Phil Coomes, Picture editor

Phil Coomes Picture editor

Exploring the world of photojournalism, photos in the news and BBC News' use of photographs, including those by our readers

The dangerous beauty of the Himalayas

Imja Glacier, which is the source of water to Imja Tsho

Photographers in search of a dramatic landscape are often drawn to extreme regions of the planet. One of those is Neil White, whose latest project, When The Wave Comes From The Mountain, documents an area of the Himalayas in Nepal and across the border in India.

White's work focuses on three lakes, Imja Tsho, Spong Togpo and Tsho Rolpa, and the changing landscape that he believes is the result of a warming climate. The title is derived from an event known as a Glacier Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF), where the natural dam holding the water in is breached, with potentially disastrous consequences as a wave floods down the mountain.

"I first visited the Nepal region of the Himalayas in 1996 while travelling the world," says White. "The sheer beauty of the mountains towering majestically above me, with their snow-capped peaks and huge glaciers moulding around them, was simply breathtaking.

"Returning again after 15 years, I was no less overwhelmed, but it quickly became clear to me just how much the landscape had changed, and not for the better."

Scientists are continually monitoring the glacial lakes that are thought to pose the biggest threat to communities in the valleys below.

Read full article The dangerous beauty of the Himalayas

Picture power: Bird flu

Department For Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) officials move crates of ducks during a cull at a farm in Nafferton

When news broke that bird flu was back in the UK, photographers from the wire agencies, newspapers and freelancers made their way to the scene of the outbreak with the aim of capturing one image that told the story.

With limited access it is a tough assignment, involving lots of patience and some cunning. Reuters photographer Darren Staples tells the story of how he came to capture the photograph shown here of a cull at a farm in Nafferton.

Read full article Picture power: Bird flu

Into the bush: Vaccinating a remote community

A child receives a polio vaccine

Whatever your chosen subject, for photographers there is one thing that is more important than anything else, that is access. If you can't get at your subject, then your project won't get off the ground.

When working in remote and hostile regions, that access is often obtained by working alongside non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who are delivering aid or medical assistance. In August, photographer Phil Moore accompanied a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) vaccination team in the remote mountainous war-torn eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo). Here he shares the story of his trip.

Read full article Into the bush: Vaccinating a remote community

Picture power: End of the line for Putin

Leaders from the G20 Summit pose for the family photo

Large political gatherings can often provide pictures that do more than just reflect who was there and who shook hands with whom.

The family photograph of leaders at this weekend's G20 meeting in Australia has drawn attention to Russian President Vladimir Putin's position, way out on the end of the front row.

Read full article Picture power: End of the line for Putin

Picture power: Wounded in Syria

A medic stitches the head of a wounded Syrian boy in Douma

Abd Doumany grew up in Douma, a suburb of the Syrian capital, Damascus, and is now a freelance photographer whose work is syndicated by Agence France Presse (AFP).

Douma is controlled by rebel forces and is regularly on the front line, its residents often having to shelter from shelling and airstrikes by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

Read full article Picture power: Wounded in Syria

Bassano's studio reborn

Viscount Allenby

Anyone who was anyone in Victorian times would probably have paid a visit to the London studio of photographer Alexander Bassano. His clients included royalty, politicians and the leading figures of the day. It was Bassano who took the picture of Lord Kitchener that was used as the basis for the Your Country Needs You poster campaign during World War One.

He began in 1850, and continued working through to 1901, moving from Regent Street to 25 Old Bond Street in 1877.

Read full article Bassano's studio reborn

Picture power: Slow destruction

Construction crews try to divert lava from the Kilauea volcano as it nears a home in the village of Pahoa, Hawaii

This aerial photograph by Marco Garcia seems to show some kind of oil slick, or chemical spill covering the landscape, a stain perhaps, but not an urgent threat. Yet, the faint wisps of smoke reveal the true nature of the material. It is lava, slow moving, and yet seemingly unstoppable.

Kilauea has been erupting since 1983, but lava has recently burst forth from a new vent, forcing residents of the Hawaiian village of Pahoa to evacuate.

Read full article Picture power: Slow destruction

Portrait Salon 2014

Portrait by Dougie Wallace

Portrait Salon is perhaps unique in the world of photographic exhibitions as it comprises material rejected from another show. This is the fourth year that material submitted to, and rejected by, the Taylor Wessing National Portrait Gallery Photographic Portrait Prize has been brought together.

This year Christiane Monarchi (editor of Photomonitor), Emma Taylor (Creative Advice Network) and photographer Martin Usbourne (Hoxton Mini Press) selected 70 portraits from 1,184 submissions.

Read full article Portrait Salon 2014

Picture power: Secret agents

Secret Service agents keep watch as US President Barack Obama visits a Pat Quinn campaign office in Chicago, 20 October 2014

From the drama of the cinematic image, through to the gloss of the advertisement, every photograph has a layer of visual baggage hanging over it. Even when working with straight pictures of news events, the line between fact and fiction can blur.

This picture by Kevin Lamarque, of Reuters, leapt out at me from among the thousands that arrive on the news wires each day, as it conjured up memories of secret agents in the movies or those 1970s spy thrillers on TV. Of course the matching poses, suits and shoes are visually intriguing and what really make this stand out as a picture.

Read full article Picture power: Secret agents

From silver mine to wet plate


For the first 150 years or so, silver was an essential ingredient to photography, those little particles that reacted to light to create an image. Photographer Sean Hawkey decided to take his camera to the source and photograph the miners who extract the silver from the earth.

Of course Hawkey did not take a standard 35mm film camera, but lugged a mobile darkroom and laboratory, heavy antique equipment and lights, plus 20kg (3st 2lb) of metal plates for his large-format camera.

Read full article From silver mine to wet plate

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About Phil

Phil has worked in the photographic arena for many years, as both a photographer and picture editor, primarily at the BBC where he has covered news stories, features and audio slideshows, both in the UK and abroad.

He obtained a BA (Hons) in photography from the University of Westminster where he studied under Andy Golding, Tom Ang and Gus Wylie, the latter of whom instilled in him his love of the colour photographic document and street photography.

Despite the obvious advantages of digital photography in news, Phil can often be found running film through his old cameras and spent 64 weeks shooting a project to mark the end of Kodachrome in 2010.

Phil is a member of the British Press Photographers Association.

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