Photographers' Blog

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.

I have always been intrigued by these groups. They are some of the top cops who are licensed to kick butt while decked out in impressive gear. They save hostages, bust down doors and in general make it a bad day for the less than honorable among us.

Well before dawn I was at the site visiting with my police department contact, who was the same person that hired me for my first newspaper job 16 years ago, when I had a thought from the past.

A fallen cadet

Bogota, Colombia

By Jose Miguel Gomez

When a television journalist called to her cameraman to come running, I thought it was just to get a better angle of some VIP arriving to celebrate the 121st anniversary of the National Police, and the new graduating class of the academy. I’m farsighted and didn’t have my glasses on, but I did have a 400mm lens on the camera.

A few more moments went by and I still didn’t catch what the fuss was about, and the only colleague near me was busy shooting. That was when I spotted the cadet on the ground, apparently fainted in the middle of the ceremony, and I instinctively began photographing. Help was so slow in arriving that I was able to shoot from different angles this curious scene of a policewoman lying unconscious, face down on the ground in her best uniform. It was at least five minutes before a couple of police officers finally carried her away.

In the meantime the ceremony continued with the presence of the presidents of Colombia, Costa Rica and Honduras, whom I assumed were asking themselves the same thing I was – why did it take so long amidst a formal ceremony to help this girl?

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures 7 August 2011

After rioting in Xinjiang left 11 dead at the start of Ramadan the Chinese authorities stated that the insurgents who started the trouble had fled to Pakistan. Security forces quickly deployed in numbers to ensure that any further trouble was prevented or quickly quelled. Shanghai-based Carlos Barria travelled to Kashgar to shoot a story on the renovation of the old Kashgar centre, an example of China's modernising campaign in minority ethnic regions. A busy week for Aly Song, who is also Shanghai based, with taxi drivers on strike over rising fuel costs while Lang Lang had local fishermen preparing for typhoon Muifa to hit. In both pictures, the eye is cleverly drawn  to the distance to show in one image, a line of  striking taxi drivers, and in the other, rows of boats bracing for the imminent typhoon.

Ethnic Uighur men sit in front of a television screen at a square in Kashgar, Xinjiang province August 2, 2011. Chinese security forces blanketed central areas of Kashgar city in the western region of Xinjiang on Tuesday, days after deadly attacks that China blamed on Islamic militants highlighted ethnic tensions in the Muslim Uighur area.  REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Armed police officers are deployed at a square in Kashgar August 2, 2011. Chinese police have shot dead two suspects being hunted for a deadly attack in the restive western region of Xinjiang, which an exiled regional leader blamed on Beijing's hardline policies towards her people. The two suspects, Memtieli Tiliwaldi and Turson Hasan, were shot by police late on Monday in corn fields on the outskirts of Kashgar city, where on Sunday assailants stormed a restaurant, killed the owner and a waiter, then hacked four people to death, according to the Khasgar government website.  REUTERS/Stringer

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A week in pictures July 10, 2011

I am not a gamer at all but while looking at the file this week was reminded of a facility on electronic gaming my son showed me that allows you to see a different view point of the action. You can have wide, close and closer still. Two pictures of police beating protesters with batons have been shot as close as you can possibly get to the action but for sure this is no game.  Philippines based Romeo (Bobby) Ranoco picture is actually so close that it has been shot over the shoulder of the soldier, who, judging by the blood on the head of the unarmed protester, seems to have scored at least one direct hit . In India  and shot just slightly wider is Jayanta Dey's picture. The fact that it is shot slightly wider makes sure we are aware that it is actually three soldiers beating a protester and not one. The line of composition created by the baton and the flexed arm creating a perfect compositional triangle - Although I am not sure the protester would actually care about that. 

An anti-riot policeman hits a protester with a baton at a rally against what protesters claim to be U.S. intervention outside the U.S. embassy in Manila July 4, 2011. Filipino and U.S. troops are holding exercises in the Sulu Sea off the western Philippine province of Palawan, which lies near the disputed Spratly Islands. Conflicting territorial claims by several countries over the Spratlys and Paracels are raising tensions in Asia. Besides the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei are claiming the islands as theirs. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

A policeman wields a baton against an activist of India's Congress party during a protest in Agartala, located in northeastern Indian state of Tripura July 10. 2011. Police used batons to disperse activists on Sunday protesting against the state's alleged discriminatory policies towards reservation of seats in local medical colleges, local media reported. REUTERS/Jayanta Dey

Witnessing an Israeli undercover operation

During Sunday’s events held by Palestinians to mark “Nakba” (Catastrophe) to commemorate the expulsion or fleeing of some 700,000 Palestinians from their homes in the war that led to the founding of Israel in 1948, I covered clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian youths in the Shuafat refugee camp, a neighborhood of East Jerusalem surrounded by the controversial Israeli barrier.

Both sides were standing at a distance from each other when I arrived and the youths were throwing stones towards the police. The police retaliated by firing rubber bullets and tear gas, a common occurrence during clashes. After a few hours the police charged towards the protesters who were running away.

I saw that a few police were running down an alley. Due to my past experiences in these types of situations I followed them, sensing that something out of the ordinary may occur. When I reached a point in the alley I saw riot police surrounding a group of about ten masked men and a woman, all armed with pistols, detaining a few Palestinians.

Routine hostage crisis turns deadly

ATTENTION: CONTAINS GRAPHIC CONTENT

By Erik de Castro

I arrived at the scene of the hostage taking in Manila with feelings of excitement because it was a big story. But also, with a pang of sadness as I was at exactly the same place two months ago when yellow was the color of festivities for thousands of people attending the inauguration of our new president, Benigno “NoyNoy” Aquino.

I immediately noticed a parked tourist bus just in front of the grandstand. I was standing behind a police line about 300 yards away. I quickly snapped photos of the bus and and two women looking out from between the closed curtain of the bus.

Tourists taken hostage look out from a window after a former police officer took hostage a tourist bus in Manila August 23, 2010.  REUTERS/Erik de Castro

My colleague Cheryl Ravelo and I set up our communications and our laptops to file pictures from my car. We immediately called Manila-based photographer Bobby Ranoco to arrange how we could get his memory cards to file the first Reuters pictures.

Human roadblock

I was relaxing Sunday evening killing zombies on the Xbox, when I got a news alert on my blackberry stating Tamil protesters were blocking two lanes of traffic on the Gardiner Expressway.  The Gardiner is a major freeway that goes through downtown Toronto. We don’t often see big protests or demonstrations, so my excitement begins to build.

The freeway snakes in between high rise condo buildings, and my first instinct was to figure out a way to get a vantage point up in the building to shoot the protest from a high angle.  I spotted a couple of guys enjoying a few beers on their 10th floor balcony  and shouted up. They were happy to come down and take me up to a spot overlooking the site of the protest. I took my pictures of the blockaded road, filed them, and got back down to street level to see if I could get in nice and close.

I ran up the onramp to the freeway, and spent a few minutes shooting the flags in the crowd, before making my way to the front lines. The demonstrators were peaceful, and the police seemed to be somewhat patient with the large crowd. Demonstration leaders kept the crowd calm with megaphones, telling them to keep the peace, but that didn’t keep a few aggressive situations from developing.