Photographers' Blog

Covering a dust storm: Top 10 tips

Last Wednesday Sydney experienced a dust storm, the likes of which have not been seen since before World War II.

Weird weather doesn’t always give much of a warning so to get the pictures you want you have to be prepared. Follow these 10 easy tips and you can’t go wrong.

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1). Have a nose for a good story. Well before sunrise, a haze of martian-like dust wafted into my bedroom and the olfactory assault it delivered got me out of bed well before my year-old-son does. The best shooting light lasted only half an hour. In the pictures business, the early bird does get the worm.

2). Make like a boy scout.  Be prepared. Have your kit always ready to go next to the front door.  Mine has all sorts of goodies for all occasions.  The most precious item on this assignment was the lens cleaning cloth. It must have come out of the bag a dozen times on Wednesday morning. There’s also charged batteries, wallet with spare cash, press ID, eye drops (useful in dust storms), wet weather gear in the trunk and so on.

Something for nothing?

Everybody likes something for nothing. Better still if that something is actually useful. Last week was all about a little extra content for just a little extra effort and how it pays dividends.

Babysitting
My guess is most Reuters photographers have a camera in their hand most of the time. You know, just in case. My journalist wife had to drive to the world’s largest coal port last weekend. I was babysitting. A new emission trading scheme was slated to be the following week’s main story in Australia so I grabbed toddler and cameras and off we all went. I ended up with a good carbon emissions file including an Asia picture of the week (below) in between splashing in puddles and chasing seagulls…with my son of course.

Drive-by
Two days later I headed in the opposite direction, to Canberra for the arrival of Spain’s King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia. On the way there the clouds lifted from some distant hills framing a new wind power farm. Pulling over on the freeway, a few quick frames out the other side of the car…and an image (below) included in the Best of the Week file.

Cricket, lovely cricket…

Glancing up while sitting in the departure lounge of Grantley Adams Airport in Barbados my heart sank - oh crap! – joining me and a few other passengers in the waiting area was the Australian Cricket team.  Nothing personal, all good guys.   Some passengers, who were clearly supporters, reacted with muted excitement.  But it became painfully obvious to me, the team was joining us on our flight leaving shortly for St Vincent. I smiled an evil grin at the ignorant supporters in the lounge for they were unaware of the fact that the team’s presence on our plane meant only one thing and it wasn’t good… but I will come back to that.

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I have been covering cricket in the West Indies for about 15 years now and consider myself a veteran of many a tour through the islands.  When I tell friends and colleagues that I am off to the Caribbean for cricket, I am constantly met comments of the, ”wow nice!!” or “man another tough assignment in paradise”, kind. I admit, it sounds pretty good to me too, but I know better… I have been there, got the T-shirt and worn it out. 

Most people when they travel down to the Windies for a holiday fly on a major airline, unpack, sit in the sun, drink too much, burn their skin the colour of a ripe tomato, pack their bags, get back on that big jet and go home… no fuss no muss. I and my photo colleagues also board that big jet but remain behind to move from island to island for the next four to eight weeks… well read on…

Green Down Under

Distance is a bit of an issue in Australia and every year we shoot a number of drought-related features that require us to drive 8, 10 or even 12 hours inland. Out there is where it’s really dry, where some farms haven’t seen rain for five years.
 
Climate change is a big issue in our patch of the planet, which covers Australia, the world’s driest inhabited continent, and some South Pacific nations that are at risk of vanishing because of rising sea levels. Droughts are getting longer and the cyclones that form in the Indian and Pacific Oceans each year keep getting bigger. Reporting on these subjects makes us ever more aware of the damaging effects humans can have on the environment.

DRY 1
 
So we got to thinking: Wouldn’t it be nice to convert our workplace to a warm, fuzzy, green operation and help save the globe? If only we had the money for that…
 
Well, it’s 2008 and things have changed. Reuters Pictures Down Under has charged head first into the Green Era, working hard to save the planet and harder to save money!
 
Of course, we did all the usual things like using less paper, not printing emails unless absolutely necessary and increasing our reliance on digital communication because it means less paper, less ink and less time. The office has also removed nearly all rubbish bins, replacing them with a range of recycling boxes for paper, plastic and so on. Reuters also removed the need for bottled water (which accounts for thousands of tons of plastic and greenhouse gases from transportation, production, etc) by installing chilled water filter outlets in the kitchen.

Hybrid
 
However, our biggest change so far has been road transport. In November one of our car leases came due. We dumped our 6 cylinder gas guzzler for a neat hybrid, which by the way has more cargo space than the previous road warrior. It’s pretty zippy, feels like driving a spaceship and since we took delivery in mid November have used a little over 6 tanks of fuel…
 
It’s warm, it’s fuzzy, but it also makes economic sense. Our annual lease is A$1,000/year less than the larger car and our fuel saving is expected to be around A$1,600/year. Oh, and as a sweetener, pretty much the whole of the first year’s fuel is covered by the manufacturer’s gift of $1000 of worth of free petrol. We have two pix cars in Sydney so as the price of fuel keeps heading up we expect to be saving about A$5,500 a year on cars alone. Think of the extra feature jobs you can do with a saving like that!
 
Get out there. Go Green. Save dough and save the planet!

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