Photographers' Blog

Harvest Moon rising

London, England

By Toby Melville

“Moon, Daddy!” exclaimed my two year old daughter excitedly from the rear seat as I drove her back home from a day with the childminder. “Where’s the moon?” I inquired as I concentrated on navigating through the evening rush hour on the busy roads of west London. “Over there: moon!” she repeated.

I knew it was a full and so-called Harvest Moon that night. I had a 500mm lens and decent enough 2 x converter in the trunk of the car as the every-ready back up emergency news set up. But the afternoon had been grotty and drizzly so not for the first time I had pretty much abandoned ideas for ‘full moon’ shots for another month.

But she was right: as I sat at the traffic lights in an interminable line, I could just catch a glimpse of the huge glowing orb peeping between clouds and houses. So, now the dilemma again of plenty a photographer when features and news just don’t happen between pre-determined working hours or ‘on-shift’. Continue home and then do the cherished fun evening routine of bedtime stories for Junior, followed by wee glass of wine and dinner? Or go moon chasing?

This time the picture hunt won. Mom was already home, and happy to do the bed routine for our daughter. I promised not to be long (heard that one before!), dropped off Little One, turned the car around, nipped down a couple of well used short cuts, all the while seeing the moon rising higher, darting between clouds and the wonderful dusk blue starting to turn blacker with the moon growing brighter and brighter. The race was on, and opportunities were fading fast! Plane lights flickered as they came into land ever nearer to the moon’s path as I drove away from home, close to Heathrow airport, one of the world’s busiest.

I hadn’t enough time to go to any of the buildings that might work well with the moon rising behind as it was already too high, and I wasn’t close enough to get to the right areas of London. So planes it was.

Latitude Zero from underwater

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

By Jorge Silva

Once your eyes go below the ocean waterline, you know that there is an immense parallel universe brimming with images.

Ever since I began taking pictures I haven’t discovered anything that grabs me like diving does. Luckily, I don’t have to neglect photography while diving; they are perfectly complementary.

GALLERY: GALAPAGOS POSTCARDS

Photographing underwater is a challenge due to the inherent demands of diving, and the technical difficulties that underwater photography presents.

Gear for a gecko portrait shoot

Rochester, New York

By Adam Fenster

When I got a call from one of the publicists in University Communications a couple of weeks ago asking whether we should try to find stock art or make our own photos to illustrate a recent paper by University of Rochester PhD student Daniel Scantlebury, I immediately jumped at the chance. I had read that the paper, which describes a slowdown in the rate at which species form on Madagascar, involved obscure gecko species and, as an occasional photographer of frogs and other critters, I thought it would be a great opportunity to make some interesting studio photographs, push my photography skills and at the same time help to publicize a critical scientific study.

GALLERY: MADAGASCAR GECKOS

I emailed Dan, explaining what I wanted to try and emphasizing that the comfort and safety of his geckos was critical. I had been told he had a collection containing some of the animals in the study but was distressed to learn upon meeting him in his office later that he had given them away. Fortunately, as someone with close ties to Rochester’s “gecko community”, he was able to put me in touch with Thomas Wood, a local expert and aquarium store owner who possesses a large collection of the same leaf tailed gecko species that were part of the study.

After we set up a time to meet at Tom’s house I tried to figure out how I wanted to photograph these animals. I had long been inspired by the work of National Geographic contributor Joel Sartore, particularly this photo. But when I saw the stunning gecko photos of Shikhei Goh I knew exactly what I wanted to try (minus the kung fu part). I sourced a piece of black plexiglass from a local plastics company, then made some test shots in our office combining the plexiglass on a small table with a black backdrop and two lights: a Paul C Buff Einstein with 35” gridded octobox, placed camera left and another Einstein with a grid spot at upper back right. Gridding a light source minimizes light spill and maximizes directionality, which was important in getting everything to go solid black to create contrast to set off the unique features of the geckos. If I were to do this again I’d use even smaller light sources as there was still a bit of spill, or I’d move the backdrop a little farther back. I triggered the lights using the newer Pocket Wizards (radio transmitters) that allow for power adjustment on the fly with a little gadget that clicks into the camera’s hot shoe. This proved helpful as some animals frequently changed their distance to the lights in addition to having various hues that required more or less light to photograph suitably. The results were about what I had hoped for so I packed everything back up and waited for our shoot day.

Behind the snakehead legend

Mt. Vernon, Virginia

By Gary Cameron

Spending time on the water pursuing fish is one of my favorite, relaxing pastimes. Spending time on the water pursuing fish as part of my job comes in as a close second.

In a city that requires plenty of time having photographers covering men in suits behind microphones with lots of blah-blah-blah, going out on a Virginia Department of Game and Inland fisheries biologists “stunboat” for a day of chasing, capturing, monitoring, studying, dissecting and releasing the once-feared northern snakehead fish was an assignment I looked forward to.

The northern snakehead (Channa argus, for those of you who stayed awake in Latin class), became an instant, and feared, celebrity in the Washington, D.C. area back in the summer of 2002. It was reported that someone had discovered a snakehead in a pond in suburban Maryland and this intruder would search, spread, and destroy other species found in local waters, specifically, the Potomac River. Adding to the “fear factor” of the snakeheads very aggressive disposition, an extremely slimy coating, and a mouthful of sharp teeth, was the fact that snakeheads are obligate air breathers. Not only are they comfortable under water, they, like turtles, can spend time breathing air OUT of water as well. Locals were told to kill any snakeheads to stop the spreading of the species, and while you’re at it, hide the women and children as well. This was one bad-ass fish.

In too deep

Fox Lake, Illinois

By Jim Young

Heavy rains brought flooding to the Chicago area this week. Though most people were already starting the clean-up process, there was still some flooding just north of the city.

I headed up to see how they were coping since the Fox River had yet to crest. As I pulled into town, most of the area looked fairly dry but once you got closer to the lake, some of the streets were several feet under water. As I came around a corner, I could see an American flag hanging over a half-sunken retro soda machine sitting in what looked like a lake, but it was actually someone’s backyard.

The family seemed unusually calm about their circumstances. Though they had been stuck in the same flooded state for four days with more rain on the way, they had several layers of sandbags around their house and a couple of pumps going at full speed. They were just trying to hang in there and hope for the best.

Who said farming can’t be fun?

Hohenzell, Austria

By Leonhard Foeger

“Sure, you can come and take pictures. We don’t have any secrets here and you will have a very special view of the sex life of breeding bulls nowadays,” Josef Miesenberger, head of the artificial insemination station in Hohenzell, told me on the phone when I asked to shoot a story about cattle breeding in Austria.

One might imagine cattle breeding involves green grass, some trees, and a cow and bull coming together in their natural world doing what they have done to procreate since the dawn of time.
But when I arrived at the insemination center near the village of Hohenzell at six in the morning I saw a farmhouse-like building with huge barns and a laboratory inside.

Johannes, one of the bull keepers, showed up and let me in. I had to change into green overalls and boots before I was allowed to enter the barn with about 50 breeding bulls. The smell of bulls hit me intensely. My lenses immediately fogged up due to the high humidity inside. I could see Austria’s most expensive and exclusive breeding bulls having breakfast. Josef, another bull keeper, told me to just act like a bull keeper and not take any pictures since the bulls were very sensitive if they don’t know the people in their barn. After a while I started to take some images and the bulls just looked as if they were wondering what was going on.

Man versus wild

Kathmandu, Nepal

By Navesh Chitrakar

I was on my way to cover another assignment when I got news of a leopard that had wandered into a town. Without wasting any time, I turned my motorbike around and rushed toward the scene. When I reached the area, I saw a huge crowd of people, most of them with big sticks, pieces of bamboo or farming tools, but I couldn’t see a leopard anywhere.

I asked one of the men standing near me and he pointed to the bush and said that was where the leopard was hiding. At that point, a policeman with a gun entered the bush and climbed up a small tree. I heard a big bang as he let off six rounds of gunfire – the sound was really loud. Was the leopard dead? Was it going to come out?

The gun had been fired to scare the animal and make it emerge from its hiding place, but the plan didn’t work. Up until that point, there had been no trace of the beast, only people making fun of it, shouting, looking toward the bush and cracking jokes. The policeman walked out of the undergrowth with his gun.

A necessary evil – the kangaroo cull

Canberra, Australia

By David Gray

I met Steven O’Donnell at his house in the outer suburbs of Canberra just before dusk. He had agreed to take me on what can be described as one of Australia’s most unpopular and controversial activities – kangaroo shooting.

FULL FOCUS GALLERY: A NIGHT ON THE KANGAROO CULL

By day Steve is a professional plumber, but by night he is a government-licensed kangaroo shooter whose job is to annually cull the kangaroo population, which is estimated at over 50 million. When we met Steve was quick to explain why the thousands of Eastern Grey Kangaroos, known locally as “roos” in the Australian Capital Territory, had to be culled. Mobs of kangaroos can quickly damage the environment and compete with livestock for scarce food, impacting the livelihood of farmers.

But Steve’s main argument that stood out most in my mind was this: “After Europeans settled in Australia some 220 years ago, they chopped down millions of trees, and created much more grassland which the kangaroos have thrived on. As a result, their numbers have increased dramatically, and so in order to keep the natural balance for the environment to be sustainable (especially during a drought), their numbers have to be reduced. So actually, it’s our fault.”

No happy endings in nature

County Antrim, Northern Ireland

By Cathal McNaughton

When the snow started falling on Thursday afternoon nobody in the Glens of Antrim could have predicted the devastating impact it would have on the farming community. Sub-zero temperatures and heavy snow fall combined with strong easterly winds produced 30 foot snowdrifts.

The rolling hillsides, where just a week previously daffodils had swayed in the breeze in the watery spring sunshine, now lay covered in an unseasonable layer of deep snow. But below the beautiful winter wonderland landscape the tragic reality of nature lay hidden – thousands of sheep buried with their farmers unable to reach them.

Many of the ewes were ready to lamb and were buried alive as the snow blew into drifts several feet high. When I met with family friend Keith McQullan and his farm manager Donald O’Reilly at his hill farm in Aughafatten in Glenarm Glen on Tuesday morning they were unusually quiet. Keith owns several hundred sheep across the remote north Antrim hills – only accessible by quad or by tractor – where he has farmed all his life.

A village hunted by wild elephants

Kyar Chaung village, Myanmar

By Minzayar

It was a fine winter evening and the first frame I took was a silhouette of a farmer and his wife wearing ta-na-ka, riding on their cow carts, so at once, I thought this is a very nice village. But in fact, its people have been living in fear for several years.

Kyar Chaung village is 64 miles north of Yangon, Myanmar. Most villagers have two houses. One on the ground to stay during the daytime and one in a tree to protect themselves from a wild elephant’s attack.

As I went to see the head of the village, people were already gathering in front of his house and chattering about a man who had to run for his life as he was chased by an elephant just a day ago.