Job atop ‘wobbly pole’ exhausting, enriching

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    By STEVE JENSE

    Editor’s Note: This is the second article in a three-part series on the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

    If you’ve ever been inside the Tabernacle on Temple Square for general conference, it’s hard not to notice the guy who sits on that big pole and runs the up-and-down camera right in front of the speaker.

    But for Reid Robinson, the longest-continuing cameraman for the semi-annual general conferences of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the “blocking-my-view” complaints he occasionally receives are just part of the job.

    “Yeah, they complain about me,” said Robinson, who has been the main man at camera No. 2, called `the post’, since 1978. “But (the Tabernacle) is such a small part of the conference audience that they just have to live with it,” he said.

    But it is actually Robinson who has to live with the difficulty of staying alert and keeping a steady picture perched atop such a wobbly pole. Not every cameraman on the six-member conference crew is capable.

    “I usually do it because I’m the one that can hold still,” Robinson said. “The pole is so delicately balanced that if a truck goes by outside it shakes. And then once you’re settled, your heart starts to beat and it moves the whole camera.”

    But Robinson said the toughest part of his camera post job is not the balancing act but the endurance.

    “It’s really exhausting to sit up there and hold still for two and a half hours,” he said

    Another tricky part of a conference cameraman’s job, Robinson said, is to follow the speakers who want to look directly into the camera.

    “Some general authorities are very good at playing with the camera,” Robinson said. “There are those who want to be talking straight to the people in order to present their message just right, and we have to follow them.”

    But Robinson said it’s not him but the technicians at the KSL audiovisual `Triad Center’ down the street who actually coordinate which of the camera’s views are shown on TV.

    Neither does Robinson seem to have complete control over his emotions when the spiritual benefits of being a conference cameraman is the topic.

    “There have been a lot of times when being here has been a real spiritual experience,” Robinson said, pausing. “At times I’ve got a certain shot, and it comes to me that it was important that, that shot was seen by somebody in particular.”

    But after 18 years, Robinson — who is actually not a cameraman by trade but an accountant — says it is more than the spiritual lift that makes him increasingly confident in what he does up in the air.

    It is through years of experience that a cameraman reaches the point of excellence in his art, he said. And real skill in the art of camera work is not easy to find these days.

    “Now they hire kids out of high school,” he said. “They work at minimum wage and do all the technical stuff. It’s a lost art.

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