First Day on the Job

The sound. I’ll never forget the sound of the first spot news event I covered. I can’t put it into words. It was a thump, but sounded muffled, like a car door closing.

J.R., one of the staff photographers at the TFP, and I were waiting at a red light, pulling out of a local highschool. It was my first day on the job, and we had just covered a wrestling match between two local teams, Baylor and McCallie. I was in the front passenger seat “chimping,” which is photo slang for reviewing your photos on the preview screen on the camera, and laughing with J.R. about the outfits and poses the guys were in. And complaining about how cold I was.

And I hear this thump.

We’re so close. At first I thought someone in the car behind us had just bumped us.

We were so close, we could feel it. 

My next memories are only sounds.

I remember J.R. screaming, “Holy shit, there’s a wreck!”

I remember the lady that had been hit making a moaning sound that I can’t even begin to try to describe.

I remember the first people on the scene pleading with her to stay still.

I remember the man in the Dodge SUV that hit her saying over and over again, “Oh my God. Oh my God.”

I remember J.R. looking up from where he was crouched by the injured lady and saying, “start shooting.”

Of course, we had numerous discussions about this sort of event in PJ class. In an event like this, we’re supposed to make a judgement call. Do we shoot and tell the story or are we in a position where we can help? It’s up to us to decide where our loyalty lies.

Of course, our duty, as news photographers, is to serve our readers. But then again, our duty as humans is to help the fellow man.

I started shooting. I didn’t think about composition or the rule-of-thirds. I didn’t think about getting up high or shooting low. I didn’t think about ISO, shutter speed, or aperture. I didn’t think about how cold I was. I just shot what I saw. I blocked the rest out.

Later, as J.R. and I were talking about the accident, he mentioned how glad he was that there were two of us there. He’s been working at the TFP for 35 years, but said that sometimes that judgement call can still be difficult. In our case, he was able to attend to the victim while I was able to shoot.

The next day, I was published in the TFP for the first time, “Region,” below-the-fold.

The victim was transported to the hospital with non-lifethreatening injuries.

Here’s a link to the photo that ran: TFP

Here are the ones that didn’t:


Trina Benson is tended to by Chattanooga Fire Captain Randy Steele, left, after the motor scooter she was riding collided with a Dodge SUV driven by Tawambi Settles at the intersection of Dodds and Anderson Aves. on Tuesday afternoon. Settles said he did not see the motor scooter when he turned from Dodds into the path of the northbound vehicle. She was transported from the scene by ambulance.


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