Photographers' Blog

Amid fires the air is thick with prayers

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, wearing headphones, sits in the cockpit of a firefighting plane in Ryazan region August 10, 2010.   REUTERS/Ria Novosti/Pool/Alexei Nikolsky

The Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin occupied the nation’s TV screens while reports of his bravado in fighting forest wildfires littered the media. The rest of the country were dead on their feet, choking with smoke as they fought the disaster.

Residents attempt to extinguish a fire near the village of Polyaki-Maydan in Ryazan region, some 380 km (236 miles) southeast of Moscow, August 9, 2010.  REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov

Unable to depend upon Putin, government authority or new luxury equipment for assistance, locals grew weary as they defended their houses using an arsenal of tractors, farm equipment and shovels.

A man drinks water as he tries to extinguish a forest fire near the village of Polyaki-Maydan in Ryazan region, some 380 km (236 miles) southeast of Moscow, August 9, 2010.   REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov

Some relied on their prayers.

A priest blessed firefighters in the village of Berestyanka before they continued on. Local residents conducted religious services asking God for rain to prevent new wildfires like the one that partially destroyed the village of Kriusha on August 5.

Local residents walk amidst heavy smog in the village of Kriusha, affected by wildfires, some 250 km (155 miles) southeast of the capital in the Ryazan region, August 7, 2010.  REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov

About one hundred people, mostly elderly women, knelt asking God to forgive their sins. They then followed an Orthodox priest during a procession through the village.

A priest and women take part in a religious procession, asking God for rains to prevent new wildfire outbursts, in the village of Kriusha, shrouded in heavy smog, some 250 km (155 miles) southeast of the capital in Ryazan region, August 7, 2010.  REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov

As they walked, the procession appeared to dissolve into heavy white smog, which had shrouded the settlement. Only their prayers were heard. These words drifted out from behind the screen of smoke “You, God Almighty, ask for our houses, people living there and property inside: bless, sanctify with a holy cross, save us from fire.”

Behind the scenes: Winter Olympics

The 2010 Olympics in Vancouver presented some rarely seen challenges for Reuters photographers on assignment at the winter games.

Rain! Rain! And more rain!

Photographer Mark Blinch waits to shoot Olympic action. REUTERS/Andre Forget/QMI agency

Cypress Mountain, the home of snowboarding and freestyle skiing was quite possibly the worst Olympic venue of all time. Photographers were confronted with rain, fog and constantly shifting photo positions. As the snow melted positions became useless and had to be changed. Communications failed in the wet and the organizers moved snow from the finish area to other parts of the course to keep the events moving. Despite the trying conditions some wonderful pictures were made. Highlights included Alexandre Bilodeau, winning Canada’s first ever gold medal on home soil and the dazzling Shaun White in the halfpipe.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…?

Snow. Looks good on those Christmas cards, doesn’t it? Fun for small children. Even nice for penguins in the zoo. But photographers covering soccer? Brrrrrrrrrr. Not really.

Let’s get one thing straight. We Brits go on about the weather like a stuck record, but when it comes to it, we can’t cope with it. That’s why we live in Britain.

We whinge when the mercury drops to -3 (26 degrees Fahrenheit). A colleague of mine in Canada will point out that’s not cold. Cold, proper cold, can’t feel your fingers, just walked into a fridge cold, is -25 (-13 degrees Fahrenheit).

St Patrick’s Hill

London-based Swiss photographer Stefan Wermuth recalls his battle against the Irish rain….and a hill:


Before I left London to cover the three-day cycle race TOUR OF IRELAND I got some last minute advice from colleagues in the office – “It’s wet there!” they told me, “take wet weather gear.”  I thought it can’t be wetter than London can it?  -  but I was very wrong.

 After checking in to my hotel near Dublin I met up with some local photographers for dinner where I first heard the name of St. Patrick’s Hill in Cork. Stories were told of its 23% gradient, cyclists giving up with spinning tyres, and it being an unbelievably steep climb in the middle of Cork.

Covering a dust storm: Top 10 tips

Last Wednesday Sydney experienced a dust storm, the likes of which have not been seen since before World War II.

Weird weather doesn’t always give much of a warning so to get the pictures you want you have to be prepared. Follow these 10 easy tips and you can’t go wrong.


Crashed ice: A woman’s sport

At the beginning of January, staff at Reuters and I had a discussion about creating a multimedia piece on the Red Bull Crashed Ice race, an event where competitors have to skate down an urban ice course in the middle of Old Quebec. After some discussion, the idea of doing a multimedia piece on the introduction of the woman’s category at the event was suggested, which I thought was a great idea.

On race day, the temperature was slightly below -30 Celsius in Quebec City, which is not unusual for that time of the year. One of my colleagues had the grease in his lens’ zoom barrel freeze during the race, so I had to be careful and keep my cameras, voice recorder and video camera warm.

It was my first time shooting pictures, videos and collecting audio to do a multimedia piece. My plan of attack was to shoot my pictures first and then film the videos. It’s always a good thing to have a plan when you’re out of your comfort zone. When I felt confident I had good pictures for the wire, I decided to switch to my video camera to shoot short video clips. This event was well suited for pictures and videos since there was more than thirty heats of four competitors. As always, if you’re filming video and something important happens, you will not be able to get the still image that the other agencies might have. I think photographers have to be careful not to spend too much time shooting video and concentrate on their primary job — taking pictures. Fortunately for me, nothing happened while I was capturing my video clips.

Snowed under

So what do you do when the TV and radio news are all telling you not to travel, and then you receive a group SMS from your company saying stay at home?

Well it’s the worse snow storm to hit London in 18 years and all you want to do is get out there and shoot it.

I get to my car and as I am wiping the snow off it I look up at the window and see my kids looking at more snow than they have seen in their lives. I watch their little faces light up as it dawns on them that all this snow means only one thing — NO SCHOOL. Now let’s face it, that’s just about as good as it gets.

Riding with Obama

Reuters Washington staff photographer Jason Reed is traveling with the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama through election day.

The hardships that fervent supporters of political candidates go through to catch a glimpse of their man in public are sometimes amazing. In blustery rain, bordering on freezing sleet in the Pennsylvania college town of Chester, thousands gathered from the dawn hours to score a prime position in the front row of an outdoor rally with Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama at Widener University. The conditions were so poor that in a gesture of compassion, Obama brought the event forward by about an hour so that the poor soaked and freezing souls could shorten their waiting time to hear his stump speech.




To protect our cameras from the conditions, a couple of plastic hotel laundry bags and some duct tape were employed as makeshift rain covers for our gear. Even though I go into covering all the events as if they were my last, I remember that no picture is worth a drowned camera which no longer functions! Without working equipment,  a photographer is relegated to being just a spectator to history.

Hurricane Gustav gets personal

August 29, 2008 was a strange day. As I covered commemorations for the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the tension in the air was palpable. Hurricane Gustav was coming and decisions had to be made. Do we stay or do we go? I was staying.

In 2005, Reuters assigned me to cover Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath. After seeing first hand the scope of the storm’s devastation, I decided to move back to New Orleans. I then began to focus my work completely on documenting the city’s recovery. In the months following Katrina, there was a pioneering spirit among the few living in the city, and I became personally involved in the story. Last year, I bought a home here.

As Gustav approached, I knew I couldn’t stand to be outside New Orleans as this new chapter was unfolding. By Saturday, officials were making dire predictions about the probable impact on the city, and I got a little worried. After shooting pictures of resident evacuating early Sunday, I spent the afternoon securing my house and belongings. Although I live in the Bywater, an area that did not flood in Katrina, I needed to take a few precautions. I put my desktop computer, external drives and other valuables on the highest shelves in my house. I planned to work completely out of my rental car, with a laptop, inverter and portable batteries. I placed my duplicate drives (which should have been shipped to a safe city) into an ice chest and brought them to the Chimes Bed and Breakfast in Uptown, where most of Reuters’ staff was housed. They have three stories and didn’t flood in Katrina either. I stayed for dinner, went home and slept easier after hearing Gustav’s punch was weakening. I was awoken by storm gusts and my power was out.

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