There’s a real difference between straight aerial photography and the bird’s-eye view that AP’s audience had of the destruction after a series of tornados touched down in western Ohio late on Memorial Day. Using a drone, Cincinnati photographer John Minchillo and video journalist Angie Wang provided those images – both still photos and video – showing residents coping with the wreckage and sorting through their gutted homes.
Earlier in the day Minchillo was monitoring tornado warnings as he covered a Cincinnati Reds double-header. Heading home after the second game both he and colleagues from The Enquirer newspaper received alerts saying tornadoes had touched down near Dayton. After notifying photo editor Jackie Larma, Minchillo and Wang grabbed their gear, including a drone, and headed north to the Dayton area.
Obstacles abound covering storm aftermath and this one was no different. Chased by police at their first stops, John and Angie headed to Trotwood, Ohio, where they found residents combing the wreckage of their apartment house. Minchillo maneuvered the drone just feet above the roofless structure, recording an intimate, dollhouse-like view of the people inside. For her part, Angie worked her way through debris to find survivors who described the terror in the moment. She then filed shot lists and video edits from a moving vehicle as they headed to the next site.
Vaughn Morrison, head of U.S. video production, said, “Minchillo and Wang reached the Dayton area and were filing video before the Tuesday morning global news call had even finished. John’s drone video captured the scope of the damage across neighborhoods as well as taking viewers in for a detailed view that the world rarely sees – exactly what it looks like from above when an apartment complex is torn to shreds.”
After sharing the text story’s byline and overnighting in Dayton, the pair visited Celina, Ohio, where Wang captured graphic drone video of scarred fields and splintered structures. The resulting tornado coverage was our overall top U.S. video story for the week as measured by analytics and customer downloads. Video shot by Wang and Minchillo represented two of the top eight individual stories, while Minchillo’s still photos were widely played, including front pages of The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. Two of his photos appeared in NBC’s The Week in Pictures.
From small details to sweeping landscapes of destruction, their dedication, teamwork and speed of delivery make John Minchillo and Angie Wang this week’s Best of the States winners.