Covering a spot news event such as a fire, traffic accident or police standoff presents a variety of challenges.
But before I start photographing a spot news event I got to get there. And just getting there presents another set of challenges. I’ve got to quickly figure out the fastest, best way to get to the scene without breaking any (or many) traffic laws.
As I’m driving to the scene I’ve got to figure out from where I’ll have the best chance to get a good photo. Getting a good photo gets harder when access to the scene is restricted. Roads may be closed or the media (and everyone else) may be kept a distance from the scene.
Making the call on where to go is often a guessing game, informed only by my local knowledge and any scanner traffic I may hear about road closures, the location of a command post and so on.
Recently I covered a dramatic semi truck accident. I made two poor decisions on how to get to the scene before finally figuring it out.
I first heard of the accident on the scanner. The scanner traffic indicated the truck had struck a bridge on Interstate 82 and the cab was hanging over the side of the bridge. Shortly after that, scanner traffic made mention of closing the interstate because of the accident.
Armed with that information I decided to park at a shopping center near an interstate off-ramp. I walked up the off ramp and began walking (as fast as I could) back along the freeway. Soon, however, I realized the original reported location of the accident was incorrect and it was too far to walk.
As I walked back to the car I called a co-worker who suggested taking a side road which would get me close to the scene. Following that advice I went to the side road only to find it gated.
In the meantime I noticed the interstate had not been closed. Traffic was moving slowly but moving, nonetheless. My only remaining choice was to get into the slow-moving line of cars and make my way to the traffic accident. A few minutes later I was able to get to the scene. Luckily the state patrol allowed the media to park near the accident.
My first decisions probably cost me 15 minutes in getting to the accident. I’m not sure if it made any difference in the photos and video I shot but it was still frustrating as I tried to get to the scene.
So, while it’s a challenge to photograph the news, you’ve got to get to the news first.