Friday, December 29, 2006
We are lucky in many ways as our jobs give us an up close first hand look often of what becomes history. It may not be world history or even national history, but often stories we cover become local history. We meet interesting people, we experience events, mind you, through a lens, but we experience none the less.
2006 began with a federal election in Canada. A change of government. Not a world historical event, but perhaps a national one. My assignment was at a cabinet minister's reception. He won that night, but within weeks defected over to other side of the House. It was a story that had legs for several weeks, but like most things political, blew over and we won't know if it has helped or hurt him until the next federal vote. That Vote may come as early as the spring of 2007.
I was fortunate enough to have been assigned to the 2006 Torino Winter Olympic Games. It was an experience I will never forget. It was a grind, but our crew managed to squeeze in some events. Hockey games and the closing ceremonies. It was my second Olympic games, yet my first "working" games. Anybody who knows me, knows that the highlight for me was getting my photo with none other than Number 99 himself.
As far as my duties aboard Chopper 9 was concerned, the year was pretty good as well. The Olympic trip took me off the flightline for a month but the summer and fall were very good to me both in terms of flight hours and stories covered. My colleagues, Pete Cline and Gary Barndt both logged lots of hours and covered some rather great stories. My most memorable story from the air was the Kidnapping recover Operation in the spring. We were high above the house where a young man who had been held against his will for a week, was rescued by a Police/RCMP tactical unit.
The weather played a big part of our Stories cover this year, from near record rain last January to the heat and dry summer, to the storms of the fall. We are still cleaning up from the last one.
We had some big stories, the Queen of the North sinking, the storms, the mounting casualties of Canada's young men and women in the deserts of Afghanistan. These all shaped the year that was.
Covering these stories we met some very interesting people. Some famous, most not so famous but all had compelling stories and I know I feel richer for having met and spoken to them. Some like Mario, the restaurateur in Turin, Italy, who didn't realize just how busy his establishment was going to get during the Games. His place was a two minute walk from our media village and even though his usual closing time was 11PM, stayed open until 3AM so that the ravenous media hoard would get a hot meal at the end of the days work. He always met us at the door with a smile and still sends me the occasional email just to say hi.
Not to mention Alberto our driver/guide, in the business we call them a "fixer". Here's a lad in Medical school and he worked his ass off for us while in Italy, never complained once or if he did it was in Italian and we didn't understand it.
But what always amazes me, are the folks that we intrude upon, dare I say invade, daily, for whatever reason. Fire, flooding, accidents, streeters, you name it. We rely on people to share their stories with us. And they do. Many I will only remember as a face ( I am horrible with names anyway). Some days it truly is one of the wonders of our business.
Yes, I have been blessed this past year. Working in a profession that I love. Meeting new people everyday. Yes all this and I fly. Can it get any better??
I guess we will see what the new year brings, better yet, what the next assignment brings. I'm back to work tomorrow.
Friday, December 22, 2006
I want you all to have a Merry Christmas.
It is about to get very busy for allot of us during the next few days. Some of you may be traveling, others getting the last minute shopping done. The stress will be high, and the race will be on, but please, please take a moment to be nice to a stranger. A smile, some kind words, a cup of coffee, or some spare change, hold the door open for someone, it doesn't matter. Allow the spirit of the season to dictate your actions. Remember the reason for the season.
Travel safe, enjoy the moments, give your time to those you love.
All the very best of the Season to you and your families.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
For three days we had been hearing weather casters of every stripe predicting the third major storm of the season. High winds, rain miserable stuff. Now why those folks in assignment and in the planning department, and I say this with respect, don't take heed of those "beware the ides of March" like predictions and make oh I don't know, perhaps a game plan is well beyond me. I guess it's more of a test when there is no plan.
So off I go into the darkness searching for the destruction I turned on my radio and scanners and just started taking notes. Oh my, I thought, this was a big one.
A few weeks earlier we were hit with another big wind and rain storm. At that time I was assigned to the area to the north side of the Burrard Inlet. The winds were very strong, but in a typical East Coaster's attitude I thought that these people in the west were really weather weenies as it was just a bit of rain and some wind. It wasn't until I got to our assignment area in West Vancouver, that I saw just how big this first storm would be. Trees down, power out, driving rain. Now that's more like it I thought, that's more like a good Bay of Fundy gale. I was with Mike K on that day. We hadn't worked that much together since our return from the Torino Games in February. It was wet and miserable. The winds were blowing down large numbers of trees over roads, into houses, downing power lines. This weather system was as good as I have seen so far in my time on the pacific coast.
There were a few scary moments during that day. One when, I was at the Eagle Ridge exit overpass. I had to cross the overpass on foot to get a shot of the traffic being turned around on the highway. As I crossed the overpass, a gust of wind made me into a rather awkward projectile for a couple of seconds. I'm a pretty hefty fellow, yet for an instant, I was defying everything about aerodynamics and became a "flying cameraman" minus the flying machine. I decided that the rest of the traverse would be made on my hands and knees. I got my shot and headed back. On the return leg I got clipped by a pine cone that nearly knocked me out. I suddenly became an instant admirer of those poor bastards with the power corp trying to restore power.
When I returned the the building later in the day. All the crews had similar war stories to tell. For me that storm was as good as any I had experienced back east.
The second major weather event came just a week later. This time I was on flight duty, so my contribution would be from a warm aircraft cabin. This one would involve SNOW. For those of you not from the northwest, SNOW is a four letter word, especially in Vancouver. In the past I have seen the entire lower mainland shut down with just an inch of the white stuff on the ground. It's partly because, there are allot of drivers that have virtually no experience with the snow and partly because the works people in the GVRD have sold all of the snow plows for some magic beans. All we have left to deal with the snow is a shovel and a bag of sand.
Well this storm, the forecast called for several inches, like 12 or something. Yes we were about to get a visit from the Four Snowmen of the Apocalypse.
Again, power out , schools closed, traffic at a stand still. Crews working very hard to bring the video and stories to air. The way they spoke of it on the all news radio stations, you would have thought we were indeed living in the end times. I am sure the folks in Toronto, whom we generally laugh at during the winter months, with the cold and snow, while out here we golf and tend our spring gardens, were laughing their asses off at us.
Don't get too smug Toronto, we didn't have to call in the army to shovel us out!!!!
That brings us to storm #3. The early morning call out and the destruction of this past Friday. I have never seen as many trees down, and I am not talking about the little weenie trees that can be found to the east of the Rockies. We're talking trees that are 150 feet high and several feet in diameter. There were no shortage of stories to tell. In my suburb, Coquitlam/Port Moody there were over 40 homes damaged. Some will or have been condemned. Imagine sleeping and suddenly you are awakened by the crashing sound of a western cedar tree cutting through your house. You couldn't travel more than a couple of blocks and not see some massive tree or other debris on the roadway or on top of a house. There were wide spread power outages. Some had just got their power back from the last storm and now it's out again. I personally was lucky. We did not loose power nor sustained any damage.
Yes it was a tough few weeks as far as covering weather stories is concerned, not as tough as a year ago in New Orleans, but tough none the less.
We got another one on the way later this week, I guess I better get some fresh lens wipes and a hair dryer.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
I had been looking forward to Saturday for some time. It was party time at the Talon hangar. A kick off to the holiday season if you will. But this gathering means a bit more to me than most realize. Every year for who knows how many years, Peter and Ronn put on a party for all of their clients, friends and family, as I suppose a way to say thanks. Thanks for the business, thanks for the support, thanks for making Talon Helicopters a success.
It's a grand affair, live music, helicopter rides, things to do for the kids and of course food. Lots of food and drink.
One of the items on the menu comes from my home part of the country, live lobster, cooked up and served up to the guests. Its a treat that most here in the West only have on the most special of occasions. And this occasion is indeed special.
Three years ago when I was invited to attend this event for the first time, I offered to help Ronn cook the lobster. The cooking area was outside of the hangar, the pots on gas burners. We had a large table in which to crack open the shells for the many guests. I relished the job as any true maritimer would.
Now many out here in the West have ever cooked or even shelled a lobster. If they have had it on the plate it has been at a fancy eating establishment and the crustation has already been shelled for them. Watching Ronn that first time was rather amusing as he had a pair of surgical scissors to open the tails after they had been cooked. For the claws, a hammer.
"What are you doing!" I remember saying to him with a look of disbelief.
"This is how we do it here in BC." he said with a smile.
"My god man we'll be here all day and night, we need a couple of cleavers"
The next year, I found myself back at the lobster table, this time well prepared for battle.
Hidey, two of our pilots. They kept filling up the pots when the lobster were finished cooking.
The next thing you know I have an audience watching me whack these things. Bits of shell flying here and there, the heads ( the folks out here don't care for the heads, they're tail and claw people) stacking up on the table before me. It was a spectacle. The next thing I know I have people asking me how to cook them, how to shell them, one person asked me what restaurant I worked at, he thought I was a chief. I guess I fooled him. In any event I am having a great time as I am getting in touch with my maritime heritage. I feel I some old salty bugger from Fiddlehead Cove or that sea captain from the Simpsons.
This year I was ready to do battle with the clawed ones yet once more. I do love it. Its once a year and for some reason people seem to think I know what I am doing. (fooled them again) This year I would have the privilege of having a special guest along side me for the lobster boil, Mr. Wheeler. His son Kelsy is one of the pilots. Mr. Wheeler is also from the maritimes. So the Lobsters this year were indeed in good hands. We worked all day and when were were done we had cooked, cracked and split 10 cases, that's near 300 of the tasty little nippers.
The party seemed to be a success again this year. I understand that there were more than 600 people. I didn't get inside much to have a look. We were having too much fun boiling up a storm. The thing I forgot about from previous years was just how tired I get after the cooking is done. Oh well I have all year to rest up and get ready to hopefully do it all over again next year.
For those of you who might be curious about just how to cook one of these tasty beasts, here's what you do:
Boil a large pot of water (Sea water is best, but you can add salt to your tap water, I find the more salt the better)
The larger the pot the better.
When the pot is at a hard boil, add the Live Lobster head first completely immersing the fish.
When the water comes back to a boil, begin timing.
Boil for 12-14 minutes.
Use some tongs to remove the lobster. Rinse under cold water.
Now here's the tricky part, cracking open the shell and splitting the tail.
You can use nut crackers if you got them or a meat cleaver. Remove the tail from the body with a twisting action. It should breakaway easily. Now remove the claws from the body. You can crack open the claws with your nut crackers and use your cleaver to split the tail into two. Enjoy!
Some people like melted butter for dipping the meat.
Next post will be back to News Gathering, I promise.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Back in 1998, our family had just finished unpacking from our cross country relocation. The big city was a strange and new kinda place. One that offered many more entertainment options than we had been accustomed to back East. (For those of you who don't know me , back "East" means the Maritimes.) When I arrived in August of 97 I learned that the Rolling Stones would be making a tour stop in Vancouver in January. For me the Stones in the city area where I lived seemed odd. The closest Mick, Keith, Ronnie and Charlie ever played for us in the Maritimes was either Boston or Montreal. Either way it was a nine or ten hour drive to Montreal or Boston. Out of the question except for the most die hard of fan.
Anyway I was able to get some tickets for the 98 tour, Bridges to Babylon. Not only was I able to score tickets but they were 14th row floor tickets. When my wife arrived later that fall, I surprised her with the tickets. It would be our first Stones concert and we were jacked about it.
My memories of our first Stones live experience are still vivid to this day. BC Place is a large stadium, perhaps not by American standards, but large none the less. The place went dark, there was a large cheer of anticipation. I was wide eyed and anxious. Then suddenly the sound of a familiar riff. Lights begin to come up and there larger than life is Keith in a leopard patterned gunslinger like coat, cig lit and hanging from his mouth, striding to front stage playing "Satisfaction". Mick appears as almost by magic, again larger than life from our 14th row seat. We are on our feet and cheer like little school girls and just like that the Stones spectacular begins. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. We both had smiles on for the rest of the evening. It truly was a magical night for the two of us as we witnessed the spectacle that is the Rolling Stones live experience.
We were both amazed at how Mick would run from extreme stage left to extreme stage right. You couldn't take your eyes off of him.
Now nine years later, they were back. I was away when tickets went on sale, so I missed out. Before you know it the place is sold out. I was able to get my hands on a pair of cheaper seats, which I no doubt paid too much for, but it was about being in the building for me. I would take my son on this occasion. And when we climbed into our seats, I realized just how bad they were. I did my best to hide my disappointment to my son as this would be his first concert and I didn't want it to be a bad one.
As disappointing as our seats were, they did give me a perspective which was totally missed during my 14 th row view of nine years ago. That of just how big the show really is. It seems that the Mick, Keith and the lads have figured out how to play to the entire venue.
I couldn't make out any facial features from the back. Yet thanks to a massive screen center stage, you seldom missed anything. We were surrounded by first time Stones goers and I guess you could say that their excitement of being there kinda made up for my rather poor ticket selection.
Again I was in awe of how Mick would sprint from one side of the stage to the other. The guy never stopped moving. For a man of 63, it boggles me as I was winded just getting up the stairs to my seat. There were several great moments in the show. When Mick introduced the band, there was a long and thunderous ovation for Keith Richards. He seemed genuinely moved by this and as he approached the center stage mic, he said in typical Richards form, "I've forgotten what I'm supposed to do. It must be brain damage." The crowd went wild. And I will give credit to the Video director and one of the camera guys but at that very moment the shot in the big screen switched to a crowd shot of a guy holding an inflatable palm tree. I laughed my ass off. It was a great moment.
Keith went onto perform 3 numbers giving Mick a rest back stage and no wonder. The man must have run a half Marathon in that first half of the show. When he returned to the stage the best part of the show was to begin. Again as in the Bridges' tour the lads migrated from the main stage to a center stage located in the middle of the venue. This time instead of walking over a bridge, they gathered near Charlie's drum kit and the stage began to move forward. All the while playing "Miss You". The mini mobile stage moves about 70 yards down field giving all of us in the crap seats a good look and a great performance.
They wrap up the mini stage "B" portion with 'Honky Tonk Woman", the stage begins to migrate back to the main stage, the crowd is going wild and out of the giant screen comes this maga inflatable mouth/tongue. I glanced at my son, who was now really enjoying the visual barrage that was before us.
Mick performed "Sympathy for the Devil" after the return to the main stage. It was classic. Flames from the top of the 9 story set, Mick in his red and black belting it our, again never still for more than 2 seconds. It was truly the kind of moment that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck.
Before long after a couple more numbers, Mick said' Thank you Good Night Vancouver!"
My son said "Is it over?"
"No" I said, "they will do one encore. and the last song will be "Satisfaction".
Out they came, with "You Can't Get What You Want", Mick taking the opportunity to sprint again both stage left and right and then down the stairs back out to the stage "B" site saluting the fans in all directions but especially those up near the ceiling, pointing, acknowledging those of us who didn't get the good seats.
They finished with "Satisfaction" and with that my second Stones concert was complete. Sitting in the rafters enabled me to see just how incredible a performer Mick Jagger is. He played to the entire stadium. Fifty Five thousand people went home happy. My son, his first concert, a STONES concert. Yes they are the greatest Iconic Rock 'n Roll band of our time. I feel fortunate to have experience their live show, not once, but twice. I cannot compare this experience to my 14 row ,, yet I got to see the show from a far and you know, "you can't always get what you want, but you get what you need!"
I got what I needed. A different Stones experience.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
There are a couple of true-isms about the Grey Cup. There's people from all over Canada, there's plenty of hops, and when the party goers need to eat, they eat meat. Now keeping this in mind, people watching at any of the watering venues is of course entertaining. After my first day and we coiled up the cables after our live hits, we thought we would go and grab a mug and check out the Grand Hall at the Convention Center.
The place was packed and there was a line waiting to get in, but our media accreditation's enable us to all jump the que. We were lucky to find a table and sat down to enjoy a hard earned beer and listen to the thump, thump of the live band playing. You could barely hear yourself think.
Maritimes with ATV. It's Janet Stuart. I haven't seen her in 10 years. I stay behind and tell the gang I will meet up with them in a few minutes.
I was able to catch up with the lads at the restaurant. But that too had a long line of people waiting to get in. Kink had called me, to find out where the hell I was. I was stopped by the door by the doorman.
"Hi, I got my crew inside they have a table and a seat and are waiting for me"
He looks at me and says, "You'll have to go to the end of the line, we're at our limit"
Now I may have paraphrased his answer, and I didn't add the rude tone to his voice. "Friendly Manitoba", my ass, I thought.
A quick call to Kink on the inside and the blockade was breached. I was in , Camera and all.
It was there that I tasted for the first time a thing called a bison burger. It was dry, but very filling and very tasty. Before the trip was over I would return for two more.
From there we returned to the Convention center for a nightcap. Along the way we are laughing about a story that Kink was telling about his exit from the convention center earlier in the evening.
He was of course hungry as he left and instead of going out the crowded exit he decided to go out some emergency doors. There were supposed to be alarmed, but with the noise of the band, the alarm went unnoticed. As he exited the others seeing him leave follow. Kink is about 10 seconds a head of them. He rounds the corner and heads down the stairs and to his surprise, shock or perhaps amazement, he happens upon a young party goer in a squatting position, undies around her ankles, relieving herself.
"Are you alright?" He asks not knowing what is happening.
She apparently is too embarrassed to answer, realizing that this is maybe her most awkward moment of her life.
Nope, that was about tens seconds later when, suddenly the rest of the posse comes around the corner. Now it's the worst moment in this young lady's life.
Of course Kink tells the story much better than I but you get the idea.
As we are walking out of the Convention Center for the final time of the evening, we are relaying war stories and the like when we notice a police wagon and some guys speaking to police officers. Nothing unusual. Then one of the officers says "OK, hurry up and get in back , we'll take ya"
Suddenly several fellows get into the back of the paddy wagon, voluntarily. As it turns out, the police drove these guys, there was about 10 of them to another party. They went from Police to cab, free. Not bad. Maybe this was Friendly Manitoba after all.
Of course we noticed the dropping temperatures as we walked back to our vehicles. We are from the West Coast, cold temps are something that we have heard of but we have to got to the mountains to find them. We're such wusses when it comes to weather and the cold.
Monday, November 20, 2006
When we left the hotel, Perry and I headed over the CTV Winnipeg. This first morning for me on the ground at the Grey Cup would be one of getting my barrings and getting organized. First stop CFL HQ to get an accreditation photo. It turned out to be a very trouble free task.
Next on the agenda was to get out to Lion's practice at the stadium.
"Perry, we need to stop on the way and get me some gloves or mitts"
I knew I would forget something in my haste in packing of a day earlier. That something was a pair of 1/2 mitt-1/2 fingerless glove combo. I love these things. They keep my hands were comfortable and allow me to use my fingers on my right hand when shooting.
"Marks Work Warehouse is just across the street from the field." He said.
The stop at Marks only took a second. Now I had the full meal deal. My hands would be cosy. Now off to the field.
We arrived. Got our shots. Chatted with the others assembled to cover the game. There were many familiar faces. The temps were cooler than what we get back in our part of Canada. But as most Winnipegers know: We're all weather weenies on the west coast.
The temps were not too bad, bat standing around you begin to feel the cold. We grabbed our clips (interviews) and b-roll of the players we needed and bid the assembled gang, good day.
We departed back for CTV and met up with Field Producer Joan, Camera/Editor Jazz and Reporter Kink. It was the first time the five of us were together. They too had just returned from shooting a piece, but the Video gods had dealt them a body blow. Jazzman's camera went down. I gave him mine and they ran off to get what they needed with time becoming a factor.
I had put the finishing touches on the item I had cut earlier and assembled some bonus clips to be sent to Vancouver. Perry and Joan discussed what would be required for our 5 and 6 PM shows back in Vancouver. Perry would do a hit for 5 and then again for the Sports at 6. Kink would be cutting his piece for 6 that is if he could once again move the time /space continuum.
Once we were fed we headed over to the Convention Center where we met up with the Truck. This would be the sight of our live hits. The local CTV truck had just done hits for their show from that location so that kinda determined how the live hits would unfold. The convention center was the entertainment center for Grey Cup week. So it seem like a good idea.
The first hit barely made it. Cabling/Liability issues became very apparent. When you have hundreds of party goers, and a long cable run, you know that there are going to be problems.
The first hit we were forced to set up away from anything substantial. That coupled with an IFB problem (namely there was no IFB). I was able to use my Mike phone to contact and communicate with Vancouver. Jimmy L was sitting in the seat back in Vancouver and provided the control room with our status. Jimmy/Perry and I formulate a plan to circumvent the IFB all together.
Jimmy cues me, I cue Perry, nobody at home knows the difference. Perry is such a pro, it goes off without a hitch.
Jazz arrives with Kink a few minutes later and it is decided that we will relocate to a better position. Joan hustles some colorful "guests" for background. Jazz and the Truck Operator from Winnipeg move the cables. Kink gets ready to do his hit for 6. And I set up again hand held and we are ready to go. This time we have found the IFB problem, its a faulty cable. The IFB doesn't become an issue for the rest of the trip.
When it was all said and done we pack up and go up stairs at the convention center to share in a celebratory beer. It would not be the only one of the evening.
Not a bad first day. The night, well stay tuned.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
For those of you readers to the south, the Grey Cup is kinda like the Canadian Superbowl, but a hell of a less corporate. Its a celebration for the die hard fans of the Canadian Football League. I was kinda pumped for it.
The original plan was to leave on Thursday morning and file for Thursday, Friday and the weekend. Seemed good.
Tuesday brought a day of sober second thought and it was decided that we would scale down our coverage and that would mean I would not be going. No problem really. I have been lucky, I had a trip earlier this year to the Torino Olympics, so not going was not going to be a big deal.
"You were not meant to be in Winnipeg!" Sage words from Momma Murman, in a telephone conversation I had with here after getting the news.
Little did I know however that fate would deal me a different hand. I the got a frantic call late in the afternoon on Thursday. It was a day off for me and I had just returned home from a seminar.
"Murman" the familiar voice said on the other end of the phone.
"Yes Dave, whats up?"
"I need to get you on a plane for Winnipeg, there is a situation." He said.
I will not go into any specifics except one of the crew was dealing with a family emergency.
From the time I got the call to the moment I walked through security and took my seat on the plane only 2 hour and 15 minutes had passed.
As I sat there waiting to board, sweating up a storm, I thought : God have I forgotten anything.
I would be using gear left for me by the crew member I was relieving. I was worried about stupid things, like tape supply and lighting kits. I felt so naked boarding a plane , going on assignment without any camera equipment.
I flew out with a plane load of the team's cheerleader squad so there was no shortage of "eye candy". But excited cheerleaders, well they can make lots of noise, and there was certainly no shortage of sound waves in the cabin.
Before I knew it I was in Winnipeg. A city on the Canadian Prairie that I had not been to since 1977. I looked for a familiar face. Perry our sports guy and the person in which I would be spending the majority of my time with over the next few days. He was there waiting for me.
"Just let me pick up my bag, Perr"
Wouldn't you know it was the first one off the conveyor. That never happens for me. So far so good. I had been in the Airport of less than 5 minutes.
Our drive to the hotel downtown would require a pit stop at the hospitality room nearby. It was put on buy the the folks from Alberta and it was called the "Spirit of Edmonton". There was no shortage of Grey Cup fever in that place and it was there I began to understand what the "Grey Cup" experience would entail.
We only stayed for one quick "pop" and then headed to the hotel. Perry briefed me on what our day would involve for tomorrow.
We'll have our breakfast, and the Lions are on the field at 1PM. That should give you some time to get settled. We'll also check in at CTV Winnipeg and meet up with Jazz, Joan and Kink."
It had been a whirl wind kinda day. One that began with an early morning seminar in Vancouver, and one that ended with me lying in a hotel room in Winnipeg, Manitoba wondering what the hell just happened!
Monday, November 06, 2006
As I drove in this morning listening to Iron Maiden's "The Trooper", I figured that I would be spending the day on the ground, below VFR. (Visual Flight Requirements)
Rain is never too pleasant to shoot in anyway as the lens doesn't have a wiper. The best you can hope for is to zoom though on filter # 2 with 1/4 ND. Although this kills your f-stops, you can usually make out an image without raindrops shaking around the lens housing.
All that rain, more coming,,, hmmm, me thinks flooding could be in the cards. Nope. The first call is for a search for two hikers, teenagers , up on the back side of the Lions.
I look at the weather. The clouds are low. Ronn one of the fine pilots at Talon Helicopters, tells me he is on standby for the search. Talon has the contract for air search operations with the North Shore Search and Rescue crew.
I let the desk know what's happening. Before I get off the phone with the desk, Ronn lets me know he is on his way. The desk tells me to stand by. A few minutes go by, the weather to the west looks more promising. I get the word to launch.
The wind is strong and the rain is coming down. We head up to Lions Bay where we believe Ronn and North Shore SAR will be working. The clouds are very low. It doesn't look good. But somehow we get ourselves into the back of the Lions. The air is turbulent. I find myself regretting that diet Pepsi I had this morning.
There are searchers on the mountain, but the weather is so bad we do not see them. The only thing I was able to collect up there are some pictures of the low cloud, a shot of the helicopter and a couple of mountain goats. The mountain goat thing was pretty cool, I had never seen them before while flying.
We opt to head back to the airport. The flight back is rough. When we land I figure that might be it for the day as the weather looks like s h i t .
The phone rings just as I get my hot soup out of the microwave. Its the desk. They have heard that there is severe flooding in the Chilliwack area. Again we check the weather. Hedeyia, our pilot for the day, gets a code. We are off to the Valley. The ceiling has improved around YVR, but as we head east it deteriorates. We are at about 500 as we hit Langley. We adjust course and head to the river. As we get to Mission, the ceiling improves.
We head into the area where the flooding is reported. Actually we had seen a lot of flooded farmers fields along the way. We head up the Chilliwack River. Bingo.
A levee has broken and the river has reclaimed about 25 homes and has closed the roadway. The shots from the air are what you might expect. I notice one home that has water halfway up its lower floor windows. Geeze I thought, imagine coming home to that.
We orbited for several minutes and then we decide to go up stream to see if there is anymore damage. I call the desk and let them know we should send in the ground teams. They have already dispatched the SAT Truck and two crews.
We return to the scene where the most homes are in danger. After a bit Heday suggests we get some fuel. So its off to the Chilliwack airport for fuel. Maybe after I call the desk, I'll run in and get some pie. For those of you who don't get to the Chilliwack airport, there is a restaurant that serves the best home made pies on the planet. Yes sometimes we fly for pie! But it was not going to be today.
My phone rings as we are fueling, its a member of the Chilliwack Search and Rescue. They ask if we are still in the area.
"Yes, we are just taking on fuel"
"We believe we have spotted a fire on one of the islands, we may have a person stranded"
He gives me the position relative to the SAR base.
"Can you check it out for us, we are unable to get a helicopter for another 30 minutes"
"Not a problem, we will be back in the area in 3 to 6 minutes"
He gives me some radio frequencies which I scribble down on my palm and pass them to Heday.
When we get in and start looking for a fire, but we find a makeshift shelter. We orbit very low and then out of the shelter comes a man. He gives us a wave and goes back inside.
Heday calls the rescue center and verifies at least one person stranded.
We also recon the shrinking island to find a place either to land or to have SAR's helo land. There are no suitable options. SAR control decides to mount a rescue via rubber raft.
In the end they bring two people to safety.
With the rescue complete, we head back to fuel up once more. A call to the desk to give them a heads up for my feed of the flooding and the rescue and we're away.
Heading back to Vancouver I feed the material, my radio crackles with another change in mission. Head back to the Lions as they have found the teens. They are hiking down to a landing zone and Ronn is going to pluck them off the mountain.
We dash to the scene. I follow Ronn's AStar into the area. They have a visual, but the clouds are dropping fast. The Heli rescue is called off by the ground crews with the boys. They will hike all the way down. Ronn breaks off, but we continue. We finally get a visual of the rescue team and the boys. They are no doubt tired and wet, but they seem to look good. I grab some shots and we head for home. I feed the material on the way back.
At the end of the day, we flew 4.7 hours, saw two rescues, a flood and an overturned barge in False Creek. Not too bad for a day that I thought the weather would ground us.
Its supposed to rain hard all week, no doubt we will see more flooding. I better go grab some shut eye as it just might be an other very busy day tomorrow.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
We learned Thursday that our rivals are getting into the ENG helicopter game. Canwest Global inked a deal with Global Traffic Networks to provide air cover in the on going battle for TV sets. Our competitor will be in the sky shortly with an R44 Raven ENG package.
The announcement came as really no surprise. What is interesting is Canwest plans to launch air operations in 5 markets with this deal. Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Hamilton are the Global stations to which air operations will be a new thing. Toronto already has an ENG copter, but is either adding a second machine or the flight arangement for the current machine ( an A- Starr) has expired and the capability is being replace with an R-44. In any event, the news wars just got more interesting.
Before this announcement, there were only 4 dedicated ENG helicopters in the whole country. There were 2 in Toronto CTV( CFTO), and Global, one in Montreal TVA and one in Vancouver CTV.
I am looking forward to the competition. Competition always make teams, in this case news gathering teams, play better, play smarter. Bring it on.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
There is a block on the down town east side of Vancouver that at one time used to be the center of the retail business here. It was the Woodward's buildings. The department store was long gone before I moved here. But folks who remember have fond memories of the place. The buildings have been vacant for some years and the area has become well, run down is a bit of an understatement. The long and short of it is the buildings are on valuable real estate and developers want to build new.
Saturday was the big day and I wanted to share some frame grabs of the Implosion.
With the two nearly down, the third begins its destruction
A curtain of dust and debris rise up from the blast site
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Flight Ops. I love my Flight weeks, however the last four flight weeks of my rotation have been somewhat lacking in the breaking news department. My colleagues, have been a bit more fortunate. It's the luck of the draw really, you just never know if the Video News Gods will be smiling on you or not.
Sunday night brought a call out to a situation on the borders. The long and short of it was Canadian Border Agents are unarmed. A bad guy from the "Terminator" State was headed this way according to US Homeland Security. He was armed and presumed dangerous. So the Border Agents, well they walked off the job, fled, packed up. The lineups for the border went to infinity and Gary and Kelsy were called out to fly the border. The "Barndtman" , who normally stays away from any kind of notoriety, actually was pressed into service as a flight reporter. He did a fine job. You would have thought he had been doing it his whole life.
Watching this from home, I thought well there goes the big helo story for this week, I am sure that Monday, my first day back in three weeks, would have me shooting nothing but beauty shots, a fate I was becoming all too familiar with.
I woke up to a clear sky, a good sign when on Flight Ops. We are beginning to get into the Fog and low cloud season on the West Coast. The drive to the airport was filled with anticipation. Surely to god this would be a good week, I needed a good week. Hell for that matter, just a good day, I'll take that.
I called Kink.
"Kink, are you headed to the aerodrome or have been recalled to the black hole we call down town?" I asked.
"Murman, nobody's called I am headed in and should see you in a few minutes" he answered.
That was a good sign.
Today would also be the first day of a format change with our 5 and 6 shows. There will be more hits from our flying machine. Now all we had to do is find some content to fill our new obligations to the show. Easier said that done.
Kink was given a potential assignment, I monitored scanners. Kink worked the phone, I adjusted squeltch.
I call this one into the desk. Leah, answers.
"Just a heads up we got fire action, in Burnaby they just called second alarm"
Wade our pilot for the day is already calling for a code.
Then as quickly as hopes were raised, they were dashed. The scanner chirps "Engine Five, dispatch, cancel all apparatus on second alarm, Kitchen Toaster."
God damn it, I wish people would learn to operate their freakin toasters. Burnt Toast.
Well as the day grinds on, Kink is having a difficult time to find someone to speak to a report that we want to serve up for the show. He plays telephone tag, when he finds a contact, they pass him along to someone else. The best laid plan is coming unglued real quick. I look at the clock, it's near 4. We fly in an hour and we got nothin'. Not a good situation. I thought "Not again", I am going to be punished by the Flying Video Gods for a 5th week, I can feel it.
Just before 4:55 the cell rings as we head out to launch the Helicopter for the show. It's Gregg. Gregg is like our "Radar O'Riley" only on speed. Gregg says, "we got a boat in trouble and a person overboard in English Bay"
OK we can work with that.
As we take off Kink and Gregg are in contact and as we arrive at English Bay, Gregg tells us that we need to head directly to the Lion's Gate. As we fly to the area, we round the landmass that is Stanley Park, the event reveals itself. And there it is, manna from heaven, a gift from the Flying Video Gods, a cargo ship has run hard aground just to the east of the Lions Gate Bridge.
As we arrived there are two valiant tugs straining to refloat and move this monster. Thier efforts are in vain. More tugs rush to the scene.
Kink does the first of many hits into the 5. The pilot and I are betting cases of refreshment on whether the ship will be freed before the tide begins to turn.
All we need is for the ship on the rocks to be carrying something dangerous. Uranium, or Plutonium,,,,,, nope Grain. Maybe exploding Grain,,,,,nope regular grain, wheat off to who knows where to make bread. And where there is bread there's toast,,,, Burnt Toast.
The scene played itself out below. Fifteen tugs were now giving it all of their horsepower. The tide was on the rise and was expected to peak in less than 30 minutes.
It doesn't bother me as much as Kink, I'm just glad I went through 2.3 hours of show flight time and was not asked for a weather shot. Yes it was good to be shooting something breaking.
The Lions Gate Bridge, The Stanley Park Seawall to the left and the Ship that found the rocks
Friday, September 22, 2006
Each event is unique, yet the mission is the same. Wave the flag, make connections with the public. During the airshow, we get mostly families with children who want to see Chopper 9. The entire flight crew is present. We give away things like t-shirts and hats. The folks stand in line to take a seat in the machine. Most are curious about all of the monitors and controls for the camera. Some are interested in the aviation side of the machine. They ask questions, we try to answer them, all the while, making a connection to people. Now we hope that these folks will become loyal viewers, many who visit already are, but in any event meeting people is the key.
At the PNE we have a much larger presence. The Promotions department have a large booth. There's a broadcast stage and jumbo tron. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the cool thing is we give away a ride everyday aboard Chopper 9. Thousands of people enter. I had the good fortune to meet several of the prize winners. I would escort them to the landing area at the infield of Hastings Park Race Track. As I would accompany them to the infield I would give the excieted and often first time helicopter passengers, a safety briefing. It truely was an enjoyable duty.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Tomorrow marks nine years since we signed on. Hard to believe that it has been that long, but the time has flown by. I remember arriving here in Vancouver, and going over to our building on Robson and Burrard just a few weeks before we were to sign on for the first time and thinking "How the hell are we going to do that, there's nothing here except bare concrete floors and some wires hanging from the ceiling."
Those were heady days, the group assembled were all very excited about launching a new TV Station. There were many who had previous years of Television experience and then there were others that had none. It was indeed an interesting group. Yet each one of the start up team brought something to the table. It all made for a fantastic energy that sustained us and propelled VTV onto the Vancouver airwaves.
I was very proud to be a part of something so dynamic. A start up was something I had yet to live through in my career. Weeks of 18 hour days all so we could officially launch on Sept. 22, 1997.
The first live broadcasts were a couple of days before "Launch Date". I was privileged to have been the camera for the very first live pictures transmitted. A shot of Vicki Gaberau and Amir Haleem, introducing us as VTV.
We have come a long way since that crazy startup time. Many of the "originals" have moved on to other projects, other cities. But many of us are still here. I guess we feel that we all had a part in growing the station on Robson and Burrard. We have left our pound of flesh in the place.
VTV grew into CTV British Columbia. Live TV has always been a part of the station since the beginning. We began with 5 live trucks, scaled it back to 4 a year or so later. Finally acquired a Sat Truck in 2000 and just 3 years ago added a News Gathering Helicopter to the mix.
It's been quite a ride and tomorrow we're 9.
Monday, September 04, 2006
This was an email that I sent out at the station, on the first day of school last September upon learning some bad news from home. I want to share it with you.
Ah September, the beginning of the school year. Remember when you were school age and either treated this time of year with excitement or as in my case with dread. Do you remember that teacher or professor that challenged you. You know what I mean, the one that saw the potential within. That teacher that inspired you to take risks to leave your comfort zone, help shape the kind of adult that you have become.
I was fortunate enough to have such a teacher, my grade 10 English teacher, Mary (Missy) Boyne. She showed me how be a story teller. She helped me discover creativity. Frankly she had a major influence on the kind of person I grew to become. She was more than an English teacher, she was a teacher of life. The school motto at Saint John High is Vita Vitalis- A Life Worthwhile, She lived it.
Missy left us this past weekend. She was far too young and there were many more classes to teach but, I cannot help but feel deep sadness of her passing.
Now, I would like you all to take a moment and reflect about that special teacher that was your "Missy". Take a moment if you are able and send them an email or a note just to say thanks. They will be happy to hear from you and you will be glad you did.
I miss you Missy and thanks.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
You see he wants to take our News Program and relocate it to the annual Fair in Southern BC, the Pacific National Exhibition. I guess he saw the value of having some sort of presence at an event that see's like a million people come through the gates.
The problem for me was the opening day of the fair was less that a week away and there was little (read NO ) budget for this. His mind movie involved interactive sets, editing shooting and doing a half hour Daily news show all while a noisy parade passed by. Oh god, I thought I would have a stroke. The long and the short of it was, we did the best we could with what we had to work with and so began our 8 year relationship with the fair-goers of the PNE.
In 2002 our general manager at that time also understood the value of our presence at the Fair. He was a man of action and enabled us to finally put together an attraction that continues to this day. We now do all of our suppertime news shows from the Fair grounds. Both weekday and weekend. Our promotions department have a tent set up next to our stage and have a photo booth where viewers can have a photo of themselves with their favorite TV show.
The "barkers" -the folks who take the mic and encourage passers by to stop in and check out the CTV Broadcast Center, give away prizes and entertain folks in the line waiting for pictures.
It sure has grown from our meager little half hour from our Microwave truck in 1998.
One of the big draws for people is a free draw that we have. We give away a trip for two every evening aboard our News Gathering helicopter. The flight leaves from the nearby Race Track. In past years I have been on flight duty during the fair and flew with many prize winners. I especially enjoyed having folks aboard that have never experienced helicopter flight. We make sure that each guest aboard recieves a photo of themselves during the flight. The smiles and excietment in the voices of our guest tell it all. Its' the best ride at the PNE and it's free. I never get tired of seeing guests leave happy.
Back at the main stage of the show, the casts begin with an off air pre game show, explaining to the people gathered as they enjoy their mini doughnuts or cotton candy, how a broadcast is put together. They have been hosted by Reporters and Anchors. They too give away some hats and T-shirts and get the masses ready for news time. They introduce the crew on the set and demonstrate how a promter works, usually asking someone from the audience to come up and give it a try. They introduce Jimmy the Floor Director and Jimmy counts down into the show and like magic we are on the air. The audience assembled can watch the cast on the big screen.
Our Weather and Sports team are usually located at some other place in the park. It's different everyday. The object of course is to give the viewer the sense that they too are at the park eventhough they might be watching in their own living room. The production team for those segments are usuall a camera op , a truck op a producer and audio A2. Back at the broadcast center, there are 4 camera ops, floor director, IT, audio A-2, swithcer, engineer, lighting tech, Audio Tech, ENG/troubleshooter , and ENG editor. That doesn't mention the staff back at the control room back at our studios downtown. And don't forget the team of editors and ENG shooters/ Truck ops and reporters that have spent the day collecting the stories that make the show. Then there are the show producers, directors, audio, PA's, tech coords, feed and play techs, and the list goes on. So you see how labour intensive a news broadcast is.
After the show, our anchors from both shows are available for questions and a photo with the anchor team. We take polaroids and give them a frame and folks take a little piece of the experience back home with them.
It connects us with the public and the public comes away with a better understanding of just what makes a Broadcast possible. All while enjoying a bit of popcorn and perhaps an ice cream.
Yes Bob, you were right, it has value.
Monday, August 21, 2006
What I hadn't anticipated was my friend and colleague, Flight Reporter Dave Mach Daddy Kincaid, had booked the week off on Vacation. That left little old me out at the airport waiting like a coiled spring to leap into action at the first sign of a breaking news story. That's right I was at a constant state of readiness, code red, balancing one legged on a post, like that karate kid guy. Waiting, listening, hoping, praying for something to happen.
Oh I got to fly. The 5 and the 6 shows need servicing each day. Maybe a fire will break out and we'll have it live. But the week would not produce. Not a single scene call worth shooting, not a single breaking story, nothing. Beauty shots, weather shots that is all I was good for last week.
The flight hour count: 13.6
Here's hopin' the next tour is a bit more productive.
Monday, August 14, 2006
This year Kink got the nod to fly on behalf of the Chopper 9 Crew. He was going to get a flight on a CF 18 Hornet, the pride of the RCAF. The lucky Bastard,,,,
The Chopper 9 crew would be at the airshow as a static display, giving the public a chance to get a closer look into Western Canada's only News Gathering Helicopter. So all of us would be on hand this media day to see Kink take his seat and fly into the "Danger Zone".
Now Kink is no slouch for a man of his vintage, but he would have to pass a physical before being declared fit for flight. Some of us on the Chopper 9 team might have had to go into a month of heavy training, intense physical pain and rigorous mental preparation, but not Kink.
In his younger days I am told he was a dashing race car driver. "Speed" was his middle name. Yes our hero was a man who would laugh at danger. But at this point in Kink's life, danger involved trying to keep his beloved sailboat afloat and speed was trying to get 6 knots in a good wind.
When he arrived for his flight, he was prepared, his duffel packed a music CD of TOP GUN, an airsickness bag and a package of DEPENDS. Yes he was ready.
Nerves and excitement churned his stomach as he waited for the Flight Surgeon to call on him for his physical.
"That's me" he said.
"Please follow me,,"
And with that he was off for his date with the Physician.
Examinations are of course private and the results are confidential, but we could only assume that since Kink had a pulse and met the weight restriction (barely) he would be cleared to fly.
Our collective assumtions were correct, the Air Force will fly almost anyone, and today Kink was that someone. As he emerged from the exam room, his smile told the story.
The next time I saw him he was in his flight gear. Standing tall with his flight helmet. Proudly posing infront of the jet fighter. He looked like, well not like Iceman or Maverick of TOP GUN, but more like Clint Eastwood in Space Cowboys.
He got his final briefing as he was being strapped into the seat. Moment later the engines were ignited. As the mighty fighter taxied down the ramp the canopy closed and they made their way to the threshold of the runway.
Now I wasn't in the cockpit so I cannot describe what his experience was like, perhaps after he returns to earth he can let us know, but at the end of the flight when I spoke to him again, his smile spoke volumes of what the experience was like. Yes he had done it, all he needs now is a fighter pilot nick name.
We call him "Mach Daddy"
Sunday, August 06, 2006
I want to introduce you to a fellow not unlike any of us who do this kind of work, but he is in northern Israel covering the troubles there. He has been blogging daily about his experiences as the rockets and shelling impact on his immediate surroundings. He is no rookie to covering war, but he and the others of his crew are in harms way, daily, in order for the world to get a glimpse of what is happening over there. His name is Mal James and he is working for FOX News. His postings on UNHOLYLAND NEWS have been out standing.
There are many more like Mal, in hotspots all over the world, working for Newspapers, Radio and Television Networks. They put their lives on the line attempting to bring the stories of what is happening to you in the comfort of your own home.
The next time you are watching stories from the Middle East, Iraq, Afghanistan or any other war zone on the planet, remember there's a crew putting it on the line to bring you the story. Don't forget these folks in your meditations, prayers and thoughts. They need all of the good karma we can send to them.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
But it was first thing Friday morning that I will likey remember most. As I was just getting to the hanger, Gregg on the desk calls. He has details of an assignment that we can bang off right away. He gives me GPS coorinates which I scribble down on my hand as I curse myself under my breath as I am in need of a freah note pad in the truck.
There is a lot of hubbub at the hanger. The evening before a Bell 404 medivac from Denver Colorado had landed and were using our hanger for their time here in Vancouver. That machine and her crew would be part of a film shoot on Saturday or at least that was the plan. Unfortunatally it was discovered that this machine had developed a machinical issue and would need a part transported to them.
As I arrived in the hanger and inform Peter our pilot of the day as to what we are up to, the 407 crew is inspecting their machine and making plans for a delay in the shooting schedual.
Jana one of the Flight Nurses from the 407 askes if we would mind her taking some pictures taking off on our hot news story. What is happining she askes. Peter reveals that we are headed to see if we can get some pictures of an Orca Pod that is feeding near Sand Heads.
I have never seen whales in a pod from the helicopter before. I had taken video of Luna the lone Orca of Gold River a few seasons ago from our first Helicopter. During our many crossings of the Straight of Georgia I have always looked but have never seen a Pod.
As we powered up we invited Jana and her collegue Linda to join us. It would be a short flight and both we excieted about the possibility of seeing Killer Whales. Not many whales get to Denver, well maybe on a ski vacation,,,,,
It was not long before we had our target in sight. There was a floatilla of Whale Watching boats already surrounding the pod as they feasted on a run of salmon. It was just a mile or so off the "Coal Pile" at Delta Port and within sight of the ferry terminal. It turnes out to be "J" Pod a resident pod of Orcas. They travel all over the Pacific Northwest. It is quite a sight. I guess we had quite an audience back at Vancouver control watching the feed come into the station. Nature at it's best. I guess "I" Pod was busy down loading music and was not seen in the area.
We spent about 40 minutes or so getting what we needed before we headed back to YVR. Our guests from Colorado excieted from an experience and ready to tell the story to freinds and family back in Colorado of how they went Ocra Whale watching, from a Helicopter, "up there in Canada"
We ended up running the tape for both our 5 and 6 shows. It wasn't a bad way to end a very good flight week.