Once upon a time, the day’s best news photos were shot by professional photographers, edited by professional editors, and published by professional news organizations on the six o’clock news or in the morning paper. Now, any old former NFL linebacker can snap them from his airplane window—and they’ll be on computer screens worldwide before CNN can get the word “BREAKING” onto its news ticker.
For those who missed the hysteria on Twitter and other Big Apple-centric media outlets, a big storm hit New York City this afternoon. No doubt news organizations around the city scrambled to get a good vantage point, and some probably snapped some decent shots. But the definitive photo of the storm could only have been taken by someone who happened to be at the right place in the right time—in this case, on a Delta plane over Queens as the system loomed toward Manhattan. That person, it turns out, was Dhani Jones, a former pro football player and current amateur photographer. Jones snapped an image through his airplane window, posted it to Instagram and Twitter, and within hours it was all over the Internet.
While good photography requires skill, often the more important element in breaking news photography is chance—being where the news is when it happens. Thanks to social media, our chances of seeing fantastic breaking news photos have gotten a lot better. In this case, that meant that everyone in New York could see what was about to hit them even before it arrived.