Friday, June 17, 2011

Yoani Sanchez and the absent-minded camera operator

Watch to end to see Yoani Sanchez and her husband, Reinaldo Escobar, in Havana's Parque Central. Higher resolution version of video on Vimeo.

I put the Panasonic camera on a tripod, pointed it toward famed Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez and hit the "record" button.
At least I thought I hit the record button.
Instead I turned off the camera. Just brilliant. And I didn't realize my mistake until after the interview.
At the other end of the bench: Yoani Sanchez
All this helps explain why my interview with Sanchez was shot from such a peculiar vantage point - the end of a park bench. That's where I had perched a second camera, a Sony HDR-SR11 I bought used on eBay, just in case the first camera failed to record any images.
I have to admit I am a klutz with a camera sometimes.
Paul Prewitt, a professional TV and video producer in Daytona Beach, was kind enough to lend me the Panasonic AG-DVX100A for the Cuba trip. He reviewed my tapes when I got home and was quick to point out a few little problems - like, uh, let's see, failing to focus the camera. Raising the tripod too high - or too low. Messing up the exposure.
Once I saw the tapes on a TV monitor, I saw he was right.
Shooting video is harder than it looks.
I have more experience with still photography, but even then I can't please everyone.
A few years ago, after I published a photo of the sister of one of the five Cuban agents imprisoned in the United States, a defender of the agents sent me a huffy email.
He accused me of picking the least flattering photo possible to make the woman look bad.
What a ridiculous accusation, I replied. I had picked the best photo, not the worst.
I want to my interview subjects to look good whether I'm shooting stills or video.
I think it's terrible when some journalists or propaganda artists search for images that make someone look bad just because they might disagree with them.
I am grateful to people who give me their time. I don't care what side of the issue they're on. I try to show respect and produce images that show them at their best.
Over the past several weeks, I've been posting videos on the Cuba Money Project's Vimeo channel. I was disappointed to learn that the digital video tapes I used for two interviews - one with dissident Vladimiro Roca and the other with Juan Francisco Sigler Amaya, brother of former political prisoner Ariel Sigler Amaya - were worn out and did not produce intelligible images and sound. I am going through my notes and the videos to see if there's anything from the interviews that I can salvage, but I won't be posting videos of those, unfortunately. Apologies to Vladimiro and Juan Francisco.
A fragment of the damaged tape from the Vladimiro interview.
Later this summer, I hope to return to Cuba to try my luck with video again. I want to capture a wider variety of opinions than what I have so far.
I plan to take the Sony camera. It still works even though it fell almost 10 feet onto concrete while Raul Castro was speaking in July 2009 (See YouTube video of crash).
I'll poke around on eBay for a back-up camera in case the Sony suffers operator failure.
All I have to do is keep the darned camera in focus.


Unknown said...

really i appreciated your honesty and sincerity but next time borrow a camera from ubieta's friends and you will get a great video.

you are doing a great job, please keep doing doens't matter some stupid guy in any ground has to says. thank you very much.

alongthemalecon said...

Gracias, Lazaro

Umang said...

Ha Ha! I came to know of your work and blog thru the Berkman Center's honest of you!

I just shot my first interview the other day for a documentary...and let me tell you I had a borrowed tripod which I did not really know how to setup, I just barely changed the focus of my handycam during the interview it was very nice to read of your attempts.

I did go to the vimeo channel but the video I clicked on did not have I could not follow it much...hope you can add some later...

Best wishes

alongthemalecon said...

well, one of these days I'm going to learn to do it right

M. Denise C. said...

Enjoyed the clip (even as short as it was)!

alongthemalecon said...


alongthemalecon said...

Lazaro ... ahora entiendo tu chiste... hablas de Enrique Ubieta