Photographers' Blog

72 hours in Shanghai

By Carlos Barria

Occasionally, along with covering the news stories like the economy, politics, sports and social trends, we (Reuters photographers) have time to do something really fun.

Weeks ago, over a couple of beers, a friend from the BBC had the idea of putting a camera on the hood of a car and shooting a time-lapse sequence for a story he was working on. I’d never done a time-lapse project myself, so when I was asked to come up with an idea for Earth Hour on March 31— when cities across the world switch off their lights at 8:30 pm— my colleague Aly Song and I thought we’d give it a try. We decided to shoot sequences during the three days leading up to Earth Hour, ending with the dimming of the lights in Shanghai’s city center.

(View a full screen version here)

It was also a good opportunity to buy some new toys at Chinese prices, such as suction cup camera holders used to secure the camera on top of a car or any other surface.


Reuters photographer Aly Song sets up a remote camera in the front of a taxi

We used a total of seven cameras between two photographers on this project, shooting over 14,000 pictures, for a final time-lapse sequence that lasts one minute and 40 seconds.

That’s quite labor-intensive, but I think the video offers a glance at the frenetic energy and fast-pace of change that characterizes so many Chinese cities today.

Swimming in a sea of pictures

Several weeks back I was told I would be having a serious case of the blues for a fortnight – processing pictures of the swimmers, divers and water polo players competing in the FINA World Championships in Shanghai. Pictures from the event would be edited by China chief photographer Petar Kujundzic and sent to me and my colleagues Karishma Singh and Allison Ching in Singapore to process and transmit to clients.

For two weeks, I would be looking at a sea of images where the main color was blue. So it made me nervous whenever I saw my least favorite color – green – appear on skin tones. It took constant communication with the on-site photographers and editor as well as the Picture Desk team here in Singapore, not to mention close scrutiny of the histogram in Photoshop, to ensure the athletes didn’t look jaundiced or ill. In fact, correcting the color on pictures taken in the swimming pool in Shanghai was as challenging as it was in Beijing three years ago when I processed aquatics images at the Olympics.

Speaking of challenges, I wonder if processing swimming pictures and physical “hardship” go hand in hand. In Beijing I was at the Water Cube, cut off from my colleagues at the media center and having to make a daily trek up 115 steps to the top of the press tribune area. I worked on a 14-inch laptop with barely an inch of elbow room, often perspiring in the warm environs. Here in Singapore, I was banished to a corner affectionately called Siberia because it is cold, quiet and almost hidden from view from the Picture Desk team. The lighting was rather dark, too. Editing images was done on a 17-inch monitor, which still cannot compare to the 22-inch Macintosh screens that the sub-editors on the Picture Desk work on every day.
But despite my complaints about the Water Cube, it was absolutely thrilling to watch the events unfold live before my eyes. Working on the FINA Championships pictures in a country removed from all the action lacks such excitement, but there still exists an adrenaline rush from subbing and sending them to the wire in the quickest time possible.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures 31 July 2011

Ramadan started in Asia on Sunday and Indonesia-based photographer Ahmed Yusef produced this beautiful image to mark the start of the most important period in the Muslim calendar. The viewer focuses on the young woman's eyes as the red scarf draws you to her through a sea of swirling white created by a slow exposure. Also in Indonesia, Dwi Oblo's picture draws you into the picture through  light and smoke to evoke a real feeling of people humbling themselves as they pay respects to their dead relatives as they also prepare for Ramadan.

Muslim woman attend mass prayer session "Tarawih", which marks the beginning of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, at Al Markaz Al Islami mosque in Makassar, South Sulawesi July 31, 2011. Muslims around the world abstain from eating, drinking and conducting sexual relations from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar. REUTERS/Ahmad Yusuf 

 Indonesian Muslims pray at the graves of their relatives in Bantul in central Java, July 25, 2011, ahead of Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Indonesian Muslims traditionally visit the graves of their loved ones before and towards the end of the holy month. REUTERS/Dwi Oblo

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures 21 November 2010

As I write 29 men are trapped in a coal mine in New Zealand after a methane explosion at the Pike River coal mine. Sydney based photographer Tim Wimborne is at the scene. His picture of people hugging each other so tightly seems to sum up the growing despair as they cling to the hope that the men are still alive, the moment in the picture seems to go on an eternity.

tim mine hug

Family members of miners trapped underground in the Pike River coal mine comfort each other in Greymouth on New Zealand's west coast, after visiting the mine to see rescue preparations November 21, 2010. Efforts to rescue 29 men trapped in a New Zealand coal mine faced more agonizing delays on Sunday when authorities said they would drill a new shaft to test air quality because toxic gases made it too dangerous for rescue teams go in. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

Two separate disasters in buildings over the last week took over a hundred lives with police taking action against the property owners in both cases. In Shanghai,  Ali Song shooting pictures that not only convey the drama of the fire but also show the scale of the blaze by showing figures dwarfed by the smoke and flames.  The silent upturned faces of onlookers striking a chill in the heart, a mood created by Aly exposing for the highlights allowing the shadow to fall into almost complete darkness.  

The China I met: A land of contradictions

Reuters photographer Nir Elias is pictured while walking with some 1000 other survivors during a 9-hour trek from the village of Qingping to Hanwang in the earthquake-hit Mianzhu, Sichuan Province as he covers the earthquake aftermath May 16, 2008. REUTERS/Stringer

When I got the senior photographer job in Shanghai in late 2005, Reinhard Krause, who was China’s chief photographer, well advised me to drop any preconceptions I might have about the place.

Below is an audio slideshow based on my portfolio of work from China, where I discovered a land of contradictions.

Below is a selection of some of the portfolio images. Click here for a full slideshow.

from Russell Boyce:

A Shanghai sinking – an aerial perspective

Checking through the file this picture by Reuters Shanghai based photographer Aly Song really caught my eye and I needed to think why.

CHINA

 A view shows a sinking cargo ship after it collided with a boat on Huangpu River in Shanghai February 1, 2010. Three sailors were  rescued from the accident, while further investigation is underway, according to local media. REUTERS/Aly Song

 

Why does this picture work so well when common sense tells me the worker in the foreground should block my view of the scene? Why don’t I feel that I want him to move so I can see the whole scene? Maybe it’s the way I am drawn into the picture by the strong sense of aerial perspective, the bold dark red of the helmet in the foreground, the point of focus, the harsh contrast of the diagonals thrown up by the stricken cargo ship and then through into the soft, misty and pale skyline of Shanghai.