Photographers' Blog

The sky of Beijing

Beijing, China

By Wei Yao

This past winter, Beijing and the entire northern part of China were repeatedly blanketed by thick haze, raising serious concerns among citizens and the government. Air quality in Beijing has mostly stayed above “very unhealthy” and “hazardous” levels. Therefore, how to clean up the sky became one of the most important subjects for the delegates at China’s annual National People’s Congress (NPC). As a photojournalist based in Beijing, the moment I was told I would be able to cover the NPC, I decided to shoot a series of photographs to illustrate this matter.

The first thing that came to mind was placing my camera at the same position to objectively document the sky of Beijing throughout the two weeks of the NPC. I immediately thought of the Tiananmen Gate with the giant portrait of China’s Late Chairman Mao Zedong, because for Chinese or foreigners, nothing says more about China and Beijing than Tiananmen Gate.

It puzzled me for a while on how to present the set of pictures to highlight the differences of each day’s air quality. All of a sudden, I remembered a combination of images of the midnight sun in Northern Europe that I saw a few years ago, and decided to combine my pictures in a similar way.

VIEW AN INTERACTIVE ON THE POLLUTION PROBLEM

Having the idea of how to do my project, I encountered some difficulties. Unlike the midnight sun in which shooting only lasted for a day, I had to reset my camera everyday at Tiananmen Square. I originally planned to shoot a picture from the same position at the same time of day, but in the meantime, I also needed to cover many other NPC assignments for my papers. Being in a rush all the time, I wasn’t able to get the same position or angle throughout the two weeks. Fortunately, after spending a long time editing, I still managed to create what I needed.

The combination picture was posted on Sina Weibo (microblog) at noon after the closing ceremony of the NPC. Within one day it was reposted over 25,000 times. It was ranked as the second hottest microblog on Sina Weibo that day, outranking all the other subjects related to the NPC. From the reposts and comments, I could see more and more people showing concern and attention to the air quality in China, and I am more than happy to see my project achieve a greater success than my expectations.

A recycling hero

Santana do Parnaiba, Brazil

By Paulo Whitaker

Today’s Brazil is synonymous with great promise, as the country of the future with tremendous economic potential. But in terms of our care for the environment, we are far from being a global example.

Although we are the world champion in recycling aluminium cans, we still have many polluted rivers and cities, and our rainforests are being devastated to make room for soybeans, cattle and sugar cane. Recycling cans is high thanks only to the thousands of poor who survive by collecting them.

Roberto da Silva is one of those people – poor and unemployed. Years ago the Tiete River was teeming with fish, but while Roberto gets his food today from the river too, it’s not by harvesting live fish from its waters but rather by fishing tons of plastic PET containers from the river polluted by South America’s biggest city. He collects containers in Santana do Parnaiba as they come floating downriver from Sao Paulo 20 kms (32 miles) away, and sells them to a recycling center.

A place that even the rain has abandoned

Across the drought-stricken states of Brazil

By Lunae Parracho

As white dust follows your car along dirt roads that cut through a maze of dry arteries while the burning sun dries out your skin, you realize that the wilderness is all around you.

A meek, skinny cow stares intently at everyone passing by, as if some stranger might bring it water or food. Starving goats roam here and there, chewing on dry twigs and looking for something to drink.

After losing my way and walking for an hour or two between dry twigs and spiny cactus, I run into Hildefonso standing in front of his house. Time has also got lost in this wilderness and the farmer spends his days waiting for the rain to come. He has already waited two years in vain.

Set free in the Mongolian wild

By Petr Josek

Bulgan airport in the southwest part of Mongolia reminds me of a small train station from the spaghetti western film “Once Upon a Time in the West.” It’s slow, hot and once a week people wait for an airplane with no more then 20 passengers on board to arrive.

The day of July 17, 2012, was different.

The Czech Army plane Casa brought on board four Przewalski mares. They are endangered animals with a sandy brown coat and faintly striped legs, extinct in their homeland since the early 1970s.

Now the animals were landing on a dirt tarmac after a 6,000 km (3,728 miles) flight from the Czech Republic. It was a challenge for the pilots, required extra airport staff and was an attraction for local residents. It’s hard to say if the customs officer was taking pictures for professional reasons or just for himself as a souvenir from the unusual event.

Cruising to Venice

By Stefano Rellandini

Venice has always been a peculiar destination for everyone who visits. As a town built on water it appears somewhat atypical; no cars, no motorcycles, not even any bikes. The only way to travel through the city is to walk or use the gondolas, the traditional boats of Venice.

Ships are primarily used to reach Venice and in recent years these have become bigger and bigger. Every weekend seven or eight arrive at the lagoon of Venice. They then sail in front of San Marco square to reach the harbor.

The transition through the lagoon is always an exciting moment, especially witnessing the dimensions of these huge sea giants against the surrounding territory.

Gas & Water

By Tim Wimborne

Coal Seam Gas drilling is controversial. It’s also worth billions.

Some Australians love it, some hate it. The issues are big and they are complex. The industry is expanding like wildfire and the story develops daily. To more effectively tell this very thin slice of the story I combined pictures with audio, text and time-lapse video.

I believe this sector of Australia’s massive resources boom has the potential to make major political shifts. While reporting on it a farmer, a traditionally conservative lot, said to me “thank god for the Greens”.

Gas & Water from Tim Wimborne on Vimeo.

Two typhoons. One tragedy.

By Cheryl Ravelo

Two years after the devastating typhoon Ketsana hit Manila on September 26, followed by Typhoon Parma a week later, I thought this year would just be to commemorate the tragedy of those twin typhoons whose magnitude of destruction was historic for this country. But, I never knew we would relive it again, and this time with much greater damage brought by Typhoons Nesat and Nalgae.

When I went out to cover Nesat, I said to myself it’s just another typhoon, got some pictures of school cancellations, knee-deep flooding and villagers pre-emptively evacuating with their families, belongings and pets.

But the situation seemed to be getting worse when Bobby started photographing the already flooded U.S. Embassy along Manila Bay, something that has never happened in recent history. Storm surges created waves as high as the coconut trees lining the seawall. An oil tanker ran aground, almost hitting hundreds of shanties along the coastline of south harbor.

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.

Retracing my steps in Pakistan

On August 7, 2010, with a camera in hand, I dropped into a flooded village on an army helicopter that was delivering food aid to marooned villagers. As a crewman slid the door open to find solid ground, I leaped out, took some photographs, and managed to get back on before the chopper departed.

Time stamps on the images show the hover-stop lasted less than the length of an average song. For those three minutes, my thoughts were focused on finding an image that would bring the Pakistan floods story to life.

After getting back to base, I worded the caption, “Marooned flood victims looking to escape grab the side bars of a hovering Army helicopter which arrived to distribute food supplies in the Muzaffargarh district of Pakistan’s Punjab province August 7, 2010.”

Barefoot in a recycled school

The environment hasn’t been spared in India’s headlong rush towards development and consumerism. With it came mounds of garbage, piles of waste that had nowhere to go, industrial pollutants that were fed straight back into the rivers and lakes that supply drinking water to millions.‬ Walking around the streets of any town in India, you don’t get the feeling that care for the environment is on the top of anyone’s list of priorities.‬



So it was with a little skepticism that I read about a school which claimed to be completely environmentally friendly. I made a plan to travel to Pune, about 190km (118 miles) from Mumbai, to take a look at the Aman Setu school, which means “bridge to peace”. They claimed fantastic things – the buildings were environmentally friendly made entirely out of recycled and natural bits and pieces – they had their own vegetable garden for children – kids were allowed to run around barefoot.‬



What I found really was surprising. The “school” consisted of just a handful of buildings. Madhavi Kapur, who came up with the idea for the school, told me how they’d made the buildings – they’d taken old cement bags, commonly left over at many construction sites after buildings are made in India, and compacted them together with mud to make the rooms. One of the buildings was cone-shaped, others rectangular. Roofs were made out of old advertisement claddings. Ventilation was provided through disused plastic pipes.‬

Instead of using toxic paints and whitewashes, they used a mixture of cow dung, mud and water. I was told it’s been traditionally used in India for centuries because strangely enough, a mixture of cow dung and water insect proofs buildings. Who would have thought?!? It smelled reasonably pleasant too, you wouldn’t think you were standing somewhere were the floors and walls were plastered in cow dung.‬