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kottke.org posts about photography

Beneath the Bird Feeder

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 02, 2021

a red bird with its wings flared in the snow

a gray/brown bird in the snow

a squirrel on snowy ground

Last winter, Carla Rhodes captured some scenes of the animal life underneath her bird feeder. Rhodes is a wildlife conservation photographer, so the photos are good and she made certain to do the right thing with her feeder:

Ethical considerations were at the forefront of this project. This included hanging the feeder in a tree away from house windows. If not cared for properly, bird feeders can be a vector for diseases, such as salmonella. To avoid this issue I regularly raked beneath the bird feeder (and turned the soil below), rotated the feeder to different branches, occasionally allowed the feeder to be empty, and regularly disinfected the feeder with dish soap and dilute bleach solution.

(via colossal)

Extreme Macro Photography of Eyes

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 02, 2021

closeup photo of an eye

closeup photo of an eye

closeup photo of an eye

closeup photo of an eye

closeup photo of an eye

I have featured Suren Manvelyan’s ultra-macro photos of human eyes on the site before, but since I think about them all the time, here they are again. I just wish the images were bigger. Manvelyan has also shot a bunch of animal eyes at close range — this is a llama eye:

closeup photo of a llama eye

Vintage Photos of Venus & Serena Playing Tennis as Kids (1991)

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 02, 2021

Venus & Serena Williams as kids

Venus & Serena Williams as kids

Venus & Serena Williams as kids playing tennis

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture is home to a collection of photographs taken by Rod Lyons in 1991 of Venus and Serena Williams practicing tennis at the ages of 12 and 10 on a tennis court near their home in Compton. Their father Richard is in the photos as well, coaching his daughters. Patrick Sauer talked to Lyons about the photos for Smithsonian Magazine:

“Where I was sent to shoot an up-and-coming tennis player was interesting because [the sport’s] ’70s [to] ’80s boom was over, so [tennis] wasn’t that popular overall, and you certainly didn’t see Black people in Compton out there playing. But other than that it was no big deal,” Lyons recalls. “I got there and started taking pictures of two young sisters named Venus and Serena, 12 and 10, taking lessons from their father, Richard. The practice session was disciplined and intense. Richard was really coaching ‘em up that day, but he wasn’t dictatorial, and [he] treated his daughters with kindness and respect.”

There’s another photo of the sisters from 1991 in this NPR piece, as well as some stories from locals about the Williams family:

Barbee was a 21-year-old limo driver and part-time tennis coach when Richard Williams invited him to train with his daughters.

“Tennis was a passion,” he says.

Barbee was a tennis prodigy himself, so when he faced Venus and Serena on the court, he had finally met his match.

“Man, it was unbelievable,” Barbee says. “Never seen nobody that good. It was something I’d never seen before in my life.”

Venus wasn’t even a teenager yet.

Training meant hitting hundreds of balls with enough force to break the strings on their racquets.

“Every other day, I was restringing my racquets,” he says. “My shoes, once a week. A hole right in my foot of my shoe. Used to tape them up.”

Here are still more photos from 1991 and you can find a photo of the sisters posing with Ronald and Nancy Reagan at Sports Illustrated.

King Richard, a biopic of Richard Williams produced by his daughters, takes place during this period of time, is now out in theaters and on HBO Max, and is getting great reviews.

The Colorful Winners of the 2021 AAP Photo Competition

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 24, 2021

five women holding white balls that mirror the light fixtures above them

overhead view of a green soccer field in a green forest

overhead view of a beach

a hand raised, bathed in blue light

an overhead view of a person surrounded by containers of fish

AAP Magazine has announced the winners of their 21st annual photo competition. This year’s theme was “Colors” and I’ve embedded a few of my favorites above (from top to bottom: Miloš Nejezchleb, Vitaly Golovatyuk, Graham Earnshaw, Joanna Borowiec, and Pham Huy Trung).

The Best Street Photography of 2021

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 22, 2021

a pigeon in front of a dog, positioned so it looks like the dog has wings

a woman on the subway with two children

a man steps off of a bus holding an umbrella

a person in a Minnie Mouse costume walking across the street

a number of people walking on the street in NYC

The Street Photographers Foundation has announced the winners of the Street Photography Awards for 2021. What an amazing selection of photos — it was so hard to pick just a few favorites (embedded above). From top to bottom, Subhran Karmakar, Paul Kessel (like a Renaissance painting), Akib Amjad (so reminiscent of this iconic photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson), Andy Hann, and Dimitri Mellos. (via curious about everything)

Winners of the 2021 Natural Landscape Photography Awards

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 16, 2021

lightning striking the top of a mountain

two flower growing in dry, cracked soil

overlapping streams in a river delta

trees in the fog reflected in a lake

After sorting through 13,000 photographs submitted by over 1300 photographers from all over the world, the winners of the very first Natural Landscape Photography Awards have been announced. A few of my favorite winners are embedded above; from top to bottom, Paul Hammett, Antonio Fernandez, Hans Strand, and Tobias Richter. Hammett’s shot of lightning striking the Matterhorn took 30 minutes of patience to capture:

Setting up my tripod as thunder boomed around me, hopes of getting an image turned to excitement as the storm moved over the Matterhorn.

I was briefly frustrated trying to nail focus and settings in the dark. Occasional flashes of nearby lightning helped me recompose, refine focus and adjust settings. But I cursed each of them as a missed opportunity to get a shot. Once happy with the camera set up, I could take time to fire off numerous 10 second exposures and just watch the show.

Each lightning strike gave me the shivers. When these two hit the summit, I knew I had something special in the camera.

(via colossal)

Everything (In Its Right Place)

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 08, 2021

two newspaper boxes cozying up to each other

a tree stump next to the reflection of a tree in a puddle

two police officers leaning on a barricade

Eric Kogan’s photographs depict these lovely little serendipitous moments — creatures, people, places, and things captured in just the right place in just the right moment. Keep up with Kogan’s work on Instagram. (via the morning news)

Nature’s Hitchhikers

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 03, 2021

macro photo of the seed of a hitchhiker plant

macro photo of the seed of a hitchhiker plant

macro photo of the seed of a hitchhiker plant

macro photo of the seed of a hitchhiker plant

Those are a selection of Dillon Marsh’s macro photographs of the sneaky and clever seeds of various hitchhiker plants. The seeds of this type of plant can attach themselves to the fur, hair, clothing, or skin of animals, catching a ride in order to spread themselves over a wider geographic area in order to ensure a greater chance at survival.

In perhaps one of the best examples of biomimicry, a hitchhiker plant called the burdock was the inspiration for Velcro:

In 1941, George de Mestral had the inspiration for the hook and loop fastener while he was on a hunting trip in the Alps with his dog Milka. George noticed that burdock burrs — a tiny seed covered in hundreds of microscopic ‘hooks’ that catch onto the natural ‘loops’ that cover fur, clothing and hair — kept sticking to his dog’s fur.

This was the moment that George saw a huge opportunity. He spent the next decade with a microscope investigating how the burdock burr’s barbed, hook-like seeds engaged with the ‘loops’ on his trousers, trying to create a new type of clothing fastener.

(via moss & fog)

Icebergs Are Swimming Sculptures

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 26, 2021

iceberg

glacial ice

iceberg

glacial ice

Since 2003, photographer Olaf Otto Becker has been documenting the decline of the glaciers and ice sheet in Greenland.

Greenland’s ice sheet is melting. Regularly, like the ticking of a clock, huge, new icebergs from the edges of the glacier plunge into the ocean each day with a thunderous boom and a roar. Our planet breathes. The accelerated melting of the ice is nothing more than one of our Earth’s compensatory reactions. Everything is constantly in motion. Even landscapes are changing with breathtaking speed, if time is not measured on a human scale. For me, icebergs are swimming sculptures, witnesses to a global change that, drifting southward on the ocean, slowly dissolve into their mirror image.

I’ve included some of my favorite shots from his projects above — beautiful but signifiers of the deep trouble humanity is in. (via colossal)

Winners of the 2021 Close-Up Photographer of the Year Competition

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 25, 2021

dozens of insects on a white background

three lizards silhouetted on large green leaves

closeup view of algae's spirally shaped chloroplasts

brightly colored soap bubble patterns

Contestants from 55 countries entered over 9000 photos in the Close-Up Photographer of the Year competition for 2021 and now the winners have been announced. I’ve included a few of my favorites above (from top to bottom): Pål Hermansen, Johan De Ridder, Håkan Kvarnstrom, and Bruno Militelli. (via in focus)

Orbital Planes, a Photographic Ode to the Space Shuttle

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 22, 2021

closeup photo of the Space Shuttle Discovery

Space Shuttle instrument panel

Roland Miller has been documenting space exploration for more than 30 years and his latest book, which he’s funding via Kickstarter, is a photo documentation of the final years of NASA’s Space Shuttle program.

I started documenting the Space Shuttle program when I was teaching photography at a college near the Kennedy Space Center. In 2008, I began a concentrated effort to document the final years of the program. Orbital Planes is the result of that photography work. My hope is that Orbital Planes will give the reader their own personal view of the Space Shuttle and the technology and facilities that helped it fly.

You might remember Miller from his collaboration with Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli photographing the ISS. (via colossal)

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.

Previously Unpublished Photos of Indigenous Culture in Alaska Circa 1927

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 12, 2021

a woman and child

a group of four smiling women

a man wearing a fur coat

In 1927, photographer and ethnologist Edward S. Curtis travelled to the US territory of Alaska to photograph indigenous peoples and their cultures for his seminal work, The North American Indian. Some of the photos he took in Alaska were never published and make up a new exhibition at the Muskegon Museum of Art, Edward S. Curtis: Unpublished Alaska, The Lost Photographs.

Begun in 1906, The North American Indian was the defining passion of Curtis’s life, an attempt to record, in writing and photography, the lives of the Indigenous peoples of the Southwestern, Western, and Northwestern United States. This trip, planned for a single season, would be the final voyage to complete his epic quest. Curtis took hundreds of images on his journey, only part of which were ultimately published. The rest sat, unseen, passed down through the family until today.

Edward Curtis: Unpublished Alaska, The Lost Photographs presents, for the first time to the public, images made from the unused original negatives. Over 100 images will comprise the exhibition, along with excerpts from the personal journals of Curtis and his daughter Beth that describe their often harrowing adventures in the Bering Sea.

You can see a selection of these photos online here and previously published photos by Curtis in Northwestern’s archive.

Update: Curtis’s photos are the subject of controversy and criticism, some of which you can read about here.

The North American Indian is a seminal and controversial blend of documentary and staged photography — one which contributes to much of the foundational imagery and, often-stereotypical, understanding possessed by white America about some 82-plus native tribes that the United States eradicated over a century of colonization. Much has been made about the complexities, contradictions, and conflicts of interest in Curtis’s masterwork, by Native and non-Native scholars. Some argue that in staging photographs and, at times, adding props or accessories, Curtis took liberties with the concept of ethnography, both imposing and reinforcing white notions of Native American appearances and culture. Others argue that without Curtis, there would be hardly any extant imagery of the cultural heritage of the tribes he worked with.

Fighter Jets, Organized Neatly

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 05, 2021

Ognyan Stefanov Plane Tetris

Remember the Tetris challenge, the trend where workers of various professions laid out all of their gear in a neat, pleasing fashion, aka knolling? Well, the Bulgarian Air Force really knocked it out of the park with this photo by Ognyan Stefanov. Yes, those are all actual planes and objects and people, not miniatures. Never has the military industrial complex seemed so twee.

See also Things Organized Neatly, Common Objects Painstakingly Organized into Patterns, and Saltine Crackers Arranged Artfully Is Extremely My Jam. (via @davidgagne)

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.

Disgustingly Beautiful Mold Art

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 30, 2021

colorful mold in a petri dish

colorful mold in a petri dish

colorful mold in a petri dish

colorful mold in a petri dish

Artist Dasha Plesen combines molds, bacteria, spores, and other objects in petri dishes to create these colorful abstract photographs. You can find more of her work on Behance and Instagram. (via neatorama)

Raptors in Flight

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 30, 2021

an owl flying

an eagle flying

Colossal has a selection of photos of predatory birds taken by Mark Harvey — prints are available in his shop.

Shot with his signature style that applies a hearty dose of drama to the already striking creatures, the photos are shot one at a time in a slow, medium format. “Lighting is a key aspect of my work to help draw out fresh views of well-known subjects, and these birds are no exception, set within an intricate lighting setup to ultimately show the birds in a new light,” Harvey shares. “With their wings spread wide, these top avian predators’ beauty is put on full display.”

The Many Colors of the Moon

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 23, 2021

the Moon in 48 different colors, arranged in a spiral shape

Marcella Giulia Pace photographed the Moon in 48 different hues and arranged them in a lovely spiral pattern.

I have collected some of my Full Moon shots taken over the past 10 years. I selected the shades of color with which the Moon was filmed in front of my lens and my eyes.

The atmosphere gives different colors to our satellite (scattering) based on its height with respect to the horizon, based on the presence of humidity or suspended dust. The shape of the Moon also changes: at the bottom of the horizon, refraction compresses the lunar disk at the poles and makes it look like an ellipse.

Prints of the image are available. (via @djacobs)

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).

Full Moon

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 21, 2021

a full moon with a very colorful surface

The full moon was wonderful last night and Andrew McCarthy captured this colorful image of our nearest celestial companion. McCarthy explained where all those colors come from:

Back to this image, this was captured through a telescope and involved capturing thousands of frames to reveal the details. But what about the colors? The moon is gray, of course, but not *perfectly* gray. Some areas have a subtle blue tint, and others have a more orange tint. By teasing out those subtle colors, I can reveal the mineral composition of the moon! Blues denote titanium presence, while orange shows iron and feldspar present in the regolith. You can also see how impacts paint the surface with fresh color in the ejecta as they churn up material.

A print is available, but only for a very limited time (~6 more hours as of pub time).

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.

The Topography of Tears

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 14, 2021

microscopic image of dried tears

microscopic image of dried tears

microscopic image of dried tears

For her project Topography of Tears, Rose-Lynn Fisher used a microscope to photograph the crystalized patterns of dried human tears. Part of why the images all look different is because tears are made up of varying chemicals depending on why they’re made.

Scientifically, tears are divided into three different types, based on their origin. Both tears of grief and joy are psychic tears, triggered by extreme emotions, whether positive or negative. Basal tears are released continuously in tiny quantities (on average, 0.75 to 1.1 grams over a 24-hour period) to keep the cornea lubricated. Reflex tears are secreted in response to an irritant, like dust, onion vapors or tear gas.

All tears contain a variety of biological substances (including oils, antibodies and enzymes) suspended in salt water, but as Fisher saw, tears from each of the different categories include distinct molecules as well. Emotional tears, for instance, have been found to contain protein-based hormones including the neurotransmitter leucine enkephalin, a natural painkiller that is released when the body is under stress.

This project is also available in book form. (via austin kleon)

Update: Per an email from the photographer, I’ve corrected the post above to note that these images were taken with a normal optical microscope, not a scanning electron microscope. Thx, Rose-Lynn!

Drone Panorama of Cao Bang

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 13, 2021

panoramic drone photo of a green mountainous landscape in Vietnam

Stunning photo by Pham Huy Trung of Cao Bằng, Vietnam. When I first saw this on Instagram, I thought it was an illustration; it took several looks to convince myself it wasn’t.

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.

Miniature Life

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 19, 2021

tiny chefs preparing food on domino 'stoves'

two tiny men swimming in ramen noodles

a group of tiny people looking at a sushi roll pie chart

tiny people shooting at mahjong 'targets'

a tiny Neo (from The Matrix) dodges spaghetti 'bullets'

Since 2011, Tatsuya Tanaka has been creating daily images of miniature people in the midst of everyday items that resemble bigger things (think broccoli as trees, rows of staples as countertops, floating leaves as boats). Here’s a short video of Tanaka at work on his miniatures:

You can follow his work on his website or on Instagram. (thx, porter)

99 Portraits of Americans in Debt

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 18, 2021

a woman sitting in her living room

a man sitting on a sofa

a woman sitting at a small table

Americans are collectively almost $15 trillion in debt, most of it related to housing (i.e. mortgage debt). For the New Yorker, Margaret Talbot shares some images from Brittany Powell’s The Debt Project, a series of 99 portraits of Americans in debt.

Powell set about photographing ninety-nine Americans who owe money (she ended up with a few more, including herself, but started with that figure as a reference to the slogan “We are the ninety-nine per cent”) and asked them to handwrite accompanying text about how much they owe, and to whom. The litany of reasons gets repetitive, because that’s how it goes — difficulty finding a job in one’s field after graduating during the recession, a bad marriage, a bad divorce, vertiginous rents in expensive cities, medical crises, many, many student loans. Occasionally, there are epic and awful variations: one woman’s mother took out credit cards in her name and, in a ten-year period, racked up “a mortgage worth of debt” to fund her “compulsive shopping and hoarding habits.”

The Debt Project is also available in book form.

The Potato Photographer of the Year 2021

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 18, 2021

a girl wearing a necklace made out of potatoes

a potatoes with shoots sprouting out of it

men sorting potatoes

giving a potato a fake haircut

I am a little embarrassed (and surprised!) at how up my alley this is, but behold: the winners of the Potato Photographer of the Year competition for 2021. (via @jackisnotabird)

The Otherworldly Images of Mikko Lagerstedt

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 18, 2021

partially sunked boat under a colorful night sky

a man standing on a reflective surface under a brilliant blue night sky

Finnish photographer Mikko Lagerstedt creates striking, ethereal, and atmospheric photographs — check out his work on his website and Instagram.