Sunday, July 12, 2009

Smoked Cameraman

It's official; it wasn't that my camera was not working properly, it was the operator.

I took my little Nikon Coolpix S6 (it's a couple or three years old now) to the high-end camera store because lately it has taken lousy photos, particularly of indoor or low-light scenes where there is any action in the shot.

Most recently, I was trying to capture the ambience of a barbeque place, a place where patrons are greated not by a host or hostess, but by a huge "warming grill" complete with grillmaster. The patron points to the sausage links or brisket or steaks or ribs or chicken of interest, then the grillmaster starts slicing off meat until the patron says "stop." That's where the camera problem comes in. I could not for the life of me take a shot that crisply captures the way the place looks. Instead, I got fuzzy moving images. I was quite annoyed that I could not get the shot I wanted...not even when I tried to stage it.

What I wanted to capture was a shot of the grillmaster. The grillmaster behind the warming grill is the first thing that gets your attention when you enter the huge open-air (but covered) cooking area. Behind the warming grill are a dozen or more enormous smokers where the brisket or ribs or steaks, etc. are actually being smoked to, we wish, perfection. The scene is reminiscent of a place in Central Texas that I love to visit: Cooper's Barbeque in Llano.

This place, though, is a much larger, much more upscale place. Unlike Cooper's, this place has an enormous, cavernous seating area...I suspect 400-500 people could be seated in this place. And, unlike Cooper's, the money that must have been invested just to build this place had to be in the many hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Unfortunately, unlike Cooper's, the meat and the sides and the atmosphere just don't do it for me. It's bigger and newer and flashier, but it's not authentic; it's a businessman's vision of what a barbeque place should look like, not a grillman's vision of what a barbeque business should look like. But, to the credit of the people who built this place, it is attractive to a large and growing audience in the Dallas/Fort Worth area that doesn't give a shit about what I like or don't like about the place; they want an experience that has the look and feel of assembly-line authenticity without the gritty reality and the long distance drive.

What I learned from the upscale camera store is that the idiot camera operator apparently had fucked with the camera's controls beyond his competence. He had selected a scene mode and a shutter speed that virtually guaranteed a crappy photo. I had, of course, tried to adjust all the settings back to "normal" but had failed miserably. So, the photos I was taking were roughly equivalent to photos a 5-year old with ADD would have taken with a Brownie camera. Hence the quality of the photos above. I guess I'll have to suffer through another meal at the inauthentic BBQ spot.

All photos here are of Hard Eight Pit Bar-B-Q, and NOT of my beloved Cooper's. As always, click on any shot to embiggen it.

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