Picture selected as Alaska AP news photo of the year

Heat from fire was photographer's biggest challenge

Posted: Friday, January 05, 2007

The predawn temperature was well below freezing last March when Michael Penn shot his prize-winning photo of flames engulfing Holy Trinity Episcopal Church; but the photographer didn't feel cold.

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Penn's big-gest problem was the intense heat as he stepped close enough to capture an image chosen best news photo of 2006 by the Alaska Associated Press.

At first, he shielded himself from the heat behind a parking-lot wall.

"Then I saw the picture come together and had to literally step up and take the shot," said Penn, 45. "Then I had to move back again. I couldn't stay."

Understanding the risks and hardships that photographers endure to do their jobs was a big part of the judging criteria, said Larry Campbell, AP bureau chief for Alaska. He and his staff looked through hundreds of pictures to make the selection.

"In this case the framing of the shot was just spectacular," he said. "It tells a story without really needing the cutline."

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