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The early bird gets the picture 

click to enlarge Colorado Springs Gazette staff photographer Dougal Brownlie goes the extra mile to get the shot. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Colorado Springs Gazette staff photographer Dougal Brownlie goes the extra mile to get the shot.
As a news photographer, it pays to be early. That’s why I got up at 5 a.m. to photograph the “mass casualty” exercise at the Colorado Springs Airport on Wednesday, May 3. The Federal Aviation Administration requires such an event to be conducted every three years.

I was the first member of the media to arrive and found the actors getting their moulage, a makeup meant to simulate mock injuries, before the start of the exercise.

click to enlarge Judging by her smile, it’s not the Zombie Apocalypse. Actor Denise Iguma just got her moulage, a makeup simulating a head injury. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Judging by her smile, it’s not the Zombie Apocalypse. Actor Denise Iguma just got her moulage, a makeup simulating a head injury.
I was the only still photographer there, which made me happy because usually these kinds of events draw several photographers. We’re typically shooting the same subject on top of one another.

The early morning arrival made for some light-hearted and fun pictures of the actors — a different viewpoint on an exercise simulating a plane crash and testing how emergency responders do when a large number of injuries and deaths occur.
click to enlarge Public Information Office Kim Melchor briefs the media. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Public Information Office Kim Melchor briefs the media.
I’ve been to dozens of these types of events and one thing I’ve learned is that an exercise with emergency personnel is a busy shoot. There’s a lot going on, but I like to take my time and find little stories within the bigger story.

I ran into my old friend, Battalion Chief Jesse Kruckeberg of the Colorado Springs Fire Department, so I made a picture of him that I know he might enjoy. You might remember him from a previous column on photographing good news.
click to enlarge Battalion Chief Jesse Kruckeberg of the Colorado Springs Fire Department in his truck before the start of the exercise. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Battalion Chief Jesse Kruckeberg of the Colorado Springs Fire Department in his truck before the start of the exercise.

I sat in on a media briefing with lead Public Information Officer Kim Melchior with the City of Colorado Springs Communications Department. She helped me get credentialed for the event and I thought making a portrait of her at work was a nice idea. People like Kim almost never get their picture taken — it’s the nature of their job.
click to enlarge Police officer Brian Gley listens to the briefing before a mass casualty exercise at the Colorado Springs Airport. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Police officer Brian Gley listens to the briefing before a mass casualty exercise at the Colorado Springs Airport.

Then, of course, there was the main event.
click to enlarge Firefighters carry actor Gerald Morey in a stretcher from the scene. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Firefighters carry actor Gerald Morey in a stretcher from the scene.

Media are always kept a little further away than we would prefer — for good reason. No one needs to get run over by a firetruck!

I used a long lens to capture some of the firefighters battling a mock blaze on a dummy plane fuselage, and of course tried to capture a sense of firefighters working with the victims, who, by the way, were steadfast in their roles even though it was a really cold day.
click to enlarge Firefighters battle a mock jet fuel fire with a dummy plane. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Firefighters battle a mock jet fuel fire with a dummy plane.
click to enlarge A firefighter attends to a victim of a mass casualty exercise at the Colorado Springs Airport. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • A firefighter attends to a victim of a mass casualty exercise at the Colorado Springs Airport.

click to enlarge Actors playing place crash victims sit in the triage area. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Actors playing place crash victims sit in the triage area.

click to enlarge Firefighters help victims to the triage area. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Firefighters help victims to the triage area.
Events like these are super fun for a news photographer, especially because nothing bad has actually happened. Finding little stories within the bigger story is always a nice reward too.

Sean Cayton is a wedding photojournalist of 19 years and operates a successful, award-winning wedding photography studio in Colorado Springs. He's also an award-winning photojournalist. Sean is happily married to the love of his life (also his business partner) and is father to three beautiful children. When he’s not working, Sean can be found outside flying kites with his kids, hitting golf balls or casting a fly rod to hungry trout.

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