“Photojournalism is like having a front-row seat in life.” ~ unknown
I’ve seen this quote attributed to various famous photojournalists through the years. I've been unable to learn who actually coined the phrase, but I certainly agree with its sentiment.
Whether shooting sports from the sidelines, concerts and events in front of the stage; or, as I had the opportunity recently, shooting just a few yards from the edge of a runway with screaming fighter jets soaring into the wild blue, being a photojournalist has certainly brought me close to the action.
I fully understand and appreciate this privilege that is accorded very few. There are potential liabilities and, in many cases, ruffled feathers of those who paid top-dollar for their front-row seats, only to have a photographer, (or many), distracting or blocking their view. But, the reason photojournalists are provided these opportunities is to report or share these events with the masses who are unable to attend, or to record a moment of history for the public record.
Last weekend, the Montrose Regional Airport hosted the 2017 Montrose County Tribute to Aviation. Last year, I got to fly in the B-29 Bomber that was part of the show, along with local WWII “Rosie the Riveter,” Betty Hayes. I got to fly again Sunday in a WWII era Navy SNB-5 – the same model former President George H.W. Bush flew and was shot down in – which was built in 1943 and decommissioned in the 1960s. It is now a part of the nationwide Commemorative Air Force.
Friday afternoon I was invited by Katie Yergensen, county media relations manager, to come to the terminal and shoot from the flight line. There wasn’t much to see from that vantage point, as the aircraft were landing more than a mile away, on the north end of the runway. And, there was a building blocking our view. All I could photograph were planes taxiing in toward the terminal, and then being staged.
That is until Colorado Air National Guard Major Josh Rasmussen arrived mid-afternoon in his USAF F-16 fighter and put on a bit of a show. His cousin, Major Ian Rasmussen of the Oregon Air National Guard, had arrived earlier in the day. Ian, along with his and Josh’s parents, had returned to await Josh’s arrival.
Josh flew some maneuvers over the airfield, banked to the east and then up high into the sky. I grabbed a few frames of his aerobatics and then we all lost sight of him. I struck up a conversation with his dad, Rod, as we wondered where he would reappear. Soon, we heard his jet coming in from the north but no one could see him. Then suddenly he appeared just above the flight deck and I was fortunate enough to react instinctively and got some great shots of his F-16 just above the tail wings of those already parked on the deck. That picture made it on the front page of the Sept. 16 paper.
Katie had informed me earlier the cousins grew up in Ouray and learned to fly here in Montrose. Once Josh had landed, I got the opportunity to speak to him and Ian and a bit more with their fathers for a possible story (See montrosepress.com to read the previously published story “Born to fly”).
All of the Rasmussens were approachable, congenial and the two pilots made themselves available every time I approached them throughout the weekend. Even when they were in other conversations, they would acknowledge me immediately and let me know they would be right with me. I could not ask for a better reception or two nicer guys to interview.
I never take the accessibility I have for granted. I guess I shouldn't be surprised by how neighborly the Rasmussens were. After all, they're from just down the road.That's one of the things I really enjoy about Montrose — for the most part, everyone is friendly, open and inviting.
Paul Hurschmann is the photojournalist for the Montrose Daily Press. He has more than 20 years of experience in the business, including six with The Associated Press.