A 92-year-old woman was on the boat, and the crew was shouting that she would need help. A man gently picked her up and placed her on the bed of a truck, and Ciaglo reacted quickly to capture a photo. The rescue process was so quick that the truck began to pull away before Ciaglo was off.
The dedication of the rescuers, many of them neighbors with boats, impressed Ciaglo.
“So much of what we saw during Harvey was people helping people, strangers helping strangers,” Ciaglo said. “It was a constant fluid situation of rescues and intense moments happening all around.”
That intensity can overwhelm a photojournalist working to get the best shots, especially on a story that becomes spot-news coverage 24-7. Before Houston, Ciaglo had worked in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and had covered many military homecomings where hundreds of family reunions would happen simultaneously in one place, creating a similar situation.
“I learned to choose your shots and focus in on singular moments. If you try to focus on everything, you won’t get anything,” Ciaglo said.
Kingsley said his staff works well on a daily basis, filing fast, getting complete captions and filling the demands of digital publishing. For the storm, the staff kept that pattern and pushed it into overdrive.
“If those are your habits, then those are the things you can rely on when things get tough,” Kingsley said.
The photographers at the Chronicle were also confident that if for some reason they didn’t get “the” shot, someone else on staff would be getting good pictures. They have a tremendous level of trust in one another that helps during these crisis stories.
For newer staff members, the experience of the veteran staff also guides them, especially during big stories such as this. For Mulligan, who has been at the Chronicle about two years, it was inspirational seeing the photos coming in from the rest of the staff.
“I look at my co-workers and think, ‘Wow, I want to be like that,’” Mulligan said.
This article originally appeared as the cover story in the 2017 September/October issue of News Photographer, the magazine of the National Press Photographers Association.
Also in this issue as part of the cover story, KHOU in Houston had their studios flooded while on the air with live coverage of the monumental rainfall coming down from Hurricane Harvey. Read that story here.