They'd been sitting there, on the pad, waiting patiently, when I walked up tools in hand. The nurses were so happy to see me I got a big hug. It was only a little fuzz on a main rotor chip detector, so I had them back up in no time. The light was magical, so I put away my helicopter fixin' tools and pulled out my Nikon, and sat down on the edge of the rocks surrounding the pad. The light was also dark! The pilot fired up both of the big Pratt engines, and turned the running lights on, and I marveled at the colors. Balancing my camera on my knee, I squeezed off several 1-second long exposures, before he pulled pitch and climbed away. To me, it wasn't just a helicopter picture, it was a mood, a feeling, an urgency...storm coming, need to get back to base. The shot became a favorite amongst the crews, and graced a number of company computers as wallpaper.
Then tragedy struck. Just under two years later, this helicopter crashed in Cajon Canyon, with the loss of all three crewmembers on board, including Flight Nurse Katrina Kish (an amazing ball of joy and energy to touched everyone around her), who just happened to also be onboard the night I took this shot. From a thing of joy, this image became a thing of sorrow, and was one that was used a lot at the memorial service.
I haven't looked at it much since then. It was one of my first images in my quest - if only accidental this particular time - to master night photography, and I've gone on to other subjects, although none of which can approach this one for poignancy. So when I came across the image in my archive, memories came flooding back...the smell of a helicopter transmission, the hugs of nurses, the whine of twin PT-6s winding up, the cold stabbing of rotor blast, the loss of friends. All in a moment's capture of some pretty lights at night. All in the life of a photograph.