Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Smoke and Mirrors

The shoot aint over until the smoke detector goes off.





My buddy Ian Curcio and I got together a few days ago in his hometown of Spartanburg, SC, to do a little shooting and a lot of socializing. He had invited me down to shoot a couple of models he knows from Converse College and had also arranged for us to shoot in an old house the school owns.


You can tell how a shoot is going to go by the equipment you take with you.


I personally packed a couple bags of light stands, a set of dyna-lites, a plethora of softboxes and umbrellas, two bags of cameras and lenses, a couple beauty dishes, a vagabond battery and a ringflash.


Ian didn’t have as much gear as I did, but he was close.


Between the two of us, we could have easily opened our own rental house.


That morning we loaded our cars full of gear, drove to the house and unpacked. To speed things up during the shoot, we set up as much of the gear as we could in a hallway: softboxes and a gaggle of lightstands. As it usually goes, over half of which sat in the hallway unused.


Along with the models and the house, Ian had also managed to procure the piece de resistance: a smoke machine.


For the record, smoke machines will set off smoke detectors. Make sure you have a ladder handy and preferably not up a flight of stairs and tucked away in a closet.


The day was a blast. We explored almost every nook and cranny in that old house: from the old furnace in the basement to the very colorful bathing facilities. They ranged from pink to purple to baby blue. And then some.




Needless to say, we both had fun and are ready for the next time we can get together to do this again.


I just hope by then I will have learned my lesson about overpacking.


Somehow, I have this funny feeling it’s a lesson I’ll be repeating again. And again. And again….

Super Size Me

There are some questions you have to ask. Even if you know the answer.

When I was photographing the Port of Charleston’s Wando Welch facility in Mt. Pleasant, SC, I asked my escort if it would be possible to get on one of the cranes used to load and offload ships. I was totally floored by her response.

“Let me check.”

In a few minutes our tour guide for this excursion, a crane supervisor, met us at the base of one of the cranes.

I was all set to start climbing the stairs to the top, after all, it was my brilliant idea. When to my surprise, and the answer to my quick prayers, the door to an elevator opened at the base of the crane. The elevator was a welcome relief, but just try stuffing three people into one.

From atop the crane, you get an idea of how big this facility really is. The containers look like little building boxes stacked in neat little rows throughout the complex; jockey trucks weaving their way around the ever constantly changing maze.

This was the first time my escort and I had ever been on a crane this size and we both welcomed the chance to step inside the cab of a Super post-Panamax crane and watch the operator work his magic.

I’m not that afraid of heights. Having worked about 300 feet above the Georgia Dome floor installing lights for a basketball game, you get accustomed really quick. Because the only thing that separates you from a 300 foot triple axle with a one and a half twist is a metal grate with holes big enough to almost slip through.

But walking into the cab made me a little uncomfortable.

Half the floor was made of very clear lexan.

You could see everything below from there. Which I guess is the point.

The operator moves the crane back and forth using a couple of joysticks as he grabs a container from the ship, raises it about a hundred feet in the air and drops it precisely on the back of a jockey truck.

The entire time I watching this guy and taking pictures, the only thing I can think of is how good he must be at the crane game at the arcade. His house must look like a reproduction of Noah’s Ark with all the stuffed animals he’s lifted from those machines.

Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s banned for life from the games at Chuck E. Cheese.

This crane is one of ten the port operates at the Wando Welch terminal: 6 are Super post-Panamax and 4 are post-Panamax.

A post-Panamax crane is capable of loading or unloading a ship that is too wide to pass through the Panama Canal. It generally has the reach to remove up to 18 rows of containers.

Now, the Super post-Panamax is the big daddy. Just like the post-Panamax crane, it is made for ships that are too wide to pass through the Panama Canal. But it’s reach is about 22 rows of containers and it has a lifting capacity of about 65 tons. It’s also about 180 feet tall and the boom is over 400 feet long, well over the size of a football field.

With these cranes, super truly is an understatement.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I Ate Stanley's Brother-In-Law

That’s what one of the bumper sticker affixed to the window says. Accolades and pictures hang on the wall under a set of horns from a longhorn steer. Framed articles from BScene, IN Magazine, Texas Monthly and County Line pepper the wall. 

Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Que has been a Tyler, TX, institution for over 50 and has been a repeat honoree on the Texas Monthly best BBQ list for years.

But their most recent award came this past year at the inaugural Texas Monthly Best BBQ Festival. Out of all the competitors from around the state, (Texas Monthly only invited about 20 out of the 50 on their Best BBQ in Texas list) Stanley’s took home the people’s choice award for best BBQ, which owner Nick Pencis considers a truly prestigious honor.

The sign out the door lists the sold out items as they get devoured, which happens often since everything is made daily. It’s not quite 11am and there’s already a line that’s formed. Lunch runs from 11-2 “or ‘til it’s all gone.” 

One of the favorites on the menu is the Brother-In-Law sandwich which consists of a grilled hot link, cheese and either chopped brisket or pulled pork. The sandwich is then bathed in barbecue sauce goodness before the top of the bun goes on. Try it with a little onions, jalapenos and hot sweet pickles.

After serving up so many brother-in-law and ex-wife sandwiches, you’d think Stanley’s would have done run out of extended family. But until the steady line of customers dies down, or it hits the sold out board, they just keep making more.

Also, don’t let the full parking lot discourage you, there’s more parking out back.

Just like the bumper sticker says, I ate Stanley’s Brother-In-Law. And I’d do it again.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Zoom, Zoom in the Zoo City

Anybody who knows me, knows I'm quite a geek when it comes to gear. So it will come as no surprise that I bought a new toy to play with.

I got a GoPro HD camera a few weeks ago and couldn't wait to try it.

Fortunately for me, I had an assignment to take pictures at Zoo City Motor Sports Park in Asheboro, NC. The park was built by Barry Maness to host motocross events and attracts riders from up and down the east coast.

When I got to the track, Barry was kind enough to point me in the direction of Steve York and his son Eden. Eden is starting out in motocross and agreed to take my GoPro for a spin during one of his races. It you watch to about the 1:13 mark, you'll see Eden and the camera soar through the air on one of the jumps.