South African grannies catch World Cup feverBy Ndundu SitholeTZANEEN, South Africa (Reuters) – World Cup fever has spread to South African grannies, with hundreds of poor, elderly women in aprons and skirts fighting for the ball in township games.Twice a week they swap domestic chores for football, donning soccer boots instead of their usual rubber sandals to play in local matches.The 35 women on the Vakhegula Vakhegula squad — meaning ‘Grannies’ in the local Xitsonga dialect — range from 40 to more than 80 years old and live in a township near Tzaneen, 600 kms north of Johannesburg.Competition is fierce among the eight teams in the region and the women say soccer is the best exercise, much better than their usual manual work at home and in the fields.”I like to play soccer because it helps us. We were sick, but now our temperatures, our blood pressures…have gone down …even our doctors are amazed when we go for a check-up,” said 47-year-old Nari Baloyi, one of the youngest on the team.Nora Makhubela has suffered six strokes yet the 83-year-old great-grandmother said kicking a ball around had given her strength she did not think she still had.”My life has really changed…if I were to run with you I would beat you even though I’m much older,” she said, smiling.NEW PURPOSEMakhubela dreams of being around long enough to watch the one-month World Cup finals in South Africa starting on June 11 next year.”I pray every day to God to keep me alive until 2010. I would really love to watch the games,” she told Reuters.The team have proposed playing a curtain raiser before one of the first-round World Cup matches and said national soccer authorities had told them they would consider the idea.Community worker Beka Ntsanwisi said she started the team three years ago to help older women exercise all their limbs and to give them a new purpose in life.”Some of them couldn’t even walk properly and if they did something in their free time they would be knitting or sewing and sitting all the time…here they run, shout, fight with you…it keeps them young,” she said.Coach David Maake said working with the women had given him greater satisfaction than any other coaching job.”With young boys you need more money to achieve many things…here, I may come with my stress…but I will laugh so much until I forget everything,” he said.NOISY TRUMPETSThe team lacks proper funding, with each woman pitching in around $1 a month for soccer balls, kit and travel to their bi-annual competitions with teams from other regions.Ntsanwisi, who uses her own money to help fund the teams, hopes one day to attract sponsors.Dozens of local fans support the grannies’ games, cheering and blowing vuvuzelas — noisy, plastic trumpets that create a cacophony of noise that is unique to South African soccer.”I feel good when the (grannies) play soccer so that they can be fit and strong,” said 13-year-old Chamelius Bayani.Winning seems secondary. Some of the grannies look as if they are struggling to keep going during a game after a long day of housework.Most come to practice straight from cleaning their houses and cooking meals or after selling food along the township’s streets.Missing a practice is unheard of, however, they say.”I was too fat…now I can run and teach my grand-kids how to kick. I feel great,” Baloyi said.
The 133rd running of the Preakness Stakes horse race was held in Baltimore this past weekend. It is one of the most prestigious events in the American horse racing calendar, the second race in the annual three race series beginning with the Kentucky Derby and ending with the Belmont Stakes in New York. Once again the Reuters pictures team (Jim Young, Molly Riley, Jonathan Ernst, Tim Shaffer and I ), were armed with spools of electrical wire, switches and cases of extra cameras and lenses as we arrived from Washington 10 hours ahead of the 6pm race to set up our ‘remotes’.
Remote cameras are triggered either by a cable or wireless transmitter, allowing a photographer to shoot multiple angles of an important moment like the finish of a horse race. They can provide an usually high or low angle to vary the type of pictures we like to provide to our clients. On news assignments remotes can also yield an alternative angle from a tight position or one that does not allow a camera to be hand held. The only limit to shooting remotes is the photographer’s imagination!!
With a cut-off time of 10am before the first race of the day, we set up five remote cameras under the inside rail of the track, and another on an observation post beyond the finish line with a high angle general view of the end of the race. Putting in place the gear – five EOS-1D Mark II cameras, an assortment of lenses from 16mm to 200mm, and their little mounting plates was a breeze, about 5 minutes in total, compared to the next step – getting them all to work!
The following images are unlikely prize-winners but serve to demonstrate the delight with which news of his win has been received by his Reuters colleagues. In the first Paul Barker, Editor Asia News Pictures and Asia Chief Photographer Russell Boyce toast his image;
while in the second the editorial team from text, TV, graphics and pictures at Reuters Asia HQ in Singapore drink his health as Adrees himself listens-in via the telephone on the desk to the right of the frame, from his assignment in Nepal.
Reuters Bangkok senior photographer Adrees Latif tells how he took the pictures which won him a Pulitzer Prize. The pictures were taken in Myanmar during the protests in September last year and include the photo of Japanese video journalist Kenji Nagai being shot.
“Tipped off by protests against soaring fuel prices, I landed in Yangon on 23 September, 2007, with some old clothes, a Canon 5D camera, two fixed lenses and a laptop.
For the next four days, I went to Shwedagon Pagoda, two-three kilometres from the centre of town and waited for the monks who had been gathering there daily at noon.
The State visit to Britain by French President, Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni drew widespread attention not the least from the massed ranks of photographers and televison crews keen to record the couple’s every step. No cliche was left unturned as members of the press vied with one another to describe their partnership.
But… a state visit by a French President would always draw interest, and with the added glamour angle you had a winning formulae. The drab world of formal visits was to be given a makeover - I for one hoped so. In my view, the visit was not so much a breath of fresh air blowing away the cobwebs, but a mix of contrasting elements standing together. With this visit we hoped to see contrasts of age, style and appearance. In addition the sense of anticipation was heightened because the people involved represented the historic differences between the English and the French. Would they come together in a new entente cordiale? Would the charge be led by the French President? Not on your life, it was led by his wife, the amabassador extraordinaire.
Did Carla Bruni-Sarkozy disapoint? Here are the photographs, judge for yourselves.
On my way back from a routine election assignment in Hsinchu, a fellow wire photographer quizzes me on my age.
“Errr… 26″ I reply and the other wire photographer goes “Wah sey!” which translates as something like “Whoa” if there is such a word in english. He proceeds to to tell me that he can’t remember where he was when he was 26.
Which is probably also why Russell, the Asia Chief photographer, asked me to write about my newbie experience operating and planning my first big team story, namely the Taiwan presidential election won by Nationalist candidate, Ma ying-jeou.
The recent general elections in Spain were held in the wake of an ex-socialist councillor shot dead in the Basque Country in a place near my hometown. I was working on the afternoon shift when I saw the first alert of the assassination appear on our text service. I almost jumped out my chair. Somehow my internal alarm bell still goes off instinctively whenever something happens in the area where I used to work. It was only after a couple of seconds that I realized I’m 12,000 kilometers from where the assassination took place, and I couldn’t just grab a camera and go. There wasn’t much I could do, except get in touch with the photographer in the Basque Country, make sure he was aware of the breaking news, and then prepare for his pictures to land on the desk.
Above: Basque police collect evidence outside the house of a former socialist councillor after an attack in Mondragon, northern Spain, March 7, 2008. Photograph by Vincent West
Above: People stand during a silent protest in Burgos, northern Spain March 7, 2008, against the murder of Isaias Carrasco. Photograph by Felix Ordonez
Above: Spanish vice president Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega (R) and Spanish Socialist Party spokesman Jose Blanco (C) walk in front of the coffin of Isaias Carrasco carried by Basque Socialist Party general secretary Patxi Lopez (back L) and Basque socialist’s president Jesus Egiguren, during a funeral in Mondragon, northern Spain, March 8, 2008. Photograph by: Vincent West
Business and economy news is one of the most challenging parts of covering the story in Tokyo.Why? Fashion shows have their beauties, red carpets have their stars, and sporting events have their action, but what is going to catch a reader’s eye and make them do more than glance at our picture on a story about GDP?
In Tokyo we’re trying to make our financial coverage as compelling as other subjects and our approach is to try to have fun with these assignments, and working around the tight access restrictions. What we see is tightly controlled, and even in news conferences we are usually corralled into a small section of the room and forbidden to move. The subdued demeanor and limited variation in clothing (black, navy or gray suits) worn by this country’s business leaders is another challenge. There are no Richard Bransons here. Not even a Bill Gates. We had a Carlos Ghosn, but he isn’t around much anymore.
It’s easy to get beaten down and lose hope when we walk in to shoot photos of the CEO of an industry-leading company only to find the room is lit with dim florescent lights and the only decoration is nicotine-stained curtains. But the great thing about an interview is that unlike a crowded news conference you can set up lights, move around and seize control of the light away from the florescent strips in the ceiling and do some fun strobe work. I like snouts because they’re great for getting rid of the phones, plants, decorations, thermostats, light switches and anything else that clutters up a photo. A snout can be anything that fits over the head of your strobe to limit the spread of the light from it, letting you control where light falls and where it does not.
GDP and other Economic Figures
GDP and other economic figures are broad enough that you could almost shoot anything for these, but at the same time it’s a bit bewildering to try to sum up a country’s economic mood with one frame. I think we’re most successful when our pictures are beautiful and convey a strong mood at the same time, as in the photo below.