Have one in the bag
Haltom City municipal court judge Kyle Knapp reacts as organizers add a garbage can of ice to the dunking water during the city's National Night Out celebration at Haltom Road Park in Haltom City on Saturday, July 31, 2004.
Mark M. Hancock / © The Dallas Morning News
The above shot reminds me of three important lessons of photojournalism.
Lesson No. 1
I've already written about getting safe shots immediately upon arrival. The image above is an example. I was actually assigned to shoot the city's mayor. I got this shot in the first 15 minutes and expected it to go to publishing purgatory.
However, a gasoline tanker flipped over and caught fire in another city. So, this image had to represent the event while I sped across the county to the fire. So, I'll again emphasize the importance of shooting what isn't on the assignment first to have something in the bag.
Lesson No. 2
Lesson two of this day was to get the scene first. The police blocked every possible approach to the fire. The truck was burning on the lawn of a gas station next to a highway. Since it was a big, potentially dangerous fire, it was logical and appropriate for police to keep people away and shut down the highway.
When going to breaking news, have a map sitting on the passenger's seat. As roadblocks are encountered, find different approaches. I'll say it's amoeboid movement to get to the scene, but it's actually more like the situation the male RNA strand faces.
Along this same line, the one who gets to the spot news first wins (particularly with fire). A freelancer got there first, got a great shot and the Metro page. I stayed for the clean-up phase, but knew I was smoked. Nonetheless, the competition didn't beat our paper and that's what really matters. Better luck next time.
Lesson No. 3
Good people should be honored.
In the process of walking a few miles to get within shooting distance (the other media types were on the opposite side of the freeway), I lost my work ID and access badges. I didn't miss the badge until I arrived at a transmission location we had near the fire. Without the badge, I needed to go downtown.
I made deadline, and searched the following day (in the sunlight on a day off) for the badge. No badge found.
I'll cut the story short and get to the important part. Heather Miller, a young woman who lives near the fire, found my badge and was honorable enough to call the office and even mail it back to me. I had a print made for her of one of my favorite photos and mailed it (with permission) to her. She rocks!
The lesson:   we all depend on the help of others. Also, honest people need to be rewarded and honored whenever possible. Lastly, even though it makes us look like nerds and gets tangled with the cameras, we should probably wear our credentials around our necks instead of on our hip (it can always be tucked in a shirt pocket).
Enough for now,