Fall guy

After the fall: Pete Smith, WXIA

Conventional wisdom suggests that political candidates campaign every waking hour.  The facts are different:  Political candidates in big markets spend much of their time raising money.  They do it personally, frequently on the phone, and as far from camera range as possible.

I don’t know what candidate Rob Woodall was doing last week when I called for an interview for a piece about the Republican primary in the 7th Congressional district.  But his staff said yes, he’d do an interview and no, there were no naturally-occurring campaign events that day.

Though delighted to schedule the interview, the absence of a campaign event gave us scant opportunity to shoot the requisite video of Mr. Woodall in his natural state.  This void led to the acrobatic and very temporary demise of WXIA photographer Pete Smith, as shown in the 32 seconds of video below.

Smith was shooting some exciting motion pictures of Woodall and me doing laps around the old Gwinnett County courthouse.  In most of the shots, Smith was stationary, and Woodall and I made small-talk.  As I was explaining to Woodall why I’d left TV news in Washington DC in the 80s, Smith opted to stride backward perp-walk style, when he stumbled over a large decorative rock lodged alongside the sidewalk.

The video is a case-study in how to take a fall as a news photographer.  He fell squarely onto his back.  As you view the video, you see Smith’s legs splayed horizontally.  Immediately, you see him tilt the lens of his camera downward toward his belt.  This prevents the back of the camera from ever touching the ground.

At the same time, he arched his back and prevented (by an inch or so) the back of his skull from hitting the concrete.  Within four seconds, you hear him say “yep, we’re good,” as Smith realized nothing vital was impacted — or at least, nothing he felt at that particular moment.

Under normal circumstances, you’d hear the voice of a concerned reporter asking “are you all right?!?!”  The absence of this question is quite defensible here.   One would wait until the impact before asking such a question.  In this case, Smith short-circuited the impact by bouncing back up almost in one continuous motion.  His action answered the question before I ever got it out.

The “were you rolling” question was also quite defensible, given that I instantly conceived some usefulness for the video.

I’m still not sure how he bounced back upward so quickly.  But Smith was back on his feet, unassisted, within nine seconds.  Within twelve seconds, he had re-framed the shot into something usable.

Smith, who’s accustomed to looking under rocks at the state Capitol, is a fifty-something guy.  I don’t know how he felt the next day.  But for about 12 seconds or so, he was more than a guy shooting wallpaper video with a hifalutin TV camera.  He was a daredevil in the media circus.

This post and video first appeared on 11alive.com

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Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

8 thoughts on “Fall guy

  1. Mike Daly

    Excellent recovery and Mr. Woodall’s right…the five point paratrooper landing (balls of the feet, calf, hip, butt and shoulder blades), also know as a PLF, was executed nicely. Way to hang in there, Paratrooper Pete!

    Reply
  2. Pete Smith

    Well, it had to happen sometime. It’s been about 20 years since the last time. Some of you really old timers will remember the whacking of the King Federal Building while federal marshals brought in the perp who threw a horse’s head on the Russel building plaza. (1989)

    That decorative rock was, in fact, a large light fixture hidden in the mondo grass next to the sidewalk (that’ll teach me where to walk).

    It was down on the butt, roll up the back and back on the feet in one motion. This was done by an expert, don’t try this at home.

    Mike, I wish I could say I knew exactly what to do but….

    Thanks for your support

    Reply
  3. jimmyjohn

    I miss the old liveapartment fire where you would really get some great conversations going.

    We realize it’s tough with you having a stake in a particular station and leery to challenge the crooke.

    Maybe it’s time to put this site on hiatus.

    No life here.

    Reply
  4. Don J

    Hey, an ole timer here….I was with Pete at the the Federal building the day he went tumbling down the steps. The horse head perp and his entourage stopped their walk to take the spectacle in. I thought Pete surely had broken something , but he jumped right back up shouting, ” I’m ok”. I was always amazed how photog’s always tried to protect their cameras in a fall. The only fall I ever took, I tossed the camera away from me trying to protect myself. I was fine, can’t say the same for the camera………………
    Nice Job Pete framing the walking away shot after the tumble . Most young guys would have wanted to see if they were injured bad enough to take the next day off. You are a credit to the “OLE TIMER” Atlanta video core.

    Reply
  5. itpdude

    Nice concern from the “talent”, eh?

    I hate to say it, but a younger man would have needed a minute. We’ve grown soft.

    Reply
  6. Katie

    What seems like a million years ago, but was only the 1970s, when Bert Lance was about to be arraigned at what is now the Tuttle Building, a gaggle of reporters (including me) surrounded him as he approached the courthouse and many were walking backwards. A cameraman walking backwards didn’t realize that he was coming up and over a fire hydrant and started going backwards. Bert Lance, who was quite tall, reached out, grabbed the cameraman, pulled him upright, and we all continued on. All the while, the only sound was some reporter (not me) barking, “Mr. Lance, do you think you can get a fair trial? Mr. Lance, do you think you can get a fair trial? Mr. Lance, do you think you can get a fair trial? Mr. Lance, do you think you can get a fair trial? Mr. Lance, do you think you can get a fair trial? Mr. Lance, do you think you can get a fair trial? Mr. Lance, do you think you can get a fair trial? “

    Reply
  7. Pingback: There once was a golfer from Venus… « live apartment fire

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