Photographers' Blog

No happy endings in nature

County Antrim, Northern Ireland

By Cathal McNaughton

When the snow started falling on Thursday afternoon nobody in the Glens of Antrim could have predicted the devastating impact it would have on the farming community. Sub-zero temperatures and heavy snow fall combined with strong easterly winds produced 30 foot snowdrifts.

The rolling hillsides, where just a week previously daffodils had swayed in the breeze in the watery spring sunshine, now lay covered in an unseasonable layer of deep snow. But below the beautiful winter wonderland landscape the tragic reality of nature lay hidden – thousands of sheep buried with their farmers unable to reach them.

Many of the ewes were ready to lamb and were buried alive as the snow blew into drifts several feet high. When I met with family friend Keith McQullan and his farm manager Donald O’Reilly at his hill farm in Aughafatten in Glenarm Glen on Tuesday morning they were unusually quiet. Keith owns several hundred sheep across the remote north Antrim hills – only accessible by quad or by tractor – where he has farmed all his life.

They had just managed to reach the area where they had last seen their sheep four days earlier. But where there had been flocks of 30 and 40, only a few remained. Those left were in a pitiful state with frozen limbs, stiff with the cold and barely strong enough to bleat. Many had lost their lambs as soon as they were born – others had left their babies to die in the snow as they battled for their own survival.

Keith and Donald were going back up the mountain to search the drifts for any sheep that were buried so I jumped onto the tractor and joined them. Snaking our way through giant drifts, the worst in living memory, we reached the search point. They walked backwards and forwards along these massive frozen waves, stopping whenever they sank into the snow. They explained that the snow would be softer in areas where there may be sheep trapped underneath due to the heat they would give off. Unless of course they were dead – which now seemed inevitable.

Digging out from Boston’s blizzard

Boston, Massachusetts

By Brian Snyder

It might not be news that it snows in New England in winter. But the recent snow storm (there seems to be some debate as to whether it met the criteria to be called a blizzard) certainly brought a lot of snow to Boston. Enough so that Governor Patrick banned all driving for the duration of the storm (with exceptions, including for the news media). That’s one way to say that this storm exceeded what’s considered “normal” around here.

I went out around noon on Friday as the snow was just beginning to fall in Boston. The magnitude of the storm had been forecasted for days. With the threat of potentially record-breaking snow fall amounts, the subway system was scheduled to shut down at 3:30pm and a statewide driving ban was announced for 4pm. The wind was already strong — the snow blown sideways stung your face. People seemed intent on just getting home. Pretty early on I made this image:

which proved to be what many newspapers used the next day to lead their coverage of the storm.

Snow as high as houses

By Bogdan Cristel

When I was little, my grandfather told me about the winter of 1954, when the army had to shovel them out from under snow so high it covered their house completely. I didn’t believe the story at the time as it seemed like a fib, a fisherman’s tale.

Well, I recently realized my grandfather wasn’t exaggerating. I had never before seen snow that would cover an entire house until this February.

This month I’ve been to eerie white villages, where you would never know what you would find buried under the hills of snow: a house, store, garage, stables, or a tractor. I took photos from atop utility poles. Frustratingly, I couldn’t use many of the pictures because there was no benchmark beyond the ocean of snow, nothing that could frame the incredible reality I was witnessing.

Getting above the snow

By Dado Ruvic

I was ten years old when a heavy snowfall trapped Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2000, and forced its authorities to declare a state of emergency. I remember these as fun days – we didn’t have to go to school and we just enjoyed the snow. But the latest cold spell enveloping Europe has hit Bosnia hard, blocking its traffic, burying in snow and isolating villages, straining its creaking power infrastructure and most importantly taking many lives during the coldest weather in decades. I have only now realized that snow above one metre is no longer fun, when a 20 minute drive turns into three hours.
In the first few days there were many similar photos emerging on the wire, showing the iced-in towns and villages, people cleaning their yards the blocked traffic. I was also sending photos with the same content.

On the second day of covering this weather story, I realized I had to do something different. I wanted to show them things they had never seen before. I was trying to contact friends, colleagues and some old pals for two days before I realized I had no contacts left. I suddenly got hold of Boban Kusturica, the manager of the Serb Republic helicopter service. In my short career, I have never met a man holding such an important position being so down-to-earth, friendly and supportive.

At the start, I wanted to shoot from a helicopter to capture isolated villages in eastern Bosnia. I also wanted to make images of aid workers delivering food and medicine and evacuating sick people from the inaccessible villages. On Wednesday morning, I received a call from Boban telling me his helicopter would come to Sarajevo and pick me up. It seemed a bit surreal to me, as many people consider me young, inexperienced, and thus don’t always take me seriously. I arrived at Lukavica, near Sarajevo, where an improvised heliport was made on a small soccer stadium. Five minutes later a helicopter came to pick me up but we had to wait for some time to depart, because the weather was terrible and the airport dispatcher had not received the flight permission. After ten minutes of waiting, we were granted permission. Unfortunately, we were only approved for a half an hour flight. I could only take panoramic images of the snow-buried villages and we had to go back urgently.

Highway Kashmir

By Fayaz Kabli

As I started my journey from Srinagar to cover the aftermath of a heavy snowfall along the 300km (186 mile) Srinagar-Jammu highway, the early morning chill was bone biting. Though I had a heater in my hired taxi, it still could not cope with the outside cold but as we drove along, the heat started to pick up.

A recent heavy snowfall across the Kashmir region had snapped electricity transmission lines, telephone lines and internet services plunging the region into darkness and cutting it off from the rest of the world; compounding the misery of around seven million people who live in the valley. The mountainous Srinagar-Jammu highway, which connects Kashmir with the rest of India, remained shut for a fifth day on Tuesday after heavy snowfall.

As we approached Qazigund, the main town in south Kashmir, I could see long lines of stranded trucks on the left side of the road. Some drivers were busy trying to keep the engines and fuel tanks of their trucks warm with bonfires. Some tried to remove snow from around their trucks and others prepared late breakfasts inside empty trucks. Many told me about the problems they faced while being stranded and wanted me to highlight them in the media.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures February 13, 2011

First, congratulations to Pakistan Chief photographer Adrees Latif and Bangladesh based photographer Andrew Biraj for their competition awards this week.  Adrees is the winner of the photojournalism category of the ICP Infinity Awards 2011 for his pictures shoot during the floods in Pakistan last year.  Andrew won third prize in the singles category of daily life in the World Press Photo Awards for his picture of an overcrowded train in Bangladesh.

PAKISTAN-FLOODS/

Marooned flood victims looking to escape grab the side bars of a hovering Army helicopter which arrived to distribute food supplies in the Muzaffargarh district of Pakistan's Punjab province August 7, 2010. Pakistanis desperate to get out of flooded villages threw themselves at helicopters on Saturday as more heavy rain was expected to intensify both suffering and anger with the government. The disaster killed more than 1,600 people and disrupted the lives of 12 million.  REUTERS/Adrees Latif

PHOTOGRAPHY-PRIZE/

An overcrowded train approaches as other passengers wait to board at a railway station in Dhaka, November 16, 2010. Millions of residents in Dhaka are travelling home from the capital city to celebrate the Eid al-Adha holiday on Wednesday. Muslims around the world celebrate Eid al-Adha to mark the end of the haj by slaughtering sheep, goats, cows and camels to commemorate Prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail on God's command. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…?

Snow. Looks good on those Christmas cards, doesn’t it? Fun for small children. Even nice for penguins in the zoo. But photographers covering soccer? Brrrrrrrrrr. Not really.

Let’s get one thing straight. We Brits go on about the weather like a stuck record, but when it comes to it, we can’t cope with it. That’s why we live in Britain.

We whinge when the mercury drops to -3 (26 degrees Fahrenheit). A colleague of mine in Canada will point out that’s not cold. Cold, proper cold, can’t feel your fingers, just walked into a fridge cold, is -25 (-13 degrees Fahrenheit).

A recipe for excitement

Bjorn Heregger of Sweden competes during the Xtreme men’s ski freeride contest on the Bec des Rosses mountain in Verbier March 22, 2009. REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud

Take a 3,223m (10,574 ft) high mountain in Switzerland, “Le Bec-des-Rosses”, blessed with a 500m long north face and inclines of up to 55 degrees, sprinkle with sharp rocks, cover with snow for a few months, blast occasionally with strong winds and then add in a jump-friendly 20m escarpment along with narrow passages for descent.

Now throw into the mix 28 of the best skiers and snowboarders in the world, each of them climbing said mountain to reach their start positions. Add a light garnish of helicopter flights for the accompanying mountain guides, TV crews and photographers and you then have the vital ingredients of the recipe for excitement that is the Freeride World Cup Final 2009, or ‘Xtreme’ – an event held at the Swiss Alps resort of Verbier since 1996.

Snowed under

So what do you do when the TV and radio news are all telling you not to travel, and then you receive a group SMS from your company saying stay at home?

Well it’s the worse snow storm to hit London in 18 years and all you want to do is get out there and shoot it.

I get to my car and as I am wiping the snow off it I look up at the window and see my kids looking at more snow than they have seen in their lives. I watch their little faces light up as it dawns on them that all this snow means only one thing — NO SCHOOL. Now let’s face it, that’s just about as good as it gets.

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