Photographing the Shootings

Mondays are usually pretty slow for Alan Kim.

By 8 a.m. on April 16, he had delivered his three sons to school.

Within an hour, he was on the phone with Shay Barnhart, an assistant news editor at The Roanoke (Va.) Times‘ New River bureau.

Kim, 52, is a part-time staff photographer for the newspaper. He finished high school in Roanoke and graduated from Virginia Tech in 1980. He’s the guy who made the pictures that ran big across the front pages of nearly every American newspaper Tuesday.

“I had no idea what to expect,” Kim said in an interview with Poynter photojournalism group leader Kenny Irby on Tuesday afternoon.

Click on the link at right to hear some excerpts of the conversation.

And to see the pictures Irby and Kim discussed, click here.

In all, Kim said he was on campus for less than an hour. He made approximately 200 frames. The most widely distributed of those pictures — the two that appeared on most front pages Tuesday — were shot from the opposite side of the drill field, roughly 200 yards from Norris Hall.

To catch those moments, Kim used a 500mm f4 manual-focus Nikon on a tripod. He said the lens had been gathering dust in his kitchen, but he grabbed it on the way out the door. Good move.

Even still, the wind, among other things, made for a tough environment to photograph in. “I kept losing my hat,” Kim said. And he admitted that his pictures weren’t quite as sharp as he would’ve liked.

“But that’s what we had to go with,” he said.

Has he done anything that might have prepared him for what he encountered on Monday? Not exactly. “I’ve been on crime scenes before,” he said.

“It still hasn’t quite settled in on me actually.”

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