Photographers' Blog

Truth or Consequences – Spaceport

Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
By Lucy Nicholson

Spaceport America's Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space Building is seen near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Having just trundled past cattle and tumbleweed through the high desert red plains of southern New Mexico, Elizabeth Mixon stepped off a tour bus to face the future.

A tourist photographs Spaceport Operations Center at Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

She breathed in the dry air at the edge of Spaceport America and imagined the adventure of the first tourists destined to launch from the nearly quarter-billion-dollar facility.

“If you got up there, it would just be you and God,” she exclaimed with a smile on her face. “Wouldn’t that be cool?”

The main runway mission control is seen at Spaceport near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico May

Mixon won’t be along for the $250,000 ride. At 83 and legally blind, she is only here for the tour, one of the many dreamers exploring this dusty outpost where Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic plans to launch one of the world’s first suborbital commercial spaceships as early as this year.

A firetruck is parked outside Spaceport Operations Center at Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Spaceport America spokesman David Wilson envisions a launching off point for global travel, to build tourist resorts in space, colonize Mars and mine resources on other planets. He expects around 200,000 visitors to the spaceport each year, which was bankrolled by the state.

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.

Set free in the Mongolian wild

By Petr Josek

Bulgan airport in the southwest part of Mongolia reminds me of a small train station from the spaghetti western film “Once Upon a Time in the West.” It’s slow, hot and once a week people wait for an airplane with no more then 20 passengers on board to arrive.

The day of July 17, 2012, was different.

The Czech Army plane Casa brought on board four Przewalski mares. They are endangered animals with a sandy brown coat and faintly striped legs, extinct in their homeland since the early 1970s.

Now the animals were landing on a dirt tarmac after a 6,000 km (3,728 miles) flight from the Czech Republic. It was a challenge for the pilots, required extra airport staff and was an attraction for local residents. It’s hard to say if the customs officer was taking pictures for professional reasons or just for himself as a souvenir from the unusual event.

Escaping Toronto: The hassles of traveling with gear

By Jim Urquhart

As I attempted to leave Toronto I found I had to go into deep Canadian mode to make it possible.

Last week I spent several days meeting editors and visiting a friend in the city. I had looked forward to the trip but I never expected it to be such a mind melting, dignity crushing, blood letting experience to simply go home when it was all said and done. Through my work I get to travel my fair share. Over the last several years I have developed several habits that help me ensure my travels go as planned.

A major one is avoiding traveling by air as much as possible. Traveling by commercial aircraft you are limited by what camera gear you bring along. I never check in any of my gear with luggage. I have seen too many other photographers’ equipment get destroyed by doing so. Also, you are dependent on so many variables that can come into play like weather and aircraft maintenance. I prefer to drive if time allows but seeing as it 1,899.94 miles from my doorstep to Reuters’ Toronto offices I had to fly to return home.

On the road at Euro 2012

By Kai Pfaffenbach

As a news photographer working for Reuters in Germany it is quite normal to spend some time in your car. It is not unusual to drive between 3000-5000km per month. So I expected nothing different when coming to Poland for the Euro 2012 covering the soccer matches in Warsaw and Gdansk. During our tournament planning we agreed on traveling in a big van with our team of three photographers and one technician. That seemed a lot easier than spending more time getting all the equipment to an airport than actually flying.

Four times we had to hit the road towards Gdansk and back to Warsaw. About 360km one way shouldn’t last longer than 3 to 4 hours. “It’s about the ride from Frankfurt to Munich to cover some soccer at Allianz Arena. Entering the highway in Frankfurt and three hours later you take the exit in front of the stadium”, I thought to myself. As a matter of fact our trips were different and we experienced quite a few new things on our journey – everything in an absolutely positive way. Even though there’s not much of a highway to begin with, we had a lot to see. In retrospect we divided the trip in three parts.

Part 1: the strawberry and cherry alley – not one or two people were offering self-harvested fruits here, but dozens. They displayed the freshly picked fruits on the hood of their cars, sitting next to it under a sunshade waiting for customers. Of course we took the opportunity, made a good deal and used the strawberries for a refreshing milkshake after coming back. Some refreshment was needed as the drive on the country road is somewhat challenging as well. Some Polish drivers are very “creative” when using the space of only two lanes. It is nothing special if you face three cars driving towards you next to each other. Thank god that didn’t lead directly into the next part of our journey….

Part 2: the graveyard alley – maybe that sounds a bit strange but it was very striking how many graveyards we could see left and right from the streets. The special thing was the size of those graveyards. Using the country road for almost 120km we drove through villages having just two rows of houses left and right from the street but a graveyard double the size of the village. Talking about that during our first trips we decided to look around at two or three of them on our last trip back home from Gdansk.

The Road West from Kangding

If someone had asked me just a few days ago what the worst road I could imagine in the world would be like, I would have told them probably a mountain road with lots and lots of rocks and pot-holes. Well, little did I imagine that these elements would combine with two mountain passes of around 4000 metres, vertical drops off the sides of around 500 metres, snow, ice and to top it all off, local police telling you that you cannot get to where you want to go.
The area is Sichuan Province in south-western China. The town is Kangding, located around 400 kilometres west of the capital Chengdu. The road leads west, towards Tibet. I am trying to cover the story about the violence that has spread into the province following the rioting in the Tibetan capital Lhasa on March 14. In order to find out what is going on, myself and text journalist John Ruwitch needed to get to another town called Litang, some 400 kilometres west of Kangding, where there were reports of trouble last week.

On the bus

John Ruwitch and I in front of the local bus we got taken off by police.

So we got on a local bus at 6.30am, ready for an 8 hour trip. Well, before we even leave the terminal, we were asked to get off by two local policemen. ‘Where are you going?’. Well, since the bus had the name of the town written on the windscreen directly behind where John and I were standing, we pointed to it. ‘Why are you going?’. John explained very simply in his excellent Chinese ‘Because we hear it is very beautiful’. That seemed to be a good answer, and we were allowed to get back on.
The bus started off some three minutes after the scheduled departure time of 7a.m. due to our little chat with the local constabulary, and no more than one kilometre down the road, the bus was stopped again. Another two policeman got on the bus, and again we were asked to get off. ‘Where are u going?’ was the question once more. Same answer. ‘Why are you going?’ Same answer again. And to our surprise after a 20 minute delay this time, which the locals on the bus were not at all pleased about, we got back on the bus and once more started our journey.
The road started off just fine. Winding up the first mountain pass (this one was only 3800 metres-high) the snow from the previous night gave everything the look of being wrapped in a beautiful white blanket. And when the sun rose, the gorgeous morning light added a warm glow to an already pristine scene.
We got 100 kilometres from Kangding. All good.
150 kilometres, all good.
At 200 kilometres, a local official was at a toilet stop. He looked at the bus, but did not get onboard. On we went.
250 kilometres, we continued west.

Water closet

The water closet along the road, and trust me, you don’t want to go inside…