Photographers' Blog

Searching for UFOs

Sedona, Arizona

By Mike Blake

Red rocks, pink jeeps, vortex tours, pan flute music and UFO tours: Welcome to Sedona, Arizona.

You can see when arriving why for hundreds of years the Native Americans considered Sedona a sacred place; it is stunningly beautiful. But like most beautiful things on this planet we humans find ways to monetize the experience. From parking passes to tours through the desert in pink jeeps, businesses are created and a micro economy sprouts up next to the vortexes. But back to UFO’s…

If you ever get an opportunity to go on a UFO tour, take it. I took my camera along, out into the blackness of the winter desert just south of Sedona where we met up with Kim Carlsberg, who happens to be a well known UFO author and speaker on the subject of UFOs.

From our meeting point we traveled a dirt road to a location that gave use an amazing view of the night sky. Kim had a truck full of lawn chairs and we set them up in rows like we would be ordering pop corn and watching a movie. She also had five sets of military night vision goggles.

After a friendly introduction we were given instructions on UFO viewing etiquette, what we may or may not see, and how the night vision goggles operated. Quite frankly, after dusk dropped into the blackness of night I was pretty sure my picture taking would be over. It was a crystal clear night and the view of the sky was amazing. Slap on some military grade night vision goggles and the millions of stars I was seeing became billions. It was shocking to see all the stars that are behind all the stars.

Would you stand on this ridge? Gabrielle Giffords did

By Denis Balibouse

Would you stand on this ridge?

(Excuse the uneven horizon, it is due to my legs shaking when I took the picture)

A few weeks ago I received an invitation for two conferences from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva from the six astronauts who flew the Space Shuttle Endeavour’s last mission in May 2011, which delivered the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the International Space Station. According to CERN’s website this is “an experiment to search in space for dark matter, missing matter and antimatter on the international space station.”

Sometimes the hardest part of a job is to find the news hook, so for this invitation I turned to my journalist colleagues in Geneva. Tom Miles, our Chief Correspondent in Geneva helpfully pointed out that the mission commander was Mark Kelly and that his wife, former U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who survived an attempted assassination in Tucson, Arizona on 8 January 2011, was coming along.

Grand Canyon tug of war

By Bob Galbraith

A light dusting of snow has just landed on the farthest peaks of the southwest reaches of the Grand Canyon, viewed from a clear glass, horseshoe shaped skywalk on the Hualapai Indian Reservation in northwest Arizona. Bus loads of domestic and foreign tourists, many arriving from Las Vegas over bumpy dirt roads scraped out of the desert scrub and Joshua Trees of this remote stretch of the American West.

As tourists hurry off the buses and scramble for prime snapshot locations along the rim of the canyon, most make their way along a temporary, covered boardwalk to the polished glass protrusion that provides a view to the snow covered peaks in the distance and the muddy Colorado River flowing below.

Photographers snap pictures of visitors with outstretched arms, all wearing protective slippers as to not scratch the glass. The view is stunning as the canyon and river appear in sight lines below and the white peaks above. Many meander at the top of the horseshoe for the penultimate view and feeling of being suspended in mid-air.

Reflections from Tucson

By Laura Segall

January 8, 2011, I was working at home in the Phoenix area, editing photos as my 5 week-old son played on his floor mat beside me, when I heard on the radio that a gunman had gone on a rampage in Tucson, killing a number of innocent people and shooting Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in the head. As I photographed the aftermath of the tragic event on that day and during the days that followed, I couldn’t help but reflect on the fragility of life and how in the blink of an eye everything can change. It was hard to believe that something like that could happen. Maybe it was the emotions of being a new mother, but more than other events I have covered I personally felt the grief and shock of the community.

One year later I knew I wanted to be with Tucson as Congresswoman Giffords made a rare public appearance in her hometown. I could hear chanting of “Gabby, Gabby” from across the lawn even before I could see her. As she stepped on stage wearing a bright red scarf, with her husband Mark Kelly by her side, the crowd of thousands rose to their feet and cheered. I moved into position to try to capture the best angle I could as Congresswoman Giffords proudly lead her community in the Pledge of Allegiance. What stood out the most to me as I shot those photos was her huge smile that lit up the stage and everyone around her.

While I photographed the people who attended the event I saw tears and hugs and healing. People were proud to be from Tucson. The memorial vigil celebrated those who lost their lives as well as those still recovering. People snapped their glow sticks and held them high.

Tips on the fire line

My rental SUV smells like a junior high school locker room manned by a chain-cigar-smoking gym instructor and I am standing on the side of the road with my pants and shirt half off cleaning myself with baby wipes and I am itching in areas that are not suppose to itch like that… yeah, I am in the field covering a wildfire.

Luckily I keep a “go” bag with all my own fire gear in it. I got the call in the evening and had arrangements to fly to Albuquerque, New Mexico, the next morning. I was being sent to cover the Wallow Wildfire, which has turned into Arizona’s largest fire in history, and was right on the border with New Mexico heading to the community of Luna, New Mexico. Thankfully I had editors that trusted me and knew I had been to a few of these rodeos before and would let me make the calls as to where I would go for photos and take the risk of getting out ahead of the fire.

Much of the media had headed to the northern edge of the wildfire and the towns of Springerville and Eager, Arizona. I had heard nothing but horror stories about trying to get any work done up there. The stories I had heard included hordes of media descending into these small towns making it very difficult to find a unique story. I had also heard from media about how hard it was to work with local enforcement and that even the Public Information officers (PIOs) were taking media nowhere near any real fire action and at times took them away from the visuals and stories.

An outsider’s view inside Tucson

People and law enforcement personnel stand at a parking lot where U.S Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was shot along with others at a Safeway in Tucson, Arizona January 8, 2011.  REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Arriving at the scene of the Tucson shooting, I really didn’t know what to expect. There is always a nervous energy driven by adrenalin. You know you have to be there. You know it’s going to be bad, but you know you have to be there. Someone has to tell the story. Someone has to show it to the rest of the world.

The first couple of days were spent in shock. The whole community was in shock. How could this happen here? Details that will later emerge are largely hidden at this point. The why and the how – that’s for later stories. Right now, the pressing issue is to document this. Right now is the time to photograph what the community and its people are going through. No time to think, no time to react, I need to do my job and show this for what it is right now. It’s still chaos. You try to make order from the chaos. Later the images will have context. Later you can place them into a framework, but for the moment it’s all reaction. Cover that one piece, then move on. Those fragments will all make sense later on, but for now just keep moving.

Mourners take part in a prayer vigil in response to Saturday's shooting of U.S Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) among others at a Safeway in Tucson, Arizona January 9, 2011.   REUTERS/Eric Thayer

I’m an outsider, but the community has embraced their responsibility in the wake of the tragedy. There was a reaction, and then they came together. The people had opened themselves up. They let me in and let me photograph them during a horrible time in their city’s history. I didn’t experience any negativity in covering anything related to the shooting. In fact, the only time I felt unwanted was when I photographed the gun show. They did not want me there. They did not want photos made.