Photographers' Blog

Keeping the faith

Manila, Philippines

By Bobby Ranoco

Covering the grand procession of the Jesus of the Black Nazarene is not easy, even though I do it annually. Every year on January 9, millions of devotees crowd the streets as a life-sized, dark, wooden sculpture of Jesus Christ carrying the cross is brought through Manila’s old city.

I began to prepare days before the procession and sought permission to get a vantage point on the rooftop of the Quirino Grandstand at Luneta Park, where the procession begins, and on top of other buildings surrounding the route, to produce photographs from a bird’s eye view. It was my first time photographing from the rooftop of the Quirino Grandstand. I had to do my research on how my photographs would turn out at such an angle.

As I did all this, I was praying hard for guidance from the Jesus of the Black Nazarene that all my requests would be approved. He heeded my prayers: everything was approved and ran smoothly with time to spare.

January 9 arrived and while everyone else was sleeping, I woke up at 3 a.m. because we had to be at the grandstand by 5 a.m. to give us an hour to prepare before the mass. At last, the organizer asked me and the other local photographers to position ourselves on the rooftop.

As I stood on the grandstand, about as high as a five-storey building, I was amazed by what I saw: a sea of devotees attending the early morning mass before the procession. Millions of people come to the event every year to ask for their individual miracles. During the mass, which was officiated by Archbishop Cardinal Luis Tagle, I could feel the solemnity and the serenity of the devotees who were praying fervently to the Black Nazarene.

Welcome to Chiberia

Chicago, Illinois

By Jim Young

It was dubbed “Chiberia” here in Chicago: record low temperatures with a wind chill in the -40 Celsius range (-40 Fahrenheit).

I knew it was coming. I had been dodging the bullet for two winters in Chicago and eventually “real cold” had to arrive here sooner or later. I had survived 30+ years of Canadian winters and lived through a -50C (-58F) wind chill in Ottawa, but I have had two of the nicest winters in my life in the Windy City. In February 2012 it was 80F and I was walking around in flip flops, but certainly not this week.

It started at sunrise on Monday morning. While driving along Lake Michigan to downtown I could see a “fog-like” haze over the water – it was arctic sea smoke caused by bitter cold air moving over the warm lake water. I parked down by the beach. It was a beautiful sunny morning and a balmy -42F. The biggest problem I had was with my fingers. Working with cameras even while wearing the warmest gloves is a challenge. I would take them off for just a few seconds but it would get incredibly painful, like needles stabbing into your hands. It would take 10 to 15 minutes back in the gloves just to get the pain to subside. I remembered hearing on the radio the early warning signs of hypothermia such as shallow breathing, drowsiness, shaking and stumbling…check, check, and check. The batteries in my cameras died so I tried to shoot an Instagram, but even though my iPhone was inside several layers of clothing, it was frozen like a brick and wouldn’t even boot up.

An acrobatic nurse

Sofia, Bulgaria

By Stoyan Nenov

A woman with heavy make-up, wearing leotards steps into a taxi.

“To the hospital” she says. The driver looks suspiciously at her but starts the car.

Leonsiya Dokuzova, a 42-year-old Bulgarian, can tell many stories like this one.

She works as a nurse in one of the biggest hospitals in Sofia, the Balkan country’s capital, and is also an acrobat, performing stunts in movies, TV shows and the circus.

Making ice cider

Frelighsburg, Quebec

By Christine Muschi

Gilles Drille knocks an apple against a white plastic container so the snow falls off. He wants no water to dilute the concentration when he presses them for Ice Cider, or Apple Ice Wine, as it is also known in the United States.

Gallery: How to make ice cider

Gilles is the grove manager for Domaine Pinnacle, an apple orchard in Frelighsburg, Quebec, an Eastern Townships municipality just minutes from the border with Vermont. He has been picking the apples of up to two trees per day for the last two months and pressing them for cider using a cryoextraction method. Apples are left on the trees and picked when the temperature hovers around -8 to -15 degrees Celsius (17 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit). They are then pressed and left to cold ferment for their Signature Reserve, which is a two year production cycle of fermentation and maturation in oak casks. Hundreds of trees and thousands of apples have been picked by this one man in a season.

Today the temperature has dropped below -10 C (14 F), and the apples Gilles knocks against the container sound like rocks as they hit the plastic. The colder the temperature, the higher the natural concentration of sugar will be. When he cuts the apple open later, you can see the deep amber color, and it smells like caramel. Courtland apples seem to work best as they stay on the trees longer, but there are a few varieties that will be included in the mix.

Ukraine Euromaidan

Kiev, Ukraine

By Marko Djurica

Slava Ukraini, Heroyam Slava!

At the beginning I didn’t understand what they were chanting.

The speaker at the podium repeated, “Slava Ukraini” and a mass of people responded in one voice: “Heroyam Slava!”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“Glory to Ukraine!  Glory to its heroes!” was the answer I got from a girl wrapped in a blue and yellow flag.

Who are these heroes they are cheering? This time I resolved to find out the answer for myself.

Mandela and my son

South Africa

By Mike Hutchings

Balancing the dual roles of photojournalist and parent can be challenging at times – unpredictable hours and long assignments can be disruptive to family life.

But being the son of a photojournalist has its perks. My son Daniel had the chance to meet former South African President Nelson Mandela three times while accompanying me on stories.

On the first occasion, he was only six weeks old. I had been waiting for Mandela to arrive at a function in Cape Town’s Waterfront district when my partner Shannon called and asked where I was.

The teachings of Mao

Sitong, China

By Carlos Barria

In a remote farming area of China’s central province of Henan, kids are roused from their warm beds at 5 a.m. as revolutionary songs play over the loudspeaker system. In the freezing morning they gather around a cement courtyard for their morning exercises.

Mr. Xia Zuhai, principal of the Democracy Elementary and Middle school — where the curriculum stresses the teachings of China’s late Chairman Mao Zedong — blows his whistle and encourages the students while they run around in the darkness for 20 minutes.

Then, the children enter a cold classroom where a big portrait of Chairman Mao is seen on the wall, decked out with colorful balloons in preparation for the 120th anniversary of Mao’s birth on Dec. 26.

Fly fishing with veterans

Hopeville Canyon, West Virginia

By Gary Cameron

In the summer of 2012, I photographed the Wounded Warriors Amputee Softball team as they played against local teams in central New York. Veterans of the Afghanistan, Persian Gulf and Iraq wars, their horrific wounds were quite evident; everyone on the team had a minimum of one limb missing, if not more. If there was one common factor that I learned from that story, it was that veterans, no matter what their military affiliation or tour of service, have a quiet understanding among themselves that bonds them with the awful experience of war. These men and women, attempting to continue on with their lives and families once home again, have seen too much conflict. At a very young age, they have had too many tours, too many nightmares, and too many difficulties in re-adjusting back from a world where things blow up on a daily basis and friends are seriously injured or killed.

Project Healing Waters is a program that began in 2005 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington for veterans who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Its purpose was to provide veterans with access to the many aspects in the art of fly fishing, and the serenity that accompanies this art.

I love fishing and spending time on the water with my family and friends, but you must understand the difference between those who fly fish, and those who simply go to a store, buy a rod, reel, line and lure, and “fish.” I fall under the latter category.

Circle of life at Greece’s fish farms

Sofiko village, Greece

By Yorgos Karahalis

Fish farming was a business that a few decades ago was completely alien in Greece, where eating fish was strictly related to the local fisherman, the weather conditions and the phase of the moon.

These days, regardless of the moon and the weather, we can all buy fresh fish at extremely low prices, every day. And from my experience of the industry during the days I photographed its fish farms and hatcheries, I realized there is more to the process than I thought – it’s a production line that resembles the circle of life itself.

The first step in the journey is at the hatchery. There you’ll find the broodstock, a group of fish held in the facility for breeding purposes. Once the eggs are chosen, they’re transferred to different tanks where they start growing up. At the same time, ichthyologists, the scientists who study fish, carry out regular checks on the newborns to make sure they’re healthy.

Challenging gender roles in the Philippines

Manila, Philippines

By Bobby Ranoco

The Philippines economy has surged with 7%+ growth for five straight quarters but for some, jobs remain hard to come by. The answer for some people has been to look for work in an area traditionally filled by someone of the opposite gender.

I contacted the state-run Technical Educational Skills and Development Authority (TESDA) which offers training courses for ‘unisex jobs’. I met three women undertaking training courses in the traditionally male jobs of automotive repair, welding and electrician.

One of them, Vina Jane Aranas, a 17-year-old high school graduate said she dreams of finishing college. She took a nine month fixing cars vocational course which she hopes will allow her to work and support her herself through college. “I am not ashamed of what I am doing, even if people think that automotives is a job for men. Life is hard nowadays and it is difficult to get a job… I believe this is a way for me to finish college, and I dream of having my own car repair shop,” Aranas said. I started taking pictures of her fixing a car engine, lying on the floor to align car wheels. I told her that I was impressed and that she was way better than me because while I have my own car, I don’t even know how to change flat tires. We both had a good laugh.