Photographers' Blog

Faced with the hand of death

Guatemala City, Guatemala

By Jorge Dan Lopez

Lately, I’ve begun to think about death in a different way. Maybe it has something to do with taking photographs at the central cemetery every day for the last four months. It has become part of my daily routine, like getting up in the morning and brushing my teeth. Sometimes when I go, I don’t even take a picture, I just listen to the workers or enjoy the cemetery’s own sounds.

The other day it became quite cold during the night, temperatures dropped more than ten degrees Celsius and continued to descend. It was the coldest night of the year so far and while I was sitting at the cemetery, I thought I should take some photos about the cold weather. It was a frivolous thought, especially when I heard a little later that a person had died of hypothermia. I received the tip from a firefighter about the first dead person to have died due to the cold weather.

The body was found in the conflicted neighborhood Zona 18. It has been practically militarized by the Fuerza de Tarea Maya, a joint force made up of soldiers and police officers.

When I arrived in the Zona 18, everything was confusing and nobody really knew what was going on. Streets have no names in that area and people were giving out the wrong directions. After almost an hour of searching, I decided to leave. Suddenly I saw two people standing in a field.

They were firefighters. I approached them and without asking, they immediately told me about the body of a man they had found underneath a staircase. The man had made a home of this small, dark space under the stairs and that’s where he died of exposure during the night.

Under the ice

Lake Weissensee, Austria

By Michael Dalder

I’ve been diving for almost 15 years, but due to family matters it has fallen off my list lately. So a new picture assignment at Lake Weissensee in mid-February 2013 just came right to my diver’s heart: The Underwater Ice hockey Championships.

Underwater Ice hockey is not played on top of the ice like ice hockey is usually played but underneath it. That’s where diving comes into the game because the underwater ice hockey players are in fact apnea divers who want to give their sports an additional sportive kick.

My day started early when I met with the men and women from the Vienna rescue divers’ squad ASBOe – Moedling. These dive enthusiasts are responsible for safety and security during the whole tournament. If you dive under ice you can’t go straight to the surface to breath if you have an emergency. Thus ice diving is, together with cave diving, considered to be the most dangerous diving discipline. For that reason I listened to the security briefing attentively.

Quiet work amidst the reeds

By Herwig Prammer

The light is soft and warm, yet I am astonished at how cold it is. The thermometer says minus 15 degrees Celsius, but it feels far lower. In the car I did not recognize how strong the wind was blowing from the north.

Ernst Nekowitsch makes thatched roofs from reeds that grow along the shore of Lake Neusiedl, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) east of Vienna, Austria. He tells me to have a look around. I will find his workers out in the reeds, he says.

So I climb up on the roof of my Land Rover and try to position myself in reeds higher than my vehicle. When I see the harvesters with their machines on the expanse of frozen water, I wonder why I cannot hear them. It is so quiet here. There is just a swoosh of reeds swaying in the wind. I take my cameras and walk along the grooved lanes the harvesting machines cut through the reeds. It is more difficult than I expected. The ground I cover is a 15-centimeter-thick layer of ice as smooth as glass. Sometimes you can even see the lake bed.

Celebrating in the cold

By Petr Josek

It is the first week of February and all of Europe is squeezed in a deep cold. Everybody is tired from freezing temperatures and the forecast for upcoming days is not good. The photo wire is full of suffering homeless people, steaming chimneys, frozen water and so on.

Thinking of how to illustrate this winter differently I remembered that the traditional Shrove festival was taking place around this time. That Shrove site I decided to take pictures of is known for its Shrovetide masks and cultural traditions listed in UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

I came to the Czech village of Vesely Kopec early morning as temperatures were lower then 23 degrees Centigrade. Revellers accompanied by music started to parade, dance and sing through the village dressed in light costumes with white gloves on their hands. Trumpeters had to often stop their music due to their frozen instruments. And everybody needed a warming up drink.

Race into the cold

By Petr Josek

Mountains, snow, wind, cold, sun, dogs, sleds and mushers. Those are elements you meet in various combinations when you go to cover the Sedivackuv long dog sled race in the Czech Republic’s Orlicke mountains. It’s a beautiful place. I’ve been covering the race since 2005 and I always look forward it. You need to get well dressed for that, we call it double-full-full. I remember temperatures of -20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit) with strong winds.

There is always the obvious problem of how to cover the same event differently every year, especially as we don’t have giant mountains with high summits and there’s not always bright sun. But I think that nice pictures showing the event and describing its atmosphere can’t hurt once a year.

You go to the start line and take some pictures of excited dogs. They already know what’s going on, what is ahead of them. They bark as they rush up the hill and disappear in the horizon to face the next stage which over four days counts more than 240 kilometers (149 miles).

Living without electricity for 29 years

By Cathal McNaughton

John McCarter is 77 years old and has been living without mains electricity at his home at Downhill, Londonderry county, for 29 years.

It seems incredible that a pensioner who lives so close to the prosperous Causeway Coast tourist area in Northern Ireland is allowed to live in such basic conditions.

However, John is the perfect host and couldn’t have made me more welcome when I arrived at his modest wooden cottage set against the backdrop of the dramatic Co Derry coastline.

Walking the glacier

By Lisi Niesner

Usually I am absolutely not a fan of places where a mass of tourists assemble. I hate standing in line, dislike crowded sights, do not endure guides, prefer to eat meals characteristic of the country I’m visiting and I particularly cannot stand how functional tourists dress in their newly bought outdoor clothing – even if it is not necessary at all. That wind and water repellent jacket, those pants with a cooling fiber effect and, of course, the super soft sneaker shoes replacing the aerated sandals.

However, it has become a routine of mine to visit my relatives who live in the Zillertal valley but I had never visited the tourist attractions in the area. The Zillertal valley, located in the western Alps in the Austrian province of Tyrol, is well known for their “hardcore” tourism that has been operating for years.

It has never been easier to reach the top of a mountain or a glacier without shedding a drop of sweat. The expenses amount to around 30 euros and after a 30 minute ride on the cable car you will get access to a stunning view! On clear days you can look infinitely far.

An arctic adventure

Wind patterns are left in the ice pack that covers the Arctic Ocean north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska March 19, 2011.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The Arctic Ocean in March is basically an ocean of ice. Almost the entire thing is covered from October to June in an icepack that only partially disappears in the summer and is still very solid in March.

Why would anyone in their right mind volunteer to spend a month to a month in a half in temperatures that usually don’t exceed -10 degrees Fahrenheit or -23 degrees Celsius? In the case of the roughly two dozen souls who work either for the British, Canadian and United States Navy or the Arctic Physics Laboratory Ice Station, it is because there is work to be done.

A man carries an ice auger to a remote warming station near the 2011 Applied Physics Laboratory Ice Station north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska March 18, 2011.    REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

And the first piece of work is to physically build the camp. To do this, firstly a piece of “multi-year” ice must be found, that means that it is thick enough (theoretically) that it won’t split in half and will support the weight of a camp while having enough room for an airplane runway and helicopter landing pad. Next, these folks need to load an antique airplane with enough plywood and nails to build a half a dozen un-insulated boxes to live in, this usually takes about 3 days as the workers must fly back to their base at Prudhoe Bay each evening to avoid the -30 to -50 degree temperatures until they build enough shelters to house them all.

A recipe for excitement

Bjorn Heregger of Sweden competes during the Xtreme men’s ski freeride contest on the Bec des Rosses mountain in Verbier March 22, 2009. REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud

Take a 3,223m (10,574 ft) high mountain in Switzerland, “Le Bec-des-Rosses”, blessed with a 500m long north face and inclines of up to 55 degrees, sprinkle with sharp rocks, cover with snow for a few months, blast occasionally with strong winds and then add in a jump-friendly 20m escarpment along with narrow passages for descent.

Now throw into the mix 28 of the best skiers and snowboarders in the world, each of them climbing said mountain to reach their start positions. Add a light garnish of helicopter flights for the accompanying mountain guides, TV crews and photographers and you then have the vital ingredients of the recipe for excitement that is the Freeride World Cup Final 2009, or ‘Xtreme’ – an event held at the Swiss Alps resort of Verbier since 1996.

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