Postscript to an eruption: newly discovered photos by photojournalist Reid Blackburn of Mt. St. Helens days before its eruption


posted Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 4:02 PM EST


It was early on the morning of May 18, 1980 when I was awoken by a house-shaking rumble. I ran to my deck and saw a plume of smoke rising into the air over Mt. St. Helens. The volcano was erupting, and within a few minutes, Reid Blackburn, a photojournalist working for The Columbian, a Vancouver, Washington-based newspaper, was killed when a supersonic pyroclastic flow rolled over his car and his mountain forest campsite.

Now, over 33 years later, The Columbian reports that a photo assistant at the paper found a roll of unprocessed film that Reid shot five weeks before the eruption. The film was processed and a contact sheet made, revealing a roll of aerial images Reid had shot of the simmering volcano.

I met Reid briefly on a press tour several weeks before the eruption. A young energetic guy, he had climbed the mountain a dozen times and was intimately familiar with its moods and landscape. Now he was camped in the woods ready to record the volcano’s story for the The Columbian, National Geographic and U.S. Geological Survey. 

They say that good photographers have better luck than bad ones. Reid was a very good photographer but this time his luck ran out. Much later a team from the U.S. Geological Survey found Reid's car buried in the solidified pyroclastic flow.

He died doing his job, and it was a loss to all of us.

(via: Popular Photography)