Photographers' Blog

From the White House to the Mad House

Bali, Indonesia

By Jason Reed

Just a couple of months ago I was swirling in a perpetual bubble, a privileged circle of photographers whose job it is to photograph one man – the President of the United States.

I did it for ten years and mostly enjoyed every minute. Over that period of time there comes a predictable familiarity to the role, in which you can pre-write all your captions hours and sometimes days in advance and plan your coverage down to the last detail. It is a safe and cosy existence. Due to the nature of the subject, it needs to be.

Behind the velvet rope, boundaries are respected and the president’s handlers and the Secret Service ensure you are no closer to him than you need to be. Your bread-and-butter lens is most often the 70-200mm telephoto zoom variety and getting an exclusive image is almost impossible. Subtlety and nuance in your edit is the biggest differentiator between your work and the person that just shot the same thing over your shoulder.

I enjoyed the experience and learnt a heck of a lot from some great photographers at the top of their game. This was my life for a decade, but my feet were getting itchy and it was time for a change of environment. Well, be careful what you wish for!

I started a new role based in Australia, and barely a month in I knew working life would be different. I enjoy new challenges, but the contrast between working environments was about to prove as extreme as they come…

On patrol with Australia’s indigenous soldiers

Gove, also known as Nhulunbuy, Australia

By David Gray

It’s around 10pm, and we have just entered the ‘Malay Road’, so named by English explorer Matthew Flinders to commemorate his meeting with “Malay” fishermen during his circumnavigation of Australia in 1803. Captain ‘Dusty’ Miller gives his patrolmen their final briefing in the bow of a landing craft sailing west along the coast of Arnhem Land. His indigenous soldiers seem extremely calm and relaxed to me, but then one, who is from an Aboriginal community located a long way from the coastal regions, asks to be excused and is violently sea sick for the rest of the journey. ‘He is simply not used to riding in boats’ is the explanation from a fellow soldier, who can’t help but laugh at his mates’ discomfort. ‘Dusty’ continues his briefing, and explains that the patrol’s orders are to look for signs of any illegal or unusual activity, which usually involves illegal fishing boats, in the area encompassing what are called The English Company’s Islands (named by Flinders after the East India Company). They will be part of Operation ‘RESOLUTE’, the Australian Defense Force’s contribution to the government effort to protect Australia’s borders and offshore maritime interests.

Captain Miller and his four patrolmen, 33-year-old Lance Corporal Danny Daniels, 24-year-old Lance Corporal Vinnie Rami, 27-year-old Private Jonah Thinglere and 24-year-old Private Drew Perry, are Australian Army Reservists serving with the North West Mobile Force, the Regional Force Surveillance Unit better known as NORFORCE. Formed in 1981, this infantry regiment conducts reconnaissance and surveillance patrols in remote areas of Northern Australia, including the indigenous Aboriginal reserve known as Arnhem Land. It consists of 600 soldiers, which includes 60 regular army officers, and around 240 indigenous soldiers from remote Aboriginal communities. These indigenous soldiers are really what make this unit unique. Their local knowledge about the terrain, the flora and fauna, and the means to which these can be used to sustain their time out on patrol in the ‘bush’, make them an invaluable part of an army that performs active patrols in the largest area of operations of any military unit in the world – some 1.8 million square kilometers (695,000 square miles) – that includes some of the most remote areas on earth.

I learn that the landing craft we are travelling in is officially called an LCM8. Its bow ramp is finally lowered after a slow and bumpy five hour ride to our drop-off point. Looking at the small boats rocking on the swell, I am now glad I took the Army swim test before embarking, which involves swimming 100 meters, and treading water for five minutes, fully clothed (and that includes hiking boots). The patrol’s two inflatable boats, called Zodiacs, are pushed down the ramp, and we clamber aboard. We are now trying to find our way using just the illumination of a half-moon, and millions of stars. The destination is still some 30km (18 miles) away – a small beach on what’s called Astell Island. Our first attempt at landing is a somewhat scary experience. With visibility extremely low, and with less than 50 meters to the beach, we are suddenly caught on the crest of a wave that up until just seconds before, was impossible to see. Sixty-year-old Dusty, with his many years experience having joined the Australian Navy in 1968 and serving during the Vietnam War, calmly advises his driver to turn around, as he ‘doesn’t want to go surfing tonight’. After checking several more beaches for waves, we finally find a calmer beach shortly before midnight. The greatest worry now becomes saltwater crocodiles. Dusty leads the exodus from the boats, with his soldiers sweeping the sea and shoreline with torchlight, looking for the telltale red eyes. Fish are jumping at the beams of torchlight, when suddenly just a few feet from the boats, something splashes on the surface of the water, and I ask ‘Is that a croc?’ Two of the soldiers, who have already entered the water, dive rather unceremoniously back into the Zodiac, much to the delight of the rest of the group. But it turns out to be nothing more than a sting ray, which of course is not exactly a comfort, but compared to a ‘croc’, it will do. Once all the equipment has been brought ashore, we set out our sleeping bags, and after a quick meal, it doesn’t take long to fall asleep.

Panning for gold

Braidwood, Australia

By Daniel Munoz

For 59 year-old Wal Krikowa his hobby has become his passion. The recent volatility affecting gold prices is the least of his concerns. After decades of doing what he calls “the business”, his passion for prospecting gold on weekends has remained unchanged. His experience tells him it all just comes down to luck. Worrying about whether he finds anything is just a waste of time.

Wal and his wife Liz always start their gold prospecting trips with a strict routine. I arrived at their beautiful house in North Canberra on a recent Saturday morning. We hit the road and a short time later we stopped at a local petrol station for what I first thought was a morning cup of coffee. But there was an different motive to this visit. Liz is hugely superstitious, and the stop was part of their ‘luck routine’ before prospecting. She admitted to me between sips of the local brew that another one of her superstitions is to place four soda cans into the same bag, the same way, at the same time before leaving the house. “Everything needs to be perfectly in place to find gold,” she said with a wry grin.

As a football fan, superstition is no stranger to me. I know of coaches who wear the same tie or smoke the same amount of tobacco before every match just to re-enact the same procedures of their previous victory.

A necessary evil – the kangaroo cull

Canberra, Australia

By David Gray

I met Steven O’Donnell at his house in the outer suburbs of Canberra just before dusk. He had agreed to take me on what can be described as one of Australia’s most unpopular and controversial activities – kangaroo shooting.

FULL FOCUS GALLERY: A NIGHT ON THE KANGAROO CULL

By day Steve is a professional plumber, but by night he is a government-licensed kangaroo shooter whose job is to annually cull the kangaroo population, which is estimated at over 50 million. When we met Steve was quick to explain why the thousands of Eastern Grey Kangaroos, known locally as “roos” in the Australian Capital Territory, had to be culled. Mobs of kangaroos can quickly damage the environment and compete with livestock for scarce food, impacting the livelihood of farmers.

But Steve’s main argument that stood out most in my mind was this: “After Europeans settled in Australia some 220 years ago, they chopped down millions of trees, and created much more grassland which the kangaroos have thrived on. As a result, their numbers have increased dramatically, and so in order to keep the natural balance for the environment to be sustainable (especially during a drought), their numbers have to be reduced. So actually, it’s our fault.”

This isn’t my first Mardi Gras

Sydney, Australia

By Tim Wimborne

Not many photographers look forward to shooting on the street on a wet Saturday night. This probably led to my ‘big break’ with the sole agency I had my eye on shooting for – more so than the months I had spent promoting myself as a potential Reuters stringer. And so I covered the 2001 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade. I got there early, left late, carried too much gear, over shot and over filed.

Now, after a couple of years freelancing and then a decade as a staffer with assignments in dozens of countries, my time Down Under is up. This month I take on a new position with Reuters in Singapore. My last assignment in Australia? The 2013 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade.

2001 – I was still shooting film and used a Nikon F5. I would have used Fiji-color 800 film, maybe pushed a stop.
2013 – Last Saturday I covered the parade using Canon EOS 1Dx bodies, 16Gb cards although still shooting mostly with prime lenses.

Blue + Yellow = Green

Sydney, Australia

By Daniel Munoz

I knew before it started, that trying to avoid the colorful powder would only make it worse. So, I decided to go all the way and get in close – deep and merciless.

As the clock struck 9 last Sunday morning, the official start of this fun run, I grabbed my two camera bodies and stepped into what was known as the ‘blue zone’. The first runners came towards me, and the fun began.

People from all ages ran around Sydney’s Olympic Park, with only one intention: get as much color powder thrown at them as they could, and of course, being a professional photographer, my mission was to be as close to the action as possible.

Gas & Water

By Tim Wimborne

Coal Seam Gas drilling is controversial. It’s also worth billions.

Some Australians love it, some hate it. The issues are big and they are complex. The industry is expanding like wildfire and the story develops daily. To more effectively tell this very thin slice of the story I combined pictures with audio, text and time-lapse video.

I believe this sector of Australia’s massive resources boom has the potential to make major political shifts. While reporting on it a farmer, a traditionally conservative lot, said to me “thank god for the Greens”.

Gas & Water from Tim Wimborne on Vimeo.

Eleven hours

When I heard the news, I headed immediately to the scene; that’s what news photographers do.

I remembered a few days earlier I was reading a blog about Reuters photographer Shannon Stapleton going towards the biggest crime scene of recent times; Ground Zero in New York. A silly smile filled my face as, of course, my scene was a grain of sand in the desert compared to what Shannon faced on 9/11.

The breaking news was that a man had locked himself inside a lawyer’s office with his daughter and with what appeared to be a bomb strapped to himself, in west Sydney. After parking only 3 blocks away, I picked up a Canon Mark IV with a 500mm lens as my main camera, my second set up as spare with a 70-200mm, two bags with wide lenses, flash, extra batteries and my laptop to file from the scene and then: I ran.

Seahorse

There are Seahorses and then there are Seahorses.

You might find one in the most unlikely spot but the incredible surprise, every now-and-then, is an encounter in the most familiar places you live.

You probably know less than you thought.

Seahorse 2.0 from Tim Wimborne on Vimeo.

Six miles underground with a politician and no light

His main claim to fame to audiences overseas are his beachside antics. Beyond that, Australia’s conservative opposition leader doesn’t demand a whole lot of our work time.

However, I ended up next to him, underground, 10 kilometers (6 miles) into a coal mine.

Reuters just happened to be writing a piece about Tony Abbott and we write about mining many times every day Down Under. So here was a chance to match this piece while shooting lots of subterranean stock images.