Photographer's choice: Joe Gibbons

Joe Gibbons looks back at his most memorable shot of the year

Joe Gibbons
Published on December 30, 2013

Telegram photographer Joe Gibbons too this photo on July 10 at a fire just off Beothuck Street in St. John’s. The firefighters in the shot are Paddy Morgan and Mark Power of the St. John’s Regional Fire Department.
— Telegram file photo

The Telegram asked its team of photojournalists to pick one image from 2013 that meant the most to them.
Here is Joe Gibbons’ selection.

It’s that time of the year when I have to go through spot news and feature photographs that I’ve taken over the past 12 months to select the best of the bunch to enter in various journalism competitions.

It’s painstaking to decide which ones to submit as more stand out than others for various reasons. Spot news photojournalism is my forté — also what I enjoy the most about my job, because every day when I get in the Tely rig and start ’er up, I never know what I am going to face when I hit the road.

Here are the reasons I chose this photo, a spot news photograph which I captured through the smoke and flames on a very hot and sunny Wednesday afternoon, July 10.

I was in the east end of St. John’s when I heard the call on my portable scanner of the fire trucks being dispatched to a woods fire on Beothuck Street just off Columbus Drive.

Turning onto Empire Avenue from Portugal Cove Road, I could see the heavy smoke and flames shooting in the air.

I got to the fire scene fairly quickly as I went a few clicks over the posted limit and arrived at the Columbus Drive and Old Pennywell Road intersection just as a second St. John’s Regional Fire Department (SJRFD) pumper truck turned up towards Beothuck Street.

Parking my car not too far from Engine 21 (a West-End fire station pumper), I grabbed my Nikon D4 with affixed 80-200mm/2.8 telephoto lens and followed the firefighters in the woods as they were hauling their attack lines with them.

Jumping ahead a little, as can be seen in the photograph here, some of the trees and brush had already fallen to the ground, victims of the flames.

I did manage to get some photos of the guys knocking the flames down as they moved about trying to combat the fire. Yes, I did get a little closer than usual, but ready to sprint back through the timber if need be.

The firefighters in the photo, Paddy Morgan and Mark Power, had the flames knocked down enough in this section of the woods to be able to retrace their footsteps and begin to douse the ground with water.

I chose this photo as it portrays an eerie feeling where you have the two firefighters wrapped in a blanket of smoke in the forest. A mysterious grey fog is rising up from the ashes and giving that ghostly effect as the fluorescent safety yellow stripes and helmets of their bunker gear help the two of them stand out in the photo.

As someone in the newsroom remarked to yours truly back in July, “it’s like something you’d see in a movie.” Sounds good to me.

On  a footnote, I know I wasn’t supposed to be in the woods with the firefighters as they were going about their work before the fire spread and more reinforcements from SJRFD and forestry crews had to be called to the scene as the fire later spread after flaring up, but there was a window of opportunity provided there and I jumped at it.

The RNC had yet to yellow-tape the roadway to cordon off the bystanders and the SJRFD "three-stripe" shoulder flash brass hadn’t yet arrived there either. Sorry Shift-Supts.  Don and Derek (can’t recall who was there that day) and D/C Jerry.

But hey, that moment in time, it got me this photo, and when I left  the woods shortly after that, folks were being moved back from the scene. Mission accomplished. Read the original story here.