Photographers' Blog

NATO from above

By Jim Young

Remote cameras can produce great pictures, but they are not always easy to set up. To put a camera in a position that would be impossible for a person to shoot from can produce interesting images, but it takes creativity and a lot of technical planning.

In March I went for a walk-through with organizers and news media for the upcoming NATO Summit to be held in Chicago in May. For years now we have set up remotes on the ceiling looking down on the meeting table for political summits and we wanted to set one up for this summit as well. We took a look at what would be the summit room, which at the time was completely empty and as bland as any other empty convention center room. In the week before the summit it would be transformed into a polished meeting room for world leaders and we hoped that we would be allowed to mount a remote camera as well. The idea was to shoot an overall photo of all the leaders sitting at the table for their meeting surrounding the giant NATO seal on the floor. The only way this could be done was with a remote camera because with the height we would need to be at to achieve the image, the camera could only be mounted up in the ceiling among the overhead lights.

We had never actually done this at a NATO summit before. The previous overhead cameras had been at G8, G20 and Nuclear Summits run by different organizers. In the final week before the summit we asked again. At first the answer seemed to be no, but then the officials suddenly came back with a “Yes, you can put up the camera, but you have to put it up immediately.” The other stipulation was that we could not use radio transmitters to trigger the shutter of the camera during the meeting; it would have to be hardwired with long cables.

Due to our previous experience doing this at the other summits, we had learned how to control the camera and trigger it live with a laptop at a remote location, with the photos downloading back instantly so that we could push them straight out to our clients. Our Washington pictures editor Jim Bourg had sent me some of the special equipment and software needed in advance. Here in Chicago the technical challenges of controlling the camera from afar were done in consultation with our Reuters staff technician Michael Berrigan, who has found all kinds of creative ways to overcome obstacles with our remote cameras over the years. Despite having to set up the camera immediately after the approval, we would still be setting it up well in advance of the actual meeting and would not be able to touch the camera for days before it shot the pictures. The advantage of this setup was that we would also not have to wait for hours after the event to collect the card with the images once the pictures were taken. They would be on our laptop and ready for transmission within seconds.

At the last minute we were finally given a window of a couple of hours to run the cabling, mount the camera and test it. Unfortunately, because the room was now sealed off by constructed walls, scissor lifts could no longer get access to the room.  All the work would have to be done atop a tall ladder, reaching about 25 feet up to the bottom of the light rigging.

Be messy and be healthy

Crowds flounder and scream in the gray mud. Crazed people struggle with each other, fighting fiercely to throw others into the mud. The streets of a small coastal village are messy with mud. Mud-covered pedestrians, some already tipsy, wander along the beachside streets. But this is not a battlefield or a disaster area. It’s typical scenery during the Boryeong Mud Festival.

The festival, which runs from July 16-24 this year, is one of South Korea’s most popular summer events. Around 2-3 million domestic and international festival-goers visit the beach during the event each year to enjoy mud-related activities such as mud slides, mud wrestling, a mud king contest and mud massages.

The presence of lots of foreign visitors, many of them members of the U.S. Forces Korea and their families, make this festival an exotic event for locals. It feels like I’m staying at Miami Beach. The mud puts everyone in a good mood. Visitors can enjoy the festival regardless of age, sex, or nationality. And there’s no need to play in the mud – you can just spray it and tackle the people around you! Somehow everyone can be friends after a few minutes of mud fighting.

The story behind the Pulitzer picture

Reuters Bangkok senior photographer Adrees Latif tells how he took the pictures which won him a Pulitzer Prize. The pictures were taken in Myanmar during the protests in September last year and include the photo of Japanese video journalist Kenji Nagai being shot.

“Tipped off by protests against soaring fuel prices, I landed in Yangon on 23 September, 2007, with some old clothes, a Canon 5D camera, two fixed lenses and a laptop.

For the next four days, I went to Shwedagon Pagoda, two-three kilometres from the centre of town and waited for the monks who had been gathering there daily at noon.

Back on the Taiwan Killer media bus

On my way back from a routine election assignment in Hsinchu, a fellow wire photographer quizzes me on my age.

“Errr… 26″ I reply and the other wire photographer goes “Wah sey!” which translates as something like “Whoa” if there is such a word in english. He proceeds to to tell me that he can’t remember where he was when he was 26.

Which is probably also why Russell, the Asia Chief photographer, asked me to write about my newbie experience operating and planning my first big team story,  namely the Taiwan presidential election won by Nationalist candidate, Ma ying-jeou.

Cook the Hunt

The recent general elections in Spain were held in the wake of an ex-socialist councillor shot dead in the Basque Country in a place near my hometown. I was working on the afternoon shift when I saw the first alert of the assassination appear on our text service. I almost jumped out my chair. Somehow my internal alarm bell still goes off instinctively whenever something happens in the area where I used to work. It was only after a couple of seconds that I realized I’m 12,000 kilometers from where the assassination took place, and I couldn’t just grab a camera and go. There wasn’t much I could do, except get in touch with the photographer in the Basque Country, make sure he was aware of the breaking news, and then prepare for his pictures to land on the desk.
Above: Basque police collect evidence outside the house of a former socialist councillor after an attack in Mondragon, northern Spain, March 7, 2008.  Photograph by Vincent West

Above: People stand during a silent protest in Burgos, northern Spain March 7, 2008, against the murder of Isaias Carrasco. Photograph by Felix Ordonez

Above: Spanish vice president Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega (R) and Spanish Socialist Party spokesman Jose Blanco (C) walk in front of the coffin of Isaias Carrasco carried by Basque Socialist Party general secretary Patxi Lopez (back L) and Basque socialist’s president Jesus Egiguren, during a funeral in Mondragon, northern Spain, March 8, 2008. Photograph by: Vincent West

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