A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Ritter's Cove, The CBC Educates A Stills Photographer
Sunday, January 27, 2008

Ritter's Cove

Fri 8:00-8:30 p.m., 19 Sep 1980-20 Mar 1981 Wed 4:00-4:30 p.m., 14 Oct 1981-31 Mar 1982 (R)

A co-production of the CBC, Taurus Films of Munich, and Global Television of London, Ritter's Cove was a family adventure series shot in British Columbia. Perceived as a successor to the network's long-running, west coast series, The Beachcombers, it was written by Lyal and Barbara Brown, who had contributed scripts to the earlier series. Hans Conninberg as Karl Ritter, an elderly pilot whose procrastination over a medical examination lost him his licence to fly. He was forced to hire Kate Ashcroft, played by Susan Hogan, as his replacement to keep his single airplane aloft and his transport business afloat. The stories generally revolved around the antagonism and mutual respect of the older man, set in his ways and his sexual stereotypes, and the younger, strong-willed woman.

Ritter's Cove was produced by David Pears, and the executive producer was Peter Kelly.

In 1979 I was a veteran stills photographer who had shot 5 year's worth of CBC variety shows at the cavernous CBC on Hamilton Street. I was not prepared to shoot drama. By drama the CBC meant anything that was not a variety show that had song and dance numbers. I hated being called a stills photographers for several reasons.

As a stills photographer I took pictures of the lead singers, dancers and hosts of the shows plus pictures of the sets for the set degigner as well as costume shots for the costumes department. But early on I was told that the floor sweepers who kept the floors clean and pristine for the dancers were far more important than I was. I was also told by the crane operator that if they ever had to stop a taping because I was in the line of the crane sweep they would probably not stop and just keep on going, with my inevitable demise. And if ever my cameras clicked and the sound engineers heard me, I would be packed and sent home to Burnaby where I lived at the time.

I resented the names "stills" photographer as I argued up an down that photographers were in existence quite a few years before movies came into the equation. I argued that film photographers should be called moving pictures photographers! But this was to no avail. After five years of this I was generally well liked. I minded my own business, they never heard any of my clicks, and I learned I had very good peripheral vision so a crane never had me in its way.

I was picked up by a Tyee Airways De Havilland Beaver (the very one that was used in the series I was to take pictures, Ritter's Cove) on Friday evenings and brought back, from Egmont, B.C. on Sunday for the duration of that 1979 summer.

It was shooting this drama that I found out that unlike variety shows where they would use, simultaneously during a taping (video tape) perhaps two large cameras, a mobile one and a crane camera to get a variety of angles it was very different. In drama they used one film camera and would take several angles, one at a time. This meant that the actor or actors had to repeat their lines over and over not only for the important takes but also to takes from the side or from above. The camera operator was almost God and he (in Ritter's Cove it was a man seen here lying on his back but whose name I have forgotten) had a beautiful assistant camera operator. And cameramen who used film cameras (at the time they used an Arriflex) looked down on those who shot video in studios.

On my first trip to Egmont I was given a room in a hotel in Pender Harbour. I was given a particular room and I soon found out why. That first Friday evening I was not able to sleep. There was all sort of banging, creacking, gasping and screaming next door. I was asked with smiles the next day if I had slept well. I was then informed that Animal slept next door. Animal worked for staging and he was over-sexed. Nobody could figure out how he could work during the day and have sex all night. I was witness to this fact.

Of the show I remember little except that the lead part was played by Susan Hogan who was beautiful and extremely gracious. The crew loved her. There was a young native Canadian woman who was striking and also approachable. The cameraman had a BMW motorcycle and on lunch breaks, he, his lovely assistant and I would hop on it and go skinny dipping in a nearby lake. We went without helmets as briefly that year someone had managed to block the enforcement of the helmet law. One of the young men working in lighting was Matthew 0'Connor (later like many at the CBC became pioneers in the Vancouver film industry). We loved his mother who was the caterer. This meant we had gourmet meals and freshly baked bread every day.

One one day the show had lots of villains who posed for me by a truck. Another very popular guest of the show was Bantamweight boxer Dale Walters who won a bronze medal in the 1986 Olympics. He was very popular with the girls. I remember that he had a brand new Honda Accura with a sunroof. He took me for some rides in it.

Most of us never appreciate how good things are when we have them and only miss them when we don't. That was not the case with me. I enjoyed every minute of it, every meal, every swim in the cold fresh water lake, every conversation I had with the crew, but most of all those landings in Vancouver's harbour in that Beaver in sunny summer evenings. I savoured them and I know remember them fondly.


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