Photographers' Blog

Water, water everywhere

Moorland, Britain

By Cathal McNaughton

It’s like a scene from a Hollywood disaster movie. The Somerset village of Moorland is under five feet of water. Wading along the usually bustling main street, I am struck by how quiet it is – everything has an eerie, post-apocalyptic feel.

The only sound I can hear is coming from the now breached flood defences moving backwards and forwards in the ebb and flow of the rising waters, creaking like a sinking ship.

There is a strong chemical smell of leaking fuel as I push past the huge chunks of debris floating by in the murky waters. Cars lie abandoned with their lights left on, the houses are sandbagged and empty – their inhabitants left days ago. I see a deserted house with post still sticking out of the letterbox.

In the distance, I hear a faint rumble, which continues to grow until around the corner comes a large, ex-military amphibious vehicle. It’s the type of thing you might more usually see on fun city tours, which plunge into the river to the delight of the passengers. But here these vehicles are being used by amateur rescuers keen to do their bit.

It stops and I’m offered a lift through the village to the other side, where a few remaining villagers battle to keep the floods at bay. Others are simply hoping that the waters don’t rise any more. This is the case at the Vize family farm, where the living room is already under several inches of water. It starts to rain again.

Defiant smokers of London

London, England

By Olivia Harris

Smokers in dressing gowns and slippers, some in wheelchairs or with drips, are a common site gathered outside hospitals in Britain.

The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is proposing to ‘end this terrible spectacle’ and ban smoking and smoking shelters from hospital grounds. For patients determined to smoke, this means moving further away from the hospital.

The defiant women I met yesterday smoking outside the hospital blamed the doctors and nurses. “They’d say an ingrown toenail was due to my smoking, if it suited them,” insisted one woman who wouldn’t be photographed but who was in hospital for a smoking-related disease. Her friend Margaret, who’s smoked for 40 years, whispered to me that her voice box will be removed in a fortnight. She said sadly that she’s having an awful time and just wants to enjoy her cigarettes in peace.

The fashion of Liverpool

Liverpool, England

By Suzanne Plunkett

The chances are you won’t have heard of Liverpool Fashion Week. But if you have – or if you ever do in the future – it will likely be thanks to Amanda Moss.

Moss, an indefatigable mother of six children, is on a mission to transform Liverpool into Britain’s first haute couture hot spot beyond London. She has some way to go but if anyone can do it, she can. I met her while covering Liverpool Fashion Week, an event launched by Moss five years ago and now proudly sashaying into the international spotlight.

The words Liverpool and fashion have been known to raise a smile when mentioned together – especially among locals, known for their self-deprecating sense of humor.

Shrovetide: a rough and tumble game

Ashbourne, central England

By Darren Staples

There are rules – even if there is no referee to enforce them. One of the ancient ones is said to be: ‘committing murder or manslaughter is prohibited’. Royal Shrovetide Football is not for the faint-hearted, either for players or the spectators who can quickly become caught up in the scrum.

On the face of it, the game played in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday each year will sound familiar to anyone who knows what happens at any English Premiership venue on a Saturday afternoon.

There is one ball, two teams – the Up’ards and the Down’ards – and the goal is to score goals. In these parts, it’s like Manchester United playing Manchester City, with all the passion and pride that comes with it.

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.

Belles of the ball

By Olivia Harris

I had thought that ‘debs’ belonged to the pre-1960s days before the pill and equal pay. But at Queen Charlotte’s Ball last week there were eighteen young debutantes who had volunteered for the London Season, the symbolic right of passage to mark their entry into ‘society’ as young women.

The ball was the high point of ‘the season’; six months of parties where young women of money and class were premiered for the marriage market.

The young women at Friday’s Queen Charlotte’s Ball didn’t think it was old fashioned or sexist. None of them would admit they were looking for a husband – or not quite yet, anyway.

NFL touchdown in London

By Suzanne Plunkett

British sports fans are a serious bunch. When it comes to football (they never call it soccer), many would rather lose their home than miss their team score a winning goal. Club allegiance is often demonstrated with tribal passion – influencing tattoos, clothing and even choice of marital partners.

When American football makes a rare appearance in London, it’s somewhat of a surprise to see the seriousness of the sport replaced with a more frivolous obsession: cheerleaders.

That’s not to say British fans have no interest in the sport. When the Chicago Bears took on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a showcase game at Wembley Stadium in October, I spoke to plenty of Brits among the American expats paying homage to their national sport. Many professed as much fanaticism as the American supporters who had traveled from the States specifically to see their team.

A Royal prayer to the weather gods

Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton arrive at the Darwen Aldridge Community Academy (DACA), in Darwen, northern England April 11, 2011.   REUTERS/Phil Noble

It can’t be very often that I have the same thought as Prince William, or indeed his fiance Kate Middleton. But after today’s visit to Darwen in northern England I’m sure there was at least one point, as the rain bounced off the pavement, that we were all thinking the same thing; I hope the weather is better than this on the 29th!

It was billed as the couples last public engagement before the big day and myself and Reuters colleague Darren Staples had arrived at our separate venues early in the morning to set up and claim our positions.

Security and competition from other photographers means the call time is usually at least a couple of hours before the VIP’s arrival. This is fine when the weather is on your side, but after a gloriously sunny weekend England’s famed April showers chose today to put in an appearance and soaked us to the bone.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures 06 March 2011

I do enjoy a coincidence. The week after calls for prodemocracy demonstrations under the social media tag of "Jasmine Revolution" and the week before  the National People's Congress (NPC), International journalists (and I of course include photographers under this title) are brought in by the authorities for "chat". During the "chat" they are reminded of the terms of their journalist visas and how quickly these visas can be revoked if the rules are broken on illegal reporting. Also outlined are places that special permission is needed to report from, Tiananmen Square heading the list. Our picture of a member of the PLA leaving the Great Hall in Tiananmen Square appearing to almost step on the photographer with this low angle picture, as I said I do love a coincidence.

CHINA-DEFENCE/

A military delegate from the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) leaves the Great Hall of the People after a meeting during the annual session of China's parliament, the National People's Congress, in Beijing March 4, 2011. China said on Friday that its official military budget for 2011 will rise 12.7 percent over last year, returning to the double-digit rises that have stoked regional disquiet about Beijing's expanding strength. REUTERS

Inside the Great Hall Jason shot this fantastic, Daliesque image of the headless conductor who appears to radiate waves from the central red star that has replaced his head. Another picture that caught my eye is the image of the patient watching the national address by China's Premier Wen Jiabao from her hospital bed. I wonder if the remote is within reach as these speeches tend to go on for quite a long time and imagine that if you are in hospital in pain there is only so much economic news you can absorb at one time ? Moving away from Beijing and the NPC I am really drawn to Aly's picture of the construction site which was shot to illustrate the housing inflation story in China (not an easy one at any stretch of the imagination). The metal reinforcement supports look like leafless trees, the solitary figure trudging through a lifeless, snowy landscape. 

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures February 27, 2011

The World's gaze at events in the Middle East was broken last week after an earthquake of 6.3 destroyed many buildings in Christchurch, New Zealand; the death toll now stands at 147 with 200 still missing. This was the latest disaster covered by Tim Wimborne. In recent weeks he has been to Toowoomba and Brisbane for the floods, Cairns for the typhoon Yasi and now NZ to cover the earthquake.  Tim worked closely with stringer Simon Baker to produce a file that saddens the heart, buildings normally seen on holiday postcards now forming the tombs of those who have died and as yet have not been pulled from the rubble. For me one of the strongest images is that of a  man picking through the rubble of what was once his home. With Tim's birds-eye view we see that nothing is really worth saving amid the dust and rubble, a photograph, a smashed lamp and a model boat.

NEWZEALAND-QUAKE/

Resident of the beach-side suburb of New Brighton, Julian Sanderson, searches for personal items through the remains of his house, destroyed by Tuesday's earthquake, in Christchurch February 25, 2011. International rescue teams searched through the rubble of quake-ravaged Christchurch on Friday for more than 200 people still missing, but rain and cold were dimming hopes of finding more survivors in the country's worst natural disaster in decades.  REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

NEWZEALAND/QUAKE

A rescue worker (R) looks through the rubble of the Cathedral of Blessed Sacrament in Christchurch February 24, 2011. International rescuers intensified their search for earthquake survivors in New Zealand on Thursday, spurred on by reports of a faint female voice heard beneath a collapsed church, even as the official death toll of 71 looked certain to climb. REUTERS/Simon Baker