Photographers' Blog

All hail the Queen

By Suzanne Plunkett

When Queen Elizabeth II makes a public appearance there is usually a long list of protocol rules for those handling the visit, but this clearly doesn’t include what to do when hailstones start showering down.

The Queen was caught in a sudden hail storm on Wednesday while meeting the public in Richmond Park, southwest of London. Dark clouds overhead unleashed a torrent of ice on the 86-year-old monarch and a bitter wind tried to snatch away her umbrella.

The burst of wintry weather caught many people off guard. There were squeals from school children gathered for the event.

And around the Queen, officials hovered uneasily, unsure whether to breach rules on touching her as they ushered her to and from shelters.

But the Queen herself was unfazed. Despite being dressed for less inclement weather in an elegant powder blue dress and a white lavender and pale blue tweed coat, she kept her poise and gamely triumphed over the wind in the battle for control of her transparent umbrella.

The tornadoes March

By Harrison McClary

1,000 miles

March came roaring in with deadly storms leaving a trail of destruction across the mid-western states. I was covering a Rick Santorum campaign stop when picture editor Bob Strong called to ask if I could head over to Crossville, Tennessee to cover an area hit by the tornadoes the following morning.

I arrived on the scene to find the access road closed. I looked at my GPS and saw a small road that appeared to parallel the main road, so I turned on it and followed until trees blocked the road. I could easily see where the destroyed homes were, so I got out to walk. I climbed over, and crawled under fallen trees and foraged through the mountainous countryside until finally getting to the bottom of the valley. Once there I discovered the road was washed out.

Not long after getting back to my car they re-opened the main road and I headed into the damaged area, photographed the destruction and transmitted from my car.

Snow as high as houses

By Bogdan Cristel

When I was little, my grandfather told me about the winter of 1954, when the army had to shovel them out from under snow so high it covered their house completely. I didn’t believe the story at the time as it seemed like a fib, a fisherman’s tale.

Well, I recently realized my grandfather wasn’t exaggerating. I had never before seen snow that would cover an entire house until this February.

This month I’ve been to eerie white villages, where you would never know what you would find buried under the hills of snow: a house, store, garage, stables, or a tractor. I took photos from atop utility poles. Frustratingly, I couldn’t use many of the pictures because there was no benchmark beyond the ocean of snow, nothing that could frame the incredible reality I was witnessing.

Getting above the snow

By Dado Ruvic

I was ten years old when a heavy snowfall trapped Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2000, and forced its authorities to declare a state of emergency. I remember these as fun days – we didn’t have to go to school and we just enjoyed the snow. But the latest cold spell enveloping Europe has hit Bosnia hard, blocking its traffic, burying in snow and isolating villages, straining its creaking power infrastructure and most importantly taking many lives during the coldest weather in decades. I have only now realized that snow above one metre is no longer fun, when a 20 minute drive turns into three hours.
In the first few days there were many similar photos emerging on the wire, showing the iced-in towns and villages, people cleaning their yards the blocked traffic. I was also sending photos with the same content.

On the second day of covering this weather story, I realized I had to do something different. I wanted to show them things they had never seen before. I was trying to contact friends, colleagues and some old pals for two days before I realized I had no contacts left. I suddenly got hold of Boban Kusturica, the manager of the Serb Republic helicopter service. In my short career, I have never met a man holding such an important position being so down-to-earth, friendly and supportive.

At the start, I wanted to shoot from a helicopter to capture isolated villages in eastern Bosnia. I also wanted to make images of aid workers delivering food and medicine and evacuating sick people from the inaccessible villages. On Wednesday morning, I received a call from Boban telling me his helicopter would come to Sarajevo and pick me up. It seemed a bit surreal to me, as many people consider me young, inexperienced, and thus don’t always take me seriously. I arrived at Lukavica, near Sarajevo, where an improvised heliport was made on a small soccer stadium. Five minutes later a helicopter came to pick me up but we had to wait for some time to depart, because the weather was terrible and the airport dispatcher had not received the flight permission. After ten minutes of waiting, we were granted permission. Unfortunately, we were only approved for a half an hour flight. I could only take panoramic images of the snow-buried villages and we had to go back urgently.

Celebrating in the cold

By Petr Josek

It is the first week of February and all of Europe is squeezed in a deep cold. Everybody is tired from freezing temperatures and the forecast for upcoming days is not good. The photo wire is full of suffering homeless people, steaming chimneys, frozen water and so on.

Thinking of how to illustrate this winter differently I remembered that the traditional Shrove festival was taking place around this time. That Shrove site I decided to take pictures of is known for its Shrovetide masks and cultural traditions listed in UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

I came to the Czech village of Vesely Kopec early morning as temperatures were lower then 23 degrees Centigrade. Revellers accompanied by music started to parade, dance and sing through the village dressed in light costumes with white gloves on their hands. Trumpeters had to often stop their music due to their frozen instruments. And everybody needed a warming up drink.

Highway Kashmir

By Fayaz Kabli

As I started my journey from Srinagar to cover the aftermath of a heavy snowfall along the 300km (186 mile) Srinagar-Jammu highway, the early morning chill was bone biting. Though I had a heater in my hired taxi, it still could not cope with the outside cold but as we drove along, the heat started to pick up.

A recent heavy snowfall across the Kashmir region had snapped electricity transmission lines, telephone lines and internet services plunging the region into darkness and cutting it off from the rest of the world; compounding the misery of around seven million people who live in the valley. The mountainous Srinagar-Jammu highway, which connects Kashmir with the rest of India, remained shut for a fifth day on Tuesday after heavy snowfall.

As we approached Qazigund, the main town in south Kashmir, I could see long lines of stranded trucks on the left side of the road. Some drivers were busy trying to keep the engines and fuel tanks of their trucks warm with bonfires. Some tried to remove snow from around their trucks and others prepared late breakfasts inside empty trucks. Many told me about the problems they faced while being stranded and wanted me to highlight them in the media.

When December turns tragic

By Erik de Castro

December is normally a festive month in the Philippines with the Christmas season a big deal in this country of predominantly Roman Catholics. However, based on experience, heavy rains that can bring flash floods, landslides and lead to ferries sinking are also likely to happen during this period. For some Filipinos who have survived the worst kind of such disasters, December reminds them of the trauma they experienced.

Several villages in Cagayan de Oro City and Iligan City were caught flat-footed as they slept last Friday night when tropical storm Washi swept across Mindanao and Eastern Visayas, bringing strong winds and heavy rains that caused massive flooding, flash floods and landslides.

Early the next day, when a colleague told me that there were scores dead and hundreds still missing, I jumped from my bed, collected my disaster gear and asked for permission from Reuters to fly to the area. As soon as I got the approval, I rushed to the airport to get a flight. It was chaos at the airport as people were going home to the provinces for the holidays. The flight to Cagayan de Oro City was fully booked because flights were cancelled the previous day due to the storm. Many of the passengers were hoping they could finally get a flight, even more so after the disaster as they had to get home to check on their families. The names on the waiting list for stand-by passengers was already in the hundreds, with my name included. By luck, I was able to board one of the flights later in the afternoon.

Two typhoons. One tragedy.

By Cheryl Ravelo

Two years after the devastating typhoon Ketsana hit Manila on September 26, followed by Typhoon Parma a week later, I thought this year would just be to commemorate the tragedy of those twin typhoons whose magnitude of destruction was historic for this country. But, I never knew we would relive it again, and this time with much greater damage brought by Typhoons Nesat and Nalgae.

When I went out to cover Nesat, I said to myself it’s just another typhoon, got some pictures of school cancellations, knee-deep flooding and villagers pre-emptively evacuating with their families, belongings and pets.

But the situation seemed to be getting worse when Bobby started photographing the already flooded U.S. Embassy along Manila Bay, something that has never happened in recent history. Storm surges created waves as high as the coconut trees lining the seawall. An oil tanker ran aground, almost hitting hundreds of shanties along the coastline of south harbor.

Sizzling on the salt flats

By Jim Urquhart

As soon as I got out of my car and stepped onto the salt I could feel the skin on the end of my nose begin to sizzle. Within five minutes I cracked open my first water bottle and was relatively uncomfortable. By the time 15 minutes had past I was already questioning why in the hell did I choose to go on this three day assignment.

When the bright sun began blinding me after it was reflected off the salt under my sunglasses into my eyes and I could feel it begin to burn under my chin I became thankful I didn’t pay homage to the Scottish half of my ancestry and wear a kilt. In fact, within an hour of arriving I met a young couple that decided to tell me while waiting in a line the day before I arrived they had their nether regions sunburned because they didn’t have on the right underwear under their shorts to protect them from the reflected sun.

I had heard of this happening so I planned ahead. I did not pack shorts… or a skirt.

Retracing my steps in Pakistan

On August 7, 2010, with a camera in hand, I dropped into a flooded village on an army helicopter that was delivering food aid to marooned villagers. As a crewman slid the door open to find solid ground, I leaped out, took some photographs, and managed to get back on before the chopper departed.

Time stamps on the images show the hover-stop lasted less than the length of an average song. For those three minutes, my thoughts were focused on finding an image that would bring the Pakistan floods story to life.

After getting back to base, I worded the caption, “Marooned flood victims looking to escape grab the side bars of a hovering Army helicopter which arrived to distribute food supplies in the Muzaffargarh district of Pakistan’s Punjab province August 7, 2010.”