First let me say that I have no intention of making a serious attempt to break into the field of photojournalism. But what photographer (or for that matter these days, anyone with a cellphone camera) doesn't secretly harbor the wish that he or she will someday stumble upon a newsworthy event and find that they are the only one with a camera, thereby causing all of the newspapers to come knocking on their door, creating instant fame and fortune? Okay, that's the complete fantasy part, but I do believe that most photographers would like to think that they'd be able to rise to the occasion should they find themselves in the midst of a newsworthy event. I even carry the phone number for the newdesk of the local paper just in case. Well I found out the other day that I don't have what it takes, and I've been kicking myself ever since.
I was driving along the Killen Truck Trail/South Main Divide in Cleveland National Forest with two friends, and about 20 miles in we drove smack into a drug bust; LEO's as far as one could see, two suspects in handcuffs sitting in the road leaning against a sheriff's car, a big burly SWAT-looking guy keeping an eye on them, and a helicopter hauling up bales of marijuana from the canyon floor below. It must've been a huge haul because the helicopter kept bringing up load after load after load.
As a friendly LEO walked over to my jeep, our first instinct was concern that he was going to question why we were out here, which was silly but nonetheless was voiced by each of us. When the LEO told us that the road would be closed "for quite some" and that we'd have to backtrack all the way out to the main road, John started looking on his gpsr for possible side trails rather than retracing our steps, Marie remained fascinated with watching how quickly the helicopter hauled the bales of marijuana up, and I sat there and said "Sh*t!" as I tried to figure out how I was going to turn around on this narrow canyon road.
Oh wait! Hey, I've got my camera in my backpack! So what did I do? I am sad to report that I proceed to take photos of the helicopter. Not the handcuffed suspects guarded by the big guy, even though we were probably the only ones who had access to that side because anyone from the closest town would've had to come in the OTHER way, which was completely blocked off. No, I took photos of the helicopter hauling up bales of marijuana, backlit because I was shooting into the sun. And since I only had my 24-70 lens with me (which would've been perfect for photographing handcuffed suspects!), it is a TINY backlit helicopter. And the whole time I'm doing so, I'm afraid of getting caught (I'd better cross paparazzi off my list, too).
So I keep asking myself where was that instinct that I thought I would have, and why did I feel so intimidated? I've never had any unpleasant run-ins with the law, I wasn't out there doing anything questionable, and I'm not uncomfortable around guns because I grew up around guns and learned to shoot when I was a kid. To make matters worse, we've been checking all of the news sources and haven't found a single word about the incident. Now my friend raises the possibility that it was a secret bust and "they" don't want to publicize it. Maybe because there was another recent large marijuana bust very near by and TPTB don't want everyone to think that all of SoCal is turning to marijuana farms. Okay, so now the photograph that I failed to take could've busted the whole thing WIDE OPEN! Ha-ha.
All right, so it wasn't national news-worthy, but I still feel like I failed a test.