Washington shut down last week as meteorologists swore super blizzard; non-essentials were off. But your DC photographer was on the job when a family learned at the last minute expected Pentagon videographers and military photographers were sent home, not coming to the elaborate funeral planned for months. At Arlington National Cemetery, the solemn ceremonies take many forms; this was with a mile-long march from chapel to graveside with horse-drawn caisson, missing-rider-formation mounted cavalry, full marching band, twenty-one-gun salute and taps blown by bugler on a snowy hill.
Thirty-five degree chill was worsened by gusts up to forty knots of wind-driven snow and rain, but the long march proceeded through the wet grey wind worsening nearing the gravesite.
Though we shot indoors with Canon 5DMkII DSLR at high ISO, alternating video and stills, out in the elements we needed a superzoom compact for very long shots across snowy fields of tombstones, and, as the winds howled, which knocked out the superzoom, we needed waterproof.
Luckily, things lined up for us to have a not-yet-out weatherized camera, Panasonic DMC-TS5.
The day before, during an interview about medical applications of another camera, we mentioned to the Panasonic rep we were gearing up for heavy-duty storm coverage. He immediately said first samples of a new ruggedized weatherproof compact just arrived and about to go to reviewers, and graciously overnighted one.
At 4AM, the first emails for storm coverage woke me up, but there was also a UPS ship notification for a planned 10:30 delivery with signature required. Realizing I’d be on storm duty and deliveries probably cancelled, I was able to sign up for a new (to me) UPS “My Choice” service allowing re-routing to terminal will-call.
I picked it up at 8AM and started charging the battery by onboard cigarette-lighter inverter en route to storm control trailers at the giant temporary crew base at BWI for 500 out-of-state utility crews. After shooting their preparations (still no big storm), I stopped for breakfast in the massive mess tent, powered up the TS5, read the manual, set features and options and tried it out on the waiting bored-but-colorful linemen.
Just then, cellphone rang with a frantic family member of the deceased–could I get to Fort Myer in an hour to help?
Had I not been on the phone with Panasonic the day before, heard about the waterproof camera, awakened by emails, re-routed delivery, snagged it, set it up, finished the day’s assignment and was just within an hour’s drive with a waterproof camera, the family wouldn’t have had the 250 stills and eleven video clips they needed so badly.
It wasn’t just the gravity and ceremony of the time-honored military tradition – the deceased had been the senior Pentagon audio-visual director.
The family was quite sure he directed all of this.
Copyright 2013 by DC photographer Marty Katz