Photographers' Blog

Riding the Moscow metro

Moscow, Russia

By Lucy Nicholson

London has the world’s oldest underground rail system; Tokyo’s metro has employees to push people into packed trains; New York’s subway is an ethnic melting pot. Hidden beneath the streets of Moscow is something completely different. To step onto the Moscow metro is to step back in time and immerse yourself in a museum rich in architecture and history.

Opened in 1935, it is an extravagant gallery of Communist design, full of Soviet artworks, Art Deco styling, statues, chandeliers, marble columns and ceiling mosaics.

GALLERY: INSIDE THE METRO

Built under Stalin by some of the best Soviet artists and architects, the metro transports 7-9 million people a day, more than London and New York combined. It costs 30 Rubles, around $1, for a single ride. We were given metro passes with our credentials when we arrived to cover the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Moscow. On the first day, I caught the metro back to our hotel with a group of Reuters photographers, when we missed the last media bus.

We were wowed by the architecture, and continued to travel this way to photograph it, and the people riding it: couples kissing, drunks taking late trains home, average commuters doing their best to avoid eye contact.

The trains were incredibly noisy, and it was difficult to hold a conversation while in a carriage. But they were also incredibly prompt. If we missed a train, rarely did we have to wait more than a minute for another to arrive. It was best to rush onto a train when it first pulled into the station, to avoid the moment when the driver closes the doors on stragglers. I only made this mistake once, the heavy doors bouncing off my forearms, before aggressively snapping shut.

Kiev’s workout paradise

Kiev, Ukraine

By Gleb Garanich

Let me introduce you to the famous open-air “Sweat Gym” composed of around 200 work-out machines assembled from scrap iron to train all muscles. It is laid out on an island in the Dnieper river off Kiev.

I am not a sports fan, only learning about this place by accident. I thought it could make an interesting story and so I went to take pictures of the “Sweat Gym”. I was so struck by the uncanny scene that unfolded in front of me, that for the first half an hour I slowly roamed and looked around as if examining rare exhibits in a museum. Unknown gear, machines, intricate contraptions, old chains, wheels and tires, parts of caterpillar tracks and simple chunks of rusty metal – with humans swarming amid it all.

Even after spending three days there, I still did not have a clear idea of how some of the work-out gear worked and what some others were for. Supported by enthusiasts, this “workout paradise” appeared in the 1970s when the Soviet Union existed and has survived through the hard times that followed its collapse. Indeed, what comes to mind when you look at all this is an old newsreel featuring the Soviet-era industrialization drive – all these giant pieces of equipment and details cast in rough iron and tiny humans, completing the picture as small screws. Here, there are both professional sportsmen and amateurs, youths and pensioners and parents with children.

Stopover in Mexico: The train to dreams

By Edgard Garrido

What really happens when a man, or a woman, or even a child, abandons their home motivated by the idea of a better life? How do they imagine it? What do they wish for, what are they missing?

There is violence, overcrowded neighborhoods and gigantic infrastructure on the outskirts of Mexico City but there are also hundreds of thousands of people who walk day and night; different people every day and every night for weeks and months next to the train tracks, trying to jump on a train car filled with merchandise as the train passes. Fear is engraved in their faces and makes their feet heavy. Solitude, hunger, the cold and above all a painful uncertainty, are carried with them. They left behind their homes in a land without miracles and few joys, like the last of the deserts.

In Huehuetoca, 67 km (41 miles) from Mexico City:

Edgard: (photographer) “Hi, what’s your name? Where are you from?”
Carlos: (migrant) “Hi, I’m from Honduras, and you?”
Edgard: “From Chile”
Carlos: “From Chile! How are you Alexis (a reference to Chilean soccer player Alexis Sanchez), have you been to Honduras?”
Edgard: “Yes, I lived in Honduras for several years”
Carlos: “And you’re not afraid of migrants?”
Edgard: “No, why should I?”
Carlos: “Because people say we are thieves and gang members. That we rape girls and that we only do damage.”
Edgard: “But not all of them. From what part of Honduras are you?”
Carlos: “From Tegus… (the capital Tegucigalpa)”
Edgard: “What neighborhood?”
Carlos: “Did you get to know Little Hell?”
Edgard: “Behind the Basilica, going down the staircase. Are you a member of a gang?”
Carlos: “You’re definitely not afraid of migrants! You wanna have a beer?”
Edgard: “How far are you traveling?”
Carlos: “Well, up north, to Uncle Sam (laughs). I’ve been there and they have deported me nine times, but here I go again. I know the tracks like no one else. Come on, let’s have a beer.”

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures 3 October, 2010

At the beginning of the week I had my doubts that we would actually see pictures from two major events taking place in Asia; North Korea's ruling Workers' Party conference, the biggest held for 30 years intended to push ahead the succession process for Kim Jong-il's son Kim Jong-Un and the opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. As it turned out, the pictures from both fronted publications around the world.

KOREA-NORTH/

Kim Jong-un (8th L, seated), the youngest son of North Korea's leader Kim Jong-il (C), poses with the newly elected members of the central leadership body of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) and the participants in the WPK Conference, at the plaza of the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang in this picture released by the North's KCNA news agency September 30, 2010. North Korean state media released a photograph on Thursday of the reclusive state's leader-in-waiting Kim Jong-un. North Korean leader Kim Jong-il anointed his youngest son as successor this week, promoting him to senior political and military positions. REUTERS/KCNA

The pictures we received from KCNA, the official North Korean news agency, are truly historic in the visual tradition of  announcements by the communist state - a very wide group picture including everything . It is the cropping of these images that reveal their true value. Sometimes I am asked what pixel quality do we need for news pictures - the answer is simple - if the picture is important enough it doesn't matter what the quality is, it will get used.  The two pictures below are cropped from the group portrait.

On the roof of a train, picking up speed

Every year, millions of residents in Dhaka travel to their hometown from the Bangladeshi capital to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Thousands use public transportation. I was determined to travel with them to experience this hectic mode of transport.  I went to a local train station opposite the national airport in Dhaka on September 20, the last day before Eid.

I reached the station early in the morning and found thousands of people waiting on the platform. There were trains arriving but they were fully packed with people. There was not even space on the rooftop of the trains. In spite of this, people were crawling on top and inside the carriages like ants, sometimes even fighting with each other.  Twice I failed to get onto the train. Finally, I managed to get on with the help of a young woman. The woman struggled to get on the train with her 4-year old child. I was just behind her, and as soon as she got on she pulled me up.

While sitting amongst the crowd, I started taking pictures with my 5D camera and a 16-35mm lens. After a few shots I tried using a slow shutter speed, but as the train was jerking it was difficult to capture a sharp frame. Then I tried different shutter speeds, changing the f-stops from 11 to 22. Suddenly, I spotted a woman in the middle of the two carriages. At first I framed the shot with the woman at the top. I managed to maneuver my way among the crowd and lay down to keep my hand steady. I composed the picture with the men’s feet and played with changing the f-stop and shutter speed on alternative exposures. I kept my ISO at 100 as I knew that a fast ISO would not achieve the blurred effect. The f-stop was narrow as I tried using slow shutter speeds. I was getting a huge depth-of-field to keep my subject in focus. I shot several exposures on different f-stops from 1/4 to 1/60. The train was jerking so much that half of my shots were blurred. I was continuously trying to find the right shutter speed on the right moment.  Finally I found it. A shutter speed of 1/6 at f/16 was the best among the few perfect exposures.

  • Editors & Key Contributors