Photographers' Blog

Behind the snakehead legend

Mt. Vernon, Virginia

By Gary Cameron

Spending time on the water pursuing fish is one of my favorite, relaxing pastimes. Spending time on the water pursuing fish as part of my job comes in as a close second.

In a city that requires plenty of time having photographers covering men in suits behind microphones with lots of blah-blah-blah, going out on a Virginia Department of Game and Inland fisheries biologists “stunboat” for a day of chasing, capturing, monitoring, studying, dissecting and releasing the once-feared northern snakehead fish was an assignment I looked forward to.

The northern snakehead (Channa argus, for those of you who stayed awake in Latin class), became an instant, and feared, celebrity in the Washington, D.C. area back in the summer of 2002. It was reported that someone had discovered a snakehead in a pond in suburban Maryland and this intruder would search, spread, and destroy other species found in local waters, specifically, the Potomac River. Adding to the “fear factor” of the snakeheads very aggressive disposition, an extremely slimy coating, and a mouthful of sharp teeth, was the fact that snakeheads are obligate air breathers. Not only are they comfortable under water, they, like turtles, can spend time breathing air OUT of water as well. Locals were told to kill any snakeheads to stop the spreading of the species, and while you’re at it, hide the women and children as well. This was one bad-ass fish.

Well, like most subjects, there is a lot of yes, and no, when looking deeper into all things snakehead.

John Odenkirk, the Virginia Fisheries biologist who I accompanied on the stunboat, says that snakeheads were in these waters approximately four years before the infamous 2002 Maryland pond sighting. Odenkirk, and assistant biologist Mike Isel, spend a lot of time out on the Potomac from March to October in pursuit of snakeheads for some serious studies. They also monitor largemouth bass and other species as well.

Fishing in Fukushima

Hirono town, Fukushima prefecture, Japan

By Issei Kato

After some tough negotiations with local fishermen cooperatives I was allowed on board a fishing boat sailing out to check fish radioactive contamination levels in waters off the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Commercial fishing has been banned near the tsunami-crippled complex since the March 11, 2011 tsunami and earthquake disaster. The only fishing that still goes on is tied to contamination research carried out by small-scale fishermen contracted by the government. The fishermen set out to sea every two weeks remembering the good old days, as they seek to reestablish their livelihoods and anxiously hope they will be able to go back to full-time fishing again.

I began thinking about the best way to take as many versatile pictures as possible in a tough environment – on a tiny boat which is slippery and keeps rocking back and forth with waves of water splashing all over the bouncing deck. I was told that the fishermen were going to use gill nets which take up quite a bit of space on the deck. This spelled out more dangers and obstacles for my equipment and I, as I knew I would have to try hard not to get caught up in the nets or trip up and fall into the sea. I was worried that had I stepped on one of the nets I would get scolded by a gruff fishermen and the whole effort would be in vein because of my own thoughtlessness.

I decided to use a remotely operated camera on a monopod to take close-up pictures of the fishing net overlooking the boat. This unusual technique also enabled me to take dynamic photos from right above the water surface as well as under water. I attached my favorite Canon EOS5D Mk3 to the top of a monopod, across a ball head platform to avoid image rotation. I covered it with plastic waterproof material and connected a remote switch with a long cable to the camera to operate it from the safety of the deck.

In the face of tear gas

Istanbul, Turkey

By Osman Orsal

I am always prepared for these kind of protests before I arrive.

I wear shirts that cover my arms and of course I carry a gas mask. After all, during protests I can safely predict through my experience when police will use tear gas.

So, I took a secure, good position for shooting images. After taking 3-4 photos it is hard for everyone (even if you have a gas mask) to continue taking pictures because of the tear gas. I followed exactly this procedure with this protest.

After the demonstration was over I saw other people affected by tear gas pouring fresh lemon in their eyes. It is believed to be a kind of a healer after tear gas. But I couldn’t see this woman around. She probably went somewhere to wash her face and refresh herself for the next battle. The protesters said they wouldn’t let destruction crews cut down the trees.

Golan Heights cowboys

Golan Heights

By Nir Elias

On one of my recent visits to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights I bumped into a group of Israeli cowboys working their herd near the tense frontier with Syria, where a civil war is raging just several miles away.

GALLERY: GOLAN HEIGHTS’ COWBOYS

After taking some photos of the men with the Hermon mountain range in the background, I was able to arrange a full day shoot. Arriving before the crack of dawn, I was welcomed with a steaming cup of coffee by the head cowboy, Nadav. Joined by four other riders, we saddled up and rode out.

Each cowboy made his own fashion statement. Nadav was dressed for the trail – no tassels or frills, just workers’ pants, a button-down shirt and a broad, weather-beaten brown leather Stetson. Alon looked like he had just walked out a fashion shoot, accessorizing his get-up with a Zippo lighter, a multi-tool Leatherman, an extra knife and a pack of cigarettes.

Over your shoulder

Cannes, France

By Yves Herman

“Over your shoulder, look at me, straight ahead, dead center, ooh la la, give me eye contact, sir, madam, on your right, big smile, show me your dress, you look gorgeous!” It’s all you can say to catch their attention, you need them to look straight in to the lens of your camera.

Yes, we are talking about the stars, the real ones, the big ones but also those who fill the pages of magazines. They can be actors, models, TV hosts or even socialites. They are popular and bankable for 1,000s of photographers standing on the red carpets in Cannes.

The annual Cannes Film Festival on the French Riviera is the biggest film festival in the world. Running for 12 days, it garners the attention of thousands of reporters and the entire world of cinema fans. Press photographers from everywhere gather in the south of France, equipped with a bunch of cameras and all their lenses and flashes, searching to immortalize celebrities.

Helpless in an explosion’s wake

Kabul, Afghanistan

By Omar Sobhani

Last Friday was a public holiday here in Afghanistan but I was on call and had gone for lunch in Kabul with my friends. Our relaxing day was interrupted by a huge explosion.

It took little time to figure out what was going on. As on most days, working or not, I carry my cameras so I jumped in my car and rushed towards the noise. My colleague Mohammad Ismail, who was enjoying a day off also, heard the explosion and called me as I headed towards the scene saying that he was coming to help cover the story. I spoke to my text and TV colleagues at Reuters bureau although the sound of the attack was too loud to hear easily but they were well aware of the incident.

As a safety measure I kept colleagues in the bureau informed of our plans and movements.

The old Cannes clapper-board

Cannes, France

By Eric Gaillard

In 1987, I covered my fifth Cannes Film Festival. I really wanted to find THE original and exclusive photo to announce its opening.

“The cinema Clap” – An idea which became evidence: Take a photo of the President of the Jury holding a cinema clap. The show begins for another 12-day festival.

At that moment I could not imagine the work and the stress behind this challenge and how far I would have to fight to succeed. Anyway, it was the start of an exciting experience, that I’ve continued every year since.

China’s last armed village

Basha village, China

By Jason Lee

It took more than 12 hours by plane and long-distance bus to travel from Beijing to what is believed to be the last community authorized by the Chinese government to keep guns – the village of Basha. It is in Congjiang county, a grand mountainous area of Southwestern China. The village is a relatively mysterious place to most people, even in China, mainly because of its remoteness and poor economy.

Upon my arrival I noticed instantly one of its unique privileges – the marvelous natural scenery. I didn’t hear any gun shots at that moment, but I spontaneously set my cameras to silent mode, for fear of bothering the farmers working on the fields.

I decided to take a walk around Basha, an old ethnic Miao settlement with a population of over 2,200, like a tourist before getting onto my main assignment – to photograph the gun owners. I immediately fell in love with this village as it was so pristine and clean that it seemed to be from a completely different planet. I clearly remember the scene of the setting sun on a female cattle shepherd, sitting among fields and working on her embroidery, while a boundless view of the magnificent landscape extended beyond her.

Back for more in Moore

Moore, Oklahoma

By Rick Wilking

My wife and I were just about to open some little gifts celebrating our 36th wedding anniversary on May 20th when my cellphone rang.

I said “that’s going to be the Oklahoma call” without even seeing it was Bob Strong, North America Editor in Charge, on the other end. The presents went on hold and the packing began.

The next day I was back in Moore, Oklahoma, waiting for the weather to clear enough to fly in a Cessna 172 over the path of the storm. I say “back in Moore” because I covered the massive tornado that hit the same place in 1999 and again in 2003. The locals call the 1999 version “the May 3rd storm.” That F-5 storm killed 44 people and destroyed more than 300 homes.

Striking the balance on the pitch

London, England

By Russell Boyce

Every trip to Wembley Stadium where football is played is a passionate affair. The preparation, expectation, the rise of tension, the meeting of friends and foes, fear of not being match-fit, your position, good luck or bad luck, missing opportunities, grabbing at a half opportunity and making it work, a flash of inspiration, getting the goal (Oh joy! Oh joy!), missing the goal (let the pitch open and swallow me whole) and of course the team. Always team; will you win or lose? And that is just the photographers.


Photo by Paul Hackett

Recently a picture editor told me he receives about 27,000 images every day. He looks for short cuts to be able to see the best pictures that tell the whole story without getting snowed under looking at hundreds of pictures he doesn’t need. How can we help?

I am very preoccupied with the future of news pictures. Questions I ask myself are “is coverage at major events very different now from the past? And what will be relevant in the future?” I decided to apply this question to the Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich Champions League final at Wembley Stadium. What pictures are needed? Simple to answer, the fans, great action, the goals, the celebration, the dejection, the match changing incident, the final whistle moment, the personalities and of course the trophy.