Photographers' Blog

Salt caravans of the Danakil Depression

Danakil Depression, Ethiopia

By Siegfried Modola

To descend into the Danakil Depression is to step into another world.

The thick warm air, the hazy sky and the rugged empty mountains that gradually give way to the immensity of a white, shimmering salt desert all leave the traveller in awe of this cruel yet fascinating landscape. Overlapping the Afar region of northeastern Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti, this is the lowest point in Africa and one of the hottest places on Earth.

Venturing deep into this inhospitable land requires a well organized plan. Getting stuck with no back-up vehicle, no satellite communication or simply not enough water could become life threatening within a matter of hours.

I started my trip from the city of Mekele in the northern Tigray region of Ethiopia. I had not come to explore the area as a tourist. Instead, I was there to document the caravans of thousands of camels which for centuries have descended deep into the depression to extract salt. Mekele was the place where I had to find a good 4×4 vehicle, a driver and enough water and food to be on the road for six days. Most importantly, I had to find a reliable fixer, someone who knew the region well and spoke the local language but who also had to be familiar with the salt trade and could maneuver well within complex Afar clan dynamics.

I had briefly met Mohammed on a previous trip some years back, and we stayed in touch ever since. His company for this assignment proved to be invaluable as he translated interviews, and negotiated with government officials and clan elders. After a four-hour ride from Mekele, we arrived in the small but fast expanding desert town of Berahile in the Afar territory in the afternoon. This is where the camel caravans drop their loads of salt after marching for days across the depression.

From Berahile, trucks collect the mineral and transport it to the city of Mekele from where it is distributed to the rest of the country.

A sheep with an artificial heart – or maybe not

Tianjin municipality, China

By Petar Kujundzic

I took a trip to the port city of Tianjin after China Central Television (CCTV) reported on a sheep with an artificial heart developed at TEDA International Cardiovascular Hospital. According to CCTV, the hospital recently unveiled a new artificial heart, which was implanted in a sheep two months ago. The sheep lived healthily for more than 62 days, a new record among similar experiments in the country.

This sounded like a very good reason to leave Beijing for a day and report about such an extraordinary achievement. Upon arrival we met the hospital’s administration director who told us that this was not really an artificial heart but a ventricular assistant device (VAD), which is basically a mechanical pump that’s used to support the heart’s function and blood flow in people who have weakened hearts. He didn’t know why CCTV had reported differently.

After being disappointed for a couple of minutes we decided not to go back empty-handed, so they took us to a low-rise building next to the hospital where the star of the experiment was located, a ram nicknamed Tianjiu (Everlasting). The three-year-old ram carried a VAD, which was designed by the hospital to enhance cardiac pumping by using magnetic suspension technologies from state-of-the-art aerospace science.

A front row seat to aviation history

The Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Virginia

By Jason Reed

Any news photographer that has been in the business for a decent length of time may say to you that he or she has “seen it all and done it all” or that “there is nothing new that hasn’t been shot already.” Until this week, you could also paint me with that same brush.

But for a moment in time on May 14, 2013, I was a wide-eyed kid again, thankful that my job as a photographer afforded me access to witness a world-first. The U.S. Navy made aviation history by catapulting an unmanned jet off an aircraft carrier for the first time, testing a long-range, stealthy, bat-winged plane that represents a jump forward in drone technology.

Gathering at sunrise in Norfolk, a handful of press ranging from military industry reporters to network TV crews received a safety briefing that detailed, among other things, how to exit our crashed helicopter in the event of a water landing (a little unnerving) to wearing double ear protection, helmets and goggles at all times during our 45 minute flight out onto the deck of the U.S.S. George H. W. Bush, a nuclear-powered Nimitz-class supercarrier in the Atlantic Ocean. Upon first sight, that 103,600 ton ship was just a small dot on the horizon, the full reality of its might only realized when we touched down on the deck over three football fields in length.

Along the deadly Southern border

Along the U.S./Mexico border

By Eric Thayer

I’m running through the desert outside a tiny town called Encino with a Texas Department of Public Safety helicopter flying above me. As I move through trees and bushes, the sand is soft and every step is an effort. It feels like I am running on the spot as I hold my cameras close so they don’t swing into my sides. Border Patrol agents are all around me and the only noises are the helicopter above, my own labored breathing and the sound of footsteps in the sand.

GALLERY: SCENES FROM THE BORDER

In south Texas, the Rio Grande River separates the U.S. from Mexico. It is a brown river that varies between 50 to 100 yards across. On the surface, the water looks calm as it meanders through the brush, but it hides swirling currents – just one of the many hazards faced by those who cross. The line between the two countries is imaginary here, but if you could see it as it appears on a map, it would be right in the middle of the river.

At this moment, the border is about 60 miles south. I’m with the U.S. Border Patrol after a report from a local rancher of a group of people crossing over his land. If they make it across the river, through the brush and past the Border Patrol there are vehicles that will take them north. From this part of Texas, there is basically just one checkpoint left, called Falfurrias. If they are able to bypass that, they can move up into other parts of the state and to the rest of the country.

China’s easy riders

Qian Dao Lake, China

By Carlos Barria

“They’re not scared of you. They’re scared of what you represent to them.”
“Hey, man. All we represent to them, man, is somebody who needs a haircut.”
“Oh, no. What you represent to them is freedom.”

– from the movie Easy Rider

A girl arrives at the parking lot wearing tiny leather shorts and sits on the back of a bike with a horse power of more than 1,000 CC. Next to her a man gets ready to ride, wearing a skeleton mask. It’s more than a fashion show, it’s an extravaganza on two wheels along Chinese roads.

Last weekend, around 1,000 Harley Davidson enthusiasts from all over China met at the exclusive resort of Qian Dao Lake, in Zhejiang Province, southeast of Shanghai, to celebrate the 5th Harley Davidson National Rally in China, as part of the company’s 110-year anniversary.

Ashes to ashes; dust to dust

Gainesville, Florida

By Steve Johnson

“Ashes to ashes; dust to dust.”

Its origins come from Genesis 3:19 (King James Verison): “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”

We celebrate death in so many different ways. From sky burials in Tibet, to hanging coffins in ancient China, how we honor the dead is varied and changing.

In the United States and Canada, vault burials have grown in popularity since the early 1900s. With more than 19,000 funeral homes and 8,000 embalmers in the U.S. alone according to the National Funeral Directors Association.

Showtime at the Lucha Libre wrestling

Los Angeles, California

By Mario Anzuoni

Cinqo de Mayo, Spanish for the fifth of May, commemorates the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla.

Living in Los Angeles, there are many ways this date is celebrated. One of them in particular attracted my attention this year. It was the Lucha VaVoom, a show of Lucha Libre Mexican wrestling and Burlesque performances at the Mayan theatre in Los Angeles.

GALLERY: WRESTLING FOR CINCO DE MAYO

I was very intrigued by the story. Although I didn’t know what to expect, I was excited to take a peek into the world of the “Luchadores” for one evening. The Luchadores are almost like super heroes of the ring; they wear costumes, they have alter ego names, and most importantly they wear masks to conceal their identity. I knew that besides capturing the fights I wanted to portray how they prepare mentally and get into the zone before their performances.

Left with more questions in Cleveland

Cleveland, Ohio

By John Gress

The setting sun shimmered off of wind swept waves on Lake Erie as my plane took off for Chicago and I headed back to normal life, knowing that the people who I covered over the past three days will need a lot more than a 400 mile flight to return to their normal life. I flew to Cleveland on Monday after three women, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, and a child escaped from the home of Ariel Castro after allegedly being held there for about a decade.

This was driven home to me on my last emotional stop in this northeast Ohio city, visiting Michelle Knight’s grandmother, Deborah Knight, at the end of a brick street that had more in common with a roller coaster than a freeway. While capturing her interactions with neighbor Sandra Guisao, I could tell that the news of Melissa’s escape was causing her to experience a range of emotions. One could only imagine the horror these women had to endure after allegedly being held captive and raped for about a decade and the excitement they must have experienced when they made their escape.

On the morning that I met Deborah Knight, I was also in the room with Castro as he was arraigned on the charges. He seemed meek, staring at the floor. I read in a newspaper that some observed him chewing the collar of his jump suit. His mouth was close enough in the photos, but I can’t say I saw it myself as I was too focused on trying to capture him when he looked up just enough so I could see his eyes. In these situations, the defendants never carry themselves the way you expect, leaving you with more and more questions… questions we will probably never get the answers to.

India’s missing daughters

New Delhi, India

By Mansi Thapliyal

Atika, 10, woke up early one morning in August 2008 and was sent by her mother to buy a few items from a nearby shop. She returned and told her mother she would prepare tea for her father before quickly going to use a communal toilet close to her house. She never returned.

Ambika was a feisty 15-year-old high school student who took wrestling classes. Her mother returned home from work late in the night on October 10, 2010. She woke up the next morning and found her daughter missing.

Atika and Ambika are among the thousands of children who go missing from India’s streets, schools and homes every year.

Kentucky Derby by the numbers

The Reuters pictures team of John Gress, Matt Sullivan and Jeff Haynes reflect on covering the past weekend’s Kentucky Derby.

By Jeff Haynes

Fast forward 25 years from 1988 and the Winning Colors victory to 2013 and Orb, include every Kentucky Derby winner in-between and you have a total of roughly 50 minutes of what I call a spring time tradition – photographing what many call the most photographed two minutes in sports. Just like in years past photographing the Derby for me is one of the most thrilling events I cover each year. 2013 was no different.

It was this annual event that got me hooked on becoming a wire service photographer. Covering the Derby is like no other event. You show up days before to go to early morning work-outs and photograph the horses training on the track, being groomed and bathed, and maybe catching a quiet moment where a trainer and horse just graze on Kentucky Blue grass on the back side of Churchill Downs.