Photographers' Blog

Back for more in Moore

Moore, Oklahoma

By Rick Wilking

My wife and I were just about to open some little gifts celebrating our 36th wedding anniversary on May 20th when my cellphone rang.

I said “that’s going to be the Oklahoma call” without even seeing it was Bob Strong, North America Editor in Charge, on the other end. The presents went on hold and the packing began.

The next day I was back in Moore, Oklahoma, waiting for the weather to clear enough to fly in a Cessna 172 over the path of the storm. I say “back in Moore” because I covered the massive tornado that hit the same place in 1999 and again in 2003. The locals call the 1999 version “the May 3rd storm.” That F-5 storm killed 44 people and destroyed more than 300 homes.

Despite that devastation in 1999 it would be much worse this time. Much of the area covered by the ’99 storm was just open fields. Seeing grassy fields turned into mud with the grass torn out by the roots was eye-opening back then but this time the grassy fields were covered by new housing developments and the schools, stores and hospitals that go with it. The 2013 storm, also an F-5, killed 24, injured 377 people and destroyed 1,200 homes – four times the number of houses damaged in 1999.

With this tornado, Moore suffered its fifth massive storm in 15 years. The paths of the ’99 and ’13 storms were near-identical, even overlapping in some places. So, what is it about this place that makes it such a target? Geography. The low-pressure systems that flow down from the Rocky Mountains where I live collide with warm moist air from the gulf that form thunderstorms – huge thunderstorms, that often spawn tornadoes, lots of tornadoes, right over central Oklahoma. They don’t call it “tornado alley” for nothing.

Striking the balance on the pitch

London, England

By Russell Boyce

Every trip to Wembley Stadium where football is played is a passionate affair. The preparation, expectation, the rise of tension, the meeting of friends and foes, fear of not being match-fit, your position, good luck or bad luck, missing opportunities, grabbing at a half opportunity and making it work, a flash of inspiration, getting the goal (Oh joy! Oh joy!), missing the goal (let the pitch open and swallow me whole) and of course the team. Always team; will you win or lose? And that is just the photographers.


Photo by Paul Hackett

Recently a picture editor told me he receives about 27,000 images every day. He looks for short cuts to be able to see the best pictures that tell the whole story without getting snowed under looking at hundreds of pictures he doesn’t need. How can we help?

I am very preoccupied with the future of news pictures. Questions I ask myself are “is coverage at major events very different now from the past? And what will be relevant in the future?” I decided to apply this question to the Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich Champions League final at Wembley Stadium. What pictures are needed? Simple to answer, the fans, great action, the goals, the celebration, the dejection, the match changing incident, the final whistle moment, the personalities and of course the trophy.

The Pope is pop

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

By Sergio Moraes

When we recently received the official agenda for Pope Francis’ July trip to Rio de Janeiro, we went straight out to photograph the sites he will visit. Brazil has 123 million Roman Catholics according to the last census, more than any other country. Since Rio is the world’s most irreverent city, according to its own residents, all Popes are received here with the slogan, “The Pope is pop.”

And with the large number of events in which he’ll participate here, that slogan will be on everyone’s minds.

Cariocas, as we natives of Rio are called, have a joke for everything, including for all the delays that we see happening in the construction of stadiums for next year’s World Cup. Our slogan of the moment is “Imagine that during the Cup”, and we use it for everything. If we run into a traffic jam, someone will inevitably say, “Imagine that during the Cup.” If a beer is too warm, if a restaurant’s service is slow, or if a day is rainy, we blurt out, “Imagine that during the Cup.”

The man with the coconut and the GoPro

Lalitpur, Nepal

By Navesh Chitrakar

Rato Machhindranath is the god of rain, so huge crowds gather in Lalitpur around a 32-meter (104 foot) high tower mounted on a chariot during the chariot festival in an effort to ensure good rains and prevent drought.

The highlight of the day is when someone climbs to the top of the chariot and throws a coconut to devotees below. This is an ancient ritual thought to guarantee the catcher of the coconut the birth of a son. Few people believe this nowadays and I think participation is more about enjoying and preserving the tradition.

Every year I saw the same man climb atop the chariot. Every year he threw the coconut down towards the devotees. I really wanted to show in pictures what the perspective of this man looked like.

Reality of a grand Hasidic wedding

Jerusalem

By Ronen Zvulun

Coming back home at 5am sunrise, I was just beginning to digest the grand event I was lucky to witness and cover: the wedding of the grandson of one of the most influential spiritual leaders in Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community.

GALLERY: ULTRA-ORTHODOX WEDDING EXTRAVAGANZA

The wedding, attended by some 25,000 people, was a massive event that was conducted like a military operation.

How do you take care of thousands of people, feed them, accommodate them, seat them and provide safety for the huge crowd? There was a 20-story stand that needed to hold thousands of dancing Hasidic men.

Fidel and Miss Green, till death do they part

Sagua La Grande, Cuba

By Desmond Boylan

I know a Cuban man named Fidel who is tall, well-built and hardworking. He is known to have had several wives and many girlfriends during his life, and now has a pregnant daughter who will soon make him a grandfather, but those details of his life are diffuse. What he does admit is that the undisputed love of his life is Señorita Verde, or Miss Green.

Fidel gets on well with his neighbors, likes telling jokes, and is always in a good mood. At times he looks a bit nostalgic or sad as his house badly needs repair, and he worries the whole house will fall down on him and Miss Green during the heavy rains and strong winds of the new hurricane season.

People have offered to buy Miss Green from him so he can repair his crumbling 100-year-old wooden house, but he remains defiant. “I will never sell Miss Green. Just the idea of selling her makes me shiver,” he said. “People have no feelings.”

Defining “News photographer” for the future

London, England

By Russell Boyce

During recent photography workshops we have been running, many of those attending described themselves as “a professional photographer working in the news business” while others described themselves as “photojournalists”. The title “Photojournalist” is an occasionally abused title but for those professionals who are attending our courses who communicate their picture stories to a sophisticated audience I think it’s quite fair for them to describe themselves as a photojournalist.

I began to wonder, is there a difference? Is it just about self-perception or merely a name tag? Does a news photographer see themselves as a working professional who is given assignments and their job is to produce a picture to match that assignment? And is a photojournalist someone who actively chases stories or looks for new ways to illustrate recurring themes through photography and doesn’t just wait for assignments? Both, and a mixture of both, at the present are valid roles. Or is it maybe time to find a new definition? But I am wrestling with the question “what future for photography in a news environment in the next five years and onward?” What status and role, will these photographers have? Before I could examine this further, first I thought it was important to research the actual definition of the roles.

A quick look in the Concise Oxford Dictionary for “news photographer” comes up blank as does a search online. A search for the word “photojournalist”, the noun derived from photojournalism reveals a definition “1. The art or practice of relating news by photographs, with or without an accompanying text, esp in magazines”.

In the spirit of a Franciscan Pope

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

By Ricardo Moraes

It was Palm Sunday in Rio’s cathedral when I found them in a small group wearing their simple, traditional robes, with short hair and beards, praying, concentrating, amidst hundreds of other Catholics.  I’m talking about the Franciscans, young followers of Saint Francis of Assisi who on some occasions I had seen roaming the city, almost invisible, helping Rio’s poor.

I knew nothing about them, but with the election of a Latin American Pope and his chosen name of Francis, I began to do some research. Apart from what I learned from the Internet and through phone calls to a monastery, there wasn’t a lot more information available. The Franciscan orders have existed for centuries around the world, but I wanted to know more about those youths who one monk had told me are the “Church’s rebels.”

I stood observing them during an important moment in the mass, with their eyes tightly shut and very serious faces. I really wanted to photograph them, but with so many people around me I didn’t want to disturb the mass. I waited, and when the mass finished I was finally able to talk to them and introduce myself. Their serious looks disappeared and with smiles they told me that I would be very welcome to visit them in their home.

A special performance

Madrid, Spain

By Susana Vera

Luismi Astorga clasps his hands as he lifts his head up to the sky. He’s waiting to take the stage at a music club in Madrid where his dance group, Fusionarte, is taking part in a charity gala.

Astorga closes his eyes and begins to pray. The click of my camera breaks his concentration and he smiles at me as he proceeds to tell me, “Waiting makes me nervous.”

It’s not the first time Astorga has faced the thrill of performing for a live audience. He has been dancing with Fusionarte since Argentine choreographer and dancer Pau Vazquez formed the group six years ago with the aim of introducing dance to people with special needs.

The blind cheering the blind

Watertown, Massachusetts

By Brian Snyder

Almost universally, when I told friends or family that I was going to cover the 67th annual Eastern Athletic Association for the Blind track and field tournament hosted at the Perkins School for the Blind, they asked some variation of “how?” Not that it couldn’t be done, but how exactly?

I had no doubt that it could be done, having covered other assignments at the Perkins School. What I found at the track meet though was a mixture of ingenuity, common sense, and some traits common to any student-athlete. Events ranged from sprints to distance races to field events such as shot put or softball throw.

Some of the student athletes were not completely blind, and could navigate a black track with bright white lane markers.

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