BY Dick Kraus
I awoke to the sound of distant thunder. It should have been light outside at this time of the morning, but it was just barely gray through the bedroom windows. And, the thunder had a different quality from the normal summer storm. It wasn't the clap and rumble that followed a lightning strike. It was a steady drumming, like a rolling artillery barrage. Not that I know what an artillery barrage sounds like, since I have never heard a shot fired in anger. But, I have read descriptions and I could imagine that this is what Londoners must have experienced during the blitz of 1940. Although the sound was still distant, I knew that we were in for another round of wet weather. This has been the wettest and coolest summer in recent history. The next time some scientist warns about global warming, I will be hard pressed to be alarmed. The clock radio at my bedside went off just as the weather forecast came on and the distant rumbling became reality as the weatherman spoke of downpours to the west with heavy thunder cells moving towards Long Island. There were warnings of local street and urban flooding and I knew how my workday was going to start. By the time I finished breakfast and was ready to call in for my assignments, the forecast was announcing that the heaviest rains would be on the North Shore of Long Island. I live on the South Shore and looking out the window, all I saw was a steady drizzle. The rumbling, which by now had increased in intensity, was coming from north of my location.
I called my desk and Bob read me the two assignments that I had for later in the morning. He told me that I could come in to the office, first, if I wanted, but that I should keep an eye open for flooding or storm photos.
"Newsday dot COM (the paper's web site) will be looking for an update for their weather package," he told me.
"CBS Radio News is reporting that the heaviest weather is north of me, but if I see anything, I'll shoot it," I answered.
Yeah, right! Like I'm gonna waste my time and energy for Newsday dot Com. We've had a web page for I guess a couple of years and I have not been impressed by it. They hardly use any photos and what photos they do use are usually wire shots that go with National or International stories. They do run some local stories and sometimes they will run a piece of staff art. Sometimes.
But, I did head for some of the usual flooding spots that I remembered from past storms. There were puddles on the sides of the roads in some places, but nothing that would indicate that there was a major weather event occurring. I took the long way to the office and still found nothing of consequence. By the time I pulled into the paper's parking lot, the drizzle had diminished and I walked into the Photo Department almost bone dry.
"Well, I hope you've got some good storm art. Newsday dot COM is here waiting to put it on their page," Bob announced. Standing next to Bob's desk was Phil, the editor of Newsday dot Com. There was a look of hopeful anticipation on his face.
"Sheesh, Bob," I said. "I drove around on the way in and it wasn't raining much down here. It's all supposed to be on the North Shore."
Phil turned on his heel and stormed out of the office. Bob was exasperated and let me know it. "How the Hell can you come in here with nothing? You just can't blow off Newsday dot COM anymore. Since the Tribune bought Times Mirror and Newsday, they are taking this web site very seriously. Phil is always in here first thing in the morning, looking to update the page. Now he's got nothing to go with the local weather package. You're supposed to be a journalist. Do you mean to say you couldn't find some rain?" Man, was he ever pissed. And he doesn't blow very often.
"Awright," I said. "I'll go find you some friggin rain."
I got back to my car and headed north, towards the darkest part of the sky. But the dark was rapidly heading northeast and it looked like the worst of the storm was now out over Long Island Sound and heading to Connecticut. The rain had stopped and the skies were just beginning to brighten. As I drove, I had time to contemplate my philosophy. For several years I had heard that a change was coming to print journalism. There was a lot of talk about still photographers becoming platypuses and shooting still and video for the burgeoning web pages. I didn't want to think about this and mentally, I resisted any thought of change. And given my feeling about the lack of local art on our web site, it was hard to take any request to look for pictures that would only possibly run on the web. What I am saying is that if I found a decent weather shot that might run in the paper, I would certainly shoot it. If it was also used on the web page, that's fine, but no big deal.
But, that was then. This is now. Now, I think, is the time to consider a change in my philosophy. Now is the time to start taking Newsday dot Com more seriously. Even though I still don't like the lack of photos on the page, if I am expected to produce something for them, now is the time to start producing. I can't just blow them off anymore.
But, I also cannot make a photo of something that is no longer happening. The storm had passed me by and there was no telling where I could find any flooding. I didn't have a lot of time to find something, get it back to the paper and download my images into the system before I had to get on to the first of my two regular assignments.
On a hunch, I took a road that took me east a few miles and then another that took me over the Long Island Expressway and onto the westbound service road. The L.I.E. is a major east/west artery and even on clear dry days, it is always jammed heading towards Manhattan at this time of morning. Sure enough, the Expressway traffic was at a crawl. I drove to the next entrance ramp and pulled over. Out came my trusty traffic compressing lens; the ever popular 300mm. On the digital camera, it became a 450mm. I walked to the edge of the traffic lanes and focused on the oncoming traffic about a hundred yards from where I stood. It was still misty and murky and the headlights glistened off of the wet road surface. And even at the slow movement of the city bound traffic, the tires threw up enough moisture to add to the ambiance which said "It's wet out here." I shot a few exposures, checked them on the LCD screen on the back of my digital camera to make sure that I had something. I turned 180 degrees and shot the traffic moving away from me. Then I got back in my car and in fifteen minutes I had two shots scanned into the system. Before I left the office, I checked Newsday dot Com and sure enough, there was one of my shots, and goddam, didn't it look good. And as a bonus, the picture ran in the paper the next day.
There's a lesson to be learned in all of
this. At least for me there is. And that is to not be afraid of the future.
It's just another turn in the road.
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