Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Seaside Heights

When Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the Jersey shore on October 29, 2012, the iconic beach town of Seaside Heights was changed forever. Monster waves and crushing storm surge collapsed Casino Pier and Funtown Pier, tossing roller coasters into the angry Atlantic ocean. Beachfront souvenir shops and pizza parlors on the boardwalk were flooded and swept away. The historic boardwalk long enjoyed by vacationing families for generations was severely damaged and eventually demolished by town officials after the storm. 

Shortly before Sandy hit the coast of New Jersey, martial law was declared in Seaside Heights. Police checkpoints sprung up at entry points to the barrier island and law enforcement patrolled the bay between the island and Toms River, N.J. to prevent looters, residents, gawkers, and media from gaining access to the devastation. Three days after the storm, the Police Chief of Seaside Heights allowed a few reporters and photographers to access the island under Police supervision for a few short minutes. I was fortunate enough to jump onto a small mini-bus full of photographers from local, national, and international media outlets to be ferried over the causeway into Seaside Heights on a media tour of sorts. With only 10 minutes allotted to shoot at each pier, I scrambled over debris quickly composing, shooting, and moving to avoid being caught in the pack of swarming media. The destruction was total, striking, bizzare. Over the next month all I could think about in my spare time was trying to get back to Seaside Heights with more time and better light to photograph. I got that chance on December 1st, just after the 1-month anniversary of the storm. I arrived on the island before sunrise to find the police checkpoints largely unmanned, which made access to the boardwalk very easy. Throughout the day I had a few run-ins with State Troopers with varying levels of tolerance for my presence, but I was largely free to roam and photograph in the beautiful morning light. Success!

The Star Jet roller coaster that once operated on Casino Pier sits in the Atlantic Ocean off of Seaside Heights, N.J. after being placed there by Hurricane Sandy on October 29, 2012. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Superstorm Sandy made landfall on the coast of New Jersey on October 29, 2012. By the time it was all said and done, 7.5 million people were left without power, dozens were dead, and damage in the billions stretched throughout multiple states up and down the Atlantic Seaboard. Americans had never seen a storm as large or devastating as Sandy and may never see one again in their lifetimes. It truly was a once-in-a-lifetime.

Sandy was the first hurricane I had ever covered. I learned a lot about being prepared, risk management, gaining access to restricted areas, working under martial law, and identifying with my subjects. I rented an SUV and loaded it up with bottled water, non-perishable food, towels, plastic bags to use as rain covers for my cameras, A/C power supplies, cans of fix-a-flat, waders, boots, and lots of rain gear. Not knowing how bad the damage would be, I was prepared to spend a week or more living out of my car. Because fuel is always hard to come by after hurricanes, I had a reserve supply of 12 gallons in fuel cans in my trunk and made sure to top off at gas stations whenever I could. 

In all I spent 6 days out covering the Sandy and her aftermath, not including follow-up trips in the weeks after. Covering a storm of that magnitude was simultaneously terrifying, exciting, and heartbreaking all at the same time. I worked solo for the first few days, then met up with my good friend Mark Wilson of Getty Images. It was great having a friend to watch eachothers' backs, bounce ideas off one another, and share pop-tarts and bacon jerky with.

Look for another Sandy post from me in the coming days focusing on the town of Seaside Heights, N.J.

 A television news anchor tries to dodge a wave from the Atlantic ocean that crested the boardwalk in Rehoboth, Del. as Hurricane Sandy approaches the East Coast on October 29, 2012. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Winning Back Coal Country

During the 2008 Presidential election, Southwest Virginia's blue collar coal mining counties voted for Democrat Barack Obama. This unlikely geopolitical swing in 2008 ensured that then Senator Obama would receive Virginia's hotly contested battleground electoral votes. Four years later, Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney's campaign looked to coal country to deliver The Old Dominion back into Republican hands. With federal environmental regulations and changing markets hurting local economies in Virginia's coal country, the Romney camp and other Republican groups focused much of their ground game in Southwest Virginia. While Romney won back coal country from Obama, it ultimately was not enough to win Virginia on November 6.

An anti-Obama billboard is seen along Route 23 in Wise, Va. in Southwest Virginia's coal country on Friday, October 26, 2012. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Life in the FAST lane

In a sandy pine forest along the Virginia/North Carolina border an elite team of U.S. Marines stack up outside a kill house full of enemy combatants. "GET DOWN!" yells the team leader as eight FAST Marines flood in to recapture the "embassy." Highly trained in close quarters battle and embassy security, Americans Marines move methodically from room to room. "CLEAR!" one yells after sweeping the room with his M4 Carbine. He drops an infrared chem light before moving on to the next room. 

Every day shouts and rifle shots ring out across the small Naval Security Annex base in Chesapeake,Va. Once a secretive government radio receiving and transmission base at the height of the Cold War, the base now trains companies of Fleet Antiterrorism Security Teams (FAST) who are tasked with reinforcing American diplomatic posts across the world. In the wake of recent attacks in Libya and the Middle East, FAST Marines have deployed to Tripoli and Yemen in a bid to pre-empt and discourage attacks on American interests like the September 11, 2012 attacks on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. For these young men who volunteer to train and deploy as FAST Marines, one thing awaits them: Life in the FAST lane.

Concertina wire deployed by U.S. Marines from Basic Security Guard Class 18 is seen as they conduct site security operations and embassy protection training at Munroe Village, an urban training facility, at the Naval Support Activity Northwest Annex in Chesapeake, Va. on Tuesday, September 25, 2012. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times.


Monday, November 5, 2012

The End is Near

Tomorrow is the big day. It's been an incredible experience on the campaign trail and in Washington during this election season. I switched off the trail with NYT greats Doug Mills and Damon Winter a month or so back, but wanted to share these photos before it's too late. Campaigning has changed a lot in the last twenty years. So much so that the pictures and rallies and flights have really begun to blur together. With that in mind, I'm very grateful for these photos. Photos that freeze a moment in time and history. Every one of them is a gift to me that I am blessed to share with the readers of The New York Times and you all, my friends.

Supporters chant "4 more years" as President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the nTelos Wireless Pavilion in downtown Charlottesville, Va. during a campaign rally on Wednesday, August 29, 2012. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times.


DNC from the back stand

I covered the third and final day of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. from the back stand. Over the course of 6 or so hours I watched as the brightest stars the Democratic Party had to offer paraded across the stage, giving speeches perfectly on cue and staying directly on message. The stagecraft of the convention was very obvious and it's message very pervasive. Being stuck in a head-on position on the back stand for the duration of the night forced me to get creative and stay on my toes. Enjoy!

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.)


Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Forging of an Infantry Officer

In July I had the privilege of accompanying veteran New York Times war correspondent C.J. Chivers to Marine Corp Base Quantico in Northeast Virginia to document the last all-male Combat Endurance Test in Marine Corps history. For the first time in history female Marines are now allowed to volunteer for the course as part of an experimental program. The CET is an intensely grueling and secretive ordeal that all Marine Officers must endure on the path to becoming infantry officers. Because the test is designed to weed out officers who don't have what it takes to lead Infantry Marines under fire, it's the first segment of the strenuous Marine Infantry Officer Course. 

I was half expecting to spend the day in the back seat of a humvee, being chauffeured around the base for various photo ops, but to my delight the Major in the charge of the course had other plans. We hoofed miles and miles and miles through the thick Quantico forest, crossed streams, and logged many hours on the base's blacktop roads on one of the hottest days of the summer to give us just a small taste of what the Marines on the other end of my camera were going through.

To protect the integrity and efficacy of the training for future officer classes, the Marine Corps asked that some events not be photographed and that the timeline be obscured when describing the Combat Endurance Test. For this same reason I won't say how long the test lasted, but I will say this was both mentally and physically the toughest assignment I've ever shot. I have a newfound respect for our Marine Infantry Officers and the men who train them.

Marine 2nd Lieutenants muster before beginning the Combat Endurance Test. The CET is the first test of the Infantry Officer Course at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Quantico, Va. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Riding the Rails

In August I got a call from my national desk editor that I've always dreamed of: "Luke, we need you to ride Amtrak for 5 days between Washington and Boston photographing trains and infrastructure." I was pretty stoked to be photographing a subject that I've been interested in since I was 2 years old. Assignments like this really make up for the long Summer days sweating it out on Capitol Hill. 

The story focused on the need for infrastructure improvements on Amtrak's dedicated passenger service rail line known as the Northeast Corridor. Stretching from Washington, D.C. to Boston, Mass., Amtrak owns the 100-year-old electrified right-of-way that was originally built by the great Pennsylvania Railroad during the golden age of railroading at the turn of the century. That age has come and gone, leaving behind a slew of deteriorating majestic steel bridges and stone-lined tunnels. It's this aging infrastructure that hamstrings Amtrak's high-speed Acela Express trains, allowing them to reach their top speed of 150 mph at only one segment in Rhode Island on the entire corridor.

New Jersey Transit commuter trains emerge (Left) and enter (Right) the Hudson River Tunnel underneath Madison Square Garden in Penn Station on Monday, August 6, 2012. The tunnel has reached it's operating capacity with 24 trains traveling through it's Southern bore every hour during the morning rush. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

On the Campaign Trail

During the month of July I visited eleven different states with President Barack Obama. As the President began to kick his campaign into high gear my fellow photojournalists from the AP, Reuters, and AFP and I packed our bags and hit the road. The rallies, airports, and motorcade rides really begin to blend together when you spend a month on the campaign trail, but I'll never forget the laughter and memories made with my friends in the White House Press Pool. My editors, mentors, and colleagues deserve my gratitude every day for giving me this amazing opportunity and allowing me to stand on the shoulders of giants.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks in the rain at a campaign event at Walkerton Tavern & Gardens in Glen Allen, Va. during the second half of a two day campaign swing through Virginia on Saturday, July 14, 2012. The President is scheduled to attend events in Richmond and Clifton, Va. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Summer in the City

What a blessing it's been to have work this Summer.

Marine One, with President Barack Obama aboard, comes in for a landing at Soldier Field in downtown Chicago, Ill. on Friday, June 1, 2012. The President is visiting his hometown of Chicago to appear at campaign fundraisers in the city. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Memorial Day

I spent Memorial Day 2012 in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery. It was the somberest of days.

Sondra May of Mclean, Va. hugs the grave of her father, Air Force Col. William Lawrence Walters, at Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, Monday, May 28, 2012. Luke Sharrett/The New York Times.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Total Eradication

One afternoon in June I got a call from my editor asking if I wanted to drive 3 hours to the Eastern Shore of Maryland and slog around a swamp photographing wildlife trackers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. My answer: "Absolutely!" So I set out to meet up with Wildlife Specialists from the USDA who are tracking and hunting an invasive species from South America called Nutria. The species lives and feeds on thick marsh grass that is essential for the preservation of wetlands. As Nutria have reproduced and spread through Maryland their feeding habits have irreversibly changed dozens of marshlands into open water, displacing many species who call the wetlands home. The USDA's goal is the eventual total eradication of Nutria from the Mid-Atlantic. Happy hunting:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture maintains a captive population of Nutria for study and urine collection to aid in their eradication efforts in the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge, Md. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Senate Race of Similarities

This November the balance of power in the White House will be decided at the polls. Perhaps more importantly, so will the balance of power in the United States Senate. The 2012 Virginia Senate race pits two former Virginia Governors against one another: Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican George Allen. With recent polls showing the candidates neck and neck, the race is a toss up. 

This Spring I set out on the campaign trail for The New York Times to document both candidates as they criss-crossed the state of Virginia shaking hands and giving speeches. Those paying attention to the race have noted the similarities between the candidates. Both men have occupied the Governor's mansion and both men are well known amongst Virginians. On the trail with both candidates I noticed the similarities firsthand. I also began noticing unintentional similarities in my photos. 

Rallies on Route 29: (Left) Democrat Tim Kaine in the Progressive enclave of Charlottesville, Va (Right) Republican George Allen in the rural town of Madison, Va. 


Saturday, August 25, 2012

On the Road with the Butler Bulldogs

Earlier this year I got a nice break from political coverage and flew out to Indianapolis, Ind. to meet up with the Butler University men's basketball team for four days on the road in Ohio. The team was battling to make the NCAA tournament in the midst of a rocky season. Butler, as you may remember, made unprecedented back-to-back appearances in the NCAA National Championship Game in 2010 and 2011. Not bad for a school with an approximate enrollment of only 4700 students.  I really enjoyed working with NYT Sports reporter Pete Thamel and after four days felt like a part of the team. Thanks to Head Coach Brad Stevens and all the players for giving us an inside look at life on the road for a college basketball team.

Constructed in 1928, Hinkle Fieldhouse (Left) is home to the Butler University Men's Basketball team and a source of pride for the team as evidenced by the design of their trophy case. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Playing Catch Up: April + May

I've fallen behind in posting work here. My apologies for that. So here are photos from May and April, mostly in Washington, D.C.

U.S. President Barack Obama waits to greet G8 leaders in front of Laurel Lodge at Camp David during the 2012 G8 Summit on Friday, May 18, 2012 in Camp David, Md. Luke Sharrett/The New York Times.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Bourbon's All-American Roar

Sometimes it takes me six months to begin to appreciate photos I've taken. Ironically enough, I feel that this essay on Kentucky Bourbon that I shot for the New York Times Biz Section in 2011 has finally aged to perfection in a dark, unexplored corner of my MacBook Pro's hard drive. Please enjoy responsibly:

Truck driver Billy Lucas works to unload a flatbed trailer loaded with White Oak wood harvested from Fordsville, Ky. outside the Brown-Forman Cooperage in Louisville, Ky. on December 6, 2011. The White Oak is aged four to six months before being cut and formed into bourbon barrels inside the cooperage. (Luke Sharrett for The New York Times)


Friday, May 25, 2012

The Lone Survivor

Former U.S. Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell and his service dog Rigby are pictured at a book signing for his new book "Service" at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. on Wednesay, May 8, 2012.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

March Madness: Washington Politics

Here are some photos from the month of March. Shot for the New York Times in Washington, D.C.

President Barack Obama exits his limousine at Joint Base Andrews before traveling aboard Air Force One to Chicago, Ill. and later Atlanta, Ga. for campaign fundraisers Friday, March 16, 2012 near Washington, D.C. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times.


Monday, March 5, 2012

Back to the Swamp

Here are some photos from my first month or two back in Washington, D.C. working on contract for the New York Times. Enjoy!

President Barack Obama disembarks Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland in the early morning hours of Thursday, January 12, 2012 upon returning from in Chicago, Ill on a campaign fundraising trip. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times


Sunday, January 29, 2012

South Carolina Primary: Part 2

I spent 10 days on the road covering the South Carolina Republican Primary for The New York Times. Thanks to my dear friend Elizabeth Lauer for helping when the edit got too tough for one person. Here's part two:
(L-R) Vietnam veterans Lyn Dimery and VFW Post Commander Richard Copeland wait for the arrival of Republican presidential candidate and Texas Governor Rick Perry before his campaign event at VFW Post 10420 in Murrells Inlet, S.C. on Tuesday, January 17, 2012. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times 


South Carolina Primary: Part 1

I spent 10 days on the road covering the South Carolina Republican Primary for The New York Times. Here's part one:

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who is running for the Republican nomination for President, poses for photographs with his wife Callista after speaking at the Republican presidential candidate forum and barbecue at James F. Byrnes High School in Duncan, S.C. on Friday, January 13, 2012. Luke Sharrett for The New York Times


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