National Geographic : 1992 Dec
On Assignment Steps from the inferno, free lance photographer ROGER H. RESSMEYER could tolerate only a few moments while recording Etna's lava flows before jumping away from the searing heat and into the freezing wind atop Sicily's famous volcano. "I flapped my arms to cool off, then went back to my tripod to snap a few more frames," he recalls. Photographing eruptions was actually just another space story for Roger, who has been hooked on astronomical phenomena since grade school. "Remember that, like earth, many of the other planets and several moons in the solar system have volcanoes," he says. By age 11 Roger was building his own telescopes and photographing stars. "I was a very shy kid. The camera made me comfortable around people." In 1970 a science teacher took Roger and his Long Island classmates to Mexico to view a total solar eclipse. The trip started the young man down the road as an inveterate eclipse chaser (see "The Great Eclipse" and "The Moon's Racing Shadow" in the May 1992 GEOGRAPHIC). After college Roger focused his lens on stars of another magni tude-celebrities such as Madon na-as he sought portraits for book covers or record jackets. Authors Danielle Steel and Shirley MacLaine became regular clients. During the next few years Roger split his time between portraiture for People, Time, and Rolling Stone and various science projects. He says the volcano assignment got him away from studio work and back into the spontaneous side of photography. "I became a street shooter again, traveling without an assistant or a whole lot of gear." After being on call for the GEO GRAPHIC for a year, ready to travel anywhere in the world to a new eruption, Roger is glad to hang up his hiking boots for a while-he went through three pairs during this assignment. The former San Fran cisco resident, who saw his Marina district home nearly destroyed by the October 1989 quake, has moved with his wife, Jain, to the quiet geologically speaking-of Sag Har bor on Long Island. Roger's newest challenge: teaching NASA astro nauts inside the shuttle simulator how to set up their equipment to photograph the activities around the space vehicle. That's another kind of mission he wouldn't mind going on himself. NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC(ISSN0027-9358) IS PUBLISHEDMONTHLYBYTHENATIONALGEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY,17THANDM STS.N.W., WASHINGTON,D. C. 20036. $21.00 A YEAR,$2.65 A COPY. SECOND-CLASS POSTAGEPAID AT WASHINGTON,D. C., AND ELSEWHERE.POSTMASTER:SENDADDRESSCHANGESTO NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC,P.O. BOX2174, WASHINGTON,D.C. 20013.