1,000 words and then some: The stories behind the shots

1,000 words and then some: The stories behind the shots

Curating the most unique perspectives from some of the world’s leading photographers, “1,000 words and then some” is AP’s monthly photo series that takes a look beyond the lens and camera data at the stories behind some of our favorite shots.

This month, not unlike those before it, sees a gallery deeply intertwined in the theme that is time. The time between life and death, the historical significance of time’s transition before our eyes, or more literally, the patience and persistence of the steadfast photographer waiting for just the right elements to align for a perfect shot, many of the following images depict time as it appears through a lens: sometimes subjective, often the subject.

Produced for Canon by AP Content Services, the paid content service of The Associated Press.

A car bomb explodes next to Iraqi special forces armored vehicles as they advance toward Islamic State-held territory in Mosul, Iraq, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016. Troops have established a foothold in the city's east from where they are driving northward into the Tahrir neighborhood. The families in Tahrir are leaving their homes to flee the fighting. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Model: Canon EOS-1D X Mark II  Lens: EF35mm f/1.4L USM  Focal length: 35mm  F-Stop: 1.8  ISO speed: 100  Shutter speed: 1/2500

From the photographer: "We started early that day, embedded with the Iraqi Special Forces as they decided to push deeper into Mosul," said Dana. “For most of the day, I could not walk out of our Humvee. It was one of the dozens of armored vehicles following an Abrams tank and some bulldozers as they slowly pushed the frontline block by block deeper into the city among sounds of explosions, mortars and airstrikes. 

"As we reached what looked like the final stop of the day, more than seven hours into the operation, things appeared to be calming down and the leading tank was holding its position as a bulldozer made roadblocks to secure side streets of the new frontline. All of the sudden, I heard this huge explosion, much louder than the ones before, and saw this huge fireball. As the Iraqi special forces soldiers that were around me duck for cover behind a Humvee, my reaction was just to shoot. I was lucky to still have the explosion in a couple of frames, and a couple of seconds later the debris started falling everywhere.”


The moon sets behind a Lebanese man playing beach volleyball with his friends on the seafront promenade in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. The brightest moon in almost 69 years lit up the sky, during its closest approach to earth as the "Supermoon" reached its most luminescent phase. The moon won't be this close again until Nov. 25, 2035. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Model: Canon EOS 5D Mark III Lens: EF300mm f/2.8L IS II USM  Focal length: 300mm  F-Stop: 4.0  ISO speed: 125  Shutter speed: 1/400

From the photographer: "I spent two days looking for a good angle to take a unique picture for the supermoon," said Ammar. “Unfortunately, I was not lucky like all the other photographers in Lebanon, because when the moon rose over Beirut city, the sky was very cloudy and the moon was almost like a new moon. I came back home disappointed without a picture. But at around 3 a.m., I woke up and I decided to go out to check if I could find a good picture.

"I went to the beach and I started looking for a good angle. Ten minutes before the sun rose, I saw group of men warming up to play volleyball. The ball with the moon in the picture caught my attention, so I knelt down at the corner of the field and I took that picture, which I believe was seconds before the moon disappeared behind the clouds again."


A herder walks with cows during the sunset in Naypytaw, Myanmar, Monday, Nov. 28, 2016. (AP Photo/Aung Shine Oo)

Model: Canon EOS-1D Mark IV  Focal length: 70mm  F-Stop: 3.5  ISO speed: 200  Shutter speed: 1/1000

From the photographer: “I've passed the area where I took the picture several times before," said Oo, "but not in the evening. Fortunately, I came across a cattle and a herd walking along the creek bank in the evening of that day and their reflection in the creek caught my attention. Once I saw that view, the idea for capturing the silhouette of the herder and two or three cattle flashed across my mind. So, I waited for another herder with cattle to pass by, and for the time when the sun turns to yellow. Luckily, another one came along and I had the chance to make my idea come to life.”


A television showing black and white footage of Fidel Castro delivering a speech sits on a table at a memorial in his honor in Guanabacoa on the outskirts in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016. Schools and government offices are closed Tuesday for a second day of homage to Castro, with the day ending in a rally on the plaza where the Cuban leader delivered fiery speeches to crowds in the years after he seized power. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Model: Canon EOS-1D X Mark II  Lens: EF50mm f/1.2L USM  Focal length: 50mm  F-Stop: 5.6  ISO speed: 100  Shutter speed: 1/30

From the photographer: "The old, black-and-white television placed on the reception at the entrance of the memorial is what first caught my attention," said Pisarenko. "The image was fuzzy, and it constantly showed pictures of Fidel Castro as a young man, many of which I had never seen before. And as the images came up, one by one, people came into the memorial to pay their respect and said goodbye to the man who changed Cuba.

"Cubans came in with flowers and placed them in front of Castro's photo at the bottom of an inner courtyard. Women and men of all ages, children with drawings and letters and elders all stood in front of his image for a few seconds in silence, grieved, and then they went to a room where they wrote a few words in the book of condolences. At the entrance, there was a giant photo of Fidel with a quote from one of his speeches.

"I watched the black-and-white television for a long time, seeing the images of different moments in the history of Castro's life. I was trying to understand what this moment would mean for all the Cuban people, how they would see their past and look forward to the future. Not only how people lived in this moment of honoring the end of Castro’s life, but how they lived and remembered all that happened in previous years.

"Very rarely, do you realize in the present that what is happening is history, and this was the moment for me. I felt that I was living a historical moment."


A flower petal is placed on the eye of a wild Asiatic male elephant at Amgaon, near Gauhati, the capital of the northeastern Indian state of Assam, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016. According to forest officer R.K. Das, the elephant died after it was electrocuted by a high tension electric wire when it was searching for food on the border of Amchang wildlife sanctuary on Friday night. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

Model: Canon EOS 5D Mark III  Lens: EF85mm f/1.8 USM  Focal length: 85mm  
F-Stop: 5.0ISO speed: 500  Shutter speed: 1/320

From the photographer: "When I saw the huge animal lying dead it hurt me a lot,” said Nath. “I felt the pain of the innocent elephant that died after it was electrocuted by a high tension electric wire when it was searching for food on the border of Amchang wildlife sanctuary. While I was shooting the carcass, its eyes suddenly caught my attention, as someone placed a flower petal on it. I closely observed that the tears dried near the closed eye. I felt that before death, the largest animal of the earth cried in pain and closed its eyes forever.

"In my area, Assam, conflict between man and animal has been common phenomenon. Because of deforestation, the beasts have become homeless and foodless. Moreover, people have been illegally occupying their land. Hence the question arises, 'Where will animals go?' As a result, animals come out frequently from the forest and enter into populated areas. Unfortunately as animals enter, clashes often take place, and I see the victims of both sides. Whenever I see the poor animals lying dead it always hurts me, and I try to show the sorrow of innocent animals."


Mourners embrace near the site of a warehouse fire Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. The death toll from a fire that tore through a warehouse hosting a late-night dance party climbed on Sunday as firefighters painstakingly combed through rubble for others believed to still be missing. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Model: Canon EOS-1D X Mark II  Lens: EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM  Focal length: 200mm  F-Stop: 2.8  ISO speed: 8000  Shutter speed: 1/80

From the photographer: "It was a very somber atmosphere," said Sanchez. "People had been coming to the site all day and there was a lot of outward grief as dozens of people had been announced dead in the aftermath of the fire. I was drawn by the color and drama of the nighttime lighting, a combination of street lighting and candle lighting from the makeshift memorial surrounding the scene.

"What drew my attention the most about this particular moment were the tears coming down the woman's face, the fact that she was holding a flower and also that there was a police line in front to the couple indicating that there was an investigation nearby. After photographing them some more, the woman asked me not to take anymore photographs as she was obviously in a state of deep grief, at which point I stopped shooting. I felt the embrace was the best frame to show emotion the woman was going through."



A girl rides a horse on a merry-go-round at the Christmas market in Frankfurt, Germany, Monday, Nov. 28, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Model: Canon EOS-1D X  Lens: EF15mm f/2.8 FisheyeFocal length: 15mm  F-Stop: 5.0  ISO speed: 400  Shutter speed: 1/20

From the photographer: "I was looking for a sharp horse and a sharp child in the middle of the frame with everything else blurring," said Probst. "I used 1/15 of a second for the shutter and took about 150 pictures. Only five of them worked. It is quite difficult to take a pen shot with a 15mm lens. A pen shot only makes sense if the main subject is sharp. If not, it is not good."


In this Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, photo, a person walks through a snowstorm at the Oceti Sakowin camp where people have gathered to protest the Dakota Access oil pipeline in Cannon Ball, N.D. Those in the camp have shrugged off the heavy snow, icy winds and frigid temperatures. But if they defy next week's government deadline to abandon the camp, demonstrators know the real deep freeze lies ahead. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Model: Canon EOS-1D X Mark II  Lens: EF85mm f/1.2L USM  Focal length: 85mm  F-Stop: 1.2  ISO speed: 1000  Shutter speed: 1/160

From the photographer: "It was the height of the storm," said Goldman. "Snow was falling at an exceptional rate and the temperatures were dropping considerably but the winds were what really made the conditions difficult to shoot in. It was hard to lift your camera or even look into the direction of the wind without being somewhat blinded — not to mention keeping the lens and camera dry from wet horizontal snow was a challenge in itself. The timing of the storm, however, worked out for the exact purpose of the assignment, which was to focus on how the people on the camp were going to endure the harsh North Dakota winters after spending months there under balmy temperatures. I really needed to find photos that captured that element. Cold can be a hard thing to photograph. Snow can often look beautiful, so I needed a combination of someone appearing to seek shelter from the cold in addition to strong winds, which often is easier for video than it is for a still image to capture. 

"As darkness settled in, I moved quickly through the camp to find a place where these elements all came into play. I found an area with a snow bank starting to form high across one of the roads at the same time a car in the distance cast its headlights in my direction. This allowed for some backlighting that lit up the crests of the snow banks and the winds whirling about the snow. A lone figure crossing the street and into the ray of light silhouetted the person and brought all the elements together. Their body language, head down covered in a hood and leaning forward as they walked, suggests a physical struggle against the winds while trying to keep their face sheltered. It was an image that, for me, spoke to the harsh winter weather blowing through the camp."


Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg of Germany celebrates after finishing second to win the 2016 world championship during the Emirates Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Nov. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Model: Canon EOS-1D X  Lens: EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM  Focal length: 70mm  F-Stop: 5.6  ISO speed: 4000  Shutter speed: 1/1000

From the photographer: "I was together with hundreds of photographers waiting for Nico," said Bruno, “looking toward the parc fermé and the podium side, but he actually celebrated behind the photographers stand.

"After the victory lap, he didn’t stop as per rules at the parc fermé space, but he stopped in front of the main stands and spun for 20 seconds in celebration before jumping out from his single-seat F1 car.

"I started shooting his celebration from one of the two photographer’s stands, and I felt lucky because my position was a little on the side and perfect to see how high his jump was."


This post was produced for Canon, AP’s exclusive vendor of still photography equipment, by AP Content Services, the paid content service of The Associated Press.


AP photographers were interviewed by a third-party reporter on behalf of Canon.

Follow AP photographers on Twitter

Spotlight is the blog of AP Images, the world’s largest collection of historical and contemporary photos.

Written content on this site is not created by the editorial department of AP, unless otherwise noted. 


Visual artist and Digital Storyteller at The Associated Press