Photographers' Blog

Ye Shiwen: Innocent until proven guilty

By Carlos Barria

As the day starts, parents accompany their kids to the Chen Jing Lun Sports School. In the entrance a sign reads, “Today’s sports school student, tomorrow’s Olympics stars” – a reminder of where it’s possible to go with hard work.

A girl with swimming goggles around her forehead waits for training to begin. She muses over portraits of famous Chinese swimmers hanging on the wall. Among them is a portrait of London Olympics double gold medalist Ye Shiwen.

GALLERY: THE SCHOOL THAT TRAINED YE SHIWEN

Years ago, at age 6, Ye arrived at this same pool without any swimming experience. But a couple of months later she had mastered the freestyle and the backstroke. “Ye Shiwen never told me that she was tired, or that she didn’t want to swim anymore. She never said that,” her former coach Wei Wei remembers.

In the pool some 20 girls and boys have started their training session, swimming laps endlessly. Although it seems like a hard regime for children just seven and eight years old, they look like they’re having fun. Almost all of them are wearing a swimming cap with the Chinese flag – an early reminder that the ultimate goal here is to make their country proud.

In China, people keep a close watch on the Olympic gold medal tally, paying special attention to their standing versus the United States. After 16-year-old Ye’s powerful performance at the London Aquatic center, where she won two gold medals and broke the world record in 400 meters, controversy erupted over comments by a U.S. coach that suggested Ye was doping.

A goldless Michael Phelps

By David Gray

I have been photographing Michael Phelps for over 8 years, which has included 3 Olympic Games and 3 World Swimming Championships and I have never seen him like this – a goldless man.

I even saw him in a race that for the first time did not result in a podium finish. And then the U.S. team only finished second in the 4X100M freestyle relay race, which included Phelps and his now great rival team mate, Ryan Lochte. I never thought this would be possible.

But the perceived rivalry between Phelps and Lochte is a very interesting story here at the London Olympic Games. Whenever I photographed the two of them together in the past, they would always be laughing, joking, and never, ever ignoring one another. Since the first training session here in London last Monday afternoon, I’ve noticed the lack of talk, smiles, laughter, and even recognition.

An oddly beautiful surprise

By Aly Song

This wasn’t what I expected at all when I arrived at the beach of Qingdao city in China’s eastern Shandong province.

SLIDESHOW: FACE-MASKED SWIMMERS

I was assigned to shoot portraits for a Reuters story on a Chinese airline company. We settled down to plan to board an aircraft with the company CEO, photographing him and other passengers on the plane. So, I booked myself a 24-hour round trip from Shanghai to Qingdao bearing in mind that during the half day in Qingdao I could shoot the green algae along the beaches which appears almost every summer.

However, my plan turned out to be a failure. The weather wasn’t hot enough so there was very little algae. I was about to head back disappointed until I glanced at these women swimming in the ocean. They were wearing full-size masks on their head which looked a lot like wrestler’s masks to me. I could imagine these women coming onto the beach very soon and starting to fight.

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 24 July 2011

China are hosting the 14th FINA World Championships in Shanghai. In my mind's eye, aquatics is a sport of power, grace, balance and beauty but our pictures seem to add the additional factors of concentration, determination or maybe sheer fear. Against my better judgement, I just have to mention that some of the expressions on the athletes' faces remind me of the age old tradition of gurning. What also made an impression are the angles, different points of focus and continually new shapes that compliment a file that could have been very repetitive.

Qin Kai of China perform during the preliminary round of the men's 3m springboard diving event at the 14th FINA World Championships in Shanghai July 21, 2011.        REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Italy's Linda Cerruti performs in the synchronised swimming solo free final at the 14th FINA World Championships in Shanghai July 20, 2011. REUTERS/David Gray

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.