Photographers' Blog

Tainted paradise

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
By Sergio Moraes

Back in the 1960s, when I was just a kid, I remember watching swimmers in Guanabara Bay and seeing dolphins race alongside the ferries that transported people to and from the city of Niteroi and Paqueta Island. Beaches like Icarai in Niteroi and Cocota on Governor’s Island were very popular.

So I felt sad when I took a boat through the bay on an assignment recently and photographed discarded sofas, old children’s toys, rubber tires and a toilet seat among many other objects that littered the filthy water.

A sofa is seen near a fishing boat on Fundao beach in the Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro March 13, 2014. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

I was born in this area when it was still called Guanabara, before it was renamed Rio de Janeiro state in 1975. I still miss that old name, which was a reference to our beautiful but now polluted bay.

A toy is seen at Pombeba island in the Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro March 12, 2014. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

I hope to see these waters cleaned up before the 2016 Olympic Games, when the sailing events will be held here. But after spending a couple of days seeing how dirty the bay has become, it will be a massive job. I pray that a piece of floating debris will not hit a boat during the sailing competition, or a stray plastic bag will not affect the outcome of who stands on the podium and who doesn’t!

Old ships are seen at the Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro March 12, 2014. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

As I photographed Guanabara Bay, I thought back to my time covering the sailing at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. The biggest concern there was sharks – nothing compared to the problems that sewage could cause for our Games if it’s not cleaned up in time.

A torch in space

Zhezkazgan, central Kazakhstan

By Shamil Zhumatov

PART ONE: LAUNCH

During more than a decade of covering Russia’s space exploration program, I have seen pretty unusual missions. I have taken pictures of an investor heading for the International Space Station, as well as those of a clown and programmers flying into orbit. But the most recent space launch and landing have probably become the most unforgettable – the torch of the forthcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia’s Sochi reached space and then returned to Earth. Now, as I play back this hectic flurry of events, it is still hard to believe how closely these two things are entwined – the Olympics and space. The Olympic Games had been aimed by the authorities to strengthen Russia’s image. Given this ambitious task set by Moscow, Russia’s space program – a symbol of national pride, albeit marred by several botched unmanned launches – simply couldn’t stand aloof. Space was doomed to become part of this bright political show.

A few months earlier, when I learnt about the future mission of the torch, the only question that haunted my friends was – how will it burn in space? Their avid interest was heated by the torch itself, whose flame had gone out several times since the Olympic relay across Russia began last month. One of my colleagues even joked that while in space the torch would need “a man with a lighter”, recalling the image of a resourceful plainclothes security agent who saved the day, reigniting the torch with a cigarette lighter when the flame went out right at the start of the relay in the Kremlin on October 6. But as the launch date of November 7 drew nearer, there was a general sigh of relief – the torch would not be lit aboard the space station for safety reasons, and it simply would not be able to burn in outer space due to the laws of nature.

The show began on November 5 at 0700 sharp. The gates of a giant hangar at Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan opened, and at the sound of a whistle a locomotive slowly rolled out a Soyuz rocket, whose normally white-and-grey body was now decorated with Sochi Olympics trademark snowflake patterns. A quick glance at a large number of armed policemen, their armor and helicopters hovering overhead left no one in doubt that the upcoming launch was of paramount importance to Moscow.

Portraits of Olympic preparation

Park City, Utah

By Lucas Jackson

It’s that time of year again. All around us the leaves are changing, the air is getting crisp, and while most of us are enjoying one of the nicest times of the year around the world, thousands of world class athletes are entering the final phases of their training to compete in the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.

GALLERY: TEAM USA

This past week I was assigned for the second time in as many years to take portraits of more than a hundred members of the U.S. Olympic team before they finish their training and head to the Olympics. These media weeks organized by the U.S. Olympic Committee are an amazing opportunity for media outlets from all over the country to sit down, interview and photograph our athletes with little disruption to their training schedules or personal lives before one of the biggest events of their athletic careers. For the photographers it is a whirlwind three days where we spend anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes trying to capture a portrait of every athlete who attends.

In 2012 at the summer Olympic media summit in Dallas, Texas I thought of a series I wanted to work on during my last day photographing. Luckily, I able to expand upon that idea this trip. In Dallas I began asking the athletes to stretch as they would before a competition or training session, to think or visualize as their would prior to performing. Instantly I noticed their faces changed and the look of focus that got them to this point took over their expression. At this point I asked the athletes to ignore me for a few minutes so that I could photograph moments that to each athlete was as routine as sleeping and eating, but to me were honest moments that I was not directing.

Countdown to Sochi 2014

Sochi, Russia

By Kai Pfaffenbach

There are a few things you expect as a German photographer from cozy Frankfurt when your boss sends you to cover the test events for the upcoming 2014 Sochi Olympic winter games in Russia.

Will it be heavy snow and cold you have to brave? How difficult will communication be (as I don’t speak Russian)? How will the general feeling of Russians be about Germans a few days after they celebrated the anniversary of their big victory over Hitler’s sixth army in Stalin-(Wolgo)grad during WWII in 1943? Well, after nine days within the 70km (43 mile) perimeter of the 2014 Olympics I can say it is a bit of everything but it is definitely a balancing act between extremes.

When you read the invitation letter of the Organizing Committee you learn that “Sochi2014 will be the most compact Winter Games in the history of the Olympic Movement”. The Games will be held in two clusters. The coastal cluster where all indoor events (speed skating, curling, ice hockey etc..) will be held and the mountain cluster around the (former) village of Krasnaya Polyana and the alpine resort of Roza Khutor where the outdoor venues are located. When the Games start on February 7, 2014, a new rail track should connect the coastal cluster with the mountains. With less than one year to go construction works are well under way but for now a narrow bumpy road is the one and only way to get up and down. Dozens of tunnels and bridges need to be built through the valley along the “wild water” river. Sometimes it seems bizarre when the graveyard of the little suburban village of Krasnaya Polyana is less than 100 yards away from the Olympic lane.

Underwater Olympics

By Michael Dalder

After shooting 15 days of swimming, diving and synchronized swimming, the staff of Simons Dive Lodge helped me with the final dive into the Olympic pool. We went down to take our remote controlled robotic underwater camera out of the water.

To get this special perspective from below, we brought 6 Peli Cases containing some 200 kg (440 pounds) of equipment including 150 meters (yards) of power and network cables to the Aquatics Centre to place the underwater camera in the water.

Covering swimming with the underwater unit guarantees long work days as the camera can only be accessed early in the morning or after 10pm at night after the last swimming competition is over.

Click, edit, crop or drop

By Russell Boyce

Being a picture editor for a wire agency at the London 2012 Olympics is like being a referee at a title-deciding football match. If everything goes well no one really notices you; but one big mistake and you are the most hated person in the stadium. If you call it wrong and miss the picture that captures the vivid moment of sporting agony or ecstasy you risk the jeers and frustrations of the whole team. The reward? A good picture editor has the chance to select that defining picture, the shot that the photographer doesn’t even know he or she has taken, or to crop a frame that changes a good picture into a great one.

At the London Games, Reuters has more than 55 photographers, 17 picture editors and 25 processors. My role is to edit the Gymnastics and Athletics. Below is a picture of my screen for the men’s 200m final.

Photographers have to lug pounds of gear in sweltering sunshine or heavy rain, arrive early at the venue, fight for a position or an angle, argue with anyone that they feel is in their way, prepare themselves mentally to capture a fleeting moment and all the while competing alongside the world’s best shooters who are doing the same. A fraction of a second miss and their mistake will stare out at them from papers, websites and books. They must also be technically astute enough to stream their pictures from their cameras or laptops to the editor.

Photographing the Olympic best

Reuters photographers and editors discuss their strategy for covering Olympics track and field events from every angle, such as the highly anticipated men’s 100m final. Videography by Lucy Nicholson. Production by Jillian Kitchener.

Gold, silver and bronze

By Eddie Keogh

My colleagues now call me the medal man. No, I’ve never won one or even got close but during the 9 days of athletics at the Olympic Stadium in London one of my jobs is to photograph every athlete that wins a medal. The unbridled joy is evident in most cases. Years of blood, sweat and tears have come to fruition and occasionally the emotion of the moment and the playing of their national anthem will bring a tear to the toughest of men and women.

For one man the emotion of the moment was just too much.

The Dominican Republic’s Felix Sanchez was here to receive a gold medal for winning the 400m hurdles. Four years earlier he received the news of the death of his grandmother on the morning of his heat. Having cried all day he ran badly and failed to get past the first round. He promised that day that he would win a medal for her and now he was fulfilling his promise. Felix cried the moment he arrived to the end of his country’s anthem.

It was a very special moment as his emotion was shown 20 meters wide on the stadium screens and the crowd stood to applaud him. I don’t mind admitting I shed a tear for him too, I doubt I was alone.

Ye Shiwen: Innocent until proven guilty

By Carlos Barria

As the day starts, parents accompany their kids to the Chen Jing Lun Sports School. In the entrance a sign reads, “Today’s sports school student, tomorrow’s Olympics stars” – a reminder of where it’s possible to go with hard work.

A girl with swimming goggles around her forehead waits for training to begin. She muses over portraits of famous Chinese swimmers hanging on the wall. Among them is a portrait of London Olympics double gold medalist Ye Shiwen.

GALLERY: THE SCHOOL THAT TRAINED YE SHIWEN

Years ago, at age 6, Ye arrived at this same pool without any swimming experience. But a couple of months later she had mastered the freestyle and the backstroke. “Ye Shiwen never told me that she was tired, or that she didn’t want to swim anymore. She never said that,” her former coach Wei Wei remembers.

18 hour days at the Olympics

By Dominic Ebenbichler

The alarm clock was set for 7.15am. After a short breakfast with my colleague Damir Sagolj I took the bus to Wimbledon, a journey of about 1.5 hours.

After arriving I met with our tennis specialist Stefan Wermuth who is covering the whole tennis tournament during the London Olympics. He showed me the venue and we figured out who was going to be covering which matches. I got to shoot Andy Murray, which also included capturing some pictures of Prince William and his wife Catherine, who were cheering for Murray throughout the game.

As the matches were spaced with only 15 minutes break inbetween, there was not even enough time to eat a sandwich. But who needs food during the Olympics?