Since I carry my camera with me most of the time I’m out, I’m prepared to capture those unpredictable situations which I may encounter. One such situation occurred yesterday on my way back from the historic town of Ouro Preto to Belo Horizonte.
It all started with the predictable afternoon summer rains. For whoever has been to the tropics, it usually starts at 14:00 – 16:00 when the air temperature and humidity rise to uncomfortable levels, leading to a violent, yet short downpour. Really nothing out of the ordinary. This being rural Brazil, a downpour resulted in a flash flood since the money budgeted to prevent this type of occurrence likely went to the Swiss bank account of a politician.
I remind myself that half the Netherlands is under sea-level and it also rains there everyday so why is flash flooding there almost non-existent? Anyway…
The above image is clearly an editorial due to identifiable people and property, however, it would make for a strong commercial shot when I go ahead and remove the same. I can see this being used by insurance companies the world over. Or even Non Governmental Agencies when discussing the threats caused by global warming, etc.
Traffic grinds to a halt
A bit further down the highway, traffic on a busy highway suddenly grinded to a halt on both sides. Obviously an accident which again is predictable considering the way people drive in Brazil and the generally poor infrastructure.
After waiting in the car for 20 minutes, we were going nowhere fast as it was clearly a serious accident. I went out to see what was going on (obviously taking my camera with me). To my surprise, I was only 200 metres from the scene of the accident.
Photographer’s instinct kicks in and I suddenly have a Nightcrawler moment. Nightcrawler is a great (underrated) film, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, about a freelance journalist that captures gruesome breaking news stories – official trailer here.
Here’s some of my best shots and how the story plays out (spoiler alert: nothing gruesome):
Submitting these images – Time is of the Essence
Shutting down a major highway due to a 3-way truck collision for 3 hours during the busy holiday season is huge news. So naturally, I wanted to get these images out there asap. Since I was travelling back to Rio in the evening (and almost missed my flight because of this accident), I could only get to a laptop many hours later.
After some small & quick edits, just to make the image pop a bit more and some cropping, I submitted a batch to Rex Features and Alamy with the following caption:
Belo Horizonte, Brazil. 28th Dec, 2017. On December 28th, 2017, after a heavy summer rainstorm, three trucks collided on a busy stretch of the BR-386 highway near Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil. Serious traffic accidents are a common occurrence in Brazil due to underdeveloped infrastructure. Approximately 40,000 people die in motor-vehicle related accidents in Brazil every year (official government statistics)
ambulance, belo horizonte, br-386, brazil, brazilian, closed, collision, crash, dual carriageway, fatality, firefighters, freeway, heavy rain, highway, hurt, injured, minas gerais, ouro preto, police, police cordon, rain, slippery, stretcher, traffic accident, tragedy, truck, lorry
You can see my submission on Alamy here and on Rex Features here. Interestingly, Rex Features chose not to feature the close up of the man on the stretcher which I found to be the most powerful image of the bunch. They must have some legal reason for doing that.
Contact local newspapers
Local Brazilian breaking news is generally not something that European newspapers would particularly (likely) pick up on, so I went ahead and pitched to four newspapers from the State of Minas Gerais.
On their respective websites they have options to submit images from the public for free (another way to fuck over the professional journalists), but avoid this and pitch in return for money. I did see a lot of people taking pictures with their phone but doubt that the quality of the images is as good as with my lovely Nikon.
Below is my pitch:
I’m a Brazilian photographic reporter currently living in Italy
Today, December 28, returning from Ouro Preto to Belo Horizonte on BR-386, there was an accident with many injured. I captured many images in high resolution. If you’re interested, please get in touch. You’ll find attached 17 images in low resolution.
How low Should you go?
Important to send them super low resolutions. In this case they were 300px across and quality 20% exported from Lightroom. So really nothing they can publish and if they do they’ll just look like fools.
Let’s see if I get a reply soon and also if any of the images on Alamy and Rex grab editors’ attention.
Here’s some takeaways from the experience:
- Take your camera everywhere with you as you’ll never know what you’ll encounter during the day that may be interesting to capture;
- Capture as much of the scene as possible (as well as close ups and verticals). Make sure to include people looking around, rescue workers, damaged property and obviously injured (Nightcrawler-style);
- Submit such images ASAP with descriptive caption and accurate keywords;
- Contact local newspapers with a strong pitch and include low-resolution files.