As the arts and entertainment reporter for the Kearney Hub, I learned many important and valuable lessons during the years. Most of those lessons can be boiled down to this one vital piece of advice: Stay out of the way.

My first introduction came while making a student film in 1976 in Arizona. I worked with a classmate to make a Super 8 film of Juan Bautista de Anza II’s travels through the Southwest. During a re-enactment — complete with horses, costumes and great drama — I stood up to get some stirring footage, only to hear a voice behind me say, “You stepped in my shot,” followed by some terms I’d rather not include in this column.

The cinematographer identified himself as a member of the National Geographic film team, the folks who orchestrated the entire event. I vowed to remember that lesson, to stay out of the way and keep track of my surroundings while covering an event.

I remembered that situation when I started thinking about fireworks this week. Several years ago I decided to dig deeply into the topic of fireworks displays for an article in the Hub, highlighting the tremendous amount of planning and engineering that obviously goes into the displays. I called a company only to get the runaround. The person who spoke to me assured me that it’s not rocket science to “light a fuse and quickly get away,”

I began to wonder if “trade secrets” played a part in his answer because, yes, I considered the amount of gunpowder and explosives involved in fireworks to be closer to rocket science than typing on a keyboard — which might be termed “computer science” by the timid.

I abandoned the idea of science completely and decided to show up, unannounced, as a crew of technicians (my term) set up fireworks for a show in the heat of the July afternoon. When I pulled up, the team seemed less than enthusiastic to see me. They went about their work, basically ignoring me and almost aiming the canons in my direction. I spent my time trying to stay out of the way, but yet get an idea of what these magicians were doing. I tossed out concepts like “painting the sky with fire” and “the grand finale of light.”

They muttered, “Uh-huh,” and actively ignored me.

I took several photographs but nothing outstanding happened. The crew members pounded a few stakes into the ground, joked about the weather and stacked boxes of material with the word “Caution” stamped on the side.

I stayed clear of that stuff, too, for fear of tipping over something that just might leave a crater.

Another lesson I learned that day involves sausage making: It might be best to enjoy the end product without worrying how it gets to that stage. Photographing a fireworks display takes special talent. Given a choice, I would rather observe than fiddle with my camera and fuss over the shutter speed and the aperture. Sometimes staying out of the way gives me a chance to be in the moment more than if I knew all the ingredients of the sausage.

I keep that lesson foremost in my mind during my daily assignments. When covering a concert, I try to be aware of audience members behind me while I get a few photographs. I stay out of the way at art openings so others can enjoy it, too. And if anything might blow up, I keep back and keep safe.

Rick Brown is a Hub staff writer

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.