Photographers' Blog

A dramatic rescue outside my window

Athens, Greece

By John Kolesidis

Today I woke up to the deafening sound of thunder. The rain was pouring hard.

I made myself a cup of coffee and watched the rain out the window flood the surrounding streets. I was at a loss as to how I would get to the office without getting soaked, so I decided to stay put until things calmed down a bit. When I finished my coffee, I looked out the window again, and things had taken a dramatic turn.

GALLERY: SAVED FROM A FLOOD

A bit further down the street I could see an immobilized car getting swollen by the flood. Then I heard some muffled voices. I put on my galoshes and raincoat, took my cameras, and tried to get there. I walked through a small park, but that led me behind barbed wire which I couldn’t get over. I saw a woman trying to hold on to her car door, while the water was at waist level. I called out to her not to be scared, urging her to hold on to the door until I could get closer.

I took some pictures behind the barbed wire, and then I tried to find a way to cross the flooded park so that I could get to her. When I got in front of the fence, there was a cascade between me and the woman, as she was on the other side of the road. People were looking on from their balconies, and I started shouting out to them to call the fire brigade. Then a man on the same side of the street climbed on top of her car, and another man managed to approach as well.

The woman’s leg was trapped among the branches that were being washed away under her car door, and she could easily get swept away too. She was panicking, and the look on her face was crying for help. I called out to her to hang on, and urged the men who had got to her to try and encourage her.

I took some more pictures, and as I was at a loss as to what to do next, I rushed back to the park to try to find some rope. All I could get my hands on was a long, entangled watering hose. A woman helped me cut a big chunk of it, and I got back to the woman with it.

How to survive in the jungle: a drop of cobra blood with Khun Norris

Chon Buri province, Thailand

By Damir Sagolj

“Gentlemen, that was excellent!” said a young American called Richard as he downed a glass of snake’s blood in a room full of cobras and tough-looking Asian men. “Never refuse the invitation, never resist the unfamiliar.”

But those lines come from a movie called The Beach, and Richard was played by Leonardo DiCaprio. A few days ago, another young American, this time a real-life U.S. Marine training in Thailand, told Reuters what cobra’s blood really tasted like. “Terrible. Really terrible. But it’s a good experience. It’s something I can always tell my grandchildren about.”

And that sums it all up. For troops attending this strange training exercise, it’s something to tell grandchildren and friends at home. And there is Facebook, of course – many thumbs-up for bad-ass Marines.

An amendment revisited

Old Town, Florida

By Brian Blanco

You feel a moment. I’m not certain if it’s a second lost or a second gained, but in that moment the Earth stops. It’s the moment you watch a child, a young girl in purple shoes, pull a loaded AK-47 assault rifle from the cab of a pick-up truck.

The child, 9-year-old Brianna, had no ill intentions with the weapon of course. She was simply retrieving the gun for a man she affectionately calls “Uncle Jim”. He is Jim Foster, a 57-year-old former police officer and the leader of the North Florida Survival Group. The organisation teaches children and adults alike to handle weapons, and Jim refers to it as a ‘militia”.

GALLERY: TRAINING CHILD SURVIVALISTS

Jim was the man who, after feeling out my intentions in a two-hour meeting at a chain restaurant a few weeks earlier, had granted me permission to photograph his group’s field training exercise. It was an opportunity I snatched up without hesitation. It’s not every day that a photojournalist gets an invitation to shoot a militia gathering. Understandably, they tend to be fairly secretive groups who don’t exactly keep the media on their Christmas card lists.

Skiing nostalgia

Neuastenberg, Germany

By Ina Fassbender

When I was a child and winters were really powerful dropping one or two meters of snow, my four sisters and I used to spend every afternoon after school at the snow-covered cow meadow with our wooden, candle-waxed skis, wearing black leather ski boots with shoelaces. Parallel turn was an unknown expression and if our skis were not waxed well with candles, it was impossible to ski down the hill – one could only walk with them.

Years later when I had my first ski holidays in the Alps with modern ski gear, I did not miss my old equipment. I learned to downhill ski with elegant parallel turns and carve up the snow faster and faster. What progress!

Last Tuesday I went with my family for a day of alpine skiing at the Sauerland ski area complete with 20 lifts and the longest track of about 1200 meters. When I saw a placard announcing a ‘Nostalgic Ski Race’ in the neighboring village, I remembered my own experience with old wooden skis and asked the Berlin pictures desk for permission to go there and cover the event, expecting to get some nice winter features.

Carnival, from film to Paneikon

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

By Sergio Moraes

I remember it as if it were yesterday. I was a staff photographer at the Isto É news magazine when I was assigned for the first time to cover the Carnival parade of samba schools. The year was 1986, and I was 24.

GALLERY: BRAZIL’S CARNIVAL

From then to now coverage of the event changed a lot, I changed a lot, and even Carnival changed a lot. By coincidence that was the first year that the parade was organized by LIESA, Rio’s Independent League of Samba Schools, which still organizes it today.

I felt as if I had received a present.

I went to the parade with the joy and excitement of someone going to a World Cup or Olympics. Back then 14 samba schools competed in one long night, while today there are 12 split across two nights. When the last school hit the runway I was on my 48th roll of film as if it were my first. Such was my joy at covering.

Jazz night at the Apollo

New York City, N.Y.

By Zoran Milich

It was a blistery cold day in New York City as I shuffled in with hundreds of other locals to the historic Apollo Theater to document a rehearsal performance of the Apollo’s new production, Apollo Club Harlem.

An older crowd obediently lined up in the dark corridor of the theater lit by grand chandeliers. They pointed at the wall of pictures of great musicians that performed at the Apollo such as Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, James Brown, Sarah Vaughan, Michael Jackson and many more.

Guests at the rehearsal would be replaced that evening with those arriving in long black limousines, none the less they trembled with excitement knowing they were about to be transported back in time with music, dance and song of the Jazz era that seeded at the Apollo in the 30′s and 40′s.

Back in time biathlon

Dalton, New Hampshire

By Jessica Rinaldi

Every year for the past ten years “The Dalton Gang” has held a primitive biathlon at their shooting club in Dalton, New Hampshire. If you’ve never heard of this before, here’s the rundown.

A primitive biathlon is what happens when you strap snowshoes to your feet and grab a muzzleloaded weapon (rifle or pistol) and race around a track through the woods, in this case 1.75 miles long, to different stations where you load the weapon and shoot at the target. You are scored by how fast you can make it around the track and how accurately you can hit the nine targets spread out across the four different stations scattered throughout the course.

The wildcard in the race is the muzzleloader, a gun in which the ammunition is loaded into the muzzle or the opening at the front of the gun. The contestants carry gun powder, round ball ammunition, and a ramrod to help push the ammunition down into place with them as they race through the course. All of this is difficult enough under normal situations but when you’ve been running up the side of a mountain it becomes even more challenging not only to load the gun but to lower your breathing enough to actually hit the target.

Countdown to Sochi 2014

Sochi, Russia

By Kai Pfaffenbach

There are a few things you expect as a German photographer from cozy Frankfurt when your boss sends you to cover the test events for the upcoming 2014 Sochi Olympic winter games in Russia.

Will it be heavy snow and cold you have to brave? How difficult will communication be (as I don’t speak Russian)? How will the general feeling of Russians be about Germans a few days after they celebrated the anniversary of their big victory over Hitler’s sixth army in Stalin-(Wolgo)grad during WWII in 1943? Well, after nine days within the 70km (43 mile) perimeter of the 2014 Olympics I can say it is a bit of everything but it is definitely a balancing act between extremes.

When you read the invitation letter of the Organizing Committee you learn that “Sochi2014 will be the most compact Winter Games in the history of the Olympic Movement”. The Games will be held in two clusters. The coastal cluster where all indoor events (speed skating, curling, ice hockey etc..) will be held and the mountain cluster around the (former) village of Krasnaya Polyana and the alpine resort of Roza Khutor where the outdoor venues are located. When the Games start on February 7, 2014, a new rail track should connect the coastal cluster with the mountains. With less than one year to go construction works are well under way but for now a narrow bumpy road is the one and only way to get up and down. Dozens of tunnels and bridges need to be built through the valley along the “wild water” river. Sometimes it seems bizarre when the graveyard of the little suburban village of Krasnaya Polyana is less than 100 yards away from the Olympic lane.

An island of religion in a sea of secularism

Warsaw, Poland

By Kacper Pempel

When Pope Benedict XVI announced last week that he was stepping down, the mood in my country, Poland, was overwhelming. This is one of the most devoutly Catholic countries in Europe, which still proudly identifies itself as the birthplace of Benedict’s predecessor, Pope John Paul II. On the day of the announcement my colleagues went to the church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw. The worshipers coming out of the church were in a state of shock. “It’s so sad. It’s such a shame. But what can we do? I can’t believe it,” said one woman as she left the Holy Cross church in the Polish capital, who gave her name as Maria. “I am very sorry because I really like the Pope. He is continuing the teachings of our Pope (John Paul II).” Janusz, another worshiper, said: “I don’t think it’s true. In my opinion it would not be a good solution. It would definitely be a huge pity for Poles and Catholics.”

I spent the last few months traveling around Poland taking photographs of Polish people demonstrating their Catholic faith: going on pilgrimages, attending mass, children having religious lessons in schools. I photographed the statue of Jesus in Swiebodzin, near the Polish-German border, which stands 33 meters tall. I visited a huge church built since the fall of Communism in farmland in Lichen, in central Poland. As I drove towards the church, its gold-colored dome, 98 meters high, looked incongruous surrounded by cows grazing in a pasture.

The building was so vast that it dwarfed the worshipers and the village around it. I went to another new church in the Warsaw suburb of Wilanow. Filled with young, middle-class families, it stands in stark contrast to the image many people have of Catholicism in Poland, a religion for the old and the poor.

Under the ice

Lake Weissensee, Austria

By Michael Dalder

I’ve been diving for almost 15 years, but due to family matters it has fallen off my list lately. So a new picture assignment at Lake Weissensee in mid-February 2013 just came right to my diver’s heart: The Underwater Ice hockey Championships.

Underwater Ice hockey is not played on top of the ice like ice hockey is usually played but underneath it. That’s where diving comes into the game because the underwater ice hockey players are in fact apnea divers who want to give their sports an additional sportive kick.

My day started early when I met with the men and women from the Vienna rescue divers’ squad ASBOe – Moedling. These dive enthusiasts are responsible for safety and security during the whole tournament. If you dive under ice you can’t go straight to the surface to breath if you have an emergency. Thus ice diving is, together with cave diving, considered to be the most dangerous diving discipline. For that reason I listened to the security briefing attentively.