would last as long as it did. Last week I told the news director, "I know you didn't mean to give me eight months of work but I appreciate it anyway."

And I do. I never had any illusions that I was going to get the job permanently. No one led me on. I showed up, did my job, and went home. They paid in U.S. dollars every two weeks. I had a great time and I think the people at the station -- both on the air and off -- appreciated me. Some of them even still like me.

I would have liked it better if they could have done the morning show later in the day but, hey, you can't have everything. Plus, I had the rest of the day free to pursue other freelance work, which I should have done more industriously.

I have to endure the inhuman early A.M. alarm clock setting for a while longer to help the new traffic anchor get up to speed. What's funny about that is that I'm not a permanent employee of, which provides the traffic information, as well as the person who delivers it on the air, to the station.

People at the station would ask me questions about things going on at and I'd shrug my shoulders and day, "I don't know." I've been to its Tampa operations center four times. Once for my interview, once for a mandatory meeting and two other times to drop off paperwork.

I'm just a fill-in!

Although the new hire, Danielle, got training from both the head of's television division and someone in the Tampa ops center, much of it has been left to me. Danielle calls me her coach.

I'm just a fill-in!

But I'll do what I can.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Tampa Bay Downs

After shooting — and brunch — with Lindsey, Drew and a surprisingly trouble-free Reese, who was a good sport throughout, I went to Tampa Bay Downs to try my luck with the ponies.

Shooting them rather than betting. I got a decent sequence coming out of the starting gate. And a rare shot of three horses bunched up — all with all of their hooves off the ground.

I just missed getting a shot of a horse bucking off its jockey in the paddock area where they parade before going out onto the track.

On the left side you can see the guy who had been walking the horse on the ground as another man tries to reach for the reins. The horse had been acting up and had I paid better attention I would have gotten a great shot. At least no one got hurt.

Lettuce Lake Park

Yeah, it's been a while, I know.

I thought I had finished the temporary job doing the traffic on WTSP. My last scheduled day was Friday. Thursday my boss at, which provides the traffic service to the station, called me. A rehearsal with the new full-time hire did not go well. Could I come in for her first two weeks and help her get acclimated?

So today, viewers of Ch. 10's morning show did not see me (much to their dismay, I'm sure) but I still got to go to the station at 4 a.m. and make sure everything was properly set for each traffic report, which Danielle Saar delivered on the air.

Maybe photography will produce a paycheck soon. Yesterday I had another pro bono (read: pro portfolio) shoot. A friend of the woman featured in my last shoot was impressed by the pictures and asked who shot them.

That's how I came to possess these photographs of Lindsay, Drew and their 8-month-old daughter Reese in Tampa's Lettuce Lake Park.

We shot 380 photographs in a little more than an hour. As has become my custom, I didn't give the subjects a lot of direction. I don't want people self-conscious about their posing. I'd rather capture natural moments. My favorite photos are rarely the ones where people are looking at the camera. Digital photography lets me snap away without worrying that every frame has to turn out well.

I used a longer lens that put some distance between them and me and I didn't usually tell them when I was shooting. People are going to be a lot more comfortable interacting with each other than with this guy with the camera they just met. Then it's up to me to notice when to zoom in on fingers and toes.

I cropped these photos a little to perfect their framing but not a lot. A little Photoshop touch-up was all they needed. I was really pleased by the results. Reese had no complaints and her parents seemed thrilled -- especially for the price -- and offered to write a testimonial for me.

Maybe it's time to turn pro.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009 drew its first inquiry yesterday. It's a web site I built for a business I've toyed with launching to produce video biographies and other personal documentaries.

I haven't actually incorporated the business or advertised the site.

Its URL (or web address) is very search engine friendly. The site usually appears on Google's first page of results for personal documentaries and my web stats counter tells me that people stumble across it from time to time.

Again, this happens despite absolutely no effort on my part to publicize the site.

Yesterday one of the visitors wrote asking where I was located, whether I traveled and how much I charged. That's pretty amazing since I haven't listed any prices or details of the services we'll offer. It could be that the person was looking for something on the cheap but the question about whether we travel tells me that's not the case.

The significance is that the site, even in its unfinished form, impresses people with the quality of the work. I'm supposed to shoot interviews for another "demo" featuring a friend's parents this week. That should yield more examples for the web site.

If this lead turns into a possible paying job, I'll have to find a CPA and set up a corporation.

I Like My Nuts

... As much as the next guy. But apparently not as much as the next squirrel.

How do you get a squirrel to go through an obstacle course?

You train it.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Better Focus

These are from last weekend at Tampa Bay Downs. When I covered the high school girls soccer championship games I noticed that the still photographers shot using auto focus. Believe it or not, I had barely tried the auto focus on my fancy pants (read: $2,000) lens. So I shot races using auto focus.

It worked. The photos came out in focus. Unfortunately, auto focus won't cure poor framing or bad timing. A lot of the shots just missed being really good. Running horses look elegant only in that moment when all four of their hooves are off the ground and gathered under them.

If only I could have snapped the shutter at one of those moments. I think if I shoot just JPG instead of JPG+RAW, the camera will let me shoot faster.

And after going through the effort to create and upload the slide show I realize that I had not included a couple of my favorite shots. After the race, the jockeys and other people connected to the horses (trainers, walkers and the like) walk along the track back to the paddock area.