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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Racetrack Fire

Capture the human drama of a news event, which is far more important than the event itself, in this case a fire.

Two employees of Rockingham, N. H. Raceway slump in sadness after the horseracing facility was badly burned in a fire (© Michael Maher, The Lowell (Ma.) Sun).
Rockingham, NH, New Hampshire, Rockingham fire, Ractrack fire

The photo:
Even if you’re far away when a newsworthy moment occurs, you can often arrive in time for a great photo.  When I discovered that the famous Rockingham, N. H. racetrack was on fire, I was 30 minutes away, but still headed there immediately.  I might not get there in time for a dramatic news photo of the fire raging, but it was a big enough story that I needed to go and at least photograph the aftermath.  When I arrived, the fire had been put out, but the grandstand had been badly burned and was now a deformed mass of twisted metal.  The shock had not worn off, and many employees were still stunned because the racetrack would be closed for the foreseeable future.  I spotted two jockeys leaning on the rail, heads downcast, clearly crushed by what had happened and probably wondering how they would now earn their living. I photographed the two jockeys in the foreground with the burnt grandstand behind them.  It wasn’t a spectacular shot, but did sum up the event quite well, especially since I had arrived so long after the actual fire occurred.  I was surprised I had gotten such a good shot after being so late to the scene.  What was most rewarding was receiving a letter from the President of Rockingham praising my photo for telling the full story, including the emotional impact, so effectively.  I learned that the human side of a news event can still be told very powerfully after the spot news drama is over, so it’s better to go late and shoot than not go at all.

3 Tips:
1) Even if you are a bit far away from the scene of a newsworthy event, you can still capture a great photo.
2) Many times the actual event occurring may not provide the best picture. 
3) When you are late to the scene, look for outstanding photos of people’s reactions