Going old school

Yesterday, after driving 280 miles round trip to shoot a video on some maggot farmers—yes maggot farmers, I spotted a plum of smoke in the hills along Interstate 90.  It wasn’t much, but the winds had really kicked up. I called it in and by the time I got back to the newspaper twenty minutes later the small brush fire had bloomed into a raging wild fire. I had already put in 12 hours on the maggot story, but that little voice told me this wildfire was going to be big news.

Because it was so late in the day, I left my video camera at the office and just went old school with my dusty still cameras. Thank god I’ve kept the batteries charged up.  I quickly went home and changed into my fire resistant gear and headed to the front lines of the fire, which was now threatening a large sub division.  Dressed like a wild land firefighter, I pretty much walked past the police roadblocks.

The fire was about a mile walk away. I could hear the propane tanks exploding and gun ammunition popping from one of the 13 homes that burned to the ground that day.

I ran across an elderly man whose house had become a raging inferno. He was searching for his missing blind and deaf dog. I walked with him and as he approached his burning house, two firefighters ran up and asked him to leave because of the ammo was still popping off. Just then, a neighbor lady came and gently walked him back to his car. I made photos of the moment and headed back to the paper to move the pictures on deadline.

The fire had taken out several cell phone towers, which disrupted my and other photographer’s ability to transmit photos from the scene. My photo of the man and neighbor ran six columns across the front page. Today for online, I produced a Finding the Frame multimedia look at the story behind the photo.

Having long ago transitioned to doing mostly video storytelling and multimedia editing, I had almost forgotten that spot news rush, which comes from covering a rapidly developing story with still cameras. It is hard for online to compete visually with a six column monster photo on page one. Even my mother called me when she saw it. I miss seeing your photos in the paper,” she said.  My only response I could give her was, “So do I, so do I…”

Here is a link to other Finding the Frames that I have produced.