Behind the lens | Early morning news photographer

By Irfan Khan, Los Angeles Times

They say early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. I wake up every morning at 4:30 a.m. and I can’t say if it has made me any wiser, but what I can tell you is that it makes for some groggy afternoons.

But that’s my job: I’m the early morning news shooter.

By 5 a.m., I’ve emailed the morning photo editor about my plans for the day. A quick shower and I’m on the road.  The exciting part of the job is you never know what each day will bring. A fire, shooting, protests — you really never know.

One morning while responding to a report of a bear in a neighborhood, I got out of my car in Glendale and found myself face to face with said 400-pound black bear. I heard people screaming for me to get away, but I’m a news photographer (and here’s where that wise thing really can be disputed), so I snapped some photos of the bear. Fortunately the bear, who would become famously nicknamed Glen Bearian, decided to turn around and walk away — leaving me with memorable photos.

I’ve been in the news business a long time, and at times, have become immune to what I see. But in reality, from time to time, human events still shock me. I’ve seen traffic accidents that left me feeling that death chased its victims and violently mauled them. I’ve heard the heart-wrenching sobs of a father who lost his two sons in an apartment fire. I’ve witnessed a California Highway Patrol officer tenderly looking after a little girl on a cold and foggy morning after several vehicles crashed on a freeway.

All of those events stayed with me. They reinforce how fragile and unpredictable life can be. It makes me value my time with family and friends even more.