Photographers' Blog

Inside the iSurgery operation

Hamburg, Germany

By Fabian Bimmer

When my boss, Joachim Herrmann, told me that I had to cover liver surgery using an iPad, I had no idea how an iPad could be helpful during an operation. I knew that iPhones, iPads and tablets were becoming more important in being useful in all sorts of activities in our daily life – but for surgeries?

We use these new toys in different ways: GPS for cars, during sporting activities, music, mail and for other ways to communicate. Some of my colleagues use tablet computers to present their portfolios and to operate their cameras. Swiss camera maker Alpa uses an iPhone as a viewfinder for their tilt and shift cameras. But I couldn’t imagine how an iPad would be helpful during an operation to remove two tumors from a liver.

Also, I knew nothing at all about livers or any surgery before this assignment.

To get a feel for the atmosphere, the hospital, light conditions and the team, I went to meet Professor Karl Oldhafer, chief physician of general and visceral surgery at the Asklepios Clinique in Hamburg-Barmbek, two days before I had to go through with my project. Actually being present at a surgical procedure I felt slightly uncomfortable. As I arrived at the hospital, I was confronted with an invitation by Professor Oldhafer to participate in a surgery there immediately.

Never having seen this amount of blood, massive cuts and all the different instruments being used, I was a little bit frightened. Would I faint? Would I be horrified when they cut open the stomach with a long knife? The “test run” went well, I survived and I had an idea what to expect in two days.

An automotive best in show

Pebble Beach, California

By Michael Fiala

When I usually don cameras to shoot on the 18th fairway of Pebble Beach it’s to cover what is considered one of the best finishing holes in golf. Stay an arm’s length within the ropes, work as silently as possible and don’t distract the golfers. Instead this past Sunday I weaved myself through this hallowed stretch of coastline and into the colorful automotive celebration that is the Concours d’Elegance. An annual charitable event, which was founded in 1950, of rare automobiles, competing in their class and for Best of Show.

GALLERY: CONCOURS D’ELEGANCE

The Pebble Beach Concours, which concludes a week of car-related festivities – much of it business related – attracts some of the world’s wealthiest car enthusiasts, industry leaders, and celebrities. The week consists of five auctions, eight concours and exhibitions, three days of racing, concept car unveilings and manufacturer displays, all culminating Sunday on the shores of the foggy Pacific.

I had a top priority knowing I was going to be within inches of rare, concept and production cars worth millions of dollars – do not accidentally bump into any of them. I very deliberately minded my gear, many times taking off bags and extra cameras before leaning over to shoot these ultra expensive machines. I’m happy to report I didn’t leave a single scuff or scratch.

Fishing by sunrise

Lisbon, Portugal

By Jose Manuel Ribeiro

What we don’t see, we don’t know and when we don’t know we can not think about it. But near any of us, can be some piece of news. In the darkness of the night between Golden Beach and California Beach in Sesimbra village, 40 km (25 miles) south of Lisbon, elderly retired fishermen pull long ropes and fishing nets onto the sand.

The same place during the day welcomes thousands of swimmers and tourists on summer holidays without any knowledge of what had been done before dawn.

Trapped between European Union laws, Natural Park Environment regulations, the Portugal financial crisis and their need to survive on a slim pension of between 200 and 300 euros, they keep fighting helped by younger neighbors and relatives as they practice the old fishing technique, the arte xavega. Xavega is a Portuguese word originating from Arabic meaning fishing net.

Vinyl’s not dead, long live vinyl

Lodenice, Czech Republic

By Petr Josek

The good old times are probably, definitely, gone and the world and all its information will soon fit into mobile phones. You read papers on your mobile phone, you pay in stores by mobile phone, watch movies, chat with friends, take photographs, play games and, alongside many other applications offered in modern times, you also listen to music from your mobile phone.

The time when you sat at home, lit a candle, opened a bottle of wine and pulled out a nice black vinyl record of your choice to relax is history. But there is still a hope.

GZ Digital Media’s factory is located in a small village called Lodenice, some 26 kilometers (16 miles) west of Prague. It was established at the beginning of the 1950s, manufacturing records for the whole Eastern bloc.

Athletic endeavors for remote cameras

Moscow, Russia

By Fabrizio Bensch and Pawel Kopczynski


Canon 1DX, 70-200 1:2.8 + 1,4 converter, 1/2500 sec at f/8, 1250 ISO

The great success of remote and robotic cameras during the London Olympics opened up a new window of opportunities to shoot sports pictures from above.

With that in mind, our preparation for the World Athletics in Moscow started back in November 2012, as we began to analyze the venue from a technical point of view.

Fireworks explode over Luzhniki stadium during the opening ceremony of the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Moscow August 10, 2013. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski

Living as a Muslim in Paris

Paris, France

By Youssef Boudlal

Photographing the daily life of Muslims in Paris is a challenge. I discovered this by throwing myself into the project, which rapidly became a story of failed encounters, rejection and disappointment. Among the people I met, the fear of prejudice towards the Muslim world was intense, as was the worry that cliches about the community could be fueled or spread by images.

I met a good number of people as part of my investigation. The first few were in the suburbs of Paris, home to a large Muslim community. In Vitry-sur-Seine, I met four twenty-somethings of North African origin sitting outside a church. I explained my project to them and their suspicions were quickly aroused. I was asked about my job, the reasons for my project and why I was interested in them. They worried about how my images would be used. One of them took me for a spy.

Another encounter, this time at Mantes-la-Jolie, among Paris’s western suburbs. Here, a young woman in a headscarf was buying fruit and vegetables at the Val Fourre market and I decided to approach her. I explained my project in detail, and asked if she wanted to take part. She displayed no enthusiasm but no scepticism either, to the point where she asked permission from her father, a butcher she was helping for the season. I was already picturing images of this contrast. But he refused, without explanation. My arguments couldn’t sway him.

Commemorating Operation Pedestal

Valletta, Malta

By Darrin Zammit Lupi

In ever dwindling numbers, elderly war veterans keep their annual mid-August appointment in Valletta’s Grand Harbour to take part in a commemorative service marking the anniversary of Operation Pedestal. Known to the Maltese as the Santa Marija convoy (as it had reached the island on the feast day of Our Lady of the Assumption, an important day in Malta’s religious calendar), Pedestal was a desperate attempt by the Allied forces to get much-needed supplies of food, fuel and ammunition to the bomb-battered island of Malta in August 1942, at the height of the war in the Mediterranean.

Malta, a British air and naval base at the time, was on the brink of starvation and close to surrendering to the Axis powers that surrounded it on all sides. The operation’s success, albeit with heavy losses, has gone down in military history as one of the most important British strategic victories of World War Two, even though it was in many ways a tactical disaster.

To commemorate the 60th anniversary 11 years ago an old school friend of mine, Simon Cusens, took it upon himself to make contact with survivors of the convoy and arrange to bring them to Malta to mark the anniversary. 105 convoy veterans attended that year, including three former enemies, watching a highly emotional re-enactment of the August 15, 1942, arrival to the beleaguered island of the tanker SS Ohio, the ship that carried the most crucial supply of fuel and is, to this day, considered to be the island’s savior.

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.

Entering “Reborn Baby” paradise

La Louviere, Belgium

By Yves Herman

“I would like to adopt please,” “I would like to buy a life-like baby”, or “I would love to adopt Mathilda or Stefy” are sentences you hear from clients entering the workshop of Belgian artist Beatrice Van Landeghem in La Louviere in the south of Belgium. “La nurserie des Tis Lous De Bea”, which can be translated as “The nursery of Bea’s babies” (Bea for Beatrice) is a very atypical store, situated in the small town, a 45 minute drive from Brussels. Welcome to the Belgian “Reborn Baby” paradise.

Everybody can buy a “Reborn Baby”-kit and try to make their own life-like baby but not all of us have the skills to make them appear real. Belgian artist Beatrice Van Landeghem knows how to make her customers fall in love with a beautifully made doll. You have to see it with your own eyes. It’s hard to believe how realistic it can be. Lying in his cradle, “Loan”, a one month-old baby doll, carefully crafted in vinyl and wonderfully hand-painted by the artist looks as if he is far away and sleeping.

“Let’s adopt him, he is ours!” The customers seem to think as if preparing themselves to become virtual parents.

The parents left behind

Warsaw, Poland

By Peter Andrews

I remember my mother taking me to the airport on June 10, 1981. In theory, everyone knew I was leaving for three weeks, but both of us really knew that I would not be coming back. I was nineteen at the time and wanted to see a different world, a world outside the so called Iron Curtain.

My mother didn’t show sadness but I could see tears in her eyes when she said good bye to me. I saw her twice in ten years. Once after four years, when she visited my new home, Canada, and later in Germany when the Berlin Wall was coming down. Our contact was scarce. In those days, it was very difficult to call out of Poland, especially after martial law was introduced. Later, when martial law was lifted, it was a bit easier, but still there were only land lines. No mobile phones, no Internet, no Skype – only written letters put inside envelopes, with a postage stamp and sent from the post office. It was only when the Soviet Union collapsed and the so-called evil empire ceased to exist that I was able to see her freely. It is only when you are not able to see your parents often that one notices how age works on people.

At the time when I was leaving Poland no one knew that ten years down the road the world’s geo-political situation would change and that eastern European countries would join NATO and later, in 2004, the European Union would allow many young people to travel freely, without any restrictions or prosecution.