Behind the photo: Weather photos can be unpredictable - but also rewarding

With the exception of spot news coverage, one of the most unpredictable, and often stressful, aspects of community photojournalism is locating candid weather photos for the next day's paper.

In the Daily Herald photo department, we've referred to these types of photos as GA, for “General Art” when a space in the news section needs to be filled or to publish images that document when it's hot, cold, raining or snowing. Particularly when the latter takes place, the entire photo staff is mobilized.

The photos can't be staged. For ethical reasons, they have to be “found” situations, so that means the photographer is walking up to strangers, taking a photo of whatever they are doing, then getting their name and the town that they're from for caption information.

A significant snowstorm was forecast on Jan. 9, and in accordance with Murphy's Law, the worst of it would come during the afternoon rush hour.

After a morning Schaumburg assignment, I was looking for photos in the areas of Arlington Heights, Mount Prospect and Des Plaines, but the only problem was that it wasn't snowing consistently. So, I followed the advice of both my boss and Horace Greeley and went west.

While cruising for photo opportunities in Schaumburg, I located a person riding his bicycle in the snow. I was rolling again, and not long afterward, I spotted a USPS letter carrier in the distance, so I parked my car, walked over to the curving sidewalk, and waited.

At 2:21 p.m., I took a telephoto-lens view of friendly letter carrier Tony Andal, not to be confused the the late actor Tony Randall, as he trudged through the snow along a curving sidewalk with his postal vehicle in the background.

We chatted for just a moment, but I certainly didn't want to delay his delivery of the mail. While walking back to my car, I breathed a sigh of relief because after hours of searching, I found a photo that was worthy of the front page.

And that's just where it ran the next day, as “centerpiece art.”

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.