Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Untold Story Behind My Profile Picture

So with the "10 Year Challenge" the current rage, I'm sitting this out since I haven't changed my profile picture lately.  While I haven't used the picture for 10 years, it's been up for a while, and I have no plans to change it in the near future.  In the years of  film photography I was a prolific photographer for decades, but for some reason in the past 20 years I've pretty much stopped taking pictures.  I will bring the camera out on a trip to a far flung place like Dubai, India or Australia, but even here I only take a fraction of a percentage of the pictures I would have taken in the past.  And yes, while I take food pictures to post on Twitter and Instagram, once posted I immediately remove  the pictures from my camera and camera roll.

Consequently when I needed a headshot when I started on social media a decade ago, I really had to scramble for an appropriate picture of me by myself, settling for a snapshot that my son had taken of me by the ocean near Ventura, when I moved him back to Los Angeles from the  Bay Area after he graduated at Stanford Law School.  That was my universal profile picture for a four year period from Facebook to Twitter to everything in between, including Linked In.  But using it on Linked In caught some flack when I was told that a picture of myself wearing a polo shirt by the Pacific Ocean was unprofessional.  So what to do?

This was right at the time that Frank Shyong wrote his Los Angeles Times Column One Front Page story about me.  That led to several follow ups by other media outlets, including ABC News which asked for pictures of me in or around Chinese restaurants.  Once again I had to scramble and my son found a shot he had taken of me outside of Seafood Village in Monterey Park, which ABC News and Yahoo News used in their story which made their daily rotating list of top current news items, and which stunned my friends and relatives who happened to click on to the ABC or Yahoo News homepages and saw me staring right back at them.  (One friend was spooked because she never went to the ABC  News site and the one time she just happened to go there, there I was.)


Then I was contacted by Channel 7's Sunrise television show in Sydney, self-proclaimed as the highest rated breakfast TV show in Australia, who wanted to do an interview with me.  No, they weren't going to fly me to Australia to the interview.  Rather they wanted me to go to their studio in a Century City office skyscraper (who knew?) to do a remote live interview with hosts Samantha Armytage and Andrew O'Keefe who were in Sydney.  They even provided me an advance list of questions they might ask, a far cry from any of the live interviews I had previously done.  

Due to the time differential, my interview was between 4pm and 5pm in Century City for their early morning next day broadcast.  I was ushered into a windowless and dark interior room, seated under bright lights in front of a blank screen, with a TV monitor in front of me.  I was told to smile and look straight into the TV camera.  The show was on commercial break but because I was on a live audio feed with Sydney I was told I would hear the hosts conversing off the air, and that I needed to be aware when the telecast resumed.  While the show was still on commercial break, I noticed that I could not avoid looking at the TV monitor, so I told the technician to turn it off.  When the show resumed we had a nice interview lasting several minutes, and while surprised they asked me some questions that were not on their advance listing, I was able to handle the surprise questions well enough since all my prior interviews had been unscripted.  When the interview ended, one of the technicians said that if I could wait a few minutes he'd give me a DVD of the broadcast.  I had thought that I might not ever see the broadcast, so I was very happy to get a copy on the spot.  (Ultimately the show was uploaded to YouTube, so I would have seen it anyway.)

When I got home, I popped the DVD in my computer and was utterly surprised to see that I was interviewed with the skyline of Los Angeles in the background, as seen from Mount Hollywood.  As I mentioned, I was actually interviewed in front of a blank screen, but it was a "green screen" which enabled other images to be remotely imposed on it.  The irony is that the view of downtown from Mount Hollywood is the same view I have from my house roughly a mile away,  except that I'm at a slightly lower elevation.  Indeed, people I know could have well presumed that I was being interviewed at home!  

As I watched the interview I wondered if I could get a screen capture of the video that would be good enough for me to use a profile picture.  Experimenting with the Windows Snipping Tool, I discovered that it was possible to grab a screen capture from video being played on the computer, so I took several "shots" this way, with the best one looking like this.

So now this is my standard profile picture.   Sometimes the picture gets distorted due to the oblong shape, as is the case here on Chandavkl's blog.  However for the most part the picture comes out fine, and it's hard to see me replacing this picture, given the way that it came about.


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