Every photographer tells a story - Macleans.ca

Every photographer tells a story

In their own words: photogs explain 2012’s best shots


Have you ever looked at a remarkable photo and wished you could hear the story behind it? Good. Keep reading.

Trying to find the year’s best photos is a bit of a fool’s game. The world never stops producing moments that are exciting, terrifying, morbid, heartbreaking and awe-inspiring. And photographers never stop capturing those moments. You could fill countless magazines with breathtaking images. Maclean’s dedicated an entire issue packed with 2012’s finest photography. Below are the stories behind five of those photos. They come from all over, just like the photographers who shot them. Enjoy.






Sicamous, B.C.

Jonathan Hayward, who lives in Vancouver, got the call to cover flash floods near Sicamous, B.C. on June 24. The next day, after a six-hour drive that got him to within minutes of the flooded area, Hayward found Highway 97A—a road washed out in two places—blocked to traffic. The friendly Newfoundlander didn’t give up easily. The self-proclaimed “inquisitive little guy” chatted up locals about how to get to the scene of the floods. Eventually, Hayward found a man willing to get him there by boat—but it came at a cost.

“It’s funny. You ask how much is a boat ride to see the damage,” he recalls. “The guy’s like, ‘Well, would a two-four of beer work?’”

Hayward couldn’t turn down that offer, and off they went. Once the boat docked, he wandered around the area and, before too long, came across the house teetering into a riverbed. He was the first photographer to get the shot.

Before he was posted in B.C., Hayward spent 10 years in Ottawa—a much more benign assignment, as far as natural disasters go. “It was quite eye opening,” he said.

Pamplona, Spain

Daniel Ochoa de Olza tries to shoot the Running of the Bulls every year. De Olza is a native of Pamplona, and knows the terrain intimately—he ran with the bulls when he was a teenager, and eventually started taking photos.

This year, De Olza perched on a balcony that overlooks the final stretch of the run, a narrow space where, he says, inexperienced tourists can’t escape the charging beasts as they round a tight corner. That can make for astounding images.

“As soon as I realized the Japanese guy [in the photo] was not really that fast, I thought the bull might chase him and gore him, so I shot a series of photos,” de Olza said. “I was lucky enough to get some pictures, and the Japanese guy was lucky enough not to be gored.”

That particular tourist got lucky, only suffering minor injuries. De Olza sent him emails afterwards, trying to send him some photos—all to no avail. “I think he was a bit ashamed of all the exposure,” said de Olza. “But he was really lucky to be only a bit ashamed, and nothing else.”

Niagara Falls, Ont.

Frank Gunn stood on top of the Skylon Tower as Nik Wallenda crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope. He was part of a gaggle of photographers tasked with shooting photos of the daredevil’s long walk. They all shared the same vantage point on that clear evening, and Gunn wanted his photos to stand out. So he got creative.

“You needed to show the power of Niagara Falls. I shot it a bit like a nature photo,” he said, explaining that he shot with a two-second exposure that captured the movement of the waterfall. “Whenever you shoot a picture of water, you typically try to do a long exposure so the water paints. That’s why it’s all billowy, as opposed to being crisp.”

Wallenda never stopped moving, so Gunn slowly panned his camera throughout the exposure, following Wallenda and keeping his frame intact. No one else captured it the same way.

The photographers atop the tower were so far from the action—hundreds of metres, by Gunn’s estimate—it was almost like watching the stunt on television, he said. “It was very much like theatre.”

New York, N.Y.

John Minchillo was in Lower Manhattan when Sandy’s storm surge raced ashore. He was standing on a bridge overlooking the flooded Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel, when Governor Andrew Cuomo showed up beside him.

So Minchillo followed him around.

“[Cuomo] probably has more information than me on things that are happening, because he has a whole crew of people who are trying to figure out where to take him next,” he said.

A few minutes later, when Cuomo entered the World Trade Center site, Minchillo followed and started snapping photos of the flooding. “I wasn’t photographing him at that point, because the story is the storm, and not politics,” he said. “I had to be very focused on getting that shot. I had maybe 15 seconds to make a photograph in darkness.”

Minchillo guesses he worked over 20 hours when Sandy hit the city. “It had to be. You don’t leave the story,” he said.

For his part, however, Minchillo doesn’t want to be known as “the guy who took the crazy photograph and defied the odds.” Far from it. “I’m just a journalist like everybody else,” he said.

Caracas, Venezuela

Rodrigo Abd was riding on the back of a motorcycle when, out of nowhere, he spotted a man’s head peeking out of a deep puddle at the side of the road. As it turned out, that man was a city worker attempting to repair a burst pipe. Abd saw more than a piece of crumbling infrastructure, however.

He’d been sent to Caracas, Venezuela’s capital city, to cover the election campaign for the Associated Press. He witnessed quite a bit of tension: Hugo Chavez’s reelection was in doubt, and his supporters were anxious; the election campaign had dragged on; and, to top it off, the economy was sputtering.

“In a way, [the photo] was a good metaphor of what Venezuelans were facing at that moment,” he said. “Even the most hardcore Chavistas … really feared that their leader was going to be defeated.”

Abd had no assignment in particular that day, and was only a few blocks from the AP office in downtown Caracas when he stumbled upon the burst pipe.

“I jumped from the motorcycle and started taking pictures,” he said, adding he had no idea the picture would make its way around the world.

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