deliverance for video camerasI recently had drinks with an old friend and camera operator, Steve D. He may not want me to reveal his full name.

Steve had exceptional prowess behind the camera. There wasn’t a tree he wouldn’t climb or ravine he wouldn’t descend to get the shot. He was eager to please.

One spring day twenty-some years ago, Steve was with me on an Eastern Shore farm for a public television shoot for a national series. We were shooting cattle and silos.

Good camera people are great at mimicking dolly and tracking moves with a handheld camera. So on this particular day, Steve was backing up to give me a beauty shot, pan, and pull out all in one move. The field, the cattle, the silo. Beautiful, but not something we’d planned.

So I wasn’t spotting him as per usual. Nor could I get there in time.

Steve walked backwards toward the concrete surface around the silo as the crew and I watched the pad eat him up, step by step. The pad was a slick, grey-brown pool of manure. By the time Steve could stop, he was up to his chest in … poop. A pool of poop.

The camera? Quick witted, Steve raised the 30-pound camera (worth probably $100K) over his head. It was like a vision from the closing sequence of the movie Deliverance. You know, where the hand shoots up out of the water, kind of saying, “I’m still here!”

Somehow, Steve kept his equilibrium. And somehow, even after we hosed him off and gave him farmer clothes, the three-hour drive back to our public television station was also memorable.

So, in Steve’s honor, I told the story to the other camera folks at the cocktail party with Steve and I that night. I was so proud of Steve. Dennis said, “You don’t have to tell US. Your camera shoot is legend!” And, just like that, a roomful of arms went up in a kind of Deliverance salute.

These days, I would easily have had a digital picture of Steve and his Slumdog Millionaire-like descent into, well, a cesspool. And I could have probably sold it on eBay. But you know what? I don’t really need one. I got the shot and the memory. And, apparently, dozens of people continuing to give it the airtime it deserves.

Deliverance, or, you can’t be too careful shooting on a farm

by susan time to read: 2 min
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