Photographers' Blog

Fire and ice

Chicago, Illinois

By John Gress

UPDATE: January 24th

You never know how the assignment is going to go when you decide to put on the same clothes you had on the day before. Why? Because they smell like smoke!

I made a return trek to the ice castle today, an abandoned warehouse which has been burning for three days. Quite surprising considering most of the building has collapsed and is covered in inches of ice.

While covering the blaze today, I photographed firefighter Michael De Jesus covered in icicles. When he told me his name I asked, “Do you know Charley?”

He replied. “That’s my dad!” “Oh, I took pictures of him yesterday on the back side of the building.” “I know. He’s on the cover of the Red Eye,” Michael explained. Despite my conversation with Michael, I really didn’t expect the photo on the cover of one of the local papers to be my picture, because there were a lot of photographers covering the story. But sure enough, it was.  

I’m still stunned that my best pictures from both days were of people from the same family.

An arctic adventure

Wind patterns are left in the ice pack that covers the Arctic Ocean north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska March 19, 2011.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The Arctic Ocean in March is basically an ocean of ice. Almost the entire thing is covered from October to June in an icepack that only partially disappears in the summer and is still very solid in March.

Why would anyone in their right mind volunteer to spend a month to a month in a half in temperatures that usually don’t exceed -10 degrees Fahrenheit or -23 degrees Celsius? In the case of the roughly two dozen souls who work either for the British, Canadian and United States Navy or the Arctic Physics Laboratory Ice Station, it is because there is work to be done.

A man carries an ice auger to a remote warming station near the 2011 Applied Physics Laboratory Ice Station north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska March 18, 2011.    REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

And the first piece of work is to physically build the camp. To do this, firstly a piece of “multi-year” ice must be found, that means that it is thick enough (theoretically) that it won’t split in half and will support the weight of a camp while having enough room for an airplane runway and helicopter landing pad. Next, these folks need to load an antique airplane with enough plywood and nails to build a half a dozen un-insulated boxes to live in, this usually takes about 3 days as the workers must fly back to their base at Prudhoe Bay each evening to avoid the -30 to -50 degree temperatures until they build enough shelters to house them all.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures February 13, 2011

First, congratulations to Pakistan Chief photographer Adrees Latif and Bangladesh based photographer Andrew Biraj for their competition awards this week.  Adrees is the winner of the photojournalism category of the ICP Infinity Awards 2011 for his pictures shoot during the floods in Pakistan last year.  Andrew won third prize in the singles category of daily life in the World Press Photo Awards for his picture of an overcrowded train in Bangladesh.

PAKISTAN-FLOODS/

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. Pakistanis desperate to get out of flooded villages threw themselves at helicopters on Saturday as more heavy rain was expected to intensify both suffering and anger with the government. The disaster killed more than 1,600 people and disrupted the lives of 12 million.  REUTERS/Adrees Latif

PHOTOGRAPHY-PRIZE/

An overcrowded train approaches as other passengers wait to board at a railway station in Dhaka, November 16, 2010. Millions of residents in Dhaka are travelling home from the capital city to celebrate the Eid al-Adha holiday on Wednesday. Muslims around the world celebrate Eid al-Adha to mark the end of the haj by slaughtering sheep, goats, cows and camels to commemorate Prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail on God's command. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj

Frozen… at the Harbin Ice and Snow festival

Imagine if you will, being given an assignment that required you to sit in your freezer for 3 days. Then, imagine multiplying that temperature by three, and you might have some idea of what it was like to photograph the 27th Harbin International Ice and Snow festival in January.

CHINA-

Don’t get me wrong, it was fun… looking back on it… but when you are dealing with minus 34 degree temperatures, it’s not always pleasant. Heat packs, for example, only feel warm once you are back inside the hotel. Useful… NOT! So then you try wearing lots of clothes. But try walking around on ice covered footpaths and roads, and then attempting to squat to get that slightly better angle (of perhaps a crazy man fishing while sitting in the middle of a frozen lake with the wind howling and taking the temperature to minus 40) all while impersonating the Michelin Man.

CHINA-

But most crazy of all is attempting to take pictures with your eyelashes sticking together (so that you can’t see) while at the same time, your beard is forming icicles on your face mask so that it gets so tight on your mouth that you can’t breathe. FUN… did I say that already?