Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sharp Shooter Pilot - "Heroes"

So the first episode of Sharp Shooter just finished, and I am impressed. The feature-length pilot introduced the show, setting the stage for the first photography reality show. Somehow they were able to take photography, which is reasonably exciting for those so inclined, and give it a breathtaking spin of excitement and tension. I admit I found it strange that the host, Craig Urbani, spoke the words of photography as if he were describing say, The Amazing Race, or Survivor. It took some getting used to, but the fast paced cinematics, overly enthusiastic lens-flare and tension laden commentary soon grew on me and lent the contest the edge that kept me interested for all one and a half hours.

The contestants, amateur and professional alike, will face photography challenges ranging far outside their strengths and have their talents pushed to the limit in the search of the best shot.  For the pilot episode, the fifteen contestants were split into three teams of five and given photography tasks centred around the theme 'Heroes'. Their assigned names Optical, Aperture and Exposure were a bit cheesy - so be it. They met at a firefighting training ground and were given three sub-themes- Inferno, Vertigo and Backdraft. They had to work as a team of individual photographers, taking their cameras to the middle of firefighting exercises, to find that one moment that best captured their theme and the epitome of a Hero.

I do have a few criticisms about the show, the most significant being the lack of publicity. I happened to see the link on the MNet facebook page to a short article describing the show, and immediately went in search of the fan page for the show. There was none, and still is not. It is as if the producers have no idea of the power of social networking or have chosen to actively forgo this powerful tool. I found the onscreen text to be very short lived and hard to read, and so I missed the artistic preference of each of the contestants. I would also like to see their work before the show, and their entry submissions, so I can judge how well they deal with areas outside their comfort zones.

Once they had their shots, they had half an hour in 'The Lab' (oh, the theatrics) to select what they believed to be their team's best shot to be submitted to the judges  (Jenni Button, Josie Borain and Bryan Traylor. In addition, the team leader would choose one picture from each member to be placed on a collage. In an unwelcome twist (because it introduced uncertainty in rules that weren't yet familiar) the judges decided that the teams had not chosen their best shots and so no one team had lost - they all had. I assume that under normal circumstances, one team would face the loss of a member, whereas here, two people were eliminated. I suppose that counts as a criticism, the rules are fairly straightforward, but were presented in rapid-fire mode which made the twist hard to appreciate.

Their equipment was drool-worthy; each aspiring sharp shooter was given a Nikon D5000 and the promise of more specialised equipment as the tasks demand. That was slightly disappointing, in my opinion, because I pride myself on my point-and-shoot and compact photography and hoped they'd be tested by less than professional equipment. I specifically forfeited the chance to own a DSLR in favour of a camera I could fit in my pocket. It's a choice I often doubt, even regret, but more often I am glad of the portability of my amazing superzoom SX210is.

I suppose I had hoped, but it seems unlikely, that the photographers would be handed point and shoots, or even camera phones and be expected to produce winning shots. A lot of the time it seemed like they weren't using the true power of a DSLR and simply clicking wildly away, caught up in the panic of the moment, trusting in the power of the D5000 to get them that perfect shot. For some, this did not work as was seen in some of the overexposed or badly composed shots. I know from experience that the limits of a point and shoot force one to be more creative or innovative in achieving the desired shot, and there are extensive forums for those who create art with their phones. Perhaps a task like that would prove most challenging for those who desire absolute control and predictability from their camera.

I am glad to see an exciting take on photography, it could have been very, very dry. Lens-flares aside, the cinematography is good, and the format keeps things fresh. I'm surprised that this is a world first, but I guess everything has to start somewhere, so why not here. Perhaps this will take hold, there are certainly enough photographers out there, it seems, who would be keen to take part in it. I know I would love to get stuck into these. I would probably be out of my depth, and I'd have to learn how to use DSLR on the job, but hey, it looks exhilarating.

So as far as first impressions go, this one fared well. My gripes are really minor and I'm stoked for next week.

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