Photographers' Blog

The thrill of the fair

Munich, Germany

By Michael Dalder

Many of us have been invited to wedding ceremonies and receptions in our time, as guests or even as photographers. One Saturday, at five o’clock in the morning, my colleague Lukas Barth and I prepared our camera gear to photograph a wedding party, with around six million guests.

I’m not sure how many of them were aware of the fact that the party they were attending – “the Oktoberfest” – originally celebrated and honoured the marriage of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig and Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen in 1810.

A gingerbread heart is pictured during the 181st Oktoberfest in Munich

Almost 200 years later, the celebration still exists in the form of the world’s biggest beer festival, a place where tradition meets madness. The fairground has been called “Theresienwiese”, or “the Wies’n” by experienced visitors and, despite the name “Oktoberfest”, the festival always starts on the penultimate Saturday of September.

Visitors enjoy a beer during the opening day of the 181st Oktoberfest in Munich

Visitors from all over the world – some dressed more or less in traditional Bavarian attire – wait expectantly to taste the special Oktoberfest beer, which, with around six percent alcohol, is a lot stronger than regular German beer.

We arrived at the fairground to find almost 3,000 people already queuing in front of the entrances to each of the 11 tents, hoping to catch one of the non-reserved seats inside. Some of them had been there since four o’clock in the morning, even though the beer would not be served before midday. Many had already started drinking beverages brought from home and often revellers were very jolly before the festival had even begun.

More than cojones

Pamplona, Spain

By Vincent West

“Have we vanquished an enemy? None but ourselves.”

- George Mallory, mountaineer.

“I think about my mother,” says bullrunner Deirdre Carney.

“I don’t think a lot of men think about that. It might be a woman thing… Women think about the loved ones that will be harmed by them being harmed.”

U.S. runner Deirdre Carney (R) talks to veteran runner Joe Distler following the seventh running of the bulls of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona July 13, 2014. The festival, a heady mix of drinking, dancing, late nights and bullfights, made famous by Ernest Hemingway in his novel "The Sun Also Rises", runs for nine days until July 14. Four runners were hospitalized following the run that lasted two minutes and fifty-two seconds, according to local media. REUTERS/Vincent West (SPAIN - Tags: SOCIETY ANIMALS SPORT ATHLETICS)

Carney is talking about her thoughts before running with the bulls at Pamplona’s famous San Fermin festival, where being harmed is a definite possibility.

An ambulance service personnel tends to an injured female runner after she fell next to Miura fighting bulls at the entrance of the bullring during the final running of the bulls at the San Fermin festival in Pamplona July 14, 2014. A bull gored two men after breaking away from the pack and chasing them through the streets of Pamplona in the closing run of the San Fermin festival on Monday. REUTERS/Eloy Alonso (SPAIN - Tags: SOCIETY ANIMALS)

Several people were hospitalised during the event this year, one after being badly gored in the thigh by the 600 kg (1,323 lb) Victoriano del Rio fighting bull “Brevito”. 

The bun myth

Cheung Chau, Hong Kong
By Bobby Yip

A baker poses with a bun with the Chinese characters "Ping An", meaning peaceful and safe, inside a bakery at Hong Kong's Cheung Chau island April 30, 2014, six days before the Bun Festival. Each bun is sold for HK$8 (US$1.02). The annual festival celebrates the islanders' deliverance from famine many centuries ago and is meant to placate ghosts and restless spirits.  REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Cheung Chau, or “Long Island”, with a population of around 30,000, is famous not only for its seafood and snacks, and as a small resort for local tourists, but most of all for its buns.

A couple walks along a beach at Hong Kong's Cheung Chau, or "Long Island", where the annual Bun Festival is held, April 28, 2014. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

The Bun Festival is the annual highlight of this former fishing village. Tens of thousands of visitors flock to attend the ritual, jamming the narrow streets of this quiet island.

What makes Cheung Chau’s bun special? The two Chinese characters stamped on it says it all: “Ping An”, meaning “peaceful” and “safe”. The $1 USD bun is in great demand not just during the festival but throughout the year. Initially, villagers made them to pray for safety from plague and pirates, who were active in the 18th century.

The Burning Man experience

Black Rock Desert of Nevada

By Jim Urquhart

I’ve been here three times and I still don’t know where I have been.

I don’t mean to sound whimsical but I still don’t know how to truly describe Burning Man. What began three years ago as idle conversation with some editors has brought me to the Black Rock Desert of Nevada for a week for the third time in the heat of the summer.

The two previous years I have spent my whole time on the desert floor working and creating photos for Reuters.

The old Cannes clapper-board

Cannes, France

By Eric Gaillard

In 1987, I covered my fifth Cannes Film Festival. I really wanted to find THE original and exclusive photo to announce its opening.

“The cinema Clap” – An idea which became evidence: Take a photo of the President of the Jury holding a cinema clap. The show begins for another 12-day festival.

At that moment I could not imagine the work and the stress behind this challenge and how far I would have to fight to succeed. Anyway, it was the start of an exciting experience, that I’ve continued every year since.

The man with the coconut and the GoPro

Lalitpur, Nepal

By Navesh Chitrakar

Rato Machhindranath is the god of rain, so huge crowds gather in Lalitpur around a 32-meter (104 foot) high tower mounted on a chariot during the chariot festival in an effort to ensure good rains and prevent drought.

The highlight of the day is when someone climbs to the top of the chariot and throws a coconut to devotees below. This is an ancient ritual thought to guarantee the catcher of the coconut the birth of a son. Few people believe this nowadays and I think participation is more about enjoying and preserving the tradition.

Every year I saw the same man climb atop the chariot. Every year he threw the coconut down towards the devotees. I really wanted to show in pictures what the perspective of this man looked like.

Dark side of the festival

Bangkok, Thailand

By Damir Sagolj

Totally unconcerned with incoming traffic, Khun Tuey powers the ambulance van through Bangkok’s narrow streets as fast as its engine can push it. Soon after the chase started, the pointer on the speedometer kisses the 120 mark and for a short moment I take my eyes off the road to look around. Next to the driver sits his beautiful, four month pregnant wife Amarin, ignoring what passes by the windshield as if she is watching a session of Bulgarian parliament on TV. To the left is Somat, a medic with 110 hours of training – the team’s expert for injuries. His eyes are closed and it looks like he is sleeping. I hope he is praying. Tonight, we all need prayers to come true.

It is the crazy wet Songkran, as the week-long Thai New Year is known. Earlier in the day, we all enjoyed the festival – I sprayed water, wore powder on my face, drank beer and played fool with friends.

But the fun part is over. Tonight is another Songkran night; one of seven dangerous ones when an already high number of traffic-related deaths and injuries surge. Experts say Thailand has the greatest number of road deaths in Southeast Asia per capita, due to a combination of lax road laws and careless driving habits.

Riot of color

Vrindavan, India

By Vivek Prakash 

It’s one of those things that you just have to do. Ever since I moved to India, I’ve always wanted to photograph Holi celebrations in north India. As a kid growing up here, I played with colored powders and water in the streets with my friends. As an adult, I’ve been lucky enough to have the chance to return with my camera. I had been looking forward to this assignment. I was expecting a riot of a different kind, a riot of color and noise – and that’s exactly what I got.

GALLERY: FESTIVAL OF HOLI

Holi is celebrated widely across India, but it is more popular in the north of the country. The epicenter of all the action is in a triangle of villages around the city of Mathura – the fun begins at Barsana, then moves to Nandgaon, Vrindavan, and Dauji before finally finishing a week of rolling celebrations in the region where the Hindu god Krishna and his consort Radha are thought to have been born and lived. It’s a festival that celebrates the arrival of spring, but in this region it also has special significance as it celebrates the story of Radha and Krishna and their love for each other. The enthusiasm of the people is unmatched – the energy combined with sheer numbers make for fantastic scenes drenched in water and color. It makes for delicious pictures. But I have to admit, after having covered it for the first time, it’s harder than it looks to get a great picture. Keeping your equipment dry and operational is a big challenge.

On my first day of coverage, I arrived at the village of Barsana early in the morning and headed straight for the main temple where celebrations would take place. I was at first disappointed as the morning session at the temple was a bit subdued. However, by the time the temple re-opened at 4pm it was a different story. There were thousands of people waiting to storm the entry doors. Inside, a sea of bodies heaved against each other, amid projectiles of colored powder and buckets of orange colored water being flung everywhere. It was hard to hold your position steady enough to shoot pictures, let alone compose something nice. At one point, there was so much powder that photographers were completely caked in it – nostrils and lungs were full of red dust. I wished I had brought a surgical mask instead of a scarf to shield myself.

Blue + Yellow = Green

Sydney, Australia

By Daniel Munoz

I knew before it started, that trying to avoid the colorful powder would only make it worse. So, I decided to go all the way and get in close – deep and merciless.

As the clock struck 9 last Sunday morning, the official start of this fun run, I grabbed my two camera bodies and stepped into what was known as the ‘blue zone’. The first runners came towards me, and the fun began.

People from all ages ran around Sydney’s Olympic Park, with only one intention: get as much color powder thrown at them as they could, and of course, being a professional photographer, my mission was to be as close to the action as possible.

Demon face

Heitwerwang, Austria

By Dominic Ebenbichler

Tourists or foreigners have to look twice when attending a Perchten festival in the western Austrian region of Tyrol. Some probably think there is something wrong with the countryfolk – dressing up like demons, wearing head to toe animal skins and wooden masks, behavior that could easily be associated with some kind of a devil’s cult. It just doesn’t seem to be normal.

The explanation goes back to the years about 500 AD. Back then farmers performed pagan rites to disperse the ghosts of winter to help bring a fruitful harvest. They thought it might work with terrifying masks which should scare even ghosts. And what is more scarier than the devil himself? Right, nothing! Even ghosts have to be scared by the devil.

In 2012 not much has changed. Of course we know that scaring ghosts is not going to work, but traditions are deep-rooted and somehow people still believe in the power of pagan rituals. And in the countryside there is nothing more important than a good harvest, so why not help a good harvest along by getting rid of some winter ghosts one way or another. Old habits die hard I guess.

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