Excepts from the Oakland Tribune edition Wednesday, Nov. 19, 1997. By Harry Harris and Laura Counts
Well-known television new cameraman Lou Calderon, who risked his life many times to film everything from earthquakes to riots, was found dead Tuesday morning, an apparent drowning victim. A man working on boats at the Ballena Isle Marina in Alameda discovered Calderon's body floating near the docks about 10 a.m. Calderon, 64, had been living on his boat at the marina and may have fallen from a dock, police said. He retired from KRON-TV, where he was best known for his work as an aerial photographer. Before that, he made his reputation as a fearless, caring news cameraman while working at KGO, KPIX and KTVU. He started his career as a photographer at the Alameda Times-Star more than 40 years ago. "He was the best aerial photographer I've ever worked with," said Will Prater, a helicopter pilot who spent thousands of hours in the air with Calderon in KRON's Telecopter 4. "We wore out three helicopters together. We got into situations that were life-threatening to the max, and he had no lack of courage." Prater said Calderon saved numerous lives during his many hours in the air, including spotting a little boy lost in the Oakland hills and locating the flare from a sunken yacht the Coast Guard couldn't find during "as bad a storm as you'd ever want to see." Calderon and Prater provided the coordinates to the Coast guard and 10 people were saved - including two other KRON photographers. Alameda County Sheriff Charles Plummer said he first met Calderon during the University of California, Berkeley turmoil of the 1960s when Plummer was a Berkeley police command officer dealing with protesters and Calderon was filming the riots. "He's a real loss," Plummer said. "He was like a combat photographer. He had ice water in his veins. He had no fear." He said he saw Calderon get injured at the demonstrations, but that it did not deter him from doing his job. "We all felt like he was one of us," Plummer said. Calderon "was very objective," the sheriff added. "He was there to do a story, not take a shot at you and not make up stuff." Ed Leslie, a highly regarded, long time KGO reporter now retired, worked with Calderon at the station for more than 10 years. He said Calderon "was one of the industrious journalists I ever worked with. Not only did he take the pictures, but he set up all the sources. "He had such a rapport with law enforcement and other sources that when I worked with him, the assignment was all laid out. He did everything." KTVU news director Fred Zehnder, who worked with Calderon while he was an assignment editor at KPIX in the 1960s, said not only was Calderon a great cameraman, but an exceptional newshound as well. "I remember that he had an uncanny sixth sense about news," Zehnder said. "It was like he could smell a news story." After retirement, Calderon turned to the artistic side of his craft, displaying his stunning aerial shots in several exhibits and a book. Though his years as a video photographer he never gave up still photography. Calderon is survived by his son Tracy, also a photographer, and a daughter, Leslie. Funeral arrangements are pending.