Photographers' Blog

A Bavarian migration

By Michael Dalder

On October 3rd, a day where most of my colleagues were covering the festivities to celebrate German unification, I had the opportunity to be an eyewitness to a Bavarian traditional event. The event was the so-called “Almabtrieb” on the lake Koenigssee, in one of the most beautiful regions of Southern Germany.

At the end of the summer season, farmers move their herds down from the Alps to the valley into winter pastures. The mountain pastures are often in remote areas only accessible by foot – or like the Koenigssee trail – by boat.

We met our guide before dusk to board an electric-powered boat to get to the far end of the lake where the farmer with his heard was supposed to arrive. The lake is known for its clear water and is advertised as the cleanest lake in Germany. For this reason, only electric-powered passenger ships, rowing and pedal boats are permitted on the lake. On this foggy, chilly dark morning I was happy that we didn’t have to row. The hot tea from our captain kept everybody warm and awake.

After a 45 minute ride the sun came out and we were able to see the prettiness of the national park. Our captain stopped, brought out a trumpet and showed us the famous Koenigssee echo. Due to the lake’s position surrounded by steep and narrow rock walls, sound creates an echo which can be heard reflected up to seven times – very impressive.

After another 30 minutes cruising with the sound of waterfowl and the purr of our boat engine, we arrived at the spot where two farmers with their herds were supposed to arrive to load the animals on a float carried by two boats with a permission to use outboard motors to transport the flock.

Baby-kissing Popes

By Max Rossi

There’s a man in this world that kisses more babies than any mother over the course of her life: the Pope.

Following the Vatican for more than 15 years I can absolutely say that John Paul II and Benedict XVI have kissed more babies than any other public figure in the world. It’s a common scene for the faithful to literally throw their babies to the Pope as he walks by or is driven by in the Pope mobile during general audiences or a pastoral visit.

Having a child blessed and kissed by the Pope is an unbelievable goal for a mother or father. And for a photographer it’s almost always a good shot especially when the baby is not so “old”. A newborn is totally unaware of what is going on but when a one or two year-old child is given to the Pope something brilliant can happen.

Belles of the ball

By Olivia Harris

I had thought that ‘debs’ belonged to the pre-1960s days before the pill and equal pay. But at Queen Charlotte’s Ball last week there were eighteen young debutantes who had volunteered for the London Season, the symbolic right of passage to mark their entry into ‘society’ as young women.

The ball was the high point of ‘the season’; six months of parties where young women of money and class were premiered for the marriage market.

The young women at Friday’s Queen Charlotte’s Ball didn’t think it was old fashioned or sexist. None of them would admit they were looking for a husband – or not quite yet, anyway.

High octane and a Princess

By Andy Clark

Swatting away a swarm of pesky summertime mosquitoes, I walked down a quiet country road shaded by rows of elderly trees. You could say, it was any ordinary rural road except for one thing. Parked amongst the trees was a collection of battle-scared and brightly colored stock cars. All tethered onto trailers and pulled behind pickup trucks, the collection of road warriors and their owners waited patiently for the gates to open for another Saturday night at Agassiz Speedway.

SLIDESHOW: HIGH OCTANE RACING

Built in 1970 the speedway is a quarter mile oval track nestled into the side of Agassiz Mountain about 90 minutes drive east of Vancouver, British Columbia. Owned and operated by the non-profit Kent Raceway Society the track hosts about 12 races a season beginning in April and running through to late October.

I have always enjoyed car racing. I spent, though a few said mis-spent, some of my formative teenage youth on darkened summer highways north of Toronto in the late 1960s, riding in muscle cars and drag racing until either the wee hours of the morning or the cops chased us away. Though I witnessed a horrendous accident one night while racing I still look back on those times with fond memories.

Exorcism in the Andes

By Jaime Saldarriaga

I first learned of exorcist Hermes Cifuentes, better known as “Brother Hermes,” through the local news media. His exorcisms fascinated me, so I decided to find out more. Many people are against what he does, but when I tracked down his phone number and called, he invited me to visit his retreat in La Cumbre, just north of Cali.

SLIDESHOW: MODERN-DAY EXORCISM

Brother Hermes is a very religious man. As we spoke he wore a white tunic and held a crucifix in his hand. His retreat is a farm with a small chapel filled with Catholic icons. The place is very peaceful, with hens, pigeons and rabbits roaming. He tells the people who look to him for help that they shouldn’t believe in him, but rather in the power of God.

It was only after I arrived that he told me he had two exorcisms to perform that same day, and that I could observe. We hiked up to the highest part of the farm, where there were two women dressed in white with their skin painted black, stretched out inside large rings drawn on the ground. The scene affected me deeply.

Old people and their parents

By Andy Clark

Arriving outside the main gates I couldn’t help but notice there were no crowds of spectators milling around or scalpers shouting their prime seat tickets for sale, in fact all was very quiet. It was roughly 7:45am and besides a couple of birds singing in the trees and a dog barking somewhere out of sight it appeared I was completely alone. My sudden fears of the wrong day and or wrong place were soon quelled as I entered the gates and walked down a small path. There before me was the field of play and scattered across it were the players warming up and preparing for the first day of competition at the fifth annual Pacific Cup Croquet Tournament.

Yes that is correct folks, I said croquet. Several months ago I was searching for a website totally unrelated and for reasons only Google knows, up came a page with a detailed list of the 2012 croquet tournaments across North America. Before I could click the page away, I remembered seeing some interesting images from a tournament at least 25 years ago and thought, I wonder. Sure enough listed halfway down the page was the Vancouver Croquet Club’s fifth annual Pacific Cup.

Like many people, the only croquet I know is what one may have played in their backyard as a child, known as Golf Croquet. The croquet I was about to witness was nothing like that. The game played during the tournament was the full international version known as Association Croquet. I can report that even after it was explained to me on several occasions combined with watching it for three days, all I know is that it involves two players and each match runs just over two hours. In fact my ignorance of the sport became clear on the first day of competition. I had settled down on a bench along the sidelines to watch a couple of players warming up, hoping to get any idea of what to expect once play began. After about 40 minutes I thought this was an unusually long warm up. I approached an elderly fellow nearby and asked when the game might get underway. With a look of disbelief the gentleman replied “they have been playing for 30 minutes”.

Britain’s pigeon fanciers

By Nigel Roddis

All those years ago when Paul Julius von Reuter was just starting out his news agency, he used homing pigeons to plug a gap in the information link between the bourses of Paris and Berlin. The operation only lasted a year, until the final telegraph line was laid, but the fact that pigeons carried stock market price reports remains an anecdote on resourcefulness.

SLIDESHOW: PIGEONS TAKE FLIGHT

Fast forward to 2012, where the world is connected by fiber optics and satellite beams, one may be surprised to learn that aficionados still train, keep and race pigeons for sport. Although the membership of Britain’s Royal Pigeon Racing Association (RPRA) has been declining over the past few decades, tens of thousands remain.

This year the 40th annual British Homing World Show of the Year in Blackpool had 2,500 pigeon entries from around the world including the U.S. and China, and its 25,000 visitors make it the largest single event at the seaside resort. Pigeon fancier Norman Perry of Port Talbot won the title of Supreme Champion in the Winter Gardens, a venue better known for ballroom dancing.

Where there’s smoke there’s BBQ

By Randall Hill

Sweat pours down the face of Scott’s BBQ pit worker Willie Johnson as he uses a large mop to apply sauce on a rack of chickens cooking in the pit house. The smoke pouring from the sides and tops of the 10 pits in use that day hover over him like a white translucent blanket. The early morning light pierces through the blanket and forms contrasting shades of light that seem to bounce around the ceiling looking for a way to escape to the outside.

Johnson has been at the pit house all night, like he has done many times before, watching over the process of the 12-plus hours it takes to cook the BBQ at Scott’s. It’s very hard work to cook BBQ the traditional way they do at the Hemingway, South Carolina restaurant and pit house.

SLIDESHOW: THE LOST ART OF TRUE BBQ

Workers, mostly family members of owner Rodney Scott, have to gather and cut the large amount of hardwood needed for the process. The rear of the pit house contains a large supply of oak, hickory and pecan cut in large sections to be later split and burned.

A heavenly mission

By Lisi Niesner

The wooden gate was half open. I knocked on the door and entered. The room was sparsely lit. Everything in the unexpectedly small workshop was black or grey and the few things that had been colorful in past days were now soot-black. The smell of iron was dominant.

Blacksmith brothers Johann and Georg Schmidberger stood at their workplaces. They did not look up. Smith’s dirty hands rhythmically led down the hammer to a strike. The beats were powerful but with a gentle accuracy. This was a seriously cool scene.

The welcome was friendly but reserved and there was no introduction on how to behave in a blacksmith’s workshop where the iron is heated to 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,832 degrees Fahrenheit). There were no precautions at all. Carefully I stepped back and forth inside the workshop in order not to disturb. Hammers and tongs in all sizes were piled on each other next to plenty of pieces of metal in all conceivable shapes. Between all those tools and metal items, I absolutely could not even name, I felt like an intruder.

The secret handshake

By Larry Downing

To watch a “challenge coin” being passed from one person to another is to witness the equivalent of “the secret handshake.” Starting and ending as quickly as a bullet, the ritual is performed out in plain sight and almost always in the presence of others.

Most “civilians” remain clueless as to what they witnessed even though it happened right in front of them – seeing nothing more than a stone-faced soldier or Marine at attention quietly facing a commanding officer, politician, or at best a nation’s President, before reaching out firmly to shake hands.

And just like that the longstanding military tradition of giving away a “challenge coin” is over in the blink of an eye. A small, shiny medallion riding inside the palm of one hand and seamlessly ending up in the other; similar to the practice of slipping the folded $20 dollar bill to the maitre d’ on date night.

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