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Paula Nelson

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The city of Salvador, Brazil, one of the country's main tourist destinations and a 2014 World Cup host city has suffered from an unprecedented wave of deadly violence with an increase of more than 250% in the murder rate (according to the Brazilian Center for Latin American Studies (CEBELA). Reuters photographer, Lunae Parracho traveled to Salvador to document a police patrol through the slums, high-tech police training, a homicide squad, victims of gun violence; and to make portraits of drug gang members. The images that follow are all by Parracho. -- Paula Nelson( 24 photos total)
Police patrol in the Nordeste de Amaralina slum complex in Salvador, Bahia State, March 28, 2013. One of Brazil's main tourist destinations and a 2014 World Cup host city, Salvador is suffering from an unprecedented wave of violence (Lunae Parracho/Reuters)    

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The National Geographic Traveler Magazine photo contest, now in its 25th year, has begun. There is still plenty of time to enter. The entry deadline is Sunday, June 30, at 11:59 p.m. Entrants may submit their photographs in any or all of the four categories: Travel Portraits, Outdoor Scenes, Sense of Place and Spontaneous Moments. The magazine's photo editors showcase their favorite entries each week in galleries. You can also vote for your favorites. "The pictures increasingly reflect a more sophisticated way of seeing and interpreting the world, making the judging process more difficult," says Keith Bellows, magazine editor in chief. (The captions are written by the entrants, some slightly edited for readability.) As always, you can take a look at some of last year's entries and winners.. -- Paula Nelson ( 40 photos total)
OUTDOOR SCENES - Portrait of an Eastern Screech Owl - Masters of disguise. The Eastern Screech Owl is seen here doing what they do best. You better have a sharp eye to spot these little birds of prey. Okeefenokee Swamp, Georgia, USA. (Photo and caption by Graham McGeorge/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)     

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The Smithsonian magazine's 10th annual photo contest's 50 finalists have been chosen, but there's still time for you to vote for the Readers Choice winner! This year's competition has drawn over 37,600 entries from photographers in 112 countries around the world. Editors will choose a Grand Prize Winner and the winners in each of five categories which include The Natural World, Americana, People, Travel and Altered Images. Voting will be open through March 29, 2013. -- Paula Nelson ( 22 photos total)
THE NATURAL WORLD - An Onlooker Witnesses the Annular Solar Eclipse as the Sun Sets on May 20, 2012. Albuquerque, New Mexico, May 2012. (Colleen Pinski/Peyton, Colorado/Smithsonian.com)

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New Zealand photographer, Amos Chapple, made three visits to the Islamic Republic of Iran between December 2011 and January 2013. Chapple "was amazed by the difference in western perceptions of the country and what I saw on the ground…" He goes on to say that every traveller he met inside Iran had the same sense of surprise. The government continues its anti-western campaign, but Chapple explains what was once a popular sentiment has long since faded with Iranians. Chapple describes this as a "constant embarrassment for ordinary Iranians. In the time I spent there, I never received anything but goodwill and decency, which stands in clear contrast to my experience in other middle eastern countries." A sampling of Chapple's images are featured in this post. -- Paula Nelson (The captions were provided by the photographer. All images are copyrighted.)( 25 photos total)
Palangan Village, in the mountains near the Iraq border. Palangan, illustrative of many of the country's rural settlements, has benefitted handsomely from government support. Many villagers are employed in a nearby fish farm, or are paid members of the Basij, whose remit includes prevention of "westoxification", and the preservation of everything the 1979 islamic revolution and its leader the Ayatollah Khomeini stood for - including strict rules on female clothing and male/female interaction. (Amos Chapple)

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Another year has come and gone and with it hundreds of thousands of images have recorded the world's evolving history; moments in individual lives; the weather and it's affects on the planet; acts of humanity and tragedies brought by man and by nature. The following is a compilation - not meant to be comprehensive in any way - of images from the first 4 months of 2012. Parts II and III to follow this week. -- Paula Nelson ( 64 photos total)
Fireworks light up the skyline and Big Ben just after midnight, January 1, 2012 in London, England. Thousands of people lined the banks of the River Thames in central London to ring in the New Year with a spectacular fireworks display. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

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Israeli airstrikes began November 14, following months of Palestinian rocket fire into Israel. Monday, the top leader of Hamas dared Israel to launch a ground invasion of Gaza and dismissed diplomatic efforts to broker a cease-fire in the six-day-old conflict, as the Israeli military conducted a new wave of deadly airstrikes which included a second hit on a 15-story building that houses media outlets. What follows is just a small collection of images from the last few days of the conflict. – Paula Nelson ( 34 photos total)
A Palestinian firefighter tries to extinguish a fire after an Israeli air strike, on a floor in a building that also houses international media offices in Gaza City, November 19, 2012. (Suhaib Salem/Reuters)

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The 24th annual National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest is in full swing. The entry deadline has been extended until July 11. The four categories include: Travel Portraits; Outdoor Scenes; Sense of Place and Spontaneous Moments. Last year's contest drew nearly 13,000 images from all over the world. The pictures are as diverse as their authors, capturing an assortment of people, places and wildlife - everything that makes traveling so memorable, evoking a sense of delight and discovery. The following post includes a small sampling of the entrant's work, taken from the editor's picks in each of the categories. (The captions are written by the entrants, some slightly corrected for readability.) And for fun, take a look back at the winners from 2011 at National Geographic Traveler. -- Paula Nelson (54 photos total)
SPONTANEOUS MOMENTS - Marrakech Traveler: It was mid-morning and he must have wanted to ride into the light. I was shooting for the ABC TV show Born to Explore when I snapped this photo. (John Barnhardt/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)

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Mario Tama, a Getty Images staff photographer since 2001 and based in New York, has covered conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan - as well as numerous humanitarian crises and natural disasters in the US and around the world, including most recently the earthquake in Haiti and the tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri. He's also spent extensive time documenting Hurricane Katrina and it's aftermath. Mario will be working on several feature stories in Brazil, ahead of the Rio +20 UN Conference on Sustainable Energy, his first work featured in this post. The summit aims to overcome years of deadlock over environmental concerns and marks the 20th anniversary of the landmark Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. Brazil is now the world's sixth largest economy and is set to host the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. Mario’s' editor on the project describes him as passionate and enthusiastic about showing us pieces of a country in which he has traveled before, drawn by the people, the culture and the economics/development of the region. -- Paula Nelson (48 photos total)
Federal highway BR-222, June 9, 2012 in Para state, Brazil. Highway construction through Amazonian rainforest has led to accelerated rates of deforestation. Although deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is down 80 percent since 2004, environmentalists fear recent changes to the Forest Code will lead to further destruction. Around 20 percent of the rainforest has already been destroyed. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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US and NATO forces continue to train the Afghan troops in advance of the handover of the country's security in 2014. The US-led war in Afghanistan has cost the lives of around 3,000 US and allied troops, seen thousands of Afghans killed and cost hundreds of billions of dollars. We check in on our soldiers for May (and a little bit of June 2012.) -- Paula Nelson (45 photos total)
A female US marine and members of USN Hospital Corpsman from the 1st battalion 7th Marines Regiment walk at FOB (Forward Operating Base) Jackson also known as Sabit Khadam in Sangin, Helmand Province, June 7, 2012. The US-led war in Afghanistan has cost the lives of around 3,000 U.S. and allied troops, seen thousands of Afghans killed and cost hundreds of billions of dollars. (Adek Berryakek Berry/AFP/GettyImages)

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Oscypek is a smoked cheese made of salted sheep’s milk, made exclusively in the Tatra Mountains region of Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The first mention of cheese production in the Tatra Mountains dates back to the 15th century - in a document from 1416. The flavor of the cheese depends very much on herbs, grass (eaten by the sheep) and the time of year the cheese is made. Some people claim that it tastes best in the spring, because the milk is full of fat. Everything is made by hand by The Gorale (literally, highlanders), a group of indigenous people found along the southern Poland region of Podhale, in the Tatra Mountains. There is also a significant population of Gorale in Chicago, Illinois. The Gorals spend weeks outside their home, living in a small wooden house, while looking after their herd. It is akin to a nomadic life from May to September, and a difficult life as well. They start early in the morning and milk the sheep three times a day. A friend introduced photographer Michal Korta to Baca (the sheep’s master) Wojciech (chief of the working group of Gorals). He spent 3 days documenting the process of producing the traditional Oscypek. -- Paula Nelson (28 photos total)
The sheep are gathered in the early morning by the shepherd. (Michal Korta)

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