Into digital world, and back

The Baltimore Sun

Last month when I traveled to Hoopers Island on Maryland's Eastern Shore, the idea of change was foremost in my mind. My assignment was to photograph two charming elderly ladies who were the last of the local crab pickers in the village of Fishing Creek.

But things change. The newspaper industry is in an upheaval trying to keep up with the Internet age, which has cut deeply into the publishing world's readership. This was to be my first full assignment using a video camera in addition to my still cameras, so that we could post the story in video form to our Web site.

I was nervous about the video, although the Sony handycam does everything but hold one's hand. I was most nervous about the sound, which can make or break any piece. I think my subjects picked up on my nerves and mostly acted like deer in headlights when I asked them to tell me about who they were and to speak loudly due to the background noise in the crab picking room.

John Makely, our video editor, cringed when he saw how much footage I had shot. He said "OK, Cecil B. DeMille, let's see what you've got."

We had a heated argument when he removed my scene of mallards swimming near the crab house. Things settled down, however; the still photographer in me didn't appreciate some of the things I had seen being cut out, but a looming deadline meant things would have to go. I often didn't hold the video camera steady enough, didn't stay with a subject long enough and enjoyed playing with the zoom feature far too much.

I have a new learning curve ahead of me that I relish. Video is a new world to me that I approach with the same kind of cocked-ear-dog wonder I had when I first saw a black-and-white image appear on submerged paper in a very wet darkroom. I noticed the pickers' hands shriveled a bit from being wet so long, much as mine had been years ago.

In the end I didn't shoot many still pictures, but of all I did that day it was the still image of the hard-working picker, Nellie Flowers, 79 (proud but a bit embarrassed by the attention), that I liked the most. We are supposed to get new and better video cameras this month. Things change, indeed. You can see my efforts in the video section of I wonder if Nellie will.

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