Photographers' Blog

Ghost town of Superstorm Sandy

Breezy Point, New York

By Shannon Stapleton

Driving into the city I was listening to NPR talking about it being the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Sandy.

At first I couldn’t believe it had been six months already, and then I thought more about it and it seemed like years ago. The last time I was in Breezy Point and the Rockaways not much had changed.

The area of Breezy Point was still littered with fire and storm damaged homes throughout the seaside community. Arriving today the specific area that was ravaged by fire was completely different. The remains of homes had been taken away and the land flattened and filled with sand.

Shells of houses’ foundations and patriotic flags were all to be seen. A few heavy construction vehicles were busy working and served as the only real sign of life around the area.

I made a photo of a man inside a home in silhouette that for me defined what I was seeing. A once lively seaside community that in the past would be preparing for another summer by the sea is now a bit of a ghost town with few residents back to welcome spring and cherish another summer at the beach.

Catastrophic lessons in a quake zone

Ya’an, Sichuan province, China

By Jason Lee

It was 8:02 am on April 20th, 2013, three weeks before the fifth anniversary of the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake which killed nearly 70,000 people, when another strong quake hit the city of Ya’an in the same province. More than 190 people died, 21 others are still missing, and more than 11,000 people have been injured.

I must admit when I first heard about the disaster, I was a little reluctant to cover it, hoping that this time it wouldn’t be very serious. The catastrophic images from five years ago were still lingering in my head. However, when the death toll started to climb, I quickly cleared my thoughts and got on the next flight to the quake zone.

I don’t want to use too many words to describe how much I overcame to get there because my difficulties mean nothing compared to every victim’s face I saw and every cry I heard on the way.

In too deep

Fox Lake, Illinois

By Jim Young

Heavy rains brought flooding to the Chicago area this week. Though most people were already starting the clean-up process, there was still some flooding just north of the city.

I headed up to see how they were coping since the Fox River had yet to crest. As I pulled into town, most of the area looked fairly dry but once you got closer to the lake, some of the streets were several feet under water. As I came around a corner, I could see an American flag hanging over a half-sunken retro soda machine sitting in what looked like a lake, but it was actually someone’s backyard.

The family seemed unusually calm about their circumstances. Though they had been stuck in the same flooded state for four days with more rain on the way, they had several layers of sandbags around their house and a couple of pumps going at full speed. They were just trying to hang in there and hope for the best.

No happy endings in nature

County Antrim, Northern Ireland

By Cathal McNaughton

When the snow started falling on Thursday afternoon nobody in the Glens of Antrim could have predicted the devastating impact it would have on the farming community. Sub-zero temperatures and heavy snow fall combined with strong easterly winds produced 30 foot snowdrifts.

The rolling hillsides, where just a week previously daffodils had swayed in the breeze in the watery spring sunshine, now lay covered in an unseasonable layer of deep snow. But below the beautiful winter wonderland landscape the tragic reality of nature lay hidden – thousands of sheep buried with their farmers unable to reach them.

Many of the ewes were ready to lamb and were buried alive as the snow blew into drifts several feet high. When I met with family friend Keith McQullan and his farm manager Donald O’Reilly at his hill farm in Aughafatten in Glenarm Glen on Tuesday morning they were unusually quiet. Keith owns several hundred sheep across the remote north Antrim hills – only accessible by quad or by tractor – where he has farmed all his life.

A dramatic rescue outside my window

Athens, Greece

By John Kolesidis

Today I woke up to the deafening sound of thunder. The rain was pouring hard.

I made myself a cup of coffee and watched the rain out the window flood the surrounding streets. I was at a loss as to how I would get to the office without getting soaked, so I decided to stay put until things calmed down a bit. When I finished my coffee, I looked out the window again, and things had taken a dramatic turn.

GALLERY: SAVED FROM A FLOOD

A bit further down the street I could see an immobilized car getting swollen by the flood. Then I heard some muffled voices. I put on my galoshes and raincoat, took my cameras, and tried to get there. I walked through a small park, but that led me behind barbed wire which I couldn’t get over. I saw a woman trying to hold on to her car door, while the water was at waist level. I called out to her not to be scared, urging her to hold on to the door until I could get closer.

I took some pictures behind the barbed wire, and then I tried to find a way to cross the flooded park so that I could get to her. When I got in front of the fence, there was a cascade between me and the woman, as she was on the other side of the road. People were looking on from their balconies, and I started shouting out to them to call the fire brigade. Then a man on the same side of the street climbed on top of her car, and another man managed to approach as well.

The tragic legacy of KISS

Santa Maria, Brazil

By Ricardo Moraes

It was an unforgettable end to enormous pain and a ravaged mind. The last day of coverage of one of Brazil’s greatest tragedies touched me so much that I’m only going to tell how the story ended.

The morning of January 30, 2013, I met a woman who was devastated, confused, and completely lost inside of herself – wounded to the heart.

The first contact with her was moving. We arrived at a building on the outskirts of Santa Maria and knocked on the door of apartment 121, on which there was a message left by children offering help and consolation for a woman named Gelsa. In spite of the obvious clue that inside lived the mother of a disaster victim, we hadn’t reached that place by chance; we were led there by Carlos, a friend of Gelsa, the woman whose small family had now been reduced to just one, herself.

The KISS that ended in tragedy

Santa Maria, Brazil

By Edison Vara

It was early Sunday when my cell phone began ringing nonstop. Reuters called to inform me of a tragedy that was happening in the Kiss nightclub in the city of Santa Maria, with more than 70 known dead initially. That number would soon rise past 230. After more than 30 years as a photojournalist I was still jolted by the news, grabbed my equipment, and left for the site three hours away.

When I reached the gymnasium in Santa Maria where the bodies were being taken for identification, I was shocked to see the parents, children, brothers and sisters of victims searching for information, but I had to photograph all these moments of desperation, with respect for those who didn’t want me to.

The gym’s courtyard was soon transformed into a two-way street of coffins entering and leaving, difficult scenes to photograph. Four soldiers passed by carrying a body barely covered with a white sheet, without a coffin, to a waiting hearse.

The flood and the pub

Tewkesbury, southwestern England

By Andrew Winning

On a dull Monday morning in London, my assignment desk rescued me from a dreary assignment to travel to Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire to cover the effects of the second of two consecutive weather systems that brought flooding misery to many parts of southwestern England.

I arrived with about an hour of daylight left to work with and inquired if there was any flooding. Some helpful local people pointed me towards the White Bear pub, on the northern side of the town. As I arrived I found David Boazman, and his brothers Michael and Richard, pumping flood water out of his bar. They kindly invited me in, through the window, to have a look.

Tewkesbury sits on a floodplain at the confluence of the Severn and Avon rivers and is no stranger to flooding. David explained that since his pub was completely inundated in 2007, he had all his electrical plugs reinstalled a meter and a half (5 feet) up the wall, and he has an ingenious system of piling up the bar furniture to avoid it being ruined by the water.

Staten Island’s stories of Sandy

Staten Island, New York

By Mike Segar

As New York braced for the arrival of Hurricane Sandy three weeks ago, I was in California for a long-planned personal event. But I wasn’t about to miss what was shaping up to be a major story. I was determined to get back. I found a united flight to Detroit, Michigan, that was still listed as “on-time.” How far a drive would that be to New York? 10 hours? Through a hurricane?… I’ll take it, I thought. Seven hours later I was on the ground in Michigan driving through the night towards New York as winds howled and Sandy was coming ashore. I made it back to a region knocked to its knees by this storm.

The next seven days were a blur of finding and photographing those worst hit by the storm and hunting for gas for vehicles to keep going (not to mention returning home to a house without power, heat or hot water and without my wife and children who had evacuated to Massachusetts). Together Reuters photographers Lucas Jackson, Shannon Stapleton, Brendan McDermid, Keith Bedford, Adrees Latif, Andrew Kelly, Tom Mihalek, Carlo Alegri, Steve Nesius, Chip East, Adam Hunger and myself covered the immediate aftermath of Sandy in countless locations. We documented places and people affected by this massive natural disaster, one of the most destructive ever to hit the Northeast U.S. Our team made amazing pictures throughout and our collective photographic documentation of this disaster speaks for itself.

GALLERY: A STORM NAMED SANDY

I found myself mostly covering the particularly hard hit borough of Staten Island where at least 23 people died. Many Staten Islanders say they live in New York City’s “forgotten borough.” On Staten Island’s south shore there are several long low-lying communities of mostly working class New Yorkers, many with civil service jobs. With a mixture of ethnic backgrounds of long-time residents and recent immigrants, this area consists of mostly beach bungalow style homes. The homes are mostly single story and packed closely together near the shore that stretches for about six miles and faces the Atlantic Ocean.

Inside the world’s biggest nuclear plant

Kashiwazaki, Japan

By Kim Kyung-hoon

“Sleeping nuclear giants” – That was my first impression when I visited the world’s biggest nuclear power station, Kashiwazaki Kariwa power plant in Japan’s Niigata Prefecture.

GALLERY: IMAGES FROM THE PLANT

With seven reactors which can produce a total of 8,212 megawatts of electricity, this power station is officially registered as the largest nuclear power station in the Guinness Book of Records. But the reality of the power station is much different than its reputation. Two of its reactors were shut down for a time after the 2007 earthquake and the remaining reactors were taken offline for safety checks and maintenance due to public concerns about the safety of nuclear energy in the quake-prone country after Fukushima’s nuclear disaster.

However its operator Tokyo Electronic Power Co (TEPCO) hopes to get this power plant operating because they are overwhelmed by the soaring cost of fuel as well as radiation cleanup costs and compensation payments to displaced residents. TEPCO invited the Reuters multimedia team into the nuclear power plant in order to show their upgraded safety practice.