Photographers' Blog

A job to do on the Srinagar streets

After offering special Eid prayers to mark the end of Ramadan, I got myself ready to cover the large Eid prayer congregation at Eid Gah in downtown Srinagar where senior separatist leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, was scheduled to address thousands of Muslims.

Kashmiris attend an anti-India protest in Srinagar September 11, 2010.  REUTERS/Danish Ismail

Soon after the end of Eid prayers, Farooq called for a protest march to Lal Chowk, the heart of Srinagar. Continually shooting pictures I followed the tens of thousands of demonstrators shouting “we want freedom”. When they reached Lal Chowk, the shouts turned to violence and I saw protesters damaging the clock tower. Again Farooq addressed the people calling for anti-India protests. I ran to the office nearby to file the pictures.

A protester holds an Islamic flag on Kashmir's clock tower as he shouts anti-India slogans during an anti-India protest in Srinagar September 11, 2010.   REUTERS/Danish Ismail

As I finished filing I received a call from Sheikh Mushtaq, Reuters Kashmir correspondent, he told me protesters had set fire to police and government buildings. I rushed out to take more pictures. By the time I finished transmitting them I had worked 14 hours straight and, having fasted all day, was extremely hungry.

Government buildings burn after being set on fire by protesters in Srinagar September 11, 2010.  REUTERS/Danish Ismail

The following morning the police imposed a curfew throughout the valley. I prepared to go out with my media pass which exempts me from the curfew, but the curfew was so strict I was not allowed to move outside my home. After a series of frantic calls to officials, I finally got permission to leave my home at 5 p.m. I reached the office and decided to stay there for the night. I was not able to shoot any pictures.

Photographer Danish Ismail prepares tea in the Reuters office.

From that day on, the office become home for Mushtaq and me. The next day, I woke up early, washed my face, prepared tea for Mushtaq and myself, and quickly washed up the kitchen utensils. I left the office to hunt for pictures: sometimes alone, sometimes with a group of journalists, by bike, by car and often just on foot. The curfew was so tight that in some areas the security forces did not honour our passes. I suppose they had their jobs to do, but we had our jobs to do too.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures September 12, 2010

As the anniversary of the 9/11 attack coincided with Eid celebrations, Florida based Pastor Terry Jones announced that he would burn the Koran as a protest  to plans to site a Muslim cultural centre near Ground Zero , stoking tensions in Asia.  Add into the mix millions in Pakistan suffering from lack of water, food and shelter after floods, a parliament election in   Afghanistan and a U. S. -led  military campaign against the Taliban around Kandahar -  photographers in the region had lots of raw material to work with.

Raheb's picture of relief and joy caught in the harsh light of a direct flash seems to explode in a release of tension as news spreads that Pastor Jones had cancelled his plans to burn the Koran. It has to be said that ironically earlier in the day in Pakistan US flags were burned in protest against the planned protest.


 Afghan protestors shout anti U.S slogans as they celebrate after learning that U.S. pastor Terry Jones dropped his plans to burn copies of the Koran, in Herat, western Afghanistan September 12, 2010. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

On the roof of a train, picking up speed

Every year, millions of residents in Dhaka travel to their hometown from the Bangladeshi capital to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Thousands use public transportation. I was determined to travel with them to experience this hectic mode of transport.  I went to a local train station opposite the national airport in Dhaka on September 20, the last day before Eid.

I reached the station early in the morning and found thousands of people waiting on the platform. There were trains arriving but they were fully packed with people. There was not even space on the rooftop of the trains. In spite of this, people were crawling on top and inside the carriages like ants, sometimes even fighting with each other.  Twice I failed to get onto the train. Finally, I managed to get on with the help of a young woman. The woman struggled to get on the train with her 4-year old child. I was just behind her, and as soon as she got on she pulled me up.

While sitting amongst the crowd, I started taking pictures with my 5D camera and a 16-35mm lens. After a few shots I tried using a slow shutter speed, but as the train was jerking it was difficult to capture a sharp frame. Then I tried different shutter speeds, changing the f-stops from 11 to 22. Suddenly, I spotted a woman in the middle of the two carriages. At first I framed the shot with the woman at the top. I managed to maneuver my way among the crowd and lay down to keep my hand steady. I composed the picture with the men’s feet and played with changing the f-stop and shutter speed on alternative exposures. I kept my ISO at 100 as I knew that a fast ISO would not achieve the blurred effect. The f-stop was narrow as I tried using slow shutter speeds. I was getting a huge depth-of-field to keep my subject in focus. I shot several exposures on different f-stops from 1/4 to 1/60. The train was jerking so much that half of my shots were blurred. I was continuously trying to find the right shutter speed on the right moment.  Finally I found it. A shutter speed of 1/6 at f/16 was the best among the few perfect exposures.

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