2012 is in the history books. Here is a photographic chronicle of Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties from the photo staff here at the PD; photos from John Burgess, Christopher Chung, Crista Jeremiason, Jeff Kan Lee, Kent Porter and Beth Schlanker.
-A special shout out to photographer and good friend Jeff Kan Lee who for 44 years documented the Redwood Empire, printed on the pages of the Press Democrat. Jeff has been shooting pictures longer than I’ve been on the earth. Last week, Jeff retired from the business. The photo staff gave him a low key send-off at the Noodle Bowl on Russell Ave. in Santa Rosa followed up by desserts in the photo department.
My first week at the Press Democrat in 1987 was an eventful one. The highlight were the ride alongs with Jeff to get me acquainted with the area. I remember going to several fires and Jeff seemed to make it to the scene before first due engines. It’s a knack that Jeff has to find a street that isn’t in a map book when rolling to spot news. I was constantly getting beat to spot news because Jeff grew-up professionally as Santa Rosa ballooned from a small burg to a city, so he knew all the short cuts.
A couple other things have stuck in my mind. My first big event was the lightning bust over the Mendocino National Forest in September 1987. Dozens of big fires were burning around the state and some of the biggest were in Lake/ Mendocino County. Jeff outfitted me with an entire set of wildland fire gear, but nothing fit, well, because there had never been a six foot five photographer at the PD. Being said, he took me to the main CDF station on College Ave., where I was fitted properly with some pretty old nomex gear and shelters. At least I had something. I stayed on the fires for several days, Jeff making food and film runs on a daily basis. That was no small trek for the both of us; we would meet in Ukiah to make film drops and load up on food. Back in the days of shooting slide film, it was the only option.
The time Jeff had to bring me a set of car keys to a fire in the hills above Cloverdale was amusing. I had leisurely placed my car keys in the pocket of my nomex and they promptly slid through the hole therein. I forgot you know, because I was more intent on the fire bearing down on a subdivison of homes near the KOA and my personal safety was at real risk not to mention the car. So Jeff non-chalantly found me and provided an extra set of keys. He just shook his head. I’m pretty sure a thought ran through his head that I was nearly the dumbest photog on the face of the earth. I always carry spare keys now, and never ever put them in my nomex.
A couple of years ago, Jeff drove two hours to jump start my car battery after I left the lights on while photographing for a winter story. I’m quite certain he thought my lights were on but no one was home.
I carry jumper cables now.
Or the time Jeff rescued me from the 1995 Guerneville flooding with 20 rolls of film. I was evacuated via National Guard truck and wound up in Occidental. It was no easy task, every road in Sonoma County was underwater but Jeff made it and we made deadline by a mere 20 minutes. He’s pulled my butt from photojournalism disaster on numerous occasions.
These were great times; stories that we can tell each other time and again. In a Facebook post the other day, I mentioned Jeff had taught me patience. Well, yes he has. But he’s also taught me to abhor racism, think clearly, make pictures with passion and to have great regard for your community.
Well Jeff, I know I will see you at spot news events in the future because one does not give up news photography that easily. It’s an addictive job and sir, you’ve done it quite well.
Have a great retirement Jeff, you will be missed.