Jessica dug her heels into the hard, rocky dirt and pressed her shoulder against the mountain. She hoped it would create some sort of suction to keep her from hurtling over the barely foot wide path—a vertical six thousand foot drop of jagged rock. She fought the urge to vomit into the Union Valley Reservoir, a pristine lake nestled in between the raw, windblown peaks of the Sierra’s. The trail was barely wider than both of her feet. Her leg muscles screamed as she worked to balance herself against the mountain and fighting the straps hugging her camera’s to her chest.
Jessica endured the ankle-twisting climb in order to photograph Southern Bald Eagles.
“Let’s go, newbie,” John Wither’s laughed over his shoulder. “At this rate we’ll reach the eagles at midnight.” Wither’s watched the newest member of the paper’s photography staff. That he had not been consulted on Jessica’s hire was an insult. They said is just an oversight but it stung.
Wither's photographic genius had been legendary. At least he thought so until now.
“I’m right behind you. No problem,” Jessica lied, her right foot precariously positioned at 45 degree angle on an imbedded rock, holding fast as she attempted to move past the rock with her left foot planted flat on the ground. They hiked way beyond Upper Ice House recreation area and were now officially in Desolation Wilderness. Just the name was terrifying to her. Jessica landed the choice job at the daily right out of U.C. Berkeley on the merit of winning the “Student of the Year” award from The National Press Photographer’s Association. In just six months after she arrived, reporters were asking for her, not Withers, to shoot their stories.
This kid was circling his place in the ring. He had been sidelined by a 23 year old. However, she did capture the rebel soul of the mountain woman’s story in a way Withers knew he never could. She had a photographic instinct no one had. Withers resentment grew into an obsession. He positioned himself as her mentor, the one advising her on all her assignments. He would appear to be the one to discover her genius and develop her talent.
He invited Jessica to join him on the famous photo shoot of migrating Southern Bald eagles. After three hours of navigating the ankle-twisting footpath they reached a widening in the trail that offered a clear vision of the eagles. The space was large enough for two people to stand side by side or front to back. Withers stretched ahead of Jessica and wedged himself against the mountain.
“Get on over here and let me show you how to get a winning shot.” Jessica maneuvered in front of Withers. As she raised her camera, she felt a sudden gust—or brush—of something against her left shoulder. Instinctively Jessica jerked right, away from the sensation. Withers plunged forward, his ankle twisted over loose rock. The reality of the moment flashed across his face as he stumbled forward toward the cliff’s edge.Jessica did nothing to break his fall. As he hurtled forward toward the edge of the cliff, Jessica raised her camera to her face.
Causes Geri Spieler Supports
Gobal Tolerance, Village Harvest, harvesting produce for the homeless and hungry. American Lung Association, Big Brothers and Big Sisters,