Photographers' Blog

Little gladiators: China’s cricket fighting

Beijing, China

By Kim Kyung-hoon

On a late summer day in Beijing while roaming through the narrow alleyways of an old pet market I heard the chirping of insects. It was such a refreshing sound on a stiflingly hot day. At one point, the chirping grew louder and louder, and my curiosity led me into one alley. There, I found countless little insects in bird cages and small jars on sale and waiting for their new owners.

According to a cricket expert, keeping crickets as singing pets is an old Chinese tradition which dates back more than 3,200 years. Unlike in some countries, where people treat crickets with disdain and repel them with bug spray, in China the chirping of crickets traditionally has been regarded as beautiful music. Even more interesting than the singing crickets in small cages was the men observing hundreds of small jars with very serious faces.

The creatures in these small jars were small brown crickets, and the men were looking for little gladiators to bring them the glory of victory in cricket fights. Cricket fight lovers claim that this sport has more than 1,000 years of history in China and that there are many Chinese who still enjoy this ancient tradition every year in August through October.

GALLERY: CRICKET FIGHTING COMPETITION

Cricket fighting sounds like kid’s stuff, but this is really a serious sport for those who spend a lot of time and money to care for and train the creatures. Cricket fighting begins with breeding and training. Serious trainers often purchase more than a dozen at a time hoping to find champion fighters.

Only male crickets which are raised in the wild can be chosen to fight in the transparent oval-shaped rings and ones from Shandong Province are regarded as the best fighting breed. Prices of crickets vary. Usually they go for 10-50 RMB ($1.50 to $8). One vendor I met in the market said the most expensive one he sold this season was 1,000 RMB (about $160). I also heard from a cricket fighting expert that a selling price of more than 10,000 RMB ($1,635) is not rare in the illegal underground cricket fight gambling market where it is said that 1,000,000 RMB ($163,000) is often bet.

Escaping to the Gaza shore

Gaza City

By Mohammed Salem

Growing up in Gaza City, I used to go to the sea with my family in the summer time, escaping the heat of Sheikh Rudwan neighborhood where we lived.

The sea has always been our refuge from the difficult day-to-day life in the Gaza Strip. Like many youths in Gaza, home to 1.8 million people, I rarely left my town before I joined Reuters. A visit to the beach, a swim in the sea or a picnic with my friends was the best form of enjoyment we could have.

GALLERY: THE GAZA SHORE

After I became a photographer I discovered many new faces to life next to the sea. I took notice of those whose lives were dependent on fishing and the limitations imposed by Israel that they needed to cope with. I have joined fishermen on their trips to the sea, and spent many hours with them. I saw their dismay when they lost a catch, and their disappointment when they faced an empty net after a long journey. I was also witness to their joy when they made good catches on lucky days. I recall one time I saw the most sincere smiles I have ever seen on the faces of some fishermen returning from a successful expedition.

Hernandez: From Patriot to suspect

Fall River, Massachusetts

By Brian Snyder

Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was in court again yesterday, charged with murder in the death of his friend and semi professional football player Odin Lloyd and facing a maximum sentence of life in prison if found guilty.

Hernandez was questioned by the judge in the case during his October 9 pre-trial hearing. When asked his profession, Hernandez replied: “I played football.”

In court, its hard not to marvel at how quickly Hernandez went from this to this:

The horses of Portugal

Queluz, Portugal

By Jose Manuel Ribeiro

They look like the last aristocrats.
They are treated with the most respect and tenderness.
They have the best diets and food.
They have fancy shampoo baths before showing up.
They have the best shoemakers.

They have healthcare 24/7.
They dress the way their forefathers did in the 18th century.
They have gentlemen’s hairdressers.

They are all males living at the Royal Palace of Queluz, 20 kms (12 miles) north of Lisbon, the same palace that received past Kings, Queens and Presidents during their state visits to Portugal.
They have care takers and horsemen all around, proud to be a part of the Equestrian Art Portuguese School.

Nobel prize winner in exclusive photos

Brussels, Belgium

By Yves Herman

The announcement of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics was due at 0945 GMT. Belgian physicist Francois Englert was among the potential winners for this year. Englert, together with Britain’s Peter Higgs, were nominated for predicting the existence of the Higgs boson – the particle key to explaining why elementary matter has mass.

Together with Reuters television, who were looking to film exclusive reaction of the winner, we decided to research where Englert might be at the time of the announcement. Aided by our colleague Francois Lenoir, who photographed him at his home last year, we finally found Englert’s family apartment in Uccle, southern Brussels. We decided to take a chance to meet him as soon as possible to capture his initial reaction, if it happened that the Higgs boson won the prestigious prize.

We were almost certain that he would be at home but upon arriving in Uccle, we tried to meet him for an interview but were not successful. He was indeed at home but did not want to make any comment before the announcement by the Nobel Prize committee.

Section 60 stripped of mementos

Arlington, Virginia

By Kevin Lamarque

In March of 2013 I walked through Arlington National Cemetery’s Section 60, the burial site for soldiers from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unlike most of the nearly 400,000 orderly and somber graves over Arlington’s 612 acres, the newer graves in Section 60 carried fresh reminders of lives cut too short and of too many loved ones left behind bearing unspeakable sorrow. There were immensely sad graveside moments of girlfriends, wives, children, mothers and fathers sitting, kneeling, laying beside a grave, often touching, holding or kissing the headstone of their fallen loved one. These loved ones would often leave behind mementos of all kinds, a way to keep their connection to those who departed too soon.

At that time, I documented many of these graveside mementos in a photo story for Reuters. Some of the images brought tears to my eyes…

Recently, it was brought to my attention that Arlington National Cemetery was enforcing a policy that forbids the placing of these graveside mementos. In short time, these headstones have been stripped of these expressions of love and loss. Some are saved by the cemetery, some discarded. I took a walk though Section 60 this week to witness the changes and I was saddened to see these elements of humanity swept away. Section 60 suddenly looks like every other section of the cemetery, save for the freshness of the graves. Evidence of open wounds, healing and reflection are no more.

Aboard the crumbling cable cars

Chiatura, Georgia

By David Mdzinarishvili

Before stepping inside I looked once more at the rust spots on the metal cabin with the cracked glass. Many times repainted and patched, it slowly swung on the massive cable, ready for its next flight.

Once it had been the first passenger cable car in the Soviet Union. Built in 1953 the cars still run without any holdups and haven’t required any major repair 60 years later. During soviet times 21 passenger cable cars routes were built. Fifteen of those, with a total length of 6579 meters (yards), are still working today.

Due to the mountain relief of the town of Chiatura, population 20,000, the cable cars are the quickest and most convenient way of getting around, and despite their advanced years, still the safest.
The main reason for the cable system is Chiatura manganese mining industry, they were built for this in Soviet times.

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.

The samurai and survivors of Fukushima

Fukushima, Japan

By Damir Sagolj

Shortly after the mandatory evacuation was announced on television, Fumio Okubo put on his best clothes and his daughter-in-law served up his favorite dinner. By morning, the 102-year-old was dead. He had hanged himself before dawn.

GALLERY: BROKEN LIVES OF FUKUSHIMA

A rope knitted from plastic bags is certainly not a tanto knife. Nor was his death a dramatic one, with the public in attendance and blood all around but what an old farmer did that morning recalls the act of a samurai in ancient times – to die with honor. Okubo, who was born and lived his entire life between Iitate’s rice fields and cedar trees, wanted to die in his beautiful village, here and nowhere else.

For most people on Japan’s eastern coast – at least for those survivors who lost nobody and nothing – the true horror of the powerful earthquake and tsunami it triggered was over quickly. But for many unfortunate souls in otherwise prosperous Fukushima prefecture, March 11, 2011 was just the start of what for me is one of the most heart-rending stories I have ever covered outside the misery of the developing world.

Shopping for vintage wheels

Pierce, Nebraska

By Jim Urquhart

I think I just witnessed the biggest news event to take place in the small hamlet of Pierce, Nebraska.

GALLERY: VINTAGE CAR AUCTION

Hundreds of miles away from my Salt Lake City home in the heart of fly-over country I was assigned to cover the auctioning off of 500 vintage automobiles in a field outside of town. Ray Lambrecht had run the local Chevrolet dealership for decades before retiring in 1996. Over the years he developed a habit of not selling trade-in cars and held onto many unsold cars. What was left was a scattered collection of hundreds of cars in warehouses and fields around the town of about 2,000 people.

When I heard the cars were going to be put up for auction after they had been “found” I knew this was a story my Dad would love. My father showed me how to turn wrenches when I was young and always taught me that it saves money to be able to work on your own car, if you have the skill, than to pay someone else to do it. It also teaches you how to be able to rely on yourself a bit more. We have long talked about restoring a late 50s model Nash automobile. We have yet to sit down and begin working on one let alone find one that we could afford to get our hands on. I thought that just maybe Nebraska might be the place for us.