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One photojournalist's surreal ride into Libya's war zone

Photojournalist Ben Lowy, working with Reportage by Getty Images, arrived in Tripoli today after a long journey from his home in New York. After connecting through Istanbul and Tunis, he landed in Djerba, Tunisia to start his overland route to Libya.

Benjamin Lowy / Reportage by Getty Images for msnbc.com

A Libyan man dances with a rebel Libyan flag in celebration over the perceived fall of Libyan Dictator Mommar Gaddafi on Aug. 24, in Zintan, Libya.

While the distance between Djerba and Tripoli in Libya can be covered in only 200 miles, his vehicle traveled a longer, more southerly route to avoid dangerous areas, taking seven hours which included switching vehicles at the border between the two countries.

Lowy spent most of the trip sleeping, except when a plane landed on the highway in front of their vehicle. This wasn't a small plane either -- it was a jet big enough to hold around 100 people.

Benjamin Lowy / Reportage by Getty Images for msnbc.com

A pair of Libyan passengers sit under the tail of an Air Libya plane that landed on a desert highway while on its way to Benghazi on Aug. 24, in Zintan, Libya.

While most travelers usually find arriving at their hotel marks the end of a safe journey, not so for Lowy traveling into a war zone. Reuters is reporting about his hotel:

A half dozen heavily armed rebels had arrived at the Corinthia Hotel in central Tripoli late on Wednesday, saying that they had heard Saadi Gadhafi was there and they intended to search every room for him. "The men ran into the hotel and blocked off access to the elevators as they prepared to search the building room by room," the news agency reported.

A Reuters correspondent at the hotel said later that bursts of gunfire rang out near the hotel later "and a column of smoke rose from the direction of the shooting."

Reuters added: "Foreign journalists who had been trapped for days in the Rixos hotel in the capital were taken to the Corinthia after their release on Wednesday."

Benjamin Lowy / Reportage by Getty Images for msnbc.com

A pair of Libyan rebels sit in a highway checkpoint shack on Aug. 24, in Zintan, Libya.

Lowy transmitted these iPhone images before heading to bed in the only space he could find - on the floor of the lobby of the hotel. He used the Hipstamatic app for iPhone. In an essay he wrote for the Getty Images website following his last trip to Libya this spring, he described why he gravitates at times to a non-professional camera:

While I worked to cover this story in a more traditional sense, I was also drawn to using my iPhone as I have in Afghanistan. Small mobile phone cameras are innocuous and enable a far greater intimacy with a subject. It was a liberating experience; to point and shoot with a small device, unhampered by camera bags full of gear and reacting to the world around me.

…using my iPhone allowed me transmit images from the field, updating my blog like many of the Libyan revolutionaries around me. Embracing this new paradigm of journalism - no middleman, no publisher - I posted images from Libya and gained over 500 followers in a week, regular curious people - Libyans, Americans, Europeans - who bypassed traditional news sources.

It is perhaps fitting that social media has enabled the Arab Spring movement across the Middle East and embraced mobile devices as content gatherers. Is this the future of journalism?

In coming days, look for more of Ben's work from Tripoli as he covers the rebellion against dictator Col. Moammar Gadhafi. Read the latest news from Libya.