A young woman backs up to the edge of a cliff at sunset, waiting for her sister to snap her photo.
A young man who's taking photos of an icy river drops his cellphone and tries to retrieve it.
The woman falls off the cliff.
The man falls into the water.
If you live in Chicago, you've undoubtedly heard what happened to Anna Bachman and Ken Hoang.
Bachman was a 25-year-old graduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, on a visit to San Diego, when she fell Sunday evening from a cliff above the Pacific Ocean.
Hoang was 26, visiting Chicago from his home in St. Paul, Minn., when he fell into the Chicago River about 12:05 a.m. Monday. Two of his friends, a man and a woman, went in after him. The man lived; on Tuesday police divers suspended their search for the woman.
The deaths of Hoang and Bachman — profound losses for the people who loved them, a jolt to many of us who didn't know them — have felt somehow related even though they weren't.
The two were of a similar age. Both had connections to Chicago. Through the accident of timing, they came together in the news.
More to the point, both of their deaths involved the pursuit of photographs, photos that happened to involve the dangerous natural wonders in a city.
If you live in a big city, you're apt to worry more about gunfire or car crashes than about the hazards of cliffs and rivers. Or photographs.
But now that so many of us have cameras on our phones, it's a good guess that more people than ever are putting themselves at risk, however unwittingly, in search of the perfect image.
How many of us have stepped to the edge of a river or a rooftop, to the brink of disaster, in search of a slightly better photo to text or tweet or post on Instagram?
I've been to the spot where Ken Hoang was taking photos on the night he died. It's a thrilling viewpoint of an ancient river snaking out of a modern skyline. I've crouched there, leaned forward, held my phone out a little too far to get the shot even as an invisible voice said, "Careful."
At midnight, with the dark water turned to ice, that spot must have been especially seductive. And dangerous.
I haven't stood on the spot where Anna Bachman was having her photo taken by her sister, but I've posed for photos in places like it. Who hasn't?
Millions of us have stood on top of the rock, under the waterfall, next to the giant wave: Hey, look, everybody. Here I am, little me next to the mystery and the majesty.
Whether you're the photographer or the photographed, the camera can lure you past the point of reason: Come to the edge. Just a little closer. Come on. A little more.
We seek the danger without acknowledging how dangerous it is.