Staying Sharp


photo courtesy of Danny Leadley and

I was in the pool this morning swimming lengths and thinking about the necessity of both the physical and mental parts of what we do as freelance camera operators and production specialists. If you’re like me and shoot a lot of shoulder camera for sports and live concerts you understand how taxing it can be on your body during a three or four day run of work.  Then of course there’s packing and loading gear and hauling endless amounts of cable back to the production truck.

On the flip side, we spend countless hours researching technology, lighting concepts, editing practices and in my case turning a lot of that research and information into lesson plans for the next generation.  I think for a lot of people, especially people new to the industry it can be quite overwhelming. Here are a few tips I’ve learned over almost twenty years that have helped me stay healthy and sharp.

  1. Exercise:  If you keep your body strong, flexible and able you will have a longer career. I can remember my first camera job in a news room and getting to know the veteran camera ops. About half of them had some sort of displacement in their backs and shoulders or sciatic nerve damage. It stands to reason after slinging a broadcast camera on your shoulder for eight hours a day that your alignment would be out of whack.  Try to exercise at least four times a week, and mix it up.  I like swimming, aerobic weights, elastic bands, and a lot of stretching. I try to incorporate balance into most exercises I do, either with a half ball or stability ball to keep my core strong.
  2. Organize: Here’s the one thing that caused me the most problems until my wife set me straight by continually showing me examples of why being organized was so important. I still misplace my keys, wallet and phone so I’m certainly a work in progress. But even taking the time at the start of my work day to make a list of all the things that need to get done and displaying it on google calendars has been a huge help. Being organized keeps my head less cluttered, meaning I’m able to concentrate with more focus on the task at hand. It’s also rewarding to look back at the day and see all of the things I’ve accomplished. I can take some pride in that.
  3. Balance: Whether you have your own production house, or you’re an assistant editor working for the local news outlet, it’s nice to have a moment where you can just breath. Almost everyone works long hours no matter what their profession, and a lot of people have trouble achieving balance or even knowing what it looks like. I think balance is achieved by focussing in on the things that you love to do. So if your life, both professional and personal is filled with the things you are passionate about you will have a leg up on finding balance everyday.   Again, I’m still working on it especially now with a six month old at home. If I make time to exercise, cook a meal with my wife, play with my daughter and occasionally sneak off to a buddy’s house for a go on his Xbox and a quick draw, I can push through work a little harder to get back to those life moments.

I hope some of you find this helpful. I would love to read your comments if you have any ideas you’d also like to share to keep sharp and healthy no matter what it is you do for a living. Stay sharp!