We picked some of the most noteworthy photos taken over the past few months and asked our photographers to tell us the story behind the shot.
27th Human Tower Competition
“The biannual competition of human towers in Tarragona, Catalonia, takes place in a former bullring, and that photo was taken from a walkway where I was anchored at the top cell, (not recommended for people suffering of vertigo).
To go up there you need to be provided with a safety harness and go up there with the awareness that if a lens drops from that height, almost 100 meters high, you can kill someone on the ground, which is packed with participants. So it is better to have a zoom lens on only one camera to avoid any unnecessary risks.
Maintaining my balance while standing at the narrow walkway, I waited patiently for the favorite group that day, “Colla Joves” to appear. When they came out and started making their base and the first people started climbing, I chose the most symmetrical position that I could, and I tried to slowly find the best composition, playing with the colorful background of people looking up at the last casteller, and then the enxaneta, crowning the top of the human castell. At that moment more than 2,000 people inside the bullring were totally silent. The only thing you could hear was the team manager giving instructions to the members of the castell. That was the moment. That was the shot. I took a about 15 frames until they started to dismantle themselves again. One of them is what you see above.” - Emilio Morenatti
Model: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV | Lens: 24 mm | F-Stop: 2.8 | Shutter Speed: 1/800 | ISO: 640
Time: 10:16 AM
Ukraine Nationalist Training Camp
“I first heard about the summer camps in Ukraine when I was working on a story about nationalist groups there. I then asked to go to one of these camps to photograph and understand their activities better.
I met a group of instructors, children and teenagers in a small village in western Ukraine, then we walked for around an hour into the forest before arriving to the place where we would camp for the next days. There, veterans and politicians lectured children about nationalism and trained them to defend their country.
On the very first day, just a few hours after we arrived, a light rain began to fall so one of the instructors asked the youth to enter the tent, they all sat on the ground with their unloaded AK-47s and listened to instructions on how to use weapons. It was one of their first lessons on military tactics.
I quietly walked into the tent as the instructor was talking to them and sat near some of the kids. I waited for them to stop noticing my presence, and then took some photos as they sat with their weapons, most of them on their laps. I like how the light hits their faces and you can see their expressions as they listened to their instructor.
This photo was taken with a 35mm lens on a Sony A9, it was quite dim inside, ISO 2500 at 2.5 at 1/160.” - Felipe Dana
Model: Sony A9 Lens: 35mm F-Stop: 2.5 Shutter Speed: 1/160 ISO: 2500
Time: 11:50 AM
Trump and Air Force One
“This photograph was made during President Trump’s arrival ceremony in London, and this stop was the second stop of a three-country European visit that also included Belgium and Finland. I was part of the White House travel pool - 13 members of the media, representing wire services, news sites, broadcast television and radio, and photographers that accompanied the president aboard Air Force One (AF1). To make this image, I used a 24-70mm f2.8 lens shot at 70mm at f5.6. I knew from experience covering similar events that I wanted to show a little more depth to add some context to the image.
On this day, before stepping off the plane a White House press staffer gave members of the pool a quick ‘tick-tock’ as to what will happen on arrival, as is customary. These details included what we will see for this ceremony and what officials would be greeting the president. After our ‘tick-tock’ we prepared to leave the plane. We disembarked from the rear stairs of Air Force One. There is a specific order – first, members of the Secret Service, then Air Force One Security, White House support staff and lastly, the travel pool. Once on the tarmac the four photographers traveling (who represent AP, Reuters, AFP and the New York Times) all agreed after looking at the location that a better photo opportunity would be to start at the very front of the Honor Guard for the arrival. We asked the White House press staffer to allow us to move from under the wing of the plane to the front and thankfully it was quickly approved. All the photographers moved as a pack because once the president stepped out of the plane, security measures in place would have made it nearly impossible to move and get the shot we wanted.
The photo of the president and first lady walking towards me happened near the end of the ceremony after taking images made with three different cameras and lenses ranging from 24mm to 400mm. The moment the president first stepped out to wave, I took some frames, stopped, picked an image and hit transmit off my camera. Then I did the same after the president and first lady were seen together. Stop, edit, hit transmit and so on. At the end I shot over 200+ images and transmitted off my camera roughly 20 images. (Note: I’m not a heavy-handed shooter, I’ve learned over the years to be targeted on what I’m looking out for. I don’t need 2000 images of the president doing the same thing, and in the end, it is much easier and quicker to edit 200 images than say, 2000.
I was transmitting from my cameras the whole time and was able to send 20 images to our Washington photo desk before the motorcade ever left the airport. I then quickly asked my editors if I missed anything or anyone that may have helped illustrate an AP-specific story as I sat in a moving vehicle with other members of the pool traveling as part of the presidential motorcade as we were heading to the next official event. In this case we had 30-mins until the next photo opportunity. In general, any time I have a moment to do a second edit, I do it. These images are again sent to AP photo desk in Washington. If there are a few hours before we see the president, it is spent preparing for the next series of events with the president, things like meeting with British Prime Minister May, meeting with a local politician or addressing members of the media in an official statement. For this trip most of my planning and preparation went into Trump’s meeting with Russian President Putin, which was happening a few days later in Helsinki.
While on the plane before the event and just before landing, I started the process of activating my international mobile MiFi hotspots which allow me to transmit photos without a Wi-Fi signal. For this assignment I was traveling with three options to transmit with. I use three different transmitters on three different network systems because I don’t know which international network will work the best in different regions of world and having a back-ups communication is critical, especially when working a deadline. After activating them, I paired the MiFi with my cameras, which had been pre-loaded with a caption and specific FTP folder that the images will drop into. Sending images direct from cameras saves me the trouble of opening up my laptop to edit and transmit. This has become the normal procedure for presidential international travel. The three other traveling photographers are doing something similar, as these days, you’re not only trying to get the best photos, but it’s also a race to get them transmitted first. Once I believe I have a successful connection I send a test image from each of my cameras, which I follow-up with a text message to the photo desk in Washington for confirmation that the desk is seeing these test images. These test images are primarily to confirm connectivity to have the desk proofread my caption template. It is always best to flag any mistakes and correct before the event actually happens as this saves so much time and headaches for everyone.
As for this image - I like the way the photograph came together. It was pretty much full-frame and I liked the fact that on the far left in the background was a military aide who can be seen carrying the ‘Nuclear Football’, the president’s emergency satchel which is used to authorize the use of nuclear force should such a circumstance arise when the president is traveling.” - Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Model: Canon EOS-1D X Mark II Lens: 70mm F-Stop: 5.6 Shutter Speed: 1/1000 ISO: 250
Time: 9:06 AM
India Gay Marriage
“This photograph was taken on the evening of Sept. 6th - the day when the Supreme Court of India struck down a 157-year-old colonial-era law which criminalizes certain sexual acts as "unnatural offences" that were punishable up to 10 years in prison. Supporters and gay rights activists were supposed to celebrate the verdict by gathering at Jantar Mantar, an area near the Indian parliament where citizens from across the country assemble for protests. That evening though, heavy monsoon rains played spoilsport as soon as an ecstatic crowd started to arrive. It was becoming really difficult to shoot as light was getting poor with daylight ending and shooting in heavy rains would damage my camera equipment. I took refuge under an umbrella of a fellow photographer waiting for some action. Soon after, a car stopped a few meters from us and a gentleman got out waving a rainbow flag, an emblem for the LGBTQ community. I quickly shot a few frames while he was ecstatically waving the flag. After the shot, I quickly got back under the umbrella." - Altaf Qadri
Model: Canon EOS 5D Mark III Lens: 24mm F-Stop: 2.8 Shutter Speed: 1/1000 ISO: 160
Time: 5:31 PM
"I took this photo during a mourning ceremony for Imam Hussein, a Shiite saint, on the day of Ashoura, a very important mourning ritual for Shiite muslims at one of Tehran's oldest and historical mosques. A Shiite Muslim belongs to one of the two main branches of Islam.
The day before I went there I did some research and found out the mourning ceremony was for women only, and that meant I would have a better chance at making some really interesting photos because of the way they dress when they mourn - which for women means they are clothed in black and wear black veils on their face. Because of my knowledge of the ceremony I also knew some of the women would get very emotional.
At this ceremony, there was only a very small place for men. I had very limited room and therefore few angles and positions to choose from, but I was able to choose an angle that could provide the form and composition that I wanted. I needed to convey the feeling of grief and mourning in a way that the viewer could perfectly grasp and feel that sorrow and grief. When taking photos, I try to communicate my feelings to people at the scenes and let them know honestly and through my behavior that I fully understand them. I try to be very gentle and not to affect or change the scene with my presence.
On many occasions they welcome me and see me as an insider who they can trust. That was the case in this ceremony too as I tried not to disturb the mourners and be respectful. When I went there in the morning I had to wait for a long time until the photo I felt possible was realized. The final photo was as I had imagined." - Ebrahim Noroozi
Model: Canon EOS-1D X Lens: 121mm F-Stop: 4.0 Shutter Speed: 1/50 ISO: 2500
Time: 8:31 AM
John McCain Memorial Service
"Being in the right place at the right time is always one of a photographer’s biggest challenges but when it happens it can lead to a great photo. On this day, I was the pool photographer for the funeral service of a legendary political figure on a huge news story and it only added to the pressure. The AP was given the responsibility of taking and providing ALL the inside photographic images for all media outlets for the entire private family service at the capitol. I was the only still photographer on the rotunda balcony. An AP colleague was the only still photographer on the ground floor. I had to choose my pre-set position before the service started. It was a guess as to what would be the best spot to cover the intimate, family service. Once I chose the spot, I would not be able to move. It was a 360-degree set of possibilities from an elevated position, and thankfully, I chose correctly, because as I later learned, had I chose incorrectly, nearly every other spot would not have led to a good image.
Days in the making, this was the first big public service of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in a week-long series of services in Arizona, Washington, D.C. and Maryland, and this particular one in Arizona, was a difficult one to cover. It was a hot August day and I was wearing a suit, standing on a ladder, hanging over the balcony on the second floor of the Arizona Capitol rotunda to get my bird’s eye view of the service and flag-draped casket. It is a small space and I was within 25- feet of the casket, looking almost straight down. The AP was asked to make sure all cameras were silent---nearly impossible with a camera with a moving shutter. To try to accomplish this, I had a large padded noise-dampening bulky “blimp” covering my entire camera making it very difficult to shoot images, compose images, or even see what was going on. For this reason, I used a wide-angle lens because I was so close to the casket shooting a tighter lens would have given my no time to react to any situation and changing lenses with the blimp was noisy and time-consuming, and I liked the framing of the state seal as a graphic element.
The moment itself was a very quick one. At the end of the service, Cindy McCain approached the casket, paused quickly and then gently rested her head on the casket. From where I was standing, I really could not see where she was coming from for that short walk to the casket. The moment lasted only a couple of seconds. Using the fast motor drive setting was out-of-the-question because it would have only added to the noise, even with the “blimp” on. I shot two frames and then it was over. I really didn’t know what I had at that moment. I couldn’t see the LCD screen to preview my images due to the “blimp” over the camera. I thought that one of the two frames captured the moment, but I was uncertain. I just pushed what I thought was the best of the two frames to our remote editor via ethernet cable to the editor on the first floor of the capitol so they could quickly edit and caption the photos, then distribute it on the AP wire. Then I kept shooting and pushing more images from later in the ceremony. It wasn’t until a couple hours later and I had time to scroll through all my images and could see the photo of this moment, and that the picture might be something special." - Ross D. Franklin
Model: Canon EOS-1D X Lens: 35mm F-Stop: 4.5 Shutter Speed: 1/500 ISO: 4000
Time: 10:25 AM
“This is my favorite frame of this year’s fire season. It had been a long and fruitless day of driving hours on small roads to try to find flames. The main fire front was in a remote area that wasn’t easily reachable. I’d thought about heading home earlier, but the winds were predicted to increase so I stayed. This frame came together as firefighters lit a backfire to protect a home. They burn off the vegetation so the main fire runs out of fuel before reaching the structure.
An intense wind whipped up just as they were lighting the backfire. It sent embers flying and had the firefighters scrambling to control the flames. It was a very hectic 20 minutes or so - one of the firefighters even suffered minor burns on this hands from the embers. I shot about 40 frames to get this." - Noah Berger
Model: Nikon D5 Lens: 17mm F-Stop: 4.0 Shutter Speed: 1/15 ISO: 1600
Time: 8:14 PM
“I used a 16-35mm f2.8 lens shot open wide at 16mm. I made that picture at dawn while out looking for people who had ventured onto the beach for the first signs of what Hurricane Florence was doing as it made landfall that morning just north near Wrightsville Beach.
As I woke up, it was eerily quiet and looking out my room I could see the ocean was calm as a lake. I had never seen the ocean that calm and found it strange that a hurricane was about to hit in an hour only 80 miles north. I went down to the beach and found Russ Lewis walking along the shore with a flashlight looking for shells. He told me the same thing that he found it “spooky” when he woke up and “couldn’t hear the ocean.” It was literally the calm before the storm.
As we stood along the shore, thick heavy clouds were swirling above that reminded of a scene out of the film Ghostbusters. Then strong gusts of wind would blast sand across the beach with such force it felt like sharp pellets against your skin. One had no choice but to shield their face and so did Russ.
I shot quickly during that gust and fired off about 30 frames of him covering his eyes. That was the moment to capture to help illustrate a hurricane’s approach, the calm before the storm." - David Goldman