For the first time since the accident in 1976, workers at Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington are planning to clean out the room where chemicals exploded in Harold McCluskey’s face, showering him with radiation 500 times the occupational limit and embedding radioactive americium in his skull, turning him into the Atomic Man.
McCluskey, improbably, survived the incident. (He later said, “Of nine doctors, four thought I had a 50-50 chance and the rest just shook their heads.”) The massive dose of radiation left him with health problems, and decades later, his body still set off Geiger counters.
But the most painful legacy of the explosion was probably the isolation, both physical and social, as other humans shied away from his radioactive body.
When the accident happened on August 30, 1976, McCluskey had just returned to his job as a technician after a five-month strike had shut down the Plutonium Finishing Plant at Hanford.
The material he was working with had become unstable after the long hiatus and so right after he added nitric acid as instructed, it exploded, blowing out the glove box that was supposed to contain it.
His body—now covered in blood and shards of metal and glass—was taken to the decontamination center where he stayed in an isolation of concrete and steel.
Nobody was allowed near him out of fear for the radiation he still emitted.
“Blinded, his hearing damaged by the explosion, McCluskey spent the next three weeks at the unit cut off from personal contact,” described a later profile in People. “Monitored, like an alien, by nurses wearing respirators and protective clothing, he could neither see nor clearly understand the attendants who approached.”
The nurses scrubbed and shaved him every day—the bath towels and bathwater now part of Hanford’s radioactive waste.
He endured 600 shots of zinc DTPA, a drug that binds to radioactive metals.
It was less than two years ago when photographer Michael T. Meyers picked up a camera for the first time.
Looking for a constructive way to spend his time after becoming sober, he became passionate about his hobby and soaked in as much as he could about shooting and editing.
His hobby has since transformed into a new profession, with him leaving behind a 20-year career in the advertising world (as a writer and creative director) to pursue photography full-time.
Meyers is based out of Chicago and the city has provided the backdrop for his most memorable work.
Armed with his Sony a7rii and DJI Phantom 4 drone, he takes to the city, capturing the Chicago skyline swathed in mysterious fog. As he’s endeavored on a path as a photographer, Meyers has rediscovered his own city.
With a newly sharpened eye, every moment becomes a possible image.
“The thing I love most about photography is that as a photographer, it makes you so much more aware of the things around you,” Meyers tells us in an email.
“The way light falls on buildings or water, and what the same spot can look like at different parts of the day. The way lines exist and converge and play with each other, in both natural and urban landscapes. How a place or a moment can evoke a specific and special kind of emotion.
The trick is, you actually have to stop and pay attention to these things in order to appreciate them. Being a photographer, in a good way, forces you to see these things and capture them in order to create an interesting shot.”
By shooting from unexpected angles and perspectives, Meyers’ pictures of Chicago place the city in a new light.
His dynamic and unexpected images provoke observers into a newfound appreciation of their surroundings.
Photograph by Dennis Ramos, National Geographic Your Shot
It seems that Mother Nature was in a collaborative mood, helping Your Shot member Dennis Ramos snap an unusual shot of Lake Hollingsworth in Lakeland, Florida.
“I was walking with my wife,” he writes, “when we noticed this one duck [fly] to the top of the young tree. As we were taking shots, I noticed this cloud very slowly [move] into my camera frame.”
A long-exposure photographer, Ramos was prepared to capture the moment. “I always have my neutral-density filter in my camera bag,” he explains. “I set up my tripod and [dialed] in a 90-second exposure—just enough to blur the water and still have the cloud above without too much motion blur”.
Ramos’s shot was recently featured in the Daily Dozen.