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The Winners of the 2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 14, 2021

a fox walking in the dark

four cheetahs swimming in a raging river

a bird flying amongst snow-covered trees

a spider weaving a web

The Natural History Museum in London has announced the winners of the 2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest. Photos above are by Jonny Armstrong, Buddhilini de Soyza, Lasse Kurkela, and Vidyun R Hebbar.

The Most Iconic Book Covers

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 12, 2021

book cover for A Clockwork Orange

book cover for The Great Gatsby

book cover for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

From Literary Hub, The 25 Most Iconic Book Covers in History. Some good ones shared in the comments as well. (thx, serge)

The Nature Conservancy’s 2021 Global Photo Contest Winners

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 04, 2021

a gorilla surrounded by butterflies

an alligator carcass on dry, cracked soil

an overhead view of a boat surrounded by lily pads

The Nature Conservancy is a non-profit organization focused on conservation and addressing the climate and biodiversity crises. The winners of their 2021 Global Photo Contest have interpreted the Conservancy’s mission in a number of different ways. Above are three of my favorite shots from the contest; photo credits from top to bottom: Anup Shah, Daniel De Granville Manço, Manh Cuong Vu.

Winners of the Ocean Photography Awards for 2021

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 22, 2021

a tiny turtle swims near the surface of the ocean

Ocean Photos 2021 02

Oceanographic Magazine has announced the winners of their annual Ocean Photography Awards for 2021. The official site is reeeally slow so you can check out the winners at The Guardian, the BBC, or on Instagram. Photos above are by Hannah Le Leu (top) and Aimee Jan (bottom).

The Astronomy Photographer of the Year for 2021

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 17, 2021

360-degree view of the Milky Way galaxy

the crescent moon rising over the desert

The Royal Museum Greenwich has announced the winners of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year for 2021. Zhong Wu won the galaxies category with a 360-degree view of the Milky Way (above, top), a mosaic which took two years to create — the northern hemisphere portion of the galaxy was photographed in China and the southern part in New Zealand. Jeffrey Lovelace’s photo of the crescent moon over Death Valley sand dunes (above, bottom) took the prize in the skyscapes category.

The Winners of the 2021 Drone Photo Awards

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 16, 2021

Drone Award 2021 01

Drone Award 2021 02

Drone Award 2021 03

Drone Award 2021 04

Drone Award 2021 05

Drones have been around for awhile now, but I have yet to tire of the bird’s-eye images captured from above this remarkable planet of ours. The gallery of the winning images in the 2021 Drone Photo Awards is full of tiny doses of the overview effect. I’ve chosen a few of my favorites above. Photo credits, from top to bottom: Ran Tian, Terje Kolaas, Yoel Robert Assiag, Oleg Rest, and Md Tanveer Hassan Rohan.

See also this drone photo of Cao Bang, Vietnam that I shared recently. (thx, caroline)

The Winners of the 2021 Small World Photomicrography Competition

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 15, 2021

Trichome (white appendages) and stomata (purple pores) on a southern live oak leaf

Eye of a horsefly

Table salt crystal

Filamentous strands of Nostoc cyanobacteria captured inside a gelatinous matrix

Sensory neuron from an embryonic rat

Epithelial cells covering the intestine villi

This is always a favorite of mine… Nikon has announced the winners of the Small World Photomicrography Competition for 2021. As always, I’ve shared a few of my favorites above. Photo credits from top to bottom: Jason Kirk, Oliver Dum, Saulius Gugis, Martin Kaae Kristiansen, Paula Diaz, and Caleb Dawson.

Finalists in the 2021 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 07, 2021

grumpy bird

happy insect

monkey lands on wire

The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards: always a bright spot in the world these days. This year, the thousands of photos have been narrowed down to 42 finalists, including the three very expressive animals above. Good luck to all the contestants — the winners will be announced in October.

The 2021 Astronomy Photographer of the Year Shortlist

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 02, 2021

solar flares shooting off the surface of the Sun

panorama of the aurora borealis in the winter

panorama of the Milky Way over a lavender field

The Royal Museums Greenwich has announced the shortlist for the 2021 Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition. I’ve included a few favorites above (by Andrew McCarthy, Larryn Rae, and Stefan Liebermann) but you can check out the rest on their site. (via curious about everything)

Winners of the 2021 IPPA Photographer of the Year Contest

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 27, 2021

two shepards in Romania carrying lambs

a girl jumps in the air, with her shadow behind her

a street scene at sunset

The IPPA Photographer of the Year Award is open to photographers who use an iPhone or iPad to take photos, and the winners of the 2021 competition demonstrate just how capable these devices are (and how much photography is not about your equipment). I’m struck by how many of the winners were not taken with the latest phones — the grand prize winner (above, top) was shot with an iPhone 7, which came out in 2016. Photos above by Istvan Kerekes, Jeff Rayner, and Enhua Ni.

Winners of the 2021 Audubon Photography Awards

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2021

two eagles fighting in mid-air over a fish

closeup of a loon with water droplets on its head

two small birds walking in unison

The National Audubon Society has announced the winners of the their photography competition for 2021. They also selected a top 100 from the rest of the submissions to complement the winners. The photos above are by Jerry am Ende, Sue Dougherty, and Tim Timmis. (via in focus)

Some Amazing Shots from the Last Decade of Movies

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 01, 2021

ILM visual effects artist Todd Vaziri asked his Twitter followers to share their favorite shots from a movie made in the last decade. The replies are a visual feast (and heavy on blockbusters) — here are a few of my favorites.

character walking away from the camera in Blade Runner 2049

a man plays a flaming guitar, urging on a caravan of cars

a lone figure falls up into a cityscape

an alien ship hovers in a foggy valley

superhero Thor descends with his hammer raised onto a crowd of bad guys

From top to bottom: Blade Runner 2049, Mad Max: Fury Road, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Widows, Arrival, and Thor: Ragnarok. There are probably several deserving scenes omitted from the thread (no Wes Anderson fans…the sushi scene from Isle of Dogs?), but that Blade Runner shot is probably my favorite from the decade. I would also have included a shot from Dunkirk (one of the expansive plane chase vistas that looked incredible in IMAX) , Portrait of a Lady on Fire, and the final scene in Carol — that look gives me chills just writing about it.

Update: A video compilation of some of the best shots of the decade.

(via @nielsmann)

The 2021 Milky Way Photographer of the Year

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 03, 2021

a photo of the Milky Way galaxy over a rocky canyon

a photo of the Milky Way galaxy over a house in the snow

To inspire folks to seek out their own galactic vistas, Capture the Atlas has chosen the best photos of the Milky Way for 2021. The top photo was taken by Daniel Thomas Gum in Australia and the bottom one by Larryn Rae in New Zealand. Check out the rest of the selections here.

The Winners of the BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition for 2021

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 02, 2021

a school of barracuda

leafcutter ant carrying a leaf

a swarm of baby spiders and their mother

The California Academy of Sciences has announced the winners (and finalists) of their BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition for 2021. I’ve included a few favorites above: barracuda by Yung-Sen Wu, leafcutter ants by Petr Bambousek, and lynx spiders by Lung-Tsai Wang. See all of the winners and finalists here. (via in focus)

Winners of the 2021 Type Directors Club Design Awards

posted by Jason Kottke   May 12, 2021

Peace + love mural

Apple icons

book cover for Black Futures

signage for the SF Symphony

The Type Directors Club has announced the winners of their two design competitions: TDC67 Communication Design and 24TDC Typeface Design. (via print)

Bird Photographer of the Year 2021 Finalists

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 29, 2021

Bird Photographer of the Year 2021 finalist

Bird Photographer of the Year 2021 finalist

Bird Photographer of the Year 2021 finalist

The Bird Photographer of the Year competition has released a selection of images from their shortlist of finalists for the 2021 contest. I selected three of my favorites above: Zdeněk Jakl’s duckling, Fahad Alenezi’s fox & eagle, and David White’s swallow. You can see more entries at Colossal, BBC, and Science Focus.

Winners of the 2021 World Press Photo Contest

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 16, 2021

2021 World Press Photo contest winner

2021 World Press Photo contest winner

The winners of the 2021 World Press Photo contests have been announced. Photos above (top to bottom) by Nadia Buzhan (of a woman waiting for her husband to be released from a detention center) and Luis Tato (of efforts to fight a locust invasion in Kenya). (via in focus)

30 Cover Songs Better Than the Originals

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 23, 2021

Hurt, Johnny Cash, NIN

Back in 2011, NME listed 30 cover songs that are better than the originals, as determined by their writers and readers. I’m not going to weigh in on the truth of their assertions, but listening to this playlist of the covers and the original songs is a pretty good way to pass the time.

(via @philipkd)

Update: My friend Matt Haughey thought this list sucked and made his own selections. Something I had forgotten: Matt was responsible for the bootleg of the Ted Leo Since U Been Gone / Maps mashup.

Also, the Coverville podcast has done more than 1350 episodes featuring all sorts of cover songs. (via @john_overholt)

NASA Tournament to Determine the Best Photo Taken from the ISS

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 19, 2021

photo taken from the ISS

photo taken from the ISS

NASA’s Earth Observatory is holding a single-elimination tournament to find the best photograph taken by an astronaut from the International Space Station. Round 2 is now underway, with 16 photos duking it out for the top spot. The winners are determined by public vote, so get in there and vote for your favorites! (via @thelastminute)

The Winners of the 2020 World Nature Photography Awards

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 09, 2021

winner of the 2020 World Nature Photography Awards

winner of the 2020 World Nature Photography Awards

The World Nature Photography Awards have announced the winners of their 2020 competition. Thomas Vijayan’s photo of an orangutan (top) won the overall prize and I enjoyed the optical illusion created by Naomi Rose (bottom). You can see the rest of the winners in several different categories here. (via in focus)

Winners of the 2021 Underwater Photographer of the Year Contest

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 10, 2021

2021 Underwater Photographer of the Year

2021 Underwater Photographer of the Year

2021 Underwater Photographer of the Year

The winners of the Underwater Photographer of the Year 2021 have been announced. I picked a few of my favorites and you can see more from In Focus. Photos above from top to bottom: ManBd, Jack Berthomier, and Oleg Gaponyuk.

The 25 Best Films of 2020

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 26, 2021

Because the pandemic (mostly) shuttered US movie theaters for the duration of 2020 and studios reduced or redirected their output accordingly, you might be excused for thinking that it was a bad year for film. As David Ehrlich’s masterful video countdown of the 25 best films of 2020 demonstrates, there was plenty of good stuff out there if you knew where to look.

I didn’t end up seeing many of the films on Ehrlich’s list — I’ve been stuck rewatching old favorites and meaningless garbage during the pandemic — but I’m going to make some time for several of these soon. Two documentaries that I was surprised to see omitted: My Octopus Teacher and The Painter and the Thief. The latter is one of the best movies I’ve seen in ages — I can’t imagine that Ms. Americana (for instance) was better. And I’m Thinking of Ending Things? Did not do it for me at all. *shrug* (thx, brandt)

The Year in Photos 2020

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 22, 2020

The Year in Photos 2020

The Year in Photos 2020

The Year in Photos 2020

The Year in Photos 2020

The Year in Photos 2020

The Year in Photos 2020

The Year in Photos 2020

How will we remember this pivotal year in human history? Many of us won’t want to, but in doing so we risk repeating what got us into this mess in the first place. Photography is always a powerful way to document events and this year was particularly suited to it: these photos vividly tell the story of 2020. You can check out many more of them here:

The embedded photos above, from top to bottom: Black Lives Matter protests by Dai Sugano, hospital staff by Sarah Lawrence, Black Lives Matter protests by Matt Rourke, empty grocery shelves by Justin Sullivan, Black Lives Matter protests by David Dee Delgado, California wildfires by Noah Berger, Covid-19 vaccine by Graeme Robertson.

The Best Book Cover Designs of 2020

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 15, 2020

Best Book Covers 2020

Best Book Covers 2020

Best Book Covers 2020

Best Book Covers 2020

Best Book Covers 2020

Well, what an unprecedented year that was! *sigh* 2020 is not a great year for ledes, so let’s skip right to the chase: many books were published this year and some of them had great covers. Lit Hub has the best roundup, with a selection of 89 covers chosen by book cover designers. Mark Sinclair’s ten selections for Creative Review are excellent as well. Electric Lit and Book Riot shared their cover picks as well.

I chose a few of my favorites and shared them above. From top to bottom: Zo by Xander Miller designed by Janet Hansen, the UK cover for Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars. by Joyce Carol Oates designed by Jamie Keenan (the US cover for comparison), Anger by Barbara H. Rosenwein designed by Alex Kirby, Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener designed by Rodrigo Corral, and Verge by Lidia Yuknavitch designed by Rachel Willey. Looking at great work like this always gets my “maybe I should have been a book cover designer” juices flowing…

See also The Best Books of 2020.

Update: Oh good, the annual list from The Casual Optimist is here: Notable Book Covers of 2020. A cover that he highlighted that I particularly liked is from Michael Nylan’s translation of The Art of War by Sun Tzu designed by Jaya Miceli.

Best Book Covers of 2020

The NY Times list of The Best Book Covers of 2020 is out as well.

The Northern Lights Photographer of the Year for 2020

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 10, 2020

The best photos taken of the northern & southern lights in 2020

The best photos taken of the northern & southern lights in 2020

Capture the Atlas has collected some of the best aurora borealis and aurora australis photos taken this year in their 2020 Northern Lights Photographer of the Year competition. I’ve highlighted two photos from the competition above, by Ben Maze & Nico Rinaldi respectively. Maze’s photo, of the aurora australis in Tasmania, is stunning — one of the best astronomy photos I have ever seen. Here’s how he captured it:

Captured in this image is a trifecta of astronomical phenomena that made for some of the best astrophotography conditions one can witness in Australia, namely, the setting Milky Way galactic core, zodiacal light, and of course, the elusive Aurora Australis. On top of this, a sparkling display of oceanic bioluminescence adorned the crashing waves, adding the cherry on top to what was already a breathtaking experience.

Having been out of reception and civilization for over a day, fellow photographer Luke Tscharke and I had no idea the aurora would strike on this night. We’d just heard rumors of a potential solar storm. We could barely contain our excitement when the lights first showed up on our camera’s screens. We later realized we were in the best place on the entire continent to witness the rare show, with Lion Rock being on the southernmost cape of Tasmania and much more cloud-free than the rest of the state at the time.

The colors that our cameras picked up were incredible, too. Rather than the classic green, the display ranged from yellow and orange to pink and purple. When I’d captured enough frames that I was happy with, I simply stood by my camera with my head tilted towards the sky, occasionally swirling my hand around in the sparkling water by my feet. I’m forever grateful for moments in nature like this that show us the true wonders of our planet.

The aurora, the Milky Way, zodiacal light, and bioluminescence all in one image — what a magical conjunction. You can check out the rest of the winners here.

The Best Books of 2020

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 08, 2020

The Best Books of 2020

I’m guessing that for most of you, reading books was either a comfort or a near impossibility during this unprecedentedly long and tough year. For me, I got some good reading in earlier in the year and then, as my focus shifted to writing about and researching the pandemic for this site and managing the logistics of safely navigating this new world, my energy for books waned. The last thing I wanted to do at the end of most days was more reading, especially anything challenging.

I also kinda didn’t know what to read, aside from the few obvious choices that were impossible to ignore. As I’m sure it is for many of you, a big part of my “getting the lay of the land” w/r/t books is seeing what my favorite bookstores were putting on their front tables — and that’s been difficult for the past several months. Looking through a bunch of end-of-2020 lists for what books everyone else recommended was especially valuable for me — there really were so so many good books published this year that are worth seeking out. So, here’s a selection of the best books of 2020 and links to the lists I used to find them. I hope you find this useful.

Let’s start with the NY Times. Their 10 Best Books of 2020 includes Deacon King Kong by James McBride while their larger list of 100 Notable Books of 2020 has both Maria Konnikova’s The Biggest Bluff and The End of Everything: (Astrophysically Speaking) by Katie Mack on it. The Times’ critics have their own list for some reason; one of the books they featured is Anna Wiener’s Uncanny Valley.

Isabel Wilkerson’s masterful Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents and The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel (two books I actually read this year) deservedly made almost every list out there, including Time’s 100 Must-Read Books of 2020. Those two books are also, respectively, on Time’s lists of The 10 Best Nonfiction Books of 2020 and The 10 Best Fiction Books of 2020.

The Guardian breaks down their list of the Best Books of 2020 into several categories. The list of the best science fiction and fantasy books of 2020 includes The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson and Kacen Callender’s King of the Rising.

The year-end lists on Goodreads (Best Books of 2020, Most Popular Books Published In 2020) typically cast a wider net on what a broader audience is reading. Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games prequel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes and The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett made their lists this year.

Kirkus has a bunch of categories in their Best Books of 2020 as well, including the timely Best Fiction for Quarantine Reading in 2020 — I found What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez (“Dryly funny and deeply tender; draining and worth it”) on there.

The NYPL’s Best Books of 2020 has separate lists for adults, teens, and kids. For adult poetry, Nate Marshall’s Finna made their list. And for teen historical fiction: We Are Not Free by Traci Chee.

Some recommended books for kids from various lists (NYPL, NY Times, NPR): Shinsuke Yoshitake’s There Must Be More Than That!, Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson (my daughter is reading this one right now for her book club), and Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk.

YA novel Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo and Homie by Danez Smith both made Book Riot’s Best Books of 2020. Oh, and I’d missed that Zadie Smith published a book of pandemic-inspired essays called Intimations.

NPR’s Book Concierge is always a great resource for finding gems across a wide spectrum of interests. Erik Larson’s The Splendid and the Vile and The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante both made their Seriously Great Writing list and their Cookbooks & Food list includes Ottolenghi Flavor by Yotam Ottolenghi & Ixta Belfrage and Eat A Peach by David Chang.

Speaking of cookbooks and food, among the top titles for 2020 were In Bibi’s Kitchen by Hawa Hassan & Julia Turshen and Falastin by Sami Tamimi & Tara Wigley. (Culled from Food & Wine’s Favorite Cookbooks of 2020 and The Guardian’s Best Cookbooks and Food Writing of 2020.

I saw Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia on several lists, including Library Journal’s Best Books 2020.

The Book of Eels by Patrik Svensson and The Alchemy of Us by Ainissa Ramirez both made Smithsonian Magazine’s The Ten Best Science Books of 2020.

Hyperallergic has selected Some of the Best Art Books of 2020, including Kuniyoshi by Matthi Forrer.

For the Times Literary Supplement’s Books of the Year 2020, dozens of writers selected their favorite reads of the year. Elizabeth Lowry recommended Artemisia, the companion book to the exhibition of Artemisia Gentileschi’s at The National Gallery and sadly the best way for most of us to be able to enjoy this show.

More lists: Audible’s The Best of 2020 and Washington Post’s The 10 Best Books of 2020. I’ll update this post a couple of times in the next week with more lists as I run across them.

If you’d like to check out what I’ve read recently, take a look at my list on Bookshop.org.

Note: When you buy through links on kottke.org, I may earn an affiliate commission. This year, I’m linking mostly to Bookshop.org but if you read on the Kindle or Bookshop is out of stock, you can try Amazon. Thanks for supporting the site!

“52 Things I Learned in 2020”

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 01, 2020

Every year around this time, Tom Whitwell shares a list of 52 things he’s learned over the course of the year, complete with references so you can drill down into each one. Here’s 2020’s version — fascinating as usual. A few favorites:

3. The hold music you hear when you phone Octopus Energy is personalised to your customer account: it’s a number one record from the year you were 14. [Clem Cowton]

18. 10% of the GDP of Nepal comes from people climbing Mount Everest. [Zachary Crockett]

30. In Warsaw’s Gruba Kaśka water plant there are eight clams with sensors attached to their shells. If the clams close because they don’t like the taste of the water, the city’s supply is automatically shut off. [Judita K]

44. A micromort is a one-in-a-million chance of death. Just being alive is about 24 micromorts per day, skydiving is 8 micromorts per jump. [Matt Webb]

52. British clowns register their unique makeup patterns by having them hand painted onto chicken eggs. The eggs are then stored either at the Holy Trinity Church in Dalston or at Wookey Hole caves in Somerset. [Dave Fagundes & Aaron Perzanowski]

You can check out the rest here.

The Winners of the 2020 Weather Photographer of the Year Competition

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 19, 2020

Weather Photos 2020

Weather Photos 2020

Weather Photos 2020

The Royal Meteorological Society has announced the winners and runners-up in the 2020 Weather Photographer of the Year competition. I shared some of my favorites above, but somehow none of the cloud pics made the cut? Am I feeling alright? *feels forehead* Ok, just one — I can’t resist cumulonimbus mammatus:

Weather Photos 2020

Photos by (top to bottom) Vu Trung Huan, Alexey Trofimov, Andrew McCaren, and Boris Jordan. (via moss & fog)

Winning Shots from the 2020 International Landscape Photographer of the Year Awards

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 19, 2020

2020 International Landscape Photographer of the Year

2020 International Landscape Photographer of the Year

2020 International Landscape Photographer of the Year

The International Landscape Photographer of the Year Awards have announced their results for this year and you can see some of the winning photographs at In Focus. Photos by (top to bottom) Shashank Khanna, Vikki Macleod, and Nikhil Nagane.

The Winners of the 2020 Close-Up Photographer of the Year Competition

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 12, 2020

2020 Close-Up Photographer of the Year Competition

2020 Close-Up Photographer of the Year Competition

2020 Close-Up Photographer of the Year Competition

The winners of the second annual Close-Up Photographer of the Year competition have been announced. You can check out the winners and the finalists on the competition website. The photos above were taken by (from top to bottom) Don Komarechka, Bernhard Schubert, and Gerd A. Günther. (via in focus)