Beautiful Storytelling

Beautiful storytelling by former freelance photographer Amos Chapple, published by RFE/RL: On Siberia’s Ice Highway. Subtitled “A journey with the men who make their living on thin ice,” Chapple managed to join the ride of a lifetime. And because he has proven he’s able to get the story, he’s now staff at RFE/RL. The job didn’t come easy, especially nowadays when papers don’t have the budget to send their own people on cool stories. “So here’s actually a huge gap in the market for photogs with a clean journalistic style doing their own stuff,” says Chapple on Reddit. “Picture editors are crying out for good freelance submissions.”

The first tough step certainly is to get “validation,” a.k.a. publication by some noteworthy paper, magazine or online site. Says Chapple: “Once it’s published somewhere, pic editors seem to feel it’s somehow “validated” and suddenly they all want it.”

Along Siberia's ice highway |  Amos Chapple / RFE/RL
Along Siberia’s ice highway | Amos Chapple / RFE/RL

Sure he had to take risks. He’s been on trips which end up failing, but as a freelancer no one needs to know it was a flop. There may not be much money in freelancing, but there sure is freedom.

And then there was the thin ice highway. Chapple faced was the very real possibility of plunging through the ice. It was all a gleeful adventure until he saw the places where people went through — “I cannot think of a worse way to die.”

You don’t have to risk your life to get a great story. Uniqueness and differentiation however are certainly key. Think up a unique story. Do it. Then hawk it.

Whether gear is all important? Chapple was shooting the Siberia trip with a 5D Mark III and his trusted Panasonic GX8. Wasn’t too happy with the more expensive camera’s video performance, laments focusing that made much material unusable. Says the Panasonic destroys Canon for functionality and video quality.

Now Chapple is just basking in the warmth and safety of his apartment after the scariest assignment of his life. Well deserved, great work. And what is especially interesting that not all published shots are pin sharp. Good photography is not all about pin sharp images. Some grain might even transcend an image’s message.

Arctic sky over Siberia | Amos Chapple / RFE/RL
Arctic sky over Siberia | Amos Chapple / RFE/RL

And no virtual storytelling without the right mix of text and visuals. Chapple’s photographs are beautifully accompanied by authentic, concise text, embedded in an unobtrusive slider without any falderal.

Sit back, relax and enjoy Siberia’s Ice Highway.

For more on Amos Chapple’s work, visit