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Mass Marriages in Northern India

by Harish Tyagi

A close up of the decorated hands with traditional Indian Bengals of the brides from the Pal Community of northern India prior to a mass weeding procession near Bhopal, India, 20 April 2016. epa/Harish Tyagi

A close up of decorated hands with traditional Indian Bengals of brides from the Pal Community of northern India prior to a mass-wedding procession near Bhopal, India, 20 April 2016. epa/Harish Tyagi

I always like to approach a feature story by selecting a subject which carries myriad emotions and aesthetics everyone can relate to – a subject that appeals to many people, no matter what nationality. So when I was in Bhopal for a short trip and came to know about the mass marriages in the Pal Community of northern India, I almost spontaneously decided to photograph the event. The Pal community once used to rear sheep and cattle – hence their name from the Hindi word “palna” which means ‘to nurture’ – but now follow various professions with only some still engaged in animal husbandry.

Over the course of the years, I had heard a lot about mass marriages in different sections of the Indian society. I had often wondered how a couple would feel about sharing such an intimate and personal moment in their lives along with so many other couples – and under full public glare.
Many of these couples do not know each other that well as a majority are arranged weddings, solemnized in accordance with Hindu customs. Parents from both sides are in touch while making the pairing final, in some cases also allowing the couple to meet once or twice. But when you speak to these couples, they are confident and clear in their minds about spending the rest of their lives with their partners. They say they feel blessed to be part of a mass wedding and they get good vibes about the ceremony.

An Indian groom from the Pal Community of northern India, wearing a garland made of Indian currency, waits for his wife to arrive during a mass marriage party near Bhopal, India, 20 April 2016. epa/Harish Tyagi

An Indian groom wearing a garland made of Indian currency, waits for his bride to arrive in Bhopal, India, 20 April 2016. epa/Harish Tyagi

It is always challenging for me to capture the moods that tell the story and when I was working on this feature, I wanted to keep a balance showing the emotions in both the brides and the grooms. However, I must say there was more opportunity in the grooms’ enclosures than in the brides’ as the latter were very shy and surrounded by their family members.

The atmosphere was just great – the anticipation and excitement among such a mass of newly weds, all so palpable. In the separate enclosures for the grooms and brides, everyone was in a festive mood, wearing smiles, and in nervous excitement getting finishing touches to their wedding finery – henna on their hands, a bit of make-up for the women and the men mindful of the little creases on their otherwise well-ironed suits.

An Indian groom shows his hand decorated with the Hena as he takes part in the mass marriage celebration near Bhopal, India, 20 April 2016. epa/Harish Tyagi

An Indian groom showing his hand decorated with Henna near Bhopal, India, 20 April 2016. epa/Harish Tyagi

An Indian groom, from the Pal Community of northern India, gets ready for the wedding rituals as he takes part in the mass marriage celebration near Bhopal, India, 20 April 2016. epa/Harish Tyagi

An Indian groom gets ready for the wedding rituals near Bhopal, India, 20 April 2016. epa/Harish Tyagi

When I saw grooms getting painted on their face I asked them how it felt. They said it was part of their customs to have a little make-up and that this would make them look like a groom. In most cases the make-up is done by the sister, a close family member or even by a professional.
It was interesting to see how locals use all conceivable modes of transport – cycles, cars, tractors, even commercial trucks – to reach the venue and the wedding procession.  It was an experience to see the brides board open-top trucks and grooms ride on camels, often three at a time, if needed. I suspect they were short of camels which is the reason why the grooms ended up sharing.

Indian relatives from the maried couples take part in a procession to celebrate a mass marriage near Bhopal, India, 20 April 2016. epa/Harish Tyagi

Indian relatives take part in a procession to celebrate a mass marriage near Bhopal, India, 20 April 2016. epa/Harish Tyagi

Indian grooms, from the Pal Community of northern India, sit on camels during the mass marriage procession near Bhopal, India, 20 April 2016. epa/Harish Tyagi

Indian grooms sit on camels during the mass marriage procession near Bhopal, India, 20 April 2016. epa/Harish Tyagi

The wedding procession was full of pomp and show. Musicians played traditional instruments and relatives danced to drumbeats amid fireworks as the procession moved to the venue where the wedding rituals took place. Happy relatives and friends also dragged me to join the dance on a Bollywood number in a discotheque set up on a moving mini-truck, and soon enough, amid the cheering crowds, I was up to displaying my dancing skills on the vehicle that sped to the venue.

Indian relatives from the groom side dance as they take part in the celebration of a mass marriage procession near Bhopal, India,20 April 2016. epa/Harish Tyagi

Indian relatives from the groom’s side dance in a mass marriage procession near Bhopal, India,20 April 2016. epa/Harish Tyagi

The ceremony continued overnight and well into the wee hours of the next day. The wedding finale is a crescendo of emotions – the huge gathering has an amalgam of happiness and an unmistakable tinge of sadness. Elders and family members get to bid a tearful adieu to the women as they move to the groom’s home forever. After the fun and merriment and an emotional farewell, the mass wedding marks an exuberant beginning to a new life together, at a fraction of what a conventional wedding would have cost.

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Remote gold

by Shawn Thew

boateng_small2

German defender Jerome Boateng clears the ball from the line and hits the camera during the UEFA EURO 2016 group C preliminary round match between Germany and Ukraine at Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille Metropole, France, 12 June 2016. epa/Shawn Thew

Setting up a remote camera is always a gamble. For EURO 2016 match 07 between Germany and Ukraine at Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille Metropole, France I was on the pitch three hours before kickoff claiming a spot behind the goal for my camera. About 1 ½ hours before the game I was mounting the Canon 1DX with a 16-35 mm lens to the tripod, setting the exposure and focus, attaching the network cable, attaching the remote foot pedal release cable and, as the skies were threatening, fixing the rain cover over the top. Next up I ran the remote release cable back to my photo position about 100 feet away and ask for a colleague to give me the thumbs up that the camera is firing when I push the foot pedal. I get the thumbs up that the camera is working and receive word from the photo desk that pictures are being transmitted. I’m good to go, game time.

I shoot the game action primarily with a 200-400 mm lens on a Canon 1DX and a 70-200 on another Canon 1DX, both with network cables to transmit my selects to the picture desk in Frankfurt. The game was exciting, Germany scored an early goal at the other end but Ukraine was fighting back hard and putting pressure on the Germans in front of their goal. I was shooting and sending pictures and then a thought popped into my head…remote camera, foot pedal! It’s not equipment that I normally use and I’d forgotten about it. Now, foot on pedal, I’m shooting pictures with the remote. There is always, because you cannot see it, a doubt…is this working?

There was a lot action in front of the German goal as the Ukrainians tried to even the score. With a flying kick German defender Jerome Boateng cleared the line when goal keeper Manuel Neuer was caught out of position as the Ukrainian team thought they had scored. The crowd of about 50,000 went wild! I was shooting hand held and pushing the foot pedal like I was Michael Schumacher in his beloved Ferrari. There is always, because you cannot see it, a doubt…is this working? I send an email to the desk, “Anything showing up in the remote folder?”

At halftime I walked out to check my remote camera and to my disappointment it had somehow been knocked over. It happened in the pregame warmups and I had repositioned it and now it had happened again and I didn’t see. All the preparation gone to waste. I set it back up and thumbed on the monitor to have a look at the images. Roof, roof, roof, roof…about 100 pictures of the stadium roof and then, to my surprise, remote gold. A series of about 30 pictures of Boateng clearing the line, flying through the air into the back of the goal, sliding backwards and in the end knocking my camera over. Remote gold! I look at my phone and there was a reply from Gernot* to my inquiry, “Yes my dear!! Picture of the week. Boateng falling into the goal.”

Sometimes you get lucky.

Shawn Thew is epa’s Chief White House Photographer, based in Washington D.C., USA.
*Gernot Hensel, epa’s Head of Sports and Deputy Editor-in-Chief

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mobile phone culture in Thailand

by Rungroj Yongrit and Diego Azubel*

Thai Buddhist monks use their mobile phones to take videos during the candle procession parade to mark the start of the Buddhist Lent in Surin province, northeast Thailand, 29 July 2015. epa / Rungroj Yongrit

Thai Buddhist monks use their mobile phones to take videos during the candle procession parade to mark the start of the Buddhist Lent in Surin province, northeast Thailand, 29 July 2015. epa / Rungroj Yongrit

Rungroj Yongrit: Each day whenever I’m commuting around town it seems that all I see is people staring at their mobile phones. On one particular day while traveling on public transport, I looked around me and noticed that all other passengers standing next to me were on their phones, and I felt like a nobody. It crossed my mind that no matter what I did, even if I behaved in a strange manner or did something absolutely crazy, nobody would really notice me. No one would even move their heads to look at me.

Thai commuters use their mobile phones while riding the underground in Bangkok, Thailand, 08 July 2015. epa/Diego Azubel

Thai commuters use their mobile phones while riding the underground in Bangkok, Thailand, 08 July 2015. epa/Diego Azubel

Not long after this, I met up with Diego [Diego Azubel] and funnily enough he told me he was working on a picture story about people’s addiction to mobile phones and suggested we did it together, which we did.

A Thai man (C) uses his mobile phone beneath a large portrait of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej on the skytrain platform, a mass public transportation in Bangkok, Thailand, 07 January 2016. epa/Diego Azubel

A Thai man (C) uses his mobile phone beneath a large portrait of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej on the skytrain platform, a mass public transportation in Bangkok, Thailand, 07 January 2016. epa/Diego Azubel

Diego Azubel: Even though we find ourselves surrounded by fellow commuters immersed in their mobile phones or tablets on every single journey, we soon realized that shooting this story wasn’t as easy as we had imagined. It seems very straight-forward when one travels and all there is to see are people staring down at a small screen. But as soon as we lifted our big cameras and looked through the viewfinder, one or more commuters in the frame reacted to it and the perfect picture came out like an average shot. We both agreed that the main problem was the size of our cameras, big DSLRs that tend to have an intimidating effect on most subjects. If we had used small cameras we would have been able to get much better images for this particular story.

Thai commuters use their mobile phones while riding the underground in Bangkok, Thailand, 08 July 2015. epa/Diego Azubel

Thai commuters use their mobile phones while riding the underground in Bangkok, Thailand, 08 July 2015. epa/Diego Azubel

To make our story as comprehensive as possible, we researched everything from mobile phone usage statistics to new illnesses derived from mobile phone usage all the way to accidents or even death caused by people not paying attention to the world outside their screens. We tried to visually capture as many angles as possible to illustrate all of these aspects, and for this we needed to take our time. We would make countless train journeys photographing commuters, stand for hours at busy intersections shooting motorcycle passengers and even drivers using their phones, take pictures of pedestrians crossing major roads while typing messages, sit at restaurant tables trying to catch couples appearing more interested to chat with their online friends than the person they were having a date with… And when we took a step back to observe and document it all we realized it was much worse than we had initially felt it to be. At any given moment, there are more people using their phones inside a train than those who aren’t. Almost at any restaurant table there will be a phone sitting next to the diner’s plate or worse yet, there will be someone checking for new messages.

Foreigners and Thais use their mobile phones on escalator displaying smartphone device advertisement at a shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand, 25 September 2015. epa/Rungroj Yongrit

Foreigners and Thais use their mobile phones on escalator displaying smartphone device advertisement at a shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand, 25 September 2015. epa/Rungroj Yongrit

Rungroj Yongrit: Not so long ago, I read a Thai story called “An Electricity Blackout Day” by Prapas Cholsalanon. The story is about a young, newlywed couple. The husband works during the day, and his wife is on night shifts, and they keep in touch via their mobile phones. Since they can’t share meals, she sends him pictures of the food she eats and never forgetting to retouch her own pictures with application to make her look beautiful. One day, there is a power outage in the city. The wife goes home and finds her husband in her house in total darkness. They don’t recognize each other and start accusing the other of being a burglar. Panicking she leaves the house and tries to call her husband but due to the outage there is no signal. The story ends with the husband running after her with a stick in his hand trying to hit her. I did not think it was too far fetched a story.

A Thai couple use their mobile phones at a luxury shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand, 25 September 2015. epa/Rungroj Yongrit

A Thai couple use their mobile phones at a luxury shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand, 25 September 2015. epa/Rungroj Yongrit

As photojournalists, we do not only capture news and sports photos but also look at what is going on in human life. Not every story has a photo but every photo has a story behind the photo. When you look at these photos or you look at people’s addiction to mobile phones: what do you think? Are you part of this?

A Thai couple use their mobile phone devices at a luxury shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand, 25 September 2015. epa/Rungroj Yongrit

A Thai couple use their mobile phone devices at a luxury shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand, 25 September 2015. epa/Rungroj Yongrit

Diego Azubel: As I stand in the train feeling overwhelmed by the amount of lit screens around me, I often need to remind myself not to pull out my own phone. We all have become so dependent on our phones that we are now unable to stand in a train, sit in a taxi, or wait for the bus without having a phone in our hands.

Thai commuters use their mobile phones while waiting for the underground in Bangkok, Thailand, 12 October 2015. epa/Diego Azubel

Thai commuters use their mobile phones while waiting for the underground in Bangkok, Thailand, 12 October 2015. epa/Diego Azubel

A couple weeks ago, I saw a man abusing a woman outside a train station, and to my surprise everyone around me was standing with their phones either filming or texting, but nobody did anything to stop the abuse. Not even after I intervened. What seems to be happening now is that people feel more powerful or useful by sharing events on social media rather than effectively taking action. Technology, mobile phones in this case, can surely be a great and useful tool towards a better society, but when we spend so much time behind it, it often becomes the one thing that stops us from being an active part of it.

Authors: Rungroj Yongrit (l) and Diego Azubel (r)

Authors: Rungroj Yongrit (l) and Diego Azubel (r)

*the authors of this story, Diego and Rungroj, are both epa staff photographers based in Bangkok, Thailand.

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Obama’s Historical Trip to Cuba

By Michael Reynolds

Visiting Cuba to photograph the trip of U.S. President Barack Obama was both a remarkable experience and a highlight of my career in photojournalism. The images from the trip were not necessarily the most fabulous, but being there and watching the first sitting U.S. President to visit Cuba in eighty-eight years was something I will never forget.

The White House had chartered the flight that took off from Joint Base Andrews during the late afternoon of Saturday, March 19th – the day before President Obama would depart aboard Air Force One from the same location. The plane was packed full with more than sixty passengers from various news organizations.

Following an uneventful flight we arrived in the skies above Havana, only to be placed in a holding pattern. We were informed that the Havana airport was closed and we would continue to hold for up to an additional thirty minutes before making a decision regarding our fuel. Fortunately our plane was permitted to land soon after. Later I learned that we were held up due to the visit of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro who had come to Havana to shore up support on the eve of Obama’s visit.

Looking through the window as we came in for the landing I could see in the day’s fading light that although the city’s buildings had an air of decrepit age about them, many were painted in bright colors. The streets were dotted with cars seemingly lifted straight out of the 50’s. At once I could tell that this would prove to be an extremely photogenic place. That evening I had free time to stroll around Old Havana and take in a meal before working.

The first working day, Sunday 20th March, I photographed the arrival of President Obama and the First Family at Jose Marti International Airport. It seemed as though the moment that the stairs were wheeled up to Air Force One and the doors opened that it began to rain. Colleagues in Havana that later covered the walking tour were completely drenched.

US President Barack Obama (R) waves beside First Lady Michelle Obama (L) and daughters Malia (back L) and Sasha (back R) while disembarking from 'Air Force One' upon arrival at the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba, 20 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

US President Barack Obama (R) waves beside First Lady Michelle Obama (L) and daughters Malia (back L) and Sasha (back R) while disembarking from ‘Air Force One’ upon arrival at the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, Cuba, 20 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

 

The following morning, I opted to skip the President’s participation in a wreath-laying ceremony at Monumento Jose Marti – the memorial of the Cuban national hero, in order to photograph Obama greeting President Raul Castro and shaking hands for the first time on this trip after which there would be the official welcome ceremony.

Several of us in the traveling White House Press Corps waited for these events in a room of the Palace of the Revolution. Coffee was offered and I helped myself to the most delicious espresso I’ve ever tasted. Four times.

Obama’s arrival saw half a dozen of us rush into the room and capture the scene as President Castro and President Obama walked toward one another from across a florescent-lit room lined with plants to shake hands. What I thought would be the defining picture – the instant before their outstretched hands touched – was blocked by a translator who lacked the presence of mind not to walk between the principals and the photographers at that very moment. Fortunately, the translator soon moved and we were able to do our jobs.

US President Barack Obama (R) greets President of Cuba Raul Castro at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana, Cuba, 21 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

US President Barack Obama (R) greets President of Cuba Raul Castro at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana, Cuba, 21 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

 

At that moment it struck me how fortunate I was to be photographing this historical happening. The word “historical” is often overused and too quickly. During my career there have been events I have covered that were later regarded to be historical. This was one of the few moments that I absolutely knew was historical right then and there.

Following the meeting, the half-dozen or-so of us rushed into the room adjacent where the welcome ceremony took place so as to not miss any important pictures. Obama and Castro reviewed a Cuban military band.

US President Barack Obama (2-L) attends an official welcome ceremony with President of Cuba Raul Castro (L) at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana, Cuba, 21 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

US President Barack Obama (2-L) attends an official welcome ceremony with President of Cuba Raul Castro (L) at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana, Cuba, 21 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

 

The last day, Tuesday 22nd March, was to be the highlight of the trip, with Obama addressing the Cuban people at the Great Theatre of Havana before he and President Castro watched a Major League Baseball exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team, at the Latin American Stadium.  At the Great Theatre of Havana, President Castro was greeted by a standing ovation before taking his seat to listen to Obama’s publicly broadcast speech.

President of Cuba Raul Castro (bottom C) receives applause after arriving to hear US President Barack Obama (not pictured) address the people of Cuba at the El Gran Teatro of Havana, Cuba, 22 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

President of Cuba Raul Castro (bottom C) receives applause after arriving to hear US President Barack Obama (not pictured) address the people of Cuba at the El Gran Teatro of Havana, Cuba, 22 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

 

Coverage of the much anticipated baseball game was the most challenging of the trip. Simply entering the Latin American Stadium was difficult, to say the least, and required pushing through a crushing mass of people that were all entering at the same time. It was a potentially dangerous situation. After much effort, myself and a dozen other photographers photographed the arrival of President Obama and President Castro from a position on the field, near home plate and through the safety net. After they took their seats we all relocated off of the field.

Members of the news media make their way through a large crowd of people entering the Estadio Latinoamericano (Latin American Stadium) to watch a Major League Baseball exhibition game attended by US President Barack Obama and President of Cuba Raul Castro in Havana, Cuba, 22 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

Members of the news media make their way through a large crowd of people entering the Latin American Stadium to watch a Major League Baseball exhibition game attended by US President Barack Obama and President of Cuba Raul Castro in Havana, Cuba, 22 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

 

After the game had begun the only real vantage point to see Obama and Castro, who were both seated in the first row, was to climb on top of chairs that were already occupied.  Photographers squeezed on top of each other and around one another. People with cell phones attempted to take pictures beside photographers with 400mm lenses. It wasn’t pretty or dignified by any means, but not wanting to risk losing a shot I had no choice but to stand on top of a seat that was being used by a woman who had no view other than that of photographers and camera operators standing above her.

US President Barack Obama (L) and President of Cuba Raul Castro (R) attend a Major League Baseball exhibition game at the Estadio Latinoamericano (Latin American Stadium) in Havana, Cuba, 22 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

US President Barack Obama (L) and President of Cuba Raul Castro (R) attend a Major League Baseball exhibition game at the Latin American Stadium in Havana, Cuba, 22 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

People cheer and wave Cuban flags during a Major League Baseball exhibition game at Latinoamerican stadium in Havana, Cuba, 22 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

People cheer and wave Cuban flags during a Major League Baseball exhibition game at  the Latin American Stadium in Havana, Cuba, 22 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

Players of the Cuban national team and kids observe the playing of the Cuban national song before a Major League Baseball exhibition game at Latinoamerican stadium in Havana, Cuba, 22 March 2016.

Players of the Cuban national team and kids observe the playing of the Cuban national song before a Major League Baseball exhibition game at the Latin American Stadium in Havana, Cuba, 22 March 2016.

 

Later in the day, after Obama had left Havana, the town seemed to swell in size. I had heard a local person say that many people had avoided Old Havana during the President’s visit. Shortly before leaving Cuba, I gave a cab driver ten CUC (Cuban Convertible Pesos) and asked him to take me on a stroll.  He said he thought it was good that Obama visited Cuba and that things are going to get better here.

Taxis wait for customers in Havana, Cuba, 20 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

Taxis wait for customers in Havana, Cuba, 20 March 2016. epa / Michael Reynolds

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#colorblind

By Kim Ludbrook

A white and black student hold hands during a mass, multi racial pray group, to pray for peace and calm after clashes at the University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa, 25 February 2016. epa / Kim Ludbrook

A white and black student hold hands during a mass, multi racial pray group, to pray for peace and calm after clashes at the University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa, 25 February 2016. epa / Kim Ludbrook

During the last quarter of 2015, the powerful social media-driven #feemustfall campaign started to make local and international news headlines as students at all of South Africa’s leading universities protested, often violently, on campus and in the streets calling for free university education and a general ‘de-colonisation’ of the university system in the country.
In Johannesburg and Pretoria students attacked the very heart of the ANC rule, the Union Buildings. The students fought against the African National Congress (ANC) led government saying that the university fees should be free.

Some of the thousands of students and youth from political parties gather by a security fence at the Union Buildings during another day of demonstrations against fee increases at universities, Pretoria, South Africa, 23 October 2015. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Students and youth from political parties gather by a security fence at the Union Buildings during another day of demonstrations against fee increases at universities, in Pretoria, South Africa, 23 October 2015. epa / Kim Ludbrook

At the University of Cape Town, the sister #rhodesmustfall campaign witnessed the tearing down of the statue of one of South Africa’s most prominent white colonial figures, Cecil John Rhodes.
Although part of the student protest groups where white, the vast majority were black students using social media to make a point. Underneath the surface of these university protests, racial tensions rose as statues of other white political figures at campuses were defaced or torn down.

Protesting students and youths from political parties gather at the Union Buildings during another day of demonstrations against fee increases at universities, in Pretoria, South Africa, 23 October 2015. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Protesting students and youths from political parties gather at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa, 23 October 2015. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Then in early 2016 a white estate agent racially slurred black beach-goers in an apparent reaction to litter left behind after New Year’s celebrations. There has been mass reaction to her statement in social media and political quarters. Added to that, a leading ANC member called for ‘a genocide of whites’ while other racially motivated sentiments reverberated around the nation.

Recently black students, led by the opposition EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) party, and white students, backed by Afriforum, protested at the University of Pretoria. The university was shut for two weeks while each side argued over the main language of the University of Pretoria – Afrikaans. Black students demanded the right to be taught in their own language.

Afrikaans students take part in a demonstration defending the use of Afrikaans as the language of choose at the University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa, 23 February 2016. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Afrikaans students take part in a demonstration defending the use of Afrikaans as the language of choose at the University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa, 23 February 2016. epa / Kim Ludbrook

An Afrikaans student takes part in a demonstration defending the use of Afrikaans as the language of choose at the University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa, 23 February 2016. epa / Kim Ludbrook

An Afrikaans student takes part in a demonstration defending the use of Afrikaans as the language of choose at the University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa, 23 February 2016. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Then one morning while covering demonstrations between the EFF and Afriforum, I suddenly saw hundreds of students over the road who started to pray together. What grew out of the tensions was a movement called #colorblind. White and black students held hands, stating that they do not ‘see’ color and that ‘we are all the same’. A small sign of hope.

Some of the hundreds of young people gather during a mass, multi racial pray group, to pray for peace and calm after clashes at the University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa, 25 February 2016. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Some of the hundreds of young people gather during a mass, multi racial pray group, to pray for peace and calm after clashes at the University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa, 25 February 2016. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Young people gather during a mass, multi racial pray group, to pray for peace and calm after clashes at the University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa, 25 February 2016. The campus was shut down after supporters of the EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) clashed with members of the Afrikaans student community on 22 February over the EFF wanting to drop Afrikaans as the main language at the University of Pretoria. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Young people gather during a mass, multi racial pray group, to pray for peace and calm after clashes at the University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa, 25 February 2016. The campus was shut down after supporters of the EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) clashed with members of the Afrikaans student community on 22 February over the EFF wanting to drop Afrikaans as the main language at the University of Pretoria. epa / Kim Ludbrook

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Taiwan Earthquake

by Ritchie B. Tongo

Taiwan, authorities said. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

Rescuers continue their search for survivors on the third day from a collapsed building following the 06 February 6.4 magnitude earthquake, in Tainan City, southern Taiwan, 08 February 2016. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

On the night of February 5, I was preparing my bag for a trip the next morning to pick up an accrediation pass. I set my alarm for 4:00 A.M. and did my usual routine when waking up: check my e-mails. I received one from my colleague David Chang informing me that an earthquake had just hit Tainan, southern Taiwan, at around 3:57 A.M.  I got another one from a friend with a photo showing a collapsed building with a lot of casualties, also in that area. Since the earthquake happened very early and most people were asleep, the extent of damage it resulted in was still unknown. This prompted me to change my plan for the day, and immediately left for Tainan to see the situation personally. My first option was to travel by train or airplane but the services were not operational due to possible aftershocks. So I decided to take a cab, my third option, even if Tainan is four (4) hours away from where I was, Taipei. I was there by 10:00 A.M.

Rescuers search for survivors from a collapsed building following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake in Tainan City, southern Taiwan, 07 February 2016. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

Rescuers search for survivors from a collapsed building following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake in Tainan City, southern Taiwan, 07 February 2016. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

In Tainan, men in uniforms and civilians worked together rescuing those trapped in the collapsed 17-storey apartment building. According to news reports, it was the only high-rise building that had toppled as a result of the earthquake. Taiwan government has strict building standards which is the reason why not many structures were damaged.

Rescuers lift a victim as they continue to search for survivors from a collapsed building following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the area in Tainan City, south Taiwan, Taiwan, 06 February 2016. At least eight people, including an infant, were killed and hundreds injured when a 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck southern Taiwan early 06 February 2016, authorities said. A 17-storey apartment building collapsed in Tainan City's Yungkang district. It was said to be home to about 250 people in 96 households, according to the Central Emergency Operation Center. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

Rescuers lift a victim as they continue to search for survivors from a collapsed building following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the area in Tainan City, south Taiwan, Taiwan, 06 February 2016. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

That rescuers found survivors could be inferred by people suddenly becoming noisy and in a hurry. On the other hand, retrieved bodies were placed in body bags. The rescue and retrieval operations continued until morning the following day because “it took one hour to complete a search for just one household and two hours just to go forward”, said a rescuer. As for me, I decided to stay in an area near the rescuers’ command post thinking that if there would be aftershocks, I could easily respond.

City, southern Taiwan, 07 February 2016. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

Earthquake affected residents queue for water supplies following a 6.4 magnitude earthquake in Tainan City, southern Taiwan, 07 February 2016. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

The next morning which was February 7, people were queuing to fill their containers with water. Others were waiting for updates and news if their relatives were rescued. This disaster caused a major heartache especially to the Chinese community since the Chinese New Year, a time where they were supposed to feast and be merry, was to be celebrated on February 8. Although the general atmosphere was gloomy, the Taiwanese people started moving forward facing reality and having a positive outlook. Some men and women gave bottled drinking water and food to other people while others went to temple to pray.

Rescuers continue their search for survivors from a collapsed building on the third day following the early 06 February 6.4 magnitude earthquake, in Tainan City, southern Taiwan, 08 February 2016. More than 100 people are still missing two days after a 6.4-magnitude earthquake killed at least 37 in southern Taiwan, while three people were rescued alive, authorities said. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

Rescuers continue their search for survivors from a collapsed building on the third day following the early 06 February 6.4 magnitude earthquake, in Tainan City, southern Taiwan, 08 February 2016. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

Experiencing a calamity such as this is a very difficult situation to be in. Especially in the case of earthquakes, scientists still cannot predict the precise time when they will occur. Looking at the brighter side, however, I witnessed how disasters can make strangers come closer together like families and I have seen this in Tainan. People did what they could to help; I saw men digging in rubbles and women handing out food and water. They did their share to help right away without putting themselves and their family’s safety first.

A relative (C), holding a photo of a victim, who is believed to be still trapped under a collapsed 17-storey apartment building, is assisted as she faints while approaching the site, on the fifth day of searching for survivors, in Tainan City, southern Taiwan, 10 February 2016. More than 100 people are still missing five days after a 6.4-magnitude earthquake that killed at least 41 in southern Taiwan. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

A relative (C), holding a photo of a victim, who is believed to be still trapped under a collapsed 17-storey apartment building, is assisted as she faints while approaching the site, on the fifth day of searching for survivors, in Tainan City, southern Taiwan, 10 February 2016. epa/Ritchie B. Tongo

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A Stranded Whale in Mumbai

by Divyakant Solanki

Indian officials carry the decomposed body of a stranded whale with the help of cranes, found near the Juhu beach of Arabian Sea shore in Mumbai, India, 29 January 2016. According to reports, around 40-feet long body of dead Whale was found near the Juhu beach, for safety measures officials removed it with the help of crane. epa/Divyakant Solanki

Indian officials carry the decomposed body of a stranded whale found near Juhu beach in Mumbai, India, 29 January 2016. epa/Divyakant Solanki

Every morning, my routine includes getting updates and news from people over the phone and checking Twitter. That day, I saw a Tweet about the carcass of a stranded whale found on Juhu beach and confirmed the news with some other friends and colleagues.

People stand around the decomposed body of a stranded whale found near the Juhu beach of Arabian Sea shore in Mumbai, India, 29 January 2016. According to reports, around 40-feet long body of dead Whale was found near the Juhu beach, for safety measures officials removed it with the help of crane. epa/Divyakant Solanki

People stand around the decomposed body of a stranded whale found near Juhu beach  in Mumbai, India, 29 January 2016. epa/Divyakant Solanki

The dead whale had been lying there for a day, and there was a large mob around the whale and more people were continuously joining. Parents were taking along their babies and young children to see the whale. People were behaving as if they were in a zoo and were taking photos and selfies with the whale in the background, not caring that they were proving to be a hindrance to the police and others who were trying to move the whale from the beach.

People stand around the decomposed body of Whale found near the Juhu beach of Arabian Sea shore in Mumbai, India, 29 January 2016. According to reports, around 40-feet long body of dead Whale was found near the Juhu beach, for safety measures officials removed it with the help of crane. epa/Divyakant Solanki

People stand around the body of Whale found near the Juhu beach of Arabian Sea shore in Mumbai, India, 29 January 2016. According to reports, a 40-feet long body of a dead Whale was found near the Juhu beach. For safety reason, officials removed it with the help of a crane. epa/Divyakant Solanki

It was difficult to determine what the balloon-like bubble coming out of the whale was. Since it had been a while since the whale’s body had been lying on the shore, it is likely that the body was swelling up due to decomposition and was filling up with methane gas. There was a risk of it bursting and the Police was quite conscious of this risk and was asking people to maintain at a safe distance from the whale in case the carcass would burst. It could have also exploded while the workers were trying to lift it using the crane to put it on the trailer and then transport it, thus spraying people with its contents.

People stand around the decomposed body of a stranded whale found near Juhu beach in Mumbai, India, 29 January 2016. epa/Divyakant Solanki

People stand around the body of a stranded whale found near Juhu beach in Mumbai, India, 29 January 2016. epa/Divyakant Solanki

Juhu beach is a famous tourist spot and is crowded on most days, but on that day, the crowd had reached huge proportions and showed no signs of control. It was good that there was police presence, otherwise there is no knowing what the people would have done. They were inching close to the whale, climbing on the crane that was there to transport it and behaving in an unruly manner. At some point, the atmosphere was almost surreal.

epa05162610 People cover their faces as they watch a decomposing carcass of a stranded whale near Juhu beach in Mumbai, India, 29 January 2016. epa/Divyakant Solanki

epa05162610 People cover their faces as they watch a decomposing carcass of a stranded whale near Juhu beach in Mumbai, India, 29 January 2016. epa/Divyakant Solanki

Not only was witnessing this situation shocking visually, but it definitely hit the olfactory senses as well. The stench was quite overpowering, and I could see a few other photographers who were throwing up as they couldn’t withstand the stench and the sight. The whale’s flesh had started decomposing and I could see blood on its body as well. All of this, accompanied by the heat, was almost too much to take. One of the major challenges was the risk of infection that came with being in close proximity to a carcass that size.

Indian officials carries the decomposed body of Whale with the help of cranes, found near the Juhu beach of Arabian Sea shore in Mumbai, India, 29 January 2016. According to reports, around 40-feet long body of dead Whale was found near the Juhu beach, for safety measures officials removed it with the help of crane. epa/Divyakant Solanki

Indian officials transport the decomposed body of a stranded whale with the help of cranes near Juhu beach at the Arabian Sea shore in Mumbai, India, 29 January 2016. epa/Divyakant Solanki

The whale was transported and buried near a village called Moragaon around two kilometer from the spot. Measures have been put in place to speed up the process of decomposition.

 

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The Rugby World Cup 2015 and a very unlikely winner

by Facundo Arrizabalaga

A boy reacts after New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams gave his gold medal following New Zealand's win against Australia in the Rugby World Cup 2015 final at Twickenham in London, Britain, 31 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

A boy reacts after New Zealand’s Sonny Bill Williams gave his gold medal following New Zealand’s win against Australia in the Rugby World Cup 2015 final at Twickenham in London, Britain, 31 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

As I was waiting for my train to head to the final of the Rugby World Cup 2015, I made eye contact with a family standing on the platform. They were all wearing Australian T-shirts, were extremely friendly, so we got chatting. I told them I was a photographer for epa heading to cover the final, that I was from Argentina, and had covered the two previous games of the Wallabies. They seemed to know a lot about Rugby so I said to myself, I’d better say something interesting, otherwise I will look like a fool. “I think you are going to win tonight because you have these two amazing guys, Hooper (Michael) and Pockock (David) and together they are magical”. There was an awkward moment of silence and the man in the centre of the group (David) smiling with pride, and reaching his hand to his chest said “Thank you”. I looked surprised and all of a sudden they all burst out with laughter, “Michael (Hooper) is his son” said the man on the right of the group “and she is his mum!”. It was an incredible moment. As the train moved along, they were scanning through the pictures on my laptop.

Australia's David Pocock (R) is being tackled by Argentina's Guido Petti Pagadizaval (C) during the Rugby World Cup 2015 semi final match between Argentina and Australia at Twickenham stadium in London, Britain, 25 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Australia’s David Pocock (R) is being tackled by Argentina’s Guido Petti Pagadizaval (C) during the Rugby World Cup 2015 semi final match between Argentina and Australia at Twickenham stadium in London, Britain, 25 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Australia Bernard Foley (C) scores a try during the Rugby World Cup 2015 match in Pool A between England and Australia at Twickenham in London, Britain, 03 October 2015. epa / Facundo Arrizabalaga

Australia Bernard Foley (C) scores a try during the Rugby World Cup 2015 match in Pool A between England and Australia at Twickenham in London, Britain, 03 October 2015. epa / Facundo Arrizabalaga

 

The opening night

18th September 2015, was the opening game. It was a beautiful warm summer’s night and in South West London the atmosphere was static. England against Fiji sold out. The game was massive for the locals and the air was filled with anticipation. The whole stadium was singing England’s rugby anthem “Sing low, sweet Chariot” and it was impressive. I was ready.

Fiji Nikola Matawalu (L) in action against England Kieran Brookes (R) in the Pool A match during the Rugby World Cup 2015 match between England and Fiji in Twickenham, Britain, 18 September 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Fiji Nikola Matawalu (L) in action against England Kieran Brookes (R) in the Pool A match during the Rugby World Cup 2015 match between England and Fiji in Twickenham, Britain, 18 September 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

England Mike Brown (L) does a try saving tackle against Fiji Nicola Matawalu (C)during the Rugby World Cup 2015 match between England and Fiji in Twickenham, Britain, 18 September 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

England Mike Brown (L) does a try saving tackle against Fiji Nicola Matawalu (C)during the Rugby World Cup 2015 match between England and Fiji in Twickenham, Britain, 18 September 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Pride and the best fans in the world

As a press photographer the RWC 2015 was a gift fallen from the sky. There were literally photos everywhere, fans in the most sophisticated costumes just a minute away from the press room. It took no longer than 15 minutes to go for a wonder and come back with a set of strong fan pictures. Much has been said about the Men in Black huge intimidating war dance, The Haka but it was also moving to see the gentle giants come to tears during their national anthems, especially the Pumas.

Argentina's players sing their national anthem during the Rugby World Cup 2015 Bronze final match between Argentina and South Africa at the Olympic Stadium in London, Britain, 30 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Argentina’s players sing their national anthem during the Rugby World Cup 2015 Bronze final match between Argentina and South Africa at the Olympic Stadium in London, Britain, 30 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Italy players sing the national anthem during the Rugby World Cup 2015 match in Pool D between France and Italy in Twickenham, Britain, 19 September 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Italy players sing the national anthem during the Rugby World Cup 2015 match in Pool D between France and Italy in Twickenham, Britain, 19 September 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

New Zealand's captain Richie McCaw (R) leads the Haka during the Rugby World Cup 2015 quarter final match between New Zealand and France at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Britain, 17 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

New Zealand’s captain Richie McCaw (R) leads the Haka during the Rugby World Cup 2015 quarter final match between New Zealand and France at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Britain, 17 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

France fans react outside the stadium ahead of the Rugby World Cup 2015 Quarter final match between New Zealand and France at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Britain, 17 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

France fans react outside the stadium ahead of the Rugby World Cup 2015 Quarter final match between New Zealand and France at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Britain, 17 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Irish rugby fans in Cardiff city centre prior to the Rugby World Cup 2015 quarter final match played between Ireland and Argentina at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Britain, 18 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Irish rugby fans in Cardiff city centre prior to the Rugby World Cup 2015 quarter final match played between Ireland and Argentina at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Britain, 18 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

France's Bernard Le Roux celebrates with supporters after winning the Rugby World Cup 2015 pool D match between France and Romania in the Olympic stadium, in London, Britain, 23 September 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

France’s Bernard Le Roux celebrates with supporters after winning the Rugby World Cup 2015 pool D match between France and Romania in the Olympic stadium, in London, Britain, 23 September 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Power and Blood

I will sit by the pitch usually an hour before kick off, this will allow me for pictures of the coaches and a quick chat with the photographers around me to try to squeeze one last piece of advice. I usually like sitting next to the experienced sports freelancers and the newspapers photographers. If you listen carefully, they will give you great tips. The game was fascinating to watch, there was drama of the highest order. No time for diving and definetely no time to arguee with the referee who is always addressed as “Sir”. Like a play of fine theatre, the 80 minutes deliver an array of emotions and by the time the curtain falls, has brought both joy and tears.

England Jonny May (2-R) celebrates scoring a try during the Rugby World Cup 2015 match in Pool A between England and Wales at Twickenham in London, Britain, 26 September 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

England Jonny May (2-R) celebrates scoring a try during the Rugby World Cup 2015 match in Pool A between England and Wales at Twickenham in London, Britain, 26 September 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Argentina's Julian Montoya (R) and Facundo Isa (L) react after losing the Rugby World Cup 2015 semi final match between Argentina and Australia at Twickenham stadium in London, Britain, 25 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Argentina’s Julian Montoya (R) and Facundo Isa (L) react after losing the Rugby World Cup 2015 semi final match between Argentina and Australia at Twickenham stadium in London, Britain, 25 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

France's Yoann Huget (C) is being comforted by team mates during the Rugby World Cup 2015 match in Pool D between France and Italy in Twickenham, Britain, 19 September 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

France’s Yoann Huget (C) is being comforted by team mates during the Rugby World Cup 2015 match in Pool D between France and Italy in Twickenham, Britain, 19 September 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

 

Cardiff, the pressure cooker.

In the Millennium stadium the atmosphere was electrifying and I have never seen anything like it. The roof was closed and my favourite game of the tournament was well under way. It was tense and exciting in equal manner and when Juan Imhoff from Argentina scored the winning try the pumas went crazy. After the game was over, they spent an hour going around the pitch greeting and hugging everyone, it didn’t matter if they were from Argentina or Ireland. It was a fine moment of sportsmanship. After two hours the game was over I was still filing and I could hear a few hard core Irish supporters singing the “The Belle of Belfast city”.

Argentina's Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (C) celebrates after the Rugby World Cup 2015 quarter final match played between Ireland and Argentina at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Britain, 18 October 2015. Argentina won the match. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Argentina’s Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (C) celebrates after the Rugby World Cup 2015 quarter final match played between Ireland and Argentina at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Britain, 18 October 2015. Argentina won the match. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Argentina's Marcos Ayerza (R) celebrates with fans after the Rugby World Cup 2015 quarter final match played between Ireland and Argentina at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Britain, 18 October 2015. Argentina won the match. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Argentina’s Marcos Ayerza (R) celebrates with fans after the Rugby World Cup 2015 quarter final match played between Ireland and Argentina at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Britain, 18 October 2015. Argentina won the match. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

The Final

Almost six weeks had passed by and 160 photographers were congregated in the main press room listening to Tony Weymouth and his team explaining the logistics before the big day: “20 photographers from the main agencies and newspapers will need a yellow arm band for the trophy shot”, “60 will be allowed for the champagne board” and so on. Finally, he said “the lap of honour it is a free for all.” We quickly drew our plan of action. My colleagues, Andy (Rain) in the main position, Gerry (Penny) would shoot from up top and me on the Champagne board. Although the throphy pictures are very important, I have learned that in such occasions there is always an opportunity to get something different, a special moment, a candid shot, that will stand out from the more sougth-after “pot shot”. It could be with the anxious families awaiting them or with the loving fans. The main problem is that it can happen anywhere.

I knew that if I was going to have a chance, I had to be quick on my feet so right after the “champagne shot” I dumped my 500mm lens on the side of the pitch and started following them on their lap of honour. I was trying to focus on the players holding the cup, but what I was really waiting for was a player to go over to the crowd. All of a sudden, I see this little boy running past me and, as quick as lightning, he jumps over the publicity boards, invading the pitch but was immediately tackled to the ground by a security guard right in front of Sonny Bill Williams. The All Black’s star picks him up and starts hugging and talking to him. The photographers allowed on the pitch rushed over and were busy taking photographs of the incident when unexpectedly the giant and the little boy started walking towards me through a tiny gap between the publicity boards. Sonny was walking with him to be reunited with his parents. The scene was set, the crowd was roaring, photographers were surrounding the two main protagonists and I was in my favourite spot of all: right in the middle of it!

A photograph made avaiable on 01 November 2015 showing Charlie Lines (C) reacts after New Zealand All Blacks player Sonny Bill Williams gave his gold medal after winning the Rugby World Cup 2015 Final match between New Zealand and Australia at Twickenham in London, Britain, 31 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

A photograph made avaiable on 01 November 2015 showing Charlie Lines (C) reacts after New Zealand All Blacks player Sonny Bill Williams gave his gold medal after winning the Rugby World Cup 2015 Final match between New Zealand and Australia at Twickenham in London, Britain, 31 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

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The Golden Temple

By Raminder Pal Singh

Devotees offer prayers in front of the illuminated Golden Temple, the holiest of Sikh shrines, seen in the backdrop on the occasion of the 351st birth anniversary of the tenth Guru or master of the Sikhs, Sri Guru Gobind Singh in Amritsar, India, 16 January 2016. epa/Raminder Pal Singh

Devotees offer prayers in front of the illuminated Golden Temple, the holiest of Sikh shrines, seen in the backdrop on the occasion of the 351st birth anniversary of the tenth Guru or master of the Sikhs, Sri Guru Gobind Singh, in Amritsar, India, 16 January 2016. epa/Raminder Pal Singh

Each year, the birth anniversary of the tenth Guru or master of the Sikhs, Sri Guru Gobind Singh, is celebrated in Amritsar in the state  of Punjab, Northwest India. The Golden Temple of Amritsar is the holiest of Sikh places in the world. The religious procession is carried out on the eve of the birth anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh Ji who was the tenth Sikh Guru and initiated the special order or sect of the Sikhs called the Khalsa Panth. The procession is carried out in many parts of India as well but holds special significance in the state of Punjab where the population of the Sikhs is bigger.

This year marked the 351st birth anniversary of Sri Guru Gobind Singh. Sikh devotees carry the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the holy book of Sikhs, in a special golden palanquin from inside the Golden Temple premises.

Sikh devotees carry the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the holy book of Sikhs, in a special golden palanquin at the Golden Temple, the holiest of Sikh shrines during a religious procession in Amritsar, India, 15 January 2016. Guru Gobind Singh Ji was the tenth Sikh Guru who initiated the special order or sect of the Sikhs called the Khalsa Panth. epa/Raminder Pal Singh

Sikh devotees carry the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the holy book of Sikhs, in a special golden palanquin at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India, 15 January 2016. epa/Raminder Pal Singh

Then a religious procession starts from the streets outside the Golden Temple in which school children and devotees take part. Devotees sing Sikh religious hymns and children from different schools, wearing traditional, religious and school uniforms take part in the procession as it passes through the streets.

A vendor sells flowers , placed on a cart in a religious procession on the eve of the 351st birth anniversary of the tenth Guru or master of the Sikhs, Sri Guru Gobind Singh in Amritsar, India, 15 January 2016. Guru Gobind Singh Ji was the tenth Sikh Guru who initiated the special order or sect of the Sikhs called the Khalsa Panth. epa/ Raminder Pal Singh

A vendor sells flowers in a religious procession in Amritsar, India, 15 January 2016.  epa/ Raminder Pal Singh

Because I have shot these kinds of processions many a time, every time at the back of my mind I am led by this thought how to shoot the occasion differently this time. I try to avoid cliched shots and shoot from angles which are not so common or at least which differ from what I had captured before.

Sikh children, dressed as 'Panj Pyare' or 'The Beloved Five', wearing religious attire, take part in a religious procession on the eve of the 351st birth anniversary of the tenth Guru or master of the Sikhs, Sri Guru Gobind Singh in Amritsar, India, 15 January 2016. Guru Gobind Singh Ji was the tenth Sikh Guru who initiated the special order or sect of the Sikhs called the Khalsa Panth. epa/ Raminder Pal Singh

Sikh children, dressed as ‘Panj Pyare’ or ‘The Beloved Five’, take part in a religious procession in Amritsar, India, 15 January 2016. epa/Raminder Pal Singh

For instance in above image, I preferred to take the shot from behind the children as the circular metal ‘Chakkar’ they wore on their turbans, to me kind of looked like halos over their heads.

A young Sikh girl, dressed in religious attire, performs the Gatka, a form of Sikh martial art during a religious procession on the eve of the 351st birth anniversary of the tenth Guru or master of the Sikhs, Sri Guru Gobind Singh in Amritsar, India, 15 January 2016. Guru Gobind Singh Ji was the tenth Sikh Guru who initiated the special order or sect of the Sikhs called the Khalsa Panth. epa / Raminder Pal Singh

A young Sikh girl performs the Gatka, a form of Sikh martial art during a religious procession in Amritsar, India, 15 January 2016. epa/Raminder Pal Singh

In this one, I was trying slow shutter speed to go with the fast motion of the girl performing Gatka. Luckily her face came out to be still whereas there’s kind of a blurred effect in the backdrop because of slow shutter speed.

Some Sikh groups who have trained themselves, exhibiting their skills with various weapons like swords, Chakar, sticks etc. as they perform Gatka, a form of Sikh martial art. The Sikh martial art was very popular during the era of Guru Gobind Singh and still holds a very important place in Sikh culture and religion.

A Sikh man holds a sword, partially covered with a cloth, in his mouth to exhibit his skills as he performs the Gatka, a form of Sikh martial art during a religious procession on the eve of the 351st birth anniversary of the tenth Guru or master of the Sikhs, Sri Guru Gobind Singh in Amritsar, India, 15 January 2016. Guru Gobind Singh Ji was the tenth Sikh Guru who initiated the special order or sect of the Sikhs called the Khalsa Panth. epa/ Raminder Pal Singh

A Sikh man holds a sword as he performs the Gatka, a form of Sikh martial art during a religious procession in Amritsar, India, 15 January 2016. epa/Raminder Pal Singh

 

Sikh children, dressed as 'Panj Pyare' or 'The Beloved Five', wearing religious attire, take part in a religious procession on the eve of the 351st birth anniversary of the tenth Guru or master of the Sikhs, Sri Guru Gobind Singh in Amritsar, India, 15 January 2016. Guru Gobind Singh Ji was the tenth Sikh Guru who initiated the special order or sect of the Sikhs called the Khalsa Panth. epa/ Raminder Pal Singh

Sikh men dressed as ‘Panj Pyare’ or ‘The Beloved Five’ take part in a religious procession in Amritsar, India, 15 January 2016.  epa/ Raminder Pal Singh

While shooting them this time, I got hit by a sword on my hand while a group of students were playing Gatka at the religious procession. While I was shooting, they suddenly became a bit more “aggressive”, trying to outscore the opponent and in the haste, they unintentionally hit my hand. (they didn’t even notice that someone was hit). Thankfully, it was just a minor cut and some bruises.

My favorite shot in the series, however, is this:

Indian children, wearing religious attire, take part in a religious procession on the eve of the 351st birth anniversary of the tenth Guru or master of the Sikhs, Sri Guru Gobind Singh in Amritsar, India, 15 January 2016. Guru Gobind Singh Ji was the tenth Sikh Guru who initiated the special order or sect of the Sikhs called the Khalsa Panth. epa/ Raminder Pal Singh

Indian children, wearing religious attire, take part in a religious procession in Amritsar, India, 15 January 2016. epa/ Raminder Pal Singh

The innocence on their faces was something so adorable and divine.

People usually are happy when I point my camera towards them during such events. Little kids are happy and when sometimes I show them their pictures after taking them, their faces are all smiles.

The atmosphere in general is obviously religious with sounds coming from different speakers playing Sikh religious hymns. It’s a happy atmosphere altogether.

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Silvesterchlaeuse – “I always felt that traditions are hard to photograph”

Gian Ehrenzeller, photographer for epa’s partner agency Keystone, writes about photographing the “Silvesterchlaeuse” tradition in the canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden.

A so-called Silvesterchlaus (New Year Clause) holds on to his hat during heavy winds on his way in Waldstatt, Switzerland, 13 January 2016. epa/keystone/Gian Ehrenzeller

A so-called Silvesterchlaus (New Year Clause) holds on to his hat during heavy winds on his way in Waldstatt, Switzerland, 13 January 2016. epa/keystone/Gian Ehrenzeller

As a result of resistance towards the calendar reform, people in the Swiss canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden still celebrate New Year’s Eve not only on December 31, but also on January 13. This holiday is known as „Alter Silvester“, old New Year’s Eve. Men celebrate by dressing up as New Year’s Clauses. They wear costumes, hats, and bells and walk from house to house to sing and bring their best wishes.

So-called Silvesterchlaeuse (New Year's Clauses) dress up in Waldstatt, Switzerland, 13 January 2016. epa/keystone/Gian Ehrenzeller

So-called Silvesterchlaeuse (New Year’s Clauses) dress up in Waldstatt, Switzerland, 13 January 2016. epa/keystone/Gian Ehrenzeller

I always felt that traditions are hard to photograph. Thousands of pictures have already been taken and seen.

So I’d say I was somewhat lucky when I photographed the „Silvesterchlaeuse“ (New Year’s Clauses) in January 2016, the weather was pretty bad.

Instead of hitting the main tourist spot, where you can be sure to see Clauses – but also lots of tourists – I managed to find a group of Clauses who were willing to take me on their tour. Don’t get me wrong here, this New Year’s tradition is not kept alive for the tourists. It rather seems to be carried by the people. You’ll even see groups of kids dressed up as New Year’s Clauses, wandering the back-country on their own.

So-called Silvesterchlaeuse (New Year's Clauses) sing in Waldstatt, Switzerland, 13 January 2016. epa/keystone/Gian Ehrenzeller

So-called Silvesterchlaeuse (New Year’s Clauses) sing in Waldstatt, Switzerland, 13 January 2016. epa/keystone/Gian Ehrenzeller

As I arrived at the farmer’s house in the village of Waldstatt, the Clauses still sat at breakfast. The farmer’s wife offered them wine, they wished each other a Happy New Year, and then started yodeling. The farmer who invited them used to follow the tradition himself when he was younger, and joined them in their song. It is a singing without words, and frankly, it always gives me shivers.

They repeated their singing outside, forming a circle, wearing their hats and bells. Each of the hats is an artwork which each Clause crafted himself, picturing aspects of rural life. After wishing the farmer and his wife a Happy New Year, they got something more to drink, and moved on.

So-called Silvesterchlaeuse (New Year's Clauses) are on their way in Waldstatt, Switzerland, 13 January 2016. epa/keystone/Gian Ehrenzeller

So-called Silvesterchlaeuse (New Year’s Clauses) are on their way in Waldstatt, Switzerland, 13 January 2016. epa/keystone/Gian Ehrenzeller

At this point, heavy wind and some snowfall picked up. I was somewhat worried about the men as they made their way through snow covered meadows. They had to hold on to their hats, each weighing about four kilograms, while the costume overall weighs about 20 to 30 kilograms. But this moment was actually the one where I got the pictures I was hoping for.

Sound sample of jodeling Silvesterchlaeuse:

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The year in pictures, 2nd half 2015

In a sequel to ‘the year in pictures – the first half’, here are some of epa’s best photographs for the second half of 2016:

July 2015

A man passes by a graffiti made by street artist N_Grams that read ''NO'' (Nein) in German but also sounds like ''YES, IN'' in Greek language, in Athens, Greece, 05 July 2015. Greek voters in the referendum are asked whether the country should accept reform proposals made by its creditors. epa/Kay Nietfeld

A man passes by a graffiti made by street artist N_Grams that read ”NO” (Nein) in German but also sounds like ”YES, IN” in Greek language, in Athens, Greece, 05 July 2015. Greek voters in the referendum are asked whether the country should accept reform proposals made by its creditors.
epa/Kay Nietfeld

Exiled Tibetan monks attend a procession (not seen) carrying a portrait of their spiritual leader Dalai Lama during a function to mark his 80th birthday celebration at Namgyal School in Kathmandu, Nepal, 06 July 2015. Around 1,000 monks and other Tibetans gathered at the school compound to celebrate their spiritual leader's birthday. Exiled Tibetans allowed celebrating the Dalai Lama's birthday only inside school compound and refugee camps as long as the facilities do not contain slogans or banners protesting against China. Nepalese government has banned all kinds of Tibetan activities against Chinese rule in Tibet. epa/Narendra Shrestha

Exiled Tibetan monks attend a procession (not seen) carrying a portrait of their spiritual leader Dalai Lama during a function to mark his 80th birthday celebration at Namgyal School in Kathmandu, Nepal, 06 July 2015. Around 1,000 monks and other Tibetans gathered at the school compound to celebrate their spiritual leader’s birthday. Exiled Tibetans allowed celebrating the Dalai Lama’s birthday only inside school compound and refugee camps as long as the facilities do not contain slogans or banners protesting against China. Nepalese government has banned all kinds of Tibetan activities against Chinese rule in Tibet. epa/Narendra Shrestha

Residents of Dagenham and Barking look on at Britain's Queen Elizabeth II in a car following her visit to a community centre with Prince Philip in London, Britain, 14 July 2015 epa/Andy Rain

Residents of Dagenham and Barking look on at Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II in a car following her visit to a community centre with Prince Philip in London, Britain, 14 July 2015
epa/Andy Rain

FIFA president Joseph 'Sepp' Blatter reacts while banknotes thrown by British Comedian Simon Brockin hurtle through the air during a press conference following the extraordinary FIFA Executive Committee at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, 20 July 2015. epa/Ennio Leanza

FIFA president Joseph ‘Sepp’ Blatter reacts while banknotes thrown by British Comedian Simon Brockin hurtle through the air during a press conference following the extraordinary FIFA Executive Committee at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, 20 July 2015. epa/Keystone/Ennio Leanza

A female migrant sits in a packed coach of the train heading to the Serbian border at the train station in Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 26 July 2015. Greece and Italy are the main entry points for Europe-bound asylum seekers and economic migrants. After they have reached the bloc, many start to make their way to wealthier countries in Western Europe. From the beginning of the year to mid-June, nearly 160,000 landed in both countries, according to IOM estimates. epa/Georgi Licovski

A female migrant sits in a packed coach of the train heading to the Serbian border at the train station in Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 26 July 2015. Greece and Italy are the main entry points for Europe-bound asylum seekers and economic migrants. After they have reached the bloc, many start to make their way to wealthier countries in Western Europe. From the beginning of the year to mid-June, nearly 160,000 landed in both countries, according to IOM estimates. epa/Georgi Licovski

An Indian woman (C) washes utensils with logged flooded water after heavy rain at Sonarpur village far south of Calcutta, India, 27 July 2015. According to reports, thousands had been evacuated from flooded areas following heavy rain. India's monsoon rains usually hit between June and September, and are vital for agriculture, but also cause hundreds of deaths each year. Weather authorities have forecast more rains in the region over the next couple of days. epa/Piyal Adhikary

An Indian woman (C) washes utensils with logged flooded water after heavy rain at Sonarpur village far south of Calcutta, India, 27 July 2015. According to reports, thousands had been evacuated from flooded areas following heavy rain. India’s monsoon rains usually hit between June and September, and are vital for agriculture, but also cause hundreds of deaths each year. Weather authorities have forecast more rains in the region over the next couple of days. epa/Piyal Adhikary

A picture made available 30 July 2015 shows officers carrying pieces of debris from an unidentified aircraft apparently washed ashore in Saint-Andre de la Reunion, eastern La Reunion island, France, 29 July 2015. A Malaysian government team is being dispatched to the French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean, where newly found aircraft wreckage awakened speculation over flight MH370, which went missing last year with 239 people aboard. epa/Raymond Wae Tion

A picture made available 30 July 2015 shows officers carrying pieces of debris from an unidentified aircraft apparently washed ashore in Saint-Andre de la Reunion, eastern La Reunion island, France, 29 July 2015. A Malaysian government team is being dispatched to the French island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean, where newly found aircraft wreckage awakened speculation over flight MH370, which went missing last year with 239 people aboard. epa/Raymond Wae Tion

 Four year-old Haifa Al Atawna looks out from the window of her family's destroyed house after nightfall during a power outage, in Al Shejaeiya neighbourhood, in the east of Gaza City, 27 July 2015. Residents of Gaza, home to 1.8 Million people, have been experiencing up to 15 to 18 hours of electricity outage a day for the past two weeks due to fuel and power shortages. epa/Mohammed Saber

Four year-old Haifa Al Atawna looks out from the window of her family’s destroyed house after nightfall during a power outage, in Al Shejaeiya neighbourhood, in the east of Gaza City, 27 July 2015. Residents of Gaza, home to 1.8 Million people, have been experiencing up to 15 to 18 hours of electricity outage a day for the past two weeks due to fuel and power shortages. epa/Mohammed Saber

A wounded Israeli is rushed on a stretcher after she was attacked by Israeli extremist, during the Gay Pride march in Jerusalem, Israel, 30 July 2015. An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man stabbed four marchers in Jerusalem's annual gay parade and was arrested, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said. epa / Atef Safadi

A wounded Israeli is rushed on a stretcher after she was attacked by Israeli extremist, during the Gay Pride march in Jerusalem, Israel, 30 July 2015. An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man stabbed four marchers in Jerusalem’s annual gay parade and was arrested, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said. epa / Atef Safadi

August 2015

A firefighter helps ignite a backfire while battling the Rocky fire near Clearlake, California, USA, 02 August 2015. The fire, one of dozens raging in drought parched Northern California, has destroyed 24 residences and scorched 27,000 acres according to Cal Fire. California state governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency, saying severe drought and extreme weather have turned much of the state into a tinderbox. The declaration will allow faster deployment of resources to the fire zones to which an estimated 8,000 firefighters already have been deployed. epa/Noah Berger

A firefighter helps ignite a backfire while battling the Rocky fire near Clearlake, California, USA, 02 August 2015. The fire, one of dozens raging in drought parched Northern California, has destroyed 24 residences and scorched 27,000 acres according to Cal Fire. California state governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency, saying severe drought and extreme weather have turned much of the state into a tinderbox. The declaration will allow faster deployment of resources to the fire zones to which an estimated 8,000 firefighters already have been deployed. epa/Noah Berger

Migrants run on the shuttle tracks after they succeeded to jump over the fences and avoid the French patrols on the outskirts of Calais, France, 05 August 2015. The number of migrants increasing and the fact they are staying longer in the makeshift camp make the Jungle grows more organized with economic structures such as small shops and places of worship appearing as well as more sturdy places. Britain and France on 02 August had urged other EU nations to help them handle an escalating crisis over thousands of migrants stranded in the French port of Calais. epa/Etienne Laurent

Migrants run on the shuttle tracks after they succeeded to jump over the fences and avoid the French patrols on the outskirts of Calais, France, 05 August 2015. The number of migrants increasing and the fact they are staying longer in the makeshift camp make the Jungle grows more organized with economic structures such as small shops and places of worship appearing as well as more sturdy places. Britain and France on 02 August had urged other EU nations to help them handle an escalating crisis over thousands of migrants stranded in the French port of Calais. epa/Etienne Laurent

Swimmers warm up for the night session during the FINA Swimming World Championships at Kazan arena in Kazan, Russia, 05 August 2015. epa/Patrick B. Kraemer

Swimmers warm up for the night session during the FINA Swimming World Championships at Kazan arena in Kazan, Russia, 05 August 2015. epa/Patrick B. Kraemer

Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, addresses the media following a town hall meeting in Exeter, New Hampshire, USA, 10 August 2015. epa/Cj Gunther

Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, addresses the media following a town hall meeting in Exeter, New Hampshire, USA, 10 August 2015. epa/Cj Gunther

Manchester City's Vincent Kompany (R) celebrates with teammate David Silva after scoring during the English Premier League soccer match between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City at The Hawthorns stadium in Birmingham, Britain, 10 August 2015. epa/Hannah Mckay

Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany (R) celebrates with teammate David Silva after scoring during the English Premier League soccer match between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City at The Hawthorns stadium in Birmingham, Britain, 10 August 2015. epa/Hannah Mckay

Rescuers work among hundreds of burned cars after a huge explosion rocked the port city of Tianjin, China, 13 August 2015. According to reports, at least 44 people were killed after a large explosion rocked the north-eastern Chinese city of Tianjin Fifty-two people were critically injured out of a total of 521 people in hospital after the blast and fireball in the port city, local authorities said. epa/Wu Hong

Rescuers work among hundreds of burned cars after a huge explosion rocked the port city of Tianjin, China, 13 August 2015. According to reports, at least 44 people were killed after a large explosion rocked the north-eastern Chinese city of Tianjin Fifty-two people were critically injured out of a total of 521 people in hospital after the blast and fireball in the port city, local authorities said. epa/Wu Hong

Motorcycles lie on the street at the scene of a bomb attack near Erawan Shrine, central Bangkok, Thailand, 17 August 2015. An explosion in a busy commercial district in the Thai capital killed a yet unconfirmed number of people. Witnesses said the explosion happened around 7:15 pm (1215 GMT) at the Ratchaprasong Intersection, a business area famous among tourists and locals for a revered Hindu shrine. epa/Ritchie B.Tongo

Motorcycles lie on the street at the scene of a bomb attack near Erawan Shrine, central Bangkok, Thailand, 17 August 2015. An explosion in a busy commercial district in the Thai capital killed a yet unconfirmed number of people. Witnesses said the explosion happened around 7:15 pm (1215 GMT) at the Ratchaprasong Intersection, a business area famous among tourists and locals for a revered Hindu shrine. epa/Ritchie B.Tongo

An Indian barber cuts the hair of a labour at an open space near the roadside in Mumbai, India, 21 August 2015. epa/Divyakant Solank

An Indian barber cuts the hair of a labour at an open space near the roadside in Mumbai, India, 21 August 2015. epa/Divyakant Solank

Children cry as migrants waiting on the Greek side of the border break through a cordon of Macedonian special police forces to cross into Macedonia, near the southern city of Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 21 August 2015. Macedonian police clashed with thousands of migrants attempting to break into the country after being stranded in no-man's land overnight, marking an escalation of the European refugee crisis for the Balkan country. epa/Georgi Licovski

Children cry as migrants waiting on the Greek side of the border break through a cordon of Macedonian special police forces to cross into Macedonia, near the southern city of Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 21 August 2015. Macedonian police clashed with thousands of migrants attempting to break into the country after being stranded in no-man’s land overnight, marking an escalation of the European refugee crisis for the Balkan country. epa/Georgi Licovski

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange at the start of the trading day in New York, New York, USA, 24 August 2015. Global markets have been reacting to the economic situation in China and the Dow Jones Industrial average followed that trend losing 1,000 points in early trading. epa/Justin Lane

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange at the start of the trading day in New York, New York, USA, 24 August 2015. Global markets have been reacting to the economic situation in China and the Dow Jones Industrial average followed that trend losing 1,000 points in early trading. epa/Justin Lane

A Tv cameraman drives into Usain Bolt of Jamaica after the men's 200m final during the Beijing 2015 IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium, also known as Bird's Nest, in Beijing, China, 27 August 2015. Bolt won the race. epa/Rolex De La Pena

A Tv cameraman drives into Usain Bolt of Jamaica after the men’s 200m final during the Beijing 2015 IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium, also known as Bird’s Nest, in Beijing, China, 27 August 2015. Bolt won the race. epa/Rolex De La Pena

September 2015

Migrants cross the Erzsebet bridge in Budapest, Hungary, 04 September 2015. Several thousand migrants left the Keleti station this afternoon heading for Germany on foot. Hundreds of migrants on 03 September rushed the platforms in Budapest after Hungarian police opened the city's Keleti station, which had been blocked to migrants since 01 September. Hungary's railway service said there were no trains headed to Western Europe for the time being. Thousands of refugees - many of whom have traveled from Africa and the Middle East in the hopes of reaching countries like Germany and Sweden - have been stranded at the station. epa/Zslot Szigetvary

Migrants cross the Erzsebet bridge in Budapest, Hungary, 04 September 2015. Several thousand migrants left the Keleti station this afternoon heading for Germany on foot. Hundreds of migrants on 03 September rushed the platforms in Budapest after Hungarian police opened the city’s Keleti station, which had been blocked to migrants since 01 September. Hungary’s railway service said there were no trains headed to Western Europe for the time being. Thousands of refugees – many of whom have traveled from Africa and the Middle East in the hopes of reaching countries like Germany and Sweden – have been stranded at the station. epa/Zslot Szigetvary

Pedestrians cross a street under heavy rain generated by typhoon Etau in central Tokyo, Japan, 09 September 2015. Local media reported that six people were injured as typhoon Etau packing pounded central Japan, disrupting traffic and causing some flooding and mudslides in the region. The storm caused the cancellation of dozens of flights and train services while also bringing torrential rains to the Tokyo area. epa/Frank Robichon

Pedestrians cross a street under heavy rain generated by typhoon Etau in central Tokyo, Japan, 09 September 2015. Local media reported that six people were injured as typhoon Etau packing pounded central Japan, disrupting traffic and causing some flooding and mudslides in the region. The storm caused the cancellation of dozens of flights and train services while also bringing torrential rains to the Tokyo area. epa/Frank Robichon

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) has a selfie taken with a refugee during a visit to a refugee reception centre in Berlin, Germany, 10 September 2015. Germany can deal with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees without cutting social welfare benefits or raise taxes, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said on 10 September, during a debate in parliament on next year's budget. Germany expects 800,000 asylum seekers this year, four times more than last year and more than any other country in the European Union, which is split on how to deal with the biggest refugee crisis since World War II. epa/Bernd Von Jutrczenka

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) has a selfie taken with a refugee during a visit to a refugee reception centre in Berlin, Germany, 10 September 2015. Germany can deal with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees without cutting social welfare benefits or raise taxes, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said on 10 September, during a debate in parliament on next year’s budget. Germany expects 800,000 asylum seekers this year, four times more than last year and more than any other country in the European Union, which is split on how to deal with the biggest refugee crisis since World War II. epa/Bernd Von Jutrczenka

A crowd of supporters of Pope Francis hold US national flags, flags of the Vatican City and rosary beads before an arrival ceremony for Pope Francis on the South Lawn of the White House, in Washington DC, USA, 23 September 2015. Pope Francis is on a five-day trip to the USA, which includes stops in Washington DC, New York and Philadelphia, after a three-day stay in Cuba. Pope Francis added the Cuba visit after helping broker a historic rapprochement between Washington and Havana that ended a diplomatic freeze of more than 50 years. epa/Michael Reynolds

A crowd of supporters of Pope Francis hold US national flags, flags of the Vatican City and rosary beads before an arrival ceremony for Pope Francis on the South Lawn of the White House, in Washington DC, USA, 23 September 2015. Pope Francis is on a five-day trip to the USA, which includes stops in Washington DC, New York and Philadelphia, after a three-day stay in Cuba. Pope Francis added the Cuba visit after helping broker a historic rapprochement between Washington and Havana that ended a diplomatic freeze of more than 50 years. epa/Michael Reynolds

Mobile phones light up the crowd of people attending the last leg of the election campaign of the pro-sovereignty bloc 'Junts pel Si' (Together for the Yes) in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, 25 September 2015. Catalans go to the poles on 27 September to elect the Catalonian parliament. epa/Alberto Estevez

Mobile phones light up the crowd of people attending the last leg of the election campaign of the pro-sovereignty bloc ‘Junts pel Si’ (Together for the Yes) in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, 25 September 2015. Catalans go to the poles on 27 September to elect the Catalonian parliament. epa/Alberto Estevez

The perigee full moon, or supermoon, appears red besides a spire of the Cologne cathedral during a total lunar eclipse over Cologne, Germany, 28 September 2015. The combination of a supermoon and total lunar eclipse last occurred in 1982 and will not happen again until 2033. epa/Rolf Vennenbernd

The perigee full moon, or supermoon, appears red besides a spire of the Cologne cathedral during a total lunar eclipse over Cologne, Germany, 28 September 2015. The combination of a supermoon and total lunar eclipse last occurred in 1982 and will not happen again until 2033. epa/Rolf Vennenbernd

A South African resident of Masiphumelele runs past a burning barricade during a protest against the lack of policing in Masiphumelele, Cape Town, South Africa, 29 September 2015. According to local reports the protest was sparked by the court appearance 29 September of some residents arrested in connection with vigilante killings. The area has been volatile for weeks with community members angered at the lack of policing in the impoverished area. Two weeks ago suspected criminals were killed by a mob accused of being behind the death and rape of 15 year old Amani Pula. epa/Nick Bothma

A South African resident of Masiphumelele runs past a burning barricade during a protest against the lack of policing in Masiphumelele, Cape Town, South Africa, 29 September 2015. According to local reports the protest was sparked by the court appearance 29 September of some residents arrested in connection with vigilante killings. The area has been volatile for weeks with community members angered at the lack of policing in the impoverished area. Two weeks ago suspected criminals were killed by a mob accused of being behind the death and rape of 15 year old Amani Pula. epa/Nic Bothma

US President Barack Obama (R) attends a bilateral meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro at the United Nations headquarters in New York, New York, 29 September 2015. epa/Behar Anthony

US President Barack Obama (R) attends a bilateral meeting with Cuban President Raul Castro at the United Nations headquarters in New York, New York, 29 September 2015. epa/Behar Anthony

October 2015

Migrants make land from an overloaded rubber dinghy as they arrive on the coast near Skala Sikaminias, Lesbos island, Greece, 02 October 2015. An estimated 100,000 refugees and migrants arrived on the Greek islands during August, according to the Hellenic Coast Guard. epa/Filip Singer

Migrants make land from an overloaded rubber dinghy as they arrive on the coast near Skala Sikaminias, Lesbos island, Greece, 02 October 2015. An estimated 100,000 refugees and migrants arrived on the Greek islands during August, according to the Hellenic Coast Guard. epa/Filip Singer

Israeli emergency team members work at the scene where two people opened fire in a bus in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood near the Arab neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber in Jerusalem, Israel, 13 October 2015. According to Israeli police two Israelis were killed and 16 others wounded in an attack on a bus in Jerusalem. Stabbings and shootings within a two-hour period in Jerusalem and northern Israel have led to multiple casualties, Israeli police said. epa/Abir Sultan

Israeli emergency team members work at the scene where two people opened fire in a bus in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood near the Arab neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber in Jerusalem, Israel, 13 October 2015. According to Israeli police two Israelis were killed and 16 others wounded in an attack on a bus in Jerusalem. Stabbings and shootings within a two-hour period in Jerusalem and northern Israel have led to multiple casualties, Israeli police said. epa/Abir Sultan

Austrian actor Christoph Waltz (L) and British actor Daniel Craig (R) pose for photographers during a photocall to unveil the new James Bond film 'Spectre' at a hotel in Central London, Britain, 22 October 2015. The 24th Bond movie will be released in British theaters on 26 October, the same day as its world premiere in London. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Austrian actor Christoph Waltz (L) and British actor Daniel Craig (R) pose for photographers during a photocall to unveil the new James Bond film ‘Spectre’ at a hotel in Central London, Britain, 22 October 2015. The 24th Bond movie will be released in British theaters on 26 October, the same day as its world premiere in London. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

 

Novak Djokovic of Serbia (R) and teammate Djordje Djokovic of Serbia celebrate their point against Mao-Xin Gong of China and Michael Venus of New Zealands during the match in the China Open tennis tournament at the National Tennis Center in Beijing, China, 06 October 2015. epa/Wu Hong

Novak Djokovic of Serbia (R) and teammate Djordje Djokovic of Serbia celebrate their point against Mao-Xin Gong of China and Michael Venus of New Zealands during the match in the China Open tennis tournament at the National Tennis Center in Beijing, China, 06 October 2015. epa/Wu Hong

A picture made available on 26 October 2015 shows Aboriginal women performing a traditional dance at a cultural event near Uluru, also known as Ayres Rock, in the Northern Territory, Australia, 25 October 2015. Aboriginals marked on 26 October 2015, 30 years since the return of ownership of Uluru and Kata Tjuta from the Australian federal government. epa/Dan Peled

A picture made available on 26 October 2015 shows Aboriginal women performing a traditional dance at a cultural event near Uluru, also known as Ayres Rock, in the Northern Territory, Australia, 25 October 2015. Aboriginals marked on 26 October 2015, 30 years since the return of ownership of Uluru and Kata Tjuta from the Australian federal government. epa/Dan Peled

Filipinos escape from a fire in Paranaque city, south of Manila, Philippines, 29 October 2015. The Bureau of Fire Protection Chief Director Ariel Barayuga reminded the public to be extra cautious when lighting candles during the observance of All Soul's and All Saints' Day this week. Millions of Filipinos will soon flock to cemeteries around the country to visit departed relatives and loved ones to mark All Saints Day and All Souls Day on 01 and 02 November. epa/Francis R.Malasig

Filipinos escape from a fire in Paranaque city, south of Manila, Philippines, 29 October 2015. The Bureau of Fire Protection Chief Director Ariel Barayuga reminded the public to be extra cautious when lighting candles during the observance of All Soul’s and All Saints’ Day this week. Millions of Filipinos will soon flock to cemeteries around the country to visit departed relatives and loved ones to mark All Saints Day and All Souls Day on 01 and 02 November. epa/Francis R.Malasig

A young Syrian receives first aid in a field hospital following what local activists say was an airstrike by forces loyal to the al-Assad regime on a market place in the rebel-held area of Douma, outskirts of Damascus, Syria, 30 October 2015. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights at least 65 people were killed and over a hundred wounded in the attack on the busy market. epa/Mohammed Badra

A young Syrian receives first aid in a field hospital following what local activists say was an airstrike by forces loyal to the al-Assad regime on a market place in the rebel-held area of Douma, outskirts of Damascus, Syria, 30 October 2015. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights at least 65 people were killed and over a hundred wounded in the attack on the busy market. epa/Mohammed Badra

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and US Secretary of State John Kerry during a press conference on the international conference on Syria in Vienna, Austria, 30 October 2015. Nearly 20 top diplomats from regional rivals and key powers in the Syrian civil war gathered in Vienna for peace talks aimed at finding a solution to the conflict that began in 2011. epa/Georg Hochmuth

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura and US Secretary of State John Kerry during a press conference on the international conference on Syria in Vienna, Austria, 30 October 2015. Nearly 20 top diplomats from regional rivals and key powers in the Syrian civil war gathered in Vienna for peace talks aimed at finding a solution to the conflict that began in 2011. epa/Georg Hochmuth

Debris from crashed Russian jet lies strewn across the sand at the site of the crash, Sinai, Egypt, 31 October 2015. According to reports the Egyptian Government has dispatched more than 45 ambulances to the crash site of the Kogalymavia Metrojet Russian passenger jet, which disappeared from raider after requesting an emergency landing early 31 October, crashing in the mountainous al-Hasanah area of central Sinai. The black box has been recovered at the site. epa/str

Debris from crashed Russian jet lies strewn across the sand at the site of the crash, Sinai, Egypt, 31 October 2015. According to reports the Egyptian Government has dispatched more than 45 ambulances to the crash site of the Kogalymavia Metrojet Russian passenger jet, which disappeared from raider after requesting an emergency landing early 31 October, crashing in the mountainous al-Hasanah area of central Sinai. The black box has been recovered at the site. epa/Str

November 2015

Hindu devotees attend prayer with burning incense and light oil lamps before break fasting during a religious festival called Rakher Upabash in Narayangonj, Bangladesh 03 November 2015. The festival is celebrated in memory of the 18th Century Hindu saint Baba Loknath. EPA/Abir Abdullah

Hindu devotees attend prayer with burning incense and light oil lamps before break fasting during a religious festival called Rakher Upabash in Narayangonj, Bangladesh 03 November 2015. The festival is celebrated in memory of the 18th Century Hindu saint Baba Loknath. EPA/Abir Abdullah

A Romanian young man waves the national flag while shouting slogans against the political establishment during a rally in reaction to the nightclub fire accident at University Plaza in downtown Bucharest, Romania, 06 November 2015. Thousands of people gathered peacefully, for the fourth consecutive evening, in the downtown of Romania's capital, blocking the traffic, while demanding justice for the club blaze victims despite the government resignation announced two days ago. Protesters are commemorating this evening one week from the tragic accident. epa/Robert Ghement

A Romanian young man waves the national flag while shouting slogans against the political establishment during a rally in reaction to the nightclub fire accident at University Plaza in downtown Bucharest, Romania, 06 November 2015. Thousands of people gathered peacefully, for the fourth consecutive evening, in the downtown of Romania’s capital, blocking the traffic, while demanding justice for the club blaze victims despite the government resignation announced two days ago. Protesters are commemorating this evening one week from the tragic accident. epa/Robert Ghement

Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-Jeou shake hands at the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore, 07 November 2015. The presidents of China and Taiwan are meeting for the first time in more than six decades epa/Fazry Ismail

Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) and Taiwanese President Ma Ying-Jeou shake hands at the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore, 07 November 2015. The presidents of China and Taiwan are meeting for the first time in more than six decades epa/Fazry Ismail

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi (R), chairperson of National League for Democracy (NLD) party, leaves NLD headquarters after delivered a speech, Yangon, Myanmar, 09 November 2015. Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi hints at victory in her first address since the polls closed a day earlier. 'It is too early to congratulate our candidates that will be victors,' she said at the headquarters of her National League for Democracy party, 'but I think you all have an idea of the results.' She asked her supporters to not be boastful if they win or make the losers 'feel bad.' epa/Lynn Bo Bo

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi (R), chairperson of National League for Democracy (NLD) party, leaves NLD headquarters after delivered a speech, Yangon, Myanmar, 09 November 2015. Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi hints at victory in her first address since the polls closed a day earlier. ‘It is too early to congratulate our candidates that will be victors,’ she said at the headquarters of her National League for Democracy party, ‘but I think you all have an idea of the results.’ She asked her supporters to not be boastful if they win or make the losers ‘feel bad.’ epa/Lynn Bo Bo

A Syrian child reacts as he receives first aid in a field hospital following an airstrike by forces loyal to the Syrian government in the rebel-held area of Douma, outskirts of Damascus, Syria, 10 November 2015. According to the opposition, at least ten civilians were killed in Syrian regime strikes on the rebel-held Douma on 10 November. epa/Mohammed Dabra

A Syrian child reacts as he receives first aid in a field hospital following an airstrike by forces loyal to the Syrian government in the rebel-held area of Douma, outskirts of Damascus, Syria, 10 November 2015. According to the opposition, at least ten civilians were killed in Syrian regime strikes on the rebel-held Douma on 10 November. epa/Mohammed Badra

Wounded people are evacuated from the Stade de France in Paris, France, 13 November 2015, after explosions were reported. At least 26 people have died in attacks in Paris on 13 November after reports of a shootout and explosions near the Stade de France stadium. epa/Ian Langsdon

Wounded people are evacuated from the Stade de France in Paris, France, 13 November 2015, after explosions were reported. At least 26 people have died in attacks in Paris on 13 November after reports of a shootout and explosions near the Stade de France stadium. epa/Ian Langsdon

A woman cries in front the Carillon cafe in Paris, France, 14 November 2015. At least 120 people have been killed in a series of attacks in Paris on 13 November, according to French officials. Eight assailants were killed, seven when they detonated their explosive belts, and one when he was shot by officers, police said. French President Francois Hollande says that the attacks in Paris were an 'act of war' carried out by the Islamic State extremist group. epa/Yoan Valat

A woman cries in front the Carillon cafe in Paris, France, 14 November 2015. At least 120 people have been killed in a series of attacks in Paris on 13 November, according to French officials. Eight assailants were killed, seven when they detonated their explosive belts, and one when he was shot by officers, police said. French President Francois Hollande says that the attacks in Paris were an ‘act of war’ carried out by the Islamic State extremist group. epa/Yoan Valat

A man lights candles to make a Peace for Paris sign at Republique square to mark a week since the start of the terrorist attacks, in Paris, France, 20 November 2015. Paris suffered terrorist attacks at the hands of the so-called Islamic State on November 13, when Islamist suicide bombers and gunmen claimed the lives of 130 people, and injured 352. epa/Yoan Valat

A man lights candles to make a Peace for Paris sign at Republique square to mark a week since the start of the terrorist attacks, in Paris, France, 20 November 2015. Paris suffered terrorist attacks at the hands of the so-called Islamic State on November 13, when Islamist suicide bombers and gunmen claimed the lives of 130 people, and injured 352. epa/Yoan Valat

A pedestrian with an umbrella pauses in front of the memorial of candles and flowers for the victims of the 13 November Paris attacks, on Place de la Republique in Paris, France, 24 November 2015. Place de la Republique was briefly evacuated and subway services suspended after a bomb threat was declared - with normal service resuming shortly after. France remains on high-alert and maintains its state of emergency in the aftermath of the 13 November attacks during which more than 130 people were killed and hundreds injured in attacks which targeted the Bataclan concert hall, the Stade de France national sports stadium, and several restaurants and bars in the French capital. epa/Ian Langsdon

A pedestrian with an umbrella pauses in front of the memorial of candles and flowers for the victims of the 13 November Paris attacks, on Place de la Republique in Paris, France, 24 November 2015. Place de la Republique was briefly evacuated and subway services suspended after a bomb threat was declared – with normal service resuming shortly after. France remains on high-alert and maintains its state of emergency in the aftermath of the 13 November attacks during which more than 130 people were killed and hundreds injured in attacks which targeted the Bataclan concert hall, the Stade de France national sports stadium, and several restaurants and bars in the French capital. epa/Ian Langsdon

Competitors in action during the Motocross race Red Bull Knock Out at The Hague Beach, The Hague, Netherlands, 28 November 2015. The is the largest and toughest motocross beach race in the world. Amateur and pro motocross riders will fight against each other and against the natural elements of the sea and sand. epa/anp/Remko De Waal

Competitors in action during the Motocross race Red Bull Knock Out at The Hague Beach, The Hague, Netherlands, 28 November 2015. The is the largest and toughest motocross beach race in the world. Amateur and pro motocross riders will fight against each other and against the natural elements of the sea and sand. epa/anp/Remko De Waal

Owls are spotted sitting in hollow nest in Patan, Nepal, 18 November 2015. epa/Narendra Shrestha

Owls are spotted sitting in hollow nest in Patan, Nepal, 18 November 2015. epa/Narendra Shrestha

December 2015

A picture made available on 3 December 2015 shows Shiite pilgrims gathering at the Imam Hussein shrine during ceremonies marking Arbain in the holy city of Karbala, southern Iraq, 02 December 2015. Iraqi Shiites visit Karbala to perform the religious ceremony of Arbain, on the 40th day after the Shiite holy day of Ashura which commemorates the death of Imam Hussein at the battle of Karbala, which this year will again take place amid high security this year due to the ongoing conflict connected to the military offensive against the group calling themselves the Islamic State (IS). epa/Str

A picture made available on 3 December 2015 shows Shiite pilgrims gathering at the Imam Hussein shrine during ceremonies marking Arbain in the holy city of Karbala, southern Iraq, 02 December 2015. Iraqi Shiites visit Karbala to perform the religious ceremony of Arbain, on the 40th day after the Shiite holy day of Ashura which commemorates the death of Imam Hussein at the battle of Karbala, which this year will again take place amid high security this year due to the ongoing conflict connected to the military offensive against the group calling themselves the Islamic State (IS). epa/Str

US President Barack Obama makes a statement on the 02 December San Bernardino shooting, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 03 December 2015. A shooting on 02 December at a government building in San Bernardino, California, left 14 people dead and 17 wounded. epa/Michael Reynolds

US President Barack Obama makes a statement on the 02 December San Bernardino shooting, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 03 December 2015. A shooting on 02 December at a government building in San Bernardino, California, left 14 people dead and 17 wounded. epa/Michael Reynolds

Evidence tags and debris surround the SUV that is thought to be the getaway vehicle of the husband and wife gunmen in the aftermath of the deadly mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, USA 03 December 2015. The shooting spree in which 14 people were killed and 17 wounded in San Bernardino was carried out by a local couple, police said overnight. The suspects, who died in a shootout with police hours after the massacre 02 December at a conference centre, were Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Office said. epa/Paul Buck

Evidence tags and debris surround the SUV that is thought to be the getaway vehicle of the husband and wife gunmen in the aftermath of the deadly mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, USA 03 December 2015. The shooting spree in which 14 people were killed and 17 wounded in San Bernardino was carried out by a local couple, police said overnight. The suspects, who died in a shootout with police hours after the massacre 02 December at a conference centre, were Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office said. epa/Paul Buck

People gather around a makeshift memorial outside the Inland Regional Center where assailants Syed Farook and wife Tashfeen Malik shot and killed 14 people, in San Bernardino, California, USA, 07 December 2015. Farook and Malik carried out the 02 December shooting in San Bernardino, in which 14 people were killed and 21 wounded. epa/Mike Nelson

People gather around a makeshift memorial outside the Inland Regional Center where assailants Syed Farook and wife Tashfeen Malik shot and killed 14 people, in San Bernardino, California, USA, 07 December 2015. Farook and Malik carried out the 02 December shooting in San Bernardino, in which 14 people were killed and 21 wounded. epa/Mike Nelson

Pope Francis opens the Holy Door of Saint Peter's Basilica, formally starting the Jubilee of Mercy, at the Vatican City, 08 December 2015. The 'Holy Door' is the northernmost entrance at Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, that used to be sealed and only opened for Jubilee Years. The opening of the Holy Door is symbolically illustrating that the faithful are offered an unusual path during time of jubilee. The Jubilee of Mercy is an Extraordinary Holy Year that opens 08 December 2015 and ends 20 November 2016. epa/Maurizio Brambatti

Pope Francis opens the Holy Door of Saint Peter’s Basilica, formally starting the Jubilee of Mercy, at the Vatican City, 08 December 2015. The ‘Holy Door’ is the northernmost entrance at Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, that used to be sealed and only opened for Jubilee Years. The opening of the Holy Door is symbolically illustrating that the faithful are offered an unusual path during time of jubilee. The Jubilee of Mercy is an Extraordinary Holy Year that opens 08 December 2015 and ends 20 November 2016. epa/Maurizio Brambatti

Nicholas Johnson snuggles with Popcorn the dog, as they camp outside the TCL Chinese Theatre to stake their claim for spots in line for the upcoming release of 'Star Wars - The Force Awakens' in Hollywood, California, USA 09 December 2015. epa/Paul Buck

Nicholas Johnson snuggles with Popcorn the dog, as they camp outside the TCL Chinese Theatre to stake their claim for spots in line for the upcoming release of ‘Star Wars – The Force Awakens’ in Hollywood, California, USA 09 December 2015. epa/Paul Buck

French far-right political party National Front (FN) Marine Le Pen speaks after the results of the second round of the regional elections in at Francois Mitterand hall in Henin-Beaumont, northern France, 13 December 2015. epa/Olivier Hoslet

French far-right political party National Front (FN) Marine Le Pen speaks after the results of the second round of the regional elections in at Francois Mitterand hall in Henin-Beaumont, northern France, 13 December 2015. epa/Olivier Hoslet

Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford (L) of the Dominican Republic dunks the ball over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kendall Marshall (R) during the first half of their NBA basketball game at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 16 December 2015. epa/Erik S. Lesser

Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford (L) of the Dominican Republic dunks the ball over Philadelphia 76ers guard Kendall Marshall (R) during the first half of their NBA basketball game at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 16 December 2015. epa/Erik S. Lesser

Members of Royal Saudi Hawks Air Force Aerobatic team perform with Hawk planes during the Al-Ain Air Championship at Al-Ain airport, United Arab Emirates on 17 December 2015. The event runs from 17 to 19 December 2015. epa/Ali Haider

Members of Royal Saudi Hawks Air Force Aerobatic team perform with Hawk planes during the Al-Ain Air Championship at Al-Ain airport, United Arab Emirates on 17 December 2015. The event runs from 17 to 19 December 2015. epa/Ali Haider

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr (L) breaks up a pass against New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall (R) in the first half of the NFL American football game between the New York Jets and the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, USA, 19 December 2015. epa/Larry W. Smith

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr (L) breaks up a pass against New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall (R) in the first half of the NFL American football game between the New York Jets and the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, USA, 19 December 2015. epa/Larry W. Smith

The year in pictures 2015, our world in all its complexities. Follow us on Facebook and on Twitter to stay in touch for more insightful stories from behind the scenes.

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epa’s sports pictures selection 2015

A gallery highlighting a selection of epa’s sports pictures from 2015. epa covers sports events worldwide, ranging from the top events of the most well-known sports to feature coverage of more niche, less well-known sports. epa has numerous photographers around the world with a long record and experience of sports photography, unfortunately not all can be included in this selection. The highlights in 2015 were the Handball World Championships in Qatar, the Athletics World Championships in Beijing, the French Open in Paris and Wimbledon. A team of epa editors and photographers worked together to make these events a success. In 2015 epa sent around 210.000 sports pictures on the wire, which is the second highest number ever recorded, and which will surely be exceeded next year with the major events of the EURO 2016 soccer tournament in France and the Summer Olympic Games in Rio.

Competitors in action during the Mens Under 23 category race at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Tabor, Czech Republic, 01 January 2015. epa/Matej Divizna

Competitors in action during the Mens Under 23 category race at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Tabor, Czech Republic, 01 January 2015. epa/Matej Divizna

Argentinian rider Sebastian Halpern topples from his quad as he competes during the fourth stage of the 2015 Rally Dakar running between Chilecito, Argentina and Copiapo, Chile, 07 January 2015. epa/efe/Felipe Trueba

Argentinian rider Sebastian Halpern topples from his quad as he competes during the fourth stage of the 2015 Rally Dakar running between Chilecito, Argentina and Copiapo, Chile, 07 January 2015. epa/efe/Felipe Trueba

Spain's Joan Canellas (front) during the Qatar 2015 24th Men's Handball World Championship match between Qatar and Spain at the Lusail Multipurpose Hall outside Doha, Qatar, 21 January 2015. Qatar 2015 via epa/Nic Bothma

Spain’s Joan Canellas (front) during the Qatar 2015 24th Men’s Handball World Championship match between Qatar and Spain at the Lusail Multipurpose Hall outside Doha, Qatar, 21 January 2015. Qatar 2015 via epa/Nic Bothma

Eugenie Bouchard of Canada in action against Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania in their fourth round match at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 25 January 2015. The Australian Open tennis tournament runs from 19 January until 01 February 2015. epa/Narendra Shrestha

Eugenie Bouchard of Canada in action against Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania in their fourth round match at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 25 January 2015. The Australian Open tennis tournament runs from 19 January until 01 February 2015. epa/Narendra Shrestha

Daniel Bohnacker of Germany (3rd), Sergey Ridzik of Russia (2nd), Victor Oehling Norberg of Norway (1st) and Jean Frederic Chapuis of France (4th), from left, speed down the track during the final race of the men's Ski Cross World Cup in Arosa, Switzerland, on Saturday, February 7, 2015. epa/keystone/Gian Ehrenzeller

Daniel Bohnacker of Germany (3rd), Sergey Ridzik of Russia (2nd), Victor Oehling Norberg of Norway (1st) and Jean Frederic Chapuis of France (4th), from left, speed down the track during the final race of the men’s Ski Cross World Cup in Arosa, Switzerland, on Saturday, February 7, 2015. epa/keystone/Gian Ehrenzeller

Britain's Lily Owsley in action during the friendly field hockey match between Spain and Britain in Betero, Valencia, eastern Spain, 10 February 2015. epa/efe/Kai Foersterling

Britain’s Lily Owsley in action during the friendly field hockey match between Spain and Britain in Betero, Valencia, eastern Spain, 10 February 2015. epa/efe/Kai Foersterling

Thomas Diethart of Austria soars through the air during a ski jumping training session at the 2015 Nordic World Skiing Championships in Falun, Sweden, 24 February 2015. epa/expa/JFK

Thomas Diethart of Austria soars through the air during a ski jumping training session at the 2015 Nordic World Skiing Championships in Falun, Sweden, 24 February 2015. epa/expa/JFK

Ana Ivanovic of Serbia in action against Donna Vekic of Croatia during their third round match for the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 29 May 2015. epa/Yoan Valat

Ana Ivanovic of Serbia in action against Donna Vekic of Croatia during their third round match for the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 29 May 2015. epa/Yoan Valat

Monika Michalik (blue) of Poland and Andrea Simon (red) of Romania compete in the women's Freestyle 63kg wrestling Repechage match at the Baku 2015 European Games in Azerbaijan, 16 June 2015. epa/Srdjan Suki

Monika Michalik (blue) of Poland and Andrea Simon (red) of Romania compete in the women’s Freestyle 63kg wrestling Repechage match at the Baku 2015 European Games in Azerbaijan, 16 June 2015. epa/Srdjan Suki

Khetag Gazyumov (R) of Azerbaijan and Ibrahim Saidau of Belarus compete in the men's Freestyle 97kg wrestling quarter-final match at the Baku 2015 European Games in Azerbaijan, 17 June 2015. epa/Maxim Shipenkov

Khetag Gazyumov (R) of Azerbaijan and Ibrahim Saidau of Belarus compete in the men’s Freestyle 97kg wrestling quarter-final match at the Baku 2015 European Games in Azerbaijan, 17 June 2015. epa/Maxim Shipenkov

France's midfielder Claire Lavogez (back) bites teammate Jessica Houara's shirt (front) after missing a point in the penalty shootout against Germany during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 quarter-final soccer match between Germany and France at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada, 26 June 2015. epa/Andre Pichette

France’s midfielder Claire Lavogez (back) bites teammate Jessica Houara’s shirt (front) after missing a point in the penalty shootout against Germany during the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 quarter-final soccer match between Germany and France at the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Canada, 26 June 2015. epa/Andre Pichette

Sandra Aleksejeva of Latvia (L) and Elke Vanhoff of Belgium (R) falls during Women's Cycling BMX Final at the Baku 2015 European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan, 28 June 2015. epa/Robert Ghement

Sandra Aleksejeva of Latvia (L) and Elke Vanhoff of Belgium (R) falls during Women’s Cycling BMX Final at the Baku 2015 European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan, 28 June 2015. epa/Robert Ghement

PSG's players congratulate Moura Lucas of Paris St Germain after he scored during the French league 1 season opening match Paris Saint Germain vs Lille OSC at the Pierre Mauroy Stadium in Lille, France, 07 July 2015. epa/Etienne Laurent

PSG’s players congratulate Moura Lucas of Paris St Germain after he scored during the French league 1 season opening match Paris Saint Germain vs Lille OSC at the Pierre Mauroy Stadium in Lille, France, 07 July 2015. epa/Etienne Laurent

Borussia Dortmund players Sokratis Papastathopoulos (R) and Neven Subotic (2-R) in action against Kawasaki Frontale players Yuto Takeoka (2-L) and Shogo Taniguchi (L) during a friendly soccer match as part of Borussia Dortmund's Asian tour in Kawasaki, south of Tokyo, Japan, 07 July 2015. epa/Kimimasa Mayama

Borussia Dortmund players Sokratis Papastathopoulos (R) and Neven Subotic (2-R) in action against Kawasaki Frontale players Yuto Takeoka (2-L) and Shogo Taniguchi (L) during a friendly soccer match as part of Borussia Dortmund’s Asian tour in Kawasaki, south of Tokyo, Japan, 07 July 2015. epa/Kimimasa Mayama

Javier Garcia (L) of Spain vies for the ball with Aaron Younger of Australia during their men’s Vodafone Cup water polo match in Hajos Alfred Swimming Pool in Budapest, Hungary, 11 July 2015. epa/mti/Tamas Kovacs

Javier Garcia (L) of Spain vies for the ball with Aaron Younger of Australia during their men’s Vodafone Cup water polo match in Hajos Alfred Swimming Pool in Budapest, Hungary, 11 July 2015. epa/mti/Tamas Kovacs

A multiple exposure image of Alexander Massialas (L) of the USA in action against Artur Akhmatkhuzin (R) of Russia during their men's Foil Individual semi final bout of the World Fencing Championships in Moscow, Russia, 16 July 2015. epa/Sergei Ilnitsky

A multiple exposure image of Alexander Massialas (L) of the USA in action against Artur Akhmatkhuzin (R) of Russia during their men’s Foil Individual semi final bout of the World Fencing Championships in Moscow, Russia, 16 July 2015. epa/Sergei Ilnitsky

Brazilian divers Ingrid Oliveira and Giovanna Pedroso perform in the women's 10m Synchro Platform preliminary round at the 16th FINA Swimming World Championships in Kazan, Russia, 27 July 2015. epa/Valdrin Xhemaj

Brazilian divers Ingrid Oliveira and Giovanna Pedroso perform in the women’s 10m Synchro Platform preliminary round at the 16th FINA Swimming World Championships in Kazan, Russia, 27 July 2015. epa/Valdrin Xhemaj

British Gary Hunt competes during the Men's High Diving preliminary round of the FINA Swimming World Championships 2015 at Kazanska River in Kazan, Russia, 02 August 2015. epa/Tolga Bozoglu

British Gary Hunt competes during the Men’s High Diving preliminary round of the FINA Swimming World Championships 2015 at Kazanska River in Kazan, Russia, 02 August 2015. epa/Tolga Bozoglu

A trip of paddle boarders pass by on Lake Michigan as Tommy Fleetwood of England putts on the third green during the second round of the 97th PGA Championship golf tournament at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin, USA, 14 August 2015. epa/Erik S. Lesser

A trip of paddle boarders pass by on Lake Michigan as Tommy Fleetwood of England putts on the third green during the second round of the 97th PGA Championship golf tournament at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin, USA, 14 August 2015. epa/Erik S. Lesser

A Tv cameraman drives into Usain Bolt of Jamaica after the men's 200m final during the Beijing 2015 IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium, also known as Bird's Nest, in Beijing, China, 27 August 2015. Bolt won the race. epa/Rolex Dela Pena

A Tv cameraman drives into Usain Bolt of Jamaica after the men’s 200m final during the Beijing 2015 IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium, also known as Bird’s Nest, in Beijing, China, 27 August 2015. Bolt won the race. epa/Rolex Dela Pena

Ashton Eaton of the USA wears a cooling hood as he rests on the track during the Pole Vault of the Decathlon event during the Beijing 2015 IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium, also known as Bird's Nest, in Beijing, China, 29 August 2015. epa/Diego Azubel

Ashton Eaton of the USA wears a cooling hood as he rests on the track during the Pole Vault of the Decathlon event during the Beijing 2015 IAAF World Championships at the National Stadium, also known as Bird’s Nest, in Beijing, China, 29 August 2015. epa/Diego Azubel

Fan Yilin of China performs on the uneven bars during the women's qualifications on day two at the 46th FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Glasgow, Britain, 24 October 2015. epa/Andrew Cowie

Fan Yilin of China performs on the uneven bars during the women’s qualifications on day two at the 46th FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Glasgow, Britain, 24 October 2015. epa/Andrew Cowie

British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes AMG GP in action during the third practice session at the Circuit of the Americas, in Austin, Texas, USA, 24 October 2015. The United States Formula One Grand Prix takes place on 25 October 2015. epa/Srdjan Suki

British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes AMG GP in action during the third practice session at the Circuit of the Americas, in Austin, Texas, USA, 24 October 2015. The United States Formula One Grand Prix takes place on 25 October 2015. epa/Srdjan Suki

Fourth placed Lara Gut of Switzerland speeds down the slope during the second run of the women's Giant Slalom race of the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup season on the Rettenbach glacier, in Soelden, Austria, 24 October 2015. epa/apa/Gian Ehrenzeller

Fourth placed Lara Gut of Switzerland speeds down the slope during the second run of the women’s Giant Slalom race of the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup season on the Rettenbach glacier, in Soelden, Austria, 24 October 2015. epa/apa/Gian Ehrenzeller

A photograph made avaiable on 01 November 2015 showing Charlie Lines (C) reacts after New Zealand All Blacks player Sonny Bill Williams gave his gold medal after winning the Rugby World Cup 2015 Final match between New Zealand and Australia at Twickenham in London, Britain, 31 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

A photograph made avaiable on 01 November 2015 showing Charlie Lines (C) reacts after New Zealand All Blacks player Sonny Bill Williams gave his gold medal after winning the Rugby World Cup 2015 Final match between New Zealand and Australia at Twickenham in London, Britain, 31 October 2015. epa/Facundo Arrizabalaga

Mads Ostberg of Norway driving his Citroën DS3 during the shakedown of the WRC Wales Rally GB 2015 in Deeside, Wales, Britain, 12 November 2015.

Mads Ostberg of Norway driving his Citroën DS3 during the shakedown of the WRC Wales Rally GB 2015 in Deeside, Wales, Britain, 12 November 2015.

Unicaja's US pivot Will Thomas (L) fights for the ball with US pivot Arinze Onuaku (R) of Maccabi Tel Aviv during their Euroleague game between Unicaja and Maccabi Tel Aviv played at Jose Maria Martin Carpena pavillio in Malaga, Andalusia, Spain on 26 November 2015. epa/efe/Jorge Zapata

Unicaja’s US pivot Will Thomas (L) fights for the ball with US pivot Arinze Onuaku (R) of Maccabi Tel Aviv during their Euroleague game between Unicaja and Maccabi Tel Aviv played at Jose Maria Martin Carpena pavillio in Malaga, Andalusia, Spain on 26 November 2015. epa/efe/Jorge Zapata

Competitors in action during the Motocross race Red Bull Knock Out at The Hague Beach, The Hague, Netherlands, 28 November 2015. The is the largest and toughest motocross beach race in the world. Amateur and pro motocross riders will fight against each other and against the natural elements of the sea and sand. epa/anp/Remko De Waal

Competitors in action during the Motocross race Red Bull Knock Out at The Hague Beach, The Hague, Netherlands, 28 November 2015. The is the largest and toughest motocross beach race in the world. Amateur and pro motocross riders will fight against each other and against the natural elements of the sea and sand. epa/anp/Remko De Waal

Ukrainian heavyweight boxer Vladimir Klitschko in action against British boxer Tyson Fury (not pictured) at the Esprit Arena in Duesseldorf, Germany, 28 November 2015. epa/dpa/Rolf Vennenbernd

Ukrainian heavyweight boxer Vladimir Klitschko in action against British boxer Tyson Fury (not pictured) at the Esprit Arena in Duesseldorf, Germany, 28 November 2015. epa/dpa/Rolf Vennenbernd

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Attacks in Paris 13 November 2015

In a combined write-up, epa’s team of photographers covering the attacks in Paris on 13th November, 2015 and the aftermath were asked to share a few thoughts and stories behind their images.


By Yoan Valat

Wounded people are evacuated outside the scene of a hostage situation at the Bataclan theatre in Paris, France, 14 November 2015. Dozens of people have been killed in a series of attacks in the French capital Paris, with a hostage-taking also reported at a concert hall. epa / Yoan Valat

Wounded people are evacuated outside the scene of a hostage situation at the Bataclan theatre in Paris, France, in the early hours of 14 November 2015. epa / Yoan Valat

I was home enjoying a dinner with my parents who came to Paris from the South of France to attend the reception at the Elysee Palace for the Photography award* I received the same day by French President, Francois Hollande.
We were watching the soccer game France vs Germany and could hear the bombs on TV but did not realize what they were until TV commentators started to say something was going on. So I changed to a TV live info channel, and they were already mentioning bombs outside the stadium. I called Benjamin [Benjamin Légier, epa’s Bureau Chief France and Luxembourg], he was already aware and had a new piece of news about the shooting at the Café Carillon, about 15min by car from my place. So I went immediately but got stopped on my way by armed forces police about one km away from the cafe. This is when I realized it was a series of attacks ongoing in the streets of Paris. Then Benjamin called me back to ask me to rush to the Bataclan concert hall, where I arrived about five minutes later. Police and some army soldiers were already surrounding the place but it was still possible to be at a reasonable distance to take pictures. This is when I saw the first injured people being evacuated from the Bataclan.

People pay their respect in front the Carillon cafe in Paris, France, 14 November 2015. At least 120 people have been killed in a series of attacks in Paris on 13 November, according to French officials. Eight assailants were killed, seven when they detonated their explosive belts, and one when he was shot by officers, police said. French President Francois Hollande says that the attacks in Paris were an 'act of war' carried out by the Islamic State extremist group. epa / Yoan Valat

People pay their respect in front the Carillon cafe in Paris, France, 14 November 2015. At least 120 people have been killed in a series of attacks in Paris on 13 November, according to French officials. epa / Yoan Valat

The most important thing to me is the reaction of the population. It cannot be compared with the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo story. In January, people were really angry and combative, they were without fear, one could say. Today, it is so different. People realize it can happen anytime and anywhere in France. And the number of the victims is so big that we all know close friends who lost or who have injured friends.

*Yoan Valat, epa staff photographer based in Paris, was awarded First Prize in “Prix d’Elysée de la Photographie 2014/2015”. The prize was handed to him by Francois Hollande in a ceremony held at Elysée Palace on 13th November, 2015 at midday.


By Ian Langsdon

Wounded people are evacuated from the Stade de France in Paris, France, 13 November 2015, after explosions were reported. epa / Ian Langsdon

Wounded people are evacuated from the Stade de France in Paris, France, 13 November 2015, after explosions were reported. epa / Ian Langsdon

Everything was working fine. The Stade de France’s unstable internet connection was (for once) holding up, and pictures of the France-Germany friendly soccer match were rolling out at a steady pace. Then there was a bang. Loud enough to make me look up from my computer screen. The crowd cheered, while fellow photographers looked at each other and shrugged it off, dismissing it as a big firecracker which soccer fans often set off during games. A few minutes later, it happened again. Louder.
A flood of missed calls from the office suddenly popped up on my phone – the connection unable to establish in the 80,000-strong crowd in the stadium. This couldn’t be a good sign. I finally reached Benjamin on the phone: “There’s a shooting in central Paris, many dead, and rumours of an explosion outside the stadium.”

I packed up my gear and ran around the pitch to Etienne Laurent’s position, where he and a couple of other photographers had already packed up and were ready to head outside. The only problem was, the stadium was in lockdown. The authorities kept the whole situation quiet, as the match continued playing – and the crowd had not seemed phased by the explosion sounds whatsoever. They had no idea.

After retrieving our press cards from the front desk, a group of around six of us proceeded to the perimeter gate, which was being blocked by a security guard, refusing to let us out. He didn’t stand a chance. We flattened him as we pushed our way past him, out into the open grounds around the stadium. Outside, there was an eerie sense of calm, despite a heavy police presence. Operating on a rumour that there had been an explosion near a fast-food restaurant near a small piazza where Etienne and I had parked out motorbikes, we made our way around the stadium, asking police officers on the way what the situation was. The summary of it was: ‘No idea.’

We reached the piazza to find that it had become the medical and command centre for rescue operations. Police with machine guns stood guard, and there was a general sense of confusion as to what the perimeter was. Some policemen allowed us to walk around and shoot pictures while others attempted to push us back to where a small crowd had gathered. Suddenly two firefighters appeared from around the corner, helping a shirtless man hopping on one foot. I photographed him being loaded into the ambulance, as three more injured people made their way towards us. At this point, I had not yet grasped the full scale of these tragic attacks. I only saw four injured victims that night, unlike my many colleagues who witnessed gruesome, difficult scenes.

With the stadium perimeter becoming increasingly difficult to operate around, and with unfolding events in Paris, I was called back into the city to reinforce the team. At 2am on a Friday night, crowds are usually spilling out of bars into the streets. But it was a ghost town, where only sirens echoed. That sound hasn’t stopped in five days.

I came to photograph soccer. I left, having covered part of the worst terror attack Paris ever saw.
I never found out what the final score was.

A large crowd gathers to lay flowers and candles in front of the Carillon restaurant in Paris, France, 15 November 2015. epa / Ian Langsdon

A large crowd gathers to lay flowers and candles in front of the Carillon restaurant in Paris, France, 15 November 2015. epa / Ian Langsdon

Candles and flowers. That’s how my year started, in the aftermath of the shocking attacks on Charlie Hebdo, a block away from where I live. And here I am again, surrounded by candles and flowers, this time at the Bataclan, a block away from where I live. Or at the Carillon, or Petit Cambodge or Cosa Nostra restaurants, all 10 minutes away.

The response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks had quickly turned political, almost into a militant celebration, as the world rallied behind slogans like ‘Je suis Charlie’. We grasped pens to symbolize that freedom of speech will always prevail. We organized a march. But this time, Paris’ youth was targeted. The victims were all predominantly young adults, enjoying the usual friday night leisures we all indulge in. This wasn’t a targeted assassination of cartoonists who had angered fundamentalists. This was gratuitous killing, with the objective of inflicting maximal damage. Despite the world’s outpouring of support – with ‘Je suis Paris’, ‘#PrayForParis’ and red-white-and-blue Facebook profile pictures – nothing will turn this into a militant celebration. Things are different this time. There is only grief.

Parisians awoke Saturday morning to a changed Paris. But they needed to take in the full scale of the horror in person. Thousands flocked to Carillon, the Petit Cambodge, the Cosa Nostra, the Bonne Bierre, the Belle Equipe, Comptoire Voltaire and Bataclan. Some would leave flowers, others would spend hours battling gusts of wind to light and re-light candles. People left letters, drawings, pictures, bottles of wine. The silence was deafening at every site. Occasionally, someone would timidly begin singing the Marseillaise (France’s national anthem), and a hushed, wobbly-voiced choir would monotonously join in, provoking outbursts of tears. The crowds were always teetering on the edge, emotionally.

The working conditions were complicated. On the one hand, the raw emotion at these sites provided strong visuals. On the other hand, pointing a camera in someone’s face as they cry is never easy. We were affected too. I hid behind my camera the whole time. Living these scenes through the viewfinder allowed me to put up the emotional wall needed to work. I’m a young adult, I knew these bars, and this is the second terror attack in my neighbourhood in one year. Maybe it’s time to move.


By Christophe Petit-Tesson

People are evacuated by bus outside the scene of an attack at the Bataclan theatre in Paris, France, 13 November 2015.epa / Christophe Petit Tesson

People are evacuated by bus outside the scene of an attack at the Bataclan theatre in Paris, France, 13 November 2015. epa / Christophe Petit Tesson

Je me souviendrai du 13 Novembre 2015.
Je me souviendrai aussi de la photo de l’évacuation de survivants dans ce bus. Cette photo je ne l’aie pas voulu, pas chercher. Je viens de passer 3 heures dans un buisson en face du Bataclan ou j’ai entendu les cris, les balles et les explosions sans presque rien voir car des camions de Police m’empêchent de voir la façade de la salle. Encore sonné, je croise 5, 10, je ne sais plus, regards qui me transpercent tous en même temps et je n’ai qu’un reflexe ; lever mon appareil photo, que puis-je faire d’autre ?
Je ne réalise pas que cette photo sera publiée dans de nombreux titres un peu partout dans le monde. Sur les réseaux sociaux ou elle est partagée je la vois encore et encore et ils me regardent toujours droit dans les yeux. Elle raconte l’horreur mais sans les armes, ni le sang, ni la violence juste la douleur d’un Vendredi 13 Novembre.

I will remember the November 13, 2015.
I also will remember the picture of the evacuation of survivors in a bus. This picture I did not want to take, I was not looking for it. I just spent three hours in a bush in front of the Bataclan where I heard the assault’s screams, bullets and explosions without seeing almost anything because police trucks prevented me from seeing the front of the concert room. Still shocked , I see 5, 10, or I don’t know how many, eyes that pierce me all at once and I have just one reflex: raise my camera, what else can I do?
I did not realize that this photo will be published in numerous titles around the world. On social networks, where it is shared , I can see it again and again, and still they look me straight in the eyes. The photo recounts the horror but without the arms, nor blood, nor violence, just the pain of Friday, November 13.

 


By Laurent Dubrule

Flowers and shoes aside of a blood stain near the Bataclan concert venue Paris, France, 14 November 2015. epa / Laurent Dubrule

Flowers and shoes aside of a blood stain near the Bataclan concert venue Paris, France, 14 November 2015. epa / Laurent Dubrule

This photo was taken near the Bataclan the day after the attacks. For me it represents the ambient chaos … a lost shoe on the pavement 200 meters away from the premises of the drama, blood streaks and people beginning to come to pray, just a few hours before the injured were attended to, even on the ground … candles, flowers, shoes, blood, horror ….

Thousands of people observe a minute of silence near the Bataclan concert venue in Paris, France, 16 November 2015. epa / Laurent Dubrule

Thousands of people observe a minute of silence near the Bataclan concert venue in Paris, France, 16 November 2015. epa / Laurent Dubrule

This photo was taken during the minute of silence next to the Bataclan the Monday following the attacks in Paris. Hundreds and thousands of people gathered to pray – among them these three women of Iranian origin attracted my attention … a simple photo, sweet, but so tragic ….

 


By Etienne Laurent

A French police officer takes cover while on the lookout for the shooters who attacked the restaurant 'Le Petit Cambodge' earlier tonight in Paris, France, 13 November 2015. epa / Etienne Laurent

A French police officer takes cover while on the lookout for the shooters who attacked the restaurant ‘Le Petit Cambodge’ in Paris, France, 13 November 2015. epa / Etienne Laurent

As Ian explained getting out of the stadium was not an easy task. We had both parked our motorbikes at the exact location where the rescue squads had set up their control center and I had to argue with a police officer before he kindly accepted (would probably say kindly agreed) to let us remove our vehicles.

At this point, I was only focused on the task at hand, I took a few pictures of the first injured people to arrive and sent them as quickly as possible. I had no time to think about what was happening as messages and texts from friends and family started to pile up in my phone.

I sent a few texts back to tell them saying I was ok during the 2 minutes before Benjamin called to dispatch me to the ‘Carillon’ and ‘Le Petit Cambodge’. I put the warnings on and rode as fast as possible, it was already late and I knew most of the routes would have checkpoints forbidding access.

As I rode, I was grasping the reality of the attacks. A coordinated action involving several groups, it wasn’t isolated as it was for Charlie.

When I arrived from the direction of the Saint Louis Hospital, the road was blocked. I tried to argue with the police but they wouldn’t let me go through so I decided to try side streets to get closer to the scene.

I had received messages from my closest friends and I knew my little brother was ok.

As I rode around to find access, I found myself face to face with a unit of police all weapons drawn and walking slowly up the street searching for possible terrorists. They ordered me out of the street so I parked on the side and started to follow them from a distance, my back always against a wall.

In the dim orange light of the street lamps, the scene was out of this world, this country. The officers were walking from door to door, tree to tree, corners to corners. They were tensed shouting at passers by to get out of there, to find shelter, their weapons pointing at them.

Suddenly, one of their colleagues following them with a car called them back. They ran toward him and quickly jumped into the car and drove away in an instant.

I ran to my motorbike to retrieve my computer and sent the pictures I had taken. I was then dispatched to the Bataclan to reinforce.

This first night was surreal, I remember it as something you would have experienced as an outside character. And in a sense, I was an outside character. My mind was blank all this time, I had no feelings but this pain in my stomach and a dull rage building up in the back of head, it was terrible, it was far too big for something like this to happen here, in these places I had been with friends for drinks or a bite.

Three people set up a French flag in front of the Carillon restaurant prior to a minute of silence in tribute for the victims of the 13 November in front of the Carillon restaurant, in Paris, France, 16 November 2015. epa / Etienne Laurent

Three people set up a French flag in front of the Carillon restaurant prior to a minute of silence in tribute for the victims of the 13 November in front of the Carillon restaurant, in Paris, France, 16 November 2015. epa / Etienne Laurent

On Monday, at noon, a minute of silence was observed all over France. The ‘Carillon’ and ‘Le Petit Cambodge’, one in front of the other, are located 10 minutes away from my flat in a working class and young neighbourhood. There, the communities mix together, whether they are French, from Asia, or Maghreb, young or older.

I arrived at 11.30, a crowd was already gathering when a Cambogian man arrived with a plastic pole and started to set up a French flag helped by an elderly man and another, a Muslim who later would pray, his two eyes turned toward the sky. As all three were hanging the flag from the pole, no sound could be heard in the too heavy atmosphere, with the exception of muffled sobs erupting here and there, breaking the air.

It was hard for me to take pictures staying there just thinking trying to make a sense of it all . The sound of the shutters from my camera and my colleagues was tearing up this silence, this moment of contemplation and seemed unbearable to my ears.

I suddenly realized tears were rolling down my cheeks, slowly without a sound. All the emotions I was shutting down during the past three days were emerging. I felt rage and despair but also pride as I was watching the crowd and these three men working together setting up a flag as a symbol to rally them all against this terror, this horror that shook us all.

 


By Julien Warnand

Words fail me. What I can only say is that after three days of photographing people paying tribute, crying, placing mourning flowers and candles, I found something special in this picture of a man comforting a woman in his arms at Place de la Republique, someting between compassion and hope:

A man comforts a woman during a vigil at the Place de la Republique in Paris, France, 15 November 2015. epa / Julien Warnand

A man comforts a woman during a vigil at the Place de la Republique in Paris, France, 15 November 2015. epa / Julien Warnand

 


By Guillaume Horcajuelo

Pour moi, parmi la couverture photo que j’ai du effectuer, cette photo est un moment intéressant. L’Élysée organise un pool photo pour une minute de silence a l’université de la Sorbonne avec Francois Hollande, Manuel Valls, Premier ministre, et Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Ministre de l’éducation. L’équipe de presse nous prepositionne dans la cour de la Sorbonne, symbole de liberté, les étudiants sont eux positionnés en fer à cheval. Le directeur annonce l’arrivée imminente du président et demande l’extinction des téléphones portables. Dans un silence très lourd, les centaines d’ étudiants attendent, aucun bruit, aucune parole, aucune sonnerie de portable ne vient troubler ce lourd silence alors que la minute n’a pas encore commencé.

French President Francois Hollande (C) flanked by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (R) and French Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem (L) stands among students as they hold a minute of silence in the courtyard of the Sorbonne University in Paris, France, 16 November 2015. epa / Guillaume Horcajuelo

French President Francois Hollande (C) flanked by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (R) and French Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem (L) stands among students as they hold a minute of silence in the courtyard of the Sorbonne University in Paris, France, 16 November 2015. epa / Guillaume Horcajuelo

Le président et les ministres arrivent, prennent position au millieu des étudiants, observent la minute de silence. À la fin, c’est un tonnerre d’applaudissements qui surgit de l’extérieur. Et qui vient se répandre dans la cour. À leur tour, les étudiants claquent des mains. Puis au moment du départ le président serre quelques mains et se retire. Les applaudissements semblent interminables. C’est alors que les étudiants restent en position, attendent… On sent qu’ils ne veulent pas que se moment se termine, qu’ils ne veulent pas partir et c’est alors qu’ils se mettent à chanter la Marseillaise à l’unisson. Un très beau moment riche en émotions, non organisé par le protocole. Certains pleurent mais la plupart d’entre eux n’exprime que peu d’expression . En partant j’entend un étudiant dire ” c’était tellement beau mais c’était trop court “.
À cet instant on sent le courage et la force de ces étudiants de Paris, ceux-là mêmes qui fréquentent les terrasses de cafés et les salles de concert, un minute de courage tous ensembles contre les heures d’angoisses vécues depuis 2 jours.

Among all the photos I had to take during this period, this picture is particularly interesting to me. The Elysee Palace organized pool coverage of the minute of silence at the Sorbonne University with President Francois Hollande, Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem. The press organizers show us our position in the courtyard of the University, a symbol of Freedom; the students stand in a semi-circle around the officials. The director announces the imminent arrival of the President and asks everyone to turn their mobile phones off.

In heavy silence, hundreds of students wait. There is no noise, no talking, no phones ringing to disturb the deep silence before the minute of commemoration starts.

The President and his ministers enter, stand among the students and observe the minute of silence which ends to thunderous applause coming from outside the school and spreading into the courtyard. All the students start clapping. While departing, the President shakes some hands and disappears. At that moment, the students stand and wait… we can feel that they don’t want this moment to end like this, they don’t want to leave and then they start singing the national anthem “La Marseillaise” in perfect unison.

epa / Guillaume Horcajuelo

Students sing ‘ La Marseillaise ‘ after they hold a minute of silence with French President Francois Hollande, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and French Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem in the courtyard of the Sorbonne University in Paris, France, 16 November 2015. epa / Guillaume Horcajuelo

A moment full of emotion, not organized by protocol. Some young people cry but most of them show blank expressions on their faces.
Before I leave the Sorbonne, I hear a student saying: “It was so beautiful but it was too short”.
I could feel the strength and the courage of the students of Paris, the ones who gather on the terraces of the cafés and at the concert venues. A minute of bravery, all united against the fear felt over the past two days.

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Refugee crisis in Europe – Macedonian Border

By Georgi Licovski

An exhausted and frustrated migrant holds his head after he failed to get a place on a train heading to the Serbian border at the train station in Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 13 August 2015. epa / Georgi Licovski

An exhausted and frustrated migrant holds his head after he failed to get a place on a train heading to the Serbian border at the train station in Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 13 August 2015. epa / Georgi Licovski

My first pictures for epa date back to more than 20 years ago and that first decade of my epa career was connected exclusively to the breaking up of Yugoslavia, only to be followed by the terrible crisis in Kosovo. It was then that I first experienced huge waves of refugees, when half a million people left Kosovo and were settled in the Macedonian refugee camp Stenkovec. Those were very difficult times and sincerely I thought, and hoped, I would never need to take pictures of refugees on European territory again. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

A Macedonian policeman walks ahead of a group of refugees crossing the border checkpoint of Blace, some 25 kms north of the Macedonian capitol Skopje 24 April 1999, after their arrival from Kosovo by train. epa / Georgi Licovski

A Macedonian policeman walks ahead of a group of refugees crossing the border checkpoint of Blace, some 25 kms north of the Macedonian capitol Skopje 24 April 1999, after their arrival from Kosovo by train. epa / Georgi Licovski

After the war in Macedonia in 2001 and the surrounding conflicts, I continued working for epa, mainly covering sports events. I have to admit that I have enjoyed these last 14 years and the sport assignments far away from the human suffering and tragedy.

I continued to cover news in Macedonia and the surrounding countries but rarely something that is breaking news. With the coming of the migrants on Macedonian territory in March and April this year, I was among the first who took a serious interest in it because I assumed that the migrant story would continue to develop. In the beginning the pictures were not really accepted in European newspapers because Europe still didn’t take the migrants situation seriously. As time passed however, the story got bigger and in July and August it exploded and became one of the biggest stories of the beginning 21st century. When I consider that I am not so young, and having 30 years of working as a photographer behind me, I started looking at things differently. For me, I was faced with a big moral question. We all try to take the most touching pictures of the migrants because we know that those kind of pictures have a better impact in the newspapers in the world. Those are the types of pictures that sell. But at the same time I became very aware of how deep I got into the intimacy and misery of the people who left their homes and were running away from the horrors of war, dreaming of the “paradise on earth” called Europe. How moral is it to use their misery and their terrible situation for a better picture and a better play? But truth be told, never in my life did I receive a greater reaction from the many European journalists and their readers as they tried to contact me and ask if they could help the migrants in any way. I received emails in which people asked me where can they donate money for the migrants. That made me a little happier.

Migrants fight to get onto the train heading to the Serbian border at the train station in Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 13 August 2015. epa / Georgi Licovski

Migrants fight to get onto the train heading to the Serbian border at the train station in Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 13 August 2015. epa / Georgi Licovski

The majority of migrants don’t want their pictures taken for many reasons. While the younger ones and the children are easier to come into contact with and accept being photographed, the adults and especially the women are not happy when they see the cameras. A big problem for me nevertheless is how to approach and make contact with the migrants. In all the chaos, what is difficult for me and the other photographers is the police which, by default do not like the photographers. The permits for taking pictures at the border line are easily acquired from the ministry of interior. Nevertheless it’s completely different in the field. Even if you have all the necessary papers and permits required, the permission to shoot is given by the commander of the police force who is in charge at the moment. In any case, experience and patience is required to make good contact with the police which allows for better access to the border zone.

Migrants wait for the train heading to the Serbian border at the train station in Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 14 August 2015. epa / Georgi Licovski

Migrants wait for the train heading to the Serbian border at the train station in Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 14 August 2015. epa / Georgi Licovski

Where I faced my biggest dilemma was the situation when the migrants placed women and children in front of the police cordon. The police could at any time be given the order to close the cordon and not let anyone pass. But the migrants, in their rush to pass the border as quickly as possible, try to breach the police cordon by setting the women and children in the front of the line. The migrants then start to push from behind. As the police try to stop their passage the innocent women and children are caught in the middle. There are horrible scenes of women and children crying and fainting. While taking pictures of these incidents, I am not sure how much we captured the real situation in the field. Are the police being brutal or are the migrants just creating a scene that makes it look that way? During one of these situations I made a picture that was published as a double page in “Time” magazine and many other newspapers around the world. In it you can see two children crying in the middle of a police cordon.

Children cry as migrants waiting on the Greek side of the border break through a cordon of Macedonian special police forces to cross into Macedonia, near the southern city of Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 21 August 2015. epa / Georgi Licovski

Children cry as migrants waiting on the Greek side of the border break through a cordon of Macedonian special police forces to cross into Macedonia, near the southern city of Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 21 August 2015. epa / Georgi Licovski

The situation was so horrible that for the first time in my life I saw my colleagues cry, shaken by what’s going on in front of their eyes. I also cried, but still I wonder if that picture, and dozens of others we made that day with similar themes truly show the situation of what happened that day on the Macedonian-Greek border. With certainty I know that some of the migrants took other people’s children in their hands to be allowed to pass the police cordon after which they left the children alone on the railways and continued on their way. The children were left alone crying, searching for their parent who was on the other side of the cordon. What is the truth here and how can we capture it without manipulating the facts?

Migrants wait for permission to board a train heading to the Serbian border at the train station in Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 15 August 2015. epa / Georgi Licovski

Migrants wait for permission to board a train heading to the Serbian border at the train station in Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 15 August 2015. epa / Georgi Licovski

I am however, proud of the picture I took of the little Syrian boy whose parents carried him in a bag because, according to them, he was badly hurt from a chemical attack in Syria. That picture was widely published on several front pages in Europe and caused big a response, which I mentioned before in the text. Many people and organizations became interested in the fate of the child and from what I understand, they were able to locate him and his family and he was able to get the care that he needed.

Migrants from Aleppo, Syria, carry their injured child in a bag as they get in a train heading to the Serbian border, at the train station in Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 04 August 2015. epa / Georgi Licovski

Migrants from Aleppo, Syria, carry their injured child in a bag as they get in a train heading to the Serbian border, at the train station in Gevgelija, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 04 August 2015. epa / Georgi Licovski

I use different camera bags depending on how many days I will stay in the field but my standard equipment during the time of the migrant crisis is my two Nikon cameras D4 and D4s, 14-24mm, 35mm, 70-200mm and 300mm.

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return of the wild horses

By Filip Singer

A Mongolian nomad rides his horse near the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 06 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

A Mongolian nomad rides his horse near the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 06 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

Together with a cameraman, I am bending in a stream. There are flocks of mosquitoes all around us. We both need that one shot which will symbolize perfectly the whole transport – the return of the wild Przewalski’s horses to their native steppes, the Gobi desert region of southern Mongolia. Up until now I have photos of the horses inside the barriers, in both Czech republic and Mongolia. I also have shots during the beautiful sunrise and sunset in the Gobi desert; however, there is a fence in the background. I can’t reconcile with the fact that I still do not have photos of the horses in the wild desert.

Przewalski's horses stand in an acclimation pen of the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 07 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

Przewalski’s horses stand in an acclimation pen of the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 07 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

The herd of horses already escaped us several times. To take a photo of the horses in the wild Gobi almost seemed impossible. If we approached them, they noticed immediately and upon sight of us would run away a little further. In my tele lenses they were so small. Now, we are as close as never before. We are almost not breathing as we crouch and crawl through the dense grass ahead. The mosquitos are biting more and more, it’s unbearable. They are nearly eating us alive. The more we approach the more I think about how the Czech rangers urged us to be careful and not to get too close. I am a news photographer not a professional photographer of wild nature and I nearly forgot that there was no fence of the ZOO around me.

A herd of Przewalski's horses run in the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 07 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

A herd of Przewalski’s horses run in the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 07 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

The stud guards his territory especially since there are little foals in the herd. We are hesitating to go any further. As we finally overcome our fear and start go forward, the herd spot us. The leader of the herd is watching. The stud stands nearly 40 meters away and starts walking towards us. Deep inside I feel fear and worry. There is only the level field all around us and the ranger with his car is two kilometers away. If the stud decides to attack there is nowhere to hide except the river. The cameraman, who had convinced me to follow the herd, is now turning around and is about to attempt a run for the river. I quietly but emphatically urge him not to move for God´s sake! The stud chucks his head, and after what seemed like a never-ending minute, the herd passes by all around us. I´m taking the pictures as if I were fighting for my life, as we hear the pounding of their hoofs. The herd passes by and the cameraman and I laugh out of euphoria! We finally have the shots we need after losing hope we would ever get them.

I attended the whole trip with the Prevalski horses all the way to Mongolia. I´ve seen the whole story from the beginning till the releasing of the horses into the wild.

A convoy transports crates containing Przewalski's horses from Bulgan to Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 05 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

A convoy transports crates containing Przewalski’s horses from Bulgan to Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 05 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

The difficult tranquilizing the horses before loading them into the crates in Czech Republic, following 17 hours long flight in the cold cargo space of the military aircraft among the crates with the horses.

Vets look after the sedated Przewalski's horse Rabea, born in Leipzig, Germany on 14 September 2009, before her long journey to Mongolia, at the acclimatization station in the village of Dolni Dobrejov, about 80 km from Prague, Czech Republic, 04 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

Vets look after the sedated Przewalski’s horse Rabea, born in Leipzig, Germany on 14 September 2009, before her long journey to Mongolia, at the acclimatization station in the village of Dolni Dobrejov, about 80 km from Prague, Czech Republic, 04 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

The unloading and long way of the convoy through hard terrain all the way here to Gobi, the new home of the wild horses.

Przewalski's horse Querida, born in Prague Zoo, Czech Republic on 10 August 2012, jumps off her transport crate upon her arrival at the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, late 05 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

Przewalski’s horse Querida, born in Prague Zoo, Czech Republic on 10 August 2012, jumps off her transport crate upon her arrival at the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, late 05 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

Beautiful wild nature, the nomads, the fantastic crew of Prague ZOO and local rangers.

Mongolian rangers and family members celebrate during a dinner in honor of the successful arrival of Przewalski's horses from Czech Republic to the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 06 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

Mongolian rangers and family members celebrate during a dinner in honor of the successful arrival of Przewalski’s horses from Czech Republic to the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 06 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

A Przewalski's horse runs in the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 07 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

A Przewalski’s horse runs in the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 07 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

So many incredible elements to the story, but the everlasting memory remains the imagery of the herd of the last surviving wild horses living in the world.

A herd of Przewalski's horses run in the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 06 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

A herd of Przewalski’s horses run in the Takhin Tal Nature Reserve, part of the Gobi B Strictly Protected Area, Mongolia, 06 July 2015. epa / Filip Singer

Wild horse feature package on epa.eu

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The year in pictures, 2015 – the first half

January 2015

People gather around the monument on Place de la Nation as millions of people march against terrorism in Paris, France, 11 January 2015. epa / Ian Langsdon

People gather around the monument on Place de la Nation as millions of people march against terrorism in Paris, France, 11 January 2015. epa / Ian Langsdon

The coffin of Bernard Verlhac, aka Tignous, late French caricaturist of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, leaves the city hall of Montreuil after a funeral service, France, 15 January 2015. epa / Yoan Valat

The coffin of Bernard Verlhac, aka Tignous, late French caricaturist of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, leaves the city hall of Montreuil after a funeral service, France, 15 January 2015. epa / Yoan Valat

Pope Francis aboard his popemobile  greets Filipinos and devotees following his mass in Quirino grandstand, Manila, Philippines, 18 January 2015. epa / Dennis M. Sabangan

Pope Francis aboard his popemobile greets Filipinos and devotees following his mass in Quirino grandstand, Manila, Philippines, 18 January 2015. epa / Dennis M. Sabangan

Models present creations during the Fall/Winter 2015/16 Men's collection by Sacai fashion house during the Paris Fashion Week, in Paris, France, 24 January 2015. epa / Ian Langsdon

Models present creations during the Fall/Winter 2015/16 Men’s collection by Sacai fashion house during the Paris Fashion Week, in Paris, France, 24 January 2015. epa / Ian Langsdon

Holocaust survivor Israel Krystal is kissed by his daughter Shula (R) at his home in the of Haifa, Israel, 27 January 2015. At the age of 111 Israel Krystal is the  oldest Holocaust survivor in the world. He survived the Lodz ghetto and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi concentration camp. This year's International Holocaust Remembrance Day sees the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp, where more than 1.1 million people were murdered, 90 per cent of whom were Jews. Soldiers of the Soviet Red Army liberated the Auschwitz camp on 27 January 1945. They found about 7,000 survivors. epa / Abir Sultan

Holocaust survivor Israel Krystal is kissed by his daughter Shula (R) at his home in the of Haifa, Israel, 27 January 2015. At the age of 111 Israel Krystal is the oldest Holocaust survivor in the world. epa / Abir Sultan

February 2015

Supporters of France at the Lusail Multipurpose Hall outside Doha, Qatar, 01 February 2015, during the Qatar 2015 24th Men's Handball World Championship. Qatar 2015 via epa / Nic Bothma

Supporters of France at the Lusail Multipurpose Hall outside Doha, Qatar, 01 February 2015, during the Qatar 2015 24th Men’s Handball World Championship. Qatar 2015 via epa / Nic Bothma

Candace Crawford of Canada crashes at the finish line during the first round of the Nations Team Event near the Golden Peak Stadium finish area at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail, Colorado, USA, 10 February 2015.  epa / John G. Mabanglo

Candace Crawford of Canada crashes at the finish line during the first round of the Nations Team Event at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail, Colorado, USA, 10 February 2015. epa / John G. Mabanglo

The zodiacal light (L) and the Milky Way (R) are seen from the region of Salgotarjan, 109 kms northeast of Budapest, Hungary, 17 February 2015. The Zodiacal light, a cone-shaped shine, visible above the western horizon after sunset, is caused by the sunshine refelected from the interplanetary dust particles of the zodiacal cloud. The phenomenon can be observed the best in February and March from the Northern Hemisphere.  epa / mti / Peter Komka

The zodiacal light (L) and the Milky Way (R) are seen from the region of Salgotarjan, 109 kms northeast of Budapest, Hungary, 17 February 2015. epa / mti / Peter Komka

Young people play with big sea waves due to the Tropical Cyclone Marcia, on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, 20 February 2015. epa / aap / Dave Hunt

Young people play with big sea waves due to the Tropical Cyclone Marcia, on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, 20 February 2015. epa / aap / Dave Hunt

Relatives of missing people during the Guatemalan internal armed conflict (1960-1996) demonstrate during a march to commemorate the National Day to Dignify the Victims of the Armed Conflict, outside Congress in Guatemala City, Guatemala, 25 February 2015. Demonstrators called for the creation of a commission to find the thousands of missing persons during the conflict in the Central American country.  epa / efe / Saul Martinez

Relatives of missing people during the Guatemalan internal armed conflict (1960-1996) demonstrate during a march to commemorate the National Day to Dignify the Victims of the Armed Conflict, outside Congress in Guatemala City, Guatemala, 25 February 2015. epa / efe / Saul Martinez

Little boats of the 'Voyage' installation are seen floating on Lake Burley Griffin during the preview of the Enlighten Canberra festival in Canberra, Australia, 26 February 2015. epa / aap / Lukas Coch

Little boats of the ‘Voyage’ installation are seen floating on Lake Burley Griffin during the preview of the Enlighten Canberra festival in Canberra, Australia, 26 February 2015. epa / aap / Lukas Coch

Local residents queue to receive humanitarian aid in Popasne village of Luhansk area, Ukraine, 28 February 2015. Ukraine is withdrawing heavy weapons from its front line in the east in order to test if a peace plan with separatist rebels can work, President Petro Poroshenko said 27 February 2015. epa / Anastasia Vlasova

Local residents queue to receive humanitarian aid in Popasne village of Luhansk area, Ukraine, 28 February 2015. epa / Anastasia Vlasova

Russian investigators stand near the covered body of Boris Nemtsov, with St. Basil's Cathedral seen in the background, in central Moscow, Russia, 28 February 2015. epa / Pavel Bednyakov

Russian investigators stand near the covered body of Boris Nemtsov in central Moscow, Russia, 28 February 2015. epa / Pavel Bednyakov

March 2015

Ireland's Rory Best caught at the bottom of a ruck during the Six Nations Rugby match between Ireland and England in The Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland, 01 March 2015. epa / Aidan Crawley

Ireland’s Rory Best caught at the bottom of a ruck during the Six Nations Rugby match between Ireland and England in The Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland, 01 March 2015. epa / Aidan Crawley

A man walks past a puddle after slightly warmer temperatures melted snow from a storm in Brooklyn, New York, USA, 02 March 2015. epa / Justin Lane

A man walks past a puddle after slightly warmer temperatures melted snow from a storm in Brooklyn, New York, USA, 02 March 2015. epa / Justin Lane

Detail of a burned Protea plant, South Africa's national plant, amongst the remains of burned indigeneous Fynbos vegetation in Silvermine part of the World Heritage site Table Mountain National Park, Cape Town, South Africa, 06 March 2015. According to local Botanists fire is a keystone process without which many plants in the Fynbos would not be able to regenerate, produce offspring or reproduce. Fynbos plants are either resprouters or reseeders: Either they can resprout after a fire has passed through or they produce seeds that are adapted to survive fire and require heat from the fire and chemical compounds from the smoke to germinate. epa / Nic Bothma

Detail of a burned Protea plant, South Africa’s national plant, amongst the remains of burned indigeneous Fynbos vegetation in Silvermine part of the World Heritage site Table Mountain National Park, Cape Town, South Africa, 06 March 2015. epa / Nic Bothma

A picture made available 07 March 2015 of Thierry Neuville of  Belgium driving his Hyundai I20 during Day 1 of Rally Guanajuato Mexico 2015, Guanajuato, Leon, Mexico, March 6, 2015. epa / efe / STR

A picture made available 07 March 2015 of Thierry Neuville of Belgium driving his Hyundai I20 during Day 1 of Rally Guanajuato Mexico 2015, Guanajuato, Leon, Mexico, March 6, 2015. epa / efe / STR

A Liberian child studies her lessons at  home in the West Point slum community in Monrovia, Liberia, 07  March 2015. epa / Ahmed Jallanzo

A Liberian child studying at home in the West Point slum community in Monrovia, Liberia, 07 March 2015. epa / Ahmed Jallanzo

A woman with children, refugees from the eastern Ukraine conflict zone, are seen in a temporary centre for refugees in Slaviansk, Donetsk area, Ukraine, 12 March 2015. epa / Roman Pilipey

A woman with children, refugees from the eastern Ukraine conflict zone, are seen in a temporary centre for refugees in Slaviansk, Donetsk area, Ukraine, 12 March 2015. epa / Roman Pilipey

Week old Angelina Watskal is held by her grandmother Mercy Watskal at the Enima Evacuation Centre on Tanna Island, Vanuatu, 19 March 2015. More than 100 homeless people live in the evacuation centre, with humanitarian aid is still to reach the Island since Cyclone Pam hit the region on 14 March. The Vanuatu islands were the hardest hit when Tropical Cyclone cyclone began ripping through the South Pacific. The cluster of dozens of islands, home to more than a quarter million people, saw winds of more than 250 kilometres per hour and flooding caused by heavy rains. epa / aap / Dave Hunt

Week old Angelina Watskal is held by her grandmother Mercy Watskal at the Enima Evacuation Centre on Tanna Island, Vanuatu, 19 March 2015. More than 100 homeless people live in the evacuation centre, with humanitarian aid is still to reach the Island since Cyclone Pam hit the region on 14 March. epa / aap / Dave Hunt

Brown bear Oska (L) and Roni (R) play in a bear sanctuary near the village of Mramor, Kosovo, 18 March 2015. The Bear Sanctuary Pristina has currently 16 brown bears in custody rescued from the private restaurants around Kosovo. epa / Valdrin Xhemaj

Brown bear Oska (L) and Roni (R) play in a bear sanctuary near the village of Mramor, Kosovo, 18 March 2015. epa / Valdrin Xhemaj

Dent Blanche mountain is illuminated with pyrotechnics during the 13 stars on the summit event, in 'Les Hauderes' Val d'Herens, Switzerland, 18 March 2015. The 13 stars on the summit event is part of the celbration of the 200th anniversary of Valais membership in the Swiss Confederation. 13 mountains of the Swiss Alps have been illuminated simultaneously during three minutes. epa / keystone / Olivier Maire

Dent Blanche mountain is illuminated with pyrotechnics during the 13 stars on the summit event, in ‘Les Hauderes’ Val d’Herens, Switzerland, 18 March 2015. epa / keystone / Olivier Maire

Children sleep in a kindergarten, which recently resumed work following the ceasefire aggrement between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists, in eastern Ukrainian town Makeevka, Donetsk area, Ukraine 19 March 2015. Russia on Thursday warned that the presence of Western military instructors in Ukraine could put the peace process at risk. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had earlier said the United States was to train 780 Ukrainian troops, while the British Defence Ministry confirmed that 35 British servicemen had begun training Ukrainian troops. epa / Alexander Ermochenko

Children sleep in a kindergarten, which recently resumed work following the ceasefire aggrement between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists, in eastern Ukrainian town Makeevka, Donetsk area, Ukraine 19 March 2015. epa / Alexander Ermochenko

Cyclists in action during the 117km stage five of the Absa Cape Epic mountain bike team stage race in Worcester, South Africa, 20 March 2015. The Absa Cape Epic is considered one of the toughest mountain bike races in the world. The multi stage race sees 1,200 cyclists riding in pairs over 700km and climbing more than 16,000m twice the high of Mount Everest over eight days of racing. epa / Nic Bothma

Cyclists in action during the 117km stage five of the Absa Cape Epic mountain bike team stage race in Worcester, South Africa, 20 March 2015. epa / Nic Bothma

A picture made available on 25 March 2015 shows a cat yawning on a kitchen table at an apartment in Hamburg, Germany, 24 March 2015. Spring fever occurs mostly in spring time as the days get warmer.  epa / dpa / Axel Heimken

Cat on a kitchen table in Hamburg, Germany, 24 March 2015. epa / dpa / Axel Heimken

epaselect epa04678498 A search and rescue worker at the crash site of the Germanwings Airbus A320 that crashed in the French Alps, above the town of Seyne-les-Alpes, southeastern France, 25 March 2015. Search crews resumed helicopter flights around dawn on 25 March to the remote mountainside where Germanwings Flight 4U 9525 from Barcelona to Duesseldorf crashed after a rapid descent, likely killing all 150 people aboard on 24 March.  EPA/GUILLAUME HORCAJUELO

epaselect epa04678498 A search and rescue worker at the crash site of the Germanwings Airbus A320 that crashed in the French Alps, above the town of Seyne-les-Alpes, southeastern France, 25 March 2015. epa / Guillaume Horcajuelo

Firefighters respond to an explosion and partial building collapse in a residential and commercial mixed use multi-story structure in lower Manhattan, New York, New York, USA, 26 March 2015. epa / Jason Szenes

Firefighters respond to an explosion and partial building collapse in a residential and commercial mixed use multi-story structure in lower Manhattan, New York, New York, USA, 26 March 2015. epa / Jason Szenes

An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish man throws matzah in the air at a bakery in an Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem, 29 March 2015. Matzah, or unleavened bread, is used instead of bread during the week-long Jewish holiday of Passover, commemorating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in Biblical times. epa / Abir Sultan

An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish man throws matzah in the air at a bakery in an Orthodox neighborhood in Jerusalem, 29 March 2015. epa / Abir Sultan

April 2015

epaselect epa04690004 A woman reacts as she is rescued out of the building where she had been held hostage as Kenyan soldiers entered the university  building after a fierce fights with attackers at the Garissa University in Garissa town, located near the border with Somalia, some 370km northeast of the capital Nairobi, Kenya, 02 April 2015. The government said 70 people have been killed and 79 others have been injured in an attack carried out by Somalia's Islamist militant group al-Shabab.  EPA/DAI KUROKAWA

A woman reacts as she is rescued out of the building where she had been held hostage at the Garissa University in Garissa town, located near the border with Somalia, some 370km northeast of the capital Nairobi, Kenya, 02 April 2015. epa / Dai Kurokawa

A young Israeli settler snorkels as sheep belonging to a Palestinian shepherd drink  water from the spring  located at Jordan Valley near the Palestinian village of Uja near the West Bank town of Jericho on 08 April 2015. Hundreds of Israelis took advantage of the Passover holiday to spend time with their families outdoors across the country. epa / Abir Sultan

A young Israeli settler snorkels as sheep belonging to a Palestinian shepherd drink water from the spring located at Jordan Valley near the Palestinian village of Uja near the West Bank town of Jericho on 08 April 2015. epa / Abir Sultan

Liberian Ebola survivors pray after surviving the deadly virus, in West Point, Monrovia, Liberia, 10 April 2015. epa / Ahmed Jallanzo

Liberian Ebola survivors pray after surviving the deadly virus, in West Point, Monrovia, Liberia, 10 April 2015. epa / Ahmed Jallanzo

A man with coloured powder on his face during the Bisket Jatra Festival in Thimi, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal, 15 April 2015. The Bisket festival marks Nepali New Year 2072 and celebrates peace and harmony in the country. epa / Narendra Shrestha

A man with coloured powder on his face during the Bisket Jatra Festival in Thimi, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal, 15 April 2015. epa / Narendra Shrestha

People watch from the windows and balconies of their homes during the Bisket Jatra Festival in Thimi, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal, 15 April 2015. epa / Narendra Shrestha

People watch from the windows and balconies of their homes during the Bisket Jatra Festival in Thimi, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal, 15 April 2015. epa / Narendra Shrestha

epaselect epa04717124 A picture made available on 23 April 2015 shows large number of illegal migrants on board a large dinghy-type vessel as they are rescued by the crew of the Italian Guardia di Finanza ship 'Denaro' in the Mediterranean Sea, 22 April 2015  EPA/ALESSANDRO DI MEO

A large number of illegal migrants on board a dinghy-type vessel as they are rescued by the crew of the Italian Guardia di Finanza ship ‘Denaro’ in the Mediterranean Sea, 22 April 2015 epa / Alessandro Di Meo

A Chinese boy takes a photo with a mobile phone on a selfie stick in the Forbidden City or the Palace Museum on Children's Day in Beijing, China, 01 June 2015. Normally closed on Monday, the Forbidden City opens its doors free for children under 14 in celebration of International Children's Day on 01 June. epa / How Hwee Young

A Chinese boy takes a photo with a mobile phone on a selfie stick in the Forbidden City on Children’s Day in Beijing, China, 01 June 2015. epa / How Hwee Young

General view of Chilean Calbuco volcano from Puerto Montt, located at 1000 km southern Santiago de Chile, Chile, 22 April 2015. Due to the eruption of the volcano with a smoke column 20 km high, authorities declared a red alert and ordered the evacuation of around 1500 inhabitants of Ensenada, Alerce, Colonia Río Sur and Correntoso towns. epa / efe / Alex Vidal Brecas

General view of Chilean Calbuco volcano from Puerto Montt, located at 1000 km southern Santiago de Chile, Chile, 22 April 2015. epa / efe / Alex Vidal Brecas

Members of the South African Police raid Alexandra Mens Hostel during a midnight exercise aimed at searching for weapons used during xenophobic violence, in Johannesburg, South Africa, 23 April 2015. epa / Kevin Sutherland

Members of the South African Police raid Alexandra Mens Hostel during a midnight exercise aimed at searching for weapons used during xenophobic violence, in Johannesburg, South Africa, 23 April 2015. epa / Kevin Sutherland

epaselect epa04719889 People free a man from the rubble of a destroyed building after an earthquake hit Nepal, in Kathmandu, Nepal, 25 April 2015. A 7.9-magnitude earthquake rocked Nepal destroying buildings in Kathmandu and surrounding areas, with unconfirmed rumours of casualties. The epicentre was 80 kilometres north-west of Kathmandu, United States Geological Survey. Strong tremors were also felt in large areas of northern and eastern India and Bangladesh.  EPA/NARENDRA SHRESTHA

People free a man from the rubble of a destroyed building after an earthquake hit Nepal, in Kathmandu, Nepal, 25 April 2015.  epa / Narendra Shrestha

A protestor stands on a stool by looted businesses on North Avenue and Fulton Street during a protest for the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, 27 April 2015. Gray died of spinal cord injuries on 19 April while in police custody; the US Justice Department announced that they are launching their own investigation into the case. epa / Noah Scialom

A protestor stands on a stool by looted businesses on North Avenue and Fulton Street during a protest in connection with the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, 27 April 2015. epa / Noah Scialom

A Yemeni child forced to flee ther home, due allegedly to ongoing air-strikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition, takes shelter in an underground water tunnel in Sana’a, Yemen, 29 April 2015. Almost 300,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in several cities of Yemen, as Saudi-led military operations on Houthi positions continue across the country. epa / Yahya Arhab

A Yemeni child forced to flee ther home, allegedly due to ongoing air-strikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition, takes shelter in an underground water tunnel in Sana’a, Yemen, 29 April 2015. epa / Yahya Arhab

Rihanna arrives for the 2015 Anna Wintour Costume Center Gala held at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, New York, USA, 04 May 2015. The Costume Institute will present the exhibition 'China: Through the Looking Glass' at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from 07 May to 16 August 2015. epa / Justin Lane

Rihanna arrives for the 2015 Anna Wintour Costume Center Gala held at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, New York, USA, 04 May 2015. epa / Justin Lane

Election officials count ballot papers at Emirates Arena in Glasgow, Britain, 08 May 2015. epa / Robert Perry

Election officials count ballot papers at Emirates Arena in Glasgow, Britain, 08 May 2015. epa / Robert Perry

A refugee try to help his friend unconscious after being save from the sea in Kuala Langsa,  East Aceh, Indonesia, 15 May 2015. Another 648 refugee from Myanmar and Bangladesh stranded in Aceh and save by the local fisherman.  Despite the risks, the Rohingya continue to leave Myanmar in large numbers, fleeing anti-Muslim violence and discrimination in the predominantly Buddhist country. The UN's refugee body said that between January and March this year, almost 25,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshis boarded smugglers' boats; double the number from the same period last year. More than 8,000 migrants were adrift off the coasts of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, an IOM official said on 12 May 2015, posing a potential humanitarian crisis for the region's governments. epa / Hotli Simanjuntak

Refugees trying to help their unconscious friend after being saved from the sea in Kuala Langsa, East Aceh, Indonesia, 15 May 2015. epa / Hotli Simanjuntak

(L-R) US actress Emma Stone, US director Woody Allen and US actress Parker Posey arrive for the screening of 'Irrational Man' during the 68th annual Cannes Film Festival, in Cannes, France, 15 May 2015. The movie is presented out of competition at the festival which runs from 13 to 24 May. epa / Ian Langsdon

(L-R) US actress Emma Stone, US director Woody Allen and US actress Parker Posey arrive for the screening of ‘Irrational Man’ during the 68th annual Cannes Film Festival, in Cannes, France, 15 May 2015. epa / Ian Langsdon

May 2015

Pensioner Anna Kousoula (C), 60, and her unemployment son Stratos, 40, stand outside their house in Perama, near Athens, Greece 3 May, 2015. epa / Yannis Kolesidis

Pensioner Anna Kousoula (C), 60, and her unemployed son Stratos, 40, stand outside their house in Perama, near Athens, Greece 3 May, 2015. epa / ana-mpa / Yannis Kolesidis

A Burundian refugee boy sits inside a mosquito net in his family's makeshift tent room set up by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) in a refugee camp in Gashora, some 55km south of the capital Kigali, Rwanda, 18 May 2015. According to the United Nations' refugee agency, more than 105,000 Burndians have fled the country to seek refuge in neighbouring countries such as Rwanda, DR Congo, and Tanzania, as the protesters opposing President Pierre Nkurunziza's bit for a third term took to the street again on 18 May despite warnings from the government. Nkurunziza has returned to Burundi after a failed coup by army generals. epa / Dai Kurokawa

A Burundian refugee boy sits inside a mosquito net in his family’s makeshift tent room set up by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) in a refugee camp in Gashora, some 55km south of the capital Kigali, Rwanda, 18 May 2015.  epa / Dai Kurokawa

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson (R) and veteran Fred Walker (L) listen to a speech during a commemoration ceremony at the HMS Belfast for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day in London, Britain, 20 May 2014. epa / Facundo Arrizabalaga

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson (R) and veteran Fred Walker (L) listen to a speech during a commemoration ceremony at the HMS Belfast for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day in London, Britain, 20 May 2014. epa / Facundo Arrizabalaga

epaselect epa04763613 People reacting to results coming in from constituencies around Ireland suggesting an overwhelming majority in favour of the referendum on same-sex marriage, in Dublin, Ireland, 23 May 2015. The first results were declared in Ireland's historic vote on same-sex marriage, with every indication that the Yes side has won, as opponents of the measure conceded defeat. Sligo-North Leitrim in the north-west was the first of 43 constituencies to declare with a 53.6-per-cent vote in favour, followed by Waterford in the south-east with 60.3 per cent voting Yes.  EPA/AIDAN CRAWLEY

People reacting to results coming in from constituencies around Ireland suggesting an overwhelming majority in favour of the referendum on same-sex marriage, in Dublin, Ireland, 23 May 2015. epa / Aidan Crawley

A picture made available on 24 May 2015 shows Israeli painted artists during the Israel Midburn festival in the Negev desert southern Israel, 23 May 2015. About 6,000 people attended the colorful festival which is the Israeli version of the well known Burning man festival in Nevada, USA. epa / Abir Sultan

Israeli painted artists during the Israel Midburn festival in the Negev desert southern Israel, 23 May 2015. epa / Abir Sultan

A young Burundian boy tries to cover himself as police officers beat him after dispersing protesters by firing shots during an anti-government demonstration against President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid for a third term in the capital Bujumbura, Burundi, 26 May 2015. Street protests continued on 26 May as the US government condemned the killing of the leader of the oppsition party Union for Peace and Development (UPD) Zedi Feruzi who opposed Nkurunziza's bid. East African leaders will hold another summit on 31 May to discuss the ongoing crisis in Burundi, reports said. epa / Dai Kurokawa

A young Burundian boy tries to cover himself as police officers beat him after dispersing protesters by firing shots during an anti-government demonstration against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in the capital Bujumbura, Burundi, 26 May 2015. epa / Dai Kurokawa

epaselect epa04768245 Burundian protesters react as they face with police officers firing shots toward them during an anti-government demonstration against President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid for a third term in the capital Bujumbura, Burundi, 26 May 2015. Street protests continued on 26 May as the US government condemned the killing of the leader of the oppsition party Union for Peace and Development (UPD) Zedi Feruzi who opposed Nkurunziza's bid. East African leaders will hold another summit on 31 May to discuss the ongoing crisis in Burundi, reports said.  EPA/DAI KUROKAWA

Burundian protesters react as they face with police officers firing shots towards them during an anti-government demonstration Bujumbura, Burundi, 26 May 2015. epa / Dai Kurokawa

The ruble of a destroyed Palestinian house damaged during Israeli Hamas conflict in 2014 in Al Shejaeiya neighbourhood in thr east of Gaza City on, 27 May 2015. epa / Mohammed Saber

The rubble of a destroyed Palestinian house damaged during the Israeli Hamas conflict in 2014 in the Al Shejaeiya neighbourhood in eastern Gaza City on, 27 May 2015. epa / Mohammed Saber

June 2015

Thai Buddhists hold candles as they circle in prayer a statue at the Buddha Monthon park to celebrate Buddha Day in Nakon Pathom Province, west of Bangkok, Thailand, 01 June 2015. Thai Buddhists across the country mark the United Nations Day of Vesak or Visakha Bucha (Buddha Day) which commemorates the Birth, Enlightenment and Passing Away of the Buddha Gautama, which falls on 01 June this year. epa / Diego Azubel

Thai Buddhists hold candles as they circle a statue in prayer at the Buddha Monthon park to celebrate Buddha Day in Nakon Pathom Province, west of Bangkok, Thailand, 01 June 2015. epa / Diego Azubel

An aircraft flies in front of the bright full moon shining against the dark sky in Teglas, 228 kms east of Budapest, Hungary, 03 June 2015. epa / mti / Zsolt Czegledi

An aircraft flies in front of the bright full moon shining against the dark sky in Teglas, 228 kms east of Budapest, Hungary, 03 June 2015. epa / mti / Zsolt Czegledi

Nine years old Palestinian boy Amro Moussa splash jumps into the sea as he enjoy his time during a day with hot weather in the west of Gaza City, Gaza Strip, 03 June 2015. epa / Mohammed Saber

Nine years old Palestinian boy Amro Moussa splash jumps into the sea as he enjoy his time during a day with hot weather in the west of Gaza City, Gaza Strip, 03 June 2015. epa / Mohammed Saber

Migrants allowed to land by the Myanmar Navy collect rain water on plates to drink at the Kayin Chaung temporary camp near MaungDaw township, Rakhine State, western Myanmar, 04 June 2015. According to the Myanmar Government its navy seized a boat left to drift at sea filled with 727 migrants, including 74 women and 45 children, near the Irrawaddy delta in the country's southern coast, claiming most were Bangladeshis rather than Rohingyas an ethnic group with whom the country has extremely tricky relations, even as Asian countries agreed 29 May at the Bangkok Meeting to work together to the solve the region's recent migrant crisis. epa / Nyunt Win

Migrants allowed to land by the Myanmar Navy collect rain water on plates to drink at the Kayin Chaung temporary camp near MaungDaw township, Rakhine State, western Myanmar, 04 June 2015. epa / Nyunt Win

epa04789353 German Chancellor Angela Merkel talks to US President Barack Obama who sits on a bench facing the Wetterstein mountains at Elmau Castle in Elmau, Germany, 08 June 2015. Heads of state and government of the seven leading industrialized nations (G7) are scheduled to meet in Elmau Castle, Bavaria, on June 7-8 as the climax of Germany's presidency of the G7.  EPA/MICHAEL KAPPELER / POOL

German Chancellor Angela Merkel talks to US President Barack Obama who sits on a bench facing the Wetterstein mountains at Elmau Castle in Elmau, Germany, 08 June 2015. Heads of state and government of the seven leading industrialized nations (G7) are scheduled to meet in Elmau Castle, Bavaria, on June 7-8 as the climax of Germany’s presidency of the G7. epa / dpa / Michael Kappeler

A young Indian bathes in sewage and rubbish strewn mud on the banks of the river Ganges, Calcutta India, 08 June 2015. epa / Piyal Adhikary

A young Indian bathes in sewage and rubbish strewn mud on the banks of the river Ganges, in Calcutta India, 08 June 2015. epa / Piyal Adhikary

A demonstrator faces off with police on horses during a protest against Ecuador's President Rafael Correa in Quito, Ecuador, 10 June 2015. epa / efe  / Jose Jacome

A demonstrator faces police on horses during a protest against Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa in Quito, Ecuador, 10 June 2015. epa / efe / Jose Jacome

Demonstrators clash with police during a march by students and professors to present a proposal for education reform, in Santiago de Chile, Chile, 10 June 2015. epa / efe / Mario Ruiz

Demonstrators clash with police during a march by students and professors to present a proposal for education reform, in Santiago de Chile, Chile, 10 June 2015. epa / efe / Mario Ruiz

A picture taken from the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria shows Syrian refugees waiting on the Syrian side of the border crossing near Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, south-eastern Turkey, 10 June 2015. More than 320,000 people are likely to have been killed in Syria's civil war, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said on 09 June. The organization said said it had been able to document the deaths of 230,618 people, including 69,494 civilians of whom more than 7,000 were children. The crisis in Syria started in March 2011 with peaceful demonstrations calling for more freedom from the repressive al-Assad regime, but quickly degenerated into violence after deadly crackdowns by security forces. epa / Sedat Suna

A picture taken from the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria shows Syrian refugees waiting on the Syrian side of the border crossing near Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, south-eastern Turkey, 10 June 2015. epa / Sedat Suna

A man looks for lotus flowers in a lake in Hanoi, Vietnam, 11 June 2015. Lotus which only blooms in the summer was selected the national flower of Vietnam. epa / Luong Thai Linh

A man looks for lotus flowers in a lake in Hanoi, Vietnam, 11 June 2015. epa / Luong Thai Linh

Pa Pa (C) of Myanmar competes on her bare feet during the women's 10,000m final of the 28th South East Asian Games (SEA Games) at National Stadium in Singapore, 11 June 2015. epa / Lynn Bo Bo

Pa Pa (C) of Myanmar competes on her bare feet during the women’s 10,000m final of the 28th South East Asian Games (SEA Games) at National Stadium in Singapore, 11 June 2015. epa / Lynn Bo Bo

A little girl walks near the art installation 'Thinking of You' in Pristina, Kosovo, 12 June 2015. epa / Valdrin Xhemaj

A little girl walks near the art installation ‘Thinking of You’ in Pristina, Kosovo, 12 June 2015. epa / Valdrin Xhemaj

An Indian man performs Yoga at a Jogger's park in Mira Road, near Mumbai, India, 16 June 2015. epa / Divyakant Solanki

An Indian man performs Yoga at a Jogger’s park in Mira Road, near Mumbai, India, 16 June 2015. epa / Divyakant Solanki

African migrants cry as Italian police attempt to remove them at the Franco-Italian border between Menton and Ventimiglia, 16 June 2015. epa / Sebastien Nogier

African migrants cry as Italian police attempt to remove them at the Franco-Italian border between Menton and Ventimiglia, 16 June 2015. epa / Sebastien Nogier

'Plastic Tree' (2014) by Cameroonian artist Pascale Marthine Tayou, represented by the gallery Continua, is on display at the show Unlimited in the context of the international art show Art Basel, in Basel, Switzerland, 16 June 2015. epa / keystone / Georgios Kefalas

‘Plastic Tree’ (2014) by Cameroonian artist Pascale Marthine Tayou is on display during the international art show Art Basel, in Basel, Switzerland, 16 June 2015. epa / keystone / Georgios Kefalas

Betta fish or Siamese fighting fish are displayed for sale at a shop at a street in Hanoi, Vietnam, 16 June 2015. In Vietnam, Siamese fighting fish are popular as aquarium fish. Some also feed and let them fight as an entertainment since they are aggressive to their own species. epa / Luong Thai Linh

Betta fish or Siamese fighting fish are displayed for sale at a shop in Hanoi, Vietnam, 16 June 2015. epa / Luong Thai Linh

Khetag Gazyumov (R) of Azerbaijan and Ibrahim Saidau of Belarus compete in the men's Freestyle 97kg wrestling quarter-final match at the Baku 2015 European Games in Azerbaijan, 17 June 2015. epa / Maxim Shipenkov

Khetag Gazyumov (R) of Azerbaijan and Ibrahim Saidau of Belarus compete in the men’s Freestyle 97kg wrestling quarter-final match at the Baku 2015 European Games in Azerbaijan, 17 June 2015. epa / Maxim Shipenkov

A Greek orthodox priest holds a Greek flag as he takes part in a rally against austerity, supporting the government on the negotiations with its international creditors, in Athens, Greece, 17 June 2015. epa / Yannis Kolesidis

A Greek orthodox priest holds a Greek flag as he takes part in a rally against austerity, supporting the government on the negotiations with its international creditors, in Athens, Greece, 17 June 2015. epa / ana-mpa / Yannis Kolesidis

A slow shutter speed picture shows Indonesian Muslim women performing an evening prayer called tarawih, the night before the start of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, at Istiqlal mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia, 17 June 2015. epa / Mast Irham

Indonesian Muslim women performing an evening prayer called tarawih, the night before the start of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, at Istiqlal mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia, 17 June 2015. epa / Mast Irham

An unemployed South African woman plays with her three month old son Mkamva, meaning 'future', in the impoverished settlement of Masiphumelele in Cape Town, South Africa, 18 June 2015. epa / Nic Bothma

An unemployed South African woman plays with her three-months-old son Mkamva, meaning ‘future’, in the impoverished settlement of Masiphumelele in Cape Town, South Africa, 18 June 2015. epa / Nic Bothma

Monika Michalik (blue) of Poland and Andrea Simon (red) of Romania compete in the women's Freestyle 63kg wrestling Repechage match at the Baku 2015 European Games in Azerbaijan, 16 June 2015.  epa / Srdjan Suki

Monika Michalik (blue) of Poland and Andrea Simon (red) of Romania compete in the women’s Freestyle 63kg wrestling Repechage match at the Baku 2015 European Games in Azerbaijan, 16 June 2015. epa / Srdjan Suki

People in costume march during the 33rd annual Coney Island Mermaid Parade in Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, USA, 20 June 2015. The annual parade, which is attended by people in outlandish costumes, marks the beginning of the summer season in Coney Island. epa / Justin Lane

People in costume march during the 33rd annual Coney Island Mermaid Parade in Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York, USA, 20 June 2015. epa / Justin Lane

People arrive for Sunday services at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston, South Carolina, USA, 21 June 2015. epa / John Taggart

People arrive for Sunday services at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston, South Carolina, USA, 21 June 2015. epa / John Taggart

Mourners process past the body of slain State Senator Clementa Pinckney lying in State at the State House in Columbia, South Carolina, USA, 24 June 2015. epa / Richard Ellis

Mourners process past the body of slain State Senator Clementa Pinckney lying in State at the State House in Columbia, South Carolina, USA, 24 June 2015. epa / Richard Ellis

Two migrants from Sudan walk back to their sheds with wood in front of an improvised church in the makeshift camp called 'the Jungle' in Calais, France, 24 June 2015. According to latest survey of the French department, the migrants gravitating around Calais are around 3000. epa / Etienne Laurent

Two migrants from Sudan walk back to their sheds with wood in front of an improvised church in the makeshift camp called ‘the Jungle’ in Calais, France, 24 June 2015. epa / Etienne Laurent

Filipino Catholic devotees covered in mud and dressed in dried leaves, attend the holy mass to mark the 'Taong Putik' (Mud People) Festival and the feast of Saint John the Baptist at the farming village of Bibiclat in the town of Aliaga, Nueva Ecija province located 120 kilometers north of Manila, Philippines, 24 June 2015. Hundreds of devotees perform the annual rites in the hopes of having their wishes granted mostly on bountiful harvest in farming. Devotees cover themselves in mud and leaves as part of a more than 100-years-old ritual to honor their patron saint and to ask for favors through prayer. epa / Ritchie B. Tongo

Filipino Catholic devotees covered in mud and dressed in dried leaves attend the holy mass to mark the ‘Taong Putik’ (Mud People) Festival and the feast of Saint John the Baptist at the farming village of Bibiclat in the town of Aliaga, Nueva Ecija province located 120 kilometers north of Manila, Philippines, 24 June 2015. epa / Ritchie B. Tongo

 

A combo of fifteen pictures shows female festival goers arriving at the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts 2015, held at Worthy Farm, near Pilton, Somerset, Britain, 24 June 2015. epa / Hannah Mckay

A combo of fifteen pictures shows female festival goers arriving at the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts 2015, held at Worthy Farm, near Pilton, Somerset, Britain, 24 June 2015. epa / Hannah Mckay

A long exposure picture shows molten lava spilling from the crater of Mount Sinabung as it is seen from Berastepu village in Karo, North Sumatra, Indonesia, 25 June 2015. epa / Dedi Sahputra

Molten lava spilling from the crater of Mount Sinabung as it is seen from Berastepu village in Karo, North Sumatra, Indonesia, 25 June 2015. epa / Dedi Sahputra

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (R) and German President Joachim Gauck walk over the red carpet to city hall in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, 25 June 2015. The British monarch and her husband are on their fifth state visit to Germany, taking place from 23 to 26 June. epa / dpa / Caroline Seidel

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II (R) and German President Joachim Gauck walk over the red carpet to the city hall in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, 25 June 2015. epa / dpa / Caroline Seidel

Gold medalist Sevil Bunyatova of Azerbaijan celebrates after beating Margaux Rifkiss of France in the Fencing - Women's Individual Sabre semi final of the 2015 European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan, 25 June 2015. epa / Maxim Shipenkov

Gold medalist Sevil Bunyatova of Azerbaijan celebrates after beating Margaux Rifkiss of France in the Fencing – Women’s Individual Sabre semi final of the 2015 European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan, 25 June 2015. epa / Maxim Shipenkov

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (L-R), Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel share a light moment during European heads of state and governments summit at the EU Council headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, 25 June 2015. epa / Olivier Hoslet

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (L-R), Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel share a light moment during European heads of state and governments summit at the EU Council headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, 25 June 2015. epa / Olivier Hoslet

Members of the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT civil rights organization, gather outside the Supreme Court where justices will soon reveal their decisions on same sex marriage, in Washington, DC, USA, 25 June 2015. epa / Jim Lo Scalzo

Members of the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT civil rights organization, gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, USA, 25 June 2015. epa / Jim Lo Scalzo

Medics and security forces gather inside Imam Sadiq Mosque following a suicide bombing in al-Sawaber, Kuwait City, Kuwait, 26 June 2015. epa / Raed Qutena

Medics and security forces gather inside Imam Sadiq Mosque following a suicide bombing in al-Sawaber, Kuwait City, Kuwait, 26 June 2015. epa / Raed Qutena

Flowers lie in tribute to those killed in a terror attack on tourists on a beach in front of the Imperial Marhaba Hotel in al-Sousse, 27 June 2015. epa / Mohamed Messara

Flowers lie in tribute to those killed in a terror attack on tourists on a beach in front of the Imperial Marhaba Hotel in al-Sousse, 27 June 2015. epa / Mohamed Messara

The year in pictures 2015, our world in all its complexities. Follow us on Facebook and on Twitter to stay in touch for more insightful stories from behind the scenes.

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Thailand Snow Town

A Thai girl enjoying artificial snow at Snow Town park in Bangkok, Thailand, 07 July 2015. epa / Rungroj Yongrit

A Thai girl enjoying artificial snow at Snow Town park in Bangkok, Thailand, 07 July 2015. epa / Rungroj Yongrit

One morning as I watched my usual TV news program I heard a report about a newly opened ‘Snow Town’. But there were no pictures or video clips shown. This made me think that this would be an interesting photo feature, given the heat wave reports coming from Europe and the high temperatures here in Bangkok.

So, through the burning sunshine I headed towards Snow Town.

As many Thais who have never experienced snow before, I felt a bit excited even with this artificial version. I had seen snow before in Switzerland but not a actual snowfall itself, and the most vivid memory I had was when I became temporarily snow blind –an unpleasant recollection.

Slow shutter speed picture of a little Thai girl enjoying sledding at Snow Town park in Bangkok, Thailand, 07 July 2015. epa / Rungroj Yongrit

Slow shutter speed picture of a little Thai girl enjoying sledding at Snow Town park in Bangkok, Thailand, 07 July 2015. epa / Rungroj Yongrit

I checked with the staff at the ticket counter regarding how to dress and they confirmed that it was not too cold inside. Only around 25 celcius. Adults can visit Snow Town with even a T-shirt and shorts, but little kids need some warm clothing. The ticket includes the loan of snow boots. They also offer knitted winter hats, winter coats, jackets and gloves for rent at reasonable prices.
Snow Town was created by a Japanese investor.

Local and foreign visitors to sweltering Bangkok, especially small children have fun on the snow playgrounds, or riding the snow sledge that has a small 90-cm high ramp. There is a release of artificial snow for a few minutes, repeated every hour.

Thai and foreign visitors enjoying artificial snow at Snow Town park in Bangkok, Thailand, 07 July 2015.  epa / Rungroj Yongrit

Thai and foreign visitors enjoying artificial snow at Snow Town park in Bangkok, Thailand, 07 July 2015. epa / Rungroj Yongrit

Children’s cries of “one more time dad! one more time mom!” made this place more special. I photographed them with my 1DX so as to not call attention to myself. I used a 16-35 lens, 70-200 lens and a Sigma 50mm.

The first photo I took was a wide angle shot, panning the camera with slow shutter speed, of children sledding. I like using this effect at times, a bit blurred, almost abstract.

Slow shutter speed picture of a Thai pupil enjoying sledding at Snow Town park in Bangkok, Thailand, 07 July 2015. epa / Rungroj Yongrit

Slow shutter speed picture of a Thai pupil enjoying sledding at Snow Town park in Bangkok, Thailand, 07 July 2015. epa / Rungroj Yongrit

But as for the rest, it took me a while to get a good photo. The snow would suddenly start falling and the children were frenetic, making for a bit of chaos. So I waited for the next time. Luckily there was enough going on to allow me to take some nice moments. The light is not that great but the 1DX helps solve this problem.

There was yet another artificial snowfall and I used my Sigma 50mm 1.4 to photograph little girls watching as the snow fell into their hands. I finally had to tear myself away from the artificial wonderland and relatively cool temperature and go out to face the real heat.

Follow us on Facebook and on Twitter to stay in touch for more insightful stories from behind the scenes.

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Protests in Burundi

by Dai Kurokawa

A Burundian protester throws a rock on a burning barricade during an anti-government demonstration in the capital Bujumbura, Burundi, 22 May 2015. epa/Dai Kurokawa

A Burundian protester throws a rock on a burning barricade during an anti-government demonstration in the capital Bujumbura, Burundi, 22 May 2015. epa/Dai Kurokawa

“Hey Chinese!” An angry-looking young man shouts at me as I walk toward a group of anti-government protesters. I turn around, holding up my homemade press card with a Japanese flag printed on it, and tell them “Mimi sio Chinese, Japonais” in a combination of the only languages I could communicate with them half decently – Swahili and French. Someone would suddenly smile and say “Oh Japonais. OK OK.”

This small exchange of words with protesters had become my daily ritual from the day I entered Burundi – a small, impoverished central African nation – to cover the political unrest triggered by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s announcement to seek a third term in office, which has been called unconstitutional and a violation of the 2006 Arusha peace deal that ended the country’s 13-year civil war.

Burundian protesters react as they face police officers firing shots towards them during an anti-government demonstration in the capital Bujumbura, Burundi, 26 May 2015. epa/Dai Kurokawa

Burundian protesters react as they face police officers firing shots towards them during an anti-government demonstration against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in the capital Bujumbura, Burundi, 26 May 2015. epa/Dai Kurokawa

Foreign journalists aren’t always welcome by the local population. And in many of the African countries I cover, journalists who look like me – East Asian – often face angry and hostile crowds who view China as “new colonialists” of their continent. In Africa, if people are against the government, then they are almost certainly against China. Burundians were no different.
Agency photographers were covering anti-government protests every day for weeks so I knew the protesters were not hostile toward us. My daily routine was going through the “ritual” and taking pictures of running battles between rock-throwing protesters and police.

A Burundian soldier fires a shot towards protesters during an anti-government demonstration in Bujumbura, Burundi, 25 May 2015. epa/Dai Kurokawa

A Burundian soldier fires a shot towards protesters during an anti-government demonstration in Bujumbura, Burundi, 25 May 2015. epa/Dai Kurokawa

One day, as I covered the daily protests, I found myself caught in a small alley between a group of young men throwing rocks and policemen firing shots toward them. I stepped aside and tried to take pictures of a policeman. The next thing I knew, a rock, the size of a fist, hit me in my chest and I went down for a very brief moment. When I looked back up, I saw the sky was filled with stones thrown by protesters, coming in my direction. There was nowhere to take cover with, so I ducked down hoping that it would not last long. I turned my face the other way, took my camera out in hopes of capturing something.

Rock-throwing Burundian protesters take cover as shots are fired towards them by police officers, during an anti-government demonstration in Bujumbura, Burundi, 28 May 2015. epa/Dai Kurokawa

Rock-throwing Burundian protesters react to take cover as shots are fired towards them by police officers, during an anti-government demonstration in Bujumbura, Burundi, 28 May 2015. epa/Dai Kurokawa

Then came this young protester running toward me. He wrapped his arms around to cover me, protecting me from the rain of stones. He used his whole body to cover me for about 30 seconds until there were no more stones thrown. At least three stones hit my head, protected by a helmet. When it was over, the young man said something, tapped my shoulder and told me to start moving. I got up and saw that the alley was littered with hundreds of rocks thrown by protesters. He was already running back to his fellow protesters. I caught up with him and thanked him. “Merci beaucoup”.

I wanted to make sure that he was not hurt, and if I could do something for him in return. But he just smiled, gave me a thumbs-up and left quickly. As he mingled back with others, I realised that he wasn’t even wearing a pair of shoes, let alone a helmet or any kind of protective gear, naturally. I have been beaten, robbed, or threatened by people while covering sensitive events in Africa. But I’ve never had anyone risking himself to protect me from harm.
I was very touched.

A Burundian protester faces soldiers as he holds rocks in his hands during a demonstration against President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid for a third term in the capital Bujumbura, Burundi, 27 May 2015. epa/Dai Kurokawa

A Burundian protester faces soldiers as he holds rocks in his hands during a demonstration against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in the capital Bujumbura, Burundi, 27 May 2015. epa/Dai Kurokawa

Burundian youths have been protesting against Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term for more than a month. They were not randomly hurting people, they were not looting any shops, and they were kind to journalists. They knew exactly what they were taking to the streets every day. They had a clear sense of purpose. And they knew the presence of journalists was important for them.

A young Burundian boy tries to cover himself as police officers beat him after dispersing protesters by firing shots during an anti-government demonstration in Bujumbura, Burundi, 26 May 2015. epa/Dai Kurokawa

A young Burundian boy tries to cover himself as police officers beat him after dispersing protesters by firing shots during an anti-government demonstration in Bujumbura, Burundi, 26 May 2015. epa/Dai Kurokawa

Some have warned that the current crisis could develop into an ethnic conflict between a Hutu majority and Tutsi minority and descend the country back into a civil war. Burundi fought an ethnically fuelled civil war (1993-2005) in which some 300,000 people have been killed.
When asked about their ethnic divide, protesters always told me that it wasn’t about ethnicity. Everywhere I go, the protesters were a mix of Hutu and Tutsi youths. One protester, a Muslim man, told me “It’s everyone. Hutus and Tutsis. Christians and Muslims.

Burundian Muslim women cry during a funeral service for the slain leader of the opposition party Union for Peace and Development (UPD), Zedi Feruzi, who had been shot dead on 23 May, 2015 together with his bodyguard  in the Ngagara district of Bujumbura, Burundi, 24 May 2015. epa/Dai Kurokawa

Burundian Muslim women cry during a funeral service for the slain leader of the opposition party Union for Peace and Development (UPD), Zedi Feruzi, who had been shot dead on 23 May, 2015 together with his bodyguard in the Ngagara district Bujumbura, Burundi, 24 May 2015. epa/Dai Kurokawa

A Burundian refugee boy sits inside a mosquito net in his family's makeshift tent room set up by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) in a refugee camp in Gashora, some 55km south of the capital Kigali, Rwanda, 18 May 2015. epa/Dai Kurokawa

A Burundian refugee boy sits inside a mosquito net in his family’s makeshift tent room set up by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) in a refugee camp in Gashora, some 55km south of the capital Kigali, Rwanda, 18 May 2015. epa/Dai Kurokawa

Despite the boycott by opposition parties, parliamentary elections were held on June 29th, 2015. Burundi is scheduled to hold presidential elections on July 15th, 2015.

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Civilian Hardship in Donetsk

By Sergei Ilnitsky
epa’s long-time staff photographer in Moscow, Sergei Ilnitsky, was awarded 1st Prize, General News World Press Photo Contest 2015 for a picture he took in Donetsk, Ukraine. The following is an abstract of his speech delivered to the contest jury at the award ceremony in Amsterdam in April, 2015:

I arrived in Donetsk in August 2014, a city besieged by the military. A city with modern infrastructure, factories, mines, universities, an airport, with a population of over one million, was deserted and quiet. It was a creepy and frightening sight – empty streets, no cars, no people. And the reason for this emptiness was obvious – several times a day the city and its outskirts were under rocket attack and mortar fire, hardly precision-guided munition.

Residents walk past a damaged house after Ukranian army shelling downtown of Khartsyzk (24km from Donetsk), Ukraine, 18 August 2014. epa / Sergei Ilnitsky

Residents walk past a damaged house after Ukranian army shelling downtown of Khartsyzk (24km from Donetsk), Ukraine, 18 August 2014. epa / Sergei Ilnitsky

The area residents who had not left the city were hiding in their cellars and bomb shelters. They lived there without light and with little food and water for weeks.

Locals live in shelters  in Ilovaysk (50km from Donetsk), Ukraine, 14 August 2014. epa / Sergei Ilnitsky

Locals live in shelters in Ilovaysk (50km from Donetsk), Ukraine, 14 August 2014. epa / Sergei Ilnitsky

The military fired arbitrarily – on residential areas, infrastructures and schools. There were hundreds of civilians killed on the streets, in their apartments and houses, in stores and markets, in public transport. There were weeks when more civilians were killed than military.

A wounded woman lies on the street  after a mortar attack by the Ukrainian army of the center of Donetsk, Ukraine, 14 August 2014. epa / Sergei Ilnitsky

A wounded woman lies on the street after a mortar attack by the Ukrainian army of the center of Donetsk, Ukraine, 14 August 2014. epa / Sergei Ilnitsky

I was horrified by the senselessness and brutality of this war. If I had not seen it I would not have believed that it was possible in the civilized world of 21st-century Europe.
I asked myself – What am I doing here? What is my ultimate goal? Why did I leave my comfort zone where everything is familiar, relatively safe, predictable? Here life and death are divided by only seconds, meters, chance and coincidence. My role in conflict zones is to be a witness, the intermediary who transmits visual information about events occurring in this part of the world at a particular time. But I also understand that I am a connection between the big world and those who are involved in this local conflict.
In showing the truth, becoming a witness of the suffering, death and hardship brought to their home by the civil war and showing it to the world, we do not let society forget what is unjust.

A wounded local man sits near damaged block of flats after Ukranian army shelling in downtown of Donetsk, Ukraine, 23 August 2014. epa / Sergei Ilnitsky

A wounded local man sits near damaged block of flats after Ukranian army shelling in downtown of Donetsk, Ukraine, 23 August 2014. epa / Sergei Ilnitsky

Our photos do not allow people to remain indifferent to the tragedies of others. It is visual evidence of cruelty and intolerance of one human being to another. Unfortunately, we and our terrible and wonderful visual evidence are powerless and cannot change anything. There always have been wars and will be.

The body of a dead local girl, 11 year old, near a damaged block of flats after Ukranian army shelling in downtown of Donetsk, Ukraine, 23 August 2014. epa / Sergei Ilnitsky

The body of a dead local girl, 11 year old, near a damaged block of flats after Ukranian army shelling in downtown of Donetsk, Ukraine, 23 August 2014. epa / Sergei Ilnitsky

When I studied photography at university, I was taught to find different images and symbols for conveying ideas and feelings that characterize a situation. And this is what I strive to communicate. These symbolic images instantly affect the mind subconsciously, stirring the senses, and making people think. It is a connection that people can make with their own misfortunes.

Personal belongings in a destroyed home in downtown Donetsk, Ukraine, 13 August 2014. epa / Sergei Ilnitsky

Personal belongings in a destroyed home in downtown Donetsk, Ukraine, 13 August 2014. epa / Sergei Ilnitsky

Often these were objects, apartments abandoned and destroyed by explosions -deserted, lifeless. I got inside, into the personal space of the people who had lived there before the explosion. And I was amazed to see the world of things was the same – beds, dishes, toys and interiors – it was as though I walked into my own house. And in those moments I felt as though I took on the mantle of this tragedy through the subject’s world destroyed by the war.

My picture [the last picture below], which was chosen by the World Press Photo jury as first prize, general news, is also some sort of war’s still life. For me it is a very personal, symbolic image. I took it on the last day of my work in Donetsk. The city was particularly cynically bombed on that day. Ten drops, a one hour break, repeated until the evening. The first ten shells were dropped in the central area of the city with private houses. When I arrived, I saw an ambulance and doctors giving first aid to a bleeding elderly man. He was crying and whispering – ‘Vera, Vera’ – it was the name of his wife, who had been taken to the hospital earlier with a serious wound in her belly.

Medics provide first aid to a wounded man in downtown Donetsk, Ukraine, 26 August 2014. epa / Sergei Ilnitsky

Medics provide first aid to a wounded man in downtown Donetsk, Ukraine, 26 August 2014. epa / Sergei Ilnitsky

Nearby was his son. He was not wounded, but he cried too. I took some pictures and then he took my arm and led me into the house, he wanted to show me the place where a mortar shell exploded. It blasted in the front of the window when his parents were preparing to have breakfast. Everything was riddled with mortar shrapnel. I went into the kitchen where on the floor there was a large puddle of blood, broken glass and squashed tomatoes. It smelled of dust and tomatoes.

WPP: Damaged goods lie in a damaged kitchen in downtown Donetsk, Ukraine, 26 August 2014. epa / Sergei Ilnitsky

WPP: Damaged goods lie in a damaged kitchen in downtown Donetsk, Ukraine, 26 August 2014. epa / Sergei Ilnitsky

I was born in Donbas in the town of Mariupol, which is 90 km from Donetsk. So this place is my homeland. And the appearance of the kitchen transported me to my childhood, to my grandparents’ house — the table covered with oilcloth, metal utensils, ground-down-to-zero knifes, an old tin of coffee and white lace curtains. Everything was exactly the same. But in my childhood everything was safe and peaceful. Over there was life. And here was tragedy, destruction and death.

This photograph is simple and complex at the same time – for me it has become the symbol of this civil war, the symbol of destruction of civilian life, senseless and merciless destruction. This is a very personal photo and to be honest I didn’t think it would be understood and felt by the others. And I am glad that I was wrong.

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Volcanoes in Chile

by Filipe Trueba

A general view shows Villarrica volcano seen from Pucon, Cautin Province, some 780 km south of  Santiago de Chile, Chile, 22 March 2015. epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

A general view shows Villarrica volcano seen from Pucon, Cautin Province, some 780 km south of Santiago de Chile, Chile, 22 March 2015. epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

Volcanoes represent the majestic power of nature. But they also are tricky bastards to photograph.
Chile is located on what’s called the Pacific “Rim of Fire” and has the second largest chain of active volcanoes in the world after Indonesia. On Wednesday, April 22nd, I was in the office filing pictures of a State visit when the first images were shown on TV. A 17km high column of ash was emerging over the city of Puerto Montt, 1000 km south of Santiago de Chile. The Calbuco, a dormant volcano for the past 40 years had erupted at six o´clock in the afternoon with no previous warning.
I checked flights south – none were available so late and shortly afterwards all flights for the next day had been cancelled. As I rushed home to pack my stuff and organize the trip by car with two other photographers, my colleague Mario was already trying to reach people in the area to get some images on the wire. Time was crucial with deadlines in Europe closing in. The pictures coming from the Calbuco were Dantesque: a giant sunset colored mushroom expanding over the villages around the volcano.

General view of Chilean Calbuco volcano from Puerto Montt, located at 1000 km southern Santiago de Chile, Chile, 22 April 2015. epa / efe / Alex Vidal Brecas

General view of Chilean Calbuco volcano from Puerto Montt, located at 1000 km southern Santiago de Chile, Chile, 22 April 2015. epa / efe / Alex Vidal Brecas

The journey south was an excruciating ten hour night ride – by one o´clock the mountain had started to unleash all its fury with lightning and fire raging from the crater. Images on twitter showed hell on earth… and we were still very far away.

General view of the Chilean Calbuco volcano from Puerto Montt, located some 1,000 km south of Santiago de Chile, Chile, 22 April 2015. epa / efe / Francisco Negroni

General view of the Chilean Calbuco volcano from Puerto Montt, located some 1,000 km south of Santiago de Chile, Chile, 22 April 2015. epa / efe / Francisco Negroni

The so called eruptive pulses are spectacular but usually don´t last long. We arrived just after nine o´clock in the morning when everything was calm again. The Calbuco was resting under thick fog and a milky grey sky.

View of the Calbuco volcano, which erupted on 22 April, from Puerto Varas village, in the region of Los Lagos, southern Chile, 24 April 2015. epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

View of the Calbuco volcano, which erupted on 22 April, from Puerto Varas village, in the region of Los Lagos, southern Chile, 24 April 2015. epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

This was my fourth time chasing a volcano and, once again, I turned up too late.
We got to a checkpoint 20 kilometers from the crater. We crossed it by foot and reached an area covered in ashes. After the hasty evacuation from the night before, dozens of residents had returned to collect some belongings or were shoveling the volcanic gravel from the roof of their houses to avoid them from sinking in. Taking pictures in the middle of a moonscape, I felt sorry for the Chilean people struck again by another disaster.

Men remove ash from a rooftop as the Calbuco volcano continues to spew clouds of ash in Ensenada village, in the region of Los Lagos, southern Chile, 24 April 2015. epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

Men remove ash from a rooftop as the Calbuco volcano continues to spew clouds of ash in Ensenada village, in the region of Los Lagos, southern Chile, 24 April 2015. epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

People remove ash from the Calbuco volcano which erupted on 22 April from the roof of their home, in Ensenada village, in the region of Los Lagos, southern Chile, 24 April 2015. epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

People remove ash from the Calbuco volcano which erupted on 22 April from the roof of their home, in Ensenada village, in the region of Los Lagos, southern Chile, 24 April 2015. epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

The coverage of a volcano compels you to concentrate all your efforts on a single spot. You drive around, you look for different angles, you discover the best timing for light on the mountain or you play with the exposure. You try different ways to portrait a fuming beast that doesn´t move. A few weeks earlier I had covered another volcano, the Villarrica, 300 km north of the Calbuco. There, I hung out with Franciso Negroni a freelance photographer based in Puerto Montt. Negroni is a real volcano hunter.

A general view of the volcano Villarrica erupting near Villarrica, some 750 kilometers south of Santiago de Chile, in Chile, 03 March 2015. epa / efe / Francisco Negroni

A general view of the volcano Villarrica erupting near Villarrica, some 750 kilometers south of Santiago de Chile, in Chile, 03 March 2015. epa / efe / Francisco Negroni

When you get obsessed with one of these stone creatures you bring the business to another level: you check its “breathing” by the plume… is it regular?; you talk to the elders and listen to their stories of previous explosions; you keep an eye on the lunar cycles, especially with full moon (for more light in night shots or unusual volcanic activity); you know you’re travelling times from one good spot to another; you stop-watch the minutes you have in order to pass a road before the authorities close it in case of an emergency; you notice when the plume changes from white to grey; you come up with tricks to get a sharp focus on the mountain when it´s pitch dark and the autofocus on the camera doesn´t work; you sleep rough in the car night after night waiting for the giant to wake up.

A long exposure picture shows a general view of Villarrica volcano seen at night from Pucon, Cautin Province, some 780 km south of  Santiago de Chile, Chile, 22 March 2015. epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

A long exposure picture shows a general view of Villarrica volcano seen at night from Pucon, Cautin Province, some 780 km south of Santiago de Chile, Chile, 22 March 2015. epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

The rule of “the closer, the better the picture” doesn´t apply to volcanoes. Apart from risking to get hit by pyroclastic material flying around, your angle from underneath won´t be the best. You should know how your “friend” likes to spit fire – is it a Hawaiian, a Strombolian or a Plinian eruption? In many Chilean volcanoes lightning appears during the most violent phase. No, it’s not the pure luck of a thunderstorm passing by at that precise moment. The electrical charges are generated by the collision of rocks, ash and ice particles in the plume that produce static energy. For the next five days in the zone I only saw the Calbuco twice as he hid above low clouds. Together with a fellow photographer we documented the northern parts of the volcano badly affected by the ashes. On the southern slopes of the mountain the destruction came in form of rivers of melted ice and rocks. Lahars had wiped out bridges, houses and salmon farms, an important industry in the area.

View of dead salmon in ponds of an affected fish farm after the eruption of Chilean Calbuco volcano in the area of Correntoso, close to Chamiza locality, Los Lagos region, at southern Chile, 25 April 2015. epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

View of dead salmon in ponds of an affected fish farm after the eruption of Chilean Calbuco volcano in the area of Correntoso, close to Chamiza locality, Los Lagos region, at southern Chile, 25 April 2015. epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

This time the volcano didn´t take any lives but severely affected the everyday life of the region. There had been 9000 evacuees, a curfew was still in place and authorities estimated a loss of 30% to the local economy. By the end of the week, the beast was still spewing but I had covered the most important angles of the story. I headed back to Santiago. Four days later the Calbuco erupted again.

Two sheep remain in a meadow covered with ash after the eruption of the Calbuco volcano, in the town of Ensenada, region of Los Lagos, in southern Chile, 26 April 2015. epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

Two sheep remain in a meadow covered with ash after the eruption of the Calbuco volcano, in the town of Ensenada, region of Los Lagos, in southern Chile, 26 April 2015. epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

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‪#‎Garissaattack‬ ‪#‎147isnotjustanumber‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

By Daniel Irungu

A Kenyan police officer runs to take cover as shots are fired from inside Garissa University in Garissa town,i, Kenya, 02 April 2015. epa / Daniel Irungu

A Kenyan police officer runs to take cover as shots are fired from inside Garissa University in Garissa town,i, Kenya, 02 April 2015. epa / Daniel Irungu

I recently covered the attack on Garissa University* for epa, through which I now have a special connection with some of the survivors.
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On April 2nd, 2015, I was alerted about the hostage situation by one of my contacts in Garissa working for a local media house. He was among the first people to get to the University. So I immediately contacted my senior colleague, Dai Kurokawa, and waited for his feedback. All the while, my contact in Garissa kept telling me it was a serious attack and we should go immediately. Finally, Dai decided that we should both go together, contacted a reliable cab driver and came to pick me up. It took us some 4-5 hours on the road to get to Garissa. Close to our destination, we all got arrested including the cab driver. This happened after I took some pictures of police officers on trucks as they were heading to Garissa to offer backup. Little did we know that police were therefore suspecting us of being “enemies”. They had made a phone call to the police headquarters in Nairobi and orders had been given out for us to be arrested at the last police check point before getting to Garissa. The police officers held us in their police station, interrogated us, and ordered me to delete the pictures in question. After finding we had no bad intentions and that we were accredited and genuine journalists, we were released and able to continue our journey. When we got to the scene of the attack, we found that no journalists were allowed into the university grounds, the operation was still going on. We could hear gun shots. Dai and I decided to part ways to find different angles to illustrate the story.

Kenyan soldiers prepare to sweep inside the building at Garissa University in Garissa town, Kenya, 02 April 2015. epa / Dai Kurokawa

Kenyan soldiers prepare to sweep inside the building at Garissa University in Garissa town, Kenya, 02 April 2015. epa / Dai Kurokawa

As I was roaming around, I happened to meet some local Somalia youths who asked me ‘Do you want to take pictures of police officers sleeping on the ground?’ in Swahili language. They took me to a place where officers were lying down along the fence of the university. I just walked towards the officers innocently without knowing I was right inside the battle line. As it turned out, the officers were taking cover, not sleeping as the locals had thought. As I got closer to the soldiers, several gun shots were fired by the terrorists aimed at the officers. When I realised I was in the middle of a battle field, I went down to take cover myself, right inside a thorny shrub along the fence. There I found a General Service Unit (GSU) officer. He had been among the first military men to respond to the attack at 6 am in the morning, he told me. The first thing he asked me for was drinking water. Luckily I had brought some water bottles with me. He was grateful and engaged me in a conversation while I took pictures of him.

A Kenyan Administration Police (AP) officer taking cover as shots are fired from inside Garissa University in Garissa town, Kenya, 02 April 2015. epa / Daniel Irungu

A Kenyan Administration Police (AP) officer taking cover as shots are fired from inside Garissa University in Garissa town, Kenya, 02 April 2015. epa / Daniel Irungu

He had witnessed his colleague being shot dead by the attackers when they first arrived to the scene in the early hours. Since then he had not been able to move from his position due to the heavy gun shots from a sniper attacker positioned on the upper floor of the hostel and aiming at them. It dawned on me that I would not be safe and decided to move and ended up hiding under a tree, from where I witnessed a soldier being shot. I was in shock, could not even take pictures and stayed glued to the ground until I started to relax a little and to take a few pictures of the Kenya Defence Force (KDF) soldiers breaking into the university compound using tanks.

A tank moves into Garissa University campus during a stand-off with militants, in Garissa town, Kenya, 02 April 2015. epa / Dai Kurokawa

A tank moves into Garissa University campus during a stand-off with militants, in Garissa town, Kenya, 02 April 2015. epa / Dai Kurokawa

Kenyan soldiers and ambulance workers run as they prepare to evacuate students who were rescued out of the building at Garissa University in Garissa town, Kenya, 02 April 2015. epa /Dai Kurokawa

Kenyan soldiers and ambulance workers run as they prepare to evacuate students who were rescued out of the building at Garissa University in Garissa town, Kenya, 02 April 2015. epa /Dai Kurokawa

I returned to where my colleague Dai Kurokawa was, in order to file the pictures I had taken. Dai had been worried sick about my whereabouts. When he saw the pictures, he went silent and helped me edit them. Our pictures were the first ones from the front battle line illustrating how intense the situation was. Later, we went together to the area I had been before. The situation was now getting even more serious. I never stayed for long in one place, but left to file pictures. At this point, the soldiers together with a special police unit called Recce squad were able to gain control of the situation. Luckily, my colleague Dai was there to capture the moment, and was able to go inside the university together with the soldiers, also shooting pictures of the students being rescued.

A woman reacts as she is rescued out of the building where she had been held hostage as Kenyan soldiers entered the university building after a fierce fights with attackers at the Garissa University in Garissa town, Kenya, 02 April 2015. epa / Dai Kurokawa

A woman reacts as she is rescued out of the building where she had been held hostage as Kenyan soldiers entered the university building after a fierce fights with attackers at the Garissa University in Garissa town, Kenya, 02 April 2015. epa / Dai Kurokawa

Once I had slowly recovered from the traumatic events, I came to think that this experience was like a turning point in my life. It taught me to let the people closest to me know how much I love and care for them. Life is short and the best you can do is live it happily and in one piece. To me wealth is not about how much you own or earn, but it is about how many lives you touch with what you have or do. Have you ever asked yourself how many lives you have touched or changed in a positive way?

Some of the Garissa University students who were rescued, comfort each other at the Garissa military camp, in Garissa town, located near the border with Somalia, some 370km northeast of the capital Nairobi, Kenya, 03 April 2015, the day after gunmen attacked the university in which the government says 147 people have been killed. epa / Daniel Irungu

Some of the Garissa University students who were rescued, comfort each other at the Garissa military camp, in Garissa town, located near the border with Somalia, some 370km northeast of the capital Nairobi, Kenya, 03 April 2015, the day after gunmen attacked the university in which the government says 147 people have been killed. epa / Daniel Irungu

Special thanks to Dai Kurokawa, and all other friends who have been there offering support through prayers and encouraging words, I value you all.

Daniel Irungu

Daniel Irungu on assignment covering the first opening of African Green Growth Forum (3GF) at the UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, 13 May 2015. Photo by Antony Karumba


*On 2 April 2015, gunmen stormed the Garissa University College in Garissa, Kenya, some 330 km east of Nairobi, killing 147 people, mainly students and injuring 79 or more. The militant group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack. The gunmen took over 700 students hostage, freeing Muslims and singling out Christians who were shot. The siege ended after nearly 15 hours, when all four of the attackers were killed by Kenyan forces.

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Nepal Earthquake

By Narendra Shrestha

Nepal earthquake: People try to free a man called Bishnu Khadka from the rubble of a destroyed building after an earthquake hit Nepal, in Kathmandu, Nepal, 25 April 2015. epa / Narendra Shrestha

People try to free a man called Bishnu Khadka from the rubble of a destroyed building after an earthquake hit Nepal, in Kathmandu, Nepal, 25 April 2015. epa / Narendra Shrestha

I was on the top floor of my five-storey house and planning to take my daughter out since it was a Saturday. Suddenly, I felt the shake and naturally assumed that it was an earthquake. I went to my daughter’s room and positioned her under the door. At first I thought it might be a short quake like last year so we didn’t run. But this time it didn’t stop. All our belongings started falling from the rack and I could feel my house shaking left to right and right to left. My daughter started crying and I prayed to God for it to stop. “Please Stop!” But it didn’t. Left-right, right-left. It lasted 57 seconds, but was the hardest time of my life to pass.

After it stopped, I went to the rooftop with my daughter. There lay before us the surprising scene of the Kathmandu Valley. From the dust everywhere I assumed the density of this earthquake. I went for my camera to capture that view.

Dust can be seen during an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, 25 April 2015. epa / Narendra Shrestha

Dust can be seen during an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, 25 April 2015. epa / Narendra Shrestha

Later, my wife came to the roof to look after our daughter. In the streets people were panicking, running, some of them without clothes; army personnel and police were running, children were crying, and people were injured.

Almost about 100 meters from my home there was a construction site where almost 40 workers were trapped when the old houses next to the site had collapsed on them. They were trying to free themselves from the rubble as others rushed to rescue them.

People free a man called Kaaji Bogati from the rubble of a destroyed building after an earthquake hit Nepal, in Kathmandu, Nepal, 25 April 2015. epa / Narendra Shrestha

Nepal earthquake: People free a man called Kaaji Bogati from the rubble of a destroyed building after an earthquake hit Nepal, in Kathmandu, Nepal, 25 April 2015. epa / Narendra Shrestha

At another site a seven-storey tourist guest house had collapsed. I saw a man injured and bleeding. Local youths were trying to rescue him from the rubble. It was a catastrophic scene, something I had only seen in photos and movies, but for the first time in my life I was witnessing and photographing it live. At one point as I held my camera, I was unable to take more images.

I regained my composure when I saw an old lady lying on the ground and a young girl crying “Ba Ba ..” (father). Suddenly my thoughts turned to my daughter and I ran towards my home to find her safe with other family members. She was frightened and crying, asking for me “Where is Ba Ba?” When she saw me, she ran towards me, holding tightly onto me. I tried to calm her and stayed with her for almost 30 minutes. My younger brother arrived with news about the city; our historical monuments had collapsed. Hearing that, my daughter held me even tighter. I tried to withdraw her hand from mine but she wouldn’t let go. For the first time I disliked my job because it meant I had to leave when she needed me the most.

The aftershocks could be felt day and night. Everyone took shelter on the roads, fields and grounds. No one dared to enter their houses but I had to get in to file pictures since cable internet was only working and available at home. Till today [8th May, 2015], 157 aftershocks have been registered. People still get alarmed with the aftershocks.

From the next day, I travelled around Kathmandu valley. Seeing all the collapsed monuments and heritage sites made me sad, as these are the places I grew up with. After a few days, I flew to the most affected villages in Sindhupalchowk and Gorkha district. The sight made me feel that the nation had turned into a refugee camp. All the houses had collapsed and colorful tents could be seen on the ground.

Nepal earthquake: A mother kisses her baby daughter in front of their destroyed house in the Baluwa village, Gorkha district, Nepal, on 30 April 2015, where the epicenter of the 25 April earthquake was. epa / Narendra Shrestha

Nepal earthquake: A mother kisses her baby daughter in front of their destroyed house in the Baluwa village, Gorkha district, Nepal, on 30 April 2015, where the epicenter of the 25 April earthquake was. epa / Narendra Shrestha

Supportors and aide organisations from different countries have arrived in Kathmandu and started rescuing and providing their services.

After a week, I was glad to find Kaaji Bogati, the first person I had photographed on the day of the earthquake. Kaaji, a construction worker rescued from the rubble, was in hospital with his wife. He had broken his rib and was waiting for surgery.

Nepal earthquake: Nepalese construction worker Kaaji Bogati, aged 50, being taken care by his wife Ganga Maya Bogati, at Hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal. 02 May 2015. epa / Narendra Shrestha

Nepal earthquake: Nepalese construction worker Kaaji Bogati, aged 50, being taken care by his wife Ganga Maya Bogati, at Hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal. 02 May 2015. epa / Narendra Shrestha

Another worker who was rescued after almost being buried alive was Bishnu Khadka [shown in the very first photograph of this post]; his condition is still critical and he is on a ventilator at ICU in Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu.

Now, after 13 days, life in Kathmandu slowly returns to normalcy. I received a message on my phone stating that the official death toll now stood at 7,802. Some 6,088 people are still in hospital while another 15,911 sustained injuries. The number of disappeared persons is 322 and damaged houses 288,798. Tomorrow is Saturday again and I would like to plan a fun day for my daughter but she says she gets scared when she hears the word ‘SATURDAY.’

N.B. Just days before the earthquake hit Nepal, Narendra Shrestha had been working on a feature package about the Muktinath Temple in Nepal’s Mustang district: http://www.epa.eu/feature-packages/archive/2015/muktinath-temple
According to reports, the tremors did not cause damage to the Temple site.

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Wrestling – Cassandro El Exotico

By Ian Langsdon

Wrestler Cassandro El Exotico soars through the air in a daring acrobatic manoeuvre against Puma King (R) and Magnus (C)  during a Lucha Libre wrestling exhibition match at the Cartier Foundation in Paris, France, 03 November 2014. As part of his last tour before a two-year break, US-born Mexican wrestling welterweight champion, Cassandro El Exotico set up a fighting ring for a show dubbed Los Exoticos vs Los Luchadores.  epa/Ian Langsdon

Wrestler Cassandro El Exotico soars through the air in a daring acrobatic manoeuvre against Puma King (R) and Magnus (C) during a Lucha Libre wrestling exhibition match at the Cartier Foundation in Paris, France, 03 November 2014. epa/Ian Langsdon

Paris, for many, is the city of lights, high fashion and fine cuisine. For the news photographer, it is also the capital of international diplomacy – with an average of four visiting dignitaries per week, creating a steady supply of ‘grip & grin’ photo-opportunities. If there is one thing Paris is not renowned for, however, it is Lucha Libre Mexican wrestling. So when a press release appeared in my inbox one morning bearing the title “Cassandro El Exotico VS Luchadores in Paris”, I was unsure whether or not I was the subject of an elaborate prank.

After investigating further, it appeared that ‘Cassandro El Exotico’ was not only a real-life wrestler, but in fact somewhat of a celebrity within the realm of Lucha Libre. Oh, and Cassandro is a drag-queen. That was all I needed – this story was too strange to ignore.

Luchador Puma King holds Cassandro El Exotico upside down as the referee looks on during the first act of a Lucha Libre wrestling exhibition match at the Cartier Foundation in Paris, France, 03 November 2014. epa / Ian Langsdon

Luchador Puma King holds Cassandro El Exotico upside down as the referee looks on during the first act of a Lucha Libre wrestling exhibition match at the Cartier Foundation in Paris, France, 03 November 2014. epa / Ian Langsdon

The fight was to be held at the Cartier Foundation in central Paris. Upon my arrival on fight-night, it became apparent that the press was not expected to show up, judging by the bewildered look on the press relations personnel’s faces. Nevertheless I was welcomed in, and left with an ominous warning: “Don’t stand next to the ring. You’ll get squashed.”

Wrestler Cassandro El Exotico yells in pain as Puma King pins him down during the first act of a Lucha Libre wrestling exhibition match at the Cartier Foundation in Paris, France, 03 November 2014. epa / Ian Langsdon

Wrestler Cassandro El Exotico yells in pain as Puma King pins him down during the first act of a Lucha Libre wrestling exhibition match at the Cartier Foundation in Paris, France, 03 November 2014. epa / Ian Langsdon

With that in mind, I kept as far from the ring as humanly possible, opting to shoot with my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, amidst the audience. The event drew a small gathering of around 200, mostly eccentric-looking folks, for whom this seemed to be a normal Monday night. What followed, was far from normal. Two colossal, shirtless, masked wrestlers (luchadores) faced off with two petite, drag-queen ‘exotics’ in tights. What ensued was a whirlwind of gravity-defying acrobatics, cabaret-style risqué showmanship and downright physical violence. Bodies flew, heads were slapped, and an array of Spanish swear words were thrown around. After taking a considerable beating, Cassandro and his equally feminine sidekick rose to the occasion and delivered the final blows, seizing their victory. The fight was over.

Performers wearing 'Lucha Libre' Mexican wrestler's masks take part in a choreographed dance ahead of an exhibition Lucha Libre wrestling match starring current Lucha Libre welterweight champion luchador, Cassandro El Exotico, at the Cartier Foundation in Paris, France, 03 November 2014. epa / Ian Langsdon

Performers wearing ‘Lucha Libre’ Mexican wrestler’s masks take part in a choreographed dance ahead of an exhibition Lucha Libre wrestling match starring current Lucha Libre welterweight champion luchador, Cassandro El Exotico, at the Cartier Foundation in Paris, France, 03 November 2014. epa / Ian Langsdon

Back home that night, I was reviewing the picture production and struggling with the edit, as many shots had distracting colourful clutter in the background. Suddenly a Facebook notification popped up inviting me to join ‘Black & White photo-challenge’ that had been going viral all week. This, along with Benjamin Legier’s support, inspired me to make an entire edit in black and white, which ultimately solved the background issue, allowing the photos to focus on the action and expressions instead.

The crowd cheer as Cassandro El Exotico celebrates defeating the Rudos team during a Lucha Libre wrestling exhibition match at the Cartier Foundation in Paris, France, 03 November 2014. epa / Ian Langsdon

The crowd cheer as Cassandro El Exotico celebrates defeating the Rudos team during a Lucha Libre wrestling exhibition match at the Cartier Foundation in Paris, France, 03 November 2014. epa / Ian Langsdon

A few days after the picture package release, Italian news website Panorama picked up the story, writing a full article about Cassandro, using the full feature as a slideshow.
This was a great surprise after what can only be described as a truly surprising assignment!

Cassandro El Exotico feature package on epa.eu

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Chile floods – a tsunami of mud in the Atacama desert

By Felipe Trueba

 A general view shows a coast zone destroyed by floods of last 25 March, in the locality of Chanaral, some 800 km north of Santiago, Chile, 26 March 2015. epa/efe/Felipe Trueba

A general view shows a coast zone destroyed by floods of last 25 March, in the locality of Chanaral, some 800 km north of Santiago, Chile, 26 March 2015. epa/efe/Felipe Trueba

Chile is a peculiar country. With an average width of 180 km and a lenght of 4300 km, the green and lush landscapes dominate the South, whereas the Atacama desert rules in the North – sand rocks and heat.

Two weeks ago it was just the opposite. The southern regions were suffering from drought with wildfires raging in some national parks. And then it started to rain in the North…

On Wednesday 25th March, I had just got back to the office after lunch when I saw my boss watching the breaking news on TV – the early reports were showing twitter pictures of cars stuck in water and rivers overflowing the streets in cities like Copiapo and Antofagasta. Intense raining in the upper part of the Andes and the impermeable soil of the desert caused huge masses of water to descend rapidly through wide ravines. “You’d better start packing…”, he said.

A view of a mud-covered car abandoned on a flooded road, in downtown Copiapo, 800 km north of Santiago de Chile, Chile, early morning 26 March 2015. epa/efe/ Felipe Trueba

A view of a mud-covered car abandoned on a flooded road, in downtown Copiapo, 800 km north of Santiago de Chile, Chile, early morning 26 March 2015. epa/efe/ Felipe Trueba

I scrambled up the gear, went home for some clothes and two hours later I was heading north in a little car with two fellow photographers and a videographer. The radio kept us informed of the scale of the unfolding disaster. Flash floods in areas where it hadn´t rained heavily for 20 years had swept whole villages away. As we were driving, Mario, my colleague in Santiago, was putting the first images on the wire, ringing friends and every possible contact in order to get some pictures.

People try to cross a street after a flood in Copiapo, Chile, 26 March 2015. epa / Felipe Trueba

People try to cross a street after a flood in Copiapo, Chile, 26 March 2015. epa/efe/Felipe Trueba

Eight hours and 800 km on single lane roads later, just after midnight, we got to the city of Copiapo. Here the river had burst the banks and flooded downtown. When the car got stuck in mud, we took the cameras and laptops and left for a short trip around the nearby streets. The task took us longer than expected as we didn´t get back to the vehicle for two days.

Chilean soldiers help a group of people that were crossing the river flow formed after torrential floods and rains in Charañal, 1000 km north of Santiago de Chile, Chile, 27 March 2015. epa / Felipe Trueba

Chilean soldiers help a group of people that were crossing the river flow formed after torrential floods and rains in Charañal, 1000 km north of Santiago de Chile, Chile, 27 March 2015. epa/efe/Felipe Trueba

For hours we waded through an empty city and rivers of mud, with cars and containers littered all around. We finally got to a school where neighbours were taking shelter. Somehow internet was working, so I sent the first images and a short video in underpants, as my trousers hung on a line to dry.

By dawn all four of us were back on the streets shooting. We managed to get a ride to a nearby village that had suffered the full force of the water. Whole houses had disappeared under tons of mud and people were helping each other in their search for relatives. Pictures were filed on the spot and we kept going.

A general view of the wreckage caused by the river flow formed after torrential floods and rains in Charañal, 1000 km north of Santiago de Chile, Chile, 27 March 2015. epa / Felipe Trueba

Chile Floods: A general view of the wreckage caused by the river flow formed after torrential floods and rains in Charañal, 1000 km north of Santiago de Chile, Chile, 27 March 2015. epa/efe/Felipe Trueba

We ran into two other photographers, joined forces and tried to get to Chañaral, a little village 200 km north of Copiapo. Located exactly where a ravine flows into the sea, its inhabitants have always been very aware of possible tsunamis after earthquakes, so frequent in this region. However, nobody realised the giant wave of water and debris coming from the mountains that hit them on Wednesday. Official warning came late and all the constructions on and near the once dry riverbed were obliterated. Footage recorded on mobile by neighbours shows mining trucks, iron tanks and whole houses being wiped out.

We got there by late afternoon. A third of the village had dissapeared. I moved hastily shooting pictures and video with the last rays of the day. With no power in town and under curfew we plugged the laptops into the car engine using a converter. Only one mobile internet connection was working, so we shared it and slowly -very slowly- the images were sent as soldiers on patrol walked past us from time to time. In the school converted into an improvised shelter we slept for a couple of hours, next to a group of volunteers preparing emergency food rations for those who had lost everything.

A group of people observe an area affected by floods of last 25 March, in the locality of Chanaral, some 800 km north of Santiago, Chile, 26 March 2015. epa / Felipe Trueba

Chile Floods: A group of people observe an area affected by floods of last 25 March, in the locality of Chanaral, some 800 km north of Santiago, Chile, 26 March 2015. epa/efe/Felipe Trueba

For the next two days we kept working in the same way: A group of photographers cramped in a car, editing in the back of the pick up while travelling from one village to another. We would work in the area for some hours and go out again in search for internet for our daily dispatch. During the first few days of chaos people helped each other at great length as the Government and the military had been caught on the hop. To this day, the official figures count 26 dead and 126 people missing.

A general view shows a pick up truck covered in mud after three days of torrential floods and rains, in Diego de Almagro, some 1,000 km north of Santiago de Chile, Chile, 28 March 2015. epa / Felipe Trueba

Chile Floods: A general view shows a pick up truck covered in mud after three days of torrential floods and rains, in Diego de Almagro, some 1,000 km north of Santiago de Chile, Chile, 28 March 2015. epa/efe/Felipe Trueba

I have always admired the stoicism Chileans show in moments of great adversity. But the woman I encountered trying to remove –literally- tons of mud from her home with a little shovel took me by surprise. She invited me to go inside and have a look around. “But, please… wipe your feet first!”, she grinned. At least, the water hadn´t taken everything from her.

A couple remove mud from their house after torrential rains and floods in Diego de Almagro, Chile, 28 March 2015. epa / Felipe Trueba

Chile Floods: A couple remove mud from their house after torrential rains and floods in Diego de Almagro, Chile, 28 March 2015. epa/efe/Felipe Trueba

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Sandhill cranes in central Nebraska

By Jim Lo Scalzo

Dozens of Sandhill cranes fly past the setting sun during their annual migration through central Nebraska just outside Gibbon, Nebraska, USA, 26 March 2014. epa / Jim Lo Scalzo

Dozens of Sandhill cranes fly past the setting sun during their annual migration through central Nebraska just outside Gibbon, Nebraska, USA, 26 March 2014. epa / Jim Lo Scalzo

When I first sought to photograph a feature package on Sandhill cranes in central Nebraska, I thought it would be a welcome respite from covering politicians at podiums in Washington, DC. I was only half right.

Every March, up to a half million of these large birds pause in Nebraska’s Platte River Valley to rest and refuel during their annual migration north to the Arctic. During the day, they feed in farmers’ fields on last year’s corn and are difficult to approach. But in the evening, they gather in groups, called sieges, and sleep in the braids of the Platte River—a defense against coyotes and other predators.

A Sandhill crane spreads its wings after spending the night on the Platte River during the bird's annual migration through central Nebraska just outside Gibbon, Nebraska, USA, 26 March 2014. epa / Jim Lo Scalzo

A Sandhill crane spreads its wings after spending the night on the Platte River during the bird’s annual migration through central Nebraska just outside Gibbon, Nebraska, USA, 26 March 2014. epa / Jim Lo Scalzo

Wilderness groups such as Audubon and The Nature Conservancy have bought up much of these riverbanks to help protect the birds—and they rent out a handful of one-person blinds (wooden boxes, 8-feet-long, 6-feet wide, and just 4-feet tall) with holes on one side from which the birds can be pictured.

Dozens of Sandhill cranes are seen before dawn through the windows of a viewing blind after the birds spent the night on the Platte River during their annual migration through central Nebraska just outside Gibbon, Nebraska, USA, 26 March 2014. epa / Jim Lo Scalzo

Dozens of Sandhill cranes are seen before dawn through the windows of a viewing blind after the birds spent the night on the Platte River during their annual migration through central Nebraska just outside Gibbon, Nebraska, USA, 26 March 2014. epa / Jim Lo Scalzo

However, the blind rental comes with a serious—perhaps even silly—number of restrictions. You are not allowed to drive out to the blinds on your own; instead, to minimize disturbance to the birds, the staff drive you out to your blind at 5 in the afternoon (well before the birds land), and they don’t pick you up until 9 the next morning (well after they’ve left). And in between you are not allowed to leave the box. That means you’re spending the night outside in winter—the dirt floor your bed, a bucket your bathroom. Should the birds not land near your blind, you have no recourse but to try again the next night.

In March 2014, North American Photo Director Matt Campbell gave me the go-ahead to visit the area. On my first night in a blind, I unrolled my sleeping bag, mounted a 400 2.8 on a tripod, and waited. And waited. And waited.

A Sandhill crane takes flight on a misty morning after spending the night on the Platte River during their annual migration through central Nebraska just outside Gibbon, Nebraska, USA, 27 March 2014. epa / Jim Lo Scalzo

A Sandhill crane takes flight on a misty morning after spending the night on the Platte River during their annual migration through central Nebraska just outside Gibbon, Nebraska, USA, 27 March 2014. epa / Jim Lo Scalzo

Well past dusk I heard a terrific racket overhead, and watched the silhouettes of thousands of squawking cranes land several hundred of yards away, out of photo range. I was hosed. I slid into my sleeping bag, cold and frustrated, trying to make a pillow of one of my coats. It was 28 degrees, and I was just drifting off when a mouse ran across my face.

Dozens of Sandhill cranes are pictured after dusk flying above the Platte River during their annual migration through central Nebraska just outside Gibbon, Nebraska, USA, 26 March 2014. epa / Jim Lo Scalzo

Dozens of Sandhill cranes are pictured after dusk flying above the Platte River during their annual migration through central Nebraska just outside Gibbon, Nebraska, USA, 26 March 2014. epa / Jim Lo Scalzo

In the coming nights my luck improved somewhat, though with the birds not landing until well after dusk I found myself shooting increasingly desperate exposures: 30 seconds, three minutes, five minutes. In the end I felt my coverage was incomplete; Campbell agreed to let me give it another go the following year. So last week I again flew to Omaha, drove to the center of Nebraska, and spent three more nights in those wooden torture boxes.

A Sandhill crane takes flight after spending the night on the Platte River during the species' annual migration through central Nebraska just outside Alda, Nebraska, USA, 20 March 2015. epa / Jim Lo Scalzo

A Sandhill crane takes flight after spending the night on the Platte River during the species’ annual migration through central Nebraska just outside Alda, Nebraska, USA, 20 March 2015. epa / Jim Lo Scalzo

Some evenings and mornings worked, some didn’t. And therein lies the aggravation, and the fun—for me at least—of wildlife photography. Unlike photo-ops in DC, which run on schedule and look precisely as you expect, making pictures of cranes required a less predictable element: luck. And if I was short on it more often than I wished, the breadth of a feature package—less the coverage of a single event than an accumulation of minor successes—helped cover those cold nights when the pictures I wished to make were just out of reach.

Sandhill Cranes feature package on epa.eu

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Cape Town Fire

By Nic Bothma

Cape Town fire: Fire fighters decend the side of Silvermine mountain to tackle a blaze raging in the Tokai forest, Cape Town, South Africa, 03 March 2015. epa / Nic Bothma

Cape Town fire: Fire fighters decend the side of Silvermine mountain to tackle a blaze raging in the Tokai forest, Cape Town, South Africa, 03 March 2015. epa / Nic Bothma

Its all my wife’s fault. At 2am on a Sunday night I was woken by her exclaiming ‘aaargh ! the mountain is on fire’. I swore at her for waking me up and tried to go back to sleep. 5 minutes later cogs started turning in my head and I realised it was no time to sleep !

From my balcony I could see a massive swathe of red clouds from the light reflected from an entire mountain in flames as they raced over the mountain tops in a strong wind, it was dramatic, Armageddon like.

Cape Town fire: A bird flies through burning embers and smoke from a raging fire in Noordhoek, Cape Town, South Africa 02 March 2015. epa / Nic Bothma

Cape Town fire: A bird flies through burning embers and smoke from a raging fire in Noordhoek, Cape Town, South Africa 02 March 2015. epa / Nic Bothma

10 minutes later I was on my off-road motorcycle, a crucial piece of equipment on this story, and heading towards the light.

I followed ambulances into an old age home in the midst of an evacuation as the fire marched relentlessly towards them.

For the next week the fire raged on my back yard, so to speak, giving me a distinct ‘home game’ advantage. I know the areas around the mountains above my home well and using a motorcycle allowed me to get to where I thought would be best. The fire was burning on several fronts and establishing where the pictures would be was the challenge.

A firefighter tries to stop a blaze in Noordhoek Manor old age home, Cape Town, South Africa, 02 March 2015. epa / Nic Bothma

A firefighter tries to stop a blaze in Noordhoek Manor old age home, Cape Town, South Africa, 02 March 2015. epa / Nic Bothma

The scale and ferocity of this fire was unprecedented in Cape Town. The Cape is often referred to as the Cape of Storms as we are continually battered by strong winds. This wind causes a bush fire to rapidly turn into a raging, out of control inferno. The geography of Cape Town is also unique with mountain ranges meandering through communities making areas under threat varied and hard to predict.

Cape Town fire: The sun rises through thick smoke hanging over the Noordhoek Valley from a Fynbos vegetation fire on the World Heritage site Table Mountain National Park three days after it started in Muizenberg, Cape Town, South Africa, 03 March 2015. epa / Nic Bothma

Cape Town fire: The sun rises through thick smoke hanging over the Noordhoek Valley from a Fynbos vegetation fire on the World Heritage site Table Mountain National Park three days after it started in Muizenberg, Cape Town, South Africa, 03 March 2015. epa / Nic Bothma

Thick smoke filled valleys and gorges and motocross goggles and surgical masks were crucial pieces of equipment.

Social media on this story (and many others it seems these days!) did not really help in my opinion. In terms of the news reporting there were so many inaccurate posts with people saying ‘its all over we about to die’ but upon arriving at their locations I would find the fire still far away and not threatening at all! This happened all the time with panic and rumour thriving through the social networks actually impeding on the proper news reporting we needed.

A fire rages in the Tokai forest behind my Yamaha TTR 250 off-road motorcycle, a crucial piece of equipment in document this fire. epa / Nic Bothma

A fire rages in the Tokai forest behind my Yamaha TTR 250 off-road motorcycle, a crucial piece of equipment in document this fire. epa / Nic Bothma

Social media in my opinion was also to blame when some authorities did their best to block access to journalists. In this age of instant gratification, regardless of accuracy, everybody is a photographer, social media mayhem working as a bona fide journalist is difficult. At each police checkpoint they had already turned away a hundred ‘photographers’ wanting to get pictures of the fire so despite the correct credentials it was sometimes impossible to gain access.

Rescue personnel evacuate old-aged pensioners from Noordhoek Manor old-age-home in Cape Town, South Africa, 02 March 2015. epa / Nic Bothma

Rescue personnel evacuate old-aged pensioners from Noordhoek Manor old-age-home in Cape Town, South Africa, 02 March 2015. epa / Nic Bothma

On the fifth day I received a fine for ‘failing to comply with management authority’ as I accessed an area beyond a police cordon. I guess it was the authorities special way of saying thank you for the awareness spread by photojournalists during the week.

On the positive side, communities worked well together to co-ordinate their efforts through neighbourhood watch groups on radios liaising with rescue and fire personal to most effectively direct resources. Communities spontaneously started collection points for food and water to replenish the fire fighters who are largely made up of volunteers.

A very positive spin off from our work was seeing a massive outpouring of contributions to an elderly couple i photographed who had their entire home destroyed.

Eighty two year old resident Fran Collings sits amongst the remains of her destroyed home in Tokai, Cape Town, South Africa 04 March 2015. width=

Eighty two year old resident Fran Collings sits amongst the remains of her destroyed home in Tokai, Cape Town, South Africa 04 March 2015. epa / Nic Bothma

People phoned and mailed me for days asking for their contacts so they could donate. It felt good to have such a direct and positive effect from a picture.

Follow us on Facebook and on Twitter to stay in touch for more insightful stories from behind the scenes.

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“I am convinced they are still alive.” – Relatives of the missing MH370 passengers

by Wu Hong

A shadow shows people hanging a message during the event 'Love U MH370' in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 30 March 2014. epa/Ahmad Yusni

A shadow shows people hanging a message during the event ‘Love U MH370’ in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 30 March 2014. epa/Ahmad Yusni

At 6pm on 09 February 2015, Xie Xiucui from Lianyungang, Jiangsu Province, and her husband, Feng Zhishan are having dinner in their make shift home. They live in a hut on the outskirts of Beijing, surrounded by a huge piece of farmland and sand mining sites. The hut is only lit by one single light bulb and costs them three hundred Yuan (44 Euros) a month. In their view, the rent has become their biggest daily expense.

Xie Xiucui, 45, from China's Jiangsu province, stands outside her rental room in rural Yizhuang of Beijing, China, 09 February 2015. epa/Wu Hong

Xie Xiucui, 45, from China’s Jiangsu province, stands outside her rental room in rural Yizhuang of Beijing, China, 09 February 2015. epa/Wu Hong

“The rice for the millet gruel is picked from the trash in the afternoon, the cabbage picked from the rotten ones thrown out in the next village, only the steamed bread I bought.” Xie Xiucui comments on their food sources for dinner, almost a little happily while helping me fill a small bowl of rice, having politely invited me for dinner. According to her, these almost free food supplies have greatly reduced their daily expenses. The taste of the porridge is musty.

Like so many of China’s 670 million farmers, Xie and Feng, though not well-off, used to live a peaceful life managing their family farmland. But all this changed on 08 March 2014 when their twenty-one year-old son Feng Dong, a construction worker living in Singapore, became one of the passengers of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that disappeared an hour after taking off in Kuala Lumpur. “The money was borrowed from relatives. We have been here in Beijing for months now in order to find our son. The family farmland has been abandoned.” Feng and other relatives of the passengers of MH370 all buy tickets to fly to Kuala Lumpur on 11 February in order to be closer to their loved ones for the first anniversary of their disappearance.

Feng Zhishan (L), from China's Jiangsu province, selects a lucky day from a traditional Chinese almanac for their flight to Malaysia, in a rental room in rural Yizhuang of Beijing, China, 09 February 2015. epa/Wu Hong

Feng Zhishan (L), from China’s Jiangsu province, selects a lucky day from a traditional Chinese almanac for their flight to Malaysia, in a rental room in rural Yizhuang of Beijing, China, 09 February 2015. epa/Wu Hong

The very day they buy their tickets, the family members all travel together to Sanlitun Beijing Pacific Century, Malaysia Airline’s headquarters to protest. Hours later, I receive a message from the family saying that despite promises, there had not been an answer that day, and that no Malaysia Airlines senior official had come to see them.

To this day, family members of passengers of MH370 travel to the outskirts of Beijing to the Shunyi Malaysia Airline family support center three times a week every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to communicate with Malaysia Airline and government staff, to submit their doubts and protests. They also make periodic protests at the Malaysian embassy. On more than one occasion, scuffles ensued, where many of the protesters fell and ambulances had to be called in. There were repeated calls by the police for the family members to leave this ‘illegal rally’.

Relatives of Chinese passengers of the missing MH370 hold placards protesting Malaysia's declaration of the flight an accident without proof, as they try to reach the Malaysian embassy in Beijing, China, 06 February 2015. epa/Wu Hong

Relatives of Chinese passengers of the missing MH370 hold placards protesting Malaysia’s declaration of the flight an accident without proof, as they try to reach the Malaysian embassy in Beijing, China, 06 February 2015. epa/Wu Hong

Sixty-year-old Beijing native, Dai Shuqin, tells me that her sister’s family of five are all passengers of MH370. Dai Shuqin looks at her sister’s family photograph on the table and says: “I am just an ordinary person, no money, no background, retired, they have no handle on me. I am not afraid. I am convinced that they are still alive!”

Dai Shuqin, 62, displays a picture of missing relatives at home in Beijing, China, 01 March 2015. epa/Wu Hong

Dai Shuqin, 62, displays a picture of missing relatives at home in Beijing, China, 01 March 2015. epa/Wu Hong

Please see here the entire feature package by Wu Hong

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Alpine World Ski Championships

As the historic winter in Boston, Massachusetts, continued its pounding snowfall (currently less than 2 inches (5 cm) away from the greatest winter snowfall total ever!) what better assignment than to head to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado with an experienced team of epa photographers to cover the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships 2015 in Vail and Beaver Creek, Colorado!

epa San Francisco, USA staff photographer John Mabanglo, epa Sofia, Bulgaria staff photographer Vassil Donev and I who all were part of epa’s FIS Alpine World Ski Championships coverage team in Rosa Khutor during the Sochi Olympics were joined by epa Salt Lake City stringer George Frey for coverage of the more than 2-week-long event featuring men’s and women’s events including Downhill, Super-G, Giant Slalom, Slalom and a Nations Cup event to name a few.

epa's FIS Alpine World Ski Championships 2015 coverage team clockwise from top left: Matt Campbell, Vassil Donev, George Frey and John Mabanglo

epa’s FIS Alpine World Ski Championships 2015 coverage team clockwise from top left: Matt Campbell, Vassil Donev, George Frey and John Mabanglo

Several epa member agencies including dpa, APA and Keystone also had photographers covering the event.

John Mabanglo and I arrived in late January to work on the technical arrangements and set up. For starters, with an event of this magnitude, epa direct validates coverage of the event. The editor on site (me!) has hardware and software which allows me to edit and caption the photographers images and directly put those images into the epa system, rather than sending them first to editors in Frankfurt, Germany for processing and validation into the system and distribution to epa’s clients. This allows for a faster delivery of the images to clients and allows one on-site editor to deal with the considerable number of images over the course of such an event (in this case this was many thousands of transmits) and allows the desk operation to concentrate on the daily production from all over the world.

Matt Campbell editing during the 2015 Alpine Ski World Championship

Matt Campbell editing during the 2015 Alpine Ski World Championship

As is the case in most major events epa covers, the rapid delivery of images from photographers to an editor is a must. While epa ran hard lines from the editors to several photo positions in Rosa Khutor during the Sochi Olympics, in this case we were not able to do so and had to find solutions for near real-time delivery. The finish line main position was cabled by the organizers on-site and we were able to work with the techs at Safari Telecom to set up our line to drop directly to me in the media center. Filing from photo positions up on the mountain on the Birds of Prey and Raptor courses is of course much more challenging. As we learned with great happiness, the organizers were also able to arrange for some new cell towers to be installed by some of the major mobile phone companies and the 4G/LTE signals on site were excellent. Through the entire event, our photographers shooting from the course were able to file quite rapidly using MiFis on those 4G/LTE networks to nearly in real-time transmit images of skiers in action during the multitude of races.

Anna Fenninger of Austria during her run in the Ladies Super-G at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Beaver Creek, Colorado, USA, 03 February 2015. epa / George Frey

Anna Fenninger of Austria during her run in the Ladies Super-G at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Beaver Creek, Colorado, USA, 03 February 2015. epa / George Frey

Francis Bompard was chosen as the Photo Chief by Vail/Beaver Creek 2015 and working with Francis was an absolute joy! All of us had also worked with Francis a year ago as he was also the Photo Chief at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center during the Sochi Olympics. Not enough can be said about working with a chief who is a photographer, knows what photographers need and knows how to walk the line between photographers, organizers and safety rules and make everyone happy!

Jessica Vikarby-Lindell of Sweden during her second run in the Ladies' Giant Slalom at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Beaver Creek, Colorado, USA, 12 February 2015. epa / Vassil Donev

Jessica Vikarby-Lindell of Sweden during her second run in the Ladies’ Giant Slalom at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Beaver Creek, Colorado, USA, 12 February 2015. epa / Vassil Donev

Thankfully, the weather cooperated during virtually the entire event and there were almost no cancellations or postponements. The days were long with a men’s or women’s event every day on the mountain followed by a medal ceremony down in Vail Village every night. Probably the worst weather of the two weeks was during the second and final run of the Men’s Slalom on the final day of the event were heavy snow made it difficult to see some of the competitors even from a short distance!

While any event more than two weeks long does start to become a grind, especially with a 6 am alarm clock every morning, any job is that much more enjoyable with a talented and hard-working team and a technical side that goes off flawlessly! We were able to rent condos as well for the duration of the event which allowed us to cook at home almost every night, a great way to spend time with colleagues and bring down food costs too!

The event was great and we wish the best to the epa team covering the 2017 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

Tina Maze of Slovenia reacts after her run in the Ladies' Alpine Combined-Slalom at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Beaver Creek, Colorado, USA, 09 February 2015. epa/John G. Mabanglo

Tina Maze of Slovenia reacts after her run in the Ladies’ Alpine Combined-Slalom at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Beaver Creek, Colorado, USA, 09 February 2015. epa/John G. Mabanglo

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The Dakar – Chasing Dust and Pilots in the Desert

By Felipe Trueba

The first Dakar Rally took place in 1978 starting in Paris and finishing in the Senegalese city of Dakar. With the passing of time, the Paris-Dakar Rally has become the most famous race of its type, only available to wealthy motor loving adventurers. In 2008 the competition was cancelled at the very last minute due to terrorist threats in the African stages. The French organization decided to change continent and from 2009 this rally has been racing through South America.

Danish driver Jes Munk (R) and his French co-driver Sebastien Delaunay (L) of Polaris team during the start of the eighth stage of Rally Dakar 2015 between Uyuni, Bolivia and Iquique, Chile, 11 January 2015. epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

Danish driver Jes Munk (R) and his French co-driver Sebastien Delaunay (L) of Polaris team during the start of the eighth stage of Rally Dakar 2015 between Uyuni, Bolivia and Iquique, Chile, 11 January 2015. epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

The Dakar is not exactly a rally, it is more of a raid, as for two weeks professionals and amateurs (80% of the pilots) battle through different terrains in four categories – motorbikes, quads, cars and trucks. During the first two weeks of January, around 430 participants try to complete more than 10.000 kilometers riding off-road in scorching heat.

This year the course did a loop – starting in Buenos Aires, across the Andes into Chile and then heading north along the Pacific coast to the city of Iquique. From there it takes a short dip into the saltflat in Uyuni, Bolivia, and into the Atacama Desert again, before heading back to the Argentinean capital.

Russian Andrey Karginov from Kamaz team during the 10th stage of rally Dakar 2015 running between Calama (Chile) and Salta (Argentina), 14 January 2015. epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

Russian Andrey Karginov from Kamaz team during the 10th stage of rally Dakar 2015 running between Calama (Chile) and Salta (Argentina), 14 January 2015. epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

This was my third full coverage of the race. I have worked on big events such as the Olympic Games or the Football World Cup but nothing compares to the Dakar, by far the most demanding assignment I have done as a press photographer. It wears you down physically and it´s a constant headache in terms of covering it for a news agency where the quick sending of images is a must.

I have the privilege to be part of a very small group of photographers that work embedded in the race. Colleagues of other agencies covered it by helicopter but I did it by car. I traveled in a 4×4 vehicle provided by the organization, equipped with competition seats and anti-roll bars – special safety measures for off-road driving that makes the car a very uncomfortable space where we (two photographers and two drivers) spent an average of ten to twelve hours a day.

epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

A normal day “in the office”: Each night photojournalists and drivers get together to examine the next day’s stage and choose a spot on the track to wait for the competitors. The route that the pilots follow is secret and the organization only provides three or four press points. These points are GPS coordinates that competitors have to pass. We would calculate the distance to that press point and how long it would take us to get there, most of the time off-road. Once we get to the spot, we wait. At some point the competitors will whiz past us (not much margin for error), we will shoot the pictures and then move on to the next bivouac.

You get up at 4 am, drive for hours to a single GPS point (in stages that average 800 km), take pictures, move on, arrive at the camp at night, send your images, have something to eat and sometimes a shower, have a nap, wake up in the middle of the night and start all over again.
That´s the easy part.

But there are times when you wait for hours at the press point and nothing happens because the stage has been modified. Another day you drive for four, five, six hours to get there and you miss the leading pilots by just three minutes. Sometimes you are on top of a dune and competitors drive past the next one – surrounded by sandy hills, you hear their engines but you don’t see them. You try to catch up with them by running up a big dune with two cameras on your shoulders and other gear. Good luck with that. Two hundred meters is a very long distance in the desert.

Bolivian rider Juan Carlos Salvatierra (L) and Dutch Hans Vogels compete during the second stage of the 2015 Rally Dakar, between Villa Carlos Paz and San Juan, Argentina, 05 January 2015. epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

Bolivian rider Juan Carlos Salvatierra (L) and Dutch Hans Vogels compete during the second stage of the 2015 Rally Dakar, between Villa Carlos Paz and San Juan, Argentina, 05 January 2015. epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

Filing pictures is another nightmare. In those remote places forget about wi-fi or any normal internet connection. I usually file the most important pictures with a satellite phone and the rest back at the bivouac when we arrive at night, way past the deadlines in Europe.

US driver Robby Gordon from Hummer in action during the 9th stage of rally Dakar 2015 running between Iquique and Calama, Chile, 13 January 2015. epa /efe / Felipe Trueba

US driver Robby Gordon from Hummer in action during the 9th stage of rally Dakar 2015 running between Iquique and Calama, Chile, 13 January 2015. epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

A good night’s sleep is something you cherish after just two days into the competition. I think I sleep an average of four hours each night. After three days I don’t even bother to open my sleeping bag and I am able to have a nap on top of just about anything – hard sand, rocks, you name it. After the initial tiredness your body adapts to the challenge. You have micro sleeps, travelling in the car or sitting on a rock waiting for the race. Two weeks after the end of the rally I am still not able to sleep six hours straight.

Portuguese rider Paulo Goncalves of the HRC team competes in the fifth stage of the Rally Dakar 2015 between Copiapo and Antofagasta in Chile, 08 January 2015. epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

Portuguese rider Paulo Goncalves of the HRC team competes in the fifth stage of the Rally Dakar 2015 between Copiapo and Antofagasta in Chile, 08 January 2015. epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

You and your gear suffer. A lot. Everything is permanently covered in dust and it doesn´t take long before your lenses sound like sand grinders. The cameras overheat and start malfunctioning in temperatures reaching 40ºC. Two weeks in the desert and your laptop is ruined. Guaranteed.

Spanish driver Nani Roma and his French co-driver Michel Perin of Mini team compete in the third stage of 2015 Rally Dakar between San Juan and Chilecito, Argentina, 06 January 2015. epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

Spanish driver Nani Roma and his French co-driver Michel Perin of Mini team compete in the third stage of 2015 Rally Dakar between San Juan and Chilecito, Argentina, 06 January 2015. epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

But then again I enjoy the Dakar for the adventure it is. Every day is different, with plenty of anecdotes, beautiful sunsets, and some extraordinary scenery that lifts your spirit. This year I crossed the Andes four times in less than a week and felt privileged to experience a sunrise in the middle of Uyuni´s famous saltflat. You are alone out there – no internet, no phone, no way to be contacted. But best of all, no health and safety rules. Out in the wild, nobody tells you where to stand or what to do. It’s you against a 300 HP beast coming roaring towards you. You decide if you move aside or not.

A car drives during sunset through the Salar de Uyuni salt flat, Bolivia, 11 January 2014. epa ( efe / Felipe Trueba

A car drives during sunset through the Salar de Uyuni salt flat, Bolivia, 11 January 2014. epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

I reckon I have traveled over 30.000 kilometers covering this race during the last three years. One more Dakar and I will have completed the equivalent of a full trip around the world, chasing cars and pilots through mountains and deserts.

I have suffered and enjoyed every meter of it.

Felipe Trueba, 11 January  2014 in Uyuni, Bolivia. Courtesy of Dean Mouhtaropoulos

Felipe Trueba, 11 January 2014 in Uyuni, Bolivia. Courtesy of Dean Mouhtaropoulos

Follow us on Facebook and on Twitter to stay in touch for more insightful stories from behind the scenes. Please also take a look at our Dakar 2015 slideshow on Youtube:

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New York Fashion Week

by Peter Foley

Russian model Vlada Roslyakova (front) and other models present creations from the Fall 2015 collection by Ralph Lauren during the New York Fashion Week (Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week) on 19 February 2015. epa/Peter Foley

Russian model Vlada Roslyakova (front) and other models present creations from the Fall 2015 collection by Ralph Lauren during the New York Fashion Week (Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week) on 19 February 2015. epa/Peter Foley

It was eleven or twelve years ago, having only been stringing for EPA a relatively short time when I got a call from Matt Campbell [then NYC Bureau Chief, now epa’s Director North America] who was coordinating US assignments, he said go down to Bryant Park and give Jason Szenes a hand with fashion. I remember exactly what I said; “you don’t have to ask me twice”. I get to photograph beautiful women and you pay me for that- well ok somebody’s got to do it. So I get to Bryant Park, find Jason and he say’s “have you ever photographed fashion before” I say no, he rolls his eyes and tells me when the model’s right foot crosses over the left, click the shutter, everything else looks like crap. It was one of the single best pieces of photography advice I ever received.

A model presents a creation from the Fall 2015 collection by Badgley Mischka during the New York Fashion Week (Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week) on 17 February 2015. epa/Peter Foley.

A model presents a creation from the Fall 2015 collection by Badgley Mischka during the New York Fashion Week (Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week) on 17 February 2015. epa/Peter Foley.

Jason had shot fashion for a few years for different agencies and was an old pro by then, I was the rookie but together we became epa’s New York fashion shooters. Fast forward to the luckiest day of the year, Friday the 13th February 2015. The second day of the fall/winter fashion shows at Lincoln Center and splashed on the front page of the New York Times ABOVE THE FOLD a beautiful image by our Bureau Chief Justin Lane taken on the first day of fashion. To let you know how rarely this occurs I can only remember two or three fashion pictures in more than 10 years ever on the front page of the NYT’s and they were below the fold. Justin is a unique talent and I’m always glad he’s on our team.

NY_Times

Every New York fashion season presents its own particular set of challenges, this season being no different. We start off with 10-15 below zero temperatures, I’m not complaining because a couple of hundred miles to the North, Boston I think has 10-15 feet of snow maybe not that much but it’s deep. New Yorkers are used to cold winters but this is Minnesota cold.

Well that’s enough history, chest thumping and weather reports, you all wanna know what is New York fashion week really like. I think from a photographer’s view point you either love it or hate it and I do love it. You do face a certain amount of small indignities like waiting long hours sometimes for the shows to start, being crammed into the “Pit” that can fit 50 photographers but somehow we manage to fit over 100. That everywhere you go, you need a special credential –runway-front row-backstage- but when it’s all said and done and the lights come up, the music starts to beat and those gene pool lottery winners start to strut their stuff- it’s really exciting and you as a photographer start to think maybe today I will catch that perfect moment. When the light, the subject and the composition magically appear through the lens and you capture it. All photographers live for that moment. Well that’s enough for now, next installment we’ll dish the dirt on those world famous fashion designers… and I will leave you with one of my favorite backstage pics from last season’s Malan Breton show, a little risqué!

A model checks her makeup in a mirror backstage before the Malan Breton fashion show Models present creations from the Monique Lhuillier Fall 2015 collection during the New York Fashion Week (Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week) on 06 September 2014. epa/Peter Foley

A model checks her makeup in a mirror backstage before the Malan Breton fashion show Models present creations from the Monique Lhuillier Fall 2015 collection during the New York Fashion Week (Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week) on 06 September 2014. epa/Peter Foley

More images from the Fashion Week in New York

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Australian Open

By Filip Singer

Andy Murray of Britain reacts against Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria in their fourth round match at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 25 January 2015. epa/Filip Singer

Andy Murray of Britain reacts against Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria in their fourth round match at the Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 25 January 2015. epa/Filip Singer

Australian Open was the first Grand Slam tournament for me. I knew it was going to be something different, something special. The first four days before the tournament we covered many training sessions of top seed players and press conferences. ‘Melbourne Park’ looked to me like a small tennis city with its 22 outside courts.

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Never Say Never – Super Bowl XLIX

by Tannen Maury

“It never rains like this in Phoenix!” This is what the epa team heard over and over during the week leading up to The Big Game, aka Super Bowl XLIX, in normally dry Phoenix, Arizona. Unfortunately for those of us who traveled from areas in the midst of winter’s grip looking forward to some bright sunshine and warm temperatures, this was not the case as it was cloudy, cool, and raining most of the week.

A pedestrian makes his way through the snow covered streets in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, 27 January 2015. A blizzard that could bring up to 36 inches (92 cm) of snow is blanketing the region. Boston's transportation services will be suspended, officials say. Regional train service between New York and Boston has also been cancelled. Travel bans were also put in place. epa/CJ Gunter

A pedestrian makes his way through the snow covered streets in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, 27 January 2015. A blizzard that could bring up to 36 inches (92 cm) of snow is blanketing the region. Boston’s transportation services will be suspended, officials say. Regional train service between New York and Boston has also been cancelled. Travel bans were also put in place. epa/CJ Gunter

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#jesuischarlie – Paris in January

by Ian Langsdon

People gather around the monument on Place de la Nation as millions of people march against terrorism in Paris, France, 11 January 2015. epa/Ian Langsdon

People gather around the monument on Place de la Nation as millions of people march against terrorism in Paris, France, 11 January 2015. epa/Ian Langsdon

As photojournalists, we’re usually conditioned to want to be where the breaking news is. We thrive on the adrenaline rush that big stories deliver. We enjoy the spotlight, when the world media turn their attention to our respective regions. This, however, was not something we wished to enjoy.

France has been expecting attacks for months now, with our ‘Vigipirate’ threat level remaining in the dark-red scale since France’s involvement in Mali three years ago. But these attacks were beyond anything we expected – not by its size, but by its cruelty, its sheer ruthless violence. We saw ourselves in the victims – they may have been cartoonists, not photographers – but it was the sense that freedom of speech, free press, and journalism was being attacked. This was personal.

The last few days tested us. As a nation, with overwhelming displays of unity and solidarity. As a team, pushing our Paris operation beyond its limits. And as individuals, maintaining endurance throughout an emotional ordeal. I’d like to think we emerged from these events stronger, and a big thanks is owed to all those involved and who assisted in the coverage of what was to be the most complex news story of my life.

A sign reads 'Not Afraid' as thousands gather for a candle light vigil on Place de la Republique in central Paris hours after the attack by two gunmen on the 'Charly Hebdo' headquarters in Paris, 07 January 2015. epa/Ian Langsdon

A sign reads ‘Not Afraid’ as thousands gather for a candle light vigil on Place de la Republique in central Paris hours after the attack by two gunmen on the ‘Charly Hebdo’ headquarters in Paris, 07 January 2015. epa/Ian Langsdon

I was still in bed when I received a news flash on my phone that shots were fired at Charlie Hebdo’s headquarters. As I was scheduled off duty and due to leave on vacation the next day, I was about to ignore the beeping phone, when a second, and then a third news flash quickly popped up – I imagined it must have been something big. It was.

The Charlie Hebdo headquarters are only 5 minutes away from my apartment – close enough that I would have clearly heard the gunshots had my windows been open. I called my colleague Yoan Valat, who was aware of the situation but was stuck at the Elysée Palace covering a pool and ended up staying there all day to cover the political response to the unfolding events – Etienne Laurent had been dispatched to the scene. At this point nobody seemed to know what exactly had happened, and the news was only reporting two injuries. I took it upon myself to walk over and pick up Etienne’s cards to edit back at my apartment, allowing him to stay on site. But upon arrival, it became clear this was bigger than what I thought. It was a mayhem of policemen, paramedics and firefighters running in all directions. Police had already established a first perimeter, just one block of buildings aways from the shooting, and were already working on establishing a second ‘outer’ perimeter. Liaising with Etienne, it became clear he would soon be needing a long lens because the police were going to push back media to the second perimeter, and a stepladder would also come in handy to see above the ever-increasing crowd of journalists.

As I made the return trip to my apartment to pick up the necessary gear for Etienne, I was informed that the suspects’ car had been found in North Paris. I rushed up there just in time to get the car lifted onto the back of a truck, while Etienne remained at the shooting site to cover the unexpected visit by President Francois Hollande – his picture of the president gaining play across the globe.

A sombre French President Francis Hollande arrives at the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris 07 January 2014. On right, wearing glasses, is Bernard Cazeneuve, Minister of the Interior. epa/Etienne Laurent

A sombre French President Francis Hollande arrives at the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris 07 January 2014. On right, wearing glasses, is Bernard Cazeneuve, Minister of the Interior. epa/Etienne Laurent

One of the biggest issues we faced that day was our dwindling power supply for camera batteries, phones and 4G wifi units. Etienne and I took turns staking-out the shooting site from the ‘media pen’ the police had allowed journalists to stay in – while the other would go charge up batteries.

As night began to fall, people began spontaneously converging on Place de la Republique, 10 mins away from the Charlie Hedbo headquarters. Upon arrival there, I was immediately taken aback by the eerie silence, as a sombre mood hung over the 5 thousand-strong crowd. The crowd was dense, and it was a struggle to make my way to the centre of the square where people were beginning to light candles at the foot of the monument. Hand-written signs started popping up in the crowd – it was the birth of the now renowned ‘#jesuischarlie’.

Thousands gather for a candle light vigil on Place de la Republique in central Paris, France, 07 January 2015. epa/Ian Langsdon

Thousands gather for a candle light vigil on Place de la Republique in central Paris, France, 07 January 2015. epa/Ian Langsdon

Nobody got much sleep that night. News flashes kept flooding in, and the knowledge that the gunmen were still out there, possibly mounting another attack kept most of the Paris press wide awake. Yoan had rushed to the town of Reims, after reports of a large-scale police raid under way – and he ended up spending the night there.

The next morning, it was looking abundantly clear that my departure for vacation was more and more unlikely. The Elysée palace was to be my destination, as the president was holding a crisis cabinet meeting at sunrise, and had also taken it upon himself to summon all rival political party leaders to the palace to show ‘political unity’. Meanwhile, a second shooting occurred in South Paris, mobilising Yoan. A national minute of silence was to be held at mid-day – so Etienne took up a position at Place de la Republique, which had become the symbolic epicentre for vigils. I headed to Notre-Dame Cathedral, where the bells had begun ringing to honor the memory of the fallen. As a large crowd gathered at the foot of the cathedral, the skies opened up, unleashing torrential rain upon us. This only amplified the heavy, sombre mood. Not a word was uttered as the bells continued to echo across the river Seine. I fought back tears as I worked my way through the immobile crowd, shooting portraits of the mourners. One girl stood out. Her head was bowed with vacant look on her face, and she held her arm up, clutching a pen. This was to become an iconic symbol of freedom of speech.

A young woman holds aloft a symbolic pen in a minute of silence in front of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, France, 08 January 2015. epa/Ian Langsdon

A young woman holds aloft a symbolic pen in a minute of silence in front of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, France, 08 January 2015. epa/Ian Langsdon

That afternoon became one of the major turning points of the story – and also the beginning of a logistical nightmare. Based on eyewitness accounts, the gunmen were spotted in north-eastern France, causing a large-scale manhunt involving hundreds of elite units of armed police. Yoan made his way to the remote countryside in a bid to track down the BRI, RAID and GIGN units who were in turn tracking down the gunmen. Meanwhile, Paris was preparing for a siege of its own, with armed police officers manning checkpoints at the key entry-points of the city (following surreal rumours that the gunmen were racing back to Paris to make their final ‘stand’). Etienne ‘embedded’ himself with one such team, as I remained in the city centre for ongoing political coverage and another spontaneous candle-light vigil on Place de la Republique.

At daybreak, the situation remained unchanged. News footage showed an entire county 50km north of Paris besieged by armed police commandos and journalists. I was back at the Elysée Palace for yet more political comings-and-goings, when I received unclear news alerts reporting a hostage situation, a car-jacking and a high-speed car chase allegedly involving the two gunmen, only a few kilometres away from where Yoan had been operating. Etienne was immediately dispatched to reinforce Yoan.

Snipers stand on the top of an opposite building to the CTD printing building in an industrial area where the suspects in the shooting attack at the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo headquarters were holding a hostage, in Dammartin-en-Goele, some 40 kilometres north-east of Paris, France, 09 January 2015. epa/Yoan Valat

Snipers stand on the top of an opposite building to the CTD printing building in an industrial area where the suspects in the shooting attack at the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo headquarters were holding a hostage, in Dammartin-en-Goele, some 40 kilometres north-east of Paris, France, 09 January 2015. epa/Yoan Valat

The news alert came at 13.30 h – “Gunshots in Jewish market on Cours Vincennes”. I grabbed a 200-400mm, a foldable step-ladder and rushed to the scene on my scooter, breaking just about every traffic law in Paris. I arrived just as ambulances whizzed past me in direction of Saint-Mande, the bordering suburb. The police had set up a first perimeter at least 600 meters away from the HyperCacher store, which could not be seen at all with all the emergency vehicles in our way. The shop was technically not in Paris, but on the other side of the expressway separating Paris from the suburb of Saint-Mande. After shooting a few pictures of the ambulances and armed police units gearing up as they arrived after me, I decided to walk clockwise around the entire police perimeter in a bid to find a position or apartment that would grant me a view of the shop. This task took well over an hour, negotiating police checkpoints of varying degrees of hostility towards journalists. An hour later, it was clear the police had established their roadblocks and checkpoints precisely far enough to prevent any view whatsoever of the HyperCacher. They had even gone as far as removing journalists from civilians’ apartments within the ‘exclusion zone’. Back to my original position, it turned out the press was allowed to move forward 150 meters to a second checkpoint – and was now contained between two police roadblocks. I had only just entered this ‘press zone’ when a deafening detonation was heard. The assault was under way.

Police set up a security perimeter near Porte de Vincennes in Eastern Paris after a gunman opened fire and took hostages in a Hyperkosher shop, 09 January 2015. epa/ Ian Langsdon

Police set up a security perimeter near Porte de Vincennes in Eastern Paris after a gunman opened fire and took hostages in a Hyperkosher shop, 09 January 2015. epa/ Ian Langsdon

Three fellow journalists and I spotted an elderly man walk out of an apartment building next to us. This was our chance. We ran through the entrance and clambered up the stairs banging on every door hoping a resident would kindly let us use their balcony. The building was under intense renovation, and many of the apartments appeared to be empty. As I neared the seventh and last floor, a woman flung open her front door revealing a room full of cameramen. She demanded 500 euros for the privilege of using her not-so-exclusive balcony. I declined.

I looked up and saw a skylight window on the corridor ceiling, leading to the roof. Luckily, a painter’s ladder was propped up against the wall. A photographer colleague climbed up, poked his head out, and immediately climbed back down: “No way!” he said. With the assault under way. I put aside my profound dislike of heights and climbed up, praying the roof would turn out to be a nice flat one. It was not. It was a typical Parisian slippery tin roof, slanted on both sides. Once I climbed out the skylight, the photographer handed me my camera gear before bidding me good luck and leaving. With one leg dangling on each side, I crawled on my stomach along the ridge of the roof to the edge of the building, and rested my 200-400mm lens on a chimney pot. It was almost dark, forcing me to push the ISO up to 12,800 and the shutter speed as low at 1/40s – not an easy setting to shoot pictures when my hands were shaking from the precarious position I was in! The climb onto the roof had taken me 4 or 5 minutes – valuable time when it comes to a police raid. I had a clear vantage point on the corner of the HyperCacher shop, and could see the BRI (special police unit) truck swarming with commandos. They were already inside the shop and the sound of heavy gunfire echoed over the rooftops. After shooting images for a few minutes, I copied all my pictures onto a second card, in case police officers decided to give me trouble for climbing onto a rooftop and potentially confiscate my card. I stayed about 30 minutes after which it became urgent to transmit with the remaining 5% battery power left on my laptop using a nearby cafe’s wifi. It was only inside the improvised cafe-turned-press centre that I learned that police had launched a simultaneous raid in Dammartin-en-Goele, neutralising the two Kouachi brothers responsible for the Charlie Hebdo attacks.

Members of the BRI police elite unit gather during an assault on the HyperCasher supermarket at Porte de Vincennes in Eastern Paris, 09 January 2015. epa/Ian Langsdon

Members of the BRI police elite unit gather during an assault on the HyperCasher supermarket at Porte de Vincennes in Eastern Paris, 09 January 2015. epa/Ian Langsdon

The double assault and elimination of the three suspects marked the end of the first chapter of this story. The killings, the manhunt, the hostage takings were over. It was now time for France to grieve.

Families and relatives walk and hold banners reading 'Charlie' during a march to honor victims of the terrorist attacks and show unity, in Paris, 11 January 2015. epa/Julien Warnand

Families and relatives walk and hold banners reading ‘Charlie’ during a march to honor victims of the terrorist attacks and show unity, in Paris, 11 January 2015. epa/Julien Warnand

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Tsunami anniversary – When the tsunami hit Bandah Aceh

By Hotli Simanjuntak


Panglima Polem Street near Peunayoung neighborhood in Banda Aceh, 26 December 2004 and 16 December 2014

Sunday morning, 26 December 2004 was very peaceful. As usual, I started my day watching television. It was a Christmas cartoon show on a local channel about an ugly and a beautiful Christmas tree.

At 8:35 am, an earthquake shook Aceh, starting with a small wobble, shortly followed by a harder shake. Then a few objects in the bedroom fell on me. Aware that the earthquake was very strong, I frantically tried to get out of the room to stand out in the open area.

The earthquake forced people to lie down on the ground. Trees and electric poles tipped over followed by a very loud roar. People started screaming and praying to God. About five minutes later the earthquake stops. People began to examine their homes for damage.

I checked the surrounding neighborhood near to where I lived, then grabbed a small camera and headed downtown.


Panglima Polem Street near Peunayoung neighborhood in Banda Aceh, 26 December 2004 and 16 December 2014

I started by the tallest hotel building in the city of Banda Aceh. The hotel basement had collapsed. Hotel guests tried to escape out the hotel windows, fearing that more aftershocks would bring the building down.

I received information that a large shopping center had collapsed with many casualties. I arrived to find hundreds of people gathered, trying to determine the condition of the building.

About 30 minutes later, dozens of people were running from the coast line in a panic screaming “Sea water rise up! Sea water rise up!”. I still did not realize that at the time a big wave was moving from the beach to where I was standing.

When I turned toward the river next to the shopping center, I saw that there were some fast-moving wooden boats being brought by the water flow in the opposite direction. Some of the boats hit the bridge. People tried to jump into the dirty, black water that carried the ruins.

That’s the moment when I realized that my own life was threatened. I panicked and tried to find a high spot to save myself. Along with me were hundreds of people seeking refuge in tall buildings.


Baitulrahman Mosque in Banda Aceh, 26 December 2004 and 16 December 2014.

I ran toward a pole monument at a crossroads. At the time, from a distance, I saw a roll of water coming quickly, overturning dozens of parked cars and crashing them onto the roadside, such was the power of the oncoming rush.

I tried desperately to save an old man from the water, grabbing his hand. Finally, he was safe.

Moments later the water flow totally stopped. People scurried to find a safe place, should another wave come in.

I did not fully realize what was happening. At the time I was really confused, trying to take pictures of those wanting to save themselves and helping those who were injured. Ruins and garbage was strewn along with piles of human corpses.

I was shocked and did not suspect that it was the tsunami. I kept walking and photographing some places nearby that were still under water.

When I arrived at the river bank, I was stunned to see that thousands of houses were no longer there; they were all washed away. From where I stood I just saw a stretch of empty land and collapsed buildings. I now had a clear view to the sea.

It was at this moment that I began to realized the size of the disaster in Aceh. I did not yet know that it was the biggest tsunami of the century with the death toll reaching more than 200,000, gone in just a few minutes.

I was so sad. Seeing the piles of corpses and wailing people calling the names of their relatives lost to the tsunami was overwhelming. Tears fell from my eyes; I almost couldn’t hold my camera. I was paralyzed by the situation, as people desperately looked at corpses, trying to find their loved ones.


Aceh River near Peunayoung neighborhood, 26 December 2004 and 16 December 2014.

Now, ten years after the tsunami, life has returned to normal. Reconstruction has been completed. People who survived the tsunami have returned to a somewhat normal life. But ten years is a very short time. The tsunami still feels as if it only happened yesterday.

It was unbelievably sad, but I felt that I was one among the lucky 200,000 people who survived the catastrophe of the century. December 26, 2004 is an unforgettable moment and I am sure I survived because of my journalistic instincts to cover the situation.

Hopefully the survivors have been able to put back their lives together. As for those who died, may they be in the hands of God.

epa photographer Hotli Simanjuntak in Incheon, South Korea, 02 October, 2014. credit: epa / Mast Irham

epa photographer Hotli Simanjuntak in Incheon, South Korea, 02 October, 2014. credit: epa / Jeon Heon-Kyun

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Best photos of 2014

A protester uses a catapult during clashes with riot police in downtown Kiev, Ukraine, 19 February 2014. epa / Sergey Dolzhenko

A protester uses a catapult during clashes with riot police in downtown Kiev, Ukraine, 19 February 2014. epa / Sergey Dolzhenko

epa presents a collection of the best photos of 2014 highlighting a few of epa’s Yearender 2014 images including pictures that defined 2014. The selection is as diverse as the year itself. epa photographers have captured events around the globe: the Ukrainian Revolution, the Israel-Gaza conflict, the Ebola outbreak in western Africa, the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the FIFA Soccer World-Cup in Brazil and fashion shows around the world – to name but a few. In order to get the whole picture, we recommend you take a look at our more comprehensive Yearender 2014 collection.

A model presents a creation from the Spring/Summer 2014 Haute Couture collection by Charlie Le Mindu during the Paris Fashion Week, in Paris, France, 20 January 2014. epa / Yoan Valat

A model presents a creation from the Spring/Summer 2014 Haute Couture collection by Charlie Le Mindu during the Paris Fashion Week, in Paris, France, 20 January 2014. epa / Yoan Valat

Jan Matura of Czech Republic soars during the official practice session of the FIS World Cup ski jumping large hill individual competition in Sapporo, northern Japan, 24 January 2014. epa / Kimimasa Mayama

Jan Matura of Czech Republic soars during the official practice session of the FIS World Cup ski jumping large hill individual competition in Sapporo, northern Japan, 24 January 2014. epa / Kimimasa Mayama

Adams Precious from the US (L) uses her phone as she waits for the results after performing at the final of the 42nd Prix de Lausanne in Lausanne, Switzerland, 01 February 2014. epa / Keystone / Valentin Flauraud

Adams Precious from the US (L) uses her phone as she waits for the results after performing at the final of the 42nd Prix de Lausanne in Lausanne, Switzerland, 01 February 2014. epa / Keystone / Valentin Flauraud

The illuminated Olympic Rings appear during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games at the Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi, Russia, 07 February 2014. epa / Tatyana Zenkovich

The illuminated Olympic Rings appear during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games at the Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi, Russia, 07 February 2014. epa / Tatyana Zenkovich

Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers of Canada perform during the Pairs Short Program of the Figure Skating event at Iceberg Palace during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games, Sochi, Russia, 11 February 2014. epa / How Hwee Young

Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers of Canada perform during the Pairs Short Program of the Figure Skating event at Iceberg Palace during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games, Sochi, Russia, 11 February 2014. epa / How Hwee Young

Ultra-Orthodox Jews dance as they gather for a mass prayer in protest to the government's army conscription laws in Jerusalem, 02 March 2014. epa / Abir Sultan

Ultra-Orthodox Jews dance as they gather for a mass prayer in protest to the government’s army conscription laws in Jerusalem, 02 March 2014. epa / Abir Sultan

Code Pink activist Tighe Berry protests what Code Pink claims are Democratic Senator from California Dianne Feinstein's 'two-faced stance on spying' outside her office in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, DC, USA, 12 March 2014. epa / Jim Lo Scalzo

Code Pink activist Tighe Berry protests what Code Pink claims are Democratic Senator from California Dianne Feinstein’s ‘two-faced stance on spying’ outside her office in the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, DC, USA, 12 March 2014. epa / Jim Lo Scalzo

Japanese Formula One driver Kamui Kobayashi of Caterham F1 Team in the gravel bed after crashing during the 2014 Formula One Grand Prix of Australia in Melbourne, Australia, 16 March 2014.  epa / Diego Azubel

Japanese Formula One driver Kamui Kobayashi of Caterham F1 Team in the gravel bed after crashing during the 2014 Formula One Grand Prix of Australia in Melbourne, Australia, 16 March 2014. epa / Diego Azubel

Two men pass by a crack in a highway between the localities of Iquique and Alto Hospicio, Chile, 03 April 2014. epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

Two men pass by a crack in a highway between the localities of Iquique and Alto Hospicio, Chile, 03 April 2014. epa / efe / Felipe Trueba

A baptized Sikh man prays in the pre-dawn hours as he visits to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple, the holiest of Sikh shrines, on the occasion of Visakhi festival in Amritsar, India, 14 April 2014. epa / Raminder Pal Singh

A baptized Sikh man prays in the pre-dawn hours as he visits to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple, the holiest of Sikh shrines, on the occasion of Visakhi festival in Amritsar, India, 14 April 2014. epa / Raminder Pal Singh

A young woman smokes cannabis during a demonstration calling for cannabis to be legalized at a 420 Day event in Hyde Park in London, Britain, 20 April 2014. epa / Andy Rain

A young woman smokes cannabis during a demonstration calling for cannabis to be legalized at a 420 Day event in Hyde Park in London, Britain, 20 April 2014. epa / Andy Rain

Thai Star Wars fan, Udomsak Ratanotayanonth, 29, dressed as a Stormtrooper donates his blood to celebrate the upcoming Star Wars Day with good deeds, at the Thai Red Cross in Bangkok, Thailand, 28 April 2014. epa / Rungroj Yongrit

Thai Star Wars fan, Udomsak Ratanotayanonth, 29, dressed as a Stormtrooper donates his blood to celebrate the upcoming Star Wars Day with good deeds, at the Thai Red Cross in Bangkok, Thailand, 28 April 2014. epa / Rungroj Yongrit

A woman cries inside the Trade Union building after a deadly fire broke out during clashes in Odessa, Ukraine, 04 May 2014. epa / Alexey Furman

A woman cries inside the Trade Union building after a deadly fire broke out during clashes in Odessa, Ukraine, 04 May 2014. epa / Alexey Furman

A miner leaves the area after searching for survivors of an explosion near Soma, Manisa province, Turkey, 14 May 2014. epa / Tolga Bozoglu

A miner leaves the area after searching for survivors of an explosion near Soma, Manisa province, Turkey, 14 May 2014. epa / Tolga Bozoglu

Smolderings remains of overnight fires on the hillsides of San Marcos, San Diego county, California, USA, early 16 May 2014. epa / Stuart Palley

Smolderings remains of overnight fires on the hillsides of San Marcos, San Diego county, California, USA, early 16 May 2014. epa / Stuart Palley

A girl flees as a riot police officer beats her with a baton, after chasing protesting students into the Nairobi University campus in Nairobi, Kenya, 20 May 2014. epa / Dai Kurokawa

A girl flees as a riot police officer beats her with a baton, after chasing protesting students into the Nairobi University campus in Nairobi, Kenya, 20 May 2014. epa / Dai Kurokawa

An 83-year-old Ukrainian man exercises at the Kachalka outdoor gym on the banks of the river Dniper in Kiev, Ukraine, 29 May 2014. epa / Filip Singer

An 83-year-old Ukrainian man exercises at the Kachalka outdoor gym on the banks of the river Dniper in Kiev, Ukraine, 29 May 2014. epa / Filip Singer

Afghan voters whose inked fingers were cut off by Taliban miliitants as punishment for casting their votes, receive medical treatment at a hospital in Herat, Afghanistan, 15 June 2014. epa / Jalil Rezayee

Afghan voters whose inked fingers were cut off by Taliban miliitants as punishment for casting their votes, receive medical treatment at a hospital in Herat, Afghanistan, 15 June 2014. epa / Jalil Rezayee

A young boy walks past a burning fire used to keep evicted families warm overnight after police and private security evicted families from a commercial property in Johannesburg, South Africa, 05 June 2014.  epa / Kim Ludbrook

A young boy walks past a burning fire used to keep evicted families warm overnight after police and private security evicted families from a commercial property in Johannesburg, South Africa, 05 June 2014. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Luis Suarez of Uruguay celebrates after scoring the 2-1 goal during the FIFA World Cup 2014 group D preliminary round match between Uruguay and England at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 19 June 2014. epa / Diego Azubel

Luis Suarez of Uruguay celebrates after scoring the 2-1 goal during the FIFA World Cup 2014 group D preliminary round match between Uruguay and England at the Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 19 June 2014. epa / Diego Azubel

British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend a ceremony marking the centenary of the outbreak of World War I, in Ypres, Belgium, 26 June 2014. epa / Julien Warnand

British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend a ceremony marking the centenary of the outbreak of World War I, in Ypres, Belgium, 26 June 2014. epa / Julien Warnand

A German soccer fan waves the German flag among spectators in Paris, France, 04 July 2014, who attend the public viewing of the FIFA World Cup 2014 quarter final soccer match between France and Germany on a giant screen in front of Hotel de Ville (Town Hall). epa / Ian Langsdon

A German soccer fan waves the German flag among spectators in Paris, France, 04 July 2014, who attend the public viewing of the FIFA World Cup 2014 quarter final soccer match between France and Germany on a giant screen in front of Hotel de Ville (Town Hall). epa / Ian Langsdon

Fernandinho of Brazil reacts after a goal scored by Toni Kroos of Germany  during the FIFA World Cup 2014 semi final match between Brazil and Germany at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 08 July 2014.  epa / Robert Ghement

Fernandinho of Brazil reacts after a goal scored by Toni Kroos of Germany during the FIFA World Cup 2014 semi final match between Brazil and Germany at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 08 July 2014. epa / Robert Ghement

A Brazilian fan shows his dejection after the FIFA World Cup 2014 semi final match between Brazil and Germany at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 08 July 2014. Germany won 7-1. epa / dpa / Thomas Eisenhuth

A Brazilian fan shows his dejection after the FIFA World Cup 2014 semi final match between Brazil and Germany at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 08 July 2014. Germany won 7-1. epa / dpa / Thomas Eisenhuth

A Palestinian man cries as he holds the dead body of his younger brother in the Shifa hospital morgue in Gaza after he was killed in an Israeli naval bombardment in Gaza City 16 July 2014. epa / Oliver Weiken

A Palestinian man cries as he holds the dead body of his younger brother in the Shifa hospital morgue in Gaza after he was killed in an Israeli naval bombardment in Gaza 16 July 2014. epa / Oliver Weiken

A Palestinian family who fled their homes is en route to seek shelter in a UN school in Khan Younis, central Gaza Strip, 18 July 2014.  epa / Oliver Weiken

A Palestinian family who fled their home is en route to seek shelter in a UN school in Khan Younis, central Gaza Strip, 18 July 2014. epa / Oliver Weiken

Journalists look at debris from the Boeing 777 Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, that crashed into a field while flying over the eastern Ukraine region, some 100 km east of Donetsk, Ukraine, 19 July 2014. epa / Robert Ghement

Journalists look at debris from the Boeing 777 Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, that crashed into a field while flying over the eastern Ukraine region, some 100 km east of Donetsk, Ukraine, 19 July 2014. epa / Robert Ghement

People dive into the Mediterranean Sea on a hot summer's day in Nice, southern France, 21 July 2014. epa / Sebastian Nogier

People dive into the Mediterranean Sea on a hot summer’s day in Nice, southern France, 21 July 2014. epa / Sebastian Nogier

Smoke rises from Tuffah neighbourhood after Israeli air strikes in the east of Gaza City, 29 July 2014. Violence escalated overnight, as Israel renewed intense airstrikes on Gaza in response to barrages of Palestinian rockets after an attempted unofficial truce for the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday crumbled.  epa / Mohammed Saber

Smoke rises from Tuffah neighbourhood after Israeli air strikes in the east of Gaza City, 29 July 2014. epa / Mohammed Saber

Divers train before the competitions at the 32nd LEN European Swimming Championships 2014 in Berlin, Germany, 23 August 2014. epa / dpa / Maja Hitij

Divers train before the competitions at the 32nd LEN European Swimming Championships 2014 in Berlin, Germany, 23 August 2014. epa / dpa / Maja Hitij

A Ukrainian soldier rests as he patrols territory close to a Ukrainian checkpoint near town of Gorlovka, Ukraine, 28 August 2014. epa / Roman Pilipey

A Ukrainian soldier rests as he patrols territory close to a Ukrainian checkpoint near town of Gorlovka, Ukraine, 28 August 2014. epa / Roman Pilipey

A mechanic of Scuderia Ferrari carrying a tire during the second practice session at the Italian Formula One circuit in Monza, Italy, 05 September 2014. epa / Valdrin Xhemaj

A mechanic of Scuderia Ferrari carrying a tire during the second practice session at the Italian Formula One circuit in Monza, Italy, 05 September 2014. epa / Valdrin Xhemaj

Liberian health care workers on an Ebola burial team collect the body of an Ebola victim at a motor vehicle garage in Paynesville on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia 09 September 2014. epa / Ahmed Jallanzo

Liberian health care workers on an Ebola burial team collect the body of an Ebola victim at a motor vehicle garage in Paynesville on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia 09 September 2014. epa / Ahmed Jallanzo

An Ebola sign placed in front of a home in West Point slum area of Monrovia, Liberia, 25 September 2014.  epa / Ahmed Jallanzo

An Ebola sign placed in front of a home in West Point slum area of Monrovia, Liberia, 25 September 2014. epa / Ahmed Jallanzo

A baby shark is hauled onto a  rickshaw for transportation  to the fish market in Banda Aceh, Indonesia 14 September 2014. epa / Hotli Simanjuntak

A baby shark is hauled onto a rickshaw for transportation to the fish market in Banda Aceh, Indonesia 14 September 2014. epa / Hotli Simanjuntak

Models present creations from the Spring/Summer 2015 Ready to Wear Collection by Belgian designer Dries Van Noten during the Paris Fashion Week, in Paris, France, 24 September 2014. epa / Etienne Laurent

Models present creations from the Spring/Summer 2015 Ready to Wear Collection by Belgian designer Dries Van Noten during the Paris Fashion Week, in Paris, France, 24 September 2014. epa / Etienne Laurent

Seventeen-year-old student leader Joshua Wong outside the Hong Kong government offices on the second day of the mass civil disobedience campaign Occupy Central, Central District, Hong Kong, China, 29 September 2014.  epa / Alex Hofford

Seventeen-year-old student leader Joshua Wong outside the Hong Kong government offices on the second day of the mass civil disobedience campaign Occupy Central, Central District, Hong Kong, China, 29 September 2014. epa / Alex Hofford

Syrian refugees wait in a bus at the Syrian-Turkish border near Sanliurfa, Turkey, 30 September 2014. epa / Sedat Suna

Syrian refugees wait in a bus at the Syrian-Turkish border near Sanliurfa, Turkey, 30 September 2014. epa / Sedat Suna

Park Jisoo of South Korea falls from the uneven bars during the Women's All-Around Artistic Gymnastics qualification at the 45th FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Nanning, China, 06 October 2014. epa / Rungroj Yongrit

Park Jisoo of South Korea falls from the uneven bars during the Women’s All-Around Artistic Gymnastics qualification at the 45th FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Nanning, China, 06 October 2014. epa / Rungroj Yongrit

An Indian fish vendor carries a fish at a wholesale market during early morning in Bhayander near Mumbai, India, 08 October 2014.  epa / Divyakant Solanki

An Indian fish vendor carries a fish at a wholesale market during early morning in Bhayander near Mumbai, India, 08 October 2014. epa / Divyakant Solanki

A worker climbs out of a tank in a leather factory where the skins of animals slaughtered during Eid al-Adha are processed, in Hazaribagh Dhaka, Bangladesh, 08 October 2014. epa / Abir Abdullah

A worker climbs out of a tank in a leather factory where the skins of animals slaughtered during Eid al-Adha are processed, in Hazaribagh Dhaka, Bangladesh, 08 October 2014. epa / Abir Abdullah

The moon shines with a reddish glow as it rises during a total lunar eclipse in Kathmandu, Nepal, 08 October 2014.  epa / Narendra Shrestha

The moon shines with a reddish glow as it rises during a total lunar eclipse in Kathmandu, Nepal, 08 October 2014. epa / Narendra Shrestha

Mount Sinabung spews hot lava and volcanic ash as it is seen from Karo, North Sumatra, Indonesia, 09 October 2014. epa / Dedy Sahputra

Mount Sinabung spews hot lava and volcanic ash as it is seen from Karo, North Sumatra, Indonesia, 09 October 2014. epa / Dedy Sahputra

Teen education activist Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan delivers a statement in the Library of Birmingham, Birmingham, England, 10 October 2014, after being named as a winner of the 2014, Nobel Peace Prize. epa / Facundo Arrizabalaga

Teen education activist Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan delivers a statement in the Library of Birmingham, Birmingham, England, 10 October 2014, after being named as a winner of the 2014, Nobel Peace Prize. epa / Facundo Arrizabalaga

A business man looks at a blocked road during the mass civil disobedience campaign Occupy Central in Admiralty, Hong Kong, China, 10 October 2014. epa / Mast Irham

A business man looks at a blocked road during the mass civil disobedience campaign Occupy Central in Admiralty, Hong Kong, China, 10 October 2014. epa / Mast Irham

Rain pours down as President of Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin (2-R) attends a military parade accompanied with Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic (R) in Belgrade, Serbia, 16 October 2014. epa / Srdjan Suki

Rain pours down as President of Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin (2-R) attends a military parade accompanied with Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic (R) in Belgrade, Serbia, 16 October 2014. epa / Srdjan Suki

Hong Kong police clash with pro-democracy protesters from the Occupy Central movement using umbrellas for protection, just before midnight in Mong Kok District of Hong Kong, China, 17 October 2014. epa / Rolex Dela Pena

Hong Kong police clash with pro-democracy protesters from the Occupy Central movement using umbrellas for protection, just before midnight in Mong Kok District of Hong Kong, China, 17 October 2014. epa / Rolex Dela Pena

Rescuers try to save a sinking boat in the harbour of Harlingen in northern Netherlands, 22 October 2014, during the first autumn storm of the year. epa / anp / Catrinus Van Der Veen

Rescuers try to save a sinking boat in the harbour of Harlingen in northern Netherlands, 22 October 2014, during the first autumn storm of the year. epa / anp / Catrinus Van Der Veen

Syrian refugee Bargin Efendi 11, poses as he works in a repair shop in the Suruc district in Sanliurfa Turkey, 23 October 2014.  epa / Ulas Yunus Tosun

Syrian refugee Bargin Efendi 11, poses as he works in a repair shop in the Suruc district in Sanliurfa Turkey, 23 October 2014. epa / Ulas Yunus Tosun

Marcel Hirscher of Austria in action during the first run of the Men's Giant Slalom race of the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup season on the Rettenbach glacier, in Soelden, Austria, 26 October 2014. epa / Keystone / Jean-Christophe Bott

Marcel Hirscher of Austria in action during the first run of the Men’s Giant Slalom race of the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup season on the Rettenbach glacier, in Soelden, Austria, 26 October 2014. epa / Keystone / Jean-Christophe Bott

Wrestler Cassandro El Exotico soars through the air in a daring acrobatic manoeuvre against Puma King (R) and Magnus (C)  during a Lucha Libre wrestling exhibition match at the Cartier Foundation in Paris, France, 03 November 2014. epa / Ian Langsdon

Wrestler Cassandro El Exotico soars through the air in a daring acrobatic manoeuvre against Puma King (R) and Magnus (C) during a Lucha Libre wrestling exhibition match at the Cartier Foundation in Paris, France, 03 November 2014. epa / Ian Langsdon

Passenger air balloons fly over temples and pagodas in the ancient city of Bagan, Myanmar, 19 November 2014. epa / Lynn Bo Bo

Passenger air balloons fly over temples and pagodas in the ancient city of Bagan, Myanmar, 19 November 2014. epa / Lynn Bo Bo

Protesters gesture in front of a burning building in Ferguson, Missouri, USA, 25 November 2014. epa / Tannen Maury

Protesters gesture in front of a burning building in Ferguson, Missouri, USA, 25 November 2014. epa / Tannen Maury

A protester in the crowd at Times Square, New York City 25 November 2014 listens to the outcry against the St. Louis County grand jury decision not to bring criminal charges against Darren Wilson, the white police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. epa / Justin Lane

A protester in the crowd at Times Square, New York City 25 November 2014 listens to the outcry against the St. Louis County grand jury decision not to bring criminal charges against Darren Wilson, the white police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. epa / Justin Lane

Pope Francis releases a white dove  as he arrives at St Esprit church for a service in Istanbul, Turkey 29 November 2014. epa / Tolga Bozoglu

Pope Francis releases a white dove as he arrives at St Esprit church for a service in Istanbul, Turkey 29 November 2014. epa / Tolga Bozoglu

South African model Candice Swanepoel takes to the catwalk during the 2014 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show at the Earls Court Exhibition Centre in London, Britain, 02 December 2014.  epa / Facundo Arrizabalaga

South African model Candice Swanepoel takes to the catwalk during the 2014 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show at the Earls Court Exhibition Centre in London, Britain, 02 December 2014. epa / Facundo Arrizabalaga

Filipino residents wade on floodwater in Borongan city, Samar island, Philippines, 07 December 2014.  epa / Francis R. Malasig

Filipino residents wade on floodwater in Borongan city, Samar island, Philippines, 07 December 2014. epa / Francis R. Malasig

A Filipino boy collects salvageable materials among debris following a fire that razed a slum area in Malabon City, north of Manila, Philippines, 10 December 2014. epa / Dennis M. Sabangan

A Filipino boy collects salvageable materials among debris following a fire that razed a slum area in Malabon City, north of Manila, Philippines, 10 December 2014. epa / Dennis M. Sabangan

Costumed senior citizens march at the Macy's 88th Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, New York, USA, 27 November 2014. epa / Peter Foley

Costumed senior citizens march at the Macy’s 88th Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, New York, USA, 27 November 2014. epa / Peter Foley

The best photos of 2014, our world in all its complexities. Follow us on Facebook and on Twitter to stay in touch for more insightful stories from behind the scenes.

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Lignite Mine in Northern Greece

By Yannis Kolesidis

A general view of the lignite center of western Macedonia, near the city of Ptolemaida, northern Greece, 04 October 2014. epa / ana / Yannis Kolesidis

A general view of the lignite center of western Macedonia, near the city of Ptolemaida, northern Greece, 04 October 2014. epa / ana / Yannis Kolesidis

The mine looks like a huge city which daily mutates. As it is endlessly extended, the roadmap constantly changes. The roads that take you from one place to another disappear. New roads are created that will later also disappear and so on. Charavgi, the “ghost” village that was expropriated along with its inhabitants who were removed to extend the mine, stands like a scene from a movie. In the ruined houses one can still see details that reveal a human presence: a damaged kitchen, two abandoned cups, an open window … Mines are a huge living organism inhabited exclusively by people who work under adverse conditions.

Workers removing soil and mud from an electric powered stacker, at the lignite center of western Macedonia, near the city of Ptolemaida, northern Greece, 06 October 2014. epa/ ana / Yannis Kolesidis

Lignite Mine in Northern Greece: Workers removing soil and mud from an electric powered stacker, at the lignite center of western Macedonia, near the city of Ptolemaida, northern Greece, 06 October 2014. epa/ ana / Yannis Kolesidis

It did not stop raining during my stay in the area. Smeared faces, dirty hands, muddy boots were the everyday scenery.
The landscape around the thermal power station was grey and smoke clouds covered the sky. Nevertheless, nothing could prepare me for the working conditions there. In a dark basement, workers were cleaning the ash from conveyor belts and shoveling dust from the lignite wearing only a simple protective mask. Their blackened faces were all that stood out in the stuffy atmosphere.

Workers remove mud and lignite from conveyor belts, inside a power plant of Kardia, at the lignite center of western Macedonia, near the city of Ptolemaida, northern Greece, 07 October 2014. epa/ ana / Yannis Kolesidis

Lignite Mine in Northern Greece: Workers remove mud and lignite from conveyor belts, inside a power plant of Kardia, at the lignite center of western Macedonia, near the city of Ptolemaida, northern Greece, 07 October 2014. epa/ ana / Yannis Kolesidis

You have to see it in order to believe it. Even the boss who accompanied me did not want to follow me down to the basement. “I will be waiting here to continue the tour,” he said. Before going down, I asked him if I needed to wear rubber boots and a mask so as not to get dirty. “No, it is not necessary,” he replied. When I came out, my shoes were full of mud and my clothes dirty. My face was black and had I not been wearing a mask, I would not have been able breathe.

Paschalis Papaioannou, 51, posing in front of a conveyor belt transferring lignite, inside a power plant, at the lignite center of western Macedonia, near the city of Ptolemaida, northern Greece, 07 October 2014. epa/ ana / Yannis Kolesidis

Paschalis Papaioannou, 51, posing in front of a conveyor belt transferring lignite, inside a power plant, at the lignite center of western Macedonia, near the city of Ptolemaida, northern Greece, 07 October 2014. epa/ ana / Yannis Kolesidis

These people have the most dangerous jobs, risking their lives by working under abominable conditions. And it is thanks to them that our lives have become simpler so that by flicking on a switch we can flood our lives with light.

Worker Alexandros Moutos, 40, poses next to a conveyor belts transferring ashes coming out from the power plant to the area where they will be buried, near the city of Ptolemaida, northern Greece, 07 October 2014. epa / ana / Yannis Kolesidis

Worker Alexandros Moutos, 40, poses next to a conveyor belts transferring ashes coming out from the power plant to the area where they will be buried, near the city of Ptolemaida, northern Greece, 07 October 2014. epa / ana / Yannis Kolesidis

A worker takes off his dirty clothes after his shift at a changing room, inside the power plant, at the lignite center of western Macedonia, near the city of Ptolemaida, northern Greece, 07 October 2014. epa / ana / Yannis Kolesidis

Lignite Mine in Northern Greece: A worker takes off his dirty clothes after his shift at a changing room, inside the power plant, at the lignite center of western Macedonia, near the city of Ptolemaida, northern Greece, 07 October 2014. epa / ana / Yannis Kolesidis

The full feature package can be viewed and downloaded here.

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Kerim Okten – In Memory of My Brother

By Tolga Bozoglu

On April 10 this year, epa photographer Kerim Okten died in a tragic motorcycle accident. Kerim’s friend and colleague, Tolga Bozoglu, remembers him:

A protestor is hit by water sprayed from a water cannon during clashes in Taksim Square, Istanbul, Turkey, 11 June 2013.  epa / Kerim Okten

A protestor is hit by water sprayed from a water cannon during clashes in Taksim Square, Istanbul, Turkey, 11 June 2013. epa / Kerim Okten

I met Kerim for the first time in a Turkish newspaper called Yeni Yuzyil* (New Century) in 1994. When we first started, we were both young and inexperienced. All the photographers in the newspaper had many years of experience, but were merciless in their behavior towards us. Whenever we carried out an assignment they always screened our films before us, ridiculed our photos, then threw the films in the trash bin. Instead of weakening us, this attitude and treatment gave us more energy to work even harder and constantly improve ourselves. We were always willing to go out for news items nobody else cared for in the newspaper. This hostile environment brought us closer together. We started supporting each other in everything we did.

A protestor runs through tear gas during clashes at Taksim Square Istanbul, Turkey on 11 June 2013. epa / Kerim Okten

A protestor runs through tear gas during clashes at Taksim Square Istanbul, Turkey on 11 June 2013. epa / Kerim Okten

Kerim had an extraordinary talent in photography. When you worked with him, even if you had the exact same equipment in the exact same situations, he would come back with totally different photos and frames that you would not have noticed before. Which left you wondering “How on earth did he do that?”

A masked rioter is seen in front of a burning car in Hackney, North London, Britain, 08 August 2011. epa / Kerim Okten

A masked rioter is seen in front of a burning car in Hackney, North London, Britain, 08 August 2011. epa / Kerim Okten

But he knew that it wasn’t enough to be talented, you also had to keep educating and bettering yourself. Kerim was always open to learn and above all he wanted to teach and pass on his knowledge to anyone eager to learn. He had so much intellectual capacity and used this ability in his photos. Because of this his photos had different meanings to different viewers. He was so good at telling a story in his photography even if it was an ordinary, standard assignment. In fact, for him there was no such thing as a standard situation.

A protestor balances on top of a pole wearing a 'Guy Fawkes' mask and waving a Turkish flag with a Mustafa Kemal Ataturk portrait on it during an anti-government demonstration at Taksim Square, in Istanbul, Turkey, 09 June 2013. epa / Kerim Okten

A protestor balances on top of a pole wearing a ‘Guy Fawkes’ mask and waving a Turkish flag with a Mustafa Kemal Ataturk portrait on it during an anti-government demonstration at Taksim Square, in Istanbul, Turkey, 09 June 2013. epa / Kerim Okten

Kerim taught me so many things and he was my best friend. He never hurt anybody or said anything bad in his life. He was always cheerful and spread positive energy around him. I do miss him so much.

The author, Tolga Bozoglu (L) and Kerim Okten in Istanbul, Turkey on 21 November 2009. epa / Diego Azubel

The author, Tolga Bozoglu (L) and Kerim Okten in Istanbul, Turkey on 21 November 2009. epa / Diego Azubel

*Yeni Yuzyil was a Turkish newspaper published from 1994 to 1998.

A selection of Kerim’s best photographs can be found here.

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Mandela’s people

A journey to the Eastern Cape in search of Mandela’s legacy
by Kim Ludbrook

Mandela's people: Traditional Xhosa dancer Nowandile King, 42, poses in the family's communal hut in the hills near Coffee Bay, South Africa, 06 November 2014.  "We are very sad that Nelson Mandela died but we are very happy he gave social grants to our children."

Mandela’s people: Traditional Xhosa dancer Nowandile King, 42, poses in the family’s communal hut in the hills near Coffee Bay, South Africa, 06 November 2014.
“We are very sad that Nelson Mandela died but we are very happy he gave social grants to our children.”

The wall of flowers outside Nelson Mandela’s house in Houghton, Johannesburg growing bigger every day is a memory still vivid on my mind: Thousands of people from all walks of life had taken time out of their days to lay flowers, write a poem, leave a card, a photograph or simply stand and look on as each in their own way paid respect to a great soul, leader and human who had died in the house days before aged 94 on 5 December 2013.

The burial of Mandela took place in his home village of Qunu. There was very little accommodation to be found in the area at the time as innumerable guests, security personnel and media representatives had occupied the “normal” rooms in town. So the epa coverage team decided to rent a hut from the Zenani family on a ridge very close to the burial site of Madiba.

Nomtule Zenani (C), 64, and relatives prepare to watch the funeral of the late Nelson Mandela nearby at a public viewing point in her home village of Qunu, South Africa, 15 December 2013. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Nomtule Zenani (C), 64, and relatives prepare to watch the funeral of the late Nelson Mandela nearby at a public viewing point in her home village of Qunu, South Africa, 15 December 2013. epa / Kim Ludbrook

With the Zenani family in mind I decided to return to Qunu and the Eastern Cape almost exactly a year later. The idea was to shoot a portrait series on the normal men and women in the poor rural communities of Rhodes, Hogsback, Coffee Bay and Nieu-Bethesda and to find out how they remembered Mandela one year after his death. I wanted to touch base with the heart and soul of the area Mandela originated from and which he had once described as “the sweet home where I had spent the happiest days of my childhood.”

What ensued was an amazing 3000 km journey of discovery of my own country.

Two wild dogs play fight in Coffee Bay, South Africa, 05 November 2014. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Two wild dogs play fight in Coffee Bay, South Africa, 05 November 2014. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Using a Canon 5D Mark III, 35mm F2 lens and a hand held LED lighting system, the images where all shot hand held aiming to show the environment as much as possible in these portraits. Working in rural Africa often means hiring a ‘fixer’ or helper not only to find the people you want to photograph but most importantly to translate from local Xhosa tribal language into English. South Africa has 11 official languages.

The basic framework of the story was to ask one identical question to all the tribesmen and women: ‘What does Nelson Mandela mean to you…”

What I found was an incredible love for Nelson Mandela that runs deep in the veins and souls of every person interviewed. The exact answers can be found in the captions of the series here.

Mandela's people: Local tourist guide, Jacob van Staden (58) pictured with one of his dogs overlooking the tiny Karoo town of Nieu-Bethesda, South Africa, 10 November 2014. "I remember the day he was released from prison. Every time he was on TV as president I used to run to a TV to watch his speeches. I thought there would be war between whites and blacks when he was released but he saved us all. I will die one day but Mandela will never die. He left us all such a fortune"

Mandela’s people: Local tourist guide, Jacob van Staden (58) pictured with one of his dogs overlooking the tiny Karoo town of Nieu-Bethesda, South Africa, 10 November 2014.
“I remember the day he was released from prison. Every time he was on TV as president I used to run to a TV to watch his speeches. I thought there would be war between whites and blacks when he was released but he saved us all. I will die one day but Mandela will never die. He left us all such a fortune”

One of the barriers that needed to be overcome while on this assignment was the cultural difference between ‘western’ views and that of local Xhosa tribes people. For instance before walking in the huge mud huts that are the norm in the area around Coffee Bay, one has to take off ones shoes and leave them outside the hut. Men have to sit on the right hand side of the hut and women on the left.

Retired grandfather and subsistence farmer, Nzimeni Zenani, 80, holds one of his puppies in Nelson Mandela's village of Qunu, South Africa, 07 November 2014.  "I miss Mandela very much but I am crying with happiness that he is back in Qunu for good."

Retired grandfather and subsistence farmer, Nzimeni Zenani, 80, holds one of his puppies in Nelson Mandela’s village of Qunu, South Africa, 07 November 2014.
“I miss Mandela very much but I am crying with happiness that he is back in Qunu for good.”

Most of the time, as soon as they heard my story and the idea behind the portrait series, they would start to talk and give me their life story from the bottom of their hearts.
Many people here had never been photographed or seen themselves in images before. Hence, it is not surprising that a camera looking at them often leaves them very nervous and ‘stiff’ in the portrait. In order to overcome this initial unease, I just kept trying to make them feel good and showed them their images as soon as I had shot a couple of frames. Most of the time this worked wonders and they were overjoyed to see their own pictures.

Mandela's people: epa photographer Kim Ludbrook on assignment in the hills near Coffee Bay, South Africa.

Mandela’s people: epa photographer Kim Ludbrook on assignment in the hills near Coffee Bay, South Africa.

Mandela brought a ray of light to my country at a time when a full blown racial civil war was a possibility. I hope these images can in some way bring the memory of the great man in the forefront of our minds as well as provide a moral compass for us all on how to live our lives: forgiving, loving and sharing.

A file picture dated 20 July 2005 shows Nobel Peace Prize winner and iconic political prisoner Nelson Mandela  during his birthday party at the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, Johannesburg, South Africa. epa / Kim Ludbrook

A file picture dated 20 July 2005 shows Nobel Peace Prize winner and iconic political prisoner Nelson Mandela during his birthday party at the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, Johannesburg, South Africa. epa / Kim Ludbrook

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Mount Sinabung – The Volcano and I

By Dedi Sahputra

Mount Sinabung spews hot lava and volcanic ash as it is seen from Karo, North Sumatra, Indonesia, 09 October 2014. epa / Dedi Sahputra

Mount Sinabung spews hot lava and volcanic ash as it is seen from Karo, North Sumatra, Indonesia, 09 October 2014. epa / Dedi Sahputra

I first became acquainted with Mount Sinabung in my senior year in high school in 2002. I spent my holidays there, hiking with my friends. In college I joined the Ranger Gunung Sinabung (RGS), an environmental community that also volunteers on rescue operations in Sinabung. When I began my job as a photo journalist in 2006, I kept in contact with my colleagues in RGS.

In August 2010 Mount Sinabung started to show significant changes; in 2013 the volcano erupted and become a danger to the villagers in the area. The experience I had and my knowledge of the villages around the volcano made it easier for me to get good, safe shooting positions.

It was almost midnight on 08 September when I got the first information from my contact in Karo, a small town in North Sumatra province, saying that the Sinabung volcano activity was increasing. I arrived in Tanah Karo around 1:00 a.m. The sky was so bright, no clouds or fog so I could see the mighty volcano clearly. As luck would have it, there was a lunar eclipse, making the sky even brighter. I tried to find a good shooting location and decided to go to Tiga pancur village, located some six kilometers from the crater.

After arriving in the village, I prepared all my equipment, a Canon EOS 7D camera with a 70-200 mm lens, a tripod and a cable release, as the volcano’s activity increased. This excellent position gave me a good distance, clear visibility and almost aligned me with the crater. At 02:00 a.m. Mount Sinabung started to erupt, spewing hot material and ash up to the air. The activity continued to increase so I kept shooting with the 70-200mm lens and 800 ISO setting until I had the best frames. The bright, cloudless sky was the key factor that helped me catch this spectacular moment of the volcanic eruption. It is one of my best ones from Mount Sinabung.

And it was an amazing feeling when I found that the picture was widely used by the major media, such as TIME lightbox and the New York Times Lens blog.

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Typhoon Haiyan – One Year Later

By Dennis M. Sabangan

A year ago, I bore witness to the immediate aftermath of Supertyphoon Haiyan in Tacloban City in the province of Leyte. The strongest storm recored ever at landfall had decimated this once vibrant place in the Philippines. Now, as the anniversary of the calamity nears, I once again headed to Tacloban and saw that though things have much improved, the scars left by Haiyan still run deep.

#1 – Damaged Chapel: December 2013 and November 2014 credit: epa / Dennis M. Sabangan

I still remember my arrival at the Tacloban airport, just a day after the typhoon hit. The damaged terminal was where many residents congregated, all hoping to hop on a C-130 plane out of the devastation. To this day, the port remains busy, as a continuous stream of foreign and local aid workers flow in and out of the province.

#2 – Tacloban Airport: November 2013 and November 2014 credit: epa / Dennis M. Sabangan

The city itself, which had once been flattened, no longer looks like it had been bombed. But the space where the remains of thriving fishing villages once stood is now occupied by thousands of tents that temporarily serve as home for the storm’s survivors. Until now, 14,000 families have yet to receive permanent housing — but still, they are the lucky ones.

#3 – Magallanes Village: November 2013 and November 2014. credit: epa / Dennis M. Sabangan

Supertyphoon Haiyan claimed over 6,000 lives, many of whom were placed in mass graves. Last year, bereaved relatives had already erected makeshift crosses for their dead loved ones in Palo town. Now, flowers have begun to bloom over all the graves.

A sense of normalcy has begun to return to Tacloban. Of the eight cargo ships that had washed ashore on Barangay (Village) Anibong, only three remain; two are in the process of being dismantled, while one has been deemed sturdy enough to return to the sea.

#4 – Stranded Cargoship: November 2013 and October 2014 credit: epa / Francis R. Malasig

The debris that once littered the city’s streets are being cleared, little by little. Still, it’s surreal to remember the devastation wrought by Haiyan. A year has passed, but residue of the tragedy still remains. Despite this, I saw that hope and progress are overcoming the grief dealt by the disaster. It will be a long time before the city is fully back on its feet, but it’s clear that its residents are determined to rebuild a better Tacloban.

#5 – Tacloban province of Leyte: November 2013 and November 2014 credit: epa / Dennis M. Sabangan

#6 – Magallanes Village: November 2013 and November 2014. credit: epa / Dennis M. Sabangan

#7 – Tacloban Chapel: November 2013 and November 2014. credit: epa / Dennis M. Sabangan

#8 – Street in Tacloban: November 2013 and November 2014. credit: epa / Dennis M. Sabangan

#9 – Anibong village: November 2013 and November 2014. credit: epa / Francis R. Malasig

#10 – Village of San Jose: November 2013 and October 2014. credit: epa / Dennis M. Sabangan

#11 – Tacloban Store: November 2013 and November 2014 credit: epa / Francis R. Malasig

#12 – Joshua Cator: Typhoon Haiyan survivor Joshua Cator in November 2013 and November 2014. Joshua Cator lost twenty-three relatives including his mother and younger sister. credit: epa / Dennis M. Sabangan

#13 – Bea Joy: Emelie Sagales and her baby Bea Joy in November 2013 and November 2014. credit: epa / Dennis M. Sabangan

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Poaching in Kenya

By Dai Kurokawa

As a child growing up in a highly industrialized society, it had always been my dream to see the wild animals in their natural habitat of the African Savannah or the Amazon rain forests. When the media in Japan started talking about disappearing rain forests in the 1980s, I simply thought that it was not “fair”: Why might my generation be banned from ever seeing them just because some people were cutting down trees for money? I used to ask my parents and they would tell me that I had to do something about it if I wanted to see these animals in the future.

Bull elephants lock their tusks to greet each other at dawn in the Amboseli National Park, southern Kenya. epa / Dai Kurokawa

Bull elephants lock their tusks to greet each other at dawn in the Amboseli National Park, southern Kenya. epa / Dai Kurokawa

These childhood memories resurfaced in December 2012, when I met a high ranking man from an international wildlife NGO and was later told that this very person was said to be deeply involved in poaching and trafficking of ivory. I was puzzled that people in a position to protect animals are the ones actually involved in killing them.
Poaching had already been a big issue in Kenya/Africa at that time so I thought this was a good chance to do something meaningful both personally and professionally, and started my research and preparation in mid 2013.

A ranger of Narok County Government's rhino protection team stands at the observation point to spot black rhinos during the evening patrol in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, south-western Kenya. epa / Dai Kurokawa

A ranger of Narok County Government’s rhino protection team stands at the observation point to spot black rhinos during the evening patrol in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, south-western Kenya. epa / Dai Kurokawa

Poaching is not a sport but an environmental crime. In Kenya, about 280 elephants and almost 60 rhinos have been killed by poachers in 2013 according to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). Elephants and rhinoceros are targeted for their tusks and horns. Ivory is used in mass productions for souvenirs and jewelry. The tusks of one elephant are worth tens of thousands of euros. Especially Asian clients pay good money for rhino horns to use in their traditional medicine as it is believed it can cure almost everything. But actually, biting nails would have the same effect. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) estimates that the illicit wildlife trade is worth at least 14 billion Euros per year, ranking it the fourth largest global illegal activity. And Somalia’s Islamist militant group al-Shabab is believed to derive some 430,000 Euros a month, or up to 40 percent of its revenue, through the ivory trade to fund their terrorism activities, as claimed by wildlife NGO Elephant Action League (EAL).

A sedated white rhino is blindfolded and strapped with a rope by veterinarians and rangers of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS)  near Naivasha, Kenya. epa / Dai Kurokawa

A sedated white rhino is blindfolded and strapped with a rope by veterinarians and rangers of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) near Naivasha, Kenya. epa / Dai Kurokawa

As a wire photographer, I didn’t have the luxury of spending seven consecutive days on a feature story. Therefore the story had to be worked on an on/off basis. To take a photograph of a poached rhino in Lewa, for instance, I acted on a tip off from a local source. As soon as I heard the news, I hit the road to Lewa.

A mutilated corpse of a seventeen-year-old, three-months pregnant poached black rhino with horns removed is left to decay on a hillside in the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Isiolo, northern Kenya, 20 November 2013. epa / Dai Kurokawa

A mutilated corpse of a seventeen-year-old, three-months pregnant poached black rhino with horns removed is left to decay on a hillside in the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Isiolo, northern Kenya, 20 November 2013. epa / Dai Kurokawa

For me, this is one of strongest pictures in this series because it’s rare to get these pictures in Kenya, and it took a lot of preparation and setup. Authorities never want you to photograph them for fear it would make them look like they weren’t doing their job.

I covered the rangers in Maasai Mara because I wanted to show what is actually being done on a daily basis on the ground, as opposed to “official” PR events that are actively promoted by authorities. Through my contacts inside the KWS, I was invited and allowed to cover the chip implanting operation.

A veterinarian of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) saws off the tip of wild elephant's tusk during an elephant-collaring operation near Kajiado, southern Kenya. The tips are sawed off to take DNA samples so that they can track/match them later. For example, if the ivories were confiscated in Hong Kong, the DNA samples can be used to track its origin. epa / Dai Kurokawa

A veterinarian of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) saws off the tip of wild elephant’s tusk during an elephant-collaring operation near Kajiado, southern Kenya. The tips are sawed off to take DNA samples so that they can track/match them later. For example, if the ivories were confiscated in Hong Kong, the DNA samples can be used to track its origin. epa / Dai Kurokawa

I was surprised to see how many resources – time, money, people and their expertise- are devoted to put one microchip into one rhino – while on the other end of the spectrum some poachers use very basic and primitive techniques to kill animals and are so successful at it and often walk free even when discovered.

A ranger of Narok County Government's rhino protection team stands at the observation point to spot black rhinos during the evening patrol in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, south-western Kenya. epa / Dai Kurokawa

A ranger of Narok County Government’s rhino protection team stands at the observation point to spot black rhinos during the evening patrol in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, south-western Kenya. epa / Dai Kurokawa

From talking to rangers, poachers, conservation activists and members of local communities, I have come to think that no matter how well their rangers are equipped or how much international campaign they put out, the big task of conservation will be impossible without engaging local communities more closely and team up with them as partners. After all, it would be impossible for poachers to operate without being tipped off by the local population and insiders who are aware of rangers’ patrol routes, times, number of rangers etc.

Rangers of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Kenya Forest Service (KFS) receive instructions from British Army Corporal Andrew Smith (L) of the 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment, during an anti-poaching training demostration near Nanyuki, 200km north of Nairobi, Kenya, 05 December 2013. epa / Dai Kurokawa

Rangers of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Kenya Forest Service (KFS) receive instructions from British Army Corporal Andrew Smith (L) of the 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment, during an anti-poaching training demostration near Nanyuki, 200km north of Nairobi, Kenya, 05 December 2013. epa / Dai Kurokawa

For one thing, the local population in the poaching prone areas are the ones living side by side with the animals and often with first-hand information regarding illegal activities. Yet some of them are reluctant to help authorities because they feel let down by the government in the first place. They believe authorities only care about the animals’ welfare, and neglect theirs. For example, the Maasai herdsmen are banned from grazing their cattle inside the parks so as not to bother wild animals or disappoint tourists. When wild animals kill their people or their cattle, they are rarely compensated. So locals come to feel unfairly treated in the name of conservation. I think it would be important for the government to listen to the locals’ concerns and make them feel they will actually benefit from conservation.

And here is some more food for thought: In his book “2052 A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Yeaers”, Norwegian scholar Jorgen Randers gives readers his personal advice on how to live happily in the future- “Don’t teach your children to love the wilderness” and “If you like great biodiversity, go see it now”
“When you see your child sitting in front of the computer and think that she should rather be by the campfire in the great outdoors, you should constrain your temptation to interfere. By teaching your child to love the loneliness of the untouched wilderness, you are teaching her to love what will be increasingly difficult to find. And you will be increasing the chance of her being unhappy- because she won’t be able to find what she desires in the future world of eight billion people and a GDP twice that of today”.

Despite my childhood worries, my generation has been lucky enough to be able to witness the great biodiversity of the world. But what about our children? Will they be lucky like us? It’s up to all of us and our responsibility to prove Mr Randers wrong.

The feature package is available in epa webgate. Follow us on Facebook and on Twitter to stay in touch for more insightful stories from behind the scenes.

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Kobane – my assignment along the Syrian border

By Sedat Suna

Once I learnt that I was supposed to go to the Syrian border I called the local journalists and the people I knew in the area. I started arranging for accommodation and transport, and left for the border near Kobane. When I first arrived, the intensity of the conflict was still rather low, so I concentrated mainly on covering the refugees who had entered Turkey. I did so for a week and a half. When the situation worsened and combat action increased, I started to take photos of the refugees during the day and then turned to the combat area near the border.

Syrian refugees are watched by Turkish gendarmerie police forces as they wait to cross the Mursitpinar border gate from Turkey to join their families on the Syrian side of the border, near Sanliurfa, in the Suruc district, Turkey, 28 September 2014. epa / Sedat Suna

Syrian refugees are watched by Turkish gendarmerie police forces as they wait to cross the Mursitpinar border gate from Turkey to join their families on the Syrian side of the border, near Sanliurfa, in the Suruc district, Turkey, 28 September 2014. epa / Sedat Suna

I set up my daily plan, made contact with the people at the border and was informed by them before any action took place. In a second phase, the fighting moved closer to the border, so I decided to cover the conflict from the vantage point of a hill from where Kobane city could be seen best. Once the US-led coalition started bombing, I mostly took pictures in the safety along the border line.

A picture taken from Turkey shows smoke rises after an airstrike by an allegedly allianz war plane to Islamic State targets at the west of Kobane, Syria, where Kurdish fighters YPG are trying to defend the city, near Suruc district, Sanliurfa, Turkey, 08 October 2014. epa / Sedat Suna

A picture taken from Turkey shows smoke rises after an airstrike by an allegedly allianz war plane to Islamic State targets at the west of Kobane, Syria, where Kurdish fighters YPG are trying to defend the city, near Suruc district, Sanliurfa, Turkey, 08 October 2014. epa / Sedat Suna

In all my moves, security came first. Once safety was established, I set out to work. That was the theory. However, on the first day of bombing, bullets sprayed the hill I was working on and one of the bullets got stuck in the very place where I had been sitting just a few minutes earlier. The day all the journalists had been kept away from the frontier zone, three howitzers hit the ground near where we used to be standing.

Syrian refugee Hacer Abdul with her new born baby Bewar and some of her other children in a refugee camp in the Suruc district, Sanliurfa, Turkey, 20 October 2014. epa / Sedat Suna

Syrian refugee Hacer Abdul with her new born baby Bewar and some of her other children in a refugee camp in the Suruc district, Sanliurfa, Turkey, 20 October 2014. epa / Sedat Suna

I did not go there after that time for security reasons. While border clashes near Kobane were continuing, the protests in the city center continued to escalate. I was getting information from the local press, going to the regions of protests to take some photos and turning my back to the frontier zone right after that. After the tent city for the refugees in Suruç had been set up, I went there in the evenings. In brief, I divided my days into three parts: In the mornings, I took pictures of refugees, then moved on to the clashes along the border line and in the evenings before sunset, I worked in the tent cities. All in all, I spent 18 days in the frontier zone near Kobane.*

*stop press: Since writing this, Sedat Suna was called back to the area covering the situation in Kobane and the refugee camp in Suruc.

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American Oktoberfest – a little taste of the German Alps in the southern United States

By Erik S. Lesser

Several years ago I had a brief encounter with Oktoberfest in the quaint north Georgia town of Helen. Now that I work for a company with headquarters in Germany, I decided to take another jaunt to the Alpine village.

Wade Norton, 85, of Doraville, Georgia, enjoys his beer inside the Festhalle festival hall during the 44th annual Oktoberfest celebrations in Helen, Georgia, USA, 26 September 2014. epa / Erik S. Lesser

Wade Norton, 85, of Doraville, Georgia, enjoys his beer inside the Festhalle festival hall during the 44th annual Oktoberfest celebrations in Helen, Georgia, USA, 26 September 2014. epa / Erik S. Lesser

Once a sleepy logging town in the Blue Ridge Mountains, city business leaders decided in 1968 that an economic face-lift was needed to bring in the tourists and money. They were correct, and while some people make fun of Helen, many others enjoy visiting for the day or longer. Most of all the economic revival has created many jobs.

American Oktoberfest: The downtown tourist district during the 44th annual Oktoberfest celebrations in Helen, Georgia, USA, 26 September 2014. epa / Erik S. Lesser

American Oktoberfest: The downtown tourist district during the 44th annual Oktoberfest celebrations in Helen, Georgia, USA, 26 September 2014. epa / Erik S. Lesser

Now in their 44th year, far behind Munich, Oktoberfest and all things Bavaria is big business in Helen. Candy shops, German and northern European themed restaurants, imported gifts and even an Heidi Hotel dot the landscape. Helen is even a sister city with Füssen, Germany.

Visitors celebrate the season inside the Festhalle festival hall during the 44th annual Oktoberfest celebrations in Helen, Georgia, USA, 26 September 2014. epa / Erik S. Lesser

Visitors celebrate the season inside the Festhalle festival hall during the 44th annual Oktoberfest celebrations in Helen, Georgia, USA, 26 September 2014. epa / Erik S. Lesser

American Oktoberfest: A man walks by a mural on the Festhalle festival hall during the 44th annual Oktoberfest celebrations in Helen, Georgia, USA, 26 September 2014. epa / Erik S. Lesser

American Oktoberfest: A man walks by a mural on the Festhalle festival hall during the 44th annual Oktoberfest celebrations in Helen, Georgia, USA, 26 September 2014. epa / Erik S. Lesser

I don’t own a pair of Lederhosen and luckily they are not required. There are plenty of people who proudly wear Lederhosen and other German-style clothing, but you also see locals wearing cowboy boots. In fact, there are many people who return year after year, paying the entrance fee to the Festhalle to raise their commemorative mugs and steins to German toasts and participate in polkas and the chicken dance and celebrate their heritage. There are even retired couples who have moved to the area to be closer to the action and volunteer.

People dance inside the Festhalle festival hall during the 44th annual Oktoberfest celebrations in Helen, Georgia, USA, 26 September 2014. epa / Erik S. Lesser

People dance inside the Festhalle festival hall during the 44th annual Oktoberfest celebrations in Helen, Georgia, USA, 26 September 2014. epa / Erik S. Lesser

Other German traditions are heartily celebrated in Helen throughout the year including Fasching and the dropping of the Edelweiss on New Year’s Eve.

So, willkommen to a little taste of the German Alps in the southern United States.

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The full feature package is available on our website: www.epa.eu

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On Covering the United Nations General Assembly

epa’s New York Bureau Chief on the annual whirlwind

By Justin Lane

In the General Assembly Hall, I’m wondering aloud if that guy walking through the room isn’t the President of France and hey, isn’t he shaking hands with the Foreign Minister of Germany who just said hello to that prime minister I’m having a hard time immediately identifying? It’s a study of excess – too many leaders to keep careful track of, too many security checkpoints, and too many journalists from around the world who all woke up too early.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (R) shakes hands with US actor Leonardo DiCaprio (L) during his designation ceremony as the UN Messenger of Peace at the United Nations headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 20 September 2014. epa / Jason Szenes

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (R) shakes hands with US actor Leonardo DiCaprio (L) during his designation ceremony as the UN Messenger of Peace at the United Nations headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 20 September 2014. epa / Jason Szenes

Men in a control booth control the feed of Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran, speaking during the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 25 September 2014. epa / Justin Lane

Men in a control booth control the feed of Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran, speaking during the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 25 September 2014. epa / Justin Lane

The first few days are always a dance of scheduling as we try to determine how to be in all the right places. There are four of us: myself, Andrew Gombert, Jason Szenes and Peter Foley. Four of us to identify and cover leaders from the 193 member countries. It’s like a game, racing to identify the major political players. And of course, it’s an amazing thing to be a small part of an opportunity to share a room with some of the most powerful people in the world.

US President Barack Obama (L) speaks during the general debate of the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 24 September 2014. epa / Peter Foley

US President Barack Obama (L) speaks during the general debate of the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 24 September 2014. epa / Peter Foley

The best part of these events are the small unpredictable moments. Of note to me this week was a Security Council meeting held on Wednesday, chaired by President Obama.

United States President Barack Obama walks off stage after addressing the Climate Summit 2014 at United Nations headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 23 September 2014. epa / Justin Lane

United States President Barack Obama walks off stage after addressing the Climate Summit 2014 at United Nations headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 23 September 2014. epa / Justin Lane

Among those in the relative intimate space were the presidents of France, Chile, Argentina, the Prime Minster of the United Kingdom, and the King of Jordan. At one point in this high-level meeting on worldwide terrorism, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner took out a small container of snacks—I think they were nuts—and offered them to her delegation and to a few other leaders, who politely declined. She then left them on her desk. Just one small moment.

I loved it.

Cristina Kirchner (R), the President of Argentina, offers nuts to her delegation during a high-level United Nations Security Council meeting about worldwide terrorism during the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 24 September 2014. epa / Justin Lane

Cristina Kirchner (R), the President of Argentina, offers nuts to her delegation during a high-level United Nations Security Council meeting about worldwide terrorism during the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 24 September 2014. epa / Justin Lane

We need to deliver the expected pictures, the handshakes, the overalls of a world figure leading the hall but it’s the moments like the President of Argentina offering snacks from her purse to Obama that make the early mornings and hectic long days most worth it, when we can humanize the enormity of the event.

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Deadly Deluge – Covering the Pakistan Floods

By Omer Saleem

It all started when the monsoon system entered from the Himalayas on 03 September and triggered torrential rains in most populous province of Punjab and disputed Kashmir region. By the evening reports of causalities from rain related-incidents started to come in.
Over the next three days the rain never stopped for a single minute. Lahore City, the provincial capital of Punjab province, had all major roads inundated.

Traffic was jammed at all major roads by the afternoon.

Pakistan Floods: Vehicles are stuck in a traffic jam after heavy downpour in Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab province, Pakistan, 05 September 2014. epa / Omer Saleem

Pakistan Floods: Vehicles are stuck in a traffic jam after heavy downpour in Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab province, Pakistan, 05 September 2014. epa / Omer Saleem

As the rains continued for the last 24 hours, most people opted to stay at home. Nevertheless some parents were anxious to take their children to school.

Pakistan Floods: School children ride a bike to school during heavy downpour in Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab province,  Pakistan, 05 September 2014. epa/ Omer Saleem

Pakistan Floods: School children ride a bike to school during heavy downpour in Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab province, Pakistan, 05 September 2014. epa/ Omer Saleem

It was my first experience in covering flooding, standing in the middle of an inundated road, holding an umbrella with one hand to cover my gear and capturing images with the other.

Pakistan Floods: People with their vehicles make their way through a flooded road during heavy downpour in Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab province,  Pakistan, 05 September 2014. epa / Omer Saleem

Pakistan Floods: People with their vehicles make their way through a flooded road during heavy downpour in Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab province, Pakistan, 05 September 2014. epa / Omer Saleem

After three hours I came back home to file my images, but for the whole day even when I slept I felt as if it continued to drizzle on my face.
By that evening the death toll reached 100 with unconfirmed reports that neighboring India would release the flood water into Chenab river of Pakistan — another blow to an already devastated situation.

Flash floods during the monsoon are common in Pakistan, where the worst deluge in 2010 submerged one-fifth of the country, killing more than 1,700 people and affecting more than 20 million people. This time residents had the same haunting memories of 2010 but were not willing to leave their homes where their life’s earnings are their cattle and belongings. These people have lived for generations in such a simple lifestyle, without access to clean drinking water or other basic needs. Most work as farmers cultivating the major crop of the region, rice and wheat. However this flood also destroyed cultivated land along with crops.

Pakistan Floods: An aerial view of flooded areas in Jhang, Punjab province, Pakistan, 10 September 2014. epa / Omer Saleem

Pakistan Floods: An aerial view of flooded areas in Jhang, Punjab province, Pakistan, 10 September 2014. epa / Omer Saleem

On 5th September our coverage expanded to other cities of Punjab province where people started to flee following flash floods. I went to Jhang district some 250 kilometers from Lahore.

In Chiniot city I accompanied the colleagues of Rescue 1122, the provincial government’s rescue agency that helped evacuees from flooded villages near the Chenab River, then further on to Jhang City where the army was called in.

Omer Saleem while covering the floods in Pakistan

Omer Saleem while covering the floods in Pakistan

It is not always easy to get access to such rescue operations conducted by the Army, so I was grateful when the army major in charge of the operation granted me permission to go on board with the proviso that we not interview victims.

Pakistan Floods: shooting pictures from a helicopter

It is quite risky to photograph aerial views standing at helicopter door where sheer wind pressure can pull you out. The only remedy you have is to get a hold onto a cord with one hand and shoot with the other.

Omer Saleem while covering the floods in Pakistan

Omer Saleem in a helicopter while covering the floods in Pakistan

Finally the efforts paid off. We were the only agency to have the privilege to show the aerial views of the flooded areas to the world.
The next few days we continued to cover the floods as they reached the historic Multan city of Punjab province some 400 kilometers from Lahore City. Luckily this time the Army accommodated the media on their helicopters, and I had a warm welcome from Army pilots who recognized me.

Pakistan Floods: A Pakistani Army soldier distributes food bags in flooded areas in Shujabad, on the outskirts of Multan, Pakistan, 15 September 2014. epa / Omer Saleem

Pakistan Floods: A Pakistani Army soldier distributes food bags in flooded areas in Shujabad, on the outskirts of Multan, Pakistan, 15 September 2014. epa / Omer Saleem

Pakistan Floods: People affected by floods are rescued in Shujabad, Punjab province, Pakistan, 14 September 2014. epa / Omer Saleem

Pakistan Floods: People affected by floods are rescued in Shujabad, Punjab province, Pakistan, 14 September 2014. epa / Omer Saleem

Pakistan Floods: An aerial view of flooded areas in Jhang, Punjab province, Pakistan, 10 September 2014. epa / Omer Saleem

Pakistan Floods: An aerial view of flooded areas in Jhang, Punjab province, Pakistan, 10 September 2014. epa / Omer Saleem

A woman effected by the floods waits to be evacuated in Chiniot, Pakistan, 09 September 2014. epa / Omer Saleem

A woman effected by the floods waits to be evacuated in Chiniot, Pakistan, 09 September 2014. epa / Omer Saleem

Flooding in Pakistan has now begun to subside as raging waters headed towards the Arabian Sea in the south. Sadly nearly 320 people died and another three million were affected, with some 45,000 houses damaged and roads, bridges and crops destroyed.

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Visa pour l’Image Perpignan 2014 – The royal African welcome

By Nic Bothma

A royal African welcome greeted me in Perpignan by French police who escorted me out of the arrivals lounge and took me to a room to search my luggage. It made me feel at home! We got chatting and once they realised I was a photographer attending the 26th edition of the Visa pour l’Image, the premier international festival on photojournalism, they smiled, stopped searching and welcomed me into Perpignan.

epa photographers Nic Bothma (l) and Dennis M. Sabangan (r)

epa photographers Nic Bothma (l) and Dennis M. Sabangan (r)

There is a lot happening in Visa pour l’Image’s professional week and impossible to take it all in. But we tried.

#dysturb city exhibit in Perpignan during the Visa pour l'Image 2014

#dysturb city exhibit in Perpignan during the Visa pour l’Image 2014

One of the highlights for me was seeing the Vietnam war through the eyes of Vietnamese photographers Doan Cong Tinh, Chu Chi Thanh, Mai Nam and Hua Kiem. The world’s perception of the war was largely shaped by the imagery provided by American photographers. Under extreme conditions these Vietnamese photographers worked and produced an excellent photographic record of events from a very different perspective. I wonder how things would have turned out if their images had received a global audience like the Americans and not surfacing at a photojournalism festival 50 years later.

One night whilst having dinner these humble gentlemen walked past our table and we were able to shake their hands and have a chat through their interpreter. It was a very special moment and a veteran American photographer dining with us was brought to tears after meeting them.

A tribute exhibition for Chris Hondros at Hotel Pams during the Visa pour l'Image 2014.

A tribute exhibition for Chris Hondros at Hotel Pams during the Visa pour l’Image 2014.

It was an honor and a privilege to attend this years Perpignan festival with friends from epa Frankfurt and around the world. I saw a host of excellent photography and attended inspiring talks and presentations. The only thing missing for me was a show of our brother Kerim Okten’s work. Kerim was the finest photographer to grace epa and I would have loved to see his work shown there. Perhaps it can sometime in the future.

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Tour de France 2014 – from the back of a motorbike

By Kim Ludbrook

If you don’t like hard work, living in 25 hotels in three weeks, driving 10.000 km in total and working from the back of a motorcycle careering through the French country side; don’t apply to cover The Tour de France!

Nothing prepared me for the incredible event that is The Tour de France 2014.

In our first three days of coverage in England, an estimated three million people stood by the side of the road to watch the world’s best cyclists ride the 101st Tour.

Motorbikes carrying TV and stills photographers are seen following previous Tour de France winner, Alberto Contador, ride back to the peleton after he crashed. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Motorbikes carrying TV and stills photographers are seen following previous Tour de France winner, Alberto Contador, ride back to the peleton after he crashed. epa / Kim Ludbrook

epa has three photographers covering the race and one professional motorcycle rider.

During each stage the two photographers in the car drive to the finish of that day’s stage and start to edit the images coming from the photographer on the motorcycle.

Photographers from the news agencies of epa, AP, AFP and Reuters wait on the finish line in The Mall in London during Stage 3. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Photographers from the news agencies of epa, AP, AFP and Reuters wait on the finish line in The Mall in London during Stage 3. epa / Kim Ludbrook

They also photograph the winner of that stage crossing the line and the podium because each day of the 21-day race has a podium ceremony.

Lotto Belisol procycling team rider Tony Gallopin of France celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the 11th stage of the 101st Tour de France 2014 cycling race, over 187.5 km from Besancon to Oyonnax, in France, 16 July 2014.  epa / Kim Ludbrook

Lotto Belisol procycling team rider Tony Gallopin of France celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the 11th stage of the 101st Tour de France 2014 cycling race, over 187.5 km from Besancon to Oyonnax, in France, 16 July 2014. epa / Kim Ludbrook

The photographer on the motorcycle covers the start of the stage with features, while on the bike he shoots the action of that day’s stage as well as feature images of the riders cycling through the landscape. The backseat of the motorcyle is his office for the day because he shoots and edits on the camera while riding at 50-60km/h and then transmits via 4G card and wireless transmitter attachment to the camera. The images are sent via FTP to the photographers editing his work at the finish.

Covering the race from the back of the motorbike is without question one of the hardest but most rewarding experiences I have had in my career.

The break away group in action with Omega Pharma Quick Step Procycling team rider Tony Martin (L) of Germany during the 10th stage of the 101st Tour de France 2014 cycling race, over 161.5 km from Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles, in France, 14 July 2014. epa / Kim Ludbrook

The break away group in action with Omega Pharma Quick Step Procycling team rider Tony Martin (L) of Germany during the 10th stage of the 101st Tour de France 2014 cycling race, over 161.5 km from Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles, in France, 14 July 2014. epa / Kim Ludbrook

It is really taxing on the body and very tiring in the mind as you are not only concentrating on shooting and editing but also trying to follow the events of the race with Guy, the professional motorcycle rider.

Guy is critical to the coverage as he has covered 20 TDF and not only knows cycle racing and its nuances but also all the riders, teams and many of the passes. He has race radio on his motorcycle so as the race progresses he is not only visually looking at break-aways and crashes but also listens to race radio who inform teams, media and TDF staff what is happening on the course.

While working in the peleton there are ‘regulators’ riding motorbikes who control the movement and access of the photographers, team cars and TV cameras covering the race. There are strict rules that we are not allowed to break.

A 'regulator', wearing red, is seen telling the motorbike riders carrying TV and stills photographers where they must ride during Stage 10. epa / Kim Ludbrook

A ‘regulator’, wearing red, is seen telling the motorbike riders carrying TV and stills photographers where they must ride during Stage 10. epa / Kim Ludbrook

This is all for rider safety and also to make sure that there are no motorbikes in the live TV shots that are beamed to millions around the world.

Like any outdoors sport covering cycling means that you are working in every weather condition from rain and cold to sun and heat: The Tour de France 2014 is like a 3,664km long ‘stadium’.

Saxo Tinkoff procycling team rider Alberto Contador (C) of Spain in action during the 4th stage of the 101st edition of the Tour de France 2014 cycling race between Le Touquet-Paris-Plage and Lille Metropole, in France, 08 July 2014.  epa / Kim Ludbrook

Saxo Tinkoff procycling team rider Alberto Contador (C) of Spain in action during the 4th stage of the 101st edition of the Tour de France 2014 cycling race between Le Touquet-Paris-Plage and Lille Metropole, in France, 08 July 2014. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Equipment wise on the motorbike I used a Canon 70-200 f4, Canon 16-35 f2.8 and a Canon 14mm with 2 Canon EOS 1DX while at the finish line I used a Canon 400mm.

What is amazing about The Tour de France 2014 is that each day of the Tour is a race on its own for the riders so it is an ever changing event with many winners, lots of crashes, lots of drama and many ‘news’ related angles on a sports event.

Garmin Sharp procycling team rider Andrew Talansky (3-R) of US falls as he makes the sprint on the finish line of the 7th stage of the 101st Tour de France cycling race, over 234.5 km from Epernay to Nancy, in France, 11 July 2014. epa / Nicolas Bouvy

Garmin Sharp procycling team rider Andrew Talansky (3-R) of US falls as he makes the sprint on the finish line of the 7th stage of the 101st Tour de France cycling race, over 234.5 km from Epernay to Nancy, in France, 11 July 2014. epa / Nicolas Bouvy

This year for instance saw both main contenders crashing out of the race and the images from the bike of those two crashes got the best usage around the world.

Saxo Tinkoff procycling team rider Alberto Contador of Spain is seated inside his team car as he abandons the race after crashing during the 10th stage of the 101st Tour de France 2014 cycling race, over 161.5 km from Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles, in France, 14 July 2014. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Saxo Tinkoff procycling team rider Alberto Contador of Spain is seated inside his team car as he abandons the race after crashing during the 10th stage of the 101st Tour de France 2014 cycling race, over 161.5 km from Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles, in France, 14 July 2014. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Orica Greenedge Procycling team rider Simon Gerrans (C) of Australia and Omega Pharma Quick Step Procycling team rider Mark Cavendish (bottom L) of Great Britain crash during the sprint of the 1st stage of the 101st edition of the Tour de France 2014 cycling race between Leeds and Harrogate, in United Kingdom, 05 July 2014.  epa / Yoan Valat

Orica Greenedge Procycling team rider Simon Gerrans (C) of Australia and Omega Pharma Quick Step Procycling team rider Mark Cavendish (bottom L) of Great Britain crash during the sprint of the 1st stage of the 101st edition of the Tour de France 2014 cycling race between Leeds and Harrogate, in United Kingdom, 05 July 2014. epa / Yoan Valat

As the peleton rides through the French country side at speed the motorbikes, team cars and helicopters on course, have a life of their own. Rushing through small villages and up mountain passes watched by millions of people who stand for hours simply to catch a glimpse of this most epic of human endeavours.

Special thanks to the amazing epa Photo team of Yoan Valat, Nicolas Bouvy and Guy Devuyst for helping me through my first tour. Bravo!

epa team covering the Tour de France 2014: (L-R) Kim Ludbrook, Nicolas Bouvy, Yoan Valet and motorbike rider, Guy Devuyst.

epa team covering the Tour de France 2014: (L-R) Kim Ludbrook, Nicolas Bouvy, Yoan Valet and motorbike rider, Guy Devuyst.

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The Show Must Go On, But Not Without the Fans!

By Robert Ghement

    ‘There’s lots of pretty, pretty ones
    that want to get you high.
    But all the pretty, pretty ones
    will leave you low, and blow your mind.’

    ‘The Dope Show’- by Marylin Manson

For Brazilian people, soccer is more than just a phenomenon, it’s almost a religion.
Organizing a world cup in such a place could be compared to setting up a religious pilgrimage for
a broad mass of followers, with all its implications.
Members from various ‘congregations’ will come to support their idols and saints, full of hope and believing that their support is crucial for their beloved ones; stadiums will be their churches, and
players their hopeful healers.

Brazil supporters react during the FIFA World Cup 2014 third place match between Brazil and the Netherlands at the Estadio Nacional in Brasilia, Brazil, 12 July 2014. epa / Robert Ghement

Brazil supporters react during the FIFA World Cup 2014 third place match between Brazil and the Netherlands at the Estadio Nacional in Brasilia, Brazil, 12 July 2014. epa / Robert Ghement

Either called ‘hermanos’ or the ‘red devils’, watching the game from their seats, or at home on their couches or
trembling in front of the Fan Fest stages, soccer fans are the most important factor in a World Cup equation.
No one could deny that.
Soccer fans can be hopeful, sad, daring, bold, enthusiastic or violent, but they could not replace the Big Show!

Brazilian fans react while watching the FIFA World Cup 2014 group A preliminary round match between Brazil and Mexico at the FIFA Fan Fest in Salvador, Brazil, 17 June 2014. The match at the Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza ended 0-0. epa / Guillaume Horcajuelo

Brazilian soccer fans react while watching the FIFA World Cup 2014 group A preliminary round match between Brazil and Mexico at the FIFA Fan Fest in Salvador, Brazil, 17 June 2014. The match at the Estadio Castelao in Fortaleza ended 0-0. epa / Guillaume Horcajuelo

They could just watch it, encourage it, coming to despair or exultation, but never play it.
And that’s the role of the team players. Sometimes, expert commentators refer to them as ‘the twelfth player’.

A German soccer fan waves the German flag among spectators in Paris, France, 04 July 2014, who attend the public viewing of the FIFA World Cup 2014 quarter final soccer match between France and Germany on a giant screen in front of Hotel de Ville (Town Hall).  epa / Ian Langsdon

A German soccer fan waves the German flag among spectators in Paris, France, 04 July 2014, who attend the public viewing of the FIFA World Cup 2014 quarter final soccer match between France and Germany on a giant screen in front of Hotel de Ville (Town Hall). epa / Ian Langsdon

The Brazilian team had its twelfth man in every stadium they played, as they were playing all the games in their own yard.
One could call this an advantage, but ‘the twelth player’ never listens to or obeys the head coach!
Sometimes, when eager, they can do more damage than good to a team.
That was not the case with the Brazilian team, who was supported at all times consequently and religiously.
Even at 5-0, Brazilian fans still had energy to encourage a desperate ball recovery or an almost brutal stop of their opponents. But, at a certain point, their love for soccer was greater than that for their own team, when, without any warning, Brazilians started to cheer each passing shot exchanged by the German players. As if the Germans
were Brazilians and vice versa. That was beyond common belief: they praised much more the Beauty of The Game than their favorite players.

A Brazilian fan shows his dejection after the FIFA World Cup 2014 semi final match between Brazil and Germany at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 08 July 2014. Germany won 7-1. epa/dpa/Thomas Eisenhuth

A Brazilian fan shows his dejection after the FIFA World Cup 2014 semi final match between Brazil and Germany at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 08 July 2014. Germany won 7-1. epa/dpa/Thomas Eisenhuth

Some Brazilians were saying that the football shirts of their team were smaller than those of their opponents!
After the historic semi-final Brazil vs Germany ended, the streets of Belo Horizonte were set on fire:
parties were held on street corners in Devassi Square in a way that made you believe Brazil had won the game that night! Police were watching supporters dancing and drinking from close range, but spirits were never heated up in a bad way. From time to time, small groups of German supporters crossed masses of Brazilians. Dressed in their white T-Shirts they stood out like lanterns in the dark, drinking their beers and enjoying the street fiestas. Sometimes they were cheered by the Brazilians by voice or hand clapping, but never pushed, bullied or cursed at.

Fernandinho of Brazil react after a goal scored by Toni Kroos of Germany  during the FIFA World Cup 2014 semi final match between Brazil and Germany at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 08 July 2014.  epa / Robert Ghement

Fernandinho of Brazil react after a goal scored by Toni Kroos of Germany during the FIFA World Cup 2014 semi final match between Brazil and Germany at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 08 July 2014. epa / Robert Ghement

After 7 to 1.

I don’t know if seven is a magic number, but for sure Brazilian soccer fans are magic, same as the game of the German team who defeated their beloved team.
I think now, not many Brazilians believe into their own team, but for sure they will never lose faith in The Game!

I really want to make the followers of this blog understand that we as photographers are humans too, sometimes pushy, at other times stressed or impulsive. We are not just machines who push a button, but beings who care and who filter surrounding information and stimulus before transforming our perception and feelings into a digital pixel, to share our vision on soccer and the true fans who never had a chance to watch a game from pitch level!

Because we are The Transformers.

Robert Ghement is a staff photographer in Bucharest and has been with epa for 15 years.

UPDATE: Upon his return from Brazil, he was immediately called to a new assignment to cover the recent events in Ukraine.

Malaysia Airlines plane crashes in eastern Ukraine.

Malaysia Airlines plane crash in eastern Ukraine. Pictures by epa / Robert Ghement

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A goal accomplished – FIFA World Cup 2014

By CJ Gunther

This was the moment I had dreamed of for over 26 years. I was going to the FIFA World Cup, Cupo de Mundo. But my flight was cancelled and I was sitting in Boston’s Logan Airport rather than flying to Sao Paulo and I wondered if I would make it to Curitiba on time.

David Villa (C) of Spain scores the opening goal during the FIFA World Cup 2014 group B preliminary round match between Australia and Spain at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil, 23 June 2014. epa / CJ Gunther

David Villa (C) of Spain scores the opening goal during the FIFA World Cup 2014 group B preliminary round match between Australia and Spain at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil, 23 June 2014. epa / CJ Gunther

I didn’t set out to be a sport photographer, I wanted to shoot architecture and art when I first began to make pictures. But in college I discovered that I enjoyed the sport image too, and I enjoy soccer, played it as a child and through high school, I know the game so I found it easy to shoot. I was once asked, ‘How awesome was it shooting the NCAA Final four with the UConn men’s basketball team?” – “Not as cool as it would be to shoot the World Cup,’ I answered.

In 1994, I got really close to achieving that goal. I got to shoot one of the friendly matches between Ireland and Columbia when Boston was one of the World Cup host cities. But no real matches for me. Yes, in Boston we have the occasional friendly match between some National teams, or Premiere league teams, but the FIFA World Cup is not on the line when those games are played. So the level of play is not as intense. I also got really close in 2012 when I was asked to be part of epa’s team for the UEFA Euro 2012 Cup, but health reasons kept me away.

This time I was really going. I was part of the epa team. I signed up for Brazilian Portuguese classes, I studied the culture and the politics of the country. I was going and a dream goal was going to be achieved. But here I was sitting at the airport only 20 miles from home, with no flight yet.

Abdelmoumene Djabou (C) of Algeria celebrates with his teammates after the FIFA World Cup 2014 group H preliminary round match between Algeria and Russia at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil, 26 June 2014. The match ended 1-1. epa / CJ Gunther

Abdelmoumene Djabou (C) of Algeria celebrates with his teammates after the FIFA World Cup 2014 group H preliminary round match between Algeria and Russia at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil, 26 June 2014. The match ended 1-1. epa / CJ Gunther

Having never shot a FIFA World Cup match before, I was a little anxious. This soccer was going to be a faster pace than what I had ever seen before, and unlike the majority of the other photographers in attendance, my experience level would be much less. If this were baseball, there would be no anxiety at all. Top that with going to a country where everyone tells you, ‘do watch out, you are going to be held up,’ anxiety was at a high level.

Enner Valencia (C) of Ecuador scores the 1-1 equalizer against goalkeeper Noel Valladares (L) of Honduras during the FIFA World Cup 2014 group E preliminary round match between Honduras and Ecuador at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil, 20 June 2014. epa / CJ Gunther

Enner Valencia (C) of Ecuador scores the 1-1 equalizer against goalkeeper Noel Valladares (L) of Honduras during the FIFA World Cup 2014 group E preliminary round match between Honduras and Ecuador at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil, 20 June 2014. epa / CJ Gunther

My nervousness about Brazil was relieved immediately upon my arrival. I already knew to tell everyone at the airports and immigration, ‘FIFA World Cup,’ and I would get rushed through to my connecting flights, no delays at customs. It was in the queue at the last flight check-in when I began to meet people from Curitiba and felt welcomed to Brazil. At nearly every step of the process, I was met with smiling faces, and even got the beefy security official at the Media entrance to eventually smile on my arrival each day. All of this led up to covering some of the best soccer matches I had ever been to.

Dmitry Kombarov (L) of Russia in action against Islam Slimani (R) of Algeria during the FIFA World Cup 2014 group H preliminary round match between Algeria and Russia at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil, 26 June 2014. epa / CJ Gunther

Dmitry Kombarov (L) of Russia in action against Islam Slimani (R) of Algeria during the FIFA World Cup 2014 group H preliminary round match between Algeria and Russia at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil, 26 June 2014. epa / CJ Gunther

My colleague Rungroj Yongrit had been to the FIFA World Cup before and met up with me a few days after my arrival. I think he tried to relieve my nervousness by suggesting an early arrival time to the media center on the day of my first match, Iran V Nigeria. It was a big day for me, and I was a bit tense. We did go too early, but soon it was time to take our positions and set up the remotes. ‘Shoot it well,’ he encouraged me.

Iran's Ashkan Dejagah (L) and Nigeria's Joseph Yobo (R) vie for the ball during the FIFA World Cup 2014 group F preliminary round match between Iran and Nigeria at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil, 16 June 2014. epa / CJ Gunther

Iran’s Ashkan Dejagah (L) and Nigeria’s Joseph Yobo (R) vie for the ball during the FIFA World Cup 2014 group F preliminary round match between Iran and Nigeria at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil, 16 June 2014. epa / CJ Gunther

The first game.

I know soccer and knew very well that as soon as the match started I would get into my groove and make good photos. And I did. The Australian photographer next to me at the end of the match was surprised at my enjoyment. “That was not such a fine match. The action was minimal, the play could have been more exicting, hmph,” he said slyly.
‘You don’t understand.’ I replied. ‘The best I get on a regular basis is MLS. I only see this level of play on TV. To be here and see it live in person on the pitch level! With Moses right in front of me? Boom! That was awesome.’

Nigeria's Victor Moses controls the ball during the FIFA World Cup 2014 group F preliminary round match between Iran and Nigeria at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil, 16 June 2014. epa / CJ Gunther

Nigeria’s Victor Moses controls the ball during the FIFA World Cup 2014 group F preliminary round match between Iran and Nigeria at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil, 16 June 2014. epa / CJ Gunther

Now it was in the past, my first FIFA World Cup match. I was so excited about being there to work that it passed so quickly. I faired well; had good action images, covered the bases on getting the key players and plays of the game. Features before the game were hard not to find. The remainder of my time in Curitiba was a great experience as well. I met many local folks, discussed politics and football, tried the food of the region, became a regular at a pub near the Arena da Baixada even spending one evening behind the bar helping make and serve caipirinhas, was invited to several homes and explored much of the city on foot all the while photographing the people and places with never a feeling of danger.

The next two matches the nervous excitement was gone, I was no longer a FIFA world cup virgin. Honduras’ Costly celebrated his goal in front of me in the match again Ecuador.

Algeria's Islam Slimani (back C) scores the 1-1 equalizer during the FIFA World Cup 2014 group H preliminary round match between Algeria and Russia at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil, 26 June 2014. epa / CJ Gunther

Algeria’s Islam Slimani (back C) scores the 1-1 equalizer during the FIFA World Cup 2014 group H preliminary round match between Algeria and Russia at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil, 26 June 2014. epa / CJ Gunther

David Villa and Iniesta toyed with the Cahill shorted Australian boys for 90 minutes. The routine feeling of those two matches was long gone when Algeria faced Russia. With the streets and stands filled with several thousand Algerians, their World Cup party started early. It was a excting match; the goal by Kokorin (RUS) and the equalizer by Slimani (AGR) on my end of the pitch, the hard fought action through out the game. Algeria advanced for the first time out of the Group Play and the fans and team celebrated as if they had won the whole of the tournament. Flares and smoke bombs in the crowd, something that would never happen in the States, added to the excitement for me – I felt as if I was in Estadio do Maracana watching Algeria celebrate the FIFA World Cup Final.

Australian referee Benjamin Williams (R) sprays a marker line during the FIFA World Cup 2014 group E preliminary round match between Honduras and Ecuador at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil, 20 June 2014. epa / CJ Gunther

Australian referee Benjamin Williams (R) sprays a marker line during the FIFA World Cup 2014 group E preliminary round match between Honduras and Ecuador at the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil, 20 June 2014. epa / CJ Gunther

Bittersweet was the feeling the next morning, headed back to Boston, but my children wanted me home, and the television there is big enough to make me feel like I was still on the pitch. Thanks Gernot.

epa photographer CJ Gunther and Rungroj Yongrit in the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil, 26 June 2014.

epa photographer CJ Gunther and Rungroj Yongrit in the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil, 26 June 2014.

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Paranoia at the FIFA World Cup, or the similarities of sports coverage and war reporting

By Dennis M. Sabangan

Weeks before we left for Brazil, an American photographer gave a warning through his Facebook account that some of his cameras and equipment for the World Cup were stolen in an airport in Brazil.

That this scenario is devastating to a photographer is a gross understatement, since so much of our work relies heavily on the proper set of tools in our arsenal. The loss of equipment is crushing since it affects not only his profession but also his psychological welfare.

Equipment for FIFA World Cup, epa Manila office, Philippines 07 June 2014. epa / Ritchie B. Tongo

Equipment for FIFA World Cup, epa Manila office, Philippines 07 June 2014. epa / Ritchie B. Tongo

Learning about the theft took me back to my 2001 war assignment in Afghanistan. After the 9/11 attack in America, a few days before the Capital of Kabul was set free, other Filipino journalists and I secured a vehicle to get around the city. The only way we communicated with our driver was through sign language and hand gestures. He couldn’t speak English nor could we speak Pashtun. Despite that, we bravely entered Kabul, leaving our fate in the hands of some higher being. Batman, maybe. Unfortunately for us, no one seemed to be listening to our prayers that day, as five armed Afghans stopped our vehicle between Kabul and Jalalabad.

I whispered to my fellow journalists, “Damn, I think this is where we will die. But it’s so cold, at least we won’t even rot”.

There we were at gun-point and forcefully held up. Thankfully, I brought three wallets. I deceived them with my “Philippine Dollars”– in reality worth a lot less in their currency. I also had a similar experience when I entered Jolo, Sulo and entered the camp of the bandit group Abu Sayyaf to accompany the negotiator to free some German, African, Finnish, Malaysian and Filipino captives. The terrorists forcefully asked for my equipment. Good thing that those weren’t mine. Still, these are moments that we would never in our wildest dreams wish to happen. Yet perhaps due to the twisted nature of fate, we can’t avoid such mishaps.

So instead of being depressed, or be rattled in these situations, I believe these are opportunities where we can learn, and develop the critical skills needed to survive, whether in a literal sense, or a professional one.

Such is the irony that when things fall apart, we as people and as photojournalist get put together.

Anyway, the FIFA World Cup.

June 9, 2014, we arrived in Sau Paolo after more than 24 hours of flying. I flew with my collegues, Rungroj Yongrit from Thailand and Mast Irham from Indonesia. We met in Singapore before going to Brazil. From there, we ventured to our own assignments, they will go to Manaus while I will go to Belo Horizonte.

Belgium's Vincent Kompany (L) and Argentina's Lionel Messi (R) vie for the ball during the FIFA World Cup 2014 quarter final match between Argentina and Belgium at the Estadio Nacional in Brasilia, Brazil, 05 July 2014. epa / Dennis M. Sabangan

Belgium’s Vincent Kompany (L) and Argentina’s Lionel Messi (R) vie for the ball during the FIFA World Cup 2014 quarter final match between Argentina and Belgium at the Estadio Nacional in Brasilia, Brazil, 05 July 2014. epa / Dennis M. Sabangan

The air of excitement over a big coverage hung above us when we met. Yet along with that, there was also another feeling–the underlying fear of what we may experience when we get there.

From Sau Paolo, I flew to Belo Horizonte. Even then I admit I felt fearful bringing my equipment out. It’s my habit that all my important things, particularly cameras, lens and some clothes are hand-carried so that whatever happens with the equipment I check in, it’s not something that I will primarily need covering the World Cup.

In Belo Horizonte, I was with my partner Peter Powell from Liverpool, Great Britain, from where modern soccer emerged. Peter is passionate over and familiar with covering football. It’s perhaps understandable that he asked me if football was a popular sport in the Philippines.

I said that boxing and basketball are the most popular sports in the Philippines. But in recent years, some provinces and sectors have begun to appreciate and keep a close watch on football. I even joked that if our former colonizers had taught Filipinos how to play soccer instead of basketball, then Lionel Messi of Argentina with a height of only 5’7” or Neymar of Brazil with 5’9” would have a Filipino to match their skills. Still in a country that is heavily influenced by American culture, basketball continues to be the sport of choice, no matter that Filipinos lack the height to be truly competitive at it.

At the World Cup, our first coverage was Match 5, Colombia vs Greece, where Greece lost with the score of 3-0. But it wasn’t just the losing Greeks who cried that night. Along with them were two photographers from an International agency, after two sets of lens and cameras were stolen – a unit of Canon 1DX 400mm, 1DX and 70-200 were lost from inside the Media Center despite it having tight security.

Lionel Messi (C) of Argentina in action against Andranik Timotian (R) of Iran during the FIFA World Cup 2014 group F preliminary round match between Argentina and Iran at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 21 June 2014. epa / Dennis M. Sabangan

Lionel Messi (C) of Argentina in action against Andranik Timotian (R) of Iran during the FIFA World Cup 2014 group F preliminary round match between Argentina and Iran at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 21 June 2014. epa / Dennis M. Sabangan

Their gear was stolen while they were editing at the Stadium Media Center. It certainly sparked paranoia in all of us there. After all, who else can enter the media center aside from accredited FIFA officials and the media? Minutes after the incident, everyone was already alerted.

I was going to the canteen when a photographer informed me that somebody lost equipment. I immediately went back to my desk and kept all my things in my bag and locked it. It is annoying and heart-breaking that this kind of situation can occur. For us in such an active profession, it can also be paralyzing– even if you get really angry, you can’t do anything about it. Hopefully this equipment were insured and the company can easily replace them.

Germany's Thomas Mueller (L) and Brazil's Luiz Gustavo (R) vie for the ball during the FIFA World Cup 2014 semi final match between Brazil and Germany at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 08 July 2014. epa / Dennis M. Sabangan

Germany’s Thomas Mueller (L) and Brazil’s Luiz Gustavo (R) vie for the ball during the FIFA World Cup 2014 semi final match between Brazil and Germany at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 08 July 2014. epa / Dennis M. Sabangan

While reflecting on what had just happened, I couldn’t help but think that if the thief victimized some poor Filipino newspaper photographers (photographers whose newsroom change equipment more slowly than the passing of four leap years) then they would have no choice but to stare blankly at the walls. That or, the more logical alternative, they will always fall in line in the Canon Booth to have temporary equipment to continue covering the World Cup. Still, even if the equipment can be replaced, you will go nuts because you’ve already lost your footing even as the coverage is just starting.

After the second theft, you would notice that most of the journalists, especially photojournalists, became extra vigilant and careful. Sometimes even if they needed to go to the bathroom, they would bring their equipment, while others take turns in taking care of the things if people need to leave the table. With my team, we often kept our things locked, if we had to leave them. There was a shortage of lockers because everyone wanted to keep their things under lock and key, afraid that they might get stolen.

During the next days of coverage, I realized that the threat does not only exist inside the media center, but also outside in the streets of Brazil. If we needed to shoot for a feature, we would do it from inside a taxi. That’s how it really is if one isn’t familiar with the culture, even more so if the city you are covering has a high crime rate.

After staying for more than a month in Brazil, we have covered 6 matches. Nearing the quarterfinals in July 5 in Brasilia, our two teams was beefed up to four, with Shawn Thew from the US and Robert Ghement from Romania completing the lineup. We flew to Belo Horizonte to finish the last few chapters of our mission in Brazil. The semi-finals between, Brazil and Germany was particularly memorable, with Germany beating the hosts 7-1 in a crushing defeat.
All told, we will bring the memories of the 2014 World Cup with us. As for the the photographs, there is a certain joy to the feeling that we have taken part in recording history using the photographs we took during the games.

#selfie at FIFA World Cup: Shawn Thew, Robert Ghement, Peter Powell, Dennis M. Sabangan before the FIFA World Cup semi final Brazil vs Germany  in Belo Horizonte. epa / Dennis M. Sabangan

#selfie at FIFA World Cup: Shawn Thew, Robert Ghement, Peter Powell, Dennis M. Sabangan before the FIFA World Cup semi final Brazil vs Germany in Belo Horizonte. epa / Dennis M. Sabangan

Perhaps we can’t avoid the nightmares that come, when thinking of the possibility of losing our own equipment during such an important coverage. That feeling of paranoia has been healed in part by the happy experiences working together. Even better than memories, I am thankful for the opportunity to learn even more as a sports photojournalist.

Ah, the football. The beautiful game.

Brazil's coach Luiz Felipe Scolari (C) celebrates with Neymar (R) after winning  the penalty shootout during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Brazil and Chile at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 28 June 2014. epa / Dennis M. Sabangan

Brazil’s coach Luiz Felipe Scolari (C) celebrates with Neymar (R) after winning the penalty shootout during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Brazil and Chile at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 28 June 2014. epa / Dennis M. Sabangan

As the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda said,

“You can say anything you want, yes sir, but it’s the goals that sing, they soar and descend. I bow to them. I love them, I cling to them, I run them down, I bite into them, I melt them down. I love words so much. The unexpected ones. The ones I wait for greedily or stalk until, suddenly, they drop. Vowels I love…They swallowed up everything, religion, pyramids, tribes, idolatries just like the ones they brought along in their huge sacks. Wherever they went, they razed the land. But goals fell like pebbles out of the boots of the barbarians, out of their beards, their helmets, their horseshoes, luminous words that were left glittering here. Our language. We came up losers. We came up winners. They carried off the gold and left us the gold. They carried everything off and left us everything. They left us the goals.”

Dennis M. Sabangan pictured from the media tribune covering Argentina team training during the FIFA World Cup 2014 group F preliminary round match between Argentina and Iran at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 20 June 2014. epa / Peter Powell

Dennis M. Sabangan pictured from the media tribune covering Argentina team training during the FIFA World Cup 2014 group F preliminary round match between Argentina and Iran at the Estadio Mineirao in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 20 June 2014. epa / Peter Powell

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Smashing shots from the Wimbledon Championships 2014

By Sara Houlison

Wimbledon. Arguably the biggest tennis tournament of the year. And my very first editing assignment for epa. Being British and having watched the Wimbledon Championships on the television every year, I was ecstatic to have been offered the opportunity to head back over to home turf for two weeks as one of epa’s two picture editors for such an exciting sports event.

Spectators follow second round action during the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, in London, Britain, 25 June 2014. epa / Valdrin Xhemaj

Spectators follow second round action during the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, in London, Britain, 25 June 2014. epa / Valdrin Xhemaj

At this point I am primarily a news editor on the picturedesk in Frankfurt and have spent the past two years working on news stories playing out across the globe. From time to time I am also tasked with editing sports and arts, culture and entertainment material too. But I knew the job of a photo editor in the context of the Wimbledon Championships would be an entirely different ball game, pun intended. This realisation came when my job title changed from ‘picture editor’ to ‘media support’ on my grounds pass, which left much room for interpretation as well as a few jokes from our four-strong team of photographers.

A view of the grounds from the Wimbledon Championships press restaurant. epa / Sara Houlison

A view of the grounds from the Wimbledon Championships press restaurant. epa / Sara Houlison

My initiation into the world of assignments involved getting a 400mm lens over from Germany as part of my hand luggage. This type of lens is huge and weighs close to 4kg. In fact, it needs a special case of its own that is the size of a small suitcase. As it was x-rayed at the airport, one of the security personnel dragged it off the conveyor belt and gestured for me to go over. ‘It’s a lens!’ I protested. ‘I know’, she said, ‘but it has to be checked more thoroughly’. I fished around for the little key that opened the lens case and opened it up in a room away from the main security area. A man conducted the thorough check, which seemed to consist of him scanning it with some sort of paper, before telling me I was free to go with my lens. Logistics are important for any assignment and my lens-carrying abilities played only a minor part in the operation of getting all of the kit that we needed over to the Wimbledon Championships.

Petra Kvitova of Czech Republic in action against Eugenie Bouchard of Canada during their women's singles final of the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, in London, Britain, 05 July 2014. epa / Tatyana Zenkovic

Petra Kvitova of Czech Republic in action against Eugenie Bouchard of Canada during their women’s singles final of the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, in London, Britain, 05 July 2014. epa / Tatyana Zenkovic

The first day of editing was an intense one, as a couple of full-time sports editors had warned. We were covering between 20-30 matches per day to begin with, shared out between our photographers, and were looking for a tight selection of solid action pictures to illustrate each match. Unlike at the desk in Frankfurt, I would see every photograph that was taken, hundreds of files at a time, either after downloading them straight from a card or having them wired directly from the courts by our photographers. I soon realised the trick to coping with the enormous volume of pictures was to sift through everything as quickly as possible, keeping an eye out for the key moments and action that stood out, dragging them into my ‘to edit’ folder. Once satisfied with an initial selection of photographs for a match, each picture would be polished as part of our post-production work, captioned and immediately sent out onto the wire. If a photographer was still filing from a match, their folder would have to be reviewed again. And with a high number of matches going on simultaneously, special care had to be given to make sure players were correctly identified.

As the tournament progressed and players were knocked out, we covered matches in greater detail, sending out more pictures as we moved onto the quarter and semi-finals. Reactions from the players and their coaches became increasingly important as emotions ran high and the finals were in sight. We were looking for clean action, complete with unimaginable facial expressions, falls, tennis balls hovering in unusual spots, as well as ‘cellies’.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia (top) and Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria both take a fall in their semi final match during the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, in London, Britain, 04 July 2014. epa / Tatyana Zenkovic

Novak Djokovic of Serbia (top) and Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria both take a fall in their semi final match during the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, in London, Britain, 04 July 2014. epa / Tatyana Zenkovic

I’d like to point out here some new terminology I learned during my time at Wimbledon. I’m sure all of the following terms apply to other assignments where editors and photographers are in close working quarters too:

Celly (n. sing.), cellies (pl.) – a celebratory shot. Ultimately, everything that happened during the tournament led up to infinite cellies of Petra Kvitova and Novak Djokovic lifting their winners’ trophies at the end of their respective finals. Mid-match cellies typically show players celebrating a point or winning a set.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia kisses the trophey after winning against Roger Federer of Switzerland in the men's final match of the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, in London, Britain, 06 July 2014. epa / Facundo Arrizabalaga

Novak Djokovic of Serbia kisses the trophey after winning against Roger Federer of Switzerland in the men’s final match of the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, in London, Britain, 06 July 2014. epa / Facundo Arrizabalaga

To hose it down (vb.) – an instruction for a photographer, meaning to exhaust every possible angle multiple times to ensure that nothing is missed. Even a seasoned tennis editor would struggle to find a missing angle if a match had been truly hosed down.

Tight spot (n.) – the small space allocated to a photographer and his/her equipment in the pit by the side of a court. Otherwise, a tricky situation requiring a creative solution.

Of course, it’s wasn’t all about the cellies or hosing down the tennis action from a tight spot. The atmosphere at the Wimbledon Championships is special and calls out to be photographed. Strawberries, Pimms, Henman Hill, or ‘Murray Mound’ as it is hopefully being referred to nowadays, court covers being pulled on and off during rainy spells… The list of opportunities for features goes on and makes Wimbledon such a unique event, attracting a sizeable crowd of VIPs and celebrities. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended, as did footballer David Beckham and his wife, fashion designer and ex-Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, 2013 Wimbledon Championships winner Marion Bartoli, actors Bradley Cooper and Colin Firth, to name but a few of the famous faces who followed the action from the Royal Box on Centre Court over the course of the tournament.

A visitor dressed as a flower as play is postponed on Center Court due to rain during the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, in London, Britain, 30 June 2014. epa / Andy Rain

A visitor dressed as a flower as play is postponed on Center Court due to rain during the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, in London, Britain, 30 June 2014. epa / Andy Rain

After Djokovic finally finished off Roger Federer in their five-set bout and all the cellies had been sent out, he threw signed tennis balls into a crowd of adoring fans. It was time to pack our small office of laptops and monitors into a tight spot, or rather a compact box to be shipped back over to Frankfurt. Wimbledon was all over for another year. As far as first assignments go, this one was special, leaving me with some unforgettable memories from behind-the-scenes and allowing me to work with some of the finest photographers around. In classic Wimbledon style, I raise a plastic cup of Pimms to all of them.

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Traditional Holi Festival – Color photography redefined

In this blog post epa Chief Photographer for the Indian Subcontinent Harish Tyagi tells the story of covering this year’s traditional Holi festival in India.

Barsana village in Mathura, India is famed for its unique and colorful display of the traditional Holi festival. As I left my home on the 9th of March in the early morning hours to catch this festival, my imagination was already busy weaving colorful imagery of the festivities I was to encounter. There was anticipation in the air as I pulled through the four-hour rough drive on Uttar Pradesh roads post, with another hours/1/2 hour walk finally bringing me to my destination. My cameras and gear had been well packed though I was to realize later that this was probably a good protection from rain but certainly not from the onslaught of water and color that was to greet me that day.

Traditional Holi Festival: Indian women beat men with wooden sticks as they shield themselves during the annual Lathmar Holi festival in Barsana village, Mathura, India, 09 March 2014. epa / Harish Tyagi

Traditional Holi Festival: Indian women beat men with wooden sticks as they shield themselves during the annual Lathmar Holi festival in Barsana village, Mathura, India, 09 March 2014. epa / Harish Tyagi

Narrow lanes finally led me to the square of the village proper where the traditional Holi festival is celebrated in an altogether different way. The connotations and symbolism of the unique ‘Lathmar Holi’ celebrated in Lord Krishna’s and his consort Radha’s home, is altogether different from the Holi celebrated anywhere else in India. ‘Lathmar’ literally means beating someone with sticks which is what the feisty women of Barsana (known as the birthplace of Lord Krishna’s beloved Radha) do when the men of the neighboring village, Nandgaon, believed to be Lord Krishna’s village, come calling to put color on them.

Traditional Holi Festival: Indian widow load their pump guns with colored water and spray at each other while participating in the Holi festival in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, India, 14 March 2014. epa / Harish Tyagi

Traditional Holi Festival: Indian widow load their pump guns with colored water and spray at each other while participating in the Holi festival in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, India, 14 March 2014. epa / Harish Tyagi

In fact this festival of plastering people with color and water stems from Lord Krishna’s antics from centuries past which are well embedded into Indian mythology and lore. Known as a mischievous and flirtatious god he is given the credit for being the first to put color on a woman, Radha, his beloved in this case. He and his friends would come to Barsana and as a symbol of protecting themselves from the Lord and his mischievous friends the women charged at them with large bamboo sticks. Though it sounds playful the festival is anything but that.

Just as I entered the village a bunch of local men came towards me and with little regard for my expensive gear smeared me with color and water from their pichkaris (little hand worked water canons). Their chants of Radhe, Radhe rang through the air and after a satisfied appraisal of my now coloured and wet clothes they proceeded to ask which TV channel I worked for. In rural India, people still believe electronic media to be quicker than print and assume anyone with a somewhat big camera is from television. Now that I very much looked a part of the celebration I was left to myself to proceed with my work, which was just as well.

Traditional Holi Festival: Two Indian widows sit surrounded by petals while participating in the Holi festival in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, India, 14 March 2014. epa / Harish Tyagi

Traditional Holi Festival: Two Indian widows sit surrounded by petals while participating in the Holi festival in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, India, 14 March 2014. epa / Harish Tyagi

I spent a good six hours in the midst of a packed crowd, often squeezed for space, often inching up very close to people who were so immersed in the gaiety they scarcely noticed my presence. This kind of an event is challenging and draining as hyper activity rings through the air and continuously one is being shuffled around. I kept myself well hydrated with the local drink Lassi, a cool soothing drink made with sweetened curd, which kept my energy levels also in check. The festival only slowed down by evening by which time everyone including me was fairly drained and exhausted. However the rainbow of colors that had dotted the air and the water canons rung thru the village even after all went home.

Traditional Holi Festival: Indian men shield themselves from women beating with wooden sticks during the annual Lathmar Holi festival in Barsana village, Mathura, India, 09 March 2014. epa / Harish Tyagi

Traditional Holi Festival: Indian men shield themselves from women beating with wooden sticks during the annual Lathmar Holi festival in Barsana village, Mathura, India, 09 March 2014. epa / Harish Tyagi

My next experience of covering the festival of Holi was even more memorable. On 14th of March 2014, I proceeded to cover a unique event in Vrindavan, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, which is 180 kilometers from Delhi and is also infamously known as the city of widows. The tradition of widows seeking refuge in this town harks back to centuries ago when they were more or less ostracized by society and left to lead a life of penance far removed from the joys of daily life. A second lease in terms of re-marriage was unthinkable then and even now this tradition carries on in many ways. So upon hearing that the widows, who were not allowed to earlier partake in religious festivities, would now be playing Holi I wondered what really lay in store for the day.

epa photographer Harish Tyagi covering the traditional Holi Festival in India

epa photographer Harish Tyagi covering the traditional Holi Festival in India

On reaching the place I was pleasantly surprised to see the widows laughing, joking and brimming with joy at having given this rare chance to partake in a festival. I heard many of them remarking that they had not held a water gun in their hand in years. The beautiful site of these women playing with color (they are normally banished to white clothing only) and water was a rare privilege. Though some still fought shy of participating they told me they would definitely take part next time. I was very over joyed to see an unnecessary and harsh tradition of India loosening its shackles around women destined to an otherwise grim and sorrowful fate. For me this was the ray of hope or should I say ray of color in the celebrations of Holi that marked this year.

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Boston Marathon bombings – BOSTON STRONG

epa photographer CJ Gunther tells the story of the Boston marathon bombings in 2013 and the events following in the aftermath:

My assignment was another routine Patriot’s Day, covering the Boston Marathon. For the past 21 years, I’ve photographed all aspects of the prestigious race including the Start, the Men’s and Women’s elite runner packs, and the Finish Line from overhead. Since 2007, I’ve been part of the Finish Line tight pool, right there at ground level where the runners complete mile 26.2 just in front of me.

Since “Marathon Monday” is also the first day of my kids’ spring vacation, they asked if I’d make it home in time for the planned afternoon park activities. I assured them I would, since the Marathon was run like a fine-tuned machine with standard protocols and procedures that made it an annual event I enjoyed covering.

From left to right: CJ Gunther (epa), Jessica Rinaldi (Reuters), and Elise Amendola (AP). Picture was taken on 15 April 2013, at the finish line about an hour before the start of the marathon. Photo courtesy of Stu Cahill / Boston Herald

From left to right: CJ Gunther (epa), Jessica Rinaldi (Reuters), and Elise Amendola (AP). Picture was taken on 15 April 2013, at the finish line about an hour before the start of the marathon. Photo courtesy of Stu Cahill / Boston Herald

The meeting for the tight pool photographers began at 9:45 a.m. Tommy, the photo wrangler with the Boston Athletic Association, reviewed how the day would unfold, and took time to explain a few slight tweaks from the previous year. After the meeting, we took our positions and awaited the wheelchair athletes who cross the finish first, followed by the elite men’s and women’s runners. Once the winners regrouped, we then moved into position to capture the jubilation of the trophy and wreath presentation.

The last photo I shot showed both the men’s and women’s winners, arms outstretched in a pose together, smiling with joy. I then rushed to the filing center at the hotel in nearby Copley Square. I pushed my photos to the desk, checked to confirm receipt with the desk, packed my gear, and drove out of the city.

It was 1:45 p.m.

At 2:49 p.m., my routine day tumbled into chaos.

I had just met my wife and daughter at the park when a good friend from the Boston Fire Department called me. “Are you ok?” he asked. “Yea, I’m finally over my late winter cold and feeling better,” I replied. “NO! Two bombs went off at the finish line! You need to get there now!” he shouted in his unmistakable Boston accent. For a moment I paused, only to think about the gear I needed, and the best driving route back into the city. I ran to the car, and without breaking stride told my wife I’d call her shortly, trying not to show panic in my face or voice.

The next 102 hours were unforgettable. As I rushed to the scene, driving way too fast, all that was routine about Marathon Day had changed. I had no idea what to expect when I returned to the spot where I had just photographed some of the most joyous moments of the day.

I parked as close as I could, ran three blocks with my gear, and made my way to within a block of the Finish Line. I ran through scores of people who were confused, fearful, and terrified – the complete opposite of the scene I had left 90 minute earlier. I photographed shocked family members, crying children and adults, exhausted and confused runners, and abandoned belongings. I made my way to the medical tent, normally reserved to treat routine post-marathon ailments. It had been quickly converted to a triage center, where bloodied victims were wheeled in, treated, and then brought out to waiting ambulances.

Our chief photographer, Matt Campbell, was traveling back from The Masters golf tournament. When I phoned him, he answered from his seat on the plane. “BOMBS?” he repeated loudly; I reminded him that he was on a plane so he wouldn’t cause any panic. We agreed to connect as soon as he landed in Boston.

The scene for blocks was chaotic. Emergency personnel were everywhere: police, firemen, bomb technicians, Special OPS, and National Guardsmen. I wondered where they all came from so quickly. A colleague took a photo of me being shoved from the street by a Boston Police officer as we tried to make our way to the scene. There were no rules; bombs just don’t go off in the United States. Again, it was complete chaos.

I had pictures to file, which was my main concern. I went to a nearby parking garage where I could still see some of the scene, but away from the police officers who were establishing a tightly-secured area. My phone wouldn’t connect because I was receiving calls from friends and family who had seen an earlier Facebook post of me with two colleagues at the Finish Line. They know the Marathon is one of my annual assignments, and they wanted to make sure I was all right. Finally I moved my first pictures from the tragic scene, then took a moment to post on Facebook: “I’m OK. Safe.” That simple message alleviated concern from friends and family, and freed my phone for the work ahead.

Somehow in the chaos, I was able pull together a pretty good team to expand our coverage. Freelancer Dominic Chavez was nearby, at the Boston Common. Matt Campbell arrived at the airport and came directly downtown to edit, even though he had been away from home for over a week. Staffer Justin Lane drove in from New York and former staff photographer Matthew Cavanaugh drove in from Western Massachusetts. I thought of how fortunate I am to work with such a talented crew of photographers. The whole area was locked down, so we covered the basics, which included news conference updates from local, state and federal authorities, and scene setters of the chaos that still had its hold on the city.

We documented a normally peaceful city that was thrown swiftly and brutally into shock, but not inaction. Boston Strong was born.

I spent the next two days covering reaction to the tragedy, especially once the names of the three people who lost their lives were released. The little boy who was killed, Martin Richard, hit close to home for me since he was just a few years older than my daughter, and a few years younger than my son.

In the days following, I was touched by the outpouring of support, caring and compassion shown throughout the city. I photographed many of the impromptu memorials that cropped up all over the city, including outside the homes of the grieving families.

On Thursday, a memorial service was held and attended by President Barack Obama. Although we were working on only two or three hours of sleep each night, we covered every angle. Concerned about our well-being, Matt scheduled us on shifts us so we could rest. We had no idea how long we would be covering this story, and each day had blended into the next.

Boston marathon bombings: Police SWAT teams make house to house searches in Watertown, Massachusetts, USA, 19 April 2013. epa / CJ Gunther

Boston marathon bombings: Police SWAT teams make house to house searches in Watertown, Massachusetts, USA, 19 April 2013. epa / CJ Gunther

Another freelancer, Dominic Reuter, stepped in and I headed home to my family, just hours before the next series of fateful events gripped the city.

I received a phone call from Dominic later in the evening on Thursday. He lives on the edge of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus, and heard reports of a gunned-down MIT police officer. Dominic ran to the scene on campus, even though at the time, we didn’t know if the shooting of Officer Sean Collier was related to the Boston Marathon bombings. I edited his first photos, and then fell into bed, exhausted.

At 3:00 a.m., my wife woke to my phone buzzing. She immediately shook me awake. I was up, dressed, and answering the call in nearly one motion. Matt had been calling for almost two hours, needing me in Watertown, a neighboring city of Boston. There was a connection between the Boston Marathon bombings suspects and the shooting of Officer Collier, which had led to a shootout in Watertown between the suspect and local police. Just like four days earlier, I raced in my car to a scene well outside the norm of our usual Boston coverage.

I parked within a block of the shootout and joined a growing group of journalists covering the house-to-house search for the remaining suspect. This search continued the entire day while Watertown, Boston and several other local communities were on lockdown after Governor Deval Patrick issued a “stay in shelter” order.

Time moved slowly throughout the tense day, with occasional activity as law enforcement personnel moved from place to place. At 6:45 p.m. just before sunset, gunfire erupted and I made my way to a yard two blocks from the shots.

I stayed hidden in this yard along with four other photographers. We put our cameras on quiet mode so we wouldn’t be rousted by the police, who were only a meter or two away, separated from us only by a white picket fence. Through the fence in the growing darkness of early evening, we made images of the police at the ready; the robot used to pull the tarp off the boat that revealed suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev; and the celebratory gestures by the special operations squads leaving the scene after Tsarnaev surrendered.

Finally, it was over. Boston Mayor Menino’s voice came over the police scanner, thanking everyone involved.

When I turned, my colleagues (who were also my competition), had left to file their photos. I stayed, however, because I knew there was one more shot I needed to make: the ambulance that had arrived only moments earlier which surely was called to carry away Tsarnaev.

There were so many strobes from the police vehicles flashing that it was hard to see. In the dark, it was tough to determine if the image was in focus. I kicked open the gate in the fence, and slowly squeezed off a number of frames as the ambulance turned away. I saw Tsarnaev through the window, his head bloodied. Now it was really over and I filed my final photos.

Boston marathon bombings: An ambulance carries Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev from the scene after he was apprehended in Watertown, Massachusetts, USA, 19 April 2013. epa / CJ Gunther

Boston marathon bombings: An ambulance carries Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev from the scene after he was apprehended in Watertown, Massachusetts, USA, 19 April 2013. epa / CJ Gunther

The events of that week resulted in the loss of life for four people, and forever changed the lives of many more who sustained life-altering injuries. Thankfully, horrific events such as these are not common in the United States, but we’re reminded too often of the unfortunate reality that innocent lives are lost and affected around the world every day. In fact, just yesterday [14 April 2014] in Nigeria more than 70 people were killed in a bomb blast at a bus station, while more than 125 others were injured.

I am thankful that this type of coverage is not the norm for me. This year, I hope we have another routine Marathon Day – or as routine as it can be the year following the tragic events that forever altered our city. Matt and Justin will return and freelancer Herb Swanson will join the coverage team. Security will be tight, and police presence will be at a high level, but the determination of the runners and the spectators to enjoy the day will Boston Strong.

epa photographer CJ Gunther covering the Boston Marathon 2014. epa / Matt Campbell

epa photographer CJ Gunther covering the Boston Marathon 2014. epa / Matt Campbell

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Curling Pictures – Covering a Visually Underestimated Sport

by Tanya Zenkovich
It started in July 2013 when I got to know that I’ll be a part of the epa team for the Sochi Olympic Winter Games 2014. It was to be my most serious assignment ever.

A man stands near the Olympic cauldron in the Olympic Park in Sochi, Russia, 01 February 2014. The Sochi 2014 Olympic Games run from 07 to 23 February 2014. epa/ Tanya Zenkovich

A man stands near the Olympic cauldron in the Olympic Park in Sochi, Russia, 01 February 2014. The Sochi 2014 Olympic Games run from 07 to 23 February 2014. epa/ Tanya Zenkovich —- find out more

Sochi met me with palms and a very pleasant weather contrast: while in Minsk it was –18 Celsius, in Sochi it also felt like being 18 degrees, but now above zero. At the very beginning I couldn’t escape troubles though. A wrong accreditation pass was given to me at the airport. Anyway, I thought that standing in a line at the accreditation center to get a correct card, wasn’t the worst thing to happen.

Dancers perform during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games at the Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi, Russia, 07 February 2014. epa/Tatyana Zenkovich

Dancers perform during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games at the Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi, Russia, 07 February 2014. epa/Tatyana Zenkovich—- find out more

The first challenging task for me was to cover the opening ceremony of the Games. I got a really awesome position at the stadium: it was very central and high to make good panoramic shots. After the necessary preparations (briefing, plugging a cable into the camera, sending test pictures, defining settings in the camera set, and, of course, learning the ceremony schedule by heart), I couldn’t wait for the ceremony to commence. There’s one peculiar thing about events in Sochi: when they start there’s no stopping. Therefore, to get a nice shot one has to stay focused, be creative, be prepared, do everything fast and predict what’s going to happen the next moment. Time is so fast here! So it’s very important also to have some snacks with you at your working place so as not to be out of energy, when the crucial moments come. 🙂

Curling Pictures and Pajamas

Most of the time I spent taking curling pictures. At first I hardly knew what it was about. Some colleagues told me this sport is boring and that it’s hard to come up with interesting angles for curling pictures; still others assured me that it’s really nuts, great and an expressive competition to cover (and some of these “optimists” even sent me Youtube lessons how to play curling). Besides, I always asked my new acquaintances among the photographers who worked in Sochi whether they had had a chance to shoot curling pictures before and (if yes) what their experience had been.

Christoffer Svae of Norway delivers a stone during the tie-breaker match between Norway and Great Britain in the Curling competition in the Ice Cube Curling Center at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games, Sochi, Russia, 18 February 2014. epa/ Tanya Zenkovich

Christoffer Svae of Norway delivers a stone during the tie-breaker match between Norway and Great Britain in the Curling competition in the Ice Cube Curling Center at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games, Sochi, Russia, 18 February 2014. epa/ Tanya Zenkovich —- find out more

Indeed, curling turned out to be an exciting “playground” for experimenting! Multiple exposures, panning, slow shutter speed, zooming and twisting, game of shadows, different angles and an opportunity to move from one position to another during matches. My favorite team was from Norway. Because of the Norwegian team’s everyday-new funny uniform and curling slippers it seemed sometimes that the players wore trendy pajamas – a real stroke of luck for a photographer!

Jennifer Jones of Canada in action during the Women's Gold medal match between Sweden and Canada in the Curling competition in the Ice Cube Curling Center at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games, Sochi, Russia, 20 February 2014. epa/Tanya Zenkovich

Jennifer Jones of Canada in action during the Women’s Gold medal match between Sweden and Canada in the Curling competition in the Ice Cube Curling Center at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games, Sochi, Russia, 20 February 2014. epa/Tanya Zenkovich —- find out more

When I understood how a typical match develops and also found an effective algorithm of my actions for a match, life at the venue became much easier for me.

When the Games started I saw how many preparations the epa team had done in advance and how many people were involved in the process so that everything was running smoothly. I also realized that my work was only a small contribution to the huge working mechanism. And I’m pretty sure that what I could see is only the tip of the iceberg. So my task as a photographer was quite easy – just wait for a good moment and press the button.

It was a great experience for me to work with such a professional and cool team, to learn from them, and I’m very grateful to my colleagues whom I got to know there!

Tanya Zenkovich from Belarus, our photographer for curling pictures, jubilates under the olympic rings in front of the Olympic stadium in Sochi, Russia, 07 February 2014. epa/ Tanya Zenkovich

Tanya Zenkovich from Belarus, our photographer for curling pictures, jubilates under the olympic rings in front of the Olympic stadium in Sochi, Russia, 07 February 2014. epa/ Tanya Zenkovich – —- see her portfolio

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Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games – Challenges of a Picture Editor

By Karl Sexton
Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Russia – my first ‘big’ assignment as an editor with epa. I had had some prior experience in editing in the field, having worked at a European Council Summit in Brussels in 2013. Whilst that experience gave me an insight into what was expected of me in Sochi, the weeks I spent in Russia have taught me so much more about the job we do at epa.

At the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games, coming to work at the Main Media Centre in the mornings is always a pleasure. epa/Nic Bothma

At the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games, coming to work at the Main Media Centre in the mornings is always a pleasure.
epa/Nic Bothma

After nearly four years at the desk in Frankfurt, I am familiar with handling a large volume and variety of images from all parts of the world, having to stay on top of the news, and responding to clients or member agency requests, as well as to breaking news stories. However, our shooters usually submit photographs that are pre-edited. Most of the time, the photos are technically ready to be transmitted to the wire, leaving the editor to focus on caption quality, picture selection, and making sure all the angles of a particular story are covered.

The role of an editor at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic games or other such events is very different. Here, photographers send their images often straight from the camera, only a matter of seconds after the event or incident they are covering has occurred.

Dancers perform during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games at the Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi, Russia, 07 February 2014. epa/Tatyana Zenkovich

Dancers perform during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games at the Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi, Russia, 07 February 2014. epa/Tatyana Zenkovich

The shooters can transmit hundreds of raw, unedited images in only a few short minutes, and it is up to the editors in the media centre to sort through the myriad of different angles from various photographers, choose the best pictures and begin the post-production work, such as balancing colour levels and cropping, as well as captioning the photos. All of this has to be done at speed, in order to deliver a high-quality product to our clients in the timeliest fashion possible. We watch television monitors with live feeds of the events we are covering to stay on top of the action, and we use online information services to keep track of details such as results, scores, and spellings of athletes names, to name but a few.

epa editors at work during the during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Picture on the right: Gernot Hensel keeping a steady hand on the helm of the ship / On the left Stephan Mueller and Karl Sexton loving their Figure Skating editing. epa/Nic Bothma

epa editors at work during the during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Picture on the right: Gernot Hensel keeping a steady hand on the helm of the ship / On the left Stephan Mueller and Karl Sexton loving their Figure Skating editing. epa/Nic Bothma

These aspects of truly participating in the production of the image and feeling real proximity to the action are some which I have found hugely interesting, not to mention satisfying. Seeing an image in play that you have edited from a raw file to a finished product is a real source of professional pride, even if it is the photographer who (deservedly!) takes most of the glory.

Endo Sho of Japan in action during the Qualification 1 of the Freestyle Skiing Men's Moguls competition at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games, Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, 10 February 2014. epa/Sergey ilnitsky

Endo Sho of Japan in action during the Qualification 1 of the Freestyle Skiing Men’s Moguls competition at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games, Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, 10 February 2014. epa/Sergey ilnitsky

Having spent the best part of a month at these Games, I have also had the immense pleasure of meeting and getting to know the people whose work I have the privilege of editing back at the desk in Frankfurt. It has been a massive learning experience and fantastic opportunity to exchange views and ideas on the job or on life, and to hear stories from colleagues and friends from every corner of the globe.

A multiple exposure image of South Korean figure skater Kim Yuna, the reigning Olympic champion in the women's single event, during an open practice session at the Iceberg Palace during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games. epa/Barbara Walton

A multiple exposure image of South Korean figure skater Kim Yuna, the reigning Olympic champion in the women’s single event, during an open practice session at the Iceberg Palace during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games. epa/Barbara Walton

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The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Russia – The IT Perspective

Ole Bratz, Head of IT at epa, takes us with him on a trip to Sochi. After you’ve seen the Olympics from all kinds of angles, this is a unique experience, you probably haven’t heard of yet.

The coverage of Olympic Games is challenging. The planning and preparations for the photo coverage of this major sports event started already 28 months ago, and included several visits to Sochi.
In addition to a dedicated team of professional photographers and editors, huge efforts have been made by administrative and IT teams for organizing transportation, accommodation and last but not least the technical set up. The real operation started when the freight consisting of several flight cases had been picked up in the first week of January to make its way to Sochi. That date marked the point of no return. Anything that’s missing, configured wrongly or not properly tested – too late. Luckily, the transport by truck from Frankfurt through several countries, borders and customs went well, and when epa’s IT colleagues Joerg Reuter and Helmut Emelius arrived in Sochi on January 17, all servers, computers, network equipment and several kilometers of network cable arrived in good shape and were taken into epa’s private office space in the Main Press Center. Now the advance party started organizing accommodation for the team, in this case it meant visiting construction sites, at least in the mountain area in Krasnaya Polyna, but conditions were not much better in the media accommodation at the coastal cluster in Sochi Adler. Quite on the contrary, they were terrible and only got better a few days before the opening of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Joerg Reuter, who is heading epa’s IT operations at all major sports events, successfully met all major challenges for the benefit of the entire epa team.

One important lesson taught by the Russians: Everything is ready, no problem! (Regardless the facts)

In the week before Carsten Riedel and I arrived in Sochi, Joerg and Helmut had already set up the whole temporary editorial office with workstations, servers and network. And they cabled many photo positions in the Sochi Olympic Park such as the Iceberg Skating Place, the Adler Arena, the Bolshoy Ice Dome, the Shayba Arena, the Ice Cube Curling Center and the Medals Plaza.

Helmut on the catwalk in the Bolshoy arena at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games

Helmut fixing network cables for remote cameras on the catwalk in the Bolshoy arena. epa / Joerg Reuter

6000 meters of yellow CAT5 cable

The task was to connect every single of the 150 photo positions to the VLAN network which takes the photographers’ images with 100 Mbit/s speed from his or her camera to the editorial desk in the main Press Center. During the second week, after editors Gernot Hensel and Herbert Maier had also arrived, the mission headed towards accomplishment by pulling epa’s yellow network cables to all photo positions in the mountain cluster in the Laura Cross-Country Ski and the Biathlon Center, the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center, the Russki Gorki Jumping Center, the Sanki Sliding Center and the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. This became the real challenge: In addition to the actual cabling of approximately 6000 meters of yellow CAT5 cable, some in closed stadiums but mostly in the snow at downhill tracks, halfpipe, moguls, ski jump, biathlon and sliding, other obstacles like climbing or massive cable lengths of 100 meters came into play.

Joerg and Carsten pulling network cables at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games

Joerg and Carsten pulling network cables for direct image transmission from the photo cameras. epa / Matt Campbell

Carsten, Joerg, Gernot and Herbert at the  Laura Cross-Country, Ski and Biathlon center at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games

Carsten, Joerg, Gernot and Herbert at the Laura Cross-Country, Ski and Biathlon center at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games. epa / Helmut Emelius

The Russian authorities prohibited all kind of encryption and VPN

Luckily, the timing and scheduling with photo and venue managers and our fellow agencies went rather smoothly due to the fact that we had already established a very friendly relationship with them. Security regulations were the main time consuming issue. By the way, so was our IT security. The Russian authorities prohibited all kind of encryption and VPN. Whenever we had to bring a vehicle with tools and technical equipment into an Olympic venue we were stopped at a vehicle checkpoint, although each technician had a special sticker showing a screwdriver on his accreditation pass, allowing him to carry tools, even knives. All passengers  had to step out and walk through a separate mag and bag check, the car and its contents were diligently searched by police or military personnel. The Russians – smart as they are – had them all dressed in friendly looking purple Sochi 2014 uniforms. Then back in the car, after all windows, doors and hoods had been sealed with stickers, off to the next checkpoint where all seals were checked to make sure we did not open a window or anything. Those procedures felt like they took forever. When we finally reached the venue the only problems to overcome were iced cable paths, frozen pipes, snowbound network cabinets and everything else related to IT hardware and people having to cope with the snow and the cold.

Snowbound cabinet at Extreme Park in Rosa Khutor at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games

Technicians wiring network cables to a snowbound network cabinet at Extreme Park in Rosa Khutor. epa/ Ole Bratz

The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games kick off

6 days before the Opening Ceremony, the main photo and editorial team from all over the world arrived. Now everything became really busy because as a technician you are the single point of contact for everyone. But these few days of gathering with our friends and lovely colleagues before the real show started were the most enjoyable. They were the magic and epic moments that make the european pressphoto agency family very special.
Before the official start of the games, last modifications in the picture workflow were done, lines checked, configurations tested, remote support from the colleagues at home installed and connectivity fine-tuned. Now we were ready for the show to begin…
The master mind behind all epa sports coverage is Gernot Hensel, Deputy Editor-in-Chief and Head of the Sports Desk, editing wizard, all-round sports expert and well experienced leader of those operations. He is truly in his element when it’s show time and the going gets tough. The same can be said about all colleagues whether behind lenses or in front of computer screens, producing thousands of exciting images from the competitions, even special pictures by request for our partners and clients. Some colleagues standing in the cold next to an alpine track for a whole day and others rushing from one event to the next, from early to late, all without a break or a day off. The epa team is a real dream team, producing an excellent photo coverage for its customers all over the world.
What is left for the IT is the daily duty, some support, some fixing or replacement of a cut or frozen network cable. No more challenge until the show ends with the Closing Ceremony. Then everybody will be off back home, only the rear guard will roll back the operation and bring everything back home.
And an important Russian word: “Poyekhali”, as Yuri Gagarin said on his trip into the orbit. It is used when you raise the vodka glass as well.

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