Friday, September 15, 2017

The Million-Dollar Photo

A recent article in the Dispatch and Rock Island Argus by Lisa Hammer reported that the Village of Bishop Hill will receive close to 2 million dollars with a grant and a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the water system.

This help has been sorely needed for a long time. I know because I, along with many others, have been taking photographs of the tower over those years. I’ve taken pictures of the tenacious black squirrel that tried living up there. I’ve witnessed the leaks it caused and the many others. Photographing the resulting icicles in each consecutive winter became a thing to do. It all led up to the winter of 2006. By December the ice build-up around the base of the old wooden tower was massive. A couple of metal struts were bending. There was real concern about one of the legs giving out. The only company the village could get to work on the tower couldn’t come until January. The Bishop Hill volunteer firemen were asked to help get the ice off the tower.

It all came together on Dec. 12th. The firemen were out in force with the new ladder truck and ready to do battle with the giant icicle that weighed an estimated 11 tons. I stood in the crowd that had gathered across the street. I kept my small camera safe and warm in my pocket waiting for the perfect moment for the best shot of the action. Thirty minutes, and some cold toes, later, I got my photo.

My little camera was what one photographer called a “happy snappy.” It wasn’t big or complex, quite the opposite, but it did the job. I sent the result to Doug Boock, the editor of Galva News. It made the front page of that week’s edition. It was also used for a year-end montage. What I didn’t know at the time was that Boock submitted it for two awards with the Illinois Press Association.

That following Sep. I went to the awards ceremony in Springfield and got to bring home a very nice first-place plaque for feature photograph. The office got the plaque. I got photos of me and my big moment.

Lorali Heintzelman, area specialist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was quoted as saying, “Not that we needed that [the photo of ice dangling from the tower], we had documentation, but a picture tells 1,000 words.”

I’m hoping that she was referring to my photograph and not one of the many others that were taken that day. Because I’d love to say that I had taken a million-dollar photo. 

I will probably never find out. In the meantime, it was still nice to go back, find those pictures, and relive a bit of my past in Bishop Hill.

Link to Lisa Hammer's article:

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