Photographers' Blog

Catastrophic lessons in a quake zone

Ya’an, Sichuan province, China

By Jason Lee

It was 8:02 am on April 20th, 2013, three weeks before the fifth anniversary of the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake which killed nearly 70,000 people, when another strong quake hit the city of Ya’an in the same province. More than 190 people died, 21 others are still missing, and more than 11,000 people have been injured.

I must admit when I first heard about the disaster, I was a little reluctant to cover it, hoping that this time it wouldn’t be very serious. The catastrophic images from five years ago were still lingering in my head. However, when the death toll started to climb, I quickly cleared my thoughts and got on the next flight to the quake zone.

I don’t want to use too many words to describe how much I overcame to get there because my difficulties mean nothing compared to every victim’s face I saw and every cry I heard on the way.

I want to write about something else that I witnessed there, something I believe is worse than the earthquake. This quake struck a mountainous area where most inhabitants are local farmers. I studied construction engineering in college and it didn’t take me long to notice that many houses in the area were constructed so poorly that they wouldn’t even be able to withstand a much smaller quake.

After taking some pictures of people crying in front of their destroyed houses, I stepped forward to interview them for the captions only to find out that many houses, even schools, were rebuilt after being damaged in the 2008 quake. I couldn’t believe how the lessons from what had happened had not been learned.

In too deep

Fox Lake, Illinois

By Jim Young

Heavy rains brought flooding to the Chicago area this week. Though most people were already starting the clean-up process, there was still some flooding just north of the city.

I headed up to see how they were coping since the Fox River had yet to crest. As I pulled into town, most of the area looked fairly dry but once you got closer to the lake, some of the streets were several feet under water. As I came around a corner, I could see an American flag hanging over a half-sunken retro soda machine sitting in what looked like a lake, but it was actually someone’s backyard.

The family seemed unusually calm about their circumstances. Though they had been stuck in the same flooded state for four days with more rain on the way, they had several layers of sandbags around their house and a couple of pumps going at full speed. They were just trying to hang in there and hope for the best.

Going wider with our visual storytelling app

By Jassim Ahmad

We have just launched an update to The Wider Image app for iPad – an award-winning interactive experience showcasing visual insights by Reuters photographers. Thanks for your enthusiasm and feedback, which has helped drive these enhancements. Here is what’s new:

Share further
Our #1 reader request. You can now share stories and photographer profiles through Facebook and Twitter. Your friends and followers will be able to preview the story and read the full photographer profile, for example Lucas Jackson.

The share pages adapt to screen size, so they work across smartphones, tablets and desktops. When sharing stories on Twitter, your story tweets can expand to show the main image.

Only human: A photographic look at the Bush presidency

Washington D.C.

By Stelios Varias

In the eight years that George W. Bush served as the 43rd U.S. president, Reuters’ photographers were witness to big events and the daily grind that is full-time presidential coverage. Along the way, they amassed a collection of truly memorable images. As their longtime colleague and picture editor, it has been my pleasure to see their images come across the Reuters’ wire and land on the fronts of newspapers and online home pages.

With the Bush presidential center scheduled to be dedicated in Dallas on April 25, I’ve assembled a few of my favorites from our photographers.

President Bush will be most remembered for steering the United States through the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, from the day he was told “America is under attack” by White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, to when he stood on the crumpled remains of a fire truck at New York’s Ground Zero and told the country through a borrowed megaphone that the United States would respond.

The SWAT of Salt Lake

Draper, Utah

By Jim Urquhart

It was four in the morning and for the second day in a row I found myself on the highway headed for a photo assignment before the sun rose. Still a bit tired and sore from the day before, I was however in a decent mood. The day before at the same hour I was trying to get to the start line of the Salt Lake City Marathon in the pouring rain, sleet and hail. On that morning I was assigned to photograph security efforts at the marathon, the first since the Boston Marathon bombing.

That day I covered prevention, this morning I was covering the team that are called in to help when the situation has already gone bad. The Salt Lake City Police Department SWAT team was going to be running candidates through an obstacle course as part of a test of physical fitness.

It was day one of the department’s SWAT school. Candidates spent the next six days participating in exercises designed to educate and test their physical abilities along with their decision-making skills in stressful situations.

Panning for gold

Braidwood, Australia

By Daniel Munoz

For 59 year-old Wal Krikowa his hobby has become his passion. The recent volatility affecting gold prices is the least of his concerns. After decades of doing what he calls “the business”, his passion for prospecting gold on weekends has remained unchanged. His experience tells him it all just comes down to luck. Worrying about whether he finds anything is just a waste of time.

Wal and his wife Liz always start their gold prospecting trips with a strict routine. I arrived at their beautiful house in North Canberra on a recent Saturday morning. We hit the road and a short time later we stopped at a local petrol station for what I first thought was a morning cup of coffee. But there was an different motive to this visit. Liz is hugely superstitious, and the stop was part of their ‘luck routine’ before prospecting. She admitted to me between sips of the local brew that another one of her superstitions is to place four soda cans into the same bag, the same way, at the same time before leaving the house. “Everything needs to be perfectly in place to find gold,” she said with a wry grin.

As a football fan, superstition is no stranger to me. I know of coaches who wear the same tie or smoke the same amount of tobacco before every match just to re-enact the same procedures of their previous victory.

Muscle men of China

Shaoxing, China

By Carlos Barria

Feng Qing Ji, 69, and his younger brother Yu, 61, look at themselves in a mirror. Li tries to help Yu with his pose. He tells him to straighten his back.

They are not in a park, hanging around with other Chinese seniors, who typically meet up to play Mahjong or dance. They are covered in oil and wearing tiny speedos as they prepare for an amateur bodybuilder competition in Shaoxing, Zhejiang province.

Bodybuilding is not a very popular sport in China, despite the efforts of sport supplement companies that have promoted bodybuilding here by touring stars like Ronnie Coleman, winner of eight Mr. Olimpia titles.

Who said farming can’t be fun?

Hohenzell, Austria

By Leonhard Foeger

“Sure, you can come and take pictures. We don’t have any secrets here and you will have a very special view of the sex life of breeding bulls nowadays,” Josef Miesenberger, head of the artificial insemination station in Hohenzell, told me on the phone when I asked to shoot a story about cattle breeding in Austria.

One might imagine cattle breeding involves green grass, some trees, and a cow and bull coming together in their natural world doing what they have done to procreate since the dawn of time.
But when I arrived at the insemination center near the village of Hohenzell at six in the morning I saw a farmhouse-like building with huge barns and a laboratory inside.

Johannes, one of the bull keepers, showed up and let me in. I had to change into green overalls and boots before I was allowed to enter the barn with about 50 breeding bulls. The smell of bulls hit me intensely. My lenses immediately fogged up due to the high humidity inside. I could see Austria’s most expensive and exclusive breeding bulls having breakfast. Josef, another bull keeper, told me to just act like a bull keeper and not take any pictures since the bulls were very sensitive if they don’t know the people in their barn. After a while I started to take some images and the bulls just looked as if they were wondering what was going on.

Dark side of the festival

Bangkok, Thailand

By Damir Sagolj

Totally unconcerned with incoming traffic, Khun Tuey powers the ambulance van through Bangkok’s narrow streets as fast as its engine can push it. Soon after the chase started, the pointer on the speedometer kisses the 120 mark and for a short moment I take my eyes off the road to look around. Next to the driver sits his beautiful, four month pregnant wife Amarin, ignoring what passes by the windshield as if she is watching a session of Bulgarian parliament on TV. To the left is Somat, a medic with 110 hours of training – the team’s expert for injuries. His eyes are closed and it looks like he is sleeping. I hope he is praying. Tonight, we all need prayers to come true.

It is the crazy wet Songkran, as the week-long Thai New Year is known. Earlier in the day, we all enjoyed the festival – I sprayed water, wore powder on my face, drank beer and played fool with friends.

But the fun part is over. Tonight is another Songkran night; one of seven dangerous ones when an already high number of traffic-related deaths and injuries surge. Experts say Thailand has the greatest number of road deaths in Southeast Asia per capita, due to a combination of lax road laws and careless driving habits.

Augusta: A tournament like no other

Augusta, Georgia

By Phil Noble

It was the author Mark Twain who wrote “Golf is a good walk spoiled” and although the persistent rain that dogged the final round play at this years Masters certainly made it tough for both players and photographers alike, the amazing photographs at the final hole of regular play and the subsequent thrilling playoff certainly ensured our “good walk” wasn’t ruined.

I was lucky enough to be asked to return to the Augusta National golf club this year for my second Masters tournament. Along with my Reuters colleagues Mike Segar, Bryan Snyder, Mark Blinch and 24 year Masters veteran Gary Hershorn, who would edit our pictures, we pitched up again at the Mecca of golf to cover a tournament unlike any other.

At most other golf championships we cover, photographers are allowed to work inside the ropes that hold the spectators back, making the job of following play and getting into a good position to photograph the golfers a relatively easy one. At Augusta however, we are accorded no such privilege, the hallowed, well manicured and vibrant green turf being preserved only for those playing in the tournament, meaning we are in with the spectators, or in the case of Augusta, the ‘patrons’.