Photographers' Blog

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.

His wife and young child had taken refuge on the first floor with their two dogs, while employee Amy helped keep the pump going. David bemoaned the morning commuters who had helped flood his pub by driving through the flood water outside, creating waves that had washed over the sandbags piled up against the doors. As night fell, and Amy sat on the window of the pub with her Wellington boots dangling in the water, David hoped that the water had crested.

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.

On the road at Euro 2012

By Kai Pfaffenbach

As a news photographer working for Reuters in Germany it is quite normal to spend some time in your car. It is not unusual to drive between 3000-5000km per month. So I expected nothing different when coming to Poland for the Euro 2012 covering the soccer matches in Warsaw and Gdansk. During our tournament planning we agreed on traveling in a big van with our team of three photographers and one technician. That seemed a lot easier than spending more time getting all the equipment to an airport than actually flying.

Four times we had to hit the road towards Gdansk and back to Warsaw. About 360km one way shouldn’t last longer than 3 to 4 hours. “It’s about the ride from Frankfurt to Munich to cover some soccer at Allianz Arena. Entering the highway in Frankfurt and three hours later you take the exit in front of the stadium”, I thought to myself. As a matter of fact our trips were different and we experienced quite a few new things on our journey – everything in an absolutely positive way. Even though there’s not much of a highway to begin with, we had a lot to see. In retrospect we divided the trip in three parts.

Part 1: the strawberry and cherry alley – not one or two people were offering self-harvested fruits here, but dozens. They displayed the freshly picked fruits on the hood of their cars, sitting next to it under a sunshade waiting for customers. Of course we took the opportunity, made a good deal and used the strawberries for a refreshing milkshake after coming back. Some refreshment was needed as the drive on the country road is somewhat challenging as well. Some Polish drivers are very “creative” when using the space of only two lanes. It is nothing special if you face three cars driving towards you next to each other. Thank god that didn’t lead directly into the next part of our journey….

Part 2: the graveyard alley – maybe that sounds a bit strange but it was very striking how many graveyards we could see left and right from the streets. The special thing was the size of those graveyards. Using the country road for almost 120km we drove through villages having just two rows of houses left and right from the street but a graveyard double the size of the village. Talking about that during our first trips we decided to look around at two or three of them on our last trip back home from Gdansk.

Owners of The White Silence

By Anton Golubev

When I was a little boy, I adored the books of Jack London. The Nature of the North – that was the thing that captivated me. The White Silence; a chilling title, words that are hard to appreciate for a city dweller used to the din of cars and neon lights. The majority of Russians seldom leave cities further than to go to the dacha, the country houses that most people own just outside the city limits. Some might travel to some mountains or woodlands. Only a few will visit such a godforsaken place as the Russian North. The land where The White Silence reigns.

The North is a cruel place. Here, where the population density reaches one person per ten square kilometers, there is no transport links, there is nobody to ask the way, there is nobody to ask for a light or hot food, and there is little chance that anybody can help you if something happens. You can count on yourself only. The White Silence is a jingling calm when you can’t hear any sound around, it’s a thin line of a low northern wood on the horizon between two halves of the white nothing, it’s a blizzard when the boundless white Tundra flows together with the overhanging northern sky, it’s a half-strewed snowmobile track which you follow to reach the light and warm of a human dwelling.

It’s hard to imagine that somebody can survive in this cruel land except wild animals but there are some people who live there – the northern tribes people of Nenets, Khanti, Komi, Dolgany, Chukchy; the owners of The White Silence. These people arrived in the far north more than a thousand years ago, when the Roman age was finishing in Europe, and they became the owners of this severe land. They pasture reindeer and catch fish as their ancestors did for tens and hundreds of generations.

Nerves of peace in troubled Kashmir

By Fayaz Kabli

As the year nears its end, the Chinar trees have turned a crimson red and the water in the Dal Lake is still and calm. The peace in the troubled Kashmir region has a hold of the nerves of the Kashmiri people.

From 2008 to 2010, Kashmir saw its worst period of unrest which claimed hundreds of lives and destroyed much of its economy.

This year, the scenic valley has been relatively peaceful. Although residents who witnessed the previous three years of violence were apprehensive at the beginning of this year, the trouble they had expected didn’t materialize.

Paradise city in grizzly bear country

“Take me down to the paradise city where the grass is green and the girls are pretty. Take me home. Oh, won’t you please take me home.”

Apparently those few lyrics from the Guns ‘N Roses 1987 hit song Paradise City are the only parts of the song I know and also the only song I know the lyrics to. I can’t even recite the Star Spangled Banner. But singing in a false seagull strangling soprano while hiking and camping in grizzly bear country was my way of not creeping up on a bear and surprising it and thus becoming bear food.

However, there was no amount of preparation I could have done that wasn’t immune from my own self-inflicted anguish and anxiety. Learn from my failure: when camping by yourself in bear country never ever ever ever read a book about grizzly bear attacks while you’re trying to go to sleep in your sleeping bag. Sleep just doesn’t happen with that running through your mind and every little sound in the forest is sure to be a grizzly bear on its way to attack you. And for God sakes, skip over the parts about the bear’s mating habits.

In the hunt for Malaysia’s endangered wild elephants

Trekking deep in Malaysia’s dense rainforest, a group of wildlife rangers went on a risky mission to locate and capture wild elephants in a bid to preserve the endangered species that are fast dwindling due to the loss of their natural habitat.

I recently joined in the mission of official “elephant hunters” — a 10-day ordeal that took us to the forested land in the southern part of Peninsular Malaysia — and ended up with a wild elephant after missing another.

Rapid clearing of forests to pave the way for oil palm estates have taken a toll on the elephant population in Malaysia’s southern state of Johor. Forest clearance ignored the need for elephant corridors to allow for transmigration and this has given rise to a considerable human-elephant conflict. Elephants have no choice but to destroy the farmers’ valuable crops.

Freezing the volcano’s lightning

Lightning streaks across the sky as lava flows from a volcano in Eyjafjallajokul April 17, 2010.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Lightning streaks across the sky as lava flows from a volcano in Eyjafjallajokul April 17, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

I realize that this photograph is pretty much the attention grabber from all those that I have taken in Iceland on this trip so I figured I would write up a little about what it took to get the image. As soon as I got this assignment, a photograph of a volcano erupting with lightning inside of the ash plume was on my mind. I had seen one a couple of years ago from a volcano in South America so I knew it happened. When I was watching the ash during the first dusk I saw plenty of lightning so I knew I had a shot at making this picture.

I have shot lightning a few times before but it tends to be a bit of a fishing excursion because of the erratic habits of lightning bolts, this was less so. I knew exactly where the lightning would be (in the caldera) and I just had to find a good vantage point. Earlier in the day I spent some time with some sheep farmers, who lived directly across the valley from this eruption. I noticed some cars crossing a river and driving northeast to get a better view inside the crater. With dusk approaching, I decided to make a go of that route. I drove my jeep across the river and down a very bumpy road that had been rebuilt through fields of mini-icebergs that had been deposited by a glacial flood triggered by the initial eruption. It was here that I made another of my favorite images showing the “Land of Ice and Fire” that Iceland is known for.