Two 285 @ Parmalee Gulch Crash Incidents in One Week

This past week has seen two very serious accidents on Highway 285 by the Parmalee Gulch exit. The first was Saturday Sept 15th, 2007:

According to law enforcement officer L. E. Warren on-scene, there was one occupant in the northbound (downhill) gold four-door vehicle. This vehicle crossed the grass median at speed, and impacted head-on with the other vehicle, a blue two-door with four (five?) occupants which rolled and came to rest inverted on the (southbound, uphill) shoulder. Time of the accident was just after noon. One Flight for Life helicopter transported some victims for medical care, two victims were deceased at the scene. A second AirLife helicopter departed empty. Indian Hills Fire, West Metro Fire and Inter-Canyon Fire responded. Traffic in both directions of Hwy 285 was stopped until approximately 2:50pm, leading to extensive backups. [As of Wednesday, four passengers were still hospitalized, two in very serious condition].

These are all 20D with the 28-135 lens, Aperture priority at a slight variety of settings. #1137 (second row, left) seems to be the winner shot to me, and I had hopes that one of the local media was going to pick it up. If it bleeds (and it's close enough to Denver) it leads. But, surprisingly, the local paper didn't run any story on it at all. The TV news stations all sent video crews up much later and filmed talking heads in front of a mostly-wrapped-up scene. A bad moving picture still beats a good still photo in the broadcast industry.

Early Wednesday morning (3am) a downhill-bound tractor-trailer loaded with foodservice products crossed the median on a curve and impacted the canyon wall on the uphill shoulder. No other vehicles were involved and the driver was hospitalized. The wreckage remained on the side of the road as late as Wednesday evening rush hour. This happened on the right-turning curve just prior (uphill) of the curve where the Parmalee Gulch accident happened Saturday.

Again, 20D, mostly the 18-55 lens now. This was an over-and-done-with scene, so it was mostly just for practice. The angle of the wreck was hard to work with, because the trailer had wrapped around towards the hillside. Of course, I couldn't shoot from within the hillside (plus the truck was shaded on that side anyway) so I couldn't get the whole thing in the picture and still get it up close and dramatic. As well, there was an insurance adjuster parked there who wasn't interested in moving his vehicle, so that eliminated some angles and cast a shadow almost to the truck itself. He was at least pretty cool about it, and only requested I try not to feature the trucking company name on the door too prominently.

In the final "context" shot, I wanted to feature the speed and motion of the passing traffic. I didn't have a tripod with me, so I could only hand-hold the shot, which limited me to about 1/10th of a second. In any case, even with the aperture dialed as close as possible and the ISO down to 100, 1/10th of a second was still 2 stops overexposed. I shot a couple of frames that way before I realized it just wasn't going to work so I switched to RAW mode. I waited for a nice big fast-moving big rig headed downhill and shot two frames with that. The composition of the second worked out, even though there is a uphill pickup partially obscuring the wrecked trailer. I didn't have time to wait around for a better shot. I adjusted the exposure down by 1.75 when opening the RAW CR2 in Photoshop CS2 and it all turned out ok.

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