Fumblin’ with the vid and other moments from today

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Bear with me through this if you will. I’m a little vulnerable right now! I feel a little like Moe Howard in that episode of the Three Stooges where his nerves were shot and he needed peace and quiet.

He didn’t find any either!

So, today I was instructed to make a video from the Venango County Fair. Give me instructions to capture a fraction of a second to tell a story and I’m there, I’m excited, I’m enthused…. I’m down!

But ask for a minute or two of continually moving pictures and I crawl into a shell and hope no one can see me.

People who know me, know I try to do everything I do at the highest level I can. But I also am a tried and true still photographer and though I really like strong video storytelling – it’s just not my forte. I love what a still image can do as we look at it, as we let our minds fill in the blanks to truly understand that minute detail of a moment that really makes us understand something in a way that we didn’t even know we could understand.

That is the power in the sword I yield in this long tradition of still photography! The still “moment” captured.

Truly great video can do this as well and I have friends who make important videos. It is a different discipline than still photography and I struggle with that discipline!

Always have.

Today, the video above, was me struggling with my camera. I kept it because it made me laugh right out loud. It was bright outside and hard to view the screen. I didn’t know when I was recording video and when I wasn’t. I lifted the camera from this point and thought I was making a video of a run through at the mud bog. But nothing recorded. I had apparently shut off the recorder thinking I had turned it on.

Scratching my head I was wondering, ok … so, how do I turn this on? Another couple attempts yielded similar results. “This idiot can’t shoot a simple video,” I thought to myself. (Actually, I said it out loud to the guy next to me.)

I fumbled again, not knowing if I was recording or not and got this below, which I apparently was recording, was confused if I was or not, questioned it and somehow I must’ve shut it off.  Annnnd, I missed another run through the mud.

Looking on the back of my camera in the partial shade, I didn’t see even see it as a video, it looked like a still. A very bad still!

Frustration was mounting!

I kept trying. But not really getting results. I had two more videos I didn’t save in between. I really was struggling. and finally decided – “OK, I guess that’s going to have to be good enough!” Not a sentence I use very often and, when I do, it feels like defeat and that is painful to me.

I think this video below was the camera simply hanging around my neck still on record.

I needed to go away from trying to shoot video and delve into my wheelhouse – stills! Video wasn’t working and I just needed to clear my head and focus on the task of telling the story of the first day of the fair.

I needed to find a quieter place to regain some composure, think and hopefully make my head stop pounding from those truck engines.

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Insert Wilbur, a hog owned by Raelynn Montgomery of Rockland. Raelynn was trying to wash her pig and poor Wilbur just didn’t want any part of it.

Wilbur didn’t seem to have any compassion towards my personal need of quiet.

If you have never heard a several hundred pound pig squeal before, let me tell you it’s really quite an experience. Loud isn’t exactly the word, though it is loud. Piercing right through you like a saber unsheathed by a knight, charging at you on horseback, eyes full of blood and hatred as he drives the blade into your brain as he rides by screaming –  this might be a more accurate description.

My composure was not being regained at all.

Wilbur made the other hogs chime in and, suddenly, I couldn’t even hear the mud-bogging truck engines that were only a few hundred yards away any longer. It sounded as if we gave classical instruments to the Dead Kennedy’s and the Sex Pistols and said “go ahead. Use these to make Punk Rock music!”  with John Cage as the producer who brought in a PennDOT back-up truck signal as part of the arrangement!

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I tried to find serenity in the reflections of water, hoping the cool reflections would help me drown out the chaos around me. But Wilbur … that poor, not-happy-at-the-moment pig was right next to me as I made pictures of Jenna Krol and Carley Schreck as they tried to guide their hog into the bathing area.

If you haven’t worked with pigs before, you might not get it. They are powerful, they have their own thoughts and if you want them to do something in particular, well, you’re likely “S” out of luck – unless the pig just happens to want to do the same thing you want them to do. (Rare.)

These hogs are magnificent creatures in many ways.

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Their faces are so soulful and deep, yet their actions are seemingly lacking philosophical reasoning. I don’t think they are dumb … they just think what pigs need to think.

And their squeals. My oh my, their squeals are quite chilling. I think there is a good reason their sounds are used in so many horror films.

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I didn’t find what i needed from the pig barns. I didn’t find a chance to calmly reflect and figure out my video problem. I accidentally left my phone in my car, so that wasn’t a good solution. Smart phone video is easier sometimes, but memory and data issues are a pain in the butt!

And now I had a head that felt as heavy as ole Wilbur back in the pig barn and that knights sword I think was still lodge in my forehead.

The first day of the fair is slow. Many folks aren’t very active on the grounds. Some prepare their areas and a few bring their animals in. But it’s a slow moving affair at first.

I strolled down around the cows – not much activity. I went through the horse barns to discover the Ruff Riders went to town decorating their area in orange streamers and each stall had photos and more orange color. But, still, not a lot of activity (I thought about crawling into one of the stalls to take a quiet nap but was afraid someone might come and saddle me up and make me run through the barrel race course with them on my back.) I looked down at the bowl – or the horse corral – and saw some riders.

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I finally found a little quiet and just took a moment to make a few frames of riders. My head was buzzing, white noise afflicted!  I was trying to think about how to make this video I need to make to post to our website. One that wouldn’t embarrass me or the paper … One that wasn’t one of the ones I had already taken.

I thought about maybe photographing the riders with video but just couldn’t quite get the camera to work the way I needed. I discovered, in part, that a low battery might be causing some of the problem. At least the problems that weren’t entirely my incompetence.

Since the main event on Saturday was the afternoon Mud-bogging  I went back to make more pictures – better pictures! And a video. As I walked over to the field, I saw a doll’s head buried in the dirt. I felt this was a sign! An analogy of my video journey that day!

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I dug it out and flipped it over. I felt like that little doll. Beaten and discarded. (Ha ha, not really that dramatic, but this video thing was killing me!)

Still thinking about how I’m going to make this video, I continued to shoot stills hoping to get my courage up to attempt further humiliation.

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I wasn’t sure what to take. My ears had had it by this point, but that was a personal thing … my job was to tell their story, not my woes!

So mud!

Mud is the story.

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I began seeing images that related to this mud culture. This motor and mud culture!

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High energy. Sarcastic. Americana sub-culture. Family!

I chatted with a guy from Tarentum who runs a pretty impressive truck with holes cut into the windshield and side windows so he can see when the mud just coats his vehicle. He said through those small holes he still gets inches of mud inside the cab of his truck. But, he said something to me that made me understand exactly why he does this. He talked about the people he meets week after week at these events. They are friends and they are family in a lot of ways.

That’s pretty cool!

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When something becomes a part of who you are and you connect with a group of people, well, that is almost like church. Like-minded folks getting together to live and learn around each other while pursuing a harmless goal they all find quite fun.

And, judging by the crowd at the fair, they aren’t alone.

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I joked with folks as I entered the fairgrounds in my little Toyota Camry that I was here to enter it into the competition. I’m obviously not motor oriented, nor is my car anything other than a Point A to Point B operation for me.

I have never named any car Pricilla, or any other person’s name, nor have I wept at a car’s demise. (Maybe a bit choked up at my dad’s bug that I drove for a bunch of years … but we still never named it!)

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I noticed the announcer, Ricky Wilson’s hat and it struck me as stereotypical. I try to capture these when I see them, but I also try to understand them and where they come from. I mentioned to the folks there that I liked his hat, but I didn’t think our family paper would be interested in publishing a picture of it. We laughed. The women there were fine with the hat. It is part of the culture.

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Not more than five minutes after I had this conversation, a truck went over a jump and totally sprayed us all with dabs of mud shrapnel! One splotch nailed Ricky smack dab on his head that he managed to turn away from just in time to not get it in the eye. It covered up the slogan. I joked that now I could use the picture of his hat! We all laughed.

At this point, I thought about a conversation I had a few days earlier with a judge about art and music and realized this is all the same thing. To these folks, this is art, this is that zone of undefinable stuff that makes you want to get up and go each day.

Great stuff. Life is pretty fascinating if you allow yourself to participate in it!

Ok, so back to the task at hand – this video business. I found a moment of clarity while sitting next to a fellow photographer, Brian, to make a video with a long lens and hope it worked. There are flaws in it, but, given my day and frustrations, I was happy to make a nice little video of a nice little moment where a father took his son for a ride that resulted in the best run of the day. The young son, 12 years old, actually found me later and asked if I was the newspaper man. I love that question! I told him, yes, I work for the newspaper.

“I was riding with my dad when he made it through the mud bog, can you put my name in the paper too?” In the video, as the truck is pulling away, you can see his arm reach out the window to give a thumbs up. So, Landyn Lind, you helped this old frustrated photo dude’s day. And, what made it even better, is you and your dad Shawn won the event with the run I captured on video.

I love my job!

For more stories, photos and video from the Venango County Fair, visit TheDerrick.com.

 

About the Author

Richard Sayer
Staff photographer at the Derrick and News-Herarld newspapers in North Western Pennsylvania.