Posts Tagged ‘fire

01
Feb
11

a spot o’ spot news.

Let me preface this post about spot news (unplanned news like shootings, fires, accidents, etc.) with a small disclaimer.

We cover the things that happen in and around our community.  This means the good and the bad, the glamorous and the not so glamorous.  With spot news, it is the nature of our jobs, that inevitably, someone’s misfortune is going to be our ‘good’ fortune.  I’ve touched on this before in previous posts and you have to take a small step back to look at the bigger picture.  A particular tragedy is very sad for those living through it, however, the public has a right to know what’s going on in their neighborhood.  Most newspapers have a certain threshold of spot news that they will give their attention to.  In other words, the explosion, fire, whatever, has to affect many people or cause a lot of damage to property – or must be unique in some way as to make it newsworthy (think car crashing through a liquor store window).  If we went out to cover every single fatal crash, then we’d truly be ambulance chasers.

Every newspaper is different.  Some cover spot news like there’s no tomorrow, handing out police scanners to photographers and reporters.  Others, and The Augusta Chronicle falls into this category, have one scanner in the newsroom and will only run out if there is something big that warrants it (see above).

All that to say, yes, I get excited when there’s a large fire to run to, or an explosion has rocked a pipeline in McDuffie county.  It’s a little like EMS workers and how they block out the suffering and pain they see everyday.  You get desensitized the more you’re around it.  And it’s part of a photojournalist’s moral quandary to decide whether to take a picture of a grieving father or tearful mother.   At that moment you realize that this is part of life, and it is a story worth telling.  No matter how heartbreaking.  It is what we do.

But luckily, this picture has a relatively happy ending.

Chanta Wise, left, a her son Marquis, hold their dog Reeses after it was rescued by firefighters during an apartment fire at Georgia Place Apartments, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011, in Augusta, Ga. No injuries were reported. Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff

As I ran around the apartment complex to get a better look at where the firefighters were actually fighting the blaze, I saw one of the rescuers holding a pet carrier…with a dog in it.  I thought to myself, I’d better get ready because at any moment, the owner might come screaming out from nowhere, hugging and kissing the dog from the joy of being reunited.  Ninety percent of our job is anticipating what’s going to happen.  I had been in such a rush to get to the scene that I hadn’t put a memory card in my camera yet, and so had to fumble around in my pocket for one.  As I was closing the door to the card slot, the woman I was hoping for made her appearance from a neighboring apartment building.  “Oh Reeses, Reeses!!!” I could hear.  I had no time to format my card and just started shooting without knowing how many frames I had left.  It could be 4 or 400.  I didn’t know. Stressful. I clicked away as her son arrived and I backed up as they moved away from the burned out apartment.  This is when I made the picture.  It’s a clean frame with noone else around for distraction, and I was close enough to use a wide angle lens – something that’s unusual for spot news.  A small group of onlookers were gathering around us, and I continued to back up until my left leg stepped on – and fell through – a rotted out tree stump.  For about three uncomfortable seconds my leg was buried up to my thigh in a hole that felt like it didn’t have a bottom. I knew I had scraped my calf pretty good, but the adrenaline was pumping so it didn’t really matter. I managed to get myself up and thankfully was unnoticed by anyone else in all the commotion (I think?). By then the moment had passed, but I knew I had something good.

No injuries were reported.  Including mine.

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com

 

12
Jul
10

got to ride in a helicopter!

Being stuck in row 44 of 45 on a commercial airliner flying through thunderstorms complete with screaming  babies and bad airplane food = clearly sucks.

Having your own helicopter for 15 minutes to shoot exclusive pictures of major breaking news = clearly awesome.

A gas line near Stagecoach Road burns after a rupture, Monday, July 5, 2010, in Thomson, Ga. McDuffie County Commissioner Paul McCorkle was injured and his son Jason killed during a gas explosion and fire. Following a preliminary investigation, it was determined that Paul McCorkle was operating a bulldozer on the property and accidentally struck a Dixie Pipelines liquid propane gas line. RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF

Because we are a newspaper, reporters and photographers have to be on call at all times, including holidays.  The photo department deals with this by having one photographer assigned to be on call that day in case news happens.  Of the four holidays I’ve been assigned since 2006, two of them have involved major breaking news in a town not really known for its breaking news.  I’m apparently a magnet for holiday michief and disaster.
The Fourth of July (observed) holiday is never a very exciting day.  The assigned photographer usually finds a standalone to fill out the paper and maybe catches kids playing in a pool or something.  That was supposed to be my day until I got two calls and an email almost simultaneously that a gas main had exploded and was still on fire.  The smoke is visible for miles, all three people said in their messages.  So I grabbed the 500mm and headed out to Thomson, normally a 30 minute drive.
Twenty minutes, later, I arrived at Stagecoach Road, where it was blocked off by state troopers.  As I gathered my gear, I could hear the roar of the giant fire only a few hundred yards away through the forest.  I went over to the nearest grouping of officials and asked what was the status and how far could I go up the access road to take pictures.  One of the firefighters said right where I was standing was perfect and not to go any further.  I could see the flames through the trees, but it wouldn’t have made a good image.  So I turned and mentioned to a guy in a flight suit (I’d realize what he was wearing a bit later) that it’s useless for me to be standing here, I need flames.  Little did I know,  I was talking to Todd Hatfield, director of operations at Air Med, who also flies the helicopter.

As luck would have it, he immediately offered to take me up to take photos.  Before I could remember that I absolutely hate flying, I said “you betcha!” and off we went toward the chopper.  What had I done.  I was committed now.  This guy was doing a nice thing for me and it would almost be rude for me to back out now.  Not to mention, I needed to get photos, and this was by far my best chance to get something good.

So I got in the back of the helicopter, strapped myself in and made sure my cameras were wrapped around me and my neck because Todd was leaving the door open for me to get a better view.  The flight was uneventful, and I honestly didn’t have time to think about how much normally I would be hating it because I was so focused on making pictures.

So to recap: At 11:o0 a.m., I was sitting quietly at my desk in the air conditioning.  By noon, I was 700 feet in the air over a roaring gas pipeline fire.  Nice.

-RAE

http://www.rainier-ehrhardt.com