Porter Ranch, California, USA
Time / Date:
15:00 / October 13, 2008
Camera Body: Canon Rebel XTi
Lens: Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/1000s
Focal Length: 55mm
This photo was taken while I was attending Los Angeles Pierce Community College as a first year photojournalism student. Being my first year, I was trying to do just about anything to make it onto the school’s newspaper, something I thought would be a challenge but also great accomplishment for me at the time. A fire broke out in the mountains that morning and it only worsened by the afternoon and spread closer to nearby homes. I jumped in my car and drove straight to the fire looking for an opportunity to become a staff photographer for the school’s newspaper.
When I arrived, there were young adults around 18-25 years old standing on a hillside that was burning. They were taking pictures of their friends and photos of themselves standing by the wildfire while LAFD helicopters were dropping flame retardant on and around them. With only a kit lens, I decided to get in close and capture how carefree everyone on that burning hillside seemed to be.
Being my first year learning to take proper photographs, I was equipped with only what I could afford while working at a Baskin Robbins in college. A Canon Rebel XTi with kit lens (18-55mm) came at a decent price at the time, so that’s where most of my images came from the first two years training to be a photojournalist. I was very insecure of my gear while shooting around others, so it didn’t take too long for me to buy bigger. Looking back, my favorite images were from my rebel, because I always tried to get the better shot.
Making the Shot:
Smoke was blocking out the sun, so a large shadow cast over everyone on the hillside while the rest of the valley was brightly lit by the sun. I remember watching the helicopter ready to come around and make a drop when I quickly scanned my surroundings and spotted a young man filming with his camera phone. I moved toward him hoping a good shot of the helicopter passing by him would present itself. I tried to expose for the helicopter, but the sun kept coming in and out of the smoke, so finding a balance I just began to shoot as the helicopter made it’s pass and got something better than what I was expecting to capture.
Editing & Processing:
I was absolutely terrible at any post processing programs or editing at the time. I did have help from my advisor picking out the right shot.
Looking back, I really enjoyed the rush of being in a potentially dangerous position to capture an image that others would not or may not ever see in their own lifetime. At the time I was a bit afraid of getting into trouble or even getting hurt somehow, but then you get the shot. After that, you only want to go bigger.
My advisor in college always reminded me that the best shots are captured when you get in close. Since then, Ive always shot with a 40mm or 24mm lens and made myself get into the action or closer to the subject.
I’m inspired by the ability to share with others and keep them informed. I can capture moments in time in my own perspective and anyone else can have an idea of how it was viewed through me. I enjoy having the ability to make people aware of what they might not know what’s happening around them.
About the Photographer
Louis is a freelance photojournalist and short documentary filmmaker in Los Angeles, CA. He spends most of his days photographing locations and architecture, where major news, sports, and local events are some of his favorite things to photograph.
Louis won over 20 awards in photojournalism for the Journalism Association of Community Colleges, California College Media Association, and Press Photographers Association of Greater Los Angeles.
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