Photographers' Blog

Digging out from Boston’s blizzard

Boston, Massachusetts

By Brian Snyder

It might not be news that it snows in New England in winter. But the recent snow storm (there seems to be some debate as to whether it met the criteria to be called a blizzard) certainly brought a lot of snow to Boston. Enough so that Governor Patrick banned all driving for the duration of the storm (with exceptions, including for the news media). That’s one way to say that this storm exceeded what’s considered “normal” around here.

I went out around noon on Friday as the snow was just beginning to fall in Boston. The magnitude of the storm had been forecasted for days. With the threat of potentially record-breaking snow fall amounts, the subway system was scheduled to shut down at 3:30pm and a statewide driving ban was announced for 4pm. The wind was already strong — the snow blown sideways stung your face. People seemed intent on just getting home. Pretty early on I made this image:

which proved to be what many newspapers used the next day to lead their coverage of the storm.

The subway did shut down:

And by evening the city was very empty of cars and people:

It snowed all night, and after digging out my own car early Saturday morning, I went back out. Plows could not keep up with the rate of the snow fall, nor the amount of snow being blown around. All of the roads had snow on them and driving was slow.

But it also seemed the mood had shifted. No longer worried about getting home without being stranded (and with no cars allowed to park on the main roads and the driving ban still in effect), the streets of the Back Bay and Beacon Hill were full of people. Some were already digging out businesses, sidewalks and cars, but most just seemed curious about what had happened overnight.

Fire and ice

Chicago, Illinois

By John Gress

UPDATE: January 24th

You never know how the assignment is going to go when you decide to put on the same clothes you had on the day before. Why? Because they smell like smoke!

I made a return trek to the ice castle today, an abandoned warehouse which has been burning for three days. Quite surprising considering most of the building has collapsed and is covered in inches of ice.

While covering the blaze today, I photographed firefighter Michael De Jesus covered in icicles. When he told me his name I asked, “Do you know Charley?”

A place that even the rain has abandoned

Across the drought-stricken states of Brazil

By Lunae Parracho

As white dust follows your car along dirt roads that cut through a maze of dry arteries while the burning sun dries out your skin, you realize that the wilderness is all around you.

A meek, skinny cow stares intently at everyone passing by, as if some stranger might bring it water or food. Starving goats roam here and there, chewing on dry twigs and looking for something to drink.

After losing my way and walking for an hour or two between dry twigs and spiny cactus, I run into Hildefonso standing in front of his house. Time has also got lost in this wilderness and the farmer spends his days waiting for the rain to come. He has already waited two years in vain.

The flood and the pub

Tewkesbury, southwestern England

By Andrew Winning

On a dull Monday morning in London, my assignment desk rescued me from a dreary assignment to travel to Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire to cover the effects of the second of two consecutive weather systems that brought flooding misery to many parts of southwestern England.

I arrived with about an hour of daylight left to work with and inquired if there was any flooding. Some helpful local people pointed me towards the White Bear pub, on the northern side of the town. As I arrived I found David Boazman, and his brothers Michael and Richard, pumping flood water out of his bar. They kindly invited me in, through the window, to have a look.

Tewkesbury sits on a floodplain at the confluence of the Severn and Avon rivers and is no stranger to flooding. David explained that since his pub was completely inundated in 2007, he had all his electrical plugs reinstalled a meter and a half (5 feet) up the wall, and he has an ingenious system of piling up the bar furniture to avoid it being ruined by the water.

Staten Island’s stories of Sandy

Staten Island, New York

By Mike Segar

As New York braced for the arrival of Hurricane Sandy three weeks ago, I was in California for a long-planned personal event. But I wasn’t about to miss what was shaping up to be a major story. I was determined to get back. I found a united flight to Detroit, Michigan, that was still listed as “on-time.” How far a drive would that be to New York? 10 hours? Through a hurricane?… I’ll take it, I thought. Seven hours later I was on the ground in Michigan driving through the night towards New York as winds howled and Sandy was coming ashore. I made it back to a region knocked to its knees by this storm.

The next seven days were a blur of finding and photographing those worst hit by the storm and hunting for gas for vehicles to keep going (not to mention returning home to a house without power, heat or hot water and without my wife and children who had evacuated to Massachusetts). Together Reuters photographers Lucas Jackson, Shannon Stapleton, Brendan McDermid, Keith Bedford, Adrees Latif, Andrew Kelly, Tom Mihalek, Carlo Alegri, Steve Nesius, Chip East, Adam Hunger and myself covered the immediate aftermath of Sandy in countless locations. We documented places and people affected by this massive natural disaster, one of the most destructive ever to hit the Northeast U.S. Our team made amazing pictures throughout and our collective photographic documentation of this disaster speaks for itself.

GALLERY: A STORM NAMED SANDY

I found myself mostly covering the particularly hard hit borough of Staten Island where at least 23 people died. Many Staten Islanders say they live in New York City’s “forgotten borough.” On Staten Island’s south shore there are several long low-lying communities of mostly working class New Yorkers, many with civil service jobs. With a mixture of ethnic backgrounds of long-time residents and recent immigrants, this area consists of mostly beach bungalow style homes. The homes are mostly single story and packed closely together near the shore that stretches for about six miles and faces the Atlantic Ocean.

Stormy skies over dry land

By Jeff Tuttle

As a journalist I try to approach each assignment with an open mind as to what I might see and hear to help tell that particular story with my camera.

I am a native Kansan, so I know my state very well and when Reuters approached me about shooting the current drought I jumped at the chance and accepted the assignment. Knowing that the two wetlands in central Kansas were almost dry I figured that would be the best place to start.

GALLERY: LIFE IN DROUGHT TIMES

Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area, one of the two wetlands that I wanted to photograph, was our first destination (my son, 17-year-old Zach, went with me on the shoot). As we drove west we stopped and photographed some damaged crops in Harvey County and then again in Barton County. There was plenty of sunshine when we started, but storm colds were approaching fast to the west, the direction we were headed. Great, no rain for a month and here I was shooting a drought story and it was going to rain!

Caught with Obama in a downpour

By Jason Reed

It happens about once a year. If he had waited two more minutes the pictures would not have happened but Mother Nature had other ideas. It was time for a good old soaking at an event featuring President Barack Obama.

The forecast had called for hot and humid conditions on the second day of a two-day campaign swing through Virginia, where the first ominous signs were the crash of thunder in the distance as Obama stopped at a roadside vegetable stand to pick up a crate of tomatoes for the family. On the way to the outdoor campaign rally in Glen Allen, lightning flashed in front of the motorcade. We arrived at the venue with heavy, ominous clouds and some light sprinkles that we all hoped would quickly subside. No one except the Secret Service were carrying rain jackets (they must have all been boy scouts – “Be prepared”). Not even the President was prepared to deal with the next half hour.

With the press gathered in front of the stage in our cotton short sleeve shirts, the light sprinkle, which had been just a small nuisance, quickly turned into a full deluge that would be familiar to anyone who has ever lived in monsoon-prone regions of southeast Asia. (Stand under a bathroom shower fully clothed and turn the water pressure to maximum. You get the drift.) Now grab about $20,000 worth of camera gear and start taking pictures.

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.

A wet heat

By Larry Downing

The weather forecast this week calls for cooler air to breeze across Washington DC, giving everyone relief from last week’s sweltering heat which successfully baked the nation’s capital with high temperatures while blanketing unfortunate tourists with endless drops of their own sweat.

It will be a needed break from the hot beginnings of July which have already impacted this year’s summer vacations by forcing hundreds of families to camp out downstairs on the cooler floors of the basement after a ruthless storm knocked out power lines across the region leaving thousands in the dark for days, and for nights, adding to the tension.

Escape from the sun came as small victories for those melting out in the warm air. The refreshing geysers of a park’s water fountain turned magnetic for excited children suddenly enjoying life again while neighborhood swimming pools quickly became an urban oasis.

Waist deep in Tropical Storm Debby

By Brian Blanco

It’s an awkward feeling walking through someone’s home while photographing their children sloshing through rising floodwater in the living room. It is, I can assure you, another feeling entirely when that same homeowner yells down from the second floor, “It could be worse, at least we still have power” as I look over to see the electrical outlets mere seconds away from being submerged. These are the moments that help to remind me that there are dangers involved in covering just about any natural disaster and that it’s important not to be complacent just because a named storm may “only” be a tropical storm, as was the case with Tropical Storm Debby.

SLIDESHOW: DEBBY SLAMS FLORIDA

As a Florida-based photojournalist I’ve covered more named storms than I can recall, ranging from those forgettable storms that, thankfully, produced little more than twigs in the street, to the now infamous Hurricane Katrina. I’ll admit that I was initially guilty of underestimating this storm. After getting the call from Reuters to cover Tropical Storm Debby, I was packing my car when my wife popped into the garage to tell me to be careful and I scoffed and said, “Oh Honey it’s “just” a tropical storm. I’ll go make some rain features and be back in a couple of days.” As it turns out, I was wrong, this storm caused more damage from flooding and tornadoes than I’ve ever seen a tropical storm cause. It ended up touching a lot of lives and, in meeting those affected, touched my life as well.

Logistically speaking, covering Debby was easy. There were no wide-spread power outages, no fuel shortages, no lack of hotel rooms, cell service remained uninterrupted and most businesses and restaurants remained open. All of this meant that I, thankfully, didn’t have to turn my car into a rolling Molotov cocktail with fuel tanks. I didn’t have to transmit photos via an expensive and complicated BGAN (sat phone) and, most importantly, I didn’t have to sleep in my car.