Photographers' Blog

The man with the coconut and the GoPro

Lalitpur, Nepal

By Navesh Chitrakar

Rato Machhindranath is the god of rain, so huge crowds gather in Lalitpur around a 32-meter (104 foot) high tower mounted on a chariot during the chariot festival in an effort to ensure good rains and prevent drought.

The highlight of the day is when someone climbs to the top of the chariot and throws a coconut to devotees below. This is an ancient ritual thought to guarantee the catcher of the coconut the birth of a son. Few people believe this nowadays and I think participation is more about enjoying and preserving the tradition.

Every year I saw the same man climb atop the chariot. Every year he threw the coconut down towards the devotees. I really wanted to show in pictures what the perspective of this man looked like.

This year I started searching for him as soon as I reached the chariot and there he was in his favorite spot, up at the top. I could not call him down, as he was sitting so high and the sound of the drums was too loud. I waited for him to come down.

Finally, the man I was waiting for came down. I was very happy to see him descending. He reached me and I introduced myself to him and asked for his name. I was shocked to learn that this man who I had been shooting pictures of for years could not speak. I wanted his help to shoot the picture I had planned and even though my challenge was growing tougher I didn’t give up. I smiled and grabbed his hand to get his attention. He smiled back at me. Once again I tried to ask for his name and he led me to another person who knew him and they told me his name. It was Chakala Dangol and he was 75-years-old.

A widow’s refuge offers solace to the sorrowful

Vrindavan, India

By Adnan Abidi

The sound of applause echoing in the dingy shelter forced a smile on the face of Tulshi Dasi. An expression she had almost forgotten since her world turned white. The reason: she could now write and had just finished writing the English alphabet on a blackboard. And all this at the age of 70! She had never felt this empowered and never knew that learning was so much fun. As Dasi wrote a new chapter in her life in the grimy shelter in Vrindavan, that she shares with many women like her, her companions, around 50 odd widows applauded her progress.

GALLERY: WIDOW REFUGE

Widows, either abandoned by their family members or shunned by society, find their life’s last refuge in various government run shelters such as this one. They come here from all across the country, but mostly from Bengal, where they survive by begging and chanting hymns in temples.

Hindu widows are branded as inauspicious by society and are forbidden to wear any form of color or be a part of any kind of celebrations like marriage and childbirth, hence most find respite amid their own kind, and seek solace in sorrow. As I spent my day with them I realized that learning was the best part of their day. Each of them would get up early, bathe and offer prayers together in the hall before resuming their daily chores of making prayer beads and flower garlands.

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.

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.

Shrovetide: a rough and tumble game

Ashbourne, central England

By Darren Staples

There are rules – even if there is no referee to enforce them. One of the ancient ones is said to be: ‘committing murder or manslaughter is prohibited’. Royal Shrovetide Football is not for the faint-hearted, either for players or the spectators who can quickly become caught up in the scrum.

On the face of it, the game played in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday each year will sound familiar to anyone who knows what happens at any English Premiership venue on a Saturday afternoon.

There is one ball, two teams – the Up’ards and the Down’ards – and the goal is to score goals. In these parts, it’s like Manchester United playing Manchester City, with all the passion and pride that comes with it.

A fox hunt with no foxes

McClellanville, South Carolina

By Randall Hill

In a thick strand of woods in rural Georgetown County, South Carolina, the self-proclaimed “Gullah Huntsman” Bill Green prepares for his latest drag fox hunt. It’s a cool day in early February and the stocky built African-American man sits comfortably atop his trusted horse.

“You got to treat these animals with loving kindness,” he says with a smile referring to the fox hunting hounds and horses he trains for these events. “If you don’t treat them well they won’t do what you want.”

Green pulls from a stained and worn saddlebag a wet rag tied to a long rope. The strong, pungent smell of fox urine covers the area around him like a cloud when he opens the bag. It’s an odor so strong one doesn’t need the olfactory prowess of a dog to detect.

Riding through flames and fury

San Bartolome de Pinares, Spain

By Sergio Perez

Despite its relative short distance from Madrid, around 100km (62 miles), I have never been in the small village of San Bartolome de Pinares. It is situated in the heart of a small valley surrounded by reservoirs and forest and is well known to trekkers and cyclists alike. However, a traditional night celebration which takes place every January 16th, known as “Las Luminarias”, is little known.

During the celebration, in honor of Saint Anthony, Patron of animals, revelers ride their horses through the narrow cobble-stoned streets to purify the animals with the smoke and flames of the bonfires.

The feeling when you arrive for the first time is that the whole village enjoys a festivity of which you are a part. Around two hours before it begins, all riders prepare their horses, bandaging the tail to protect them from the fire and decorating the manes of the animals.

Modern day vikings

Shetland Islands, Scotland

By David Moir

Vikings, they’re not what they used to be.

No more do we see horn helmeted warriors pillaging and plundering everything in sight, striking fear into villagers with the stories of their wickedness. No, now they sing and dance when visiting community centers, hospitals and shopping centers. Basically cheering everyone up who sing along and join in the fun on a cold wet Tuesday in January.

I have just returned from covering the Up Helly Aa festival in Lerwick, in the Shetland Islands, Britain’s most northerly set of islands. More than 100 miles north of the Scottish mainland and closer to Bergen in Norway than London.

Shetland prides itself on its Norse heritage and its Vikings, especially for Up Helly Aa with the Guizer Jarl (the Chief Guizer), and leader of the Jarl Squad (there are another 45 squads) who are the Vikings for this special day designing and making their suits, shields and weapons for the occasion two years in advance.

Tyranny of a blood feud

Bardhaj, Albania

By Arben Celi

Visiting an Albanian family forced to live inside their walls because of a blood feud always borders on the surreal. A Reuters story of a girl armed with a hunting rifle ferrying supplies for her isolated family in her minivan was made straight into a movie and its Albanian director credited Reuters television for the idea.

There was no action in this one. The three kids had grown up inside their leaky house without ever knowing what the world outside was like. I had been trying for two months to get in touch with a teacher to help me take pictures of a family in northern Albania that had lived inside their house for the last 10 years because of a blood feud.

The teacher is one of the few people allowed into the house twice or three times a week to help the two sons and the daughter keep abreast of the curriculum. I thought she made things harder for me until I met the family myself on Friday. The mother and the 19-year-old daughter grew fearful seeing me and barely concealed their opposition when I took out the camera. But they trusted Liljana, the teacher, and did not throw me out after we made it clear we meant no harm to them. The little kids also warmed to me.

The game of the Eton elite

Eton, Britain

By Eddie Keogh

Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could step back in time? I know I never will but occasionally you come across a scene that has barely changed for hundreds of years. This was certainly the case when I visited Eton College this week to photograph the annual Eton Wall Game between The Collegers (scholarship holders) and The Oppidans (the fee paying pupils).

Sport doesn’t get more elite than this. It’s only played once a year, there is only one pitch of its kind in the world and you need to be a pupil at Eton College, one of the most exclusive public schools in the world. Bear in mind that this school has produced 19 British prime ministers including the present one, David Cameron. It’s highly possible that one of the boys in these pictures will enter Downing Street as Prime Minister one day.

The game has a long history here with the first recorded game taking place in 1766. It encompasses elements from both soccer and rugby, but the unusual bit is that it’s all played up against a brick wall 110 meters (yards) long and a pitch that is only 5 meters wide.

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