Photographers' Blog

So busy I didn’t even notice the lens was broken

Covering wars is the hardest, most dangerous and most exciting part of my job. This is not only shooting pictures, it is a way of life. To follow the story, make contacts and be respected by soldiers I am following is hard and complex job. Photographers who are doing the same job as me will understand my thoughts. Others may never have that privilege. Words can only explain. With pictures I am trying to show the reality. Nevertheless, I want to explain what happened behind some of my pictures I took during my recent time with U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

On March 21, I arrive at Kandahar Air Field (KAF). On my way out of the KAF flight terminal, I find my good friends U.S. Army Colonel Ed Kornish and Sergeant Major Andy Bolt waiting for me. Soon after, over coffee and cigarettes, Colonel Kornish says there is a mission planned in Zabul province and we’d better hurry.

Just a few hours later we are on our way in four Humvees. Around three in morning, we stop to take a rest in a small base near the village of Shajoy and at first light we move to join the Afghan National Police (ANP) at one of their bases nearby.

Then we all move off towards another village, where the soldiers and police hoped to surprise a group of Taliban fighters. The convoy of four ANP pick-ups and four Humvees soon leaves the tarmac and heads into the desert, avoiding even dirt tracks to escape the ever-present danger of IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices). I can’t see anything. Dust is everywhere, coming in through the gunner’s position on top of the truck. I cover my face with part of my scarf and with the other part I try to protect my cameras from the dust.

plc

A few times the convoy stops for soldiers to observe the area or for the ANP to question villagers. An Afghan villager resists the ANP when they find his motorbike has no papers. The officer quickly detains him and punches him few times for good measure. I watch it from a distance but I’m too far away to take pictures.

Close enough…

From Reuters photographer Goran Tomasevic who is near Garmser in Helmand Province, Afghanistan with the U.S. 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit come these 4 frames from a sequence taken when the unit came under fire from Taliban fighters May 18, 2008.

close call

2

3

4

The Marine was uninjured.

http://www.reuters.com/news/pictures/slideshow?collectionId=1864&galleryName=All%20Collections#a=1

Training for the unforeseen

Recently I was one of a group of journalists who attended a four-day hostile environment training course in Bangkok. I was unsure just what to expect as I’d been told all sorts of tales – mostly scary – about what sort of things would happen to us.

Vivek

The group numbered 14; all of us Reuters journalists, including text correspondents, video producers and photographers. There were five of us from Pictures - Seoul staffer Jo Yong-Hak, Chief Photographer Japan Mike Caronna, Amit Guptafrom Jammu in Indian-administered Kashmir, Pichi Chuang from Taipei and Victor Frailefrom Hong Kong. The level of experience in the group varied wildly, from highly experienced correspondents, producers and photographers, to neophytes like me. 

On the first day of the course, our instructors introduced themselves – they were both ex-Australian SAS personnel, with a wealth of experience of operating in dangerous places including East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan.

When I Wake Up

In those first few seconds of waking in the morning, when my sleep has been disturbed, my first thoughts are to deny the cause of the sound.

“Maybe the door slammed; maybe a cat jumped over a bucket; maybe a vehicle tyre burst.” So many maybes… but the reality is usually the same. It is a bomb!

“Get up now,” I will say to myself, “If you are not there before the police then you are in trouble.” I always call another photographer, or the Reuters Television producer, to double check, and I hate to hear the reply, “It is a bomb, I heard it too.” But it is the response I have come to expect.

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