Photographers' Blog

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures January 16 2011

Our thoughts are with photographer Lucas Mebrouk Dolega who was covering the street protests in Tunisia who is now in a critical condition after sustaining head injuries on Friday from a tear gas canister fired by a nearby police officer.

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A passenger in a car waves for assistance as a flash flood sweeps across an intersection in Toowoomba, 105 km (65 miles) west of Brisbane, January 10, 2011. Tsunami-like flash floods raced towards Australia's third-largest city of Brisbane on Tuesday, prompting evacuations of its outskirts, flood warnings for the financial district and predictions that  the death toll is likely to climb.     REUTERS/Tomas Guerin

Rupert Murdoch's iPad only newspaper "The Daily" is getting closer to launch (reports say the proposed launch of January 19th was delayed due to technical glitches) and others are  launching similar pay-for publications. Along with rumours of an imminent iPad2 and Apple's competitors rushing to launch their own tablet devices, it seems to me much more likely that people will once more expect to pay for their news as opposed to expecting  to get it free. They will now have a device to easily download and read news and look at pictures and video immediately. Maybe the much heralded notion that the sometimes faster, but unsubstantiated, social media generated news would be the death knell of main stream media (why should I pay for the news when I get it free from the net quicker?) might have been a little premature and could actually be one of the factors that contribute to people expecting to pay for quality news viewed on hand held devices. What do you think?

What makes me raise this question is the fact that many of the pictures on the Reuters wire from the floods in Australia were sourced  from Facebook and Twitter to compliment the pictures shot by our staff photographers. The key differentiating factor was that Australia chief photographer Tim Wimborne was able to track down the originator of the material to verify its authenticity, pay for it and then transmit it for publication on mainstream media. The viewer of these pictures is able to trust what they see and read even though it was generated by a citizen journalist. Maybe I am wrong and people just want to believe what they see on social media and place no value on news and pictures checked and doubled checked by journalists?

AUSTRALIA-FLOODS/

Heavy equipment sits submerged in flood waters in an industrial area of Brisbane January 13, 2011. Flood water in Australia's third-biggest city peaked below feared catastrophic levels on Thursday but Brisbane and other devastated regions faced years of rebuilding and even the  threat of fresh floods in the weeks ahead. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

Embedded in Afghanistan

Reuters photographer Finbarr O’Reilly recently spent a month with the U.S. First Battalion Eighth Marines in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province. While embedded at the remote Outpost Kunjak with the unit’s Third Platoon’s, Fourth Squad, O’Reilly documented camp life, patrols and combat operations, including one battle that saw four squad members suffer concussions from grenade explosions, including squad leader Sgt. Thomas James Brennan. This is Sgt. Brennan’s personal account of that day, and his reflections on what it is like living and fighting on the front lines of Afghanistan’s war.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures 12 December 2010

This week the blog should be called A Week (and a few extra hours ) in Pictures as I wanted to share a couple of images that came in late last Sunday and evaded my net as I trawled through the file. Both are from Thailand and both were shot by Sukree Sukplang. The first is a strong portrait of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej as he leaves hospital in a wheelchair to attend a ceremony to celebrate his 83rd birthday. The picture seems to me to mirror the respect that the Thai people have for their King. What makes me think this I am not sure; maybe its the side light which creates studio-like modelling on the king's face highlighting every detail of his appearance, the crispness of the clothes, the beauty of the ceremonial medals and the rich colour of the royal sash. Or maybe it's just the way he is looking back into the lens, his eyes full of dignity and determination.

THAILAND/

 Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej leaves the Siriraj Hospital for a ceremony at the Grand Palace in Bangkok December 5, 2010. King Bhumibol celebrates his 83rd birthday on Sunday.   REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang

 The picture of people releasing balloons into the air has amazing diagonal composition with the eye being led up into the darkened sky by the use of the disappearing lanterns as they float up into the darkness, the black space on the left holding in the picture so we don't float away too.

Can you keep a secret?

Want to hear a secret?

“U.S. President Barack Obama will make an unannounced visit to Afghanistan but you cannot tell anyone.” Those seemed like simple enough guidelines, but it certainly wouldn’t end up that way.

President Barack Obama meets with troops at Bagram Air Base, December 3, 2010.    REUTERS/Jim Young

It started with a call from Washington Editor in Charge Jim Bourg during my shift at the White House on Wednesday afternoon. “I never know how to start these kind of conversations…” he said. “You know when we have these trips where we really can’t talk about it?” I had a feeling I knew where this was headed. He kind of paused a bit trying to find the words to say it, without really saying it. But I stopped him and said, “I know where you are going with this and you don’t have to go any further.” Obama would make a surprise visit to Afghanistan. I was careful not to answer his questions out loud, so that anyone standing by wouldn’t figure out the questions or the subject matter, but we were on the same page. He just said it was tomorrow night. The trip would be about 30 hours there and back, with 25 of those hours in the air. I would finish my shift as usual and go to see him in the office to get more details.

We went through the rough details, it was almost the same as Obama’s last announced trip to Afghanistan when I went with him back in late March this year. This would be my fourth such Presidential trip, three times to Afghanistan and once to Iraq. There is always a huge veil of secrecy, rightfully so.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures 14 November 2010

A salute to all those who managed to get pictures, text and video out of Myanmar (Burma) of the release of Nobel Peace Prize winner and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a truly historic moment.  No foreign journalists were given visas to cover the election or Suu Kyi's release and there's no Internet.  Respect to you all.

MYANMAR-SUUKYI/

Aung San Suu Kyi (C) waves to supporters gathered to hear her speech outside the headquarters of her National League for Democracy party in Yangon November 14, 2010. Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi called on Sunday for freedom of speech in army-ruled Myanmar, urged thousands of supporters to stand up for their rights, and indicated she may urge the West to end sanctions.  REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

MYANMAR-SUU KYI/

Aung San Suu Kyi speaks with supporters after she was released from house arrest in Yangon November 13, 2010. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A week in Pictures 17 October 2010

Only days after the world watched the 33 Chilean miners emerge from the bowels of the earth, triumphant, an explosion at another mine, half a world away, is making headlines, but on a much smaller scale. The blast in China is reported to have killed 26 miners and trapped 11, with rescue attempts hampered by coal dust. Last year over 2,600 miners died in industrial accidents in China, whose mining industry is considered the deadliest in the world. The access given to the photographer is quite amazing in the circumstances.

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A rescuer is seen in a tunnel of the Pingyu No.4 Coal mine in Yuzhou, Henan province October 16, 2010. An explosion in the Chinese coal mine killed at least 20 miners in central Henan Province on Saturday, state media reported. REUTERS/Stringer

Looking at the file from last week I got the sense that Asia seemed strangely calm - maybe the calm before the storm of Super Typhoon Megi that is bearing down on the Philippines.  Winds of over 250 kph are expected along with flooding, landslides and possible injury and damage.  Our team are waiting, poised and ready to jump into action; one of the hardest things to do for photographers is to wait and watch until the danger has passed knowing that safety must come first - no point becoming the story yourself by being injured or worse killed, but always in their minds are the pictures they are missing.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures 10 October 2010

North Korea opened its doors and the internet to the World's media to allow a glimpse of the parade which marked the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Workers' Party. More importantly, it gave the world its first independent look at the protege Kim Jong-un. China based Chief Photographer Petar Kujundzic took full advantage of the opportunity.  The warmth of the picture of the women soldiers smiling - a rare glimpse into the world from which we normally only get formal, over compressed and pixelated images.

KOREA-NORTH/

North Korean female soldiers smile before a parade to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the founding of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang October 10, 2010. REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic

KOREA-NORTH/

Female North Korean soldiers march during a military parade to commemorate the 65th anniversary of founding of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang October 10, 2010. Secretive North Korea's leader-in-waiting, the youngest son of ailing ruler Kim Jong-il, took centre stage during a massive military parade on Sunday, appearing live for the first time in public.      REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic

Medevac! Medevac! Lifeline over Afghanistan

I had just reached the camp of the unit I would be embedded with at remote Forward Operating Base Ramrod in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province.

Members of "Dustoff" medevac team from 101st Airborne Division, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, Task Force Shadow play cards while waiting for a medical evacuation mission in a tent in a small military base near Kandahar, Afghanistan September 17, 2010. REUTERS/Erik de Castro

As soon as I got off the military aircraft that took me there, I saw a helicopter with a red cross sign painted on it. I approached a crew doing a routine check on their aircraft and, after introducing myself, they explained the details of my embed and gave me some instructions. They pointed me to a section in the chopper where they said I should keep my body armor and helmet, which I have to put on when we flew.

Early morning on the second day of my embed with the “Dustoff” medical evacuation team of Task Force Shadow from 101st Airborne Division of the 101st Aviation Brigade, the sound of “Medevac! Medevac!” echoed on the two-way radio issued to me earlier.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures 3 October, 2010

At the beginning of the week I had my doubts that we would actually see pictures from two major events taking place in Asia; North Korea's ruling Workers' Party conference, the biggest held for 30 years intended to push ahead the succession process for Kim Jong-il's son Kim Jong-Un and the opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. As it turned out, the pictures from both fronted publications around the world.

KOREA-NORTH/

Kim Jong-un (8th L, seated), the youngest son of North Korea's leader Kim Jong-il (C), poses with the newly elected members of the central leadership body of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) and the participants in the WPK Conference, at the plaza of the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang in this picture released by the North's KCNA news agency September 30, 2010. North Korean state media released a photograph on Thursday of the reclusive state's leader-in-waiting Kim Jong-un. North Korean leader Kim Jong-il anointed his youngest son as successor this week, promoting him to senior political and military positions. REUTERS/KCNA

The pictures we received from KCNA, the official North Korean news agency, are truly historic in the visual tradition of  announcements by the communist state - a very wide group picture including everything . It is the cropping of these images that reveal their true value. Sometimes I am asked what pixel quality do we need for news pictures - the answer is simple - if the picture is important enough it doesn't matter what the quality is, it will get used.  The two pictures below are cropped from the group portrait.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures, September 19, 2010

This week has seen a dramatic increase in violence and tension throughout much of the Asia region, and  the pictures on the wire reflect this mood. It seems that actions by not only nations, armed groups but individuals have all had a dramatic impact on the mood of the region. The weight of the news feels almost claustrophobic as I try to keep on top of what is happening.

AFGHANISTAN/

U.S. Army soldiers from Delta Company, a part of Task Force 1-66 carry a wounded 7-year-old Afghan boy, a victim of a road side explosion, at their base near the village of Gul Kalacheh, Arghandab River valley, Kandahar province, September 18, 2010.  REUTERS/Oleg Popov

On the surface of it the parliament elections can only be good news for the people of Afghanistan, but 16 hours spent live blogging pictures with our team of 18 journalists, watching the minute by minute developments made me wonder about  the timing of this election as different groups tried to impose their influence on the outcome through violence and fraud.  Attacks by the Taliban killed 14 who were directly involved in the polling process. A radio commentator I was listening to assured his listeners that this death toll was part of normal daily life in Afghanistan and should not be seen to reflect election violence, I was not cheered by this. Oleg's picture above seems to bear this out; does it really matter what the motivation was behind the blast as the boy writhes in agony, his blood stained hands trembling and clawing at his bandaged head. If the election had not gone ahead would he still have been injured?  Even Masood's picture below of the election worker and the donkey struggling through the mountains seem to reflect the uphill battle the whole country has to face. Ink being washed off fingers so voters could vote and vote again; fraudulent voting cards printed and who knows what amount of ballot box stuffing will take place  before the final count is revealed late October; all of which seem to undermine the democratic process. Who wants to be ruled by leaders who have gained power through corruption - notably the only political point the Taliban make.