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Click … it’s a thousand words or more

If a picture tells a thousand words, then I think I shot about a million words of photos one morning in Prince George when I was with the Free Press.

It was the morning of the Columbus Hotel fire, which claimed three lives, and I shot about a thousand pictures in just over an hour.

I filled the first card that had been in the camera, went back to the office, dropped it off for Arthur Williams to download and start going through, then headed back to take some more pictures.

Arthur was phoning around to get what information he could on the fire and when editor Bill Phillips came in, we started putting pictures and copy on our website and then working on the paper itself.

It reminded me to some extent of another fire I covered, this one at my first newspaper job in High Prairie, Alberta. It was the morning we had to get the paper to press and we were definitely short of copy. In fast, with our editor on holidays that week, the reporter who was covering for her had been at the RCMP detachment the night before, looking for any ideas.

She was talking to the Sergeant and flicking her lighter, and said something about needing to burn something down because we needed a front-page story.

The next morning the provincial building, right across the street from our office, caught fire. The fire started deep inside the building and nobody was hurt, but our reporter got some strange looks from the RCMP and fire people as she went around with her camera.

I was tabbed to drive one of our sister papers to its location later that morning, so I loaded up my car and set off. I could see the smoke from the fire in my rearview mirror, and then I saw a big pillar of fire and smoke.

I knew that meant the building had caved in, and I was right.

Not all the photos I remember taking involved fire.

One where the timing was perfect was in the ice-water challenge from a few years ago. UNBC Athletic Director Loralyn Murdoch had agreed to take part, and I was there to get the picture for the paper.

As the bucket was emptied, I snapped and then checked.

I got the picture just as the water hit Loralyn’s head. Her expression was perfect.

My most memorable picture, though, was at a high-school football game, with no action involved.

One of the players from the Duchess Park Condors had lost his mother to cancer just before the Prince George Bowl against the Prince George Polars.

Before the game started, the teams lined up at midfield, in alternating order. I took some pictures of some of the players standing there, observing a moment of silence.

I had one I liked and was able to see the number of the Duchess Park player at the centre of it, but didn’t have a lineup. When I talked to the coach on the phone a day or two later, I told him I had the photo I wanted to use, and asked him who the player was.

There was a short silence, and then he told me that was the players whose mother was being honoured.

I had not known that when I took the picture, so to some extent, it was pure luck I got him in the photo.

Bill Phillips ran the photo as the full front page in the next issue.

It ended up winning an award as the best Sports Feature Photo from the Canadian Community Newspapers Association that year.

The award, and a copy of the photo, hang on the wall at my Mom’s house.

It definitely is a picture that tells a thousand words.

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