Today I was doing my usual routine. Go to class, come home, and sit at my computer for most of the rest of the day. Nothing was out-of-the-ordinary, and I still thought that business was as usual even when I heard the sirens close by (there’s a police and fire station a few blocks from my house). But when I heard a really loud BOOM! I knew that something was going on. My suspicion was confirmed the moment I looked out my window and saw dark black smoke billowing up to the sky from only a block away.
So, what would any good photographer do in a situation like this? That’s right … I ejected my CF card from my computer, quickly changed my lens (a Lensbaby just won’t cut for this type of scene), ran (literally) out my door (with camera in tow) and scrambled up the 50-foot (or so, I’m not good with judging heights) hill behind my house. I was wearing horrible shoes for climbing a hill, but I didn’t care! I made it up the hill with enough time to get photos of flames and black smoke screaming out of a garbage truck that had somehow caught fire. The firefighters were there, and only moments away from putting it out. But I beat them to it.
Now, not everything went perfectly well during this (rare for me) attempt at photojournalism. I had my Lensbaby on prior to this, so what do you think my camera was set to? Yep, that’s right. Manual. I noticed this after I had taken several photos and climbed all the way down the hill … I was so mortified that the photos would all be ruined! However, thanks to some careful (and quick) decisions before taking those photos, I had decided that auto-bracketing was best, and bracketed for seven-frames of exposure. Adobe Lightroom did the rest … there was plenty of detail in the “brightest” image to get the exposure correct.
Now, I’m not the type of person to carry my DSLR with me everywhere. But I do make sure that 90% of the time I have a P&S nearby, in my purse or in my car, just in case crazy situations like this happen. I’m also not a photojournalist and don’t really need to be ready at any given moment. Ultimately, the images that resulted from this entire situation is mostly due to luck – I was home, the incident happened a block away, and I also live at the base of a really tall hill that allowed me to get at a good angle to take the photos. But the biggest part of the luck was that I was sitting right next to my camera gear.
When things like this happen, you don’t really think. You just grab and go … I was fortunate that I realized the memory card was still in the CF card reader, or I would have climbed the hill and cursed at myself. This has taught me that I need to be ready to take photos at any given moment, and have my batteries charged and a (not completely full) card in my camera, because you never know when something crazy and photo-worthy will happen.
And, btw, one of my photos made the news. ;)