FIRE!!

September 14th, 2008
By

One of the most exhilarating albeit difficult assignments to cover are fires.  Exhilarating in that you never know what you’re going to see when you get there; difficult in that you have to deal diplomatically with law enforcement, fire, and persons who may have been misplaced or lost their home because of the fire.

Saturday, I made my way towards the Catlin military housing area on a tip that there was a huge warehouse fire near the Navy golf course.  Sure enough, when I got there, both Federal Fire and Honolulu Fire were efficient in dousing the fire so that no flames were visible anymore, and the whole warehouse was reduced to a smoldering, smoking pile of rubble.  

 

Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN, EF 70-200 f2.8L IS at 75 mm, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO 200, 1/5000 @ f2.8, daylight whitebalance

Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN, EF 70-200 f2.8L IS at 75 mm, Exposure mode: Manual, ISO 200, 1/5000 @ f2.8, daylight whitebalance

Catlin Drive was barricaded by military police, and KITV as well as the Honolulu Advertiser were milling around the barricade, waiting for access.  Quick thinking told me to drive past the barricade and park near the next bus stop along Nimitz Highway heading Ewa bound.  Luck was on my side today, as the burned warehouse was not but 50 yards from the bus stop, through the chain-link fence.  Rather than dealing with the MP’s and trying to get into Catlin, I walked right up to the fence and shot through it.

 

The scene as seen through the chain link fence behind the bus stop on Nimitz Highway.

The scene as seen through the chain link fence behind the bus stop on Nimitz Highway.

 

The fence had wood strips interlocked through the links, partially concealing me.  But soon, firefighters were aware of my presence, like this one who pauses to look at me from a distance.

The fence had wood strips interlocked through the links, partially concealing me. But soon, firefighters were aware of my presence, like this one who pauses to look at me from a distance.

Using my 70-200mm lens, aperture wide-open, I shot through the fence and was able to blur out the links in the fence to make some telling images.  Some looked good in black and white also:

Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN, EF 70-200 f2.8L IS at 70mm, Exposure mode: Manual, 1/5000 @ 2.8, ISO 200, daylight whitebalance, grayscaled in Photoshop

After I got what I needed from that spot, I get a call from our news desk saying that residents are being evacuated from the nearby housing area because of smoke inhalation hazards.  Knowing that Catlin Drive was still barricaded, I made my way onto Salt Lake Blvd. to look for another possible way into the housing area.  NONE.  I found myself back on Nimitz Highway, but when I got to Catlin Drive, I noticed KITV wasn’t there nor was the Advertiser. Hmm.  So I slowed down, rolled down my window to talk to the MP.  Luck was on my side AGAIN, because before I even said a word, he said “Okay, just turn right here, be sure not to run over the hoses, and that officer there will direct you.” SWEET!  “Okay, thanks officer,” I replied.  As I passed the command post where all the fire engines were situated, I noticed several EMS vehicles making their way north.  I decided to follow them, suspecting that they were probably there to treat people who had inhaled too much smoke.  They parked in a cul-de-sac, so I parked about a block away and walked along the street towards a t-junction, where I saw military police combing the streets to let residents know about evacuation.

 

Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN, EF 70-200 f2.8L IS at 155mm, Exposure mode: Manual, 1/1250 @ f4.5, ISO 200, daylight whitebalance.

Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN, EF 70-200 f2.8L IS at 155mm, Exposure mode: Manual, 1/1250 @ f4.5, ISO 200, daylight whitebalance.

I kept my distance, as what any responsible journalist would do, as to not get in the way of public service.  The smoke was getting pretty bad in this area, as you can see in the background of the photo above.  Naturally, I headed in THAT direction to look for people being evacuated.  As I stood on the corner, I turned around, and luck was AGAIN on my side!  Four children were walking towards me, covering their faces with their shirts from the smoke.  I fired away, pun intended.

 

Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35 f2.8L at 16mm, Exposure mode: Manual, 1/1250 @ f9, ISO 200, daylight whitebalance

Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 16-35 f2.8L at 16mm, Exposure mode: Manual, 1/1250 @ f9, ISO 200, daylight whitebalance

They had apparently been hanging out and were looking for one of their siblings.  I recorded their names with proper spellings via the voice recorder on my camera (one of the BEST things invented for photojournalists).  This imbeds a WAV file onto the particular jpg frame that you select, and so the ID’s of the kids were tagged directly onto the photo I made of them. 

Apparently my luck had finally run out though.  A minute after I was done talking with the kids, an MP on foot, one of the ones I photographed earlier making their rounds in the street, was on to me and was yelling “Excuse me, sir!” Uh-oh…..

“Hey officer,” I quipped. 

“Are you with the Navy?” he asked.  I said no, and that I was with the Star-Bulletin.

“News media?” he asked, shocked. 

“Yes, the officer at the barricade let me through,” I replied.

Immediately he was on his radio, uttering some code numbers and jibberish that I couldn’t understand.  What I could understand though, were the words “News media guy” and “not belong on the property,” being transmitted through that radio in a very angry voice.

“Sorry sir, you’re going to have to leave, this is military property,” the MP said to me.

“No problem, I’m leaving now,” I said.  I already got the shot that I needed, so I wasn’t about to argue with an armed MP.

Walking to my car, I was approached by another MP in a car, who proceeded to interrogate me with “Hey, what’s your problem? I told you three times already you can’t be here?”  I literally stopped in my tracks, dropped my jaw, and responded with “Excuse me, officer?  I haven’t seen nor talked to you up until this point, how could you have possibly told me two times before? I’m already on my way out, and it was one of YOUR officers that let me onto the premises to begin with!”

He was silent and stoic for about 3 seconds, then responded with a dull, “Well, you need to leave now…” Then he rolled up his window and took off. 

I jumped in my car, headed down towards Nimitz Highway and the barricade and waved at the officer who was at the barricade, though it wasn’t the one who let me in.  As I stopped at the intersection, I receive sharp stares from the Advertiser writer, who shall remain nameless here, as he stood outside the barricade still waiting for his chance to get inside, puzzled at how I was driving away from in there.  Nothin’ like blowing away the competition.

I wanted to make one more image that would establish the scene for our readers.  An “overall” shot if you would.  I drove through the airport and headed for the H1 westbound onramp, and luck had once again fallen on my side.  I hadn’t even pulled over yet, and I saw several streams of water pouring up and over the rubble from three different fire engines.

 

Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 24-70 f2.8L at 32mm, Exposure mode: Manual, 1/125 @f14, ISO 200, Cloudy whitebalance.

Canon EOS 1D Mark III, EF 24-70 f2.8L at 32mm, Exposure mode: Manual, 1/125 @f14, ISO 200, Cloudy whitebalance.

After that, I hopped back into the car, and was on my way.  I smelled like the fire, was coughing up some rather unpleasant phlegm, and I had just started my shift!  It felt really great to cover all angles and aspects of a news assignment though.  Sorry about the length of this post, but hopefully you enjoy the words and stories as much as the photographs.  None of these on this post published for the paper unfortunately.

Posted in news | 11 Comments »

11 Responses to “FIRE!!”

  1. Kent:

    man,

    i tell you. hearing the story from you doesnt do the images justice. great work my friend. Seriously i think these photos were better then the ones that ran in the print edition.

    I agree taht voice recorder built into the 1-series cameras are a life saver! They’ve come in handy more occasions than i can remember.

    thanks for the post. i’ve seriously been checking everyday waiting for a post.


  2. akabill:

    mahalo,

    Keep on telling the story behind the shots. That and the exif makes the blog really valuable for this aspiring photog.

    aloha,
    aka


  3. Joe Ruesing:

    Great read! keep posting. technical shooting details like these are wonderful.


  4. Don Barthel:

    Thanks for the (“lengthy”) post. I enjoyed the blow-by-blow account of your assignment. Good job on capturing the story from different angles/locations.


  5. J.C.:

    Enjoyed reading your post! It was very interesting. I felt as I was right there with you.


  6. Andy:

    Jeez how’d I miss the start of this blog? Woohoo! More photographer stuff. Thank you :)


  7. Ryan:

    Its always an adventure to deal with the authorities during situations be it at large performances, college sports games, or sensitive events. I can never get enough stories of how photographers deal with them and your story was one of the better ones.

    Do you deal with these kind of crazy stories often or are you given more bland ones in general?


  8. jammaquino:

    An adventure at times, but also a migraine headache on other occasions, Ryan! Generally, I try to give law enforcement and authorities a wide berth, as I do not really like them interfering with my thought processes and news gathering. But a boundary is a boundary, and journalist or not, we don’t bend those rules just “to get the shot.” This blog post is just one instance where luck was on my side:) I’ve been to other spot news assignments where I was just stuck and not allowed to even within 100 yards of the scene. But I always make sure that I’m standing on public property and outside their boundaries. This way they can’t demand anything from you.


  9. Paul:

    I noticed that you are using a Canon 70-200mm IS 2.8 lens in a good portion of your shots, my question is that lens really that versatile? I was considering purchasing it for myself one day.


  10. jammaquino:

    The 70-200 is one of my favorite lenses, Paul. If I had to choose two lenses, it’d be that and the 16-35. It covers a great focal length for single portraits as well as isolates the action from small to medium range. You add the 1.4x or 2x teleconverter, and you have a decent telephoto focal length without having to spend $3500 on a 300 f2.8.


  11. Suzn:

    I just discovered this Blog, and absolutely love it!

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom, behind-the-scenes insight and photographic details!


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